AS IF the Labour Party did not already have woes enough in fighting the general election, the extraordinary and damaging intervention by its deputy leader, Tom Watson, can only make its already invidious task even more difficult.
To admit that his party has little chance of forming the next Government, as he appeared to at the weekend, is surely unprecedented in modern British electoral history and amounts to throwing in the towel with more than three weeks to go until polling day.
There is an element of Dad’s Army’s Private Frazer wailing “We’re doomed” about Mr Watson’s comments. The Frazer character was an undertaker, and fittingly, the party’s second most senior figure appears to have already written Labour’s epitaph.
Yet there is nothing remotely comical about the scale of Labour’s problem. It is unseemly to hear Mr Watson appear to reduce the serious question of who governs Britain to the level of an X-Factor-style personal popularity contest by urging voters to back candidates such as Rachael Reeves and Paula Sherriff because they are the antithesis of Jeremy Corbyn.
That speaks eloquently of the internal rifts within Labour. For Mr Watson to effectively surrender can only demoralise the party’s candidates and activists in even hitherto safe seats.
Worse, he has sent a message to the wider electorate that if Labour’s high command already believes the election is lost, then what credibility can be placed on its manifesto and what point is there in voting for it?
What a contrast the disciplined, relentless Conservative campaign is by comparison, featuring high-profile senior ministers visiting the regions, day after day, and a Prime Minister emphasising her personal credibility. Perhaps so well that Mr Watson believes in her.
Theresa May must hardly be able to believe her luck. Victory is within sight, not just because voters are convinced, but because Labour surrenders.
NURSES have never before gone on strike, and so their threat to ballot for industrial action over a pay cap must be taken extremely seriously by the next Government.
Nursing staff are the backbone of the NHS, yet there are tens of thousands of unfilled posts, which is a key factor in the financial pressures that the service faces, as budgets are stretched by the need to employ agency nurses at often exorbitant rates to cover gaps and maintain safety standards.
The Royal College of Nursing’s assertion that low pay is partly responsible for the shortage of nurses cannot be ignored, especially since caps on public sector pay have resulted in a 14 per cent cut in their wages in real terms since 2010.
Significantly, it is not only the union that is raising the issue of pay and its effect on recruitment. NHS trust leaders have made the same point within the last week, which is indicative that this is not a question of industrial relations, but a matter of the practicalities of making a creaking health system work.
There are never any easy answers on NHS funding. A growing and ageing population places the service under relentlessly increasing pressures with each passing year.
But what is certain is that it cannot hope to address those pressures without adequate numbers of highly skilled nurses.
A solution must be found to recruiting more of them and paying wages that make the profession both attractive to newcomers and able to retain experienced staff.
Tech to the future
THE digital economy has been one of the North’s great success stories of recent years, creating jobs and putting it at the forefront of new technologies.
But more still needs to be done if that success is to continue and be built upon. Closer collaboration between the great cities of the North, and an increased focus on the skills that the high-tech economy needs hold out the enticing prospect of major economic progress.
This is an achievable aim that should be embraced wholeheartedly by both the public and private sectors. Emphasising tech skills in education will bring through a new generation equipped to both grow the digital economy and enjoy rewarding careers within it.
The North should be both bold and ambitious about its high-tech future. It is within our grasp to develop the skills to create a sector that is not just the best in the country, but world-leading. Our children deserve nothing less.