A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, the Labour Party and Hackney - 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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

NEC nominations

Hackney North CLP had its AGM last night and as usual in recent years there was a very tightly fought vote for the 6 nominations for the Labour Party NEC, resulting in a 3-3 draw between right and left. The split in the left between the official Grassroots Alliance slate and the Labour Representation Committee's Jon Wiseman was played out locally.

First round results were:

Ann Black (Grassroots Alliance) - 24
Sonika Nirwal (Labour First) - 20
Ellie Reeves (LF) - 17
Christine Shawcroft (GA) - 17
Azhar Ali (LF) - 16
Peter Kenyon (GA) - 16

Deborah Gardiner (LF) - 15
Mohammed Azam (GA) - 15
Peter Wheeler (LF) - 12
Fran Griffiths (GA) -12
Peter Willsman (GA) - 9
Jon Wiseman (LRC) - 5

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Cheam Ward, LB Sutton. Con hold with swing to LDs - in an LD parliamentary marginal.

Sideslow Ward, Bromsgrove. Con gain from LD despite an 11% reduction in Tory vote, Labour took 27% having not stood. LDs did not defend the seat.

Hexham Gilesgate Ward, Tynedale. Con hold with a large swing to LD.

Westminster Ward, Ellesmere Port. Lab hold with 11% drop in vote and low turnout.

Lerwick South Ward, Shetland. Ind hold.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Labour and the South

Three excellent articles about why and how Labour needs to win in the South from the latest edition of Progress:

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/Magazine/article.asp?a=2504

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/Magazine/article.asp?a=2505

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/Magazine/article.asp?a=2495

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No time for complacency

I've had trouble convincing everyone I know in the Labour Party of the seriousness of the threat posed by Boris Johnson.

Today's YouGov poll showing him 5% ahead of Ken - 44% for Boris, 39% for Ken, 12% for Paddick, should be a wake up call.

Too many people have been talking a good game about this election and not actually campaigning in it.

Now is the time for everyone who wants to keep London Labour to start delivering leaflets, knocking on doors or hitting the phones. If activity isn't being organised in your patch yet, take the responsibility and offer your services to the campaign here: http://www.kenlivingstone.com/page/s/support

Labour supporters need to think how it would feel to wake up to Mayor Boris on May 2 and clear their diaries for two months of campaigning to make sure that nightmare does not become a reality.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wayne Mawson

I'm not very impressed by Haringey copper, Supt Wayne Mawson, who "has admitted that he was forced to move house by youths hanging around outside his home."

According to The Torygraph he "decided to leave because he did not want to confront the teenagers sitting on the wall of his property in Hackney".

For a start off most of the constituents I represent in my Hackney council ward don't have Supt Mawson's option of moving away when they suffer from anti-social behaviour, because they are council or housing association tenants rather than owner-occupiers. They rightly expect that the police and local authority will do something about it, not decamp to leafy Crouch End.

Secondly it's not remotely clear where on the spectrum of "teenagers sitting on the wall" Supt Mawson's visitors were.

If on the one hand they were genuinely threatening or engaged in criminal behaviour surely he as a policeman has a duty to his neighbours, the kids involved and future residents of his street to get his Hackney colleagues to sort the problem out.

If on the other hand they were just kids sitting around being loud but harmless, well that kind of comes with the territory of living in an inner-city area where not everyone has a garden and most people have small flats so their kids socialise outside when it gets hot. I've got a low front wall to my house. In the summer local kids sit on it and the neighbouring wall most nights. Occasionally the neighbours have an impromptu street party with a sound system that seems to take in my front wall as seating. This freaks out visiting relatives from rural Kent but to my mind is part of the deal of living in an area with a huge population density - added to which they were probably here and sat on the wall a long time before I arrived in Hackney.

Supt Mawson has the right to live where he wants but his remarks haven't helped Hackney and I doubt they have impressed more junior colleagues who are out patrolling the streets he has moved away from.

Well Done

Well done to the 136 Labour MPs who voted for Andrew Miller's bill to give temporary and agency workers the same rights as permanent staff.

You can see who they were here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7259471.stm

I hope the Government takes notice of the strength of opinion on this across the spectrum of the PLP.

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Princes Ward, Dartford. Labour hold with a small net swing from Con to Lab. Good result in one of the key North Kent parliamentary marginals.

Oakley Vale Ward, Corby. Con hold with a 4.5% swing from Lab. Again in a parliamentary marginal.

Fortune Green Ward, Camden. LD hold with a swing to them from their Tory coalition partners, largely achieved by squeezing the Green vote. Labour vote stable. This is a safe LD ward in the new 3-way parliamentary marginal of Hampstead & Kilburn.

Highland Ward, Perth & Kinross. SNP hold with swing to second place Tories.

Earlier in the week control of Southampton City Council changed hands to a Labour/LD administration after the Tories failed to get their budget through.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Labour's Top 50 Achievements

The Party has published this list of Labour's Top 50 achievements since 1997 - a useful reminder:

1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. Written off up to 100 per cent of debt owed by poorest countries.
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s.
41. New Deal - helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds have been started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school.

You can comment or join Labour here: http://www.labour.org.uk/top_50_achievements

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Do the Tories want to tackle child poverty?

Just been to an interesting speech by James Purnell at the Social Market Foundation.

He said he was fairly sure the Tories do not have an aspiration, let alone a target for reducing child poverty and cited the failure of Chris Grayling to respond when challenged on this on Monday at DWP questions.

The Hansard illustrates this:

"James Purnell: The Government are committed to the goal of reducing child poverty. We continue to keep the strategy under review and we will make announcements at the appropriate time. However, it is surprising that the hon. Gentleman raises the issue when I do not believe that the Conservative party is committed to even an aspiration, let alone a pledge, to reduce child poverty. Perhaps he would like to answer that point.

Chris Grayling: I look forward to our changing jobs in the near future. From the lack of an answer to my question, I judge that the Government will not achieve their target of halving child poverty by 2010. Will the Secretary of State give the House a sense of when the Government hope to achieve that target?

James Purnell: As I said, the Government are committed to the target. The House will notice that the hon. Gentleman ducked the question on whether the Conservative party is committed to the goal. Under his predecessor, it was at least an aspiration, but it is not even that now. He is not prepared to say that he shares the aspiration of getting children out of poverty in this country, which is shameful."

kenlivingstone.com

Lots of new content on the London Mayoral campaign website: http://www.kenlivingstone.com/

Project Dave flounders

Deep mid-term polls like this one today from ICM:

CON 37% (nc)
LAB 34% (+2)
LD21% (nc)

suggest whatever Cameron is, he ain't the Tory Tony Blair.

Anyone out there wondering if the next party to change its leader will be the Tories?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bye, bye Castro

Good to see the peaceful departure from office of a man who unfortunately morphed from youthful idealist to Stalinist dictator (albeit with better PR skills, a cuddlier image and nicer beach resorts than most of his counterparts).

Is it too much to hope that the people of Cuba might be given a vote in a free election to decide who now leads their country?

Maybe the Communists would win, but personally I hope Cubans would choose a third way which kept Cuba's commitment to free healthcare and education whilst bringing in freedom of speech, political pluralism and an end to the command economy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

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.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Should Boris be in charge of law and order in London?

No, he shouldn't.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Beijing boycotts?

Personally I boycott every Olympics, not for political reasons but because of complete and utter disinterest in watching sport. I'm not against participating in sport - in my youth I was into running (half marathon personal best of 1 hour 25 mins; 12th out of 250 pairs in class C in the 1989 Karrimor International Mountain Marathon - 2 days of navigating 26 miles round the Howgill Fells with a rucksack) - and vaguely aspire to run again in the future - but even then I couldn't see the attraction of watching people run round a track or chuck javelins or jump or whatever on telly for two weeks.

Not being a great fan of the Chinese regime I'm watching the impact of Stephen Spielberg's withdrawal from involvement in the staging of the Beijing games with interest. Hopefully there will be more such gestures to demonstrate to the government there that despite their economic and military power, there are people prepared to put pressure on them over their attitude towards human rights. We only have a narrow window to do this before they get so powerful that they can just ignore world opinion, so the Beijing games are perfectly timed.

I do however, wonder why Spielberg took so long to wake up to the nature of the regime he was dealing with. The reason he cites is Darfur, but surely Chinese support for the Sudanese, whilst reprehensible in itself, is less of a reason to shun them than what they actually do in their own country in terms both of the colonisation and oppression of Tibet over a 50 year period, and human rights abuses against political and religious dissidents?

Too old to be a child star, Too young to take leads

Really Charles Clarke's outbursts are getting more and more self-deluding and embarrassing for both him and the Party.

It isn't his age that disqualifies Charles from being a future leader of the Labour Party, it's the lack of judgement exhibited in his interventions, and his record of non-delivery at the Home Office.

A shame, because he is a highly intelligent guy with good politics. He needs to find a role, but the interviews he has periodically given don't help him or Labour.

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Tulketh Ward, Preston. Lab hold. Lab 423, LD 400, Con 292, Respect SWP 84, Green 36. Lab down 14.6%, Con down 10.4%, LDs up 15.3%.

Leyton Ward, Waltham Forest. LD gain from Lab. LD 1360, 56%, Labour 695, 28.6%, Respect SWP 176, 7.2%, Con 108, 4.4%, Green 90, 3.7%. This was the by-election caused by the conviction and disqualification of Labour Councillor (and Compass Board Member...) Miranda Grell for "making a false statement of fact about the LD candidate's personal character" in 2006, so not really a surprising result. Swing of about 13.5% from Lab to LD. The Respect SWP candidate was Carole Vincent who appeared in the last series of Big Brother.

Streeton Ward, E Staffs. Con hold. Con 661, Lab 366, BNP 327, Popular Alliance 233, LD 205.

Dromore Ward, Banbridge. UUP hold in a mainly DUP part of Northern Ireland.

Elgin City South Ward, Moray. SNP hold. Labour vote down 11% and independent overtaking us to come second.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The real demographic time bomb

Some complete nonsense about immigration today from former CBI boss Lord Turner. He thinks we don't need more immigrants (or babies!) in case the south east gets "over-crowded".

I can assure him from recent trips to Kent that it is in no danger of getting "over-crowded" any time soon - I spotted quite a lot of wide open countryside.

The real demographic population the UK and Europe as a whole face is that we have an aging population and a declining birth rate in most EU countries, and therefore a smaller and smaller number of working age people supporting more and more longer-living pensioners.

Assuming Turner does not advocate euthanasia who, other than immigrants and babies, does he think will care for us when we get old, or pay taxes and keep the economy going to pay others to look after us?

How exactly will the UK and Europe compete economically with China and India's huge and growing and increasingly skilled and educated populations if we don't get an influx of new young workers through immigration?

Turner is afraid we might end up with a population of 75 million. I'm afraid of a different future where we might not reach a population of 75 million, and there might not be anyone around to switch off the lights when the last of us croaks it in the under-populated geriatric home/museum known as Western Europe.

More proof that unilateral disarmament doesn't work

In the various debates I've done against CND over the last year they have often said that the UK should emulate the small number of countries which have unilaterally given up their nuclear weapons.

One of those countries is Ukraine, which inherited part of the USSR's nuclear arsenal but decided it didn't want to be a nuclear power.

Today's Guardian shows that unfortunately this has not stopped Russia demonstrating Slavic neighbourliness by threatening to retarget its nukes at Ukraine if it dares to participate in US plans for a missile defence shield.

Proof that unilaterally ceasing to be a member of the nuclear club doesn't buy you peace and goodwill, it just makes you vulnerable to bullying by nuclear-armed states.

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.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Madness of the Republican Right

Real quotes from Mitt Romney's concession speech, proving the Republican right are several sandwiches short of a picnic:

"I am convinced that unless America changes course, we will become the France of the 21st century.

The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven’t given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug—we have got to fight it like the poison it is!

The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography—even celebration of it—and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare programs have led to today’s grim realities: 68% of African American children are born out-of-wedlock, 45% of Hispanic children, and 25% of White children. How much harder it is for these children to succeed in school—and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.

Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality. Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America’s vitality; we know that it is the source of our strength. And we are not dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values, and morality, and culture. We will always be honored to stand on principle and to stand for principle.

Soon, the face of liberalism in America will have a new name. Whether it is Barack or Hillary, the result would be the same if they were to win the Presidency. The opponents of American culture would push the throttle, devising new justifications for judges to depart from the constitution. Economic neophytes would layer heavier and heavier burdens on employers and families, slowing our economy and opening the way for foreign competition to further erode our lead.

Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are fully behind my campaign.” You are with me all the way to the convention. Fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976. But there is an important difference from 1976: today… we are a nation at war.

And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play. About this, I have no doubt.

If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

America must remain, as it has always been, the hope of the earth."

Barking.

Hackney in the news

Today's Jewish Chronicle:

http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m11s18&SecId=18&AId=57948&ATypeId=1

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Council by-election results

Tonight's council by-election results:

Newcastle-under-Lyme,Butt Lane ward. Lab 295 LD 264 Con 161 UKIP 117. Lab Hold - other seat in the ward was lost to LDs by over 100 last year so this is a good result. 8% swing from LD to Lab.

Great Yarmouth, Bradwell South and Hopton Ward. Con 457 LD 397 Lab 254 UKIP 116 Green 29. Con hold. Good result for LDs who had not stood before. Tories down 17%.

Portsmouth, Copnor Ward. Lib Dem 1835 Con 904 Lab 349. LD gain from Con with a huge swing of nearly 30%.

West Devon, Tavistock North Ward. LibDem 812 Con 425 Green 133. LD gain from Con.

Hertfordshire CC, Harpenden Division. Con 2161 LibDem 819 Lab 153 Green 110. Con hold with their vote up 10%.

Wycombe, Marlow North and West Ward. Con 928 LD 382 Lab 209. Con hold.

East Lindsey DC, Roughton Ward. Ind 383 Con 215. Independent gain from Con.

Wyre BC, Victoria Ward. Con 769 Lab 339 BNP 222 UKIP 151. Con hold.

Lancashire CC, Thornton Cleveleys Central Division. Con 1536 Lab 934 UKIP 489 LibDem 220. Con hold with 6.9% swing from Lab to Con.

Wilts CC, Trowbridge East Division. Con 1363 LD 1176 Green 229. Con gain from LD with 11.6% swing.

Wilts CC, Holt and Paxcroft Division. Ind 1075 LD 994 Con 458 Lab 53 Ind 45. Independent gain from LD.

Hackney in the news

Hackney in the press here:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23436115-details/Worst+councils+are+new+stars/article.do

Slack reporting

Watching Question Time I'm irritated by the way in which shorthand is used for political issues that distorts what they are really about.

Two examples on tonight's programme:

- Panelists implying that Caroline Flint wants council tenants evicted if they are unemployed. Actually what she said was that part of the deal if you are given a council property is that you should have to seek work - which is contentious but not as draconian as it has been suggested. Is there anyone who really thinks that if you are able to work, there should be an option of not seeking work? My problem with her proposal is not the forcing of people to seek work, it's the targeting based on housing tenure - the potentially workshy are not confined to council estates, they also rent privately (through HB) or live in owner-occupied homes courtesy of parents and partners, or their own homes purchased before they stopped working.

- Panelists implying that the 4 Euro referendum rebels (Hoey, Field, Stuart and whoever the other one is) are being threatened by the Chief Whip because they want a referendum on the EU treaty. They are not. They are being carpeted because the campaign they are backing is specifically putting electoral pressure on Labour MPs in marginal seats - and a fairly basic rule of membership of the PLP is that you don't try to reduce the chances of other members of it getting re-elected.

Hackney's 3 Star Thursday

Labour Hackney Council is officially awarded "three star" status today and is rated as "improving strongly" in a report published by the Audit Commission.

The Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) states that over the last year Hackney shows "one of the highest rates of service improvement in London”.

The Audit Commission, through its detailed annual review of local authorities, praised the Council for its housing services, recycling rates, and time to process benefit claims. Children's services and adult social care scored well and it also highlighted improved resident satisfaction ratings. The report says the Council's use of resources has improved in the last year and that strong and effective management is providing good community leadership, which is continuing to improve civic pride.

It concludes by saying Hackney Council has the capacity to deliver its robust plans for future improvement, noting "there are no weaknesses or failures in corporate governance that would prevent improvement being sustained".

Well done to Jules Pipe and the rest of the Cabinet, and all of Hackney's staff, for this acheivement.

Quite a contrast compared to the hung council I joined as a Political Assistant in 1998 despite the warning I had from a senior MP "don't waste your time going there, Hackney Council will always be in a mess".

Congratulations also to Steve Reed and his Labour team in Lambeth, another previously failing council that today got a three star rating.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

GLA Labour

The London Assembly Labour Group has a new website: http://www.glalabour.com/

Monday, February 04, 2008

Council website

The Hackney Council website has had a fairly comprehensive make-over: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/

What do people think of the new site?

Agreeing with Jackie Ashley

I think I agree with Jackie Ashley's article today in the Guardian, summarised as "It's not a big idea but the old ideas that Brown needs now. More help for the poor is what we want to hear. The day this stops being a Labour issue is the day that the party is finished."

We do need new ideas - probably lots of small ones - to respond to the way society is changing.

But I don't think we lack a "big idea". The core vision of what a Labour Government should be about is adequately described in one sentence on the recruitment page of the Party website.

"Our goals are full employment; an end to child poverty; strong public services; and to continue tackling crime and anti-social behaviour."

What I'd like to see between now and the next election are one or two major policy initiatives on poverty - of a scale comparable to the Minimum Wage - that will be so obviously right that no Tory government would dare to undo them, that would make such a difference to the lives of the people affected that they won't even consider voting for another party, that will send our members out to knock on doors with a spring in their steps because the public know we are the good guys in politics, and that will mean that even if we lose the next election, in 50 years time people will still be remembering - like they do with Attlee's creation of the NHS - the good this government did.

Have I missed the point?

Probably.

But my reaction to the Sadiq Khan story is that I would be extremely worried if the security forces or police were not monitoring all the conversations of Babar Ahmed, whether with an MP or anyone else, given that the guy is in jail awaiting extradition to the US on charges of running websites supporting the Taleban and Chechen terrorists.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Henry Conway

Has a blog: http://knitfreakz.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 01, 2008

Normal service resumes

MORI - fieldwork done before the Conway story - sample of 2,000:

Lab 38% (+6%)
Con 37% (-5%)
LD 16% (+1%)

Any comment Rich?

NEC Nominations

A new service for Labour Party train-spotters - I thought I'd start posting here any CLP nominations for the NEC I hear about as they happen.

Two to start the ball rolling:

Leeds NE CLP nominated Peter Wheeler, Ellie Reeves, Sonika Nirwal and Ann Black

Thanet S CLP nominated Peter Wheeler, Ellie Reeves, Sonika Nirwal, Deborah Gardiner and Azhar Ali

Please feel free to report your own CLP's nominees in the comments below.

Conway

Not often there is anything worth reading about politics in the Torygraph, but this article about the Conway family xmas card is very good.

Council by-election results

Just two council by-elections last night:

Kilsyth Ward, North Lanarkshire Council: Lab Hold with a vote of 64%, almost identical to last May.

Upavon Ward, Kennet DC: - Con Hold. Swing of just under 7% from Con to UKIP, with Labour getting a princely 27 votes (5.7%) and coming fifth, but at least we stood this time unlike last May.

 
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