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, February 12, 2008

LabourHome vs Dromey

The Labour Party seems to be seeing its first ever internet launched campaign, with LabourHome running a campaign for its editorial team member Mark MacDonald to become Party Treasurer against Jack Dromey the incumbent.

This could be interesting, not least to see exactly how much influence blogs and social media have within the Party.

There is zero chance of Dromey losing, because the position of Treasurer is elected by the whole of conference and hence the unions have 50% of the vote. However, if a majority of CLP delegates vote against Jack it damages his credibility in the Party, particularly at a time when it is no great secret he would like to become an MP, and by extension damages his wife, our Deputy Leader.

Personally I'm not sure what I think about this one. I was very unimpressed by Jack's behaviour over the Levy affair which was kind of repeated over the Peter Watt resignation, and I worry about rumours that he and Harriet play some Machiavellian games around the parliamentary selection process and where exactly gets picked to be an all women shortlist (though this is probably true of all the participants in that process). But weighed against that is a feeling of loyalty to someone I voted for twice as the right's candidate to be General Secretary of the TGWU, and who on the one occasion I've spent much time with him (years ago when I was a T&G delegate to Labour Party Youth Conference) I liked a lot - both he and Harriet have a knack of making ordinary members that they deal with feel at ease, and people that I respect in Southwark say they work incredibly hard there.

I don't know Mark at all - I don't recall him being active in his current CLP, Holborn & St Pancras, when I was agent there in the '90s, but maybe he was living elsewhere. My main concern is that there is nothing in the material he is putting out (other than his involvement in Palestinian issues which as regular readers will know isn't exactly where I'm coming from) that tells you whether he is on the right or left of the Labour Party, and I wouldn't want a protest vote over the way the Party Treasurer oversees fundraising etc. to be accidentally interpreted as a vote for the left, or to put an extra left vote on the NEC.

I'd be interested to know what other people think about this contest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not share your views on Jack Dromey. It was wrong of him to appear on Newsnight and critise No10 (Tony Blair)when the cash for honours saga blew up. In addition he has always unimpressed me. (I do not live in the South East so do not have knowledge of his hard work). I always knew that he and his wife were supporters of Gordon Brown and reports indicate that it was Brown who offered him a safe seat. I also disliked his behaviour over Mr Watts resignation. In all I feel that Mr Dromey does not understand the meaning of "loyalty".

I therefore hope that Mark McDonald becomes the Party Treasurer. Jane

10:17 am, February 12, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also not sure what to make of this. "very unimpressed by Jack's behaviour" is a masssive under statement for what I feel. I'm amazed that Jack Dromey actually has the brass neck to even stand. I'd always thought of him as someone I admire as being one of the 'sensible' party. However, his recent behaviour has proved that he's not fit to hold any high office in the party. That said I don't know enough about Mark MacDonald to decide if he is the person to challenge Dromey.

12:44 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Luke, I think you'll find that the left is as undecided and ambiguous as you are on this. Though I broadly think it's healthy that a grassroots challenge like this is coming through - whether you're left or right, we can surely agree that there's a need for upping our game on treasury/finance issues. In that respect, the fact of MacDonald's challenge is to be welcomed. It's up to the members to pin him down on what he stands for.

1:57 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Mm, I'd echo e10 rifle, really. I'm minded to support Mark just because of the recent financial issues - but certainly don't see it is a left/right vote at this stage. Maybe things will be clarified at a later date.

2:48 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Funny...I would have thought the aim was to get a competent treasurer, and that their politicl slant should be irrelevant.

I think that if the Labour party consisted only of those on the new labour right, and excluded progressive liberal social democrats, the soft left, and socialists, it would remain in permanent opposition should there be a rival on the left or if the progressive wing decided to support the LD's instead.

The person who deserves to win is the person who could do the job of Treasurer most effectively, irrespective of their ideology.

4:23 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger The Daily Pundit said...

Wouldn't it be better if the role was non-political and an outsider was brought in? That goes for all the parties by the way. When it comes to money it's clear that none of them can be trusted.

5:21 pm, February 12, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

thedailypundit, I see it differently. As a party member, the people I wouldn't trust to do the job properly are people who aren't party members.

I don't see this as a left-right thing either.

8:31 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

My concerns about the politics of whoever is Treasurer are because the post has rarely if ever had any role in party finances or fundraising but has

a) historically been a litmus test vote to see the strength of different currents in the Party because it is the only one elected by the entire conference not just one section of it e.g. Gaitskell vs Bevan in 1954, Bevan vs George Brown in 1956, Callaghan vs Foot in 1967

and b) as one of the "party officers" is one of the 4 or 5 people consulted when rapid decisions are made on organisational matters which often have very partisan implications e.g. matters relating to selections that occur too fast for a Org Sub of the NEC to be called. I'd want to be careful who had that kind of power.

If the post is to focus on accountancy and audit rather than being honorific as it always has been it shouldn't carry with it a vote on the NEC or a seat on any NEC sub cttees.

10:00 pm, February 12, 2008

Anonymous I know Mark! said...

Positives about Mark:

A nice bloke with some real life experience compared to many party hangers on. He started off as a hospital porter, and now works as a criminal barrister. I think he does mainly legal aid work. Doesn't only hector us all about civil liberties like a lot of lawyers, but holds genuine beliefs on all sorts of things. Pleasant guy to talk to and buys his round.


Serious hack with completely unrealistic expectations which indicate he probably wouldn't be much of a Treasurer in the virtually impossible event of his election to the office. Careered off to every seat in the NE which came up for selection, demonstrating incredible naivete regarding why on earth they would want to select him.

In it for himself: he was a candidate in Wantage in 2005. An unwinnable seat, but very near to uber-marginal Reading seats and Oxford East, and didn't do a jot of work there, prefering to flatter his vanity by chasing a minimal Labour vote in Wantage. Ok so Tory defector George Jackson theoretically made it a Labour seat at that time, but its neither here nor there.

Mark doesn't have enough allies in the party for this campaign to be for a particular grouping within it, however esoteric. This in some ways is a good think, and there's no reason he shouldn't run, but the only real reason I suspect is the slightly delusional belief it will help him somehow enter parliament.

10:00 pm, February 12, 2008

Anonymous Shambolic said...

Neither are fit for high public office (and therefore both are suitable for this "honourable" position within a political party that is rapidly losing any moral substance whatsoever).

10:49 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger John Gray said...

Hi Luke
Don’t think it is really fair to say this is a “Labourhome” issue?

Mark was given a platform to express his views. Which is what surely “Labourhome” should be all about?

I think Jack is safe in anycase.

11:15 pm, February 12, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Take your point Luke, but the Treasurer is unlikely to outweigh other party 'officers' in anything of any substance (worst luck!) - the demonstration of the strength of party currents would be a genuine issue if the LRC or Compass were standing a candidate; as it is nobody is really aware of the broader politics of Mark (nor Jack, who has occasionally liked to put forward a more 'old Labour' persona than the main trends!)

11:44 pm, February 12, 2008

Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

I'm with you on this one Luke. My own experience of sitting on the boards of voluntary association is that too often paid staff are 'economical' with the truth. I have not spoken to Jack about his own experience, but I found those terse words "total concealment" he uttered on camera after the Abrahams affair broke entirely plausable.

That poses some very particular challenges for the NEC in the appointment of a new General Secretary. It certainly can't wait for election to an ill-defined post next September.

Good governance should be at the heart of everything the Party does - an issue I put on my own blog this morning.

10:47 am, February 13, 2008

Blogger Praguetory said...

I agree that an outsider would be best - I'd put my own hat in the ring if it was an open contest. Personally I don't think McDonald's cv is strong enough although he would obviously be an improvement on Dromey who is clearly incompetent and palpably unqualified for the role.

11:34 am, February 13, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

If Labour want a treasurer, then they should have a role connected to finances of the party.

Otherwise, its simply a smokescreen for getting more leadership-adoring hacks on the NEC.

Luke has admitted as much.

3:44 pm, February 13, 2008

Anonymous rupahuq said...

Hi, I thought I'd posted this last night but apparently not. I think competition is good here and Mark is a good thing too. Surely it is not an honary role? I did an entry on my own blog last week here:

5:19 pm, February 13, 2008

Blogger Mark McDonald said...

I should make it clear that this is not an attack on Harriet or Jack. I believe that the post-holder needs a mandate in order to raise the party's game on governance. It is the lack of competition for the role which has turned it into an honorary (and ineffective) position. In fact, I believe the post has only been contested democratically once in the past fifteen years. This is the first thing the Labour Party Treasurer needs, a mandate from the party and I shall be contesting this election against Jack, and seeking that very mandate.

But a new treasurer also needs to bring forward solid proposals for example, the Party has an opportunity with internal elections to provide facilities for candidates for a fee, while ensuring compliance with data protection and elections/party funding laws. We should set up an "Internal Elections" accounting unit under election law and insist that relevant candidates report through that accounting unit. The Party centrally should check all donors independently of the candidate's teams.

All these ideas and more would not only raise our standard of financial diligence, but could serve to reinvigorate our internal democracy.

As for my politics, I have deliberately stayed away from the left/right agenda, because that is not the mandate I seek. I seek a mandate to protect the party from little mistakes - it's a functional issue, not a political position, and all members would have to have confidence in the treasurer if the treasurer is to be effective. I have been a labour party member for many years and I agree with some issues and disagree with others. Like most members, I am bit right wing on some things and a bit left wing on others.

Mark McDonald

9:22 pm, February 13, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Jack has not been doing a great job on this has he? Time for a change anyway if he is to be a PPC surely? Mark seems to have some Union activity in his CV though barristers are of course a law unto themselves. Perhaps it is time to have co-Treasurers, one from the brothers and sisters and one from the comrades, plus the CFO or GS making an accountable clump.

PS Where is delivery on that promise Jack got re 4th Option???? And sought to use to stop the party continuing to support it??

4:16 pm, February 14, 2008

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