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, January 28, 2011

Council by-election

There was only one by-election yesterday:

Oliver's Battery & Badgers' Farm Ward, Winchester CC. LD hold. LD 894 (53.9%, -7.3), Con 604 (36.4%, +1.3), Lab 162 (9.8%, +5.1). Swing of 4.3% from LD to Con since 2010.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Progress column

My Progress column this week says we need to take steps to have some more Alan Johnsons in politics:
http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=583

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NEC Report

The full Labour Party National Executive Committee met today. As before I will try to convey as much as possible of what was discussed within the constraints of not disclosing confidential reports or information.

Margaret Beckett has rejoined the NEC, replacing Angela Smith as a backbench PLP/EPLP representative. It was Stephanie Peacock’s last meeting after four years as Youth Rep. Ed Miliband thanked her for her work and she managed to elicit a pledge from the General Secretary to fund a Youth Officer.

Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband both expressed their dismay about the resignation of Alan Johnson.

Harriet paid tribute to Iain Wright MP and party staff (particularly Noel Hutchinson as Agent) who had run the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, and to the large number of volunteers. It had been a great campaign which saw a seat which became vacant in very difficult circumstances, and where there was collusion between the Tories and Lib Dems, held by a margin of thousands. We would take nothing for granted in Barnsley Central.

Harriet outlined the importance of the elections on 5 May – not just in Scotland and Wales but in local authorities across England particularly in the South East, South West and Eastern regions where Labour needed to make a comeback after weak General Election results. As well as the local and specifically Scottish and Welsh issues there was the overarching economic argument that the cuts are too far, too fast. Other growing issues are the NHS and cuts to police numbers. The campaign would be the first chance for our 50,000 new members to get involved. She outlined the ways in which Shadow Cabinet members are being deployed, both to lead on thematic issues and to provide local-level campaigning support to specific regions, particularly the three with fewest Labour MPs. We would be going back into areas where Labour had got very weak and running candidates and campaigns there, particularly to win back voters in the South West who had tactically backed the Lib Dems.

Harriet said she was personally going to vote for AV in the referendum but the Lib Dems had been mugged by the Tories as holding it on 5 May when there were elections was stopping cross-party campaigning for a Yes vote. The Labour election campaign was the priority, not the referendum.

There was a brief and predictable exchange about Tower Hamlets which I won’t report as the issue may come back to the NEC in future.

We signed-off a new parliamentary selections procedure which will be piloted in 26 non-Labour-held marginals. This will involve self-nomination, with shortlisting locally by a Selection Committee elected by the CLP Executive. The final decision will be by local members, with the quantity of campaign material tightly regulated to stop people spending their way to selection. I was pleased that points made at Organisation Committee were taken into account in the final proposals, including the ability of affiliates to operate their own panels and formally support people alongside self-nomination. Feedback from prospective candidates and members in the 26 pilot CLPs about how well the new system works would be very useful.

General Secretary Ray Collins reported that 1,000 activists had been in Oldham East & Saddleworth on the final weekend, and thanked the unions for innovative support including member to member canvassing. He reported that the Barnsley Central shortlist would be drawn up on the 26th, with the selection on the 27th.

Ed Miliband echoed Harriet’s tribute to Alan Johnson but said the smooth reshuffle showed Labour had strength in depth. He said there would be three big arguments in 2011:

1. The economy. The 0.5% decline in GDP showed the Government’s economic policy was a risky experiment. He was consciously getting into an argument about our past record because it was essential to stop the Government’s argument that the global recession was somehow caused by Labour public spending. The deficit had only been 2% before the recession, after which it rose to 10%. He was not going to concede the central argument but Labour did need the humility to accept mistakes like under-regulating the banks and allowing the economy to be over-dependent on financial services. Policies for growth were the next key stage in the debate.
2. The chances of the next generation, which are under unprecedented assault. Labour needs to become the default option for young voters let down by the Government.
3. New Politics. The Tories and Lib Dems can’t claim to represent this as they have already broken 39 promises.

Ed said he wanted to attract as many Lib Dems to Labour as possible: MPs, Councillors, members and voters. But some people wanted to stay in the Lib Dems and fight to win their party back from Clegg. We had to respect their decision and work with them issue by issue, to try to avoid the next election being a two parties versus one fight.

He warned that the NHS is facing unprecedented upheaval and that the potential involvement of the private sector in commissioning decisions as well as in service delivery was dangerous. PCTs had been flawed as commissioners but at least they were public bodies.

In response to an attack on AV by Christine Shawcroft, Ed said too many good Labour MPs had lost to Tories because of votes lost to the Lib Dems and Greens. In his view AV would on balance benefit Labour because of Lib Dem and Green transfers. It was not a done deal the referendum would be in May because the Lords were putting up such a fight. Labour would not campaign in the referendum as we had elections to fight.

Ray reported in detail on preparations for the May elections and Greg Cook reported on how we would handle any boundary review if we can’t stop the Government’s plans to cut the number of MPs by 50.

Peter Hain reported on the reviews of the Partnership in Power policy-making process and of wider party organisation. He made a plea for all NEC members to work on reawakening members’ enthusiasm to get involved in the policy-making process. He urged CLPs to submit their ideas. He said he wanted a new policy-making system where minority positions articulated at the NPF would go to Annual Conference for decision, rather than Conference getting presented with a “take-it-or-leave-it” single document. The transparency and reputation of the policy process need to be restored.

Peter said Ed was taking a strong line on making sure the Shadow Cabinet play an active part in the National Policy Forum and Policy Commission structures so they are developing policy in consultation with the Party. The next NPF would be in June or July and would consider progress on the policy review led by Liam Byrne.

Peter said formal consultation on reform of party organisation would start in March. He and Ellie Reeves are touring the regional conferences to take soundings. Any rule changes that come out of the consultation will be considered by the NEC in July and go to Annual Conference for decision, with publication well in advance so that there can be a full debate in the wider Party. He urged members to contact him direct with ideas for reform.



If you would like to receive these reports by email in future please email me at akehurstluke@googlemail.com

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winning in the South

Stuart King has set up an excellent website - http://www.southernfront.org.uk/ - dedicated to Labour winning in the South of England.

I've written a piece for them looking at how Labour was able to hold onto some unlikely marginals in Kent in the 1950s even when we were out of power nationally: http://www.southernfront.org.uk/2011/01/southern-lessons-from-labours-history.html

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Briefing AGM

Every time I think the hard left of my own party can't do anything more crass, they trump it.

Labour Briefing's AGM is next Sunday. I presume it will be attended by a sub set of the people who went to the LRC one last week.

On a platform with John McDonnell MP and NEC member Christine Shawcroft will be Mayor Lutfur Rahman of Tower Hamlets: http://www.labourbriefing.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100:labour-briefing-agm-2011&catid=3:newsflash

Whatever they consider the rights and wrongs of Lutfur's deselection by the NEC it is not appropriate for a body purporting to support Labour to be giving a speaking platform to someone who just ran against and beat the Labour Party as an independent. It is particularly insulting and provocative to all the people in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party who went out and campaigned for the official Labour candidate.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Council by-elections

Last night's results:

Marl Ward, Conwy CBC. LD gain from Con. LD 389 (40.4%, -10.1), Con 270 (28.1%, +5.7), Lab 216 (22.5%, +14.2), Ind 87 (9%, -9.8). Swing of 7.9% from LD to Con since 2008. LDs picked up a seat despite a swing against them because in 2008 they only ran one candidate in a two member ward.

Tonbridge Division, Kent CC. Con hold. Con 3229 (57.2%, +9.8), Lab 1216 (21.5%, +12.5), LD 501 (8.9%, -7.4), Green 366 (6.5%, -3.4), UKIP 337 (6%, -6.5). Swing of 1.4% from Con to Lab since 2009.

Baguley Ward, Manchester MBC. Lab hold. Lab 996 (70.8%, +23.7), Con 160 (11.4%, -4.8), UKIP 76 (5.4%, -1.4), LD 52 (3.7%, -20.8), BNP 52 (3.7%, +3.7), Green 51 (3.6%, +0.8), Ind 19 (1.4%, +1.4). Swing of 14.3% from Con to Lab since 2010.

Olton Ward, Solihull MBC. LD hold. LD 1188 (39.7%, -11), Con 1179 (39.4%, +5.7), Lab 280 (9.4%, +1.8), Residents 228 (7.6%, +6.3), Green 115 (3.9%, +1.5). Swing of 8.4% from LD to Con since 2010.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ideas from Labour's past not to revisit #1

This is number one in what might turn out to be a depressingly long series of posts pointing out which ideas tried last time we were in opposition we shouldn't revisit (unless we want to be out of power for 18 years this time too).

First up is Daniel Blaney (CND Vice-Chair), mulling over very thoughtfully the idea that Labour Councils might vote for illegal budgets, http://www.labourlist.org/daniel-blaney-should-labour-councils-pass-illegal-budgets, a strategy last attempted in the rate-capping rebellion of 1985 by Lambeth and Liverpool (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rate-capping_rebellion) and endorsed by the LRC at its Conference last Saturday.

This is superficially attractive as a way of avoiding Labour councillors being politically implicated in cutting services, or morally compromised.

Here, however, is why this is an idea that shouldn't even be mulled over thoughtfully, but dismissed out of hand:
  • There isn't a moral requirement on Labour councils who are the victims of Eric Pickles' budget cuts to not implement them, any more than there would be a moral requirement on the victims of benefit cuts to keep spending as though they still had the money. The central government cash will not be in council's bank accounts so it will be physically impossible to carry on funding services to the same value as before even if the political gesture made sense.
  • There's a whiff of refusal to come to terms with losing the General Election in this. We told voters "vote Labour or else there will be massive cuts". 71% of them didn't. So the cuts are here. We didn't say "if you don't vote Labour we will somehow be able to ignore the government changing and carry on spending locally as though we were still in power nationally".
  • Town hall vs. Whitehall is such a lop-sided battle there can only be one winner. It isn't good strategy to pick a fight against someone who holds all the cash and legal powers.
  • It will remind older voters of Ted Knight (who was actually at the LRC event) and Derek Hatton and help the Tories establish a narrative that we have gone crazy again.
  • It didn't work in 1985. No one actually stopped the cuts. All that happened was that the councils which had tried to resist ended up making chaotic unplanned cuts at the last minute, with a far worse effect on jobs and services than councils like Graham Stringer's Manchester that carefully planned their budgets within the resources Thatcher gave them, preserving the services vulnerable residents most needed.
  • The law has changed since 1985. You can't even get as far as setting an illegal budget and being surcharged. All that happens is that the council officers set a balanced budget for you, with no reference to your political priorities.
  • If Labour doesn't balance budgets at local level where it is a legal requirement, it hardly sends a message that in power nationally we would be fiscally responsible (and the idea that we weren't was a major contributory factor in our defeat last May).
  • A gesture of defiance to Eric Pickles wouldn't cause him to think again. It would delight him. He cut his political teeth attacking Labour municipal gesture politics in the '80s and would love nothing more than to send in the commissioners to take over a few Labour councils and to resurrect the bogey-man of the "loony left".
  • Holding public office brings with it fiduciary and legal responsibilities which trump your political instincts. All councillors sometimes have to make cuts. Councils often have to make people redundant when service requirements or funding streams change. The scale and distribution of spending cuts this year is horrific, unfair and draconian, but every councillor knows when running for election that their duties include setting a balanced budget in bad times as well as good. If you are not prepared to accept that responsibility, don't run for office.

Interestingly it is usually people who haven't stepped up to the plate and been councillors who advocate this strategy. It was a councillor who bravely spoke against it at the LRC conference.

Almost all of us who have had our budgets slashed by Pickles and will have to take the terrible decisions about what to cut this year are getting on with the reality of it, and trying to apply our socialist values in deciding which services to protect, not fantasising about getting out of this ghastly scenario through insurrection. I wish there was an easy way to say "no" to these cuts, but there isn't.

This isn't to say that Labour councillors shouldn't lead the political protests against Pickles' cuts and be screaming from the rooftops about their impact on our communities - we absolutely should.

Future posts in this series are unfortunately likely to include explanations of why we shouldn't:

  • pursue a syndicalist strategy of trying to bring down Cameron through strikes
  • advocate unilateral disarmament
  • allow Trotskyists to infiltrate the Labour Party
  • go soft on law and order
  • go Euro-sceptic
  • propose the nationalisation of major sectors of the economy
  • put forward an Alternative Economic Strategy based on autarky

Most of the above were supported by the LRC on Saturday. Every motion except number 10 in this booklet was passed: http://www.l-r-c.org.uk/files/RESOLUTIONS_2011.pdf. Read it and weep. At least in 1979-1983 they had the partial excuse of not knowing how unpopular this kind of stance was. That they have not changed what they are advocating suggests a pathological inability to learn from experience.

A tail of two conferences

My latest Progress column on last weekend's Fabian Society and LRC conferences is online here:
http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=577

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spelling it out

John Spellar doesn't take to the blogosphere that often.

When he does he hits the nail on the head.

This is a must read for Labour activists who want to understand the sort of voters who decide the outcome of elections: http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/01/18/the-real-middle-and-what-it-really-wants/

Denham on growth

Like Will Straw (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/18/labour-jobs-growth-john-denham) I was in the audience for John Denham's Smith Institute speech about business and growth - http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/growth.

Unlike Will I thought it was rather good.

The constraint of needing to bat away some questions on detail pending the Labour Policy Policy Review process that Liam Byrne is leading may be frustrating. But it would be more frustrating if Denham was giving us all the answers now without any opportunity for input from members, industry (he specifically asked business to contribute ideas) or trade unions. If he was preempting the Policy Review there would rightly be an outcry that the review was a farce. And I'd have my doubts about the quality of policy solutions being developed at such speed after an election defeat.

What Denham did do was to very effectively critique the government's failure to adequately support industry.

He set out Labour's ideological position on business: like the Tory-led Coalition we would have looked to the private sector to boost growth and balance our (far smaller) cuts to the public sector, but we would have in intervened to support that growth, and our calmer approach to deficit reduction would have provided a better environment for businesses to grow in. Because it is "the party of growth, Labour is today, as we sought to be in Government, the party of business and of private sector success."

And he gave us a direction of travel on policy which is consistent with Peter Mandelson's industrial activism, but builds on it. There was a clear restatement of Labour's regional policy, in contrast to government policies that will particularly harm the north, and a Regional Growth Fund that is absurdly small. Government grants and loans are important but "A coherent active industrial policy involves a great deal more than public finance. Without a coherent strategy for each key growth sector, public investment is unlikely to bring the fullest returns. But the case for additional strategic investment is and will remain powerful." He reiterated that Labour will be "investing £7.5bn by the end of the Parliament in supporting growth and jobs, funded by a fairer contribution from the banks." He particularly argued that Labour would have done more to support construction and universal broadband roll-out. He warned that the current manufacturing growth caused by the weak pound and focused in existing strong sectors is not enough and we need to develop new strengths in advanced manufacturing, low carbon industries, creative industries and other services, using instruments like "investment in fundamental and applied research, support for the translational of new technologies into marketable products, the right IP regime for innovation, ensuring the financing mechanism from bank lending, public support, government contracts, and venture capital are in place and appropriate, and addressing strategic skills." He showed quite a sophisticated understanding of the role of supply chain companies in automotive and aerospace.

It's one of the tragedies of the 13 years of Labour Government that for the first eleven of them Treasury trumped DTI by many multiples in the Whitehall power stakes, and focused the country's economic development on an unsustainable financial services boom rather than technology and manufacturing. This was despite the unions (particularly my own union Amicus, now part of Unite) strongly making the case for manufacturing. It was only when the power balance changed with Mandelson making BIS temporarily a big player in Whitehall that we got a real focus on manufacturing, partly in response to the economic crisis - but by then we were in our final two years in power.

Hopefully based on today's speech we will start our next period in power already committed to manufacturing growth, not discover it 11 years in.

Tragically until then BIS is, to quote Denham, "a department apparently without influence or clout. Indeed, whilst the record of failure in regional policy, higher education, bank lending and bankers bonuses is lengthy, it is hard to identify a single pro-business, pro-growth policy which BIS has successfully championed against the opposition of the Treasury or other departments like CLG."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oldham

My personal input into the Oldham East & Saddleworth campaign was limited to phone canvassing as my legs are not yet recovered enough from my neurological illness in 2009 for me to do doorstep campaigning - a goal set with my physios is to be able to walk and write on a clipboard at the same time, hopefully by this May's elections.

However, the phoning was enough to tell me that the constituency is still as tricky a one for Labour as its predecessor, Littleborough & Saddleworth, was when I was up there for the 1995 by-election. It just isn't for the main part natural Labour territory and has pockets of extremely passionate and tribal Lib Dem support which are deep-rooted in a way uncommon outside the far South West.

In this context for Debbie Abrahams to get a majority higher than we had in the seat in the 1997 landslide is a triumph and a massive tribute to the organisational skills of Labour's North West and national staff and volunteer activists, huge numbers of whom have been out in appalling weather conditions.

It's a victory of immense tactical significance as it provides momentum as we head towards the May polls in Scotland, Wales and local councils.

But we need to be careful to stay sober about its wider strategic significance.

I don't see this as a big way marker on the route to victory like Dudley West or Wirral South were in the '90s. OE&S is too idiosyncratic a seat - the next General Election will be won in Con vs Lab marginals and OE&S is a rare Lab vs LD fight (though if Cameron hadn't switched off his machine to help Clegg it should have been a three-way marginal).

Cameron's vote slump (with apparent Tory switchers direct to Labour, as well as to the LDs and UKIP) provides a political problem for him as his own rightwingers will view him as having betrayed grassroots campaigners in order to try to help Clegg.

The willingness of Tories to vote tactically for the LDs, and of the two parties to collude on where they put up a fight, is extremely worrying from a Labour point-of-view.

We need to be careful not to let euphoria at one good win stop us from making the comprehensive policy and strategy review that is the appropriate response to getting thumped to a 29% defeat in the General Election.

And we need to note that the LDs were still competitive in a target seat for them even when bumping along at 7-9% nationally - they are not a wholly dead parrot yet.

This is the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

By-elections

While we wait for the Oldham East & Saddleworth result, there are two council by-election results, including a dramatic Labour gain from 5th place in Cornwall, giving us our only councillor in the County:

Camborne North Division, Cornwall CC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 239 (33.1%, +22.4), Con 203 (28.1%, -8.8), LD 156 (21.6%, +2.2), Lib 61 (8.4%, +6.2), MK 32 (4.4%, -10.4), Green 31 (4.3%, +4.3). Swing of 15.6% from Con to Lab since 2009.

Humbleyard Division, Norfolk CC. Con hold. Con 1015 (46.4%, -5.5), LD 438 (20%, -4.6), Lab 424 (19.4%, +11.4), Green 176 (8.1%, -7.4), UKIP 133 (6.1%, +6.1). Swing of 0.5% from Con to LD since 2009.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mapping the past and the future

My Progress column this week draws some lessons for Labour and the Lib Dems from the history of the UK's electoral geography:
http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=571

Also worth reading before taking a view on tomorrow's by-election result is Lewis Baston's piece on the electoral history of Oldham East & Saddleworth:
http://www.progressives.org.uk/articles/article.asp?a=7418

Unite Exec Elections

For those of you who are fellow members of the Unite trade union, there are Executive Council elections coming up.

The timetable is a follows:

Nominations Period 10th January – 7th February 2011
Last date for Receipt of nominations 14th February 2011
Ballot Period 25th March – 15th April 2011
Count 16 - 17 April 2011
Declaration 20 April 2011

Details are here, including a running update of who is seeking nomination:
http://www.unitetheunion.org/resources/union_elections_meetings_and/election_information/unite_executive_council_electi.aspx


To work out who NOT to vote for or nominate, just reverse-engineer the list published by United Left - http://unitedleft.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=5&Itemid=24
- and vote for people not on it.

An early election?

Tom Watson wins the prize for most politically interesting blogpost of the day with his speculation on Labour Uncut about the Tories precipitating a May General Election:
http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/01/12/a-snap-election-promises-cameron-the-glory-he-craves/

I take Tom's points about why this would be to the Tories' advantage but I don't think Labour should be wholly afraid of an early election:

a) it would be fought on the current boundaries without the implementation of the Tory-proposed gerrymander to reduce the size of the Commons, which would disproportionately damage Labour if the election doesn't happen until 2015.
b) we would be able to frame it as a single-issue election on cuts, just as they really hit home. By 2015 the economy and public spending may be recovering and cuts, whilst still a major party of the Government's record, will be a less resonant issue.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Next steps for the student movement

There was a lively meeting of the NUS National Executive Committee today which voted against proposals from the left to back a protest in London on 29 January, instead opting to support a TUC rally in Manchester on the same day.

For the ex-NOLSies reading this who retain an interest (and the wider political community interested in what the NUS will do next), this is what was passed. I await a reenactment of NUS Conference slanging-matches in the comments:

The way forward for the Education Funding Campaign
NEC Believes
1. Both houses of parliament have now approved a £9,000 limit on Higher Education Undergraduate Tuition Fees.
2. This happened despite an unprecedented mass campaign from NUS that has united students, lecturers and the general public and the largest student demonstration in a generation.
3. The student movement should be proud that the NUS/UCU National Demonstration on 10 November sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism.
4. The policing of both the NUS/UCU Demonstration and subsequent demonstrations has been widely questioned.
5. It has been widely reported that some on those demonstrations were bent on violence.
6. The changes to fees levels have to be seen in the wider context of savage cuts to education and public services.
7. The TUC have asked NUS and UCU to help build for a wider Rally on youth opportunities in Manchester on the 29th January.
8. Cuts programmes inside HEIs continue and will only get worse in the new year.
9. A significant number of new student activists have emerged out of the campaign.
10. The removal of the EMA will devastate retention and achievement in FE and destroy access to universities by the poorest.
11. Aim Higher has been mooted to close.
12. A white paper on fees is due out in the new year.
13. That students’ unions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gave their full support to the
Vote For Students campaign and National Demonstration, with considerable success.
14. Wins in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (such as scrapping tuition fees for domiciled students, saving EMA, improved student support and commitments to covering the increase in tuition fees for domiciled students) all contribute to current and future campaign wins in England.
15. The devolved assembly and parliamentary elections in 2011 should be as much of a priority for NUS UK as the “Vote For Students” campaign was for NUS Scotland, Wales and NUS-USI. 16. The £4000+ per year difference between tuition fees in England and Scotland will understandably lead to more English students applying to Scotland. It would not be right for a decision taken at Westminster to squeeze out Scottish students from attending university.
17. The devolved administrations have now been forced to consider how to deal with cross-border flow of English students understandably looking to avoid increased tuition fees.
18. That colleges and universities in devolved administrations have also had their funding cut. NUS UK should aim to support students’ unions who face cuts across the UK.

NEC Further Believes
1. Our principal duty is to work to secure our members’ interests.
2. Our struggle on cuts to education and public services must now be bound up firmly with the wider trade union and social movement.
3. The prospect of £9,000 fees heightens and makes more urgent the need to radically improve student rights on campus and the regulation of HEIs.
4. Students’ unions need real, substantial help now on understanding and fighting cuts in their institution.
5. 29th January would be the wrong tactic at the wrong time.
6. The TUC protest and rally on 29 January will be held in Manchester- home to the largest FE College and HE institution in the country and sits in a region with the highest rate of youth unemployment in the country.
7. Some of the actions of some on demonstrations and in occupations have harmed, not progressed, our cause. Violent demonstrators have lost us considerable public support.
8. Some of the policing tactics in use at student demos in November and December exacerbated tension and violence and prevented peaceful students from demonstrating.
9. At a time when there is still so much to campaign for, there has never been a more important time for maximum unity, and not doing so is unhelpful and damaging to students.
10. Students in FE face a double whammy- 16-18 transport subsidies are to be cut in local authorities and learner support funds don’t support travel costs.

NEC Resolves
1. To support the TUC protest and rally for youth opportunities on 29 January in Manchester
2. Continuing to work with UCU and other trade unions through the TUC is vital to ensure we are part of a wider campaign.
3. To prioritise mobilisation amongst students for the 26th March TUC national demonstration in the first term.
4. To launch a local mobilisation and partnership strategy with trade unions and social groups aimed at developing activism over cuts in local constituencies.
5. To mandate the VP Higher Education to launch an anti cuts strategy with a detailed toolkit and advice available from NUS staff and officers, relevant to students’ unions across the entire UK.
6. To support the VP Further Education in continued prioritisation of the campaign to save EMA, cuts to FE and the fight for local travel subsidies for young people.
7. To call for a detailed enquiry must be held into Policing tactics used on demonstrations in November/December.
8. To continue to publically condemn inappropriate police tactics like kettling (containment) and horse charging.
9. To lobby for increased student rights and protections in the White Paper
10. To push the Government to ensure that there is a more comprehensive system of student support, effective outreach given the new fee regime.
11. To continue to fight to save the EMA and to lobby to ensure that colleges are able to assist students with transport costs in the future.
12. To launch a major campaign aimed at protecting Aim Higher and ensuring that efforts to improve WP measure universities’ success at retention and acceptances rather than just applications.
13. To develop a detailed long term strategy aimed at reversing the damaging marketisation and loss of public funding about to be inflicted on HE.
14. To mandate NUS UK officers to commit time and resource to supporting campaigns in the devolved assembly and parliamentary elections.
15. In public comments, to criticise the Westminster Government for any need to consider increasing fees for non-domiciled students in the nations, not the devolved administrations.
16. That this NEC asks the President to publically support actions not organised by NUS that do not damage our campaign goals, members reputation or students safety. Should actions do so, then the President has our full support to distance NUS and students’ unions from such actions.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Council by-elections

Only one major authority one tonight, confirming the LD slide:

Park Ward, Windsor & Maidenhead UA. Con hold. Con 637 (64.4%, +2.4), LD 156 (15.8%, -18.1), Lab 149 (15.1%, +11), Ind 47 (4.8%, +4.8). Swing of 10.3% from LD to Con since 2007.

And an interesting parish council one in David Cameron's own constituency, where the Tories gave the LDs a free run in a normally Tory seat but it backfired spectacularly:

Witney East Ward, Witney Town Council:
Duncan Enright, Lab 480 (66.7%)
LD 123 (17.1%)
Green 117 (16.2%)

In case people haven't seen it tonight's YouGov poll is fairly impressive: Lab 43%, Con 39%, LD 7% (their lowest ever).

Thursday, January 06, 2011

More about the LRC

I'm grateful to a commenter for explaining that the reason why Labour NEC Member Christine Shawcroft is shown in the list of the Hard Left "Labour Representation Committee's" (LRC's) National Committee with NUM Nottinghamshire Ex and Retired Miners' Association next to her name when she is not a retired miner.

Apparently you don't have to be a member of the affiliate that nominates you. In which case why do they have a separate affiliates section?

The full list of affiliates is great reading as a kind of A-Z of the ultra left (with similarities to a certain Python sketch about Judea) but suggests the LRC has a generous interpretation of the word "Labour" as it includes organisations actively hostile to the Labour Party: http://www.l-r-c.org.uk/about/affiliates

Highlights:

FBU - chose to disaffiliate from the Labour Party

RMT - disaffiliated from Labour for allowing branches to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party

A World to Win -an organisation whose manifesto (http://www.aworldtowin.net/Manifesto/International.html) states that "Revolutionary political organisations of a new type should be built internationally", "Now that the credit-induced boom has ended, the epoch will once again reveal itself as one of wars and revolutions. Conditions for revolutionary change are increasingly favourable." It advocates a "revolutionary government in Britain" and talks about replacing liberal democracy with "national, regional and local People’s Assemblies" (AKA soviets...)

Alliance for Workers Liberty - a self-avowed Trotskyist grouping formerly known as Socialist Organiser, which was proscribed by the Labour Party in the late 1980s

Morning Star Readers' Groups - readers of a newspaper previously the organ of the official Communist Party of GB and now describing itself as "close to the Communist Party of Britain" (i.e. close to a hardline Stalinist Party)

Group of International Communists - this lot say "Communist revolutions cannot succeed without mass self-organisations of workers, and the leadership of organisations of revolutionary workers and the oppressed. We are a network whose aim is to contribute to the development of such a movement in this country and internationally."

Hands Off Venezuela - supporters of the authoritarian Chavez regime and its Bolivarian revolution

New Communist Party - a Stalinist party (see this tribute to Uncle Joe: http://www.newworker.org/ncpcentral/JVS.html) that split from the CPGB because it (NCP) supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

Newrad Communist Collective - " group of communists who share a common view of the world and a common history forged in the struggle against revisionism"

Socialist Appeal - the Trotskyist organisation founded by former Militant leader Ted Grant after Militant expelled him for continuing to advocate entryism into the Labour Party

TGWU Broad Left - includes activists from the Labour left in Unite but also from the Stalinist CPB, Leninist SWP and Trotskyist SP


The LRC doesn't seem to have an adequate, indeed any, definition of the left boundary of what it means to be a democratic socialist or social democrat. By definition, self-professed revolutionaries, Trots, Stalinists, Leninists and Communists are not democratic socialists and I would be interested to know why the Labour activists in the LRC are open to their participation.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

AV and the PLP

The first of my weekly columns for Progress - on AV and the PLP:

http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=566

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

No enemies to the left?

Any Labour activist thinking the Greens are a benign political force should have a look at their leader's letter to the Guardian last week:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/31/dilemma-of-labours-opposition?INTCMP=SRCH

... a five paragraph attack not on the Tory-led Coalition but on the Labour Party.

Meanwhile the Labour Representation Committee (sic), John McDonnell's faction-within-a-faction on the Labour hard left, has announced the speakers for its annual conference:
http://www.l-r-c.org.uk/events/detail/lrc-conference/

As trade union speakers they've picked Matt Wrack, formerly of the Socialist Party (AKA Militant Tendency), leader of the non-Labour-affiliated FBU, and Christine Blower of the also non-affiliated NUT, who walked out of the Labour Party in the early '90s, rather than a Labour member from one of the 14 Labour-affiliated unions.

As a student speaker they've picked ULU President Clare Solomon, again nothing to do with Labour (she was expelled from the SWP and is now involved in this group: http://www.counterfire.org/ ) and whose main contribution to a united student movement has been to appear repeatedly on TV as an apologist for rioters and attacking official NUS President Aaron Porter's efforts to ensure students demonstrated peacefully. I presume they didn't try to secure a speaker from NUS itself or Labour Students.

What exactly is the LRC's political project?

Its National Committee makes interested reading, what with the sections for individual members, "general affiliates" and trade unions:
http://www.l-r-c.org.uk/about/nationalcommittee

I note Christine Shawcroft is on there representing the Notts NUM Ex and Retired Miners Association. I will have to ask her which Nottinghamshire pit she worked in.

Campaigning

Some things to keep Labour activists busy in the New Year:

Volunteer to help Labour win the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election:
http://www.debbieabrahams.org.uk/help-debbie

Sign and promote Ken Livingstone's petition against the London fare increases: http://www.unfare.co.uk/petition

Put the TUC demo against the cuts in your diary:
http://www.tuc.org.uk/alltogetherfor/march.cfm?theme=alltogether
sign up to go on it on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=176812472328977
and print off flyers to promote it in your area or workplace:
http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/MARCH_A5_FLYER_low_res.pdf

 
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