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.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend thoughts

I was in Castle Point this morning, canvassing for Labour on the King's Park estate - a 900-home mobile home park on Canvey Island which is populated mainly by ex-East Enders and hence a relatively good Labour area.

I was down there to repay debts in shoe leather owed to the team who worked for me in the 2005 General Election, and took a couple of other Hackney councillors with me, although our main twinning effort is with more marginal Thurrock.

I'll be taking a day off work on Thursday to help their polling day effort.

We were working to keep the last remaining Labour Councillor on Castle Point Council - an authority we controlled as recently as 2003.

Random thoughts:
- the only time Blair was mentioned it was positively
- looking at the data, the core vote doesn't seem to have shifted much since the General Election
- voters in the South East are still obsessed by immigration - virtually the only national issue anyone raised with me
- the Labour Party is at its best when it's up against it - when you are expecting a kicking but people still turn out and pound the streets because of old-fashioned virtues like comradeship and solidarity
- the "thin Red line" of Labour troops is perilously thin in a lot of places and we need to develop a real organisational plan for keeping us a 628-constituency national party and supporting and building CLPs that don't have a Labour MP or large group of Labour Councillors - Deputy Leadership candidates please note
- the voters are blissfully unaware of how big a kicking they have already given us - choosing tactically to punish a party you want to send a message to is all well and good but the people I was canvassing had no idea that the party they were punishing was already down to its last councillor locally
- in rural and suburban areas once you take away that handful of Labour councillors you are left with a pretty unpleasant vision of local government and actually an extinction of progressive voices and values in local civic life - you don't just get rid of the local face of Blair and Brown, you get rid of any voices holding public office making a case for tolerance, fairness, liberalism and social justice
- our guys didn't really get a very long "moment in the sun" as one of them put it to me - they waited 20 years to take control of the council, and 47 years to get their second ever Labour MP - and held the one for just 8 years and the other for 4 (and Neal Lawson begrudges them both - see previous post below)

Back from Canvey and turning to the newspapers:

The PM is being very sensible about the election of his successor.

John McDonnell is ecstatic about being on 9% in a YouGov poll of Party members (it strikes me as a bit desperate to be celebrating being more popular than Meacher or Charles Clarke). I shall take that as a license to be ecstatic that Hazel is also on 9% in the equivalent Deputy Leader poll.
More seriously her numbers are going in the right direction - up 2% since the previous equivalent poll of the same panel - whilst Alan Johnson who is competing with her for roughly the same pool of votes, is down 3% - Hilary Benn's supporters are highlighting these shifts so they must think they are significant.

I find the 36% rating for Hilary a bit bizarre - the only Benn supporters I've ever met are Alex Hilton, AKA Recess Monkey and an MP who rang me and asked me to work on Benn's campaign. Who are the 36%?

Also, if the rumours are true, and Benn, Hain and perhaps Harman get knocked out at the nomination stage because of their low support in the PLP, where will their 36%, 15% and 13% go?

Over at the Observer, there's an excellent editorial stating the obvious but forgotten facts:

"dysfunctionality is an electoral turn-off. Voters want to be governed by a party that speaks out to the nation with confidence, not inward to itself with bitterness. That alone cannot account for Labour's anticipated meltdown on Thursday. Perhaps 10 years is just too long. Perhaps it is simply time for a change.

But that means impatience for new faces, not necessarily a new direction. The two political constituencies that have been most hostile to everything Mr Blair does are the unreconstructed left and the misanthropic right, one nostalgic for class war, the other pining for a fictitious idyll of little England.

The overwhelming majority, meanwhile, want neither revolution nor reaction. They like gradual change. And Britain has been discreetly transformed: the minimum wage; free nursery care; tens of thousands more teachers, doctors and nurses - with higher wages; the working families' tax credit; the right to six months' maternity leave and two weeks' paternity leave; a statutory right to flexible working hours; the disability rights commission; the Freedom of Information Act; civil partnerships and the repeal of Section 28; restoring self-government for London; devolution for Scotland and Wales; the Human Rights Act; peace in Northern Ireland. Mr Blair's government has given millions of people unprecedented freedom to live as they choose and given them the wealth and security to do it.

Britain is better off after a decade with Tony Blair in charge. Wealth has been created, and wealth has been redistributed. That is what Labour governments have always hoped to do. It has happened without a brake on global competitiveness. That is what New Labour hoped to do: build a vibrant market economy with a generous welfare state; economic freedom and social protection. That is Blairism.

So on Thursday millions of voters will go to the polls intending to bury the Prime Minister. In time they will find many reasons to praise him."

Also at the Observer, Denis MacShane earns my wrath for his positive remarks about Sarkosy. Sorry, Denis, but surely a basic rule of solidarity between Socialist International and PES sister parties is that when your comrades in the PS are in the middle of a close-fought election campaign you praise their candidate, Segolene Royal, not the right-winger she is up against.


Anonymous Duncan said...

Ruddy hell, Luke - I'd worry if I were you, there were a few points in there I agreed with (some of them quite strongly...) - You'll be voting McDonnell yet...

Dennis "007" McShane really takes the biscuit. I follow his logic - that's what makes it even worse: it isn't daft or stupid, it's very coherently right wing (and I don't just mean right wing in a Labour Party sense...) As an internationalist, I see little difference in McShane's article today and people backing non-Labour (not to mention right-wing Tory) candidates here: and they get expelled.

10:51 pm, April 29, 2007

Anonymous theworldwillturnupsidedownonmay10 said...


The thing that that annoys me most about you is:

a) how much I constantly agree with you and;
b) how much a lot of people we both know yet would attach credence to MacShane's pathetic remarks and view us somewhat askance.

Fuck the lot of them and their fucked political careers say I. Ha.

11:33 pm, April 29, 2007

Anonymous Mikael said...


I was meaning to post a comment about your previous post concerning McDonnell, but I now realise it fits better along this thread.

I think John has reasons to be happy with his result. After all, he does suffer from relative anonimity and - you too must admit this - an utter and complete media black-out (as far as I am concerned this indicates that, in a real contest - during which both candidates, assuming it's straight contest enjoy equal coverage - things can only get better). Having said that, the fact that former Minister like Clarke and Meacher or present ones - even those without a portfolio, like your "sweatshop" Hazel - get a lower - or equal, like your Hazel - is not what I would call a reason to celebrate, either for them or for their supporters.

P.S. What is more, your Hazel is Party chairman, which should make the fact that she comes last in such a contest (John came second, you see!) en harder to swallow for her backers.

11:43 pm, April 29, 2007

Anonymous the whip's office said...

Oh I wouldn't worry, Luke. Hazel will have no trouble getting those nominations.

With the Chief Whip on her side, she's got nothing to worry about...

11:50 pm, April 29, 2007

Blogger el Tom said...

You're coming out for Royal! My lord, that puts the chair of our Labour Club to the right of you! He's convinced (much like the PM, it would seem) that France needs a good Thatcherising. :op

I disagree with the idea that the welfare state is 'generous', but with this-"Britain is better off after a decade with Tony Blair in charge. Wealth has been created, and wealth has been redistributed" I could not possibly disagree.

When I look at the totality of what has happened though I'm always motivated to consider the gains here against the losses in Iraq.

On a domestic level though, it's been a good ten years, despite the fact that I believe they could have been a lot better.

Compared to the tory government before, and the tory and libdem alternatives now, Britain is doing just great.

2:03 am, April 30, 2007

Blogger el Tom said...

Dennis McShane btw gets the titbiscuit for this. He can add that to his honourary 'worst dressed man left of centre'. Seriously Dennis, who else tucks the bottom of their suit trousers into red woollen socks?

I have some great pictures on my phone...

2:05 am, April 30, 2007

Blogger jdc said...

Quite right about MacShame.

Now, anyway, I will out myself as leaning Bennite, and voting thus in the polls. I still have some reservations about him though, and could be won over - probably to Johnson, potentially to Cruddas. Definitely not to Hain, and almost certainly not to Harman.

As for Blears, can't imagine it. Like and respect her, would be delighted if Gordon made her Home Secretary, but Deputy Leader? Nah.

10:28 am, April 30, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

McShane is an ass. Amazing that Meacher got 6%. 15% between them - who was this poll of? Hazel is gnash, whatever the spelling is.

10:42 am, April 30, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

McShane, the former left-winger from the NUJ. Unbelievable. Good point about kicking him out.Why don't we ? How can someone alegedly LABOUR not back the Socialist candidate?
Blears at 9 per cent and McDonnell at 9 per cent.The difference, Luke, is that if John gets on the ballot his vote will rocket as people will finally realise who he is and what he stands for.ie Labour principles and integrity. "Sweatshop" Hazel has probably peaked.

2:28 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous johnpalmerfan said...

Aside from the pointedly acerbic comments above, it should be noted that MacShane was a particularly under-achieving lightweight Europe minister. Since his rightful defenistration from government he's tried to set himself up as something of a sage on the European stage, wheeled out by the media to comment on the state of the left in Europe at any given election. He's simply not worth the fee.

2:43 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous Rory H said...


Good post. I believe that Cruddas has some ideas on making sure that party funding is distributed more fairly across the CLPs. There is nothing more sad seeing a neglected CLP die just because it is in a safe Tory seat. The national party is inherently more concerned with national politics and thus Labour's potential in local government is sometimes forgotten I feel. Have a read of his funding ideas at http://clients.squareeye.com/uploads/compass/documents/fit_for_purpose.pdf (I know it's published by Compass, but if you can get over that you may find it interesting).

I can't find a similarly indepth analysis and vision for party funding on Hazel's website...


5:32 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous Messed up the link said...


5:33 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous this is a blearsite conspiracy said...

Ok, that was difficult to do.



5:34 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I notice you conveniently forget to mention that Cruddas beat Blears by 1% - a narrow margin but interesting nevertheless.

6:48 pm, April 30, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

"I believe that Cruddas has some ideas on making sure that party funding is distributed more fairly across the CLPs"

Problem is you can have a CLP in a safe tory seat with plenty of funds - just nothing to spend it on, because there's so few active members you can run a campaign. We regularly pass money on to neighbouring CLPs with active campaigns, unfortunate in one way, but some active CLPs are strapped for cash!

9:05 pm, April 30, 2007

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