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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brace ourselves for Glenrothes

It was good to see Sarah Brown campaigning in the Glenrothes by-election yesterday - following her introduction to Gordon's conference speech she is clearly seen by voters as a major asset to Labour.

At my own rather more humble level in the Labour Party, my partner Linda did some phone canvassing for the by-election campaign yesterday and reported a high level of Labour support. Apparently the key local issue cited to her was "bucket collections" (which translates for those of us South of the Border as rubbish bin collections). Labour Candidate Lindsay Roy seemed to be personally known to the majority of electors she spoke to because of his high profile as a local head teacher.

But although we have a great candidate, and are clearly putting the work in, and there are anecdotal accounts of good canvass returns that I have heard from Linda and others, having spoken to people with a strategic overview of the campaign I am sorry to say that I have to chuck a bucket of cold water over the flames of optimism.

The overall picture from the doorsteps of Glenrothes is that Labour and the PM are a lot more popular than we were at the time of the Crewe and Nantwich or Glasgow East by-elections, but that this is being trumped by the continued electoral honeymoon of Alex Salmond's SNP administration in Scotland. The chances of us holding this seat are, unfortunately, minimal.

Labour folk from the PLP down need to get their heads round that so that the 6 November result is not a shock or trauma that drives us back into the kind of panic that existed before Conference, but something that as a professional political party we have anticipated, planned for, and can take in our stride.

40 Comments:

Blogger Hughes Views said...

One (of many) advantages of having been around for a while is that I can remember when it was normal for the party in government to lose by-elections to third parties.

I can even remember the "Great Liberal Revival" that Orpington was supposed to have heralded in Macmillan’s day. The Liberals, bless them, went on to win a whole nine seats at the following general election...

8:37 am, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous DanJ said...

Top notch analysis Brian. Now all we need is an electorate composed of people of your and my age and everything will be hunky dory. What was it Brecht said about dissolving the electorate and appointing a new one...

9:25 am, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous stephen said...

One (of many) advantages of having been around for a while is that I can remember when it was normal for the party in government to lose by-elections to third parties

After William Hague entered Parliament through a by-election win in 1989, I don't think the Tories has another by-election win whilst they were in power and for some years afterwards. Labour has been astonishingly good at retaining seats during by-elections but I think that was more to do with the utter hopelessness of the opposition until a couple of years ago. The important thing is that the Tories think they can win the next election, Labour think they can win and the electorate think they can win. That's half the battle and any by-election defeat will have more impact than perhaps logically it should.

10:17 am, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous JPJ2 said...

Your analysis of the likely Glenrothes by election result is-I hope-correct.

However, I think there is another bit of your analysis that is not.

Salmond is not enjoying a honeymoon-they don't last 18 months-what he and the SNP are enjoying is a profound switch of support to a party who (by definition) will always be on Scotland's side.

For decades Labour managed to hold the SNP at bay by persuading the electorate that voting SNP was a wasted vote because they could never win-that is a line now forever lost to Labour.

10:25 am, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

Let's be honest - we were never in with a chance of winning this by-election. The best hope is that we can use it as a platform for rebuilding campaigns at a local level in Scotland so the next time we have full elections we don't take our support for granted and mobilise properly.

2:07 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll be trotting out this excuse right up until and after the next election.

PS. How long is it going to be before Mandelson blows up?

I reckon how he switched from a £300,000 Islington flat to a £2.5m Primrose Hill villa is going to be his undoing.

Even as an EC commissioner on £200k a year he couldn't have afforded it and Northern Rock in its vintage lending years still wouldn't have been interested.

Don't the punters of Clapton pond deserve an explanation?

3:52 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll be trotting out this excuse right up until and after the next election.

PS. How long is it going to be before Mandelson blows up?

I reckon how he switched from a £300,000 Islington flat to a £2.5m Primrose Hill villa is going to be his undoing.

Even as an EC commissioner on £200k a year he couldn't have afforded it and Northern Rock in its vintage lending years still wouldn't have been interested.

Don't the punters of Clapton pond deserve an explanation?

3:52 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If you read the newspapers you would know that he got his current house from a legacy when his mother died.

I should think the punters of Clapton Pond are more worried about what he can do to save their homes and jobs in a recession than about his personal circumstances.

4:29 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Clapton Ali said...

We are interested in both, actually!

6:01 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

With a majority of well over 10,000 I can't see how Labour can lose this seat. They deserve to lose it as they have basically betrayed Scottish people, but it is a tall order for the SNP to take this seat.

The SNP are the party that Labour promised to be. They have shown how poorly organized and slow Westminster can be. They are providing good services at minimal costs and this is something Scottish people wanted.

Scotland has the best education and healtcare system in the British Isles and this is thanks to Alex Salmon and his reforms.

6:27 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Shamik said...

I saw a very interesting report on London Tonight earlier, about Hackney Council sending headteachers on a £3,500-a-head junket to Arizona.

Credit crisis? What crisis!

7:18 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can even remember the "Great Liberal Revival" that Orpington was supposed to have heralded in Macmillan’s day. The Liberals, bless them, went on to win a whole nine seats at the following general election...

Errr... the Tories lost the next general election though.

I don't think what we saw before conference was panic. It was grim determination. No matter, though, the moment is passed and we had better get used to it.

8:17 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Jockey said...

Free speech-suppressing Stalinists of Hackney Town Hall?

Did you have anything to do with this Luke??

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/celebrity/article4988250.ece

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/davehillblog/2008/oct/22/olympics2012-london

9:29 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:16 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Shamik

a) decisions like that aren't taken by Hackney Council - we don't run the LEA in Hackney, it is controlled by an unelected quango called the Learning Trust

b) the Head of a school I am governor at is going so I know enough about the trip to know it isn't a junket - it's a working conference for the best performing heads in the borough, followed up by practical experience working alongside heads in schools over there to pick up best practice

10:17 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Alex Salmond's SNP administration in Scotland re-newed Scot rails franchise-but they were for re-nationalisation of the railways-Was this anything to do with a large donation received from a Scottish Multi National transport company owner?

11:10 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Luke.
Did your mate Tory Blair impose the private unelected quango learning trust in Hackney?

11:15 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Luke

When are you going to stop people feeding white bread & crap to the birds, Goats and Deer's in Clissold Park. These people think they are being nice to the animals, but they are polluting the pond killing all the fish and amphibians. The goats and Deer are getting bloated, yet where is any enforcement or prosecutions?

When are you going to ban dogs from the Park, as they are crapping all over the place and biting people?

11:26 pm, October 23, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a shame Sarah Brown's Glenrothes visit was marred by over zealous minders threatening to shoot journalists!

See http://prdisasters.com/pr-disaster-labour-minders-threaten-journos-will-be-shot/

jpj2 - you're right. The SNP is less in a honeymoon period, its more like they've married the electorate!

The problem for Scottish Labour is that, as part of a British party, they can't stand up for Scotland the way the SNP can.

The SNP don't need to worry about offending the Westminster Government. They don't see it as harming their political careers, as no doubt Scottish Labour does when deviating from the UK Government does.

Just think of Wendy Alexander with her 'Bring it on!'. It was the right policy but one which Scottish Labour has now backtracked from.

(Unfortunately for her she was caught in the corrupt west central Scotland wing of the Labour party and the whole donations scandal stemmed from that. It suited Westminster that she left.)

Glenrothes is a different kettle of fish entirely.

Election campaigns need momentum and Sarah Brown must be livid that what should have been a good photo-op is now ridiculed.

If Labour's campaign remains as gaff-torn as Glasgow East's - 93 year old war veterans?; Margaret Curran's swanky southside house then 'I've lived in the East End all my life'; the retiring MP in financial scandal etc - I could go on - then I'm afraid Labour will have no chance.

1:14 am, October 24, 2008

 
Blogger Shamik said...

Luke,

That's as maybe, but the public response was nothing short of outraged.

As worthy as the trip may have been, did it really have to cost so much? And why now, in the midst of this crisis?

On the by-election: a narrow win or defeat would be the worst possible result - we need to a good thrashing followed by the removal of Brown, for the good of the party, and for the good of the country.

11:57 am, October 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Cass said...

£60,000 to send overpaid headteachers from one of the most deprived boroughs iin the country to Arizona to learn about teaching poor children!!!

YOU MAKE ME SICK

I'll never vote labour ever again

5:30 pm, October 24, 2008

 
Anonymous hovedan said...

I was in Scotland and had the pleasure of attending the SNP conference.

A number things became clear -

the SNP and Scottish Tories have a deal - the tories support the SNP budget and other measures, the SNP only attack Labour and give the Tories a free ride.

Scottish local government has been bought into the scottish government's policy agenda even labour councillors are bought into that - it seems inclusive and ensures that the SNPs opponents are more muted than they might be.

But Salmond's popularity also seems to be down to his ability to claim credit for any success in scotland and to pin the blame for any failures on Gordon Brown.

Salmond (and it is all about him) behaves like a spoilt teenager - constantly telling everybody he wants to leave home and his parents (ie the UK Government)are horrid - but then comes back demanding money. He knows this riles people in the rest of the UK - and that is part of his intention - if the English complain about his childish behaviour - he turns to the scots and says "look they are being nasty to us scots" - it works every time.

Some recent polling in scotland suggests that the people there think that the UK Government has more power over much more of their daily lives than is the case - Salmond knows this and plays it well - again part of his approach to blame the UK Government if anything goes wrong.

He demands more powers - even where he does not need it to act - he tries to fool the electorate - and then if something which is actually his responsibility goes wrong, the people often blame the UK government.

perhaps over the next year or so Labour's strategy needs to set out to the people of Scotland exactly what salmond does have responsibility for - and he has a lot - and what he does not. when the people of scotland know who runs what they might start to hold Salmond to account for those things that he runs.

7:20 pm, October 24, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Hovedan, you underestimate the SNP. The SNP has always been popular....people thought that they never could win. It's very different now for many reasons.

For one the SNP are now more than capable of taking Scotland and representing Scottish interests.

Two, Labour have lost their core beliefs and have taken the conservatives place as centre right. This does not sit well with the Scottish people after years of fighting conservative rule. They wanted a Labour party...not this.

Now with the prospect of Labour losing power most Scottish people see the SNP as an alternative. Now Labour are the party that can not win and therefore a wasted vote.

8:33 pm, October 24, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Rich

I think you will find the SNP all talk, but with very little substance, the railways they promised to renationalise and then they re-new ScotRails franchise, yet they had the power to bring it back into public ownership and control could have been added too?

12:19 am, October 25, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

FW: Very very urgent please send letter to your MP. Campaign Update - Amendments to the Employment Bill now tabled, pass on to all your contacts.

www.unitedcampaign.org.uk/files/model_letter-EBAMF.pdf.

United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws

0151 702 6927

www.unitedcampaign.org.uk

ryates@unitedcampaign.org.uk

9:38 am, October 25, 2008

 
Anonymous stephen said...

£60,000 to send overpaid headteachers from one of the most deprived boroughs iin the country to Arizona to learn about teaching poor children!!!

Headteachers are not overpaid. No one working in state education is overpaid. In the private sector, a job commanding the responsibilities of a head teacher would pay considerably more.

I'll never vote labour ever again

Yeah, Labour could cut the salaries of teachers, deputy heads and heads. That's really going to attract high quality applicants into the profession.

11:10 am, October 25, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Mark, I'm actively involved but there is no chance we are going to get that now. Current economic conditions mean that we have left it too late to start fighting for workers rights. The government is actually looking at relaxing many employment laws in order to give employers more flexibility.

I see a tough 10 years for a lot of working people. I'm not even sure we will have sickness and holiday entitlement in 15 years time. Obviously this is something I will fight hard to prevent but the reality is we are fighting a losing battle. Britain is on the slide.

There are head teachers who are paid in excess of £70,000. Which is excessive when you consider that many of the parents who send their kids to these schools will be lucky to get £6.00 per hour. This is not to say these teachers are not worth this amount, it is more to do with whether it is right to pay one person this amount of money out of public funds, when there is no evidence that salary attracts the right person.

The private sector pays a lot less than the public sector and that is a fact. You compare an administrator for a council, approx £18,000 pa in the private sector you'll be lucky to get £15,000. The average pay for an MD outside London is actually lower than 50k........

9:08 pm, October 25, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Rich

That's right they will use the excuse of economic conditions, why we can't have our rights back, but even if we don't get it back now, we will some day! The Tory labour will try to get more rights taken off us, but we have aspirations wanting much more while they have for much less. Don't forget we have Bob Crow leading this campaign, the pigs of NLP & the Tories can be defeated and will be be defeated?

12:15 am, October 26, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

What do you know about Aldershot any way?

12:24 am, October 26, 2008

 
Anonymous stephen said...

There are head teachers who are paid in excess of £70,000. Which is excessive when you consider that many of the parents who send their kids to these schools will be lucky to get £6.00 per hour

I don't follow your logic Rich. You think we should pay less to the headmasters of schools where the parents are poorly paid? That means that such schools will tend to attract poorer candidates. That seems to be pretty dumb.

This is not to say these teachers are not worth this amount, it is more to do with whether it is right to pay one person this amount of money out of public funds, when there is no evidence that salary attracts the right person

Why do you say that there is no evidence that higher salary has no effect on the quality of the applicants? I can think of many high quality teachers, myself included, who left the profession because of the pay. What seems acceptable when you are 23 and idealistic is no longer OK when you are 28 and want to buy a house or start a family.

The private sector pays a lot less than the public sector and that is a fact

No it bloody well isn't. I earn far more in the private sector than any HM but with substantially less responsibility.

4:45 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

If you were a headmaster and you left your job because of pay, then to be honest the education system is better off without you.

You are hardly paid peanuts and many people have to survive on a lot less. Surely you didn't go into the profession purely for money and if you can't live on less than 40,000 a year you have a real problem.

We can't have council officials, head teachers or any other senior public job earning these sums of money. It is obscene and a drain on resources. There are plenty of schools that are paying peanuts for junior teachers, TAs and teaching supervisors just to save money. Surely it would be better to save money at the top and employ more experienced and better skilled frontline teachers.

No wonder there is such a gap between the rich and poor when the poor are having to fund 100k salaries.

8:08 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Being a head teacher is not all about money. The post gives plenty of job satisfaction, and is much more secure in the public sector has many more benefits, such as holidays, sick pay and a decent pension.

We need Headteachers who want to contribute towards a better, equal society and beyond adequate education for these kids to get out of poverty. We don't need heads that are money grabbing twats!

11:22 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Anonymous stephen said...

If you were a headmaster and you left your job because of pay, then to be honest the education system is better off without you

Pious drivel and the reason we have such difficulty in attracting quality applicants into teaching. The education system needs people who can perform excellently and such people should be paid well. There is absolutely no shame in wanting to be paid a high salary.

You are hardly paid peanuts and many people have to survive on a lot less

I am certainly not paid peanuts. I work as an IT consultant and earn a very comfortable wage. However as teacher I did earn peanuts, relative to my skills and abilities.

Surely you didn't go into the profession purely for money and if you can't live on less than 40,000 a year you have a real problem

40K won't take you very far now and it is substantially less than a backbench MP earns, for example. Of course the vast majority of teachers earn substantially less than that.

We can't have council officials, head teachers or any other senior public job earning these sums of money

Why not? Who says? Some throwback who'd sooner have his children taught mathematics by an idiot who thinks that y = 1/x (*) is a straight line than by a competent teacher who knows his subject?

(*) true story, by the way

It is obscene and a drain on resources

Grow up. Recruiting excellent staff is not a drain on resources. It is what the resources are there for.

There are plenty of schools that are paying peanuts for junior teachers, TAs and teaching supervisors just to save money. Surely it would be better to save money at the top and employ more experienced and better skilled frontline teachers

Did I say that junior teachers should be paid peanuts? Salaries should be sufficient to attract able canidates and should escalate sufficiently so that those people are retained.

No wonder there is such a gap between the rich and poor when the poor are having to fund 100k salaries

Taxation should be progressive, with the burden falling proportionately on the better paid. The reason why the gap between rich and poor continues to increase is because Labour has sought to raise revenue from regressive taxation flat rate rather than from income related taxation. It has nothing to do with paying public servants what they are worth. If you are incapable of understanding that then you understand nothing.

11:29 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Anonymous stephen said...

We don't need heads that are money grabbing twats!

Why shouldn't a headmaster be paid commensurately for his experience and managerial abilities? There is absolutely no contradiction in wanting to make a good wage and doing a good job. If you think that is being a 'money grabbing twat' then that is an indication of your own psychological hang-ups.

11:33 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

Its depressing one does not want the Tories elected, but with the likes of extreme right wingers like Man die & Brown the NLP is no alternative to the Tories and Lib/Dem is another Tory party as well!

We should storm parliament and have a Revolution. Parliament & the House of Lords should be abolished as it is all undemocratic and run by the Masons?

11:34 pm, October 26, 2008

 
Blogger Letters From A Tory said...

What was that Gordon Brown was saying about not using his family as props at the Labour Party conference about a month ago?

9:54 am, October 27, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Well stephen if 40k doesn't go very far these days, then maybe you should consider that the majority of people, some with more skills, earn a lot less than that.

It's ok though because you can buy cheap goods made by some poor sod who is paid peanuts to make them, peanuts to deliver them and peanuts to serve you.

You middle class snobs need a boot up your backside because you expect what you don't deserve. You should be paid what we can afford and we can't afford those types of salaries when Schools constantly claim they have no funds.

7:54 pm, October 27, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

As I have said, there is a lot more than just the 40k salary.
1: Job security.
2: Good Holidays and sickness pay.
3: Good pension scheme.
4: Excellent career status.

We can't have all Heads on 100k.

10:16 am, October 28, 2008

 
Blogger Mark Still News said...

To a lot of people in the deprived borough, 40k is a hell of a big salary.

10:19 am, October 28, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I would love to pay every teacher 100,000 but we can't afford to. We have to in a fair society look at the difference between the lowest earners and those at the top.

It is a disgrace when schools are full of agency staff on the min wage, these people clean and cook. Yet in the same school you might have a head on £100,000 a year. It's not fair or right and while the head has an enormous amount of responsibilty, there is no reason why anyone can't live well on 40k.

7:18 pm, October 28, 2008

 

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