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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

I support...

Various threads below are now soaking up hostile comments like a sponge. I thought I'd save all the posters some time by just listing all the things I really support and they really hate, so they can just reply with one stream of venom. Here goes. I support:
The Labour Party
Tony Blair
The Hackney Labour Party
Hackney Council
Jules Pipe
The UK
The State of Israel
The Australian Labor Party
The New South Wales Right faction
Labour First
Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform
The EU
Sweden and its Social Democratic Party
Nuclear deterrence
The liberation of Iraq
Our police, security services and armed forces
Nuclear power
An elected House of Lords
Directly Elected Mayors
A Controlled Parking Zone for Clifden Road
New security doors on estates in my ward

That should give you all plenty to get your teeth into...

By-election woe

Blaenau Gwent continued the dismal run of MPs it has elected ever since pre-WW2 days with yesterday's by-election. What did one constituency do to deserve to be afflicted with, in sucession:

Nye Bevan - serial rebel and national hate figure who kept Labour out of power for most of the '50s with his sectarian antics. (Mitigating factors: set up NHS and belatedly pro-nuclear)
Michael Foot - Labour's least effective leader ever, kept Labour out of power for most of '80s with anti-nuclear stance (Mitigating factors: promoted careers of Kinnock and Blair, intellectual giant etc)
Llew Smith - even more leftwing than his predecessors but without the stature
Peter Law - betrayed Labour on unprincipled grounds that seat was his personal sinecure and him being an MP was more important than increasing the number of women candidates
The new bloke elected yesterday - agent of the above

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dear Tony,

Rather in the manner of Tony Blair's recently reported fan letter of 1982 to Michael Foot, Neal Lawson of Labour's most self-aware faction, Compass, has humbly and self-effacedly scribbled a missive to the Prime Minister telling him how to run the country and including a helpful quote from Ghandi - http://www.compassonline.org.uk/news_comments.asp?n=148

He offers the comment that "We have not spoken for some time since our political trajectories diverged. " i.e. "we have not spoken since I unsurprisingly failed to become a PPC and decided to undergo a radical image change into a born-again leftie, whilst attacking all the people at No10 who were a) my mates and b) had encouraged me to set up Compass to get back at those nasty rightwing traditionalists in Amicus and the PLP".

In amongst the general diatribe, which makes Lawson sound like he is a typewriter channeling the spirit of Paul Foot and could just as easily have been cut and pasted from here http://www.poptel.org.uk/scgn/ or here http://www.cpgb.org.uk/ or here http://www.workersliberty.org.uk/ one struggled to find a single positive policy idea.

Lawson's get out clause on policy, like David Cameron's, is that a new manifesto is busy being written (by the kind of self appointed anoraks who have nothing better to do than spend their weekends at Compass conferences).

I can't wait to get my hands on this tome in a year's time.

In the mean time it would be quite funny if someone at No10 actually published a reply to Lawson saying exactly what Blair thinks of him.


Very useful. Not. Just as Labour begins to get a bit of traction/momentum back thanks to some sensible speeches by both Blair and Brown, we are treated to a barrage of self-justification from Charles Clarke. Which helpfully reminds large sections of the electorate why they didn't vote Labour back in May. Clarke says he spoke out to restore his political reputation. In fact he has damaged his reputation with this intervention.

Monday, June 26, 2006

People Liberation Front of Judea etc...

The Labour left are having one of their periodic Monty Python moments in reaction to Brown's pro-Trident speech. The People's Liberation Front of Judea want Michael Meacher MP to run for leader, whilst their rivals in the Judean Popular Liberation Front want John McDonnell MP: http://www.epolitix.com/EN/News/200606/8d393ef6-0619-4888-b38a-cfd01bfef7c4.htm

Gordon must be so afraid given the popular appeal or lack thereof of both Meacher and McDonnell...

Meanwhile an embarassed silence from the usually verbose comrades at Compass - http://www.compassonline.org.uk/ - as Neal Lawson suddenly realises that he will have even less influence under a Brown administration dominated by traditional Labour rightwing Atlanticists than he has done under Blair.

Was it something I said?

My internet presence seems to have wound up this lot http://www.clissoldleisure.com/ who want to see the faster re-opening of my local swimming pool and judging from the style and content they are also behind this http://lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/ - someone had a busy weekend. Funny and clever but not particularly nice.

I'm not sure why I'm their latest target though perhaps they thought that Hackney sliding back into hung council chaos in the 4 May elections would have helped re-open the leisure centre faster - I rather doubt it would have helped.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It had to happen

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery someone has set this up: http://lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/test.html

I'm braced for the first postings but perhaps I'm beyond parody...

CPZ for Clifden Road?

Fellow Labour Blogger Stuart Bruce http://www.stuartssoapbox.com/2006/06/new_labour_blog.html

has rightly chided me for not using this site to interact with my constituents in Chatham Ward, London Borough of Hackney.

Well here goes - apologies to anyone expecting every one of my posts to be highly controversial and about national Labour Party issues - normal service will resume shortly.

The big issue in the bit of my ward north of the Homerton Hospital (Clifden Road etc) is parking - local residents find it really hard to park outside their own homes because of pressure from cars of hospital patients & staff. I'm introducing a deputation of local residents on this issue at Full Council on 28 June.

If any residents of that patch - or indeed hospital users who park there - would like to say what they think on this issue please post a comment below - are you in favour of a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) where residents would pay an annual fee but non-residents would not be able to park there? or do you disagree with a CPZ? what can the hospital do to help the Council address the problem - e.g. through a green travel plan, park & ride scheme or similar? what is your experience of parking in the area or if a non-resident, travelling to the hospital?

Let's see how much support the "left" has really got

I do hope Clare Short carries out her petulent threat that the left will stand in the Labour leadership contest, in protest at Brown's commonsense stance on Trident:


Then we will be able to expose exactly how marginal their support is amongst ordinary Labour members and trade unionists.

My hunch is that a left candidate for leader would do about as well as Heffer did in 1983 (6%) or Benn in in 1988 (11%) - http://www.election.demon.co.uk/lableader.html

By the way, on checking the '83 result I've realised that my post below incorrectly names Meacher as the Bennite candidate for Leader then - in fact he ran for Deputy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Brown shows he's sound on Trident

Excellent news - Gordon Brown has put his cards on the table as a supporter of replacing the UK's Trident strategic nuclear deterrent for the long term - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5103764.stm

This is massively important not just as an issue in its own right - we need a deterrent more than ever in a dangerous and volatile world where some fairly unpleasant regimes have access to both WMD and missile technology - it's also a very important signal that Brown, if he is the next PM, will be solid on defence and security issues and not allow any slippage back to the CND inspired policies that lost Labour elections in the '80s.

Well done Gordon.

Once a student hack...

My day has been made (I'm easily pleased) by discovering that I'm listed on the Labour Students (once known as NOLS) website as one of their Honorary Vice-Presidents - http://www.labourstudents.org.uk/index.php?id=3566

I think this is because I donate money to them (a cash for honours scandal?) but in any case I'm very chuffed - particularly as I'm in such illustrious company on the list.

Actually I should be thanking them rather than them thanking me - the six years I spent in student politics were the best political and organisational training it's possible to get and provided me with a network of friends and comrades that I've stayed in touch with ever since.

Whips get their act together

At last the Labour Whips in Parliament seem to be setting some minimum standards of discipline, solidarity and comradeliness.

Alan Simpson MP is "is being disciplined for comparing Downing Street under Mr Blair to Franco's Fascist regime and dismissing his replacement by Mr Brown as being like Saddam Hussein being replaced by his notorious son Uday" according to the Independent today: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1093527.ece

Maybe the whips could also start explaining that it isn't acceptable for Labour MPs to vote against the Government on a 3-line whip and punishing those that do.

Back in the '50s when standards of discipline were higher people of the stature of Nye Bevan and Michael Foot were routinely kicked out of the PLP for a few months to remind them to obey the PLP's standing orders. One aspect of "Old Labour" that should be brought back.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

More spin from the Compassites and their chum, veteran Bennite former leadership candidate Michael Meacher - http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1799833,00.html

They've done a YouGov poll and are making all kinds of claims about it - I was one of 600 party members who took part. Wouldn't have done if I had known who commissioned it.

In presenting the findings they ommitted one or two results that show more accurately how moderate and sensible most Labour members are. The full findings are here: http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/MBC060101003_2.pdf

and reveal that:

the majority of Labour members (54%) define themselves as "slightly left of centre" or "centre"
only 32% say they are "fairly left wing" (The Compass/Tribune positioning?)
and only 6% "very left wing" (i.e. Campaign Group/Bennite?)

Only 17% of members think Labour has "not much" or "not at all" stayed true to its values

15% (including me) think removing Saddam from power was one of the six most important government acheivements

48% didn't list Iraq as one of the six worst policy mistakes

Only 28% think MPs should vote against the whip (61% think they should negotiate a deal with ministers when they disagree with a policy then vote with the Government)

Only 37% want Blair to resign this year

55% think forcing a leadership contest "would be inappropriate and damaging"

66% think Blair should decide the timing of when he steps down

Reading this makes you think the left will get a very bloody nose in the next leadership and deputy leadership contests.

Away day to Bromley

My political activity for the weekend was to go with a team of canvassing addicts from Hackney to help campaign for Rachel Reeves in the Bromley & Chislehurst parliamentary by-election http://www.rachel4bromley.org.uk/index.php?id=3673

It's a fairly safe Tory seat but the sun was shining and it felt good to be doing something constructive and the LDs seem stuck in third place behind us.

In contrast upwards of a 1,000 alleged Labour "activists" spent their weekend slagging off their own government at the Compass anti-Blair rally - http://www.compassonline.org.uk/ - or at least that's how the press and the Compass leadership have spun it - friends who went (yes I do have a politically ecletic mix of friends) say in fact many delegates were not anti-Blair.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What on earth is Progress up to?

I was a bit surprised and annoyed to see Progress (a moderate Labour magazine/political education organisation) giving publicity to this weekend's Compass event in their latest email to members.

Quite apart from the fact it is a phenomenal waste of time that upwards of a 1,000 people will be engaged in a navel-gazing exercise in central London whilst only a few miles away there is the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election where Labour's campaign really needs help ...

it seems odd that Progress would promote an event organised by a grouping/internal party faction whose objectives are so different to their own. My memory of the founding editorial board meeting of Progress (which ages me a bit ...) was that Progress exists to ensure party members understand what the leadership is trying to do, whereas Compass exists to change the leadership and policy direction of the party.

I actually think Progress should be engaged in a branch-by-branch, CLP-by-CLP battle to expose the weaknesses in Compass' analysis and marginalise them as an organisation.

It's bad enough that some Government Ministers are giving credibility to this pernicious and subversive grouping by speaking at its event, let alone that the people who ought to be fighting them are publicising it.

I really take a strong objection to Compass' constant undermining of the party and in particular the Prime Minister and think that all right-thinking people in the party should have absolutely nothing to do with them.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Labour in Stamford Hill

Since the 4 May elections the Hackney Gazette has carried letters from Myrna Shaw (8 June) and Peter Sutton (25 May) that have asserted that Labour did not campaign hard enough in the four wards won by other parties in Stamford Hill.

This is nonsense. I was the Hackney Labour Party's Campaign Manager for the 4 May elections and I can assure you that we fought to win in all 19 wards across the borough. There are no "no-go" areas for Labour in Hackney. It is particularly insulting to the defeated Labour candidates in those wards who gave up hours of their spare time to deliver leaflets and canvass voters.

Although we did not win in those four wards, the votes for our leading candidates went up by 167 in Cazenove (where we very nearly beat the Lib Dems), and by 77 in New River, and in Springfield the Tory majority was slashed, with a 6.4% swing from Tory to Labour. One of the reasons why the Tories and Lib Dems failed to make gains elsewhere in Hackney was that they were too busy fending off the strong Labour challenge in their Stamford Hill heartland.

The re-elected Labour Council will be working hard to improve services and respond to residents' needs in every ward in Hackney, whatever councillors they elected on 4 May.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Neal Lawson article in today's Guardian

Neal Lawsonin the Guardian today - http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1791203,00.html - won't win any prizes for logic with his assertion that the Tories have acquired their current 10% lead in the opinion polls because Labour is "so rightwing".

Those of us who spent April canvassing to re-elect Labour councillors found that whilst there are indeed middle class switchers to the Greens or Lib Dems who feel the same way as Lawson, core Labour working class voters and the skilled owner-occupying demographic who decide general elections are either relatively happy or if they are switching away from Labour it is because the Home Office meltdown in April meant Labour is not seen as having got to grips with immigration, crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Guardian's readers and columnists sometimes ought to remind themselves that it and the Independent have a total circulation of just over 500,000 whereas the Sun and the Mirror have a total circulation of over 4.5 million - Lawson's political strategy foolishly pays more attention to the concerns of the 500,000 than of the 4.5 million.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blears article in today's Guardian

It was refreshing to see Hazel Blears recognising the importance ofparty members and local political activism to the renewal of the LabourParty (Guardian, 1 July 2006).The elections on 4 May showed that where there are strong localcampaigning parties, as in Lambeth, Islington and my own borough ofHackney, Labour wins. Labour needs its activists to win elections. But we are not just here aselectoral cannon fodder - members need to be given a meaningful role inpolicy formulation so that we feel ownership of the local and nationalmanifestos we are delivering leaflets about or canvassing in favour of. Blears was right to say that Labour can learn from, and recruit newworking-class activists from, existing community campaigns. We win inthe areas we are an organic part of local communities and campaigning onlocal issues street-by-street and ward-by-ward. As Party Chair Hazel Blears needs to focus on regenerating Labour as amass membership, campaigning party if we are to win a fourth term. Her article today was a good start and indicated she understands the scale and necessity of that task.

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