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.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day trip to Gillingham, looking for some fresh ideas

I've had an interesting, if rather cold, trip to Gillingham for the Labour National Policy Forum.

It was the first NPF meeting I had been to and I gather somewhat innovative in that the emphasis was on the delegates rather than senior politicians speaking, and the workshops were about contemporary issues, not the 2015 Manifesto.

The business part of the meeting saw Peter Hain confirmed as Chair and Simon Burgess, Kate Green MP and Billy Hayes of CWU as Vice-Chairs. There was an odd moment when leftwinger George McManus was nominated but refused to run against Simon unless there was a secret ballot...

Ed Miliband gave a good speech (http://www.labourlist.org/ed-milibands-npf-speech) without notes. I was pleased to hear him reaffirm support for the union link. The tone of the policy stuff is where it should be - a full rethink (including external and public input) but with a clear steer towards policy solutions that tackle the problems facing the "squeezed middle" in society, as well as a prioritisation of dealing with climate change and strengthening communities. He also touched on banking reform, promoting hi-tech manufacturing, and the Living Wage. For me the key passage in Ed's speech was this:

"Why do I say we have to move beyond New Labour? Not because the New Labour approach was wrong, it was right in many ways. Social justice and economic efficiency. Creating wealth as well as distributing it. Appealing to all sections of society.

All of those things are right but the truth is we got many thing right in government and some things wrong, we have to face up to that. And also the world has changed dramatically. Our last big renewal was in 1994. That’s why this process of renewal is so important for our party."

As a councillor I also liked this bit "we have to be the people who stand up for local democracy and local control over public services".

Liam Byrne, the man running the review, made it clear that it would not involve us "retreating to a monastery for five years to count angels on pinheads" and that in parallel and as part of the review we needed to be campaigning and connecting with communities.

Peter Hain launched the review of Partnership in Power (sic) our policy-making process, saying "We need to change as a party to be a changed Labour for the next general election. We got a hammering at the election and therefore we need to learn those lessons".

All delegates took part in workshops about PiP. I made the point in the one I attended that whilst the NPF might be working for the people on it, the lower levels of policy forum (at CLP and regional level) had atrophied or disappeared so there was nothing feeding up ideas to the NPF at the apex. Many delegates also called for a proper audit trail of what happens to policy submissions from the grassroots. Peter Hain seems keen to deliver this. I also made the point that we lack a party platform - a "direction of travel" or strategic statement that sits between the statement of values in Clause IV and the detail of party policy. Our European sister parties usually renew their party platforms every decade or so with the decision sitting with the membership. I feel that if the Party had the chance to vote on this broad direction of travel statement, it would be more relaxed about shadow ministers finessing the detail of policy. As it is we have not had a broad debate like this since New Clause IV in 1995, and the major strategic debate between Brown and Blair over the extent and nature of public service reform occurred without any overarching formal debate by the wider Party.

The other workshops I attended were on constitutional reform, where I argued for AV but said that the Party should not take sides in the referendum; and on welfare reform, where I learnt about the potentially dreadful impact of the Coalition move to cut housing benefit by 10% for anyone unemployed for over a year.

If you want to contribute to Labour's policy review sign-up here: http://fresh-ideas.org.uk/

Overall the NPF meeting demonstrated a Party that is remarkably united and upbeat, and looks like it has skipped the period of internecine warfare and leftwards lurches that has historically followed our defeats.


Anonymous dan mccurry said...

Interesting piece, thanks. But the idfference between now and 1994 is that Blair came to the job with a clear idea of what he wanted to do.
I think Cameron is settling into the job and we're going to have trouble at the next election, cuts or no cuts.

10:58 pm, November 27, 2010

Blogger Bluenote said...

Interesting place to go for new ideas, Gillingham. The town's football club, perhaps says it all,for, once going places under charismatic and clued up managers like Tony Pulis and Peter Taylor, it is now in the doldrums under a neanderthal. Let's hope this is not a similar comparison to Labour under Blair but now Milliband!

2:45 pm, November 28, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Let's not forget about the poor , though. Voter turnout was ow in that group and swung away from us because of abstentions. Don't take people for granted.

9:44 pm, November 28, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Peter Hain's famous think thank has now come up with some ideas.

Still, best not to rush these things as it was only founded in December 2006.

3:27 pm, November 29, 2010

Anonymous Disgusted in Homerton said...

Your thoughts please Luke on this disgusting abuse of power by Hackney Council's head of parking Seamus Adams getting his illegally parked £40,000 Mercedes Sports Car returned personally by the council tow truck after parking illegally in Stamford Hill??????


8:31 pm, November 29, 2010

Blogger Tom said...


The Lib Dems have cut tax for the very poorest. If we can get VAT down and a living wage in, maintain some level of public services, we will be doing a good job.

5:58 pm, November 30, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since it's Wednesday, I'd just thought I'd remind you what an appalling leader you have in the shape of the wrong Milliband.

He was absolutely hopeless at PMQs. Cameron is trashing him.

Now, are you spend all your time pledging loyalty to an obvious incompetent, as you did to Brown.

For fuck's sake, it's anyone but Ed.

3:26 pm, December 01, 2010

Anonymous Seamus Adams said...

Seamus Adams
Hackney Borough Council

19 October 2010
Dear M Xxxxx


Thank you for your email of 27 September 2010 requesting information about
parking tickets for Lower Clapton Road/Mare Street.

Your request has been considered and the information requested is below:

"Given that the signage to the pedestrian's area from Lower Clapton Road
leading on to Mare Street has been shown on 7th of July as non-compliant.
No contraventions can have occurred. This has been confirmed to the
council by PATAS via case number 2100037897. I therefore have the
following questions to ask.

1. How many tickets have been issued at this spot with the said signage
until the 7th July 2010?

o 6,713 tickets were issued between 07/07/2008 to 07/07/2010

2. How much moneys have been collected for these tickets?

o A total of £341,486.04 has been collected

3. What are the plans and its reasoning for the return of these moneys?

o Unless a judicial review decision has recommended the cancellation and
refund of all PCNs, each case is dealt with on its own merits;
adjudicators' decision to allow an appeal (cancel the PCN) does not
invalidate all PCNs issued in similar circumstances.
o A person issued with a PCN has the opportunity to make representation
and then appeal against the councils' decision before making a choice
to pay. Where payment is made it is generally accepted that the driver
admits liability for the charge, therefore refunds cannot be
considered retrospectively.

4. How many tickets have been issued at this spot with the said signage
after the 7th July 2010?

o 753

5. How much moneys have already been collected for these tickets?

o £28,380.00

6. What are the plans and its reasoning for the return of these moneys?

o Same as question 3 above

7. Are the council going to cease taking any further moneys for these
(illegal) tickets?"

o Same as question 3 above

Please note the information is still covered by copyright legislation.
You are not authorised to re-use it for commercial or research purposes as
defined by the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005. If
you do wish to re-use this information please contact the Information
Governance Team, 3rd Floor, Maurice Bishop House, Reading Lane, London, E8

If you are dissatisfied with this response and wish to appeal, please
write to the Information Governance Team, Appeals, 3rd Floor, Maurice
Bishop House, Reading Lane, London, E8 1HH and your complaint will be
dealt with through our Internal Review procedure.

If you are still not satisfied following the Internal Review, you have a
right to appeal to the Information Commissioner. He can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone: 01625 545 700

Yours sincerely

Seamus Adams

Parking & Markets/Street Trading Complaints Officer

Tel: 020 8356 8333 - Fax: 020 8356 6901

7:38 pm, December 01, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it still a blank piece of paper?

10:56 pm, December 01, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I'd just thought I'd remind you what an appalling leader you have in the shape of the wrong Milliband.'

It's Labour's IDS moment.

A leader whose own MP's didn't want or elect,poor public speaking skills,his shadow cabinet members ridiculing him and has the Brown trait of hiding when there's a crisis.

11:03 pm, December 01, 2010

Anonymous chip of the old Labour block said...

I was at the same meeting, or was I? Surely no one falls for that without notes thing any more! Election? What Election ? There may not have been a secret ballot but the nomination process and standing orders for the election seemed pretty secret, no fresh ideas there then, same old control obsession.
Food was good.
I missed your comments at the time so its good to see them recorded here but a shame that you don't think that any others in the assembled mass said anything worthy of note other than the shadow cabinet members. That always was the fatal flaw in the process.

8:03 pm, December 02, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Haven't reported what other members said as the meetings are supposed to be Chatham House rules i.e. you can say what you think in private without it being leaked.

9:20 pm, December 02, 2010

Anonymous chipof theoldLabourblock said...

Nothing was ever mentioned to me about Chatham house rules and I'm not sure anything was said that would enrage or outrage anyone if it was reported. If you want to give a true report you should at least mention some of the other issues raised, such as concern that some of the policies developed by the party over the years should not be erased, such as the commitment to acheiving a fully elected House of Lords. You might also mention the unions request for reassurance that the Party would support their campaigns against the cuts and to keep the post office public . Maybe some mention of members view on need for the party to show a greater commitment to identifying a stance that would resolve the problems arising from a critical shortage of affordable housing. Leaving this kind of discussion out of your report has two effects. Firstly it gives the impression that the Party has no views on ongoing political issues and secondly it leaves the impression that the reporter believes he is the only person with anything worthwhile to contribute. Having attended the meeting I don't think either of those are the case.

6:28 pm, December 04, 2010


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