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, May 28, 2010

Phew

I'm off on holiday tomorrow so posting will be light to non-existent for two weeks.

Final political drama before departure was the AGM of my CLP, Hackney North & Stoke Newington, last night. I had to get my own CLP's nomination in order to get on the ballot paper for the Labour National Executive Committee. This was not a foregone conclusion given the history of Hackney North.

However, the result was:

Luke Akehurst - 33 votes - nominated
Ken Livingstone - 22 - nominated
Oona King - 21 - nominated
Deborah Gardiner - 20 - nominated
Ellie Reeves - 18 - nominated
Peter Wheeler - 18 - nominated
Shaukat Ali - 15
Peter Kenyon - 11
Susan Press - 11
Christine Shawcroft - 10
Sofi Taylor - 10
Peter Willsman - 9

So the Grassroots Alliance (GRA) only got 1 (Ken) of Hackney North's 6 nominations. Last time (2008) the CLP nominated Ellie, Sonika Nirwal and Azhar Ali from Labour First and Shawcroft, Kenyon and Ann Black from the GRA. Shawcroft got 7 fewer votes than in 2008, Kenyon 5 fewer. Peter Wheeler's vote was up by 6.

Our local hard left did not choose to present to the meeting Ann Black or Sam Tarry's candidatures - they are also currently on the GRA's 8 candidates for 6 places slate.

Thank you to the 33 who voted for me - I appreciate particularly those people who voted against their political instincts in order to allow me to qualify for the ballot.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dennis Skinner on the Lib Dems

17.30 Leadership Nominations Latest

David Miliband - 54
Ed Miliband - 45
Ed Balls - 25
Andy Burnham - 17
John McDonnell - 6
Diane Abbott - 1

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

17.30 Leadership Nominations Latest

David Miliband - 51 nominations
Ed Miliband - 45 nominations
Ed Balls - 23 nominations
Andy Burnham - 14 nominations
John McDonnell - 4 nominations
Diane Abbott - 0

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Required Reading

A must read for Labour activists:

http://clients.squareeye.com/uploads/prog/documents/byrne_200510.pdf

12.30 Nomination Figures

Ed Miliband - 39 MP nominations (6 over requirement)
David Miliband - 36 (3 over)
Ed Balls - 7
Andy Burnham - 3
Diane Abbott - 0
John McDonnell - 0

Monday, May 24, 2010

First batch of leadership nominations

The first batch of leadership nominations have been posted on the Labour website. I believe this will be updated twice a day. http://www2.labour.org.uk/leadership-2010

Ed Miliband is so far the only validly nominated candidate:

Ed Miliband: 35 MP nominations
David Miliband: 19
Ed Balls: 4
Andy Burnham: 1
Diane Abbott: 0
John McDonnell: 0

Join Labour

Just done my annual membership report as Membership Secretary of Hackney North CLP: membership has grown by over 13% since the last AGM . It now stands at its highest level since January 2003, before the Iraq War. We've had 64 new members join in the last six months - the vast bulk of them in the last two months.

Why not join them?: https://secure2.labour.org.uk/join/

In another place

This is more or less what I said about party organisation and campaigning at Saturday's Progress Conference: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/05/party-labour-leader-candidate

Friday, May 21, 2010

NEC stuff

I've now got a website for my NEC campaign: http://luke4nec.org.uk/

Thanks to Dave Cole for setting this up.

I've also collected my first nomination - many thanks to Salford & Eccles CLP (though this is a bit like the early hours of the General Election count when Labour always gets the first three seats because they are in Sunderland).

I've also now got more of a handle on who I'm running against. The Grassroots Alliance is promoting eight candidates, with that to be whittled down to six for the six vacancies once nominations close:

Ann Black
Peter Kenyon
Ken Livingstone
Susan Press
Christine Shawcroft
Sofi Taylor
Sam Tarry
Pete Willsman

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On Diane

I've just spent a month campaigning alongside Diane Abbott in Hackney North in a very comradely and united campaign that resulted in her doubling her majority and Labour gaining six council seats.

As you might expect, I won't personally be voting for Diane if she gets nominated to run for the Labour Leadership as we have rather different perspectives on the major issues facing the Party - though there are occasional surprising ones we agree on.

However, I think it's good that she is running and hope (though doubt) she can get the 33 MPs necessary to get nominated - we need a genuine ideological debate to take place involving candidates from all wings of the Party so that the leadership result measures opinion in the Party and gives a political mandate to whoever wins. I also agree with her point that the field needed some diversity in terms of its gender and ethnicity.

Her decision hasn't been that popular with her colleagues in the Campaign Group though. It drives a stake through any chances the "official" hard left standard-bearer John McDonnell had of collecting enough nominations.

NEC flyer

In case anyone needs literature about my NEC bid to dish out when your Constituency Labour Party discusses who to nominate, you can print it off from here: http://www.davecole.org/Luke4NEC.pdf

I'm sure it will end up serving other uses ....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

They never learn

You'd think Compass would have understood the damage they did to themselves and the Labour Party by advocating tactical voting.

But in what I assume is a deliberate attempt to wind-up and antagonise as many Labour activists as possible they have announced that Green MP Caroline Lucas "has just confirmed to address the Compass National Conference A New Hope".

The Greens may have interesting ideas we would want to engage with, but Ms Lucas just two weeks ago beat by a narrow margin a really very good Labour candidate, Nancy Platts, in the marginal seat of Brighton Pavilion. If we want to win a majority again we have to win that seat back.

Compass' track record on picking progressive allies to engage with ain't great. Remember that Clegg guy they said we should be finding common ground with?

Those of us who have fought the Greens at grassroots level know that they don't view us as potential allies but as a hostile force that needs to be beaten.

To take Compass' cheesy "A New Hope" Star Wars analogy further, if Labour are the Rebel Alliance they just invited a Sith Lord to speak at the briefing on how to attack the Death Star.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Other Labour Election

Nominations have just opened for Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC).

I already announced back in November before the process was delayed that I would be running for one of the six seats in the Constituency Labour Parties' section of the NEC.

If you are a Labour Party member (and if you are not you can join here: http://www.labour.org.uk/join/) I would be grateful for your support both in the final ballot of all members (you can vote for up to six candidates) and in securing nominations - each CLP General Committee can nominate up to six candidates before a deadline of 30th July.

Here's a reminder of what I wrote about why I am running (updated where events have moved on):

"I think I’ve got experience, skills and judgement to offer the Party as we enter choppy political waters and have therefore decided to throw my hat in the ring for the NEC.

The Party website usefully sets out what the NEC does:

"The National Executive Committee is the governing body of the Labour Party that oversees the overall direction of the party and the policy-making process. It carries out this role by setting strategic objectives on an annual basis and meeting regularly to review the work of the party in these areas.

All members of the NEC are members of the National Policy Forum. This body oversees the development of party policy through a rolling programme of policy development. Throughout the year, NEC members participate with government ministers in Labour Party policy commissions that prepare reports on different areas of policy which are then presented to and consulted on with the party membership before going to annual conference. This forms the basis of Labour’s general election manifesto. The NEC is also responsible for upholding the rules of the party and propriety of Labour selection processes.”

So what sort of approach would I bring to the NEC?

Rebuilding the Party. Whilst there are geographical pockets where CLPs are thriving and there is excellent campaigning best practice, in too much of the country we have let our organisation atrophy. I want to see a priority made of regeneration of branches and CLPs nationwide and building their campaigning capacity. Members are our greatest asset but we haven’t systematically done a recruitment drive for over a decade. I don’t accept that we can’t aspire to be a mass membership organisation - the 12,000 extra members since the election are proof people still want to join political parties. We also need to rebuild our base in local government as there is a direct link between losing councillors and losing our local campaigning base.

Focused on campaigning. I’ve got 20 years experience of grassroots campaigning to bring to the table. Following our General Election defeat, we need to immediately start rebuilding for the electoral challenges that are on the way. What we don’t need is a prolonged period of navel-gazing, infighting and blame. We need to learn the lessons of the 1979-1983 period when Labour spent more time attacking its own record in Government than attacking the Tories.

Transparency. As a constituency rep on the London Regional Board I report back to CLPs in writing after every meeting. I would want to do the same on the NEC (within the obvious constraints about any confidential agenda items). Too much of what the NEC does is shrouded in byzantine secrecy. Party members need to know what their representatives are doing in their name and what the justifications are for NEC decisions.

Objectivity and even-handedness. When the NEC takes decisions that affect ordinary members there needs to be confidence that NEC members are taking decisions based on upholding the Rulebook and natural justice, not helping out their mates or political allies. My track record dealing with difficult disciplinary and selection issues as a council Chief Whip for seven years and a regional board member shows that I will do the right thing when confronted with contentious issues, not do what is politically expedient.

Putting members first. Where-ever possible I would want to put control in the hands of local members and CLPs and maximise local autonomy and democracy – particularly regarding selection of candidates.

Resisting a “lurch to the left”. I’m proud of what Labour achieved in Government and want to build on it, particularly in the area of tackling poverty and inequality. In the aftermath of the General Election there will be people who want us to veer sharply to the left. I’m not one of them, I want us to align our politics and policies with where ordinary voters are, not wander off into the electoral wilderness. I want a particular focus on reconnecting with the group we lost most support amongst - C2s (skilled working class voters).

Committed to the Trade Union link. I think the current constitutional settlement in the Labour Party, whilst it could be tweaked, broadly works. I’m very wary of radical proposals such as primaries that would sever the union link, which is fundamental to keeping us grounded in the practical concerns of ordinary working people.

Positivity. My starting point is one of loyalty to the Party leadership and respect for the hard working professional staff of the Party. I’m no pushover but unlike some candidates elected in the past I’m not seeking to get on the NEC to undermine anyone or with a starting point of suspicion and blame. Having lost the General Election we all need to be united and work as a team to make sure our period in opposition is as short as possible."

For those of you who don't know me, my relevant experience is:
  • Labour Party member since 1988
  • Parliamentary candidate for Aldershot in 2001 – increasing the Labour vote against the tide - and Castle Point in 2005 – exposing a racist local Tory campaign in the national media
  • Hackney Labour Councillor since 2002 and Chief Whip for seven years – a key player in bringing political stability which has led to massive service improvements in a previously failing hung council
  • Campaign Manager in the Hackney Borough elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010, increasing the number of Labour seats from 29 to 50
  • Vice-Chair of Hackney North CLP for nine years (previously a CLP Officer in Bristol West CLP)
  • Member of the London Labour Regional Board, elected by CLPs
  • Full-time Agent for Rt Hon Frank Dobson MP in the 1997 General Election and prior to that National Secretary of Labour Students
  • School governor for 12 years
  • Active trade unionist for 17 years – including seven years as a member of Amicus London Regional Political Committee
  • Member of Unite, the Co-Op Party and Fabian Society

Online endorsements:

Matthew Cain

Hopi Sen

Dave Cole

There's a Facebook group you can join if you are supporting me. Search for "Luke Akehurst for Labour's NEC" on Facebook to find it.

Please also consider supporting Ellie Reeves, Peter Wheeler, Deborah Gardiner, Oona King and Shaukat Ali for the remaining five positions.

Leadership Election Timetable - and who I'm backing

Monday 24 May: Opening of PLP nominations.
Thursday 27 May: Close of PLP nominations.
Friday 28 May: Deadline of acceptance of nomination by nominated candidates. Supporting nominations open.
June/July: Hustings will take place.
Monday 26 July: Close of supporting nominations.
Monday 16 August to Wednesday 22 September: Balloting takes place.
Wednesday 8 September: Freeze date for new members to join.
Saturday 25 September: Announcement of ballot result.

This might come as a surprise to people, but I will be voting for Ed Miliband.

I think all the candidates have their merits and that it's rather a shame that Jon Cruddas is not running as this would have provoked a wider ideological and policy debate.

I haven't decided yet who I will rank in second place - I'm going to listen to the hustings and decided in due course.

Why Ed Miliband? Gut instinct that his personality and style will appeal to voters, particularly the C2 demographic (skilled working classes) where the bottom fell out of our vote. I feel that people will be able to identify with him and warm to him more than the other runners and in an age when we have elections dominated by TV debates that is vital. He is a brilliant communicator - the speech he gave at Labour's Birmingham Spring Conference in 2008 was one of the best I have ever seen. I don't think there's much to choose ideologically between the main candidates - there are nuances of difference of vision and no doubt micro-analysis could prove Ed M is marginally to the left of the others but this is more about ability to inspire and regenerate a bruised, battered and tired party, and to clearly signal a generational change in leadership.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I told you so

During the campaign I warned against tactical voting and talking up a deal with the Lib Dems that just wasn't going to happen.

Commenters on those posts accused me of tribalism and sectarianism and not understanding the new politics.

Turns out I was right. The Guardian, Observer and Compass have been dupes of the highest order.

The Lib Dem leadership are quite happy working with the Tories. They see their place on the political spectrum as like those of their sister parties, the German FDP or the Swedish liberals - a bourgeois party allied to the right.

The first cabinet meeting will be like the scene in Animal Farm when you suddenly realise you can't tell the difference between the humans and the pigs.

I accept that a Lab/LD coalition was not viable because it did not command 326 seats. But there was nothing forcing Clegg to work with either party. He could have allowed a minority Tory government to be formed then voted on legislation on an issue by issue basis, working with Labour to block bad laws. As it is he has committed to a joint programme with a common whip. This is more like a merger than a coalition.

Lib Dem councillors and members and voters (43% of LD voters identify as on the left) who disagree with this sordid deal which will ram through cuts just as savage as the 1931 National Government have choices. They can join the only remaining major anti-Tory party: Labour (http://www.labour.org.uk/join/), or they can set up a radical or social Liberal party on the Nordic model which would be a potential coalition partner for the left in future elections.

They could join the Greens - Greens I was talking to at Hackney's count expect this - but Green MP Caroline Lucas refused to join negotiations on a non-Tory coalition this week, announcing she would vote on an issue-by-issue basis.

There are a large number of Labour supporters who have voted tactically for the Lib Dems over the course of many elections, particularly in rural areas. These people have been absolutely conned out of their votes. If recall of MPs comes in they should petition to have Lib Dems they helped elect recalled. Meantime they could have a look at the Trades Descriptions Act.

The opportunity here for Labour is huge. Research by the Fabians shows that:

  • 19 Lib Dem seats - a third of their total - would fall to Labour if just one-in-four Lib Dem voters switches to Labour in those constituencies
  • 30 Conservative seats would fall to Labour if just one-in-four Lib Dem voters switches to Labour in those constituencies
  • 55 Conservative seats would fall to Labour if half of Lib Dem voters switch to Labour in those constituencies. Together with seats taken off the Lib Dems, this could be enough for Labour to regain its majority at the next election.

On the centre-left Labour is now the only show in town.

We need to elect a new leader fast. I'm relaxed about all the current runners and riders as long as none of them say anything silly against Trident replacement. And we need to rebuild our membership base and organisation and get out of a bureaucratic, cautious, government mentality and into a bold, campaigning one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A soft landing

I haven't blogged since eve of poll as I was busy running a committee room in Stoke Newington Central (defensive marginal ward won by 800 votes) then attending as an Agent and council candidate the count from hell in Hackney (lasted 24 hours due to need to separate Mayoral, council and parliamentary votes), then at Legoland with my son for two days.

My local MP Diane Abbott was re-elected with a majority almost doubled from a notional 8,002 to 14,461 after turnout in Hackney North went up by 13% (http://www.hackney.gov.uk/2010-results-mps.htm).

We made six council gains in the wards I was Agent for (1 from the Greens, 5 from the Tories), thanks partly to Gordon Brown's decision to wait and hold the General Election on the same day as the council elections so that council turnout was at General Election levels, and partly to sheer hard work by our candidates and activists. Labour's 15 extra councils and 420 extra councillors are a result of a very wise decision about election timing by our Leader (http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/election2010/council/html/region_99999.stm).

My own result in Chatham Ward is here: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/chatham-result.htm. I won a third term with 2591 votes, a majority of 1690.

The composition of Hackney Council is now 50 Labour (+6), 4 Tory (-5), 3 LD (nc). I think this is the best result in terms of seats since 1978. Full results here: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/2010-results-council.htm

I was also Agent for Jules Pipe, who won re-election as Mayor of Hackney (http://www.hackney.gov.uk/2010-results-mayor.htm) with a 32,545 majority.

The mood in the Labour camp isn't one of a defeated party - it's oddly euphoric. We thought we might come third nationally but Cleggmania turned out to be the biggest joke in political history, and those of our key seat candidates who clung on despite the odds have successfully blocked Cameron from getting the majority he craved and put the Lib Dems in a position where they might go into an inherently unstable coalition with the Tories, leading to their own annihilation amongst centre-left voters at the next election.

One of the unsung heroes of Labour's campaign is the veteran London Labour Regional Director Ken Clark who held the swing to the Tories to only 2.5% as opposed to 6.1% in the rest of England, with his targeting and long-term building of London Labour's organisation leading to key seats such as Hampstead & Kilburn, Islington South, Feltham & Heston, Poplar & Limehouse, Dagenham & Rainham, Westminster North, Eltham and Hammersmith all being held and Labour gaining overall control of Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Hounslow, Islington, Southwark and Waltham Forest councils - our best local government result in London since the heyday of New Labour.

Going forward I think we need to let Gordon make his own decision about whether and when to stay or go as Party Leader, and if he does go members need to be presented with a broad and real choice of leadership candidates, not a coronation.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lib Dems cash in

You'd think everyone at Lib Dem HQ would be busy trying to win the General Election.

But one member of staff found time today to email potential conference sponsors, taking advantage of the sudden attractiveness of their event to big business:

"From: Conferences [mailto:conferences@libdems.org.uk]
Sent: 05 May 2010 15:57
Subject: NEW! Sponsorship and Branding Opportunities Brochure - Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference
Importance: High

Dear All,

2010 is proving to be an exciting year for the Liberal Democrats! This is your chance to get in early and gain maximum exposure for your organisation, brand or cause by taking advantage of our many sponsorship and branding opportunities .

Please find attached our brand new sponsorship and branding brochure detailing the opportunities available at our upcoming Autumn Conference in Liverpool 18-22 September 2010."

The new politics in action? Buy your slice of Nick Clegg while stocks last ...

Monday, May 03, 2010

This is why you should vote Labour

Glass Half Full

I'm an optimist. Need to be in times like these.

So here's my mantra for the next three days.

Labour supporters repeat after me:

"We have been in power for 13 years.

We are only 5% behind the Tories 72 hours before trying to secure a fourth term.

We can do it."

Now go back out there, hammer on more doors, deliver more leaflets, get that tiny 2.5% swing from the Tories needed to put us ahead of them in the popular vote. Win that Victory for the True Believers. Read this if you want to know how it'll feel to win a 4th term from behind in the polls: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1993_True_Believers_speech. Labor Down Under did it. So can we.

Let's hope that on Friday morning Gordon can quote this:

"But most particularly to those people in the Labor party who never lose faith, never lose heart and are there at the polling booths to work and to fight for good things. Thank you. The people who never give up, who always keep on believing who are always there no matter how heavy the travails may be. To you I say thank you very much indeed, thank you again. Thank you for believing."

Another endorsement for Clegg

First the Guardian, now Clegg gets this praise from libertarian blogger Guido Fawkes: http://order-order.com/2010/05/02/clegg-and-the-weirdie-beardies/

"Guido likes Clegg, his anti-statist liberalism is a welcome change from the more-of-the-same social democrats who have dominated the LibDems since the merger. Clegg and some of his leadership team, like David Laws and Ed Davey, are in policy terms really on the centre-right even if they prefer to describe themselves as centre-left."

If Guido's analysis is right and Clegg is "really on the centre-right" then the leftie mushy thinkers at the Guardian really have been sucker-punched.

I think Guido has read Clegg's thinking better than Alan Rusbridger has.

Meanwhile the effect on the ground of Cleggmania has been to tie-up loads of Labour activists in Guardian-reader seats to fend off the Lib Dems from taking-out often Lib Dem friendly Labour MPs when they could have been campaigning elsewhere against the Tories or BNP. Not helped by the literally insane tactical voting advice in the Observer -http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/may/02/tactical-vote-election-2010 which recommends a Lib Dem vote in 28 seats where Labour is first and the Tories are second, a move that could see the Tories win in all those seats stuffing any chances of anything other than a Tory majority government.

And Clegg has responded to olive branches from the appeaser wing of Labour by giving interviews hinting not that he is a pluralist who wants a multi-party system where he works with Labour as a sister progressive force, but that he wants to replace us - i.e. we'd end up still with a two-party system, just back to the Victorian one where both main parties represented middle class interests and the trade union movement and working class people had no voice in the party system.

I'm not for rolling over and letting that happen.

 
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