Monday, 8 February 2010

Jim Hancock at Sefton Central

The sun has set on a golden age of regional broadcasting. I doubt we shall see the like of Granada again. One adornment of that past age was the political reporting of Jim Hancock. Like so many other things in life none of us was aware of the importance of his and his colleagues work until we woke up to a world without the range of quality regional political journalists we once had.

Jim -who worked on Radio Merseyside with Richard Clein-spoke about regional broadcasting and the blackhole in Manchester(Salford) into which it is all disappearing.

He also went to to speculate about the General Election. The clear game plan of the Tories is to present the election as a simple choice between Brown and Cameron. The implications of this is that Lib Dems would be squeezed. If this scenario proves to be correct then all the infighting and back biting that is consuming Southport Tories will be ignored by the electors as they vote in a quasi presidential election.

The challenge for Lib Dems is to stop the Tories simplistic campaign. In Britain we still elect members to Parliament and local electors are entitled to choose the person they think will best represent them. In this they may weigh the character, ability and policies of the candidates. Lib Dems have a proven record of successfully resiting the 'squeeze'. Jim fully recognised this and cited Tim Farron as a Lib Dem who will hold his seat and may even increase his majority.

He is not alone. The FT reviewed Chris Huhne's chances recently:

'Like many Lib Dem MPs, Mr Huhne has dug in, building a reputation in the national media and as a local campaigner. He says he has dealt with 13,000 pieces of casework since the last election. “I might not always be able to help, but people know I’ve tried,” he says. The party has a ruthless local organisation and almost complete control of the local council – a factor often underestimated by the national media.
Mr Huhne argues that the absence of a strong local Conservative councillor base in his constituency seriously reduces their ability to campaign on the ground. “There is only so much you can do with an air war,” he says, referring to national media campaigns.

That is not dissimilar to our position in Southport.

I noted that even top Tory bogger Iain Dale has recognised that incumbent Lib Dem MPs have have an ability to hang on to their seats even against the odds.

The other matter that may impact on the 'squeeze' will be the leadership debates. In common with many of us Jim hoped that that the debates would not be stifled by the outcome of negotiations between the parties and that a Question Time format would be adopted.

It is clear that the Lib Dem vote strengthens during a General Election because of the equal time requirements for reporting. Having Clegg (and I'm told) Vince Cable having equal billing in prime time debates can only help us.

The final consideration that Jim raised was the scale of the challenge the Tories face to get an overall majority. It is more difficult that is generally assumed. Lib Dem Voice published some recent analysis of the number of seats the Tories would gain :

New prediction: Conservative lead of 6% but Labour largest party with 299 seats (27 short of an overall majority)

December prediction: Conservative lead of 9% with 315 seats (11 short of an overall majority)
November prediction: Conservative lead of 10% with 322 seats (4 short of an overall majority)

The academic team who have compiled the prediction say,

The race remains too close to call under reasonable scenarios, either favorable to the government or the opposition. The election of a hung Parliament cannot be discarded at this point.

the full story is at:

Now, the evening was not all serious discussion as one or two future posts will demonstrate. In this section it is appropriate to report that the Leader of the Council had a penetrating question to ask our guest.
'Having worked with Richard Clein have you any stories to tell us about him................. '

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