Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to readers and I hope you had a less flu-afflicted Christmas than my family did.
Congratulations to elected Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe who was appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours. I'm not a great fan of the honours system but this was an appropriate way of recognising the contribution Jules has made to improving Hackney Council. As the council website I've linked to says, the council is expected to get a 3 star rating (out of 4) in February, up from zero stars at the start of Jules' period of leadership. I certainly never thought I would see Hackney Council officially described as "good" when I volunteered for a tour of duty in the then political equivalent of Apocalypse Now back in 1998. And when I met him two years earlier I didn't think the reluctant press ganged young candidate for the 1996 South Defoe by-election - who seemed far too nice and too normal for the internecine warfare of Hackney politics - would 12 years later be in his second term as Mayor and winning national recognition for his transformation of the borough.
Congratulations too to the consistently underestimated Stephen Byers for the most sensible contribution to internal Labour debate over the holiday period - in Sunday's Observer - calling on Blairites to rally behind Brown, for the tough policy questions to be tackled and for the Party "to start seeing Labour party members as assets to be valued and not as irritants to be tolerated. They will need to have a far more significant role than they are given at present." Byers has been wasted sat on the backbenches for too long. Labour people in local government know he was a superb Secretary of State at DTLR. It's time he was brought back into the political front line.
Congratulations to the Labour Party on the final opinion polls of 2007:
YouGov - CON 40% (-3), LAB 35% (+4), LDEM 15% (-1) i.e. Tory lead down from 12% to 5%.
ComRes - CON 41% (+1), LAB 30% (+3), LDEM 16% (-2) i.e. Tory lead down from 13% to 11%.
ICM - CON 39% (-2), LAB 34% (+4), LDEM 18% (-1) i.e. Tory lead down from 11% to 5%
My political wish list for 2008 (I got 5 and 2 half of my 10 wishes for 2007):
1) The UK getting through the year without suffering a major terrorist attack
2) The UK starts building some new nuclear power stations so we can tackle climate change
3) People to give Gordon Brown the space to actually get on with the job of running the country
4) The Grassroots Alliance to lose some (hopefully all) of their members in the election of the CLP section of the Labour Party National Executive Committee
5) A reduction in inequality and poverty in the UK and some government policy initiatives on this that will be as memorable as the Minimum Wage
6) Ken to thrash Boris for London Mayor in May, and the BNP to be kept off the GLA
7) Regime change to democracy in Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma
8) Pakistan and Kenya not descending any further into anarchy
9) No council by-elections in the London Borough of Hackney, or if there have to be any, let them be in the summer, not December
10) Labour to retake opinion poll lead and Cameron to get sacked