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.

Monday, January 22, 2007

This morning's nonsense from the Guardian

Two great examples of the kind of guff the Guardian spews out this morning:

  • Compass are calling for tax to go up - not just the highest rate, but the overall burden, and to 50% from 42% of GDP. The Guardian describes them as "Brown supporters". Translation for people that actually understand Labour Party politics: Compass are in fact "a strange amalgam of disappointed ultra-Blairite modernisers miffed at not getting safe parliamentary seats in South Wales beginning with the letter "B" and rather silly recent ex-student leftists who want to talk left but are too squeamish/careerist to join anything connected to the Grassroots Alliance. And they may be voting for Brown (who isn't?) but all the Brownites I know wouldn't touch them with a bargepole." Their whizzy new plan is described as " the first serious effort by the left to develop a distinctive economic programme since the alternative economic strategy in the mid-70s" - translation for anyone who actually ever talks to real voters: "the first serious effort by the left to develop a distinctive new way to lose general elections for the Labour Party since the alternative economic strategy in the mid-70s." A comrade in the same CLP as a certain very high profile member of Compass tells me that for all his talk of local grassroots activism this leading figure has valiantly resisted reacting to repeated emails from the CLP inviting him to partake in canvassing and leafleting. Perhaps if he did, he could ask ordinary voters what they thought about his ideas on tax, but then again that might not be such a pleasant experience.
  • Meanwhile Jackie Ashley blames Blair for Big Brother: "Is the Jade Goody episode symbolic of a new rottenness, a failure of New Labour?" she says. No Jackie, you are just remarkably silly.

My other rant for the day concerns Mr Len Duvall LAM, Chair of the Greater London Labour Party and of the Met Police Authority, whose helpful contribution to the reaction to the Ruth Turner arrest was to use the Sunday Times to say to David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell " “shut up” and “stop “whingeing and whining” about the police investigation. “No one in this country is above the law" ... "I think they are going to look f****** stupid."

Now I started with an ambivalent opinion of Len anyway, him having a) been appointed to the MPA by Livingstone (I'd rather slit my own wrists than take any job in that man's gift) and b) ousted the excellent and hard-working Chris Robbins of UNISON from Chair of the GLLP in a gratuitous Livingstone-inspired coup.

My reaction to these particular remarks is:

a) don't use the "f" word in interviews with national newspapers, the public don't like swearing politicians

b) show some respect - whilst I can't condemn you for slagging off a former Home Secretary and a current Cabinet Minister (a perusal of recent posts will show I have quite a habit of criticising former Home Secretaries and current Cabinet Ministers) the tone you've used is impertinent to say the least

c) you are right that no one is above the law, but nor in a democracy are the police above political scrutiny and criticism

d) yes you as MPA Chair can't question the way the police conduct enquiries but MPs who are not connected with the political oversight of the police have every right to - Parliament is sovereign in this country

e) has it occurred to you that Blunkett and Jowell were commenting because they are Ruth's friends and comrades and trying to be supportive of a friend in their capacity as fully-signed up members of the human race?

Footnote: Len's biog on the MPA website says he was "a founder member of the New Local Government Network". Wasn't Ruth Turner also a founder board member of the NLGN? Interesting.

Footnote 2: She was not a founder. She was doing something more useful i.e. helping homeless people in Manchester at this time.

Footnote 3: To his great credit, Len has issued a clarification that makes it clear that he doesn't think Tessa Jowell was commenting on the conduct of the Police:

http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=258174&NewsAreaID=2

34 Comments:

Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

It may have escaped your notice but the public has lost confidence in politicians.

Parliament may be sovereign. But that does not give MPs the right to conflate personal loyalties with their representational responsibilities.

So calm down, dear boy. Or is your bluster intended to detract from a much more interesting Guardian story on p1.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/labour/story/0,,1995723,00.html

Or is that nonsense too? We need your view.

9:22 am, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think it might be accurate - it's what I would do if I was Blair.

I doubt anything I write would detract from the Guardian's coverage as they have a readership approximately 1600 times larger than mine.

9:41 am, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wasn't Ruth Turner also a founder board member of the NLGN?"

No, she wasn't. It was founded in 1998, when she was doing 'other things'.

10:31 am, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Oh - the Hencke article in the Guardian says "She also made her name as a moderniser on the board of the New Local Government Network, then a profoundly Blairite organisation promoting contracting out and privatisation of services."

10:55 am, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But not a founder!

Ben Lucas, whom you sat with on the Labour Coordinating Committee exec alongside Neal Lawson, was however (as was Nicky Gavron and that crowd).

11:20 am, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Or as I prefer to remember it, the executive of "Shining Path to Modernisation" which voted to disband itself in celebration of Tony's accession meaning that "our cause has achieved total and complete victory" (I think Neal said something along those lines). At this point, as it was fairly obvious someone had forgotten to tell the Grassroots Alliance of their great defeat and Liz Davies was about to get on the NEC, I decide to dedicate myself to the rather more grounded in reality politics of Labour First.

11:30 am, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nargis and her crew are still offering tantalising tidbits for selection votes from my household ... The Guardian does manage plenty of nonsense Luke but then again isn't there a saying about glass houses?

Hopefully Ken Livingstone will read this blog today and offer you an irresistable job AND something very sharp. This dear colleague is a joke by the way and is not a serious wish.

But why why why do you rant on your blog more about other elements of the Labour Party than your very rare indeed attacks on Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP, Respect, Greens and all those others we have to fight elections AGAINST and not ALONGSIDE?

11:34 am, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Good luck to Nargis if you are in any way representative of Manchester Withington CLP.

If you read through the archives you will find reams of stuff attacking the parties you mention.

11:43 am, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke why do you hate Ken so much? He seems to be doing an excellent job in London.

2:53 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke - will you stop? Your sectarian attitude to everything? It is tedious. I have looked at your archives and while there are stories there on all sorts there are a huge number of sectarian ones attacking Labour people, Labour groups, Labour supporters etc.

Perhaps if you want to make your point more convincingly that the argument "there are loads" which is piss poor kind of Lib Dem level of banter you will do an analysis of your output over the last month, over the last three months, last year etc and prove me wrong.

What would be a proportion of vicious in-Labour stories vs anti-opposition stories to your mind? Would 50:50 be good enough for you?

Surely 99% attacking the opposition would be more appropriate than your current mix? It's not like it is just teasing and asides. It is hate and loathing. It does not bode well for any constituency which selects you and finds that 80% of the membership are considered by your blogging self to be idiots and dispensible.

Nargis will make her own luck. On the evidence so far her work rate and commitment is around three times the next most active candidate. The mix may change over the contest but people will remember the early doors, the efficient web presence, and the effort to meet and greet members ahead of the laid on opportunities.

She hasn't given me any goss on you and I don't expect her to.

She has said you are a good organiser and an excellent campaigner.

I happen to think you'd be a better one if you stopped tilting at windmills that's all.

Your detailed statistical analysis will be very interesting and I hope you do not shirk that challange.

2:57 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Chris

I believe the Labour Party has to stay in the political mainstream to stay electable.

I therefore make no apology for attacking those members of my own party whose views are daft or would seek to make us less electable.

I take it as given that all my Labour readers already know what's wrong with the other political parties - though I happily write stuff about them when the raw material merits it.

Most of my attacks are on people whose own behaviour involves sectarian undermining of our party and its leadership. I don't think they should be allowed to get away with it.

Blogs are diaries - they reflect the interests and prejudices of the author. Trying to pretend I am not interested in securing a moderate hegemony over the Labour Party would be dishonest - it's at the core of my politics.

A short flick through your own blog reveals you also engage in disagreements with Labour colleagues, but do so in notably more personalised and unpleasant terms than I do.

I have no problem working with and socialising with people in my own local party who would disagree with almost all my views, so I don't really understand why you find it such an affront to be confonted by what I believe to be majority opinion in the Labour Party.

3:23 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Adele, same reason I dislike David Owen - Mr Livingstone stood against the Labour Party first time he ran as Mayor. He also contributed to our unelectability in the 1980s through his policies as GLC leader. He employs too many Trotskyists. He encourages the Hard Left. He consorts with Latin American dictators and middle eastern theocrats.

In terms of his actual job, I agree he does it well - as a Londoner I welcome the new buses and police ward teams etc. However I remain convinced Frank Dobson would have done it better and perhaps more radically.

3:48 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And they may be voting for Brown (who isn't?) but all the Brownites I know wouldn't touch them with a bargepole."

Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband have all spoken at Compass events. They're pretty Brownite, no?

4:05 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I really doubt any of those 3 - esp. Mr Balls would be inclined to be associated with the fiscal policies set out today.

I was thinking more of the MPs associated with the First Past the Post campaign who vigorously disagree with Neal Lawson on electoral reform and the soft-left's softness on Lib Dems. Or the Atlanticist wing of Brown's support who won't much like Compass' ambivalence on the Trident debate.

Remember the tradition that Compass grew out of has also been viewed as hostile to the union link.

4:17 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Simon Fletcher said...

Luke

The comments relating to the MPA were brought to my attention. You seem to misunderstand how the appointments are made.

With regard to your negative view about taking positions appointed by the mayor, the MPA consists of 23 members, 12 of whom must be London Assembly members appointed by the Mayor, one of whom must be the Deputy Mayor and otherwise should as far as practicable reflect the balance of the parties on the London Assembly. There is clearly no logical basis for members of any group on the Assembly refusing to take up such roles.

Furthermore, Len Duvall was not appointed as chair of the MPA by Ken Livingstone.

The Chair's position is elected by the members of the MPA themselves. Len Duvall was elected by the members of the MPA against the alternative of Conservative Assembly member Richard Barnes.

The ability of the mayor to appoint the chair of the MPA will change under alterations brought forward by the government, but - to reiterate - this was not the case at the time of Len Duvall's election.

Len Duvall's nomination for MPA Chair was however strongly backed by the mayor because he wanted a competent chair - from his own party - who shared his commitment to invest adequately in the future of the police service.

I leave readers of this site to judge whether this approach, or that set out by Luke of not working with the Labour mayor, is the right one.

The outcome of the period in which first Toby Harris and now Len Duvall have been chairs of the police authority, along with the budget-setting powers exercised by the mayor and the contribution of central government, is that London now has the highest number of police officers in its history. Every neighbourhood in London has a beat police team and crime is down. Racist crimes are down and recruitment of black and Asian people to the police service is up. This compares to the previous period when police numbers fell at a time when London’s population was rising.

This approach of planning and investing for London’s future has been applied across all areas. London is unique in achieving a shift from car use to public transport. Bus and tram fares have been abolished for all under-18s in full-time education. Cycling has doubled whilst accidents are down. Congestion charging has cut traffic delays. The bus network has been improved. London’s minicab industry is now licensed. London won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The biggest investment programme in London’s public transport since World War II is underway. Improvements to the Tube are being delivered. The DLR and the East London are being extended. Oyster has made using public transport more convenient. London has established a climate change agency, and is now central to the international coalition of cities tackling climate change.

Of course there are those who prefer to talk about secondary issues but the real dividing line in London politics remains between those who believe it is necessary to plan and invest for London’s future – including continuing to promote the international character of the city on which its success depends – and those who prefer the policies which failed London when the city was without elected government.

Simon Fletcher
Mayor’s chief of staff

4:42 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Simon,

thank you for a reasoned clarification.

I withdraw what I said about Len taking a post from your boss.

Of course I don't think GLA members shouldn't take positions now that Ken has been re-elected on a Labour ticket.

My grouch was about whether he should have been allowed to be a Labour candidate in the first place.

I accept I am in a tiny minority of London party members on this one.

I'm sure Ken will be relieved to know however that I wouldn't personally accept a position from him (in the unlikely event that one was on offer).

I agree with you that these are secondary issues, keep up the good work on the primary ones (which I don't think include Cuba or Venezuela).

4:54 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous New Socialist said...

Your "mate" Frank Dobson is hardly a friend of the Labour Govt these days.He speaks in scathing terms of ACL Blair.... your position re Livingstone is not logical.

5:12 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you give me some examples of my blog - apart perhaps when jeering at you jeering at everyone else and possibly discussion of the madness of Rochdale - having nastier attacks than some of yours?

And even if you can substantiate your accusation would you acknowledge that much of my blog - most of my blog - is attacking Tories and Lib Dems and on any reasonable terms very little of it attacks Labour people?

And that some of my blog is DEFENDING Labour people that I do not agree with on many policies at all but who need our support viz Hazel.

You talk of other sections of the party using tactics that you yourself use MORE THAN THEY DO.

It is the pot calling the kettle black. Hateful sectarians on the right and on the left are arguably as bad as one another. Though in recent times vide the leadership shenanigans people on the centre right have been undisciplined and destructive whereas the left and centre left have not done so.

5:29 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Owen said...

He consorts with Latin American dictators

He does? Name them, please.

8:22 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Owen said...

Though in recent times vide the leadership shenanigans people on the centre right have been undisciplined and destructive whereas the left and centre left have not done so.

Quite. There has been one attempt to overthrow Blair, and regrettably it came from the right of the party.

8:24 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Name them, please.

Er, hmmm, how about Castro, the pin-up boy of the far-Left!?!

And on the subject of dictators, need I remind you of the record of McDonnell, Galloway et al regarding Saddam ... something along the lines of saluting his "courage, strength and indefatigability".

8:59 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Another point about Castro, if I may, how come the far-Left - who were so quick to condemn the slaying of Saddam and his bitches - have said sweet FA regarding Fidel's record on executions, torture and human rights?

9:03 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And on the subject of dictators, need I remind you of the record of McDonnell, Galloway et al regarding Saddam ... something along the lines of saluting his "courage, strength and indefatigability".

Sorry? Et al? Are you aware that these words left the lips of Gorgeous George and noone else?

Sham, 2 million people marched against the war in Iraq; 139 Labour MPs rebelled against it; it was opposed by the majority of Labour party activists (many of whom went on to rip up their party cards in disgust). Are you telling me that all of these people are pro-Saddam acolytes for opposing what turned out to be the most catastrophic war of modern times? If so, it seems that the Iraqi Ba'ath party is by far the biggest political movement in the country!

9:12 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sham's clearly a bit of a loon, but he does make a good point about Castro, which you've chosen to ignore. Got something to hide, Owen??

9:22 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Luke but I really don't agree that Frank would have done the job better.

The man had no mandate, it was only because of the disgrace that was Ken Jackson at the AEEU refusing to ballot his members that he got through.

As far as I can see Ken is labour and radical. I don't agree with him standing against the official labour candidate but the party stitched it up against Ken and have been proved wrong.

As for him being a general idiot at the GLA, I could say the same of Stringer in Manchester and many other left wing leaders of labour held councils in the 80s. They tried to bring down the Thatcher Govnt rightly or wrongly because they saw she was destroying our inner cities. I don't agree with how he behaved; but I think the 80s were very different and I can sort of understand why he did it.

Don't forget it suits labour to have someone radical and charismatic like Ken in London. Unless Galloway stands against him, Ken should be safely home and dry in 2008.

10:09 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry meant GLC

10:09 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I've got nothing to hide given a) I'm not Ken Livingstone and b) I'm certainly not an apologist of his. I'm not particularly aware of him hanging around with Fidel Castro. My suspicion was that Luke's comment was referring to Hugo Chavez. I await clarification before initiating a rant on the subject...

10:16 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I hope he is re-elected in 2008, but I hope the next Labour Mayor after him is someone from a different political tradition in the London Party. As Herbert Morrison is sadly not available having been dead for half a century, I'm yet to identify that candidate. Tony Blair for Mayor of London in 2012?

10:17 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Owen et al, I apologise. Rather than "consorts with Latin American dictators" I should have said Ken "consorts with elected autocratic demagogues like Chavez (except when they refuse to see him) and tries to consort with dictators like Castro (except when they are too ill to see him)".

Personally I shall leave my first visit to Cuba until it is free, unless of course the 82nd Airborne go into Havana with an embedded ginger blogger.

10:22 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Sorry Owen, clearly the fact that you're closer to Galloway than Blair does not in any way imply that you're a Ba'athist. Yeah right! ;)

2,000,000 marchers?? A vast exaggeration which still amounts to less than 3% of the population.

Blair for mayor! It's got a nice ring to it!!!

11:29 pm, January 22, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sectarian undermining of our party and its leadership. I don't think they should be allowed to get away with it.

Aye, compass have done this stuff in the past. Well, undermining the leadership being = to undermining the party is a highly subjective view, but even so.

This is now, and I fail to see what their behaviour re. Blair halfway through 2005 has to do with any of the publications you routinely lay into.

Moreover, the fabians made the same proposal on tax as a result of the life chances commision findings. Are they undermining the party Luke?

Suggesting new ideas and pointing out mistakes are both crucial to Labour staying in power, Labour staying relevant, and Labour being Labour. You may not agree that this is what Compass have achieved, but you must admit that they are trying to. They just see the world diferently to you, Luke.

Blair spoke out against the status quo. People need to be able to, and people can; without causing sectarian divides... until people like you, or the 'die new labour die' camp of the SCG/LRC make the first attack.

Your conception of party loyalty means verges on the ridiculous. Leninist is too soft a word.

Unity is a virtue higher than leader loyalty.

Besides, the hard left actually make a rather good point on this. Loyalty is a two way street, with responsibility being the consideration. As much as I disagree with the policy, when the government nationalise the railways and ends PFI in the health service, I'll do whatever they say. Until then, whatever I see as the right way forward for the left-of-centre is loyalty priority no. 1, and I should imagine the folks at Compass feel the same.

Also, loyalty demands democratic legitimacy.

Trying to pretend I am not interested in securing a moderate hegemony over the Labour Party would be dishonest - it's at the core of my politics.

Agitating for a split? ;o)

Or the Atlanticist wing of Brown's support who won't much like Compass' ambivalence on the Trident debate.

The problem isn't atlanticism. It's sense! but that, alas, is another issue. Atlanticism, by the way, is best done cautiously, while putting the wishes and interests of the UK first. This is my country, not theirs.


Adele: I have to agree with you on the Ken matter. He was wrong to stand against a Labour candidate. But the Labour candidate was wrong to be a candidate!

CP said this:
Hateful sectarians on the right and on the left are arguably as bad as one another.

Precisely.

In my view, there are a few select chunks of the party who shouldn't be in it. They are, namely, the AWL, some other trot-groups, Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers.

That's only because they don't fit the broad definition.

Apart from that, 'hegemony' of any part of the party is exactly what we should be trying to avoid.

Strength in bredth. The broader we are, the less we have to fight about, and the more united we become. That is the base recipe for government, and the icing on the top that is Labour government.

Luke, your uncomradely and largely unreasoned rantings are about as useful for the public impression of the party, the condition of the party and the long term future of the party as Militant.

Labour needs less people devoted to factions and more people offering honest, policy based critiques and advice.

Labour also needs to include, and in return, Labourites need to unite.

Perhaps in stead of attacking people who, however misguided and mistaken you deem them to be, want in good faith to drag this country to the left (on a largely positive platform, nonetheless!), you should be directing your poison at those that want to take it the other way.

Now, who does Peter Wheeler want me to vote for in Withington? ;op

His sponsorship in invaluable...

2:08 am, January 23, 2007

 
Anonymous dsquared said...

[e) has it occurred to you that Blunkett and Jowell were commenting because they are Ruth's friends and comrades and trying to be supportive of a friend in their capacity as fully-signed up members of the human race? ]

Gosh this is good news. Jowell always seemed like she might be a closet sympathiser of the human race, but getting Blunkett as well is a real victory. When did they sign up? Are we sure it's not just a tactical move?

10:09 am, January 23, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, the amicus line will go outsoon Tom. It shall be a fairly predictable one.

9:37 pm, January 23, 2007

 
Anonymous observer said...

Luke wrote: "Personally I shall leave my first visit to Cuba until it is free, unless of course the 82nd Airborne go into Havana with an embedded ginger blogger."

Haven't laughed so loud for ages! 82nd Airborne might not invade Cuba but, if we have words with them, would you be willing to be embedded with them soon, anyway?

2:51 am, January 25, 2007

 

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