A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, the Labour Party and Hackney - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The great escape

I'm off on holiday to my home county of Kent, land of hop farms and orchards, from tomorrow so that baby Jed can spend some time with his grandparents. No email, no internet, so no blogging ... back on the 7th.

Book Review

Also at last night's GC, for the bargain price of 3 quid I purchased comrade Graham Bash's new history of the Labour Party - 100 Years of Labour - available online here http://www.100yearsoflabour.net

I can recommend it as a quick read - it's only 80 pages. If you are on the left of the party you'll agree with the analysis, if you are on my side it's always good to know where your opponents are coming from.

As you would expect from Graham who is from the left faction within Labour Left Briefing which is in itself the left faction within the LRC, which is the left faction within ... (you get the picture) ... the analysis is one of constant leadership betrayal punctured with rare moments of glorious triumph (i.e. 1983!).

However it's a punchy, well-written little book which is factually accurate and if you can filter out the propaganda aspects, a good intro to Labour history.

The launch of the book is intended to help John McDonnell's leadership bid ... I'm fairly sure on first reading that there is not a single mention of a certain Gordon Brown in the whole tome ...

The book's conclusion is that "if socialists in the Labour Party today have a point of reference, then it must be the vision of the Bennites of the early 1980s". Its weakness is that its authors have not moved on politically since then. Do they really think the Alternative Economic Strategy etc. which was autarkic nonsense even in 1983 is really relevant in a globalised economy? And why do they think Bennism would be any more attractive to the wider electorate than it was 20 years ago?

Any one out there who fancies co-authoring an 80 page short history of Labour from the alternative, moderate perspective?

Today Hackney, Tomorrow South America

Last night was a shorter-than-usual General Committee meeting of the Hackney North CLP - the heat meant there was a cross-factional consensus that the Rose & Crown and cold beer were more attractive than letting the meeting drag on. However, the truncated meeting heard from a really good outside speaker. We were supposed to be getting Jeremy Corbyn but apparently he is overseeing the conduct of the first democratic elections in the Congo (?) so he sent as substitute Dr Franscico Dominguez, lecturer in Latin American Studies at Middlesex University (http://www.mdx.ac.uk/subjects/lts/staff/dominguez.htm)

Dr Dominguez basically gave us a brain dump of the political history of Latin America from the Pinochet coup which saw him flee his native Chile, through the neo-liberalism of the '80s and '90s to the current resurgence of the left. Inevitably the focus was on Hugo Chavez and the role Venezuela is playing in the region.

Any CLP that is looking for a really interesting, indeed inspiring, speaker on a region that back in the heyday of the Nicaragua and Chile Solidarity Campaigns Labour was a lot more engaged with, really ought to invite Dr Dominguez to speak.

Whilst the social achievements of Chavez which he outlined are fantastic, I was still left uneasy about whether what is going on in Venezuela really fits into the democratic socialist tradition. I'm more than a bit queasy about Chavez' propensity for military uniforms, his history as a coup leader, his cosying up with geriatric communist dictator Castro and Byelorrusian tyrant Lukashenko, the anti-American rhetoric and the purchase of £1.6bn of Russian arms and the rights to licensed production of AK47 rifles(http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,,1832194,00.html). Will we get a statement from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade about that one? Nah ... probably not.

It's a shame that the left of the Labour Party seem to be lionising the ambiguous politics of Chavez rather than Chile, where a centre-left government is making great economic and social strides without Chavez' petro-dollars to fund it or his mateyness with dictators.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The voice of British liberalism?

Is there any editorial position at the Guardian on who they would draw the line at giving op-ed space to? Today it's someone called Ali Fayyad, a member of Hizbullah leadership council. So not to a representative of the Lebanese government but to a member of the leadership council of an organisation that started this whole crisis and has fired off 2,200 rockets into northern Israel in the last two weeks - deliberately fired indiscriminately at civilians. Who next in the Guardian's sick giving of platforms to terrorists?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ted Grant joins Trotsky

Good bye and good riddance to former leader of Militant, Ted Grant, one of the troika of unpleasant men - along with Gerry Healey and Tony Cliff - who competed to run British Trotskyism following the 1947 split in the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Mr Grant helped contribute to the madness that overwhelmed Labour in the early '80s and allowed Maggie Thatcher to trash Britain, encouraged the suicide of local government in Liverpool later in the same decade, and ensured the Labour Party's youth section was a wholly owned subsidiary of another party, the Revolutionary Socialist League, for over 20 years.

His followers combined moronic politics based on unacheivable "transitional demands" drawn from the teachings of Russian Civil War mass-murderer Leon Trotsky with day to day thuggery designed to intimidate democratic socialists out of the Labour Party.

Trots differ from Stalinists only in their whinging about having come out on the losing side in the internal politics of the 1920s CPSU - they actually invented the "Red Terror" tactics that Stalin perfected on an industrial scale. Like Stalinists, Militant and other Trots support violent revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, a vanguard party and democratic centralism. Unlike Stalinists, they are also politically dishonest and seek to enter into and take over democratic socialist parties.

If there is a hell, I hope there is a special circle in it where Ted can join Leon, Tony, Gerry et al in an eternity of selling newspapers to each other.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dear Charles,

Dear Charles,

as one Chatham Ward councillor to a former one, I read your latest thoughts in the Guardian : http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,,1825607,00.html

I am now retreating to a darkened room to scream very, very, very loudly at the fact that yet another good Minister has decided to go completely off the rails after leaving office.

Hopefully the PM will remind you of Attlee's words to Laski: "A period of silence from you would be welcome."

Yours etc.

What has Trident got to with MPs

Being an old fashioned type I can't agree with Jack Straw's suggestion that MPs will get a vote on replacing Trident - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5198708.stm

When did all this nonsense start?

Attlee and Bevin didn't even tell MPs they were building an A-Bomb let alone consult them.

Whilst we don't have a formal separation of powers in this country we do have different roles for Parliament and the Government - though some people are members of both bodies.

MPs are there to legislate and to scrutinise the executive.

The Government - as ministers of the "Crown" - are there to take non-legislative, executive decisions like do we have a new generation of strategic nuclear deterrent or do we go to war.

If MPs don't like those decisions they can always remove the Government in a confidence vote.

It isn't their job though to actually take part in Government decisions on matters of national security.

We seem to be drifting into an era of phoney "national debates" and "consultation" on key issues where what we ought to have is clear decisions that the electorate then judges at a general election.

The record after 12 years

12 years ago today Tony Blair was elected Labour Leader: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/
stories/july/21/newsid_2515000/2515825.stm

To commemorate this anniversary it's worth reviewing his relative success compared to previous Labour leaders. One objective way to do this is to look at the results obtained in General Elections in ranked order:

LEADER - Elections fought - Average number of seats won
Blair - Played 3, won 3 - 395
Wilson - Played 5, won 4, lost 1 - 318
Attlee - Played 5, won 2, lost 3 - 287
Callaghan - Played 1, lost 1 - 269
Gaitskell - Played 1, lost 1 - 258
Kinnock - Played 2, lost 2- 250
MacDonald - Played 3, won 2, lost 1 - 210
Foot - Played 1, lost 1 - 209
Clynes - Played 1, lost 1 - 142
Adamson - Played 1, lost 1 - 57
Henderson - Played 2, lost 2 - 46
Barnes - Played 1, lost 1 - 42

The numbers speak for themselves.

What would we do?

As usual in any Middle East crisis there are a queue of worthy figures calling for a ceasefire - undoubtedly for the best humanitarian reasons. The BBC today reports a list of them - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5202216.stm - the Archbishop of Canterbury, Kofi Annan, Chris Mullin, Claire Short, the Lib Dems.

As usual what's missing is any empathy with the position Israel finds itself in. If we in the UK had a country only 20 miles wide at one point, much of which could be randomly shelled by artillery fire from neighbours, if we had a history as victims of genocide, as having had to fight three wars of national survival in the first 40 years of our national existance, if we had a recent history of suicide bombings - not the once that we experienced on 7/7 but as a repeated risk every time you take a bus or go with your family for a pizza - would we be so quick to rush to judgement?

What do the well-meaning ceasefire callers think would be acheived if a ceasefire came before Hezbollah has been disarmed and the kidnapped IDF soldiers returned?

What would we do if were in Israel's strategic situation - the analogy is of the south of Scotland - a weak and failed state - being occupied by a terrorist army that preached the genocide of the English and the liquidation of England as a state, armed and financed by neighbouring fascist countries, one of which has a state ideology of wanting your state removed from the map and is developing nuclear weapons to enable it to do it. This terrorist army is equipped with rocketry and missiles which it fires across the border, hitting Newcastle and Sunderland. In Berwick and other border towns the population are living in air raid shelters. The terrorist army crosses the border and kills members of an army patrol and kidnaps two of them, taking them north of the border and suggesting they are swapped for many hundred convicted terrorist prisoners.

If this was our strategic situation we would be demonstrating in the streets demanding our government acted in exactly the way the Israelis are doing. But we are lucky and we don't have such neighbours or such a history, so our Archbishops and our former Ministers can take the moral highground.

Thankfully we have leaders in the UK and USA who are for the moment standing firm behind Israel. If the IDF do destroy Hezbollah they will have struck a blow for the whole democratic world, not just Israel. I'm content for that to be done "in my name."

McDonnell vs Brown

My good comrade and sparring partner on the Hackney North Labour Party General Committee, Graham Bash of Labour Left Briefing http://www.labourleftbriefing.org.uk/ agrees with me about one thing - that John McDonnell's candidature for Labour Leader is good news. He thinks it will invigorate the left. I think it will provide the opportunity to drive an extremely large stake through the left's heart.

Graham's touching faith in McDonnell's ability to raise the politically dead is detailed in his guest column in the CPGB's Weekly Worker: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/634/bash.htm

Is it just me or is there something a bit odd about a Labour activist having a column in the in-house publication of another political party? What next - Neal Lawson writing for Liberal Democrat News? (perhaps not so implausible)

Anyway, Graham dismisses the little matter of McDonnell having problems finding 44 MPs to nominate him as "lifeless parliamentary arithmetic" which is a bit like saying a team failing to qualify for the World Cup is a victim of "lifeless football arithmetic". In McDonnell's case it's indicative of the fact that of the 353 colleagues he serves alongside, he is struggling to get an endorsement from even 1 in 10 - including some of his Campaign Group colleagues.

Graham thinks the trade union section will deliver a handsome vote for McDonnell in the electoral college (if he gets nominated). Dream on. The union vote is based on a ballot of ordinary members - not the crazy ultra left adventures of a few General Secretaries but the votes of upwards of a million grassroots trade unionists.

Graham hits the nail on the head by saying that "in any eventual ballot the size of John’s vote could surprise comrades" - but my hunch is the surprise may be how low it is.

Maybe the sane end of the PLP should lend McDonnell a few nominations from MPs to ensure he gets on the ballot paper and the true decline in the left's strength to derisory levels is revealed in a contested election.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Spoof Website

As someone on the receiving end of a spoof/parody website, I was concerned to see that even MPs are not immune from this phenomenon.

Over the weekend some practical joker has set up a website pretending to be Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell:
http://www.john4leader.org.uk/

It's clearly not really his site as it says he is running for leader of the Labour Party, which would be funny if it wasn't too ridiculous to be even vaguely plausible.

I am however one of the 82% of the public who think he should run against Brown - http://www.john4leader.org.uk/latestnews/0002.html - as I suspect is Mr Brown himself - what more could any aspiring Labour leader want than a comedy leftwing opponent who will struggle to even get the required 44 MPs to nominate him, split the left as half of them want to back Meacher, and remind the electorate how much the Labour Party has changed since 1983?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Unexpected Photo of the week



No endorsement implied by either party in this picture.

Panic in the Grassroots Alliance

Judging from the coverage generated in the ever unreliable Tribune, the "Centre Left Grassroots Alliance" (sic) are panicking about the Labour NEC elections having realised that the moderate wing of the party have upped their game organisationally and that without Mark Seddon they are bereft of one of their highest profile vote-winners - Walter Wolfgang is hardly a credible replacement.

So they are resorting to what they normally do which is to chuck a bit of mud around in the hope that some of it sticks. Hence this silly little article in Trib:

"LABOUR PARTY officials have been accused of directly intervening inthis year's elections for the constituency section of the National Executive Committee, throwing the process open to potential legal challenges. Last week some MPs and MEPs sympathetic to the party's leadership began contacting local members, advising them to vote for:Azhar Ali, Louise Baldock, Lorna Fitzsimons, Ellie Reeves, Bill Thomas and Peter Wheeler. The six candidates have been selected as the "leadership slate" by the party hierachy. Tribune has seen several copies of letters sent out by MPs and MEPs all of which are virtually identical. Tribune has also received the original template, which tells MPs where they should sign their name. A researcher for one of the parliamentarians who distributed the letter to local members, admitted that they had been asked to send them out by the party's regional office. The researcher understood that regional officials were acting on instructions from the party's headquarters. It is entirely against the party's rules for party officials to seek to influence internal elections. The rule was introduced after Alicia Kennedy - who has since been made assistant general secretary - was caught campaigning for an NEC candidate by email. To increase the embarrassment Ms Baldock who is a already a member of the NEC, has confirmed that no one asked her to be part of the slate and she had hoped to stand independently The leadership slate has been created to counter the Left-wing Grassroots Alliance, who currently hold four ofthe six constituency seats. Their sitting members are: Mohammed Azam, Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft and Pete Willsman. The remaining two grassroots candidates are: Gaye Johnstone secretary of Save the Labour Party and veteran peace activist Walter Wolfgang who was last year violently ejected from party conference. Russell Cartwright, assistant secretary of the Grassroots Alliance, said: "This is unwarranted interference in the democratic process. The general secretary should now take immediate action to stamp out this malpractice. A Labour Party spokesperson, said: "The NEC election is a free and fair ballot of Labour Party members. If anything has occurred which is not in the code of conduct the party will take action."

As usual, the Party's civil servants who can't answer back are smeared.

The premise behind the whole thing is ridiculous - that there is something wrong with MPs and MEPs expressing a view to the members who selected them about who to support in an internal party election. What scoundrels and rascals! Next thing they may be expressing support for the Prime Minister ... or the policies in the Party Manifesto.

As the office a certain Campaign Group MP not a million miles from the London Borough of Hackney has merrily emailed me the CV of one of the Grassroots Alliance slate - perhaps not the best use of their time given my well known open mind on such matters - it does seem there is one rule for the SCG's brave tribunes of the people - whose motives in promoting their favoured NEC candidates are of course pure and noble - and another for MPs who actually want the party to win the next election.

Anyway, I failed to vote for the full "leadership slate" as outlined in Trib as this was the first I'd ever heard of it. Does it even exist or is it a figment of an increasingly desperate and paranoid left's imagination? Will my meteoric rise through the ranks to deputy chief leafletting monitor be thwarted by Victoria Street enforcers now they know I voted for Philomena Muggins not Louise Baldock? Did Louise want my vote as she doesn't like slates? Does anyone other than Tribune's miniscule readership care?

Israel coverage in the Guardian

Ahdaf Soueif’s article in the Guardian today http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1819073,00.html calls for sanctions against Israel . Its intention is worthy – to end Palestinian suffering – but its rhetoric is disingenuous and masks the two-sided nature of the current situation in Gaza and Lebanon. Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon six years ago and Gaza last year according to international wishes and approval. The response in Gaza has been regular rocket attacks in the unconnected Israeli town of Sderot, whilst yesterday’s kidnapping of two soldiers and the further killing of seven on the Lebanese border was described by Kofi Annan as a “blatant breach” of Security Council resolutions.

Crossing an internationally recognised ceasefire line and kidnapping a soldier from another sovereign state has to be unacceptable, no matter the context. And the context, sadly, has been one in which Israel’s efforts towards a two-state solution have been constantly undermined by terrorist groups committed to the destroying the State of Israel.

Soueif’s article ignores the need for this context and ignores the compelling argument that both sides need to act responsibly if a two-state solution is ever to be achieved. It is a sorry indictment of a respected writer like Soueif to choose to write such a one-sided and deliberately provocative piece on a day when terrorist groups have demonstrably proven their absolute opposition to peace and a two-state solution.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Levy etc.

I'm not convinced that the police really needed to arrest Lord Levy to question him about his role in getting loans for the Labour Party.

What I am convinced about is that to restore public faith in the party funding system we need:

a) at least some element of state funding or match funding to create a more level playing field between the parties and reduce the need for donations and loans and thereby insinuations of "buying influence"

b) an elected House of Lords so that the honours system does not include the award of seats in the legislature

c) a lower cap on national general election spend than the current £20m to reduce the amount of funding the parties need - most of the £20m is in any case wasted on billboard and newspaper advertising that has zero impact on how people vote

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Old Lie

A poster on Jo Salmon's blog http://www.josalmon.co.uk/2006/07/suspended-for-disagreeing-with-the-government/#comment-28568

repeats the old lie that "it was always the hardest left in the party that were the door knocking, reading board activists". Piffle. Er... who does the poster think did all the work before the Hard Left came into existence in the 1970s ... all the poor folk who spent decades sustaining the Labour party before being purged by the Bennites and Militants from their branch officerships and council seats in the 1978-82 period - the moderate, usually working class, often trade unionist ballast of the party who were dismissed as "politically dead old men and women" by the bed-sit left as they swept through the urban Labour Party in the '70s.

I've met honourable exceptions in all the CLPs I've been involved in who have been very left
wing but work hard at election time (even when I'm the candidate which must involve gritted teeth). I've also met far more ultra-leftists who reject campaigning as "an organisational solution to a political problem", are just plain lazy, or who think that activism is about counting the number of meetings attended and resolutions moved, not doors knocked on or leaflets delivered.

Equally I've met fair-weather Blairites who have swanned through the worlds of government policy wonkery and think-tanks and look down their noses at those of us engaged in the grubby reality of council meetings and canvassing.

A major cross cutting divide in most CLPs is that people vote for colleagues who go out and campaign hard whatever side of the party they are from.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Not such a neat idea

The usually admirably sensible Gareth Thomas MP has suggested that Labour should have primary elections - http://www.progressives.org.uk/magazine/default.asp?action=magazine&articleid=1039

Yup. Great. So we can be like the Democrats and have our registered supporters pick a string of candidates who make us feel great and rah-rah-radical, then crash and burn in the main election. Remember all those great Presidential candidates the Democrats picked by primary: George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry ...

And we would get to have yet another set of elections - a sure fire way to counter political apathy. Not.

And rip ourselves to shreds in front of the watching nation. Oh, I forgot, we're quite capable of doing that without a primary.

If you need a 2 word argument against primaries: Howard Dean. Or did he win the Iowa caucus? (answers on a postcard please to...)

In the absence of a statue...


Hackney Council actually has policy, passed in the early '90s, to stick a statue of Herbert Morrison in the Town Hall Square. I'm not going to push for that to be implemented, but in its absence, he gets a pic here:

El Tom has put this quote from Bevan about Morrison on his site (http://www.newerlabour.blogspot.com/):

"He (Morrison) is the wrong man to be Home Secretary. He has for many years the witch-finder of the Labour Party. He has been the smeller-out of evil spirits in the Labour Party for years. He built up his reputation by selecting people in the Labour Party for expulsion and suppression. He is not a man to be entrusted with these powers because, however suave his utterance, his spirit is really intolerant. I say with all seriousness and earnestness that I am deeply ashamed that a member of the Labour Party should be an instrument of this sort of thing. How can we call on the people of this country and speak about liberty if the Government are doing all they can to undermine it? The Government are seeking to suppress their critics. The only way for the Government to meet their critics is to redress the wrongs from which the people are suffering and to put their policy right. "

I'm putting it on here as it shows what a great man Herbert M - who was both MP and Mayor for Hackney - was that he wound up Bevan so much.

I prefer this quote from Morrison: 'Socialism is what a Labour government does'

Plus ca change ...

Hoodies for Cameron

"Dave" Cameron seems to be turning out not to be the genius political strategist some feared. He seems to have missed the point that the idea behind triangulation as practised by Blair and Clinton was to take the policies where you were previously weakest and most out of tune with public opinion (defence, tax, crime in Labour's case in the '90s) and pitch your tent firmly on the centre ground. Cameron in contrast with his "let's be understanding to hoodies" gaff has positioned the Tories as at odds with Labour policy on ASBOs that resonates not just with the core Labour vote but with the core Tory one as well. It's easy for him to say "let's be understanding" when he represents a leafy bit of Oxfordshire where the height of ASB is probably some under-age cider drinking in the village bus shelter. For the people in my council ward, particularly the elderly and young families on estates who are terrorised by crime, vandalism, and "neighbours from hell" the problem with the Government's respect agenda is not that it shows insufficient "understanding" of the causes of bad behaviour but that it isn't being rolled out fast enough.

Game over

It looks like it is game over for the PLP's serial rebels as Chief Whip Jacqui Smith brings in new disciplinary rules: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2263140,00.html

This should have been done in 1997 not left until now.

My own MP Diane Abbott is having a good whinge about it: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2262980,00.html

I don't have much sympathy for her position. Why should there be one law for local councillors and another for MPs? On any local council you confine your policy arguments to private Group meetings, if you lose a vote in the Labour Group you support the majority position of the Group once it gets to full council, and you can have the whip suspended for behaviour that brings the party into disrepute or for voting against the Group. I've had to vote for things I disagree with because I've been in the minority - that's the nature of being in a political group rather than an independent.

There is very little point having a Parliamentary Labour Party - as opposed to a bunch of individual MPs - if it doesn't take decisions collectively, stick to them, and have effective sanctions to apply to people who won't accept collective responsibility.

The wider electorate only get one Labour candidate to put a cross next to in a parliamentary election. They don't get to express a preference for a leftwing or a Blairite MP - most voters are judging the parties on which one they want to form a government. The least they should expect is that if it says Labour on them tin it will be Labour in the tin - i.e. every Labour MP will vote for the policies that were in the Labour manifesto.

No one is trying to silence you Diane - just to get you to accept basic standards of collective responsibility that even the most junior backbench councillor signs up to.

Friday, July 07, 2006

We do conferences too...

I might actually go to this one as it doesn't feature Neal Lawson:

http://www.progressives.org.uk/events/default.asp?id=43

Those who live by the sword ...

The SWP are now reaping the whirlwind down the road from me in Tower Hamlets as the "Respect" frankenstein they created takes on a life of its own. Branch-stacking and meeting packing antics that characterised the Tower Hamlets Labour Party in the past, e.g. in the 1997 General Election selection, have now been shifted to Respect where they are being used by the non-Trot Muslim faction against John Rees etc. The juicy details (ok too much detail even for a trainspotter like me) are all here http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/632/respect.htm as the CPGB (no relation to the pre-1990 CPGB) carries out its traditional role of exposing the less than democratic inner workings of the other 57 Marxist-Leninist varieties. It couldn't happen to a nicer party.

Coded critiques

I'm confused by a letter in the Guardian today http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1814691,00.html from various Labour worthies, including a batch of TU general secretaries whom I'm sure practice what they preach about "accountable leadership" and consulted widely before putting pen to paper ;)

It says:

"Tony Blair's recent article was published under the heading "No more coded critiques - let's have an open debate on where we go next" (June 27). We welcome that and agree there should now be an open public debate on the future direction of our party and government. In particular, we believe there is now an urgent need to focus on the following issues: ending poverty and rising inequality; a government and party leadership which is accountable; an end to privatisation of public services; foreign policy; and employment rights and trade union law.
Following the initiative taken by the prime minister, we intend over the next few months to organise a public debate around these issues in order to point the way towards the change of direction in government policy that so many in the Labour movement now want to see.Frank Dobson MP, Angela Eagle MP, Billy Hayes (CWU), Paul Kenny (GMB), Michael Meacher MP, Dave Prentis (Unison), Tony Robinson (ex-NEC), Clare Short MP, Derek Simpson (Amicus), John Trickett MP, Tony Woodley (TGWU)."

Strangely for an attack on "coded critiques" it largely reads as ... a coded critique.

For instance the rather bland phrase "foreign policy" when what I assume is meant is "there is an urgent need to focus on ... Iraq ... and ... er ... Iraq".

Most of the other issues are, oddly, rather than those that there is a debate about within Labour - such as public service reform - the ones everyone from Blair to Diane Abbott agrees on and where the government actually has a pretty good record of delivery but knows it needs to do more - ending poverty and employment rights and union law (the latter of which a common position on was negotiated at Warwick only a couple of years ago). But maybe these are "coded critiques" that I'm too dim to understand.

As for "an end to privatisation of public services" can anyone name a "privatisation" under this Government. Yes, there's been a grand total of one: of defence laboratory QinetiQ which I'm not sure is what these guys would define as a public service - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_privatizations#United_Kingdom
Still, who cares about semantics when you can have a "coded critique" of the government and smear corporate donations to schools, contracting-out, ALMOs or anything else as "privatisation" as it's a nice buzzy word that makes people angry.

The authors of this dazzling work, will be organising a "public debate". Does this mean a debate through the democratic processes of the Labour Party? Or more letters to the papers? Or another turgid conference a la Compass with an overlapping cast of the usual suspects? Again who can tell as it's all a "coded critique".

They want "to point the way towards the change of direction in government policy that so many in the Labour movement now want to see" - oh go on spit it out, you mean you want to precipitate Blair's departure because he's either sacked you or not kowtowed to you don't you?

It all reads like what it is - a letter written by committee - with amendments moved here and there - hence the general secretaries get "union law", Baldrick gets a more accountable leadership, and Clare gets "foreign policy" (a coded critique for "I used to just hate Tony now I hate Gordon too").

The PM must be trembling in his boots as he contemplates how to respond to this devastating, and not at all "coded" critique.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Link of the day

http://idiots4labour.blogspot.com/

Picture time


I'm posting a picture for the first time. Thought I'd go with one that will warm the hearts of Hackney Labourites and irritate our opponents - 44 newly re-elected Labour councillors + 1 newly re-elected Labour Mayor on the Town Hall steps:

Monday, July 03, 2006

NEC Elections

Most Labour Party members will have received their ballot papers for the National Executive Committee (NEC) elections today.

Hopefully members will go for candidates who actually want to be on the NEC to build for a 4th term victory not to undermine Blair and Brown.

A helpful "who not to vote for guide" is produced by the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (sic) http://home.freeuk.net/clpd/NEC2006.htm

- Mohammed Azam, Ann Black, Gaye Johnson, Christine Shawcroft, Pete Willsman and Walter Wolfgang.

As a "throw-back to the 1950s" I will obviously not be voting for people who want to take us kicking and screaming into the early 1980s, though Walter Wolfgang was probably off-side in the '50s as well as every other decade in between. Of their slate of 6, Ann Black is at least independent minded rather than a doctrinaire oppositionalist. The 2 it would be really good to get rid of are Christine Shawcroft, who if I had my way wouldn't even be in the party let alone on its NEC, and Pete Willsman, who whilst a nice bloke, was the backroom organiser behind much of the Bennite lunacy of the '80s.

Labour First are backing Azhar Ali, Philomena Muggins, Ellie Reeves, Bill Thomas and Peter Wheeler. I'll be voting for them plus former MP Lorna Fitzsimons.

In between are Helen Jackson, who is on the Board of Compass, Mehboob Khan, and Naz Sarkar who is a good local councillor and campaigner in Waltham Forest.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What's left?

Labour left blogger Bob Piper http://www.councillorbobpiper.blogspot.com/ is excited because he thinks that he's found in me the lost "right wing" of Labour.

I'm actually quite comfortable to be labelled a "Labour right-winger" in internal party terms as long as people show some understanding that objectively that still means I'm on the left side of the political debate in the UK. Having stood against Tory right-wing MPs Gerald Howarth and Bob Spink I can assure Cllr Piper that I'm well to the left of any median/mean point dividing line in the centre of British politics - either measured on where the political parties sit on the spectrum or where the electorate sits. Believe it or not, most voters if they attack Blair do so because they think he is too left wing - on Europe, crime, immigration, tax, human rights, counter-terrorism etc.

The political compass (nothing to do with "Compass") website http://www.politicalcompass.org/ is a site that tells you where you sit on the political spectrum based on a series of theoretical questions. I've done the questions and it says I'm -4.25 on the economic left-right axis and -2.56 on the social libertarian/authoritarian one - on a scale in each case of -10 to +10 (so I'm fairly strongly left wing on economic questions and a bit nearer to the centre but still a leftie on social ones). This apparently puts me in the same quadrant as Ralph Nader, the UK Green Party, Mandela and the Dalai Lama and where Labour was in 1982... so it may not be too accurate... be interesting to know where it positions other Labour bloggers.

As for Comrade Piper's claims that I am climbing the greasy pole, no Bob, it isn't people like me who are consistent and say what they think who are climbing the greasy pole - as my views can and almost certainly will be used against me in selection contests etc. The careerists are the people who rise through the party without ever uttering a political view, or who were Bennites when that was fashionable, then born again as Blairites in 1994, and are now suddenly converts to Compass etc.

I liked the post on Bob's site saying "Luke is a good old fashioned AEU loving rightist. He's a thrown back to the 1950s". The highest compliment possible.

 
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