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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My alter ego comes visiting

I don't often draw attention to the spoof Luke Akehurst site (it just encourages him) but think it's justified today on 2 grounds:

a) Standing outside my house taking photos of it is creepy and goes a bit beyond satire and into the realms of stalking, and was also a bit stupid as Cllr Smith was at home and saw you.

b) You have made several recent references to the President of Kazakhstan, suggesting I support dodgy central Asian tyrannies. This is spectacularly wide of the mark, as my only connection with Borat's homeland or any other country in the region is that back in 2004 I actually used to work for the then democratic opposition party, Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, helping them inform MPs here about the human rights situation in their country.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Top Ten things I'd never do

Kris has tagged me with this, which I think was a chain started by Iain Dale.

Anyway, here goes.

I would never:

1) Become a vegetarian
2) Be a football fan
3) Vote for any party other than Labour
4) Forgive Margaret Thatcher for what she did to this country
5) Understand why some people on the "left" enthuse about dictatorships like Cuba but attack the USA and Israel
6) Turn down an invite to a good restaurant
7) Get bored of listening to anything by the Smiths or Morrissey (despite my views on vegetarianism)
8) Take another politically restricted job that stopped me blogging, writing to newspapers and canvassing (tried it and hated it)
9) Send my son to a faith, selective or fee-paying school
10) Hide what I believe in to win votes

The 10 fellow bloggers I nominate to do the same are:

Dave Osler, Theo Blackwell, Dave Hill, Stuart Bruce, Tom Watson, David Cole, Adele Reynolds, Paulie, Martin Whelton, Shamik Das.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bob, Ken, Trevor and race

Today's Daily Mirror reveals that Bob Spink MP has modified none of his less than charming views on race and immigration since I stood against him in Castle Point in the last General Election.

Back then, he ran a series of local newspaper adverts with the headline "'What bit of 'send them back' don't you understand Mr Blair?' " and me & the Lib Dem candidate complained about him to the CRE.

So much for Cameron's new cuddly liberal Tory Party. Same old Tories, same old redneck views.

However, rather than focussing on this kind of disgusting bigotry, anti-racists are busy attacking each other - see Ken Livingstone's bizarre series of attacks on Trevor Phillips.

Ken - hint - on this issue your enemies are Bob Spink and the BNP not Trevor and the CRE.

Cameron in IDS polling territory

The MORI poll reported in the Observer yesterday shows (their words) this:

"satisfaction ratings among British voters have plummeted lower than Tony Blair's, a new Ipsos Mori poll reveals, raising fresh questions over whether his rebranding of the party has worked.
As he approaches his first anniversary as leader next month, the Conservatives are still two points ahead of Labour, on 35 to 33 per cent of the vote among those absolutely certain to go to the ballot box. But attempts to woo women and young people with initiatives such as promising tax relief on childcare, recruiting more female MPs or sympathising with hoodies appear to have failed, with the two per cent rise in Tory support since the general election - when Michael Howard was in charge - coming mostly from men and the middle-aged.

One year on and Cameron is slippingTory leader's satisfaction ratings are comparable to that of Howard, Hague and IDS, new poll shows Gaby Hinsliff, political editorSunday November 26, 2006The Observer
David Cameron's satisfaction ratings among British voters have plummeted lower than Tony Blair's, a new Ipsos Mori poll reveals, raising fresh questions over whether his rebranding of the party has worked.
As he approaches his first anniversary as leader next month, the Conservatives are still two points ahead of Labour, on 35 to 33 per cent of the vote among those absolutely certain to go to the ballot box. But attempts to woo women and young people with initiatives such as promising tax relief on childcare, recruiting more female MPs or sympathising with hoodies appear to have failed, with the two per cent rise in Tory support since the general election - when Michael Howard was in charge - coming mostly from men and the middle-aged.
The revelation that only 25 per cent of the electorate consider themselves 'satisfied' with Cameron's performance as leader of the opposition - rising only to 45 per cent among Tory voters, down from 60 per cent in February - will be a blow to his inner circle, given that it suggests a similar trajectory to his failed predecessors Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague.
The most common reason for dissatisfaction was lack of clarity about his policies.
Damagingly, voters who previously approved of Cameron are now starting to turn against him, according to Mori founder Sir Robert Worcester."

The actual figures "found Conservative support at 35 per cent, Labour on 33 and the Liberal Democrats on 20 per cent among those certain to vote - who made up 56 per cent of those questioned. Among all those giving a preference, Labour has a five-point lead, but these individuals are not all likely to vote."

Sounds like a good reason to intriduce compulsory voting.

GLLP Conference

On Saturday I took time out from unpacking my 26 boxes of political biographies, Times guides to the Commons, Waller's almanacs etc to attend the Greater London Labour Party biennial regional conference.

Highlight for me was falling asleep during Ken Livingstone's speech. I woke up in time to hear that the GLA (and presumably the London precept on my council tax) are funding a festival of Cuban culture next year to celebrate 50 years of the revolution. I restrained myself from using the Q&A to ask if the festival would mention Cuban democracy and human rights (or lack thereof).

As usual the left made a lot of noise but didn't actually seem to have a majority amongst either TU or CLP delegates, which is significant given London's historic role as the thermometer of the Labour Party where political trends are evident first before they reach the rest of the country.

On the key "test vote" which was a move to reference back the Conference Arrangement Committee report (GLLP conferences are a bit '80s retro in style) and allow an emergency debate from the TSSA against private sector involvement in the East London Line, the platform won by 106 votes to 76.

Elections to the GLLP Board produced the following results (descriptions of candidates in the CLP section are my interpretation partly based on the "line" that was in the left's Campaign Briefing flyer - apologies to anyone who feels I have misrepresented their position):

Chair: Len Duvall LAM (unopposed)
Vice-Chair: Linda Perks (UNISON) - (unopposed)
National Policy Forum: Maggie Cosin (moderate, GMB) and Pat O'Keefe (left, TGWU) (both unopposed)
Ethnic Minorities Officer: Raj Jethwa (left, GMB) 85% beat Munir Malik (moderate, Co-Op) 13%, Abdul Aziz Toki (Lewisham W) 1%, Nagus Narenthira (Hendon) 1%
CLPs London NW
Woman: Lisa Homan (moderate, Chelsea & Fulham) 82%, beating Claire Farrier (Hendon, don't know her politics) 18%
Man: Chris Payne (moderate, Ealing Southall) 53%, beating Colin Bastin (left, Ealing Acton & SB) 18%, Alex Brodin (Hendon) 18%, William Hunter (Hammersmith) 12%.
CLPs London S & SE
Woman: Joanne Milligan (moderate, Croydon C) unopposed
Man: Charlie Mansell (moderate, Sutton & Cheam) 93% beat Chris Purnell (left, Orpington) 7%
CLPs London N & NE
Woman: Sally Mulready (moderate, Hackney N) 69% beat Laura Bruni (left, Walthamstow) 31%
Man: Aktar Beg (left, Chingford) 51% beat Alan Griffiths (moderate, W Ham) 49% - largely because the East Ham delegate went home early having forgotten to vote!
CLPs London Central
Woman: Lucy Anderson (left, Holborn) unopposed
Man: Francis Prideaux (left, Westminster N) 64% beat Sam Townend (moderate, Vauxhall) 36%
Trade Unions
Elected:
Jenny Bremner (Amicus) unopposed
Hilary Hosking (TSSA) unopposed
Sheila Thomas (USDAW) unopposed
Rachel Voller (UNISON) unopposed
Ed Blissett (GMB) 303,000
Steve Hart (TGWU) 303,000
Alan Tate (CWU) 303,000
Stuart King (Amicus) 200,000
Not elected: Amarjit Singh (TSSA) 103,000
Co-Op: Joe Simpson & Dora Dixon Fyle - both uncontested
Socialist Societies: Huw Davies, uncontested
Young Labour: Alun Or-Bach, uncontested
MEP: Mary Honeyball, uncontested
MPs: Jon Cruddas and Andrew Dismore, both uncontested
London Councils: Chris Roberts & Tony Newman, both uncontested

Moving

Apologies for the silence for 3 days as I have been busy moving house to Beatty Road, which for the political anoraks out there is in Stoke Newington Central ward, politically the soundest branch in Hackney North CLP, and the one I used to chair before our previous move four years ago.

This has the added benefit of moving me out of the only Lib Dem ward in Hackney, so now I have Labour councillors again (and a CPZ and compulsory recycling to get used to).

In the mean time Kerron Cross seems to have got concerned that I have won the Labour Home poll on which blogger should be deputy Labour leader in 2022. Final results were:

Antonia Bance 16 votes - 31 %
Andrew Regan 0 votes - 0 %
Neil Harding 2 votes - 3 %
Alex Hilton 5 votes - 9 %
Kerron Cross 5 votes - 9 %
Tom Freeman 2 votes - 3 %
Adele Reynolds 1 vote - 1 %
Luke Akehurst 21 votes - 41 %
Miranda Grell 1 vote - 1 %
Andrew Brown 1 vote - 1 %
51 Total Votes

and various comradely people to my left have defended my honour in the comments section after Reclaim Labour got rather over excited last week (thank you David, Duncan & Hamer, much appreciated that you can disagree with me without resorting to Mr Perkins' line in abuse).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hackney City Farm

Thanks to my council colleagues Barry, Sade & Jonathan at http://www.haggerstonlabour.blogspot.com/ for the news that the excellent Hackney City Farm in their ward won £50k to reclaim and clean up unused wasteland in and around Haggerston Park and local estates for public and community use from the Big Lottery Fund.

Jed Akehurst (aged 13 months) particularly enjoyed the pigs and the Music and Movement for 0-2 1/2 year olds when he went there last Friday with his mum. I was stuck at work so will have to wait for a weekend trip before I get to go...

Wind power

At last night's Homerton Neighbourhood Forum we heard a really interesting presentation from the Olympic Delivery Authority about the physical legacy that will be created by having the Olympics on Hackney's doorstep.

The one bit that I didn't like is the plan to have a 120 metre high wind turbine permanently towering over the Lea Valley marshes.

I don't mind wind turbines out at sea - in fact the ones in the Thames Estuary north of Herne Bay look quite good - but on land I'm concerned that the environmental benefits of the green energy production are balanced out by the environmental despoilation of having an ugly eyesore towering over the landscape.

What do people think?

Hello

I'm interested to find out who the 250-ish people are who read this blog most days but never post a comment.

In blog-speak you are known rather insultingly as "lurkers" - I prefer "readers".

So in the spirit of the "readers' meetings" that Militant used to have, this post is an online "readers' meeting".

If you have never posted a comment before (maybe because you agree with everything I say!) please break your silence and say hi, and tell us a bit about who you are and where you are from, why you read the site (is it because you agree with it or you enjoy being wound up by things you disagree with?) and any suggestions you have (e.g. topics I should post more about).

PS

I am delighted to take back my mention of Margaret Beckett as a Trident replacement sceptic in yesterday's post. The Guardian today says she "said yesterday she would support the retention of a British independent nuclear deterrent." Well done Mrs Beckett.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reverting to type

Long forgotten political alignments seem to be bubbling to the surface in certain quarters - see this article in the Times saying Beckett, Hain and H Benn "have all expressed private reservations about extending or replacing the Trident missile system".

I'm prepared to bet quite a bit Ms Harman will also jump on that particular bandwagon.

All helps me decide who not to give my lower preference votes to in the Deputy Leadership election.

And makes me feel very uneasy about what shallow roots the sane Labour project has amongst some parliamentarians. Being pro-nuclear deterrent isn't even after all a Blair era change - unpicking this is going back on a pretty basic policy change enacted by Kinnock as long ago as 1988.

Anyone would have thought some of these characters were actively wanting a period in opposition.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perhaps ...

... Syria is not necessarily the best potential partner in the War on Terror?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6169606.stm

Voting time

A perfect opportunity has been created for my online fan club to vent their spleen by voting against me for something ... Paul Burgin has created a fantasy deputy leadership where the candidates are Labour bloggers - he's put me down as one of 10 candidates - you can vote here:

http://pauldburgin.labourhome.org/story/2006/11/20/9131/2158

Of course positive support is also welcome, though I am not holding my breath until I get my first vote.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Be careful who you invite to dinner

Poor Margaret Hodge - all over the news for a few indiscrete remarks about Iraq at an Islington Fabian Society dinner.

Perhaps it was not that sensible of the Islington Fabians to give a ticket to the man who broke the story - Eric Gordon. Eric edits three of the most lively, intensely political and investigative local free newspapers in the country: the Islington Tribune, Camden New Journal and West End Extra.

But he ain't exactly a fan of the moderate wing of the Labour Party - there's more about his political background here - living in China in the '60s, he was "fundamentally sympathetic and supportive of Mao" (until put under house arrest) and admits he had "taken part in the whole Cultural Revolution" (charming - as it involved the deaths of several million innocent people).

Eric must have thought it was journalistic christmas when Margaret started having a go at Blair's foreign policy.

If the Islington Fabians would like a speaker who actually supports Blair's foreign policy and is in favour of "moral imperialism" (assuming she meant exporting democratic values) I would be happy to oblige - as long as I get to choose the restaurant. Journalists welcome and on the record.

In praise of Nick Cohen

One of the effects of the post 9/11 era has been to bring out the worst in some people on the left - prime example G Galloway - and the best in others.

Nick Cohen pre-2001 was a rather irritating Observer columnist mainly churning out trite and simplistic attacks on Blair and PPP and PFI.

Post-2001 he has focussed instead on a very admirable defence of the universal values of democracy and liberalism and disecting the worst dicator-apologising instincts of the anti-war left.

A really good example of the stuff he writes is his interview this week with political philosopher Prof Ted Honderich in the New Statesman - here.

Honderich, who nauseatingly is actually still a member of the Labour Party, comes out with gems such as accusing David Aaronovitch of being a part of "Israel's fifth column", conflating Islamism, al-Qaeda and Islam into one set of ideas, saying al-Qaeda terrorism is the fault of "neo-Zionism"and ends up by telling Cohen that he is "delighted" not to be like "a lot of people, of whom perhaps you are one, who have managed, as you would say, to educate yourself and change your views under various pressures. One of them, by the way, is the pressure of being Jewish."

Cohen to his credit terminated the interview at the point that Honderich said "Everything is very dark at the moment and you are making a contribution to it. The world is ever darker. It's a shitty place now and you are also responsible, [you] bear a part of the responsibility for 9/11 and 7/7."

Cohen concludes:

"It was only when I was making my way home through Tavistock Square that I realised the "root cause" of the errors of Honderich and those like him. In a review of After the Terror for the online journal Democratiya, Jon Pike, a philosopher with the Open University, told me something I hadn't realised about the 7/7 attacks. The bus bomb in the square exploded just round the corner from Honderich's University College. Emails flew across the net, as academics checked that the bomber hadn't killed their colleagues. All the philosophers survived to carry on speculating. University College's sole fatality was Gladys Wundowa, a Ghanaian cleaner and charity worker.

If Honderich could have brought the bus bomber Hasib Hussain back to life and asked him what kind of society he had murdered her to create, what would he have said? If that sounds too speculative, look at the societies being created by the movements Honderich explains away as the fault of others. Would feminists, socialists, liberals, religious minorities and atheists be happy living in a Palestine ruled by Hamas rather than Fatah, or modern Iran, or Afghanistan, if al-Qaeda and the Taliban come back, or Iraq if the "insurgents" win? Would emeritus professors?

It's a poor consequentialist who can't think about consequences. Honderich can't because, I think, the emotional consequences of admitting that not all the darkness of the world is the fault of the west would be too great for him to endure."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good news

This is very heartening news.

Some thoughts about loans & peerages

1) The thoroughness of Yates' investigation is in everyone's interest - it wouldn't have helped the Labour Party if the allegation had been made and not properly investigated.

2) The Labour Party has extremely good lawyers who would have been asked for advice about the legality of any fund-raising - does anyone really think a political party would risk doing something illegal just to be able to afford a few more billboards?

3) If there was the slightest chance that Blair had broken the law wouldn't the party's lawyers have warned him of the possibility and wouldn't he have found an excuse to quit early as PM to reduce any damage to the wider party?

4) If there was any chance that any Labour or No10 staff had broken the law isn't Blair ruthless enough that he would have asked them to publicly fall on their swords and accept personal responsibility?

Worth quoting

Because history may record yesterday's Queen's Speech debate as the moment when Cameron lost the next General Election:

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): “Mr. Speaker, before I come to my speech, let me just say to the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), who talked about 12 years ago, that I remember 12 years ago; our economy had just been through two recessions caused by the Conservative Government. Today we have the strongest economy, the lowest unemployment, the lowest inflation and the lowest interest rates. I remember that, 12 years ago, we had thousands of people waiting 18 months, and that was just on an in-patient list. Now, we are on the way to an 18-week maximum target for in and out-patients. I remember that 12 years ago we had kids being taught in crumbling school buildings. I remember, 12 years ago, a Conservative Government who had doubled crime. He is talking about hope, but let me just tell him something about hope. Hope is not built on talking about sunshine, any more than antisocial behaviour is combated by “love”. Hope is what a strong economy gives us; hope is what investment in the NHS and schools gives us. Hope means proper measures to tackle the long-term challenges. Hope, true hope, is about tough decision making, and the right hon. Gentleman has never taken a tough decision in his life. Now for my speech— [Interruption.] I may be going out, but on that performance, he is not coming in.



The fact of the matter is that, as the right hon. Gentleman demonstrated again today, in the end, because he has no interest in the substance of policy, he can neither understand the long-term challenges facing this country, nor meet them. The next election will be a flyweight versus a heavyweight. However much the right hon. Gentleman may dance around the ring beforehand, at some point, he will come within the reach of a big clunking fist, and you know what, he will be out on his feet, carried out of the ring—the fifth Tory leader to be carried out, and a fourth term Labour Government still standing.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reclaiming Labour from Reclaim Labour

I think there's something pretty cowardly about dishing out political attacks whilst hiding behind the anonymity of a pseudonym like "Harry Perkins" over at http://reclaimlabour.blogspot.com/.

"Harry", assuming you are actually a Labour Party member and not a spoof, why don't you have the courage to write under your own name and be held politically accountable for what you say? How do we know you don't sing a different tune in real life? For all we know you could be a careerist soft leftie in the flesh.

The title of your blog is also a bit of a joke - "reclaiming" something that was never your's in the first place. Bennites wanting to "reclaim Labour" is a bit like fleas wanting to reclaim a pet.

But keep up the good work because every bad tempered rant you post helps show younger party members why the politics of the early '80s were so damaging and reminds the rest of us why we don't want a re-run.

International patterns

In the US, the Democrats won the mid-terms because moderate candidates from groups like the DLC, the NDN and the Blue Dog Democrats (who make me look like a raving leftie) recaptured the political centre ground.

In France the latest polling in the PS primary for Socialist Presidential candidate put modernising candidate Segolene Royal on 58%, another party moderate Dominique Strauss-Kahn on 32% and the hard left candidate Fabius on only 9%.

In Australia party rightwinger Kim Beazley is back as leader of the Labor Party.

Here, the hard left will view it as an achievement if John McDonnell even gets enough nominations to get on the ballot paper for Labour Leader.

A pattern emerging?

Cracking of whips

Thanks to Tom Watson for posting a link to the latest Nottingham Uni research on whip-breaking by the PLP.

The numbers are here.

The top of the league table - which just covers votes against the whip in 2005-06, reads:



Now I can see that there might be exceptional circumstances where your election address commitments, conscience or the interests of your constituency might make an MP break the whip. Everyone has their political "lines-in-the-sand" that they will not cross. If I'd been an MP in the 2001-05 parliament I would have been very tempted to vote against the governance arrangements for foundation hospitals and against differential top-up tuition fees - though as I wasn't there luckily I wasn't presented with that moral dilemma.

However, breaking the whip dozens of times in one parliamentary session is just sticking two fingers up at the collective decision-making of the PLP. It implies a complete absence of self-discipline, sense of unity and collective responsibility or solidarity with colleagues.

As Tom points out, the chief offender is actually running for leader of a party he failed to vote with 63 times in one year!

It is particularly galling for those of us who are councillors and would be on a short trip to being suspended from our Labour Groups for breaking the whip once, let alone 15 or 63 times.

How did we ever get in this mess? And when are the whips going to start actually implementing the standing orders of the PLP and applying some kind of sanction? Otherwise we might as well not have a "Parliamentary Labour Party" - just 350 odd independent vaguely Labour-ish MPs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Running scared

Anyone would have thought from reading this article in the Evening Standard that certain declared deputy leadership candidates are frightened by the idea that Hazel Blears might join the contest.

And well they might be. If she wasn't potentially a strong candidate they wouldn't be trying to undermine her like this.

The attempt to smear Hazel for doing the right thing and concentrating on her role as Party Chair until there is actually a vacancy and a contest is the kind of negative politics we don't need right now.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Extreme clean up

Before and after pictures of the Jack Dunning Estate garages near to the former Lord Cecil pub at junction of Median Road and Lower Clapton Road in my ward.

Before (picture sent to me by resident complaining about flytipping eyesore):

After (after complaint by me as ward councillor, Hackney Homes not only removes rubbish but removes derelict garages as well):


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Know your enemy

As regular readers will know, one of my hobbies is trying to follow the convoluted splits and mergers of British Trotskyism. One of the best pamphlets on this subject is "As Soon as this Pub Closes". I was unaware until a commenter on Dave Osler's blog posted a link to it that it's online here:

http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Sectariana/Pub.html

It's out of date but provides a useful guide to the political antecedents of some of the current groups.

To map the groups described across to their current incarnations for the benefit of younger readers:

Militant is now the Socialist Party (in England & Wales) and the SSP plus Sheridan's Solidarity in Scotland.
The SWP is still the SWP but now has Respect as a broader front group.
Socialist Organiser is now the Alliance for Workers Liberty.
Socialist Action & the IMG now run London through the employment of leading members by Mayor Ken.
Red Action is now the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), the Hackney branch of which split off to become "Hackney Independent".

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns etc

This is probably a sure-fire way to make myself political toast with Labour colleagues but I actually feel rather sorry for Donald Rumsfeld and find the gloating at his resignation distasteful.

Why?

1) Well for a start off his strategy in Iraq was our Labour government's too so if he's such a bad/wrong person so are we - or at least everyone of us that supported the government line.

2) If you are going to have Republicans in power (and I'd rather we were now 6 years into an Al Gore Presidency) I would rather they were idealistic ones that believed in spreading democracy to the Middle East than Kissinger/Nixon style cynics practicising real-politik and focussed just on national self-interest rather than some higher ideological ends.

3) He's the fall guy for his boss in the White House who in a European political system would be the one resigning after these elections.

4) He actually did the traditional job of Defense Secretary very well - overseeing two stunning military victories in Afganistan and Iraq in a matter of weeks - what he is being blamed for is the subsequent failiure to rebuild Iraq and of the US armed forces to peacekeep - neither of which traditionally were or should be core US military functions.

My hunch is history will say Rumsfeld made all of us a lot safer by destroying the Taliban/al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan and removing Saddam from power so he wasn't around to refresh his WMD arsenal and marry it with N Korean missile technology.

There are a lot of Afghans and Iraqis (particularly Kurds and Shiites) who have a lot to thank him for.

Worthy of a link again

Not the first time I have linked to them - and despite them having recently had a go at me (probably richly deserved) - idiots4labour deserve another link - http://idiots4labour.blogspot.com/ - for yet again taking apart the bullshit-merchants at Compass. If you don't already read their site regularly you should.

US Mid-terms

Excellent results from the US Mid-terms - for the Democrats and independents Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman (not quite sure how I manage to square liking both but I do).

Before everyone starts babbling on about the anti-war tide, the other major factor was that the Democrats ran agressively centrist candidates in most of their key seats e.g. Reagan's former Navy Secretary in defence-employment heavy Virginia.

This analysis on the BBC is interesting - particularly the graph of what issues motivated voters:

Another bonus to the campaign was the accidental self-destruction of John Kerry, the fool whose misguided strategy of concerntrating on mobilising the Democrats' core vote rather than reaching out to moderate Republicans gifted Bush a second term in the White House.

And in the same week as Ortega got back in in Nicaragua (a shame Castro never had the guts to put himself in front of a democratic election like the Sandanistas did) - I shall have to dig out my Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign t-shirt.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pet hate

One of my pet hates is Socialist Worker's house-style of using the word "Tory" to describe any right-of-centre party or government anywhere in the world.

Example from today here - "Greek primary schools all-out strike ends as Tories retreat" which I initially thought might be an article about Enfield Council falling out with one half of the Cypriot community.

The same article describes PASOK as "Pasok, Greece’s New Labour type party" which may come as a surprise to most of its members ...

I know that the SWP's politics are moronic but do they really have to treat their readers like idiots who don't know that political parties in mainland Europe are not called "Tories" and "New Labour"?

Does the SWP's sister party in Greece carry articles saying "British comrades say sack Blair as PASOK leader", "Britain's PASOK government" and "David Cameron, the leader of Britain's Nea Dhimokratia type party"?

Today's Populus Poll

Interesting poll in the Times - Con 36%, Lab 33%, LD 20% and with the detail showing mem favouring Brown over Cameron but women strongly favouring Cameron.

Two reactions:

a) the Tories are not going to get anywhere near winning if they can only manage a 3% lead at this stage in the electoral cycle (despite shiny new leader). Cameron is 11 months into his leadership. When Blair had been leader of the opposition for 11 months he was 19% ahead.

b) the potential defecit amongst women voters is another good argument that Labour needs a woman deputy leader.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just a thought ...

Aside from "supporting calls from Pete Willsman for an Inquiry into Conference" (presumably on the grounds that the delegates this year were all far too sensible) "Save the Labour Party" are holding their AGM next weekend in Camden Town.

Just one stop away on the Northern Line in Kentish Town the Camden Labour Party is fighting tooth and nail to hold a council by-election in a 3-way marginal against the Lib Dems and Greens.

It's just an idea, but wouldn't it be great if all the "Save the Labour Party" comrades took time out during the day from their important deliberations on "the possible merger with Labour Reform" and listening to "Jon Cruddas MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Katy Clark MP, Ann Black NEC" and went up the road to Kentish Town and did some canvassing and leafleting that would make a practical contribution to "saving the Labour Party"?

P.S. before anyone asks I practice what I preach and was there this Sunday.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why aren't the Tories doing better in local by-elections?

Last night Labour gained a council seat in Hyndburn, a Tory parliamentary seat in the '80s and part of an electorally very important belt of heavily owner-occupied seats on either side of the Pennines.

On www.vote-2006.co.uk someone has commented:

" Since 1st Jan 2006 the Conservatives have only gained 4 seats from Labour in council by-elections:
9.3.06 South Kesteven, Market and West Deeping (Con unopposed)
4.5.06 Suffolk, Pakefield (Con majority 241 over Lab)
18.5.06 Wyre, Park (Con majority 104 over Lab)
25.5.06 North Kesteven, Branston and Mere (Con majority 130 over Ind, Lab to 3rd)

The three contested losses for Labour all happened in the aftermath of the Home Office prisoner scandal.In the same period, Labour have gained 3 seats from the Conservatives:
16.3.06 Dacorum, Warners End (Lab majority 113 over Con)
5.10.06 Ellesmere Port and Neston, Little Neston (Lab majority 34 over Con)
2.11.06 Hyndburn, Rishton (Lab majority 266 over Con)"

Is the Cameron effect actually making any difference on the ground?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You read it here first

On Sunday I wrote this urging Hazel Blears to run for Deputy Leader ... which was picked up by Iain Dale.

Now the Sun says Hazel is the favourite, politicalbetting reports that the odds on her winning have fallen from 50-1 to 7-1 and Alex Hilton's Second Guess site currently has her as most likely to win: http://hamm.co.uk/sgdl/

Rather stupidly I didn't place a bet at 50-1.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Speech of the debate

There were some pretty dire speeches on both sides in last night's debate on Iraq.

However, one that deserves praise was Wrexham Labour MP Ian Lucas' contribution.

Ian voted against the war in 2003 and was one of the signatories of the letter in September calling on Blair to stand down. But last night he made a really well argued case for voting against the Plaid/SNP motion.

Describing his vote against the war, he said "On that day, I had already made my decision. I remember coming to the debate and hearing what the Prime Minister had to say. He made his case very eloquently and powerfully. However, I had already met him to discuss the position. I met him eyeball to eyeball and asked him about weapons of mass destruction. I take the view, as I always have, that his honest belief was that those weapons existed in Iraq. I resent the constant assertions by Opposition Members that the Prime Minister in some way misled the House. I do not believe that he did; I believe that he made an honest and genuine mistake. I still believe that it was a mistake—I wish that the decision had never been made—but I cannot support the opportunistic, cynical motion that is before the House today."

And speaking about the current situation in Iraq he said:
"Opposition Members are using the motion to obsess about the past at a time when Iraq is in a position of crisis. Last week, many of my colleagues and I heard the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Barham Salih, address members of the parliamentary Labour party. I am sure that he addressed Opposition Members too. He said that he needs our help and that we must not “cut and run”. I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed that it was wrong, but I believe that we have a moral obligation to support the people of Iraq. We created the difficulty in Iraq and we cannot leave until that position is resolved."

Ian's contribution was honest and thoughtful and considered - unlike the chicanery from the Tories or the hot air and bluster from the Nats.

You can read it all here.

Miliband vs Cruddas

I'm not sure the Torygraph is a very reliable source of Labour gossip but it claims No10 wants a "dream ticket" of Brown for Leader & David Miliband for Deputy Leader - with the aim of keeping Jon Cruddas out of the Deputy Leadership.

I'm relaxed about and can see the merits of the eventual result of the election being something that can be labelled up as a Blairite/Brownite dream ticket but I don't think a pre-result campaign as a "ticket" is appropriate - there are a range of good candidates and Brown - or for that matter any other leadership candidate or the current PM - should stand back from the Deputy race and let them all fight it out and let Party members have a genuine pluralistic choice. There shouldn't be a "line" on who to back for deputy from No10 or No11 and if there was it would probably backfire and hurt the annointed candidate(s).

If there was a "dream ticket" result I don't think the Blairite half of that ticket should be Miliband.

In the unlikely event that it did come down to a choice between Miliband and Cruddas I would definitely vote for Cruddas.

I think that's mainly a cultural thing.

I hear only good things about Miliband from people that know him (I've not met him) and he is clearly very able, but I worry that he is too much an "inside the beltway" Whitehall figure who went straight from No10 to Parliament. Yes Cruddas did too, but he had a pre-history before going to No10 in the party and the unions and just comes across as a more gritty, grounded character. I find Miliband too academic and theoretical and his speech to Spring Conference this year was very bland.

If Brown is leader - a hugely able and academically gifted man but not really having a "common touch" - we will need a more down-to-earth populist Deputy to balance that.

Up against smooth upper-class Tories like Cameron and Osborne we shouldn't try to copy them - we should be trying to contrast Labour with them as being led by people who have more in common with the average voter.

That's why I expressed support for Blears a couple of days ago, and why in casting second or lower preferences I will be giving them to candidates who I perceive to have the ability to connect with ordinary voters rather than splitting hairs over their exact position within the sensible end of the Labour Party - hence under the Torygraph's scenario I'd go for Cruddas over Miliband.

At 41, Miliband has a lot of time to play with as a politician and may well develop into a strong enough player to go for a top job in the not-so-distant future - but for the moment I think it's premature for him to take a run at deputy.

Free Tibet

Last night's ITN News led with the horrific video footage of Chinese border guards shooting dead 2 unarmed Tibetans - one a 17 year-old Buddhist nun - as they attempted to flee the country - and herding off dozens of other Tibetans, including children, with no word given yet of their fate.

It seemed like a good time to post another link to the Free Tibet campaign: http://www.freetibet.org/

ITN reported the Chinese Foreign Ministry as talking about a "fight to the death with the Dalai Lama". On one side the world's largest armed forces. On the other pacifist nuns and monks.

Quite apart from the horrendous human rights abuses perpetrated inside China - documented by Amnesty here - http://web.amnesty.org/library/eng-chn/index - Tibet has been an occupied country since the 1950s and effectively subject to cultural cleansing as ethnic Chinese settlers are moved in and Tibetan indigenous culture repressed.

There is only a very narrow window in which the West can effectively put pressure on China to clean up its human rights act before it becomes too powerful militarily and economically for our protests to have any effect.

 
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