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.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thoughts from my sick bed

I guess my mood isn't lifted by being six weeks into a four month hospital stay and facing the prospect of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

But even taking that out of the equation, I haven't felt this depressed about the prospects for Labour since the aftermath of the 1992 defeat.

As it stands we are heading for reduction to a rump of 150-ish MPs and at least a decade in opposition. But if the expenses scandal is not addressed firmly then we could see a collapse of the party system in the way that engulfed Italy in the 1990s.

I'm shocked by the level of venality exposed this week and depressed that people I thought were selflessly motivated by public service have been casually using public money to secretly give themselves lifestyles far in excess of their published salaries.

The Labour Party in the shape of the NEC needs to move decisively to empower local party members to decide whether MPs implicated in the scandal are fit to represent Labour as candidates. A process of re- or where members want them de-selections is the only way to demonstrate that Labour is a movement owned by its mass membership and that our MPs are accountable for their actions.


Blogger Mark Still News said...

Stop the Thatcherite EU juggernaut – vote NO2EU –Yes to Democracy

11:40 am, May 17, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...


11:41 am, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I don't blame MPs totally, I blame the system that has allowed them to get away with it. I would however, expect them to have a little moral backbone and to think hard about the role they take on when they become an MP.

Given the chance most people would reduce their tax bill if given a legal loop-hole. I've done it and most people who run a business have done it as well....for example directors used to be paid in dividends therefore avoiding income tax. Hardly fair when the people who PAYE get hit and I used to pay nothing.

The reality is once one MP finds a way of claiming the problem spreads...it is human nature....he's doing it so I'm going to syndrome. The more that line their pockets the more join the trough.

Over the years this has just got worse and allowing MPS to buy homes in the middle of a property boom is obviously asking for trouble. Just look how much Blair has made out of property....impossible without the second homes allowance.

It is disgusting and it just shows how little respect some MPS have for the people they serve. There are those people struggling on the min wage and here we have MPs paying for anything from dog food to clearing a moat at their expense.

Also feel for those families being forced to repay over payments in tax credits....when we have abuse like this.

Labour will lose the next election but I believe that the party will be forced to return to its working class roots. If they don't then I don't think the party will survive to fight another election.

11:44 am, May 17, 2009

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

I too share your thoughts on an imminent Labour defeat over this.

When the expenses debacle first unfurled I was certain the BNP would benefit.

They are campaigning hard here in Liverpool; I got one of their campaign leaflets shoved through my door (apparently "people like me are voting BNP", news to me, I don't think many british asians- a term the BNP refuse to recognise, would vote neo nazi but hey)it is possible Nick Griffin could win a seat here.

With regards to local parties booting out MPs, the party is in crisis. The mechanisms of debate and selection have largley been removed from CLPs to the leadership. Candidates selected for "safer" labour seats are of the same despicable cadre of professional politician the public now despises (i.e. New Labour yesmen). With memebership numbers falling I don't think the New Labour pretorian guard will save us come election time.
The time is ripe for the tradtional labour values, but to ensure party unity it would probably have to be more a Crosland approach rather than a Benn one. The point is the party must be recognisably labour whilst still encompassing the wide plethora of people living here.

With regards to your health I hope the treatment goes well and with good luck you'll be back on your feet soon. All the best.

11:49 am, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

Good post Mark. Just another example of why Europe is the start of another Hitler state run by greed and big business.

Every reason to be scared of New Labour and every reason to vote for someone else.

At least the conservatives are now promising a vote. I have no doubt that the British people will say NO to Europe and its liar treaty. A new government will spell the end to Europe, without Britain the union is finished and Brussels knows it.

11:50 am, May 17, 2009

Blogger Hughes Views said...

The expenses saga is depressing and the stable door certainly does need shutting by our party even if it's miles too late. But keep in mind that at least three-quarters of MPs seem to have been behaving reasonably wrt expenses.

As often, Clive James's Radio Four A Point of View is worth a listen this week as it's vaguely on this topic.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00k9pbf/A_Point_of_View_15_05_2009/ might get you there.

As ever, best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

1:22 pm, May 17, 2009

Blogger subrosa said...

True the expenses sage has enraged the public but we mustn't take our eye off the ball about the ID cards. They must be stopped at all costs.

Do take care and make sure you get decent nourishment.

5:22 pm, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm shocked by the level of venality exposed this week and depressed that people I thought were selflessly motivated by public service have been casually using public money to secretly give themselves lifestyles far in excess of their published salaries."In the past I counted several MPs among my personal friends so frankly I'm not that shocked and think that this clean out can do nothing but benefit UK politics in the long run. But what appalls me is that so many in the Government wanted to keep this under wraps, secret and have no transparency. To her credit I believe that one Hackney MP, Meg Hillier, made no claim for a second home etc. but she did vote for a system that would have kept this under wraps and hidden from the general public.

Personally, I'd rather have a repentant sinner as an MP that a righteous authoritarian who wants to keep me in the dark.

7:11 pm, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What has the bloody Labour ever done for us done for us apart from the:

1) Longest period of sustained inflation since the 60s
2) Low interest rates
3) Introduced the National Minimum Wage
4) 14000 more police
5) Crime down by 32%
6) Record literacy levels
7) Funding for every pupil increased
8) Best ever results at 14,16,18.
9) Record employment
10) Debt of poor countries written off
11) 85000 more nurses
12) 32000 more doctors
13) Matrons are back !
14) Devolved power to Scotland
15) Devolved power to Wales
16) Paternity leave for dads
17) NHS Direct
18) £825 million in Gift Aid
19) Restored London Government
20) Record number in Higher Education
21) Child Benefit up 26%
22) Sure Start
23) Equality and Human Rights Commission
24) Winter Fuel Payments of £200+
25) Exceeding Kyoto targets for cutting emissions

26) Restored Government to Northern Ireland
27) 34000 more teachers
28) All full time workers now have a minimum of 24 days paid holiday
29) A million pensioners lifted out of poverty
30) 600000 children out of relative poverty
31) Child tax credits
32) Scrapped Section 28
33) 1 million social homes brought up to standard
34) In Patient waiting lists down by half a million
35) Fox hunting banned
36) Cleanest water,rivers and beaches since the Industrial Revolution
37) Free TV licenses for over 75s
38) Fir farming banned
39) Free breast cancer screening for those 50-70
40) Free bus travel for over 60s
41) New Deal 1.8 million into work
42) 3 million child trust funds started
43) Free eye tests for the over 60s
44) The number of apprenticeships doubled
45) Free entry to national museums and attractions
46) Overseas aid budget more than doubled
47) Heart Disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths by 50,000
48) Long term youth unemployment cut by 75%
49) Free nursery places for three and four years olds
50) Free fruit for most 4 to 6 year olds at school.

What have they bloody done then?

7:35 pm, May 17, 2009

Blogger Democratic-Centre said...

And relatively stable peace in Ireland and good work on Africa and development, plus somewhat improved and workable European relations.

At least Luke you can see that this engulfing issue of certain MPs compartmentalising over their approach to expenses can no longer be compartmentalised any more by Labour and its activists.

The economy has been deselected as a priority, first things first - integrity.

8:51 pm, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Markus C-S said...

"The Labour Party in the shape of the NEC needs to move decisively to empower local party members to decide whether MPs implicated in the scandal are fit to represent Labour as candidates. A process of re- or where members want them de-selections is the only way to demonstrate that Labour is a movement owned by its mass membership and that our MPs are accountable for their actions."

Luke, I agree with you 100%.

If any of our NEC members read this please give all CLPs with a sitting MP the opportunity of a confidence vote in the autumn. Let the members show the public where the mass of Labour Party stands on this issue.

10:27 pm, May 17, 2009

Anonymous Charles said...

@Anonymous 7:35

Many nice things (albeit they benefited from Ken Clarke's robust economy that he left behind).

At the cost of bankrupting the country.

Basic rule of government:

1. National defence/law & order
2. Sound (dare I say 'prudent') fiscal management

Only when you meet 1 & 2 do you get to do the fun stuff...

1:14 am, May 18, 2009

Anonymous Observer's friend said...

'What has the bloody Labour ever done for us done for us apart from:

38) Fir farming banned'

Images come to mind of farmers getting arrested for growing evergreen conifers, spruce and pine!

Sorry to hear you've got POEMS. I have had a similar syndrome and the myelin sheath has failed to regrow - but then you've got youth on your side so hopefully you will make a quick recovery.

I wouldn't wish getting confined to a wheelchair on my worst enemy. Especially in Hackney.

5:50 am, May 18, 2009

Blogger Robert said...

I know what your feeling in hospital, I spent eighteen month in traction waiting for doctors to say your better you can go home, I was never so bored in my life. I could not even use a computer or watch a TV because all I could see was the dam ceiling.

7:53 am, May 18, 2009

Anonymous OldHackneyFart said...

"I'm shocked by the level of venality exposed this week..."I was shocked by the vote rigging that brought your group to its crushing victory in 2002 and the repeated exercises for the 2006 local elections and mayoral contest. The only difference between that and the current goings on in Westminster is that the MPs have been caught. One day it will all come out though.

12:33 pm, May 18, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It must have been quite some exercise to deliver Jules a 10,000 majority. Presumably you think people in Hackney actually vote Tory? Don't you think a more likely factor in the 2002 result was voter backlash against the real vote-rigging in 1998 that a Tory cllr and an LD cllr were convicted and jailed for?

2:18 pm, May 18, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you get better soon, Luke. It sounds like a difficult time for you and your family. I've always enjoyed reading your blog. I've not always agreed with eberything you've said but I do agree that this is a profoundly worrying time for the Labour Party. Take care.

7:07 pm, May 18, 2009

Blogger kris said...

The Party selection system is exposed for the jobs for the boys I'll scratch your back mentality that has taken the living piss for decades.

Here's an idea: how about normal joes having a one-term go and share the responsibility.

As they would say in the states, it's time for these congress-cockroaches to get the boot.

But what makes this particular episode most loathesome? YOUR PARTY telling cops and nurses can't get a rise because the economy turns on their pay. Meanwhile, McNulty, Smith et al are tearing the arse out of their expenses.

Shame on them all. I will vote for a barstool over any of these clowns.

9:42 pm, May 18, 2009

Anonymous whatwouldjesussay? said...

Kris said ... "I will vote for a barstool over any of these clowns."

That, Kris, is assuming (hic!) that you could tell the difference (hic!).

3:58 am, May 19, 2009

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke, I recognise whay you say and respect you for having daid it. Maybe I had the advantage on you and found my road to Demascus long ago because things in Scottish Labour got so much worse, so much earlier (by the way, thanks for the legacy Gordon et al).

Right now I'm getting news that Michael Martin is to resign at 2.30pm today. I knew that the likes was coming when Gordon Brown ratted walked out on him at the first possible opportunity yesterday in that fracas of a Speaker's statement.

Then I read here that “I don't blame MPs totally, I blame the system that has allowed them to get away with it”. OMG, are there still such people that still don’t get it – if you work in a rotten system you either change it or (let many of us) get out of it. You cannot go on exploiting it and excuse yourself when caught.

This obdurate objection to progressive reform may in a wider sense be about all parties, all of parliament and all of tour archaic constitution But Labour under Blair and Brown has became not only a willing participant, but an upholder of all this wrongness.

That is why many of us gave up long ago on what used to be called the ‘Labour Movement’ – it became a stalinist (without the murders), macho and clique driven, self-serving and opportunist, opaque and unlearning institution - an adjunct of the British establishment and nowhere more subservient to Establishment rites-of-passage and venality than in its Scottish fiefdom.

I don't know about the man Michael Martin personally. I know only about his public persona and history and that is not especially my idea of great decency.

That public persona reflects that of much of a certain cadre of Labour MPs who have a dire reputation of bluff, bullying and lack of transparency, and strange associates (and of course, who ultimately accrue considerable wealth whilst they preside for many, many, years over some of the poorest constituencies in the UK).

A telling comment was made to me last night when it was observed that the most prominent defenders (Sheridan, ‘Lord’ Foulkes) of Michael Martin in recent days are much of a sameness; a terrier dog-like attacking form of defence, a just not knowing of the public alienation from the entire parliamentary and political party process, an unblinking refusal to countenance anything wrong about Michael Martin - with the implicit purity and cleanliness of themselves. On several occasions over the past week I have heard ‘Lord’ Foulkes assert on the Michael Martin debacle that other MPs ‘are not telling the truth’ – including one of his Labour MPs. Beadle Bumble.

By the way, what about that other Labour evergreen ‘Sir’ Stuart Bell given his quite appalling and embarrassing apologia for Michael Martin over the past weeks? If he and others are correct in excusing Michael Martin as a scapegoat… why didn’t Martin quickly and decently clear-off and leave the real crooks to be exposed to tougher scrutiny and exposure for what they are?

But meantime our little Englanders here would rather focus manically on keeping us out of Europe - as though we had much to protect and be proud of in our system.

12:26 pm, May 19, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I feel for Micheal Martin, the way in which MPs have treated him is disgraceful...and thats both sides of the house.

This is nothing more than bullying of the worst type and how the hell can we teach our kids about respect when this is going off at the top.

All these self righteous MPs setting on Mr Martin should be exposed for the real crooks they are.

I'm appalled at the way in which this has been handled.

11:24 pm, May 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't want to sound glum but let's face it ther Labour Party is completely out of touch with the people it is supposed to represent. Mate I don't even earn as much in a year as an MP can claim for their second homes.

8:05 pm, May 20, 2009

Anonymous Peter Doyle said...

I share your sense of shock Luke and I know you will recognise that this is a fundamental issue which transcends party politics.
Like many people I feel angry that the reputation of our Parliament and our democratic values has been soiled by the behaviour of some of our "Honorable Members".
For me it is not so much the milking of the allowance system itself that's shocking. MPs and Ministers do not get paid enough as basic salary for the job, but they're never going to be able to vote for the kind of increase that would be commensurate with those responsibilities. In those circumstances it is not surprising that hidden behind the hitherto opaque system of Parliamentary allowances, some MPs have succumbed to human weakness and hoovered up far more than commonsense or common decency would demand.
I am more shocked at the sheer stupidity and incompetence displayed by career politicians in responding to this crisis. There's a saying about politics that you can never be more than five minutes behind public opinion. Yet throughout this debacle many MPs have proved themselves to be living a whole century behind the public. At times our Parliamentarians have behaved like courtiers in a benign dictatorship with their feckless posturing, blaming the system, clinging onto a discredited set of rules and only grudgingly conceding the need for reform when it was far too late.
I don't doubt the sincerity of many MPs' anger over the Speaker's handling of the crisis, but the unedifying sight of some turning on Michael Martin like he was the sick sheep in the flock was as powerful an emetic as anything the NHS can prescribe.
The public reputation of our political life was in the doldrums long before this scandal came to light but the crisis has at least presented Parliament with the necessary kick up the arse it needed to cleanse itself and that it must do as a matter of urgency. But I hope that Parliamentarians recognise that it will take a very long time, and require considerable courage and stamina.
My fear is that right across the country alienated voters are already building the tumbrils that will cart away many of their elected representatives regardless of whether they were complicit in this scandal or not. The possibility of a disenchanted electorate voting in the mad, bad and sad either through being thoroughly pissed off with the mainstream parties or simply staying at home must be very real. The local and European elections on June 4 may prove a lightning conductor for public opinion. Let's hope for the sake of sound, experienced governance it doesn't unleash a storm that sweeps many good men and women away.

Best wishes,


1:50 pm, May 21, 2009


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