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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A few predictions

I've had an exhausting afternoon acting the role of Tessa Jowell (!) in the rehearsal for the BBC's election night programme - fun though if pretending to be a Labour Minister getting interrogated by David Dimbleby about some "interesting" imaginary election results is your idea of fun. Mr Dimbleby said I was "feisty" which I assume was intended as a compliment.

I'm going to chance my arm with a few predictions about tomorrow night's results:

1) The almost inevitable loss of Labour overall control in Reading will be offset by better results in the south in Oxford, Slough and maybe Hastings. All this will be ignored by the media as it doesn't fit their narrative of Labour southern retreat.

2) The West Midlands will see Labour either hold steady or gain seats, with the exception of Wolverhampton where it's touch and go that we'll keep control.

3) Liverpool will go from Lib Dem to No Overall Control.

4) In the rest of the North West Tory gains in Bury will be offset by a strong Labour performance in the Pennine boroughs. Again, this will be ignored by the media as it doesn't fit their narrative.

5) The Tories will spend a lot of time arguing about exactly how many fractions of a % above 40% they have edged.

6) There will be a continuation of last year's north-south divide in the results.

7) Wales is going to be fairly depressing.

8) I haven't got a clue what will happen with Ken vs Boris, but that's the one I'm working to affect rather than commenting on.

If it's Thursday and you are Labour and reading this, you shouldn't be! Switch off your computer and go out and Get Out The Vote.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Win or lose, the London elections have been good for Labour and good for democracy

Is what I'm saying on the Progress website:

http://progressonline.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=76

Monday, April 28, 2008

More canvassing...

A busy evening. At 8pm we had Part 1 of the Hackney Labour Group AGM where I was re-elected as Chief Whip for the 7th year in a row, uncontested.

For the two hours before that though the entire Group was out knocking on doors on estates in Chatham Ward, which is the ward I represent on the council.

Scores on the doors from 287 electors contacted:

Labour for both Mayor and Assembly: 198
Ken + Green for Assembly: 1
Ken + Respect for Assembly: 1
Ken + Undecided for Assembly: 3
Labour for Assembly, undecided for Mayor: 2

Not Voting: 32
Against Labour: 26
Undecided: 15

Lib Dem: 3
Conservative: 3
Respect (Galloway version): 3

Election Night

For those of you who will not be at an election count on Thursday night (which includes everyone in London as we count on Friday) you will be able to watch me on the BBC's election night coverage at various times between 11.30pm and 4.30am.

Me, Iain Dale and Lib Dem blogger Alix Mortimer will be at City Hall with the BBC's Emily Maitlis where the BBC want us to:

- act as an alternative results service- if you can help us beat David Dimbleby, we want to hear from you
- find out what's going on a round the country- atmosphere at counts, rumours, gossip, colour- we want it all
- talk about the reaction to what we're writing on our blogs
- draw attention to other eye catching posts on political blogs

As well as writing on our own blogs there will be a 4-way blog that you'll be able to find here.

I've set up an email address for people to use to send me info they think I ought to be reporting on on the night - LukeMay12008@hotmail.co.uk so please use that or the comments here if you are at a count on Thursday and there are results or gossip you think should get wider attention.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Mayoral election in Hackney - a tight battle between Labour and Not Voting

Another day, another ward, another canvassing session.

This time that bit of the huge, and due to be demolished and regenerated, Woodberry Down Estate (next to Manor House Tube) that's in Brownswood Ward.

120 contacts of which:

Labour 44
Ken for Mayor but Lib Dem for Assembly 4
Labour for Assembly but anti-Ken 1

Not Voting 38
Undecided 17
Against Labour 15
Lib Dem on Mayor and Assembly 1
Conservative 0

Wherever Boris is getting his votes from next week, it doesn't seem to be Hackney.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The word on the streets

Over on politicalbetting.com a Tory commenter has said "If we knew how the canvassing was going in places like Hackney (For Livingstone of course, but how strongly incentivised are the voters) then we would be in a much better position to judge the effect of a higher turnout."

I thought I'd report on today's canvassing in Hackney North & Stoke Newington.

We were in the northernmost polling district (IA) of Leabridge Ward. This is a good Labour PD in a ward that is usually competitive with the Greens and Tories in borough elections but has always returned three Labour councillors. It's mainly but not exclusively social housing but low rise with a lot of right-to-buy leaseholders. The ethnic mix includes large Turkish, Kurdish and West African minorities. In the second round of the 2004 Mayoral election this ward was Livingstone's 29th best in London, at 78.63% Ken, 21.37% Steve Norris.

Our returns - from 279 electors canvassed - were:

Labour - voting for Ken and Labour on GLA: 169
Ken but undecided on Assembly: 3
Ken but Green on Assembly: 2
Ken but LD on Assembly: 2
Labour but Against Ken: 1
Labour but undecided on Mayor: 1

Lib Dem, Ken as 2nd preference: 2

Green: 3
Communist: 3
UKIP: 1
Conservative: 1

Undecided: 34

Against Labour: 29

Not voting: 28

Now even allowing for over-optimistic canvassing, a large slice of the Labour support perhaps not voting and the fact this was deliberately targeted as a good area for us my reaction is:

- it's extraordinary that we only found 1 person that actually explicitly admitted to voting for Boris Johnson
- the consistency between national Labour support and voting Ken is a lot higher than at the start of the campaign when lots of Labour people were canvassing as Labour nationally but undecided on the Mayor

Now all we've got to do is persuade as many as possible of the 169 to turn out on Thursday. In think Mori have got it right - it's going to be close but Ken should narrowly win.

The other thing worth noting is the difference in the ground campaign in Hackney and other good Labour areas compared to 2004. In my CLP:

- 2004 virtually no canvassing and sporadic leafletting with many households getting no leaflets at all - as Peter Kenyon has reminded me there was a council by-election in New River ward so almost all activity was in the one ward where there was an intensive campaign
- 2008 full phone canvass of the whole constituency, plus doorstep canvass of the large estates each ward, three leaflet drops plus direct mail in Labour-held wards

Friday, April 25, 2008

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Hinckley Castle Ward, Hinckley & Bosworth DC: Lib Dem hold. LD 802 (57.0%, -10%), BNP 264 (18.8%, did not stand in 2007), Con 226 (16.1%, -8.7%), Lab 116 (8.2%, unchanged from 2007). Swing 14.4% LD to BNP. Residual Labour vote held up in a very weak ward for us.

Little Stour and Ashstone Ward, Dover DC. Con hold. Con 1109 (66.2%, -1.7%), LibDem 453 (27.0%, +5.4%), Lab 113 (6.7%, -3.5%). Swing 3.5% Con to LD.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Panic on the Streets of London

The Mayoral election in Smiths & Morrissey song titles:


Ken: "All you need is me" or "London"




Boris: "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"


Brian: "Unloveable"



Sian: "Hold on to your Friends"

Richard Barnbrook (BNP): "National Front Disco"

Gerald Batten (UKIP): "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"

Alan Craig (Christian): "Every Day is like Sunday"

Lindsey German (Left List): "We hate it when our friends become successful" (especially if they are called George)

Matt O'Connor (English Democrats): "Irish blood, English heart"

And from the parties standing for the GLA list seats:

Respect: "Bigmouth strikes again"

Unity for Peace & Socialism: "Shoplifters of the World Unite"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More on Spink

In the comments on my post below people have questioned my assertion that Bob Spink's defection to UKIP could turn Castle Point into a 3-way marginal.

A bit of evidence of the UKIP vote there even before the MP defected:

Votes cast in the June 2004 European Parliament elections in Castle Point constituency

Tory 7421
UKIP 6805
Labour 4433
BNP 1569
Lib Dem 1485
Green 959
Martin Bell 742
English Democrats 477
Respect 134
'Jim' 58
Prolife 29

For the want of a horseshoe...

The Guardian calculates that to achieve Frank Field's objective that the abolition of the 10p tax rate would not come into force "until the chancellor of the exchequer lays before parliament a statement that, in his opinion, measures have been taken to ensure that no person is worse off by reason of the person's income not being sufficient to secure that the effect of the abolition of the starting rate is offset by the reduction of the basic rate" would only cost £700 million.

£700 million is small change in terms of Government budgeting. It's the running costs of a couple of small London borough councils or the construction cost of a single new hospital.

But to the people whose incomes are affected, who are already struggling to make ends meet, it would make a big difference.

The cost of not compensating them is also one that would be paid reputationally by the PM in terms of loss of the moral authority he rightly holds as a campaigner and combatter against poverty at home and abroad, and one that would be paid politically by Labour as a Party in terms of lost trust not just amongst the people affected, but also amongst better-off voters who support Labour because of our redistributive values.

£700m isn't a lot to find somewhere down the side of a proverbial sofa in HM Treasury to make life a bit easier for people earning less than £18,000 a year, and it isn't a lot to find to restore people's faith that the Government's decisions are guided by an explicitly Labour moral compass.

Castle Point - 3-way marginal?

Looks like I picked the wrong election to stand in Castle Point, which with Bob Spink's defection to UKIP could be a 3-way marginal between UKIP, Labour and the Tories.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

1) Gordon in listening mode at the PLP on the 10p rate - now we need to know about the package to help people who have lost out

2) ICM reports Labour cutting the Tory poll lead by 8%

3) Phone and doorstep canvassing teams this evening here in Hackney are reporting that most postal voters have already voted, and Labour "promises" have voted Labour

The London election

Down my way, things are looking good for Labour on 1 May.

The campaign being run by the London Labour Party is stretching us to the limit of our organisational capacity, but that's a good thing - the political equivalent of chucking the kitchen sink at it is now going on.

At the very start of the campaign I encountered a bit of Evening Standard-generated anti-Ken feeling amongst middle class voters, but now people seemed to have woken up to the threat from Mr Johnson and recent canvassing sessions I've led in different bits of Hackney North & Stoke Newington have shown uniformly strong support on both estates and owner-occupied streets. It seems to be easy to get people to put posters up and this is the first election I've ever been in when a voter was so pleased to see the Labour Party come round that they hugged me.

The Tories certainly aren't being slouches - they had a team of a dozen people out in De Beauvoir this weekend, a ward they used to hold in the '90s.

The Lib Dems don't seem to have ventured beyond the ward where their agent lives, and Green activity seems a lot less than in municipal elections (though I think their councillor said something about getting leaflets delivered commercially). Left List (i.e. SWP) are leafleting heavily, and the other bit of Respect, in the person of George Galloway, interrupted my trip to the fishmongers in Stoke Newington High Street by driving past up the A10 shouting in an open top bus in the rain.

However, Hackney isn't Bexley or Bromley or Havering, and I'm conscious that big decisions that could make life a bit more difficult for residents here in the inner city are just as influenced by voters out there in suburbia.

What are other people finding on the doorstep in other parts of London?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Don't be daft Mr Miliband

I'm writing this before setting out for a morning's canvassing in Dalston.

For someone rumoured to want to be Labour Party Leader, David Miliband has an odd approach to motivating Labour's activists and voters.

Today in the News of the World he says that Labour MPs shouldn't argue about the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

What is the point in being a Labour MP if you can't disagree with a policy that hurts the least well off?

The unity that Miliband calls for is a two-way process. It requires the Party leadership to listen to members and backbenchers, to sometimes admit they have got it wrong, and to not dream up policies that run contrary to Labour's absolute core values.

Unity based on just following commands from above, rather than democratic decision-making and following policies because you believe in them, is the unity practiced by Leninist democratic centralists, not democratic socialists.

The damage being done to Labour's prospects on 1 May is not from legitimate dissent, it's from a bad policy that is causing some of our least well off supporters to see their pay packet cut.

This isn't about left and right in the Party - I'm on the right of the Party and I think this policy stinks, as does Stuart King, another Labour moderate who is PPC for Putney.

Nor is it anything to do with loyalty or disloyalty to the PM - I want him to be a successful PM that's why I want him to drop this bad policy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Stowmarket N & Stowupland Division, Suffolk County Council. Con hold. Con 834 (38.8%, -0.7%), LibDem 781 (36.3%, +18.1%), Green 231 (10.7%, +1.6%), Lab 190 (8.8%, -24.5%), UKIP 114 (5.3%, +5.3%). 9.4% swing from Con to LD since 2005, follows a by-election last year where LDs overtook Labour to take second place.

Morland Ward, Eden DC. Ind gain from Con. Ind 198, Con 108, LibDem 74. No Labour candidate. (2007 result: Con 251, Ind 205)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Archant drop BNP ads

Statement by Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney:

"I am very pleased that Archant, the publishers of the Hackney Gazette, have taken the decision not to publish election adverts for the racist BNP this week. I hope that their decision stands for the rest of this election and beyond, and call upon them in the strongest terms to confirm this.

I would like to congratulate the editors and staff of the Hackney Gazette and East London Advertiser for refusing the initial adverts, and also for convincing the executives of the Archant newspaper group that this was the responsible course of action.

The freedom of the press allows the media to choose what it does and does not publish and to take a particular editorial stance on an issue; the concept of freedom of speech cannot be used to claim that a newspaper must publish all material offered to it with the only criterion being legality.

Those out electioneering for the upcoming London mayoral election have invariably encountered disbelief or disgust when the issue is raised on the doorstep. The many messages of protest that I have seen from residents, and people’s readiness to sign the petition organised by Labour councillors, are an endorsement of Archant’s decision to align themselves with the views of the overwhelming majority of the local community."

Monday, April 14, 2008

It could be worse...

Any Labourites feeling miserable about the polls can cheer themselves up by comparing where we are now to where we were exactly 16 years ago on 14 April 1992 when Kinnock resigned.

If my memory is correct of 14 April 1992, as a 20 year old Labour Student I expressed the view we were completely stuffed, nothing would ever be the same now Kinnock was gone, and we Kinnockites had bet the house on moving the party to the centre and still lost the General Election so the left were about to come after us with the political equivalent of chainsaws. I'd spent a thoroughly unpleasant General Election night watching a pretty nasty Tory beat Labour's Doug Naysmith by 45 votes in Bristol North West after several recounts. A month later I was at an even more unpleasant City Council election count where we lost all our safe seats to the Tories. In between I went to a little conclave of LCC activists at the TGWU South West HQ with Neal Lawson, where Roger Berry addressed the subject of "can Labour ever win?"

The newspapers were full of articles asking if Labour was doomed to perpetual opposition. The economy made today's credit crunch look like a tea party, there were 3 million unemployed, public services were underfunded and rubbish, and the PM was John Major who was a national joke whose main policy idea was a "cones hotline" - but he had still beaten us.

Things may be tough but looking back, I'd rather be a Labour activist on 14 April 2008 than on 14 April 1992.

And at least the British political situation isn't as infinitely depressing as this.

Get your facts right Guido

The latest in an occasional series noting that rightwing bloggers know next to nothing about the internal politics of the Labour Party.

Guido has a go at David Aaronovitch, accusing him of speaking at a Compass fundraiser (pretty much the worst slander you could ever throw at someone in my view).

Except that my understanding is that the event Aaronovitch spoke at was:

a) a fundraiser for the Walthamstow Constituency Labour Party, not Compass

and

b) he was debating AGAINST Neal Lawson of Compass

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story though Guido.

BNP adverts in Archant newspapers

Our local paper, the Hackney Gazette, is owned by newspaper group Archant.

Across London Archant, which owns over 20 titles, seems to have agreed to run adverts from the BNP.

I've sent the email below to Archant's CEO and Chairman:

"Dear Mr Jewson and Mr Fry,

I am writing as ward councillor in the London Borough of Hackney to express my shock and concern at reports that Archant are planning to allow the BNP to advertise in the Hackney Gazette.

Hackney is a borough with excellent race relations and community cohesion and although there was a National Front presence in the 1970s there has been no local far right presence in recent years.

We are one of the most multi-cultural boroughs in London and the Gazette's readership must reflect this. Many Gazette readers from ethnic minority groups - and others who value Hackney's ethnic diversity - will be horrified to open their local paper and see an advert from a far right party.

The BNP is not just another party that has an equal entitlement to advertise. The race hatred it peddles has been directly linked to increased violence and abuse against people from ethnic minority groups in areas where it is active. The nature of the BNP's ideology and tactics have been extensively catalogued over the years - key members have convictions for race-related behaviour and criminal violence, and a history of promotion of neo-Nazi concepts such as holocaust denial, which is particularly offensive in a borough with a large Jewish population.

I have always been pleased that the Gazette has a policy of being politically neutral, but this should not extend to allowing a fascist party to have a platform through advertising - I am sure that the Gazette would subscribe to certain core beliefs such as support for democracy and opposition to racism that allowing the BNP to advertise would contradict.

I do hope you will reconsider your decision to take their advert.


Cllr Luke Akehurst
Chatham Ward (Labour)"

Legal imprint ... again

Just repeating this so it covers stuff on the front page:

Anything from now until polling day that is published here and seeks to influence people to vote Labour is:Promoted by Luke Akehurst of Flat 1, 8 Beatty Road, London, N16 8EB on behalf of the Labour Party Candidates, care of 39 Victoria Street London, SW1H 0HA . Hosted (printed) by Blogger.com (Google Inc) of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043 who are not responsible for any of the contents of these posts.

Please note however, that The Labour Party is not responsible for the content of this website or individual posts as, unless specifically stated, I am writing solely in a personal and individual capacity.

Charlie Brooker on why not to vote for Boris

All the reasons you'll ever need not to vote for Boris Johnson.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Things to do when you are 16% behind

Today's YouGov poll isn't cheerful reading for Labour folk.

My recipe for recovery:

  • The bits of the PLP and Government flapping and gossiping about leadership challenges would be well advised to spend their energy between now and polling day on 1 May canvassing voters rather than each other.
  • After 1 May anyone who thinks they can do a better job than Gordon needs to put up or shut up. Prolonged speculation would be the worst possible scenario. I think we would be insane to switch leader twice in under a year, and seeing as the one we have got was already Chancellor for ten years, no one can say they didn't know what they were going to get. I don't think there's anyone else both ready and willing - and more to the point with any base of support in the Party - to do the job.
  • We need to start applying a basic rule to all policy ideas before running with them: does this help or hinder Labour's primary objective as a Party and Government to create a more equal society? The 10p tax rate abolition, for instance, clearly fails this test.
  • We need to show we are listening and responding to people's economic pain - there's no point telling someone whose mortgage has just got more expensive that everything is fine. A bold plan to rescue people about to have their homes repossessed has to be a priority.
  • The basic New Labour agenda is still just as clearly where the public are at as in 1997 - combining social justice and investment in public services with keeping taxes low, tackling crime and being strong on defence. The problem is that the public are now confused about whether us or Cameron can best deliver that agenda.
  • The problem isn't with our core vote - I've spent the past couple of weeks canvassing the most deprived estates in Hackney and they are still enthusiastically Labour - it's the hard-pressed C1s and C2s who feel economic ups and downs the most because they are on the cusp of being comfortably off or completely screwed if the economy tightens up.
  • Brown needs to be himself - his core beliefs and passion about poverty at home and abroad are attractive and sincere so he should go out and articulate them and tell the image-makers to get stuffed. If it doesn't work at least he will have been true to himself and acted as PM in a way that will leave a legacy we can all be proud of.
  • We need some John Reid and Margaret Beckett type figures (not necessarily those two individuals) prepared to go on TV and radio as and when needed and robustly defend the government and kick the Tories metaphorically in the head - one of the downsides of the generational change in the last two reshuffles is an absence of those kind of senior figures.
  • Re-build the Party starting at the grassroots. We can't hope to sell a 4th Labour term to the public if we don't have members and activists out their selling it.
  • Don't Panic!

Tribune

It's good to know that Tribune's diary columnists are bothering to read this blog, it having been a while since they last had a go at me - in fact the last time they did I got a nice hand-written apology from Mark Seddon, the then editor, admitting they had got their facts wrong.

Their faux outrage that I had posted the approximate outcomes of the Labour NEC nominations process is a bid strange, seeing as all I had were guesstimates (given to me by three separate sources, none of them "leaking" Party staff, within 24 hours) whereas their own columnist, the ever-plugged in Kevin Maguire has published exact figures (though I don't think even those are the final, final ones).

I also would have expected Tribune to think it was the interests of internal Party democracy that the numbers and indeed names of CLPs nominating NEC candidates should be published - after all, what's the point in having a nominations process if no one knows the outcome of it? Members shouldn't have to rely on me or Kevin Maguire to find out who was nominated by whom.

Tribune's grasp of maths is almost as dodgy as their politics. They crow that "the Grassroots Alliance have at least 570 votes between their ... candidates –... and the Labour First leadership loyalists trail with around 425" but that's accounted for, and then some, by the GRA running six candidates when, in a spirit of pluralism and not seeking to exclude other strands of opinion from the NEC, Labour First only ran five, with many mainstream CLPs nominating the GRA's Ann Black as their sixth candidate.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Old Gore Ward, Herefordshire. Con hold. Con 422 (37.9%, -8%), Ind 401 (36.0%, -1.8%), LD 241 (21.7%, +5.4%), Green 49 (4.4%, did not stand last time) . No Labour candidate.

Holmewood & Heath Ward, NE Derbyshire. Lib Dem gain from Lab in a ward that was uncontested in 2006 and 2007. LD 382 (42.3%), Lab 356 (39.4%), Con 165 (18.3%). Ouch!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ken in Hackney

Hackney blogger Dave Hill met up with Ken Livingstone yesterday in the NarrowWay in Mare Street, central Hackney, where Ken talked about the borough where I live:




Ken mentions about his experience representing Hackney North & Stoke Newington on the GLC from 1977, when he had already been active in London local government for the best part of a decade.

In contrast in 1977 Boris Johnson wasn't trying to tackle urban deprivation in Hackney, or engaged in running London on the GLC, he was a 13 year old schoolboy at Eton.

Has he actually got any career experience that qualifies him to run London, or indeed any life experience that makes him likely to prioritise the needs of places like Hackney?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's all about turnout

Today's Mori poll has Ken 2% ahead of Boris after transfers. This is within the margin of error of ICM last week that put Boris 2% ahead.

My experience on the ground canvassing bears out what the polls are saying. Obviously I'm working in Hackney which ought to be a banker for Livingstone anyway (a few older residents can even remember when Ken was the GLC member for Hackney North & Stoke Newington), but in the past two weeks I've seen the returns from owner-occupied street properties (AKA Guardian readers) switch from being very wobbly to very solid for Ken. The estates and BME voters in general had been saying Livingstone all along.

My feeling is that for Ken the ground campaign (leaflets etc) and the air campaign in the media only really started to gain traction in the last week, and now that is feeding through into momentum in the polls.

The final result is going to be a cliffhanger, and everything is going to depend on whether Labour can drag the turnout up compared to 2004 in boroughs like Hackney and Newham, and the Labour pockets of more mixed boroughs such as Tottenham and Southall. The raw data of the Mori poll before weighting according to propensity to vote has Ken ahead 45% to 38% because he has a massive lead amongst the lowest turnout groups - BME communities and young people.

So expect to see the reverse to the pattern you would in a General Election, with the safest parliamentary seats for each party getting the most campaigning attention as the parties try to mobilise their core vote - which has to be good for democracy as well as making campaigning in my part of London particularly exciting and worthwhile.

Sudden moment of clarity

I've spent this morning puzzling over why a bigger issue in the London Mayoral election hasn't been the incredible fact that the candidate leading in the polls has so little political commitment to London that he represents Henley, Oxfordshire, in Parliament.

Why isn't this a deal breaker?

For instance, if an MP for a Manchester seat ran for First Minister of Scotland because they had a holiday home in St Andrews, or an MP for Leicester ran for Elected Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent because they were on the electoral register there, there would be an outcry.

Why aren't voters asking Boris the obvious question: "why should we believe you care about our city when you have pursued your political career in the rural Thames Valley?"

Monday, April 07, 2008

The IOC

A simple change the IOC could make when awarding future Olympic host status: instead of giving it to countries with a poor human rights record like China on the vague promise of an improvement if they become host, why not require a clear basic level of human rights and democracy as a pre-qualification criteria before you are even entitled to submit a bid to be a host?

The Olympic Charter says:

"The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man,with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

The current situation in Tibet is not compatible with "harmonious development", "a peaceful society" or "the preservation of human dignity."

I felt ashamed by the participation of British Ministers and sportspeople in the torch relay yesterday and by the co-option as auxiliaries of our police force into helping what appeared to be a goon squad from the Chinese security services to protect the flame.

Well done to the Free Tibet campaigners for the scale of their mobilisation.

The relay was a farce and we should have told the Chinese where to stick their torch.

There goes another way of representing constituents

One of my pet hates is the gradual erosion of councillors' and MPs' powers to advocate on behalf of individual constituents.

This started with the new Licensing Act, which stopped councillors from initiating campaigns against licensing applications from premises in our wards that might be causing a nuisance - we can react if approached first by residents but are no longer allowed to spot a licensing issue and prompt residents to object to it.

Now, I learn that the Traffic Management Act 2004, which defines how local authorities must now run their parking enforcement operations, came into force on 31 March 2008. Under the Act councillors and MPs can no longer become involved in representations against penalty charge notices (PCNs). This includes forwarding an appeal on behalf of a constituent. So, if a constituent comes to me, or their MP, asking us to make representations on their behalf, we have to say no.

It's frustrating enough for members of the public to deal with officialdom. But when the law actually starts banning elected representatives from helping constituents who come to them for help on these issues, it must be doubly frustrating and alienating.

Surely those of us elected to public office should have the right to exercise our own judgement about when and when not to make representations on behalf of a constituent - and our constituents should have a right to expect us to advocate for them - not have the policy areas where we are allowed to do this constrained by law?

Where is this going to end - will it become illegal to intervene in housing cases, or about library fines, or about school place allocations, or about immigration cases?

What is the point in the ward/constituency representative role of councillors and MPs if we are not allowed to speak up for individual residents on any subject they want our help on?

These kind of constraints particularly hurt the most socially excluded. The articulate middle classes can often write letters, submit appeals, turn up to committee meetings and speak etc. themselves. People without the confidence or communication skills to do this - perhaps because they are intimidated by officialdom or English is their second language - rely on councillors and MPs to speak out on their behalf when they feel something has been mal-administered or might adversely affect them.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Euro candidates for 2009

Labour's team of candidates for the 2009 European elections have now all been confirmed, with the orders of each region's team below.

East Midlands
Sitting MEPs 1 Glennis Wilmott
Vacant list 2 Roy Kennedy
3 Kathryn Salt
4 J David Morgan
5 Cate Taylor

Eastern
Sitting MEPs 1 Richard Howitt
Vacant list 2 Beth Kelly
3 Nigel Gardner
4 Sherma Batson
5 James Valentine
6 Katie Curtis
7 Chris Ostrowski

London
Sitting MEPs 1 Claude Moraes
2 Mary Honeyball
3 Robert Evans
Vacant list 4 Anne Fairweather
5 Kevin McGrath
6 Emma Jones
7 Raj Jethwa
8 Nilgun Canver

North East
Sitting MEPs 1 Stephen Hughes
Vacant list 2 Fay Tinnion
3 Nick Wallis

North West
Sitting MEPs 1 Arlene McCarthy
2 Brian Simpson
Vacant list 3 Theresa Griffin
4 Stephen Carter
5 Jane Clarke
6 Riaz Ahmad
7 Claire Johnston
8 Brian Boag

Scotland
Sitting MEPs 1 David Martin
2 Catherine Stihler
Vacant list 3 Mary Lockhart
4 Paul McAleavely
5 Kirsty Connell
6 Nasim Khan

South East
Sitting MEPs 1 Peter Skinner
Vacant list 2 Janet Sully
3 Bob Fromont
4 Lisa Homan
5 Stephen Alambritis
6 Janet Keene
7 Munir Malik
8 Silke Thomson-Pottebohm
9 Rajinder Sandhu
10 Sukhi Dhaliwal

South West
Sitting MEPs 1 Glyn Ford
Vacant list 2 Isabel Owen
3 Keir Dhillon
4 Dorothea Hodge
5 Dafydd Emlyn Williams
6 Esther Pickup-Keller

Wales
Sitting MEPs 1 Eluned Morgan
Vacant list 2 Derek Vaughan
3 Lisa Stevens
4 Gareth Williams

West Midlands
Sitting MEPs 1 Michael Cashman
2 Neena Gill
Vacant list 3 Claire Edwards
4 Anthony Edwards
5 Victoria Quinn
6 Mohammed Nazir

Yorkshire & Humber
Sitting MEPs 1 Linda McAvan
2 Richard Corbett
Vacant list 3 Emma Hoddinott
4 David Bowe
5 Melanie Onn
6 Mahroof Hussain

Scientific justification for voting Ken

I returned this morning from an enjoyable evening yesterday at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, attending Rt Hon John Spellar MP's constituency annual dinner, to find a whole bunch of comments on the posts below demanding to know how a moderate Labour type like me could justify supporting Ken.

The answer, luckily was at hand. The successor organisation to Charter 88 has designed this nifty website: http://london.votematch.co.uk/

It tells you which mayoral candidates' policies you most support.

I've taken the test and it turns out that I'm not just backing Ken for reasons of party loyalty - I actually - on London issues - agree with his policies.

Council By-elections

Only 2 council by-elections yesterday:

Parson Drove & Wisbech St Mary Ward, Fenland DC. Con hold. Con 646, Lab 191, Ind 119, UKIP 55, Lib Dem 35. Tories were uncontested in 2007.

Dunkeswell Ward, East Devon DC. Con hold. Con 349, LibDem 162.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NEC Nominations

Early indications now that nominations to the Labour Party NEC have closed are that the usual lead in CLP nominations enjoyed by the left "Grassroots Alliance" has been overturned.

Final figures are yet to emerge but I've heard that:

Ann Black (GRA) has over 170 nominations (including many CLPs that nominated the 5 Labour First candidates plus her as the most moderate of the GRA slate)
Ellie Reeves and Peter Wheeler (both Labour First) are both around the 125-130 mark
Pete Willsman (GRA) is at just under 120
Christine Shawcroft (GRA) has just under 100
Mohammed Azam (GRA), Peter Kenyon (GRA) and Sonika Nirwal (Labour First) have between 60 and 70.
Deborah Gardiner (Labour First), Azhar Ali (Labour First) and Fran Griffiths (GRA) have between 50 and 55.

It looks as though the actual ballot will be highly competitive, with some chance of Labour First taking 4 or even 5 seats.

My proudest moment

I got home from canvassing for Ken Livingstone last night to find that he had taken time out from the campaign to record a YouTube interview:



Asked: "Looking back on your political history, what would you say was your proudest moment?" he replies "Oh it's taking on and smashing the New Labour machine in 2000 when Tony Blair wouldn't let me run for mayor and just grinding them into the dust. But you won't be able to use that one."

Well, being given to nostalgia like Ken I can say that one of my proudest moments in politics was when the London Labour Party's electoral college blocked him from standing as Labour Party Candidate in 2000 and picked Frank Dobson instead.

But I would be even prouder - and I hope Ken would - if all of us, "new", "old", "left", "right" and plain "Labour" pull together for the next month as comrades, forget for a few weeks about the battles of the past, and unite to get Ken elected, smash Boris Johnson and the Tory machine, and grind that into the dust.

 
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