Bits & pieces
An interesting few days, what with finding out I am now paying my mortgage to Alistair Darling (does living in a nationalised house add to my socialist street cred?).
Good to see the people of Kosovo finally get their independence - much to the joy of my Albanian colleague at work, Ralf Gjoni (http://ralfgjoni.blogspot.com/).
I'm writing this whilst watching Skins on E4, a slightly surreal feeling as it is filmed in Bristol and features all the council blocks I leafletted and canvassed in 1993 as a 21 year old candidate for Cabot Ward of Avon County Council (I get a similar sensation watching Casualty as the exterior of the hospital is actually a mixture of the University of Bristol Union and what was then called Brunel FE College when I was an NUS Convenor).
But enough nostalgia.
The Labour parliamentary selection down in Streatham is proving lively, with Steve Reed automatically through onto the final shortlist having won wards with a majority of the CLP membership in the "open" section. Steve is the Leader of Lambeth Council and has been responsible both for gaining Lambeth back for Labour from a hung council with a stunning victory against the national tide in the May 2006 elections, and taking the council from 1 star to 3 stars in the performance rankings, making it the fastest improving in the country. I understand he has taken about 110 votes so far to 65ish for another councillor, Dave Malley, who took 3 smaller wards by narrow margins.
Also through onto the shortlist automatically are Chuka Umunna (through the reserved BME nominations) and Cathy Ashley (through the reserved nominations for women candidates). Chuka is heavily involved in anti-leadership faction Compass. As you might expect I therefore do not believe he would be a helpful addition to the PLP. I also think he needs to go away and do an apprenticeship as a councillor to get experience of holding public office before becoming an MP. Cathy was on the LCC Executive with me. I think she has followed the bit of the ex-LCC that has gone bonkers and founded Compass - happy to be corrected if this is not the case (Postscript - I have been corrected - a mutual friend has rung to explain that whilst Cathy was involved in setting up Compass she didn't support its move towards full-frontal attacks on the government - good for her). She was rather patronising to those of us from NOLS at that time (something to do with a previous generation of students oversleeping in the conference print flat and not arriving in time for the early morning leaflet tunnel), and memorably followed Neal Lawson's declaration of the final victory of Blairism to the last executive meeting of LCC with an exhortation "not to forget that the real enemy was Labour First" (cue much shifting in seats by the three of us that were involved in both organisations).
The other person with a nomination so far who I do rate is Dora Dixon-Fyle, a Southwark councillor originally from Sierra Leone who works for Harriet Harman and came a very strong second when Meg Hillier was selected in Hackney South. I don't think Dora can win in Streatham but I hope she does become a Labour MP soon.
Finally, I was very sorry to hear about the death of Sir Dick Knowles, former Leader of Birmingham City Council and one of Labour's most effective grassroots organisers. Coming so soon after the death of former Camden Leader Roy Shaw it feels as though we are seeing the passing of a generation of stalwart municipal leaders who kept commonsense Labour politics going in town halls whilst the national party lost its way.