A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - 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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Save the Labour Party

Some gems in the latest newsletter from the Flat Earth Society "Save the Labour Party":

  • Allegedly Jon Cruddas told their AGM that "he particularly deplored the way in which the Party’s traditional position and values have been subverted in favour of policies designed to attract swing voters in marginal seats." I say allegedly because I'm convinced that Cruddas wouldn't have said anything as dumb as criticising the Labour Party for trying to "attract swing voters in marginal seats" as it's a bit difficult to elect a Labour Government (and thereby do all kinds of good things for his constituents in Dagenham) without their support. I would guess that they've misquoted him (an occupational hazard if you address gatherings of this nature) and what he actually said was "he particularly deplored the way in which the First Past the Post election system meant that the Party’s traditional position and values have been subverted in favour of policies designed to attract swing voters in marginal seats" but that the people who write Save the Labour Party's newsletter are not fans of electoral reform so missed out this rather important qualification. Of course if he did say it as they reported, he might want to ponder the location of the swing voters in marginal seats that Labour has been targeting: 1997 target seats - Basildon, Ilford South; 2001 target seats - Romford, Upminster, Castle Point; 2005 target seats - Ilford North, Hornchurch. Anyone unfamiliar with the electoral geography of Essex should at this point get a map, locate Dagenham and the other seats I've mentioned and then wonder what all the fuss is about.
  • Katy Clark MP "criticised the excessive powers of the Whips and the patronage system which keeps many MPs in line with the hope of gaining office" er... shouldn't she be criticising the MPs for being so craven that they'll trade their vote for the chance of "gaining office"?
  • The contrast between the declining fortunes of the wider Labour Party and the thriving, dynamic organisation that is "Save the Labour Party" were clearly illustrated by this report on "Save the Labour Party's" internal democracy: "Regrettably, the number of valid self-nominations for the STLP Committee was fewer than the number of places available and there were no nominations of people not already on theCommittee, therefore there will be no ballot." i.e. we preach democracy and regeneration of the party, but our own members are too apathetic to get involved, therefore we don't actually have democratic elections in our own organisation...
  • They say "As if there had not been enough destruction of the Party’s once democratic policy-making structures, Blair is now using market research organisations to recruit panels of the public to form focus groups to advise on “cultural change”,“customer services” and “contracts”." How unlike Save the Labour Party's "LabOUR Commission" on internal party democracy which hired market research organisation YouGov to er... do opinion polling and run focus groups (I know because I went to one of them). Do as we say, not as we do.
  • Finally "Association of Constituency Labour Parties: Work continues to progress this development." And there was me thinking that the Labour Party was the "Association of Constituency Labour Parties". A quick google reveals that this is not a new idea though, but a resurrection of a Bevanite "Association of Constituency Labour Parties" that existed back in the '50s when the unions dominated conference and were led by leadership loyalists like Sam Watson of the NUM and Arthur Deakin of the TGWU... same kind of retro nomenclature as John McDonnell's "Labour Representation Committee". Anyone out there want to relaunch the Campaign for Democratic Socialism?


Anonymous Andrea said...

"2001 target seats - Ilford North, Hornchurch"

I think you also mean 2005 for those 2

"Katy Clark MP "criticised the excessive powers of the Whips and the patronage system which keeps many MPs in line with the hope of gaining office" er... shouldn't she be criticising the MPs for being so craven that they'll trade their vote for the chance of "gaining office""

Actually I agree with you there. The Whips are doing their job in that case, then it's up to MPs to decide what to do.

11:26 am, January 09, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You are right, I'll correct that.

11:27 am, January 09, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeez, how can people like STLP not back electoral reform?

With re. to cruddas, I think the point is that there has to be a balance between Labour values and keeping marginals. Of course, the side point is that when campaigning in marginals, activist numbers are pretty crucial, so we have to ask ourselves how we can build numbers of active members.

I speak as someone whose previous CLP in a distinct non-marginal was practically non-existant, and only got into active politics through NOLS...

2:29 pm, January 09, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the point is that there has to be a balance between Labour values and keeping marginals.

So do I, because Labour values are useless without the marginal seats we need to be in government to make them anything useful.

12:00 am, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anyone out there want to relaunch the Campaign for Democratic Socialism?"

Isn't that, ironically, Compass' tagline?

But why stop there? Let's reform the Rank and File Mobilisation Committee and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy in a fit of retrophilia. Oh, wait on a minute...

I think you would have fitted in well with Socialist Union though.

10:38 am, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

Isn't the problem that some areas that we previously considered 'heartland' are fast becoming marginal and have in some cases already been lost?

Ruthlessly targetting a small number of voters is at best a short-term tactic. In 97 'non-target' areas could send bus loads of activits to help out in key marginals. I doubt if many 'non-target' CLPs could fill a taxi if asked now.

11:11 am, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The danger is of course that pandering to certain voters - which expert psepholgists like our hero Luke have identified before ... you know white van man, semi-skilled man, skilled-artisan-man, Daily Mail mum etc etc - well that this can seriously piss off core voters who find that their tribal loyalty to Labour is strectched and broken.

Whether this is the urban intelligensia derided by Blair in Manchester Withington who stuck in a serial fibber instead of a loyalist ex-whiphand, the BEM communities of Bethnall Green and Bow who stuck in a trotty stalinist communalist indisciplined gobshite instead of a Blair ultra, or exactly this target group who are falling for the BNP's charms in the adorable Margaret Hodge and the acceptable Jon Cruddas' backyards.

Sometimes it does feel that all this triangulation is actually a guerilla war against our own supporters. That apart from shards of good (OL) stuff like the minimum wage New Labour is involved in fierce hand to hand fighting. Clearing this street of public sector workers, the next of BEM communities who have supported Labour for generations, and yes OK this one of the urban intelligensia.

We're driving socialist-orientated people to vote Lib Dem for goodness sake, joining the anyone-but-Labour Tory tacticals.

The great danger is of catastrophic collapse in some of our "safe" seats as the party continues to be hollowed out, as we lose councillors who are important activists and funders of local activity, and the 'sleeper' part of the membership too.

Anyway, last point. Luke's persistent jeering at any part of this party that disagrees with him, ever gets something wrong, is focussed on a single issue - in this case LP democracy (not PR) is wearing and ridiculously sectarian. Get off your high horse young man. Relax a little. 'Smile knowingly' instead of 'Bile flowingly'.

11:26 am, January 10, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


if you don't like it don't read it.

The 30,000 + hits I've had in 6 months suggests there is a market out there of people who want to be amused by and informed about the antics of Labour's internal and external opposition and who want their morale raised and to be reminded why we have won 3 General Elections in a row.

If you want po-faced misery, read Compass' site.

I'm not going to pretend to be someone I'm not - I'm resolutely cheerful, broadly (with a few exceptions) delighted with the fantastic Labour govt we've had for the last ten years, and have vast reserves of contempt for the Labour left, the extra-Labour left, the Tories and the Lib Dems -and the energy to take the fight to them in writing and in campaigning.

I appreciate it upsets some people to have their little fantasy bubble/paradigm burst where everyone hates the PM and agrees with the editorial position of the Guardian, but welcome to reality Chris ... Labour won the last 3 elections under Blair on a moderate programme, it has a fighting chance of winning the next one too under Brown on an equally sensible programme.

Me and the thousands of people like me aren't going away, we're not giving up, we ain't apologising for making Labour electable or Britain a better place.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

11:41 am, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This all very well Luke ... but most of your attacks here are on Labour people. STLP shouldn't be carelessly conflated with "The Labour Left". They are in fact a very broad church including Blairites and Brownies as well as some lefties. They are simply interested in restoring some of the democracy to our party. Do you think that is a "lefty" thing? They don't generally consider PR issues because they are concentrated on other matters on which they are united. You presumably have contempt for that ideal as internal democracy gets in the way of dirigiste operations from the centre? is that it? Get stuck into the Tories and Lib Dems and don't give us this continual impression that you would like to first kick and then kick out thousands of members who are more critical of Blair foreign policy and marketisation than you happen to be.

The 30,000 hits thing - I'm big therefore I'm good - could be looked at alongside the audience for different TV offerings, different qualities of newspapers, cheesy pop and class acts etc. UK Porn XXXX probably gets 300,000 hits an hour which presumably doesn't mean it it 24 million times better than Lukeakehurst.blogspot.com?

Never mind the quality feel the width is not a recipe for long term success.

2:26 pm, January 10, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Unfortunately people like you have to be beaten politically within the party in order to keep it in a position where it is capable of competing electorally with the Tories or Lib Dems.

Historically there has been a direct relationship between Labour smashing it's own left wing and going up in the polls e.g. Kinnock's expulsion of Militant, the changing of Clause IV. Ordinary voters hate the Hard Left and want us to demonstrate we control the party.

If STLP is such a broad church why is it formally affiliated to the equally ridiculously named "Centre Left Grassroots Alliance"? (i.e. the Bennite left).

I'm all in favour of internal party democracy so that the moderate majority can be demonstrated to be just that - the majority.

I will not take any lectures about democracy from the wing of that party that opposed One Member One Vote, opposed the involvement of anyone not a GC delegate in parliamentary selections and electing the leader, opposed the expulsion of revolutionary Trot entryists who were hostile to parliamentary democracy, and who spent the '70s and '80s intimidating and bullying their way to control of many local Labour Parties.

3:05 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

""Anyone out there want to relaunch the Campaign for Democratic Socialism?"

Isn't that, ironically, Compass' tagline?"

I can confirm that Compass's tagline is not, ironically or otherwise, 'Anyone out there want to relaunch the Campaign for Democratic Socialism?'

The tagline for the organisation is "Direction for the Democratic Left" which I think is a little bit snappier.


3:10 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Err, yeah David, thanks.

I see Gavin Hayes has been crowned 'General Secretary' of Compass.

3:27 pm, January 10, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Chris, just in response to your challenge to "Get stuck into the Tories and Lib Dems" and your accusation that "most of your attacks here are on Labour people" I thought I'd check.

Of the 14 posts on the front page of my blog:

3 are critical of the Labour Left (targetting STLP, McDonnell & Compass)
2 are attacking the Tories
1 is attacking Lib Dem defectors to the Tories
1 is is attacking Labour rightwinger Ruth Kelly's school choice
1 is praising an ex-communist's book
5 are broadly praising Labour figures or organisations (namely UNISON, John Reid, Gordon Brown, David Miliband and Tom Harris).
1 is a set of site statistics

You could at least attack me on accurate grounds.

3:39 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Let's stop squabbling among ourselves as Chris P suggests and agree to rebuild the Party.

On the way, it would be helpful to distinguish fact from opinion and correct errors.

CLGA candidates won four out of six seats in the recent NEC Constituency elections, whether the slate is appropriately named or not.

As for the LabOUR Commission, there are only two STLP members on it to the best of my knowledge, Elaine Smith MSP and myself. So if you are going to quibble about whether STLP is broadly based, let's at least agree that the Commission is.

With regard to Labour and winning elections, we would have won in 1997 with John Smith and no change in Clause IV. I do not know of any serious political scientist who attributes Labour's latest election victory to the current leader.

Finally, your mocking of the Association of CLPs idea needs addressing. All STLP is suggesting for debate is whether there is a need for a sub-structure within the Party for CLPs (parallel to TULO) to stay in touch better than under the present arrangements. These have tended to leave CLPs and their members in the dark and open to pressure (sometimes undue pressure) from paid officials and members of the government. If you have got a better idea, Luke, share it.

As a Times writer reminded her readers this morning, "A key sentence in the new Clause Four of Labour’s constitution, that section inserted by Tony Blair to enunciate the founding principles of new Labour and considered so important that it is printed on every party membership card: “It (the Labour Party) believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few.”

So let's work together to Save the Labour Party, Luke.

Best wishes

Peter Kenyon
re-elected Chair, STLP
Clerk to the LabOUR Commission

3:54 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So do I, because Labour values are useless without the marginal seats we need to be in government to make them anything useful."

Aye, and marginals are useless without Labour values. So we are in agreement.

4:07 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ian g, you're spot on.

4:08 pm, January 10, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I agree with Chris P even more.

And Luke, I wouldn't lump such views in with the hard left or militant. To do so would be highly innacurate.

The logical extension of our triangulation is manifestly a battle against our own people, and a foolhardy balance of power and principle; it's all power (and even that is on the way down) and little principle (and by that I don't mean any principle, I mean labour principle.

If I wanted to be in a party of the dead centre I would have joined the libdems, and if I had wanted to be in a party of the dentre-right I would have joined the Tories.

What's the point in us sailing continually rightwards (as our much desired majority declines)?

Labour must be a party which is broadly left of centre. Labour must also of course be a party which can credibly hold power.

At the moment, the PM seems to see that as an either/or conception: an entirely false dichotomy based upon the logic of another time.

Time for a rethink and a new start.

4:17 pm, January 10, 2007


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