Knife-edge battle for West Midlands metro mayor?

West Midlands map Image copyright Getty Images

The first 'metro mayor' of the West Midlands will lead a population of nearly three million people across Coventry, Birmingham and the Black Country.

They will have powers over Economic Development, Education and Skills, Housing and Transport to be downloaded from Central Government and emphatically not uploaded from local authorities.

But this has not prevented the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), to be headed by the mayor, from being dubbed a 'super-council' by critics who think too much power is being concentrated in too few hands.

UKIP have been consistent critics of the entire project, dismissing it is "devolution of power from the People to the Establishment": but, as we shall see, they have overcome their misgivings sufficiently to run a candidate now that the contest is upon us.

Ministers in both the Cameron and May governments have pressed ahead with this latest exercise in regional devolution in defiance of malcontents in all the local political parties, including their own.

'Sweated blood'

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Theresa May Triggers An Indefinite Article

  • 29 March 2017
  • From the section England
Theresa May signs the letter which will trigger Article 50, confirming the UK's departure from the EU. Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May signs the letter which will trigger Article 50, confirming the UK's departure from the EU.

Long, long ago in those distant days when I was an undergraduate student of politics, I read a seminal account of Britain's relationship with post-war Europe by the British economist Andrew Shonfield.

"Europe: Journey to An Unknown Destination" was first published in 1972, just one year before the UK joined what was then the Common Market. Shonfield set out why "The Six", as they were known, the founder nations, had embarked on what was to become known as "the European project", and attempted to explore the uncertainties of the journey that lay ahead.

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Brexit, Elections and Revolts. But what about Labour?

  • 23 March 2017
  • From the section England
Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright PA
Image caption Are the Labour Party working together? Or are they fighting amongst themselves than against the opposition?

In normal times this would be a gift for a Labour opposition.

The Conservatives anxious about Europe yet again, just as Theresa May confirms she will trigger Article 50 next Wednesday, setting Britain on course for two years' of intensive and, for her party, divisive negotiations over the terms of the Britain's exit from the EU.

Read full article Brexit, Elections and Revolts. But what about Labour?

Politics of marriage proposals and divorce petitions

  • 14 March 2017
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images

Divorce talk seems to be catching

So Theresa May now has Parliament's permission to initiate the divorce proceedings that will end end Britain's 44-year marriage to what is now known as the European Union: a 'union" in name only, perhaps, given its fractured politics even before the Brexit vote.

A similar charge could be levelled at the so-called United Kingdom, now that Nicola Sturgeon is also petitioning for divorce.

Read full article Politics of marriage proposals and divorce petitions

A soggy Budget Day mixes metaphors and messages

  • 8 March 2017
  • From the section England
Village Green at Westminster
Image caption The Village Green at Westminster: Torrential rain before the Spring Budget

This was the soggy vision of Westminster's famous village green when I arrived for Philip Hammond's first and last Spring Budget before he switches to Autumn Budgets and Spring Statements.

I should have known the torrential rain would signal what was to follow.

Read full article A soggy Budget Day mixes metaphors and messages

What will it take to unblock "bed blocking"?

  • 1 March 2017
  • From the section England
Surgeon
Image caption The NHS in the West Midlands is about to undergo some radical surgery

Sheer weight of numbers does not always reveal a true picture: (lies, damned lies etc....).

But in the case of the health service, latest figures undoubtedly shine a penetrating, clinical, light on the rate at which budget deficits are currently being racked-up.

Read full article What will it take to unblock "bed blocking"?

UKIP are blown away in Stoke Central by-election

  • 24 February 2017
  • From the section England
Stanley Matthews statue
Image caption Are Stoke Central's voters influenced by NHS issues? Or Brexit?

It's had more unexpected twists and turns than many a roller-coaster ride.

So why shouldn't Stoke Central culminate in an epic weather event. The day of storm Doris blew to smithereens so many of Paul Nuttall's brave words: "Stoke Central is the Brexit Capital".

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Names in frames for key by-election in Stoke Central

  • 31 January 2017
  • From the section England
Image caption Twenty years ago Labour had a 20,000 majority in Stoke Central. In 2015, it was down to just more than 5,000

Factor of 10

So now we know. Ten candidates will contest the most eagerly-awaited Midlands by-election for many years.

It will test whether or not Labour's official support for the Remain campaign has driven a wedge between the party and its core support.

Read full article Names in frames for key by-election in Stoke Central

Farmers fear Brexit lands them in agricultural business

  • 25 January 2017
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Most farmers were enthusiastic Remainers

"We're Out!"

So declared David Dimbleby during those unforgettable early hours of 24 June last year, as the epic scale of what we were witnessing started to sink in.

From my outside broadcast position at the Birmingham count, I spelled it out in my best stentorian tones: "The English heartlands have voted overwhelmingly to Leave the European Union".

Read full article Farmers fear Brexit lands them in agricultural business

In the hunt: Stoke Central by-election for all parties

  • 16 January 2017
  • From the section England
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Will Tristram Hunt's departure lead the way for more MPs to jump from the Labour ship.

Farewell to the only Tristram in Stoke.

"He's not from round here". That was how many Potteries people greeted the news that Tristram Hunt had landed in Stoke-on-Trent Central with the aid of the proverbial parachute, during the run-up to the 2010 general election.

Read full article In the hunt: Stoke Central by-election for all parties