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, December 30, 2006

Scratch a Lib Dem, find a Tory

The Lib Dems have lost another 3 parliamentary candidates to the Tories, bringing the total to six.

So nearly 1% of the Lib Dems' standard bearers in 2005 turned out to be Tories.


a) suggests they are scraping the barrel to find parliamentary candidates


b) suggests their activist base are primarily motivated by being anti-Labour

None of this is a surprise to anyone active in local government, where the outcome in virtually every hung council is a Tory/Lib Dem coalition deal.

Someone needs to tell the Lib Dems' voters though, many of whom are under the delusion they were voting for a centre-left party, and some even more naively thought they were voting for a party to the left of Labour.

Maybe they are already beginning to work this out as yesterday's Communicate Research poll numbers were: LAB 37% (+1%); CON 36% (+2%); LD 14% (-3%).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blair's holidays

Can someone explain to me what the big deal is about whether or not the Blairs paid for their holiday?

Surely loads of people get put up for free by friends at Christmas and New Year?

I can understand why politicians should register hospitality they have received in case it might influence their judgement, but why is he expected by the press to have paid for his holiday?

Though why he wants to spend Christmas in Florida with one of the Bee Gees is beyond me... the Tuscany option of years gone by (without Berlusconi...) sounded a lot more tasteful.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More on Cruddas

My ambivalent feelings about Jon Cruddas' deputy leadership campaign were reinforced by his press splash about party membership levels.

On the one hand as a party activist I want the deputy leadership candidates to talk about organisation and recruitment ...

on the other hand:

a) Jon was selective in his use of the figures - he talked about the huge drop off in membership since 2000 as though it was continuing at the same rate and could therefore be extrapolated to show a membership of zero by 2013. In fact, membership was fairly stable in 2005/6 - the big fall-off was in the run up to and just after the Iraq War - the just under 200,000 members we have now are here for the long haul.
b) Jon's right about the solution - (""You are not going to resolve this from Westminster - you are not going to resolve this simply through edicts from the centre," Mr Cruddas said.
"You need to build it from the bottom up. Activity on the streets, a local presence, continuously year-on-year and not just at election times." ") but surely there isn't anyone running for deputy who isn't in favour of year round local activism? And as I'm sure Jon knows, you can't wave a magic wand or elect a new deputy leader to create that local activity - it requires local leadership by MPs (who are a sadly mixed bag when it comes to local campaigning) and senior councillors, and a lot of time commitment and organisational skill from key activists.
c) Although I'm convinced we can raise membership levels a bit, and spread organisational best practice, anyone who thinks we can suddenly become a mass membership party by some political coup de theatre is living in cloud-cuckoo land - the highest that membership has been in recent decades was just over 400,000 in 1997 and that was in truly exceptional circumstances - at the end of 18 years of Tory rule and with Blair at the height of his popularity. Turning round membership levels is going to be more about unglamorous hard local slog than anything happening at a national level.
d) I'm unconvinced of the value of having back the 200,000 people whose loyalty was so fragile that they ripped up their cards as an anti-government gesture - we need members who will stay in and fight for what they believe in, not who see membership as a passing fad - something trendy to do when Labour is popular, and to petulently resign when you disagree with something a Labour government does.
e) Was Cruddas' press activity on this likely to recruit anyone? I thought the coverage made Labour activists look like a very small, and getting smaller, bunch of whingers who don't support their own government. Hardly an attractive proposition for anyone thinking of joining.
f) I have a sneaky suspicion that some of Jon's supporters think the route to mass membership nirvana is through a switch to the kind of policies that will make us unelectable - a suspicion borne out when one of the vox pops his campaign put up on the BBC turned out to be Laura Bruni (Colchester PPC in 2005) who is a nice person but a sponsor of Labour Briefing dominated "Labour Against the War", described by Red Pepper as a "sound leftwinger", was backed for the NPF by the Labour Representation Committee and by Campaign Briefing for the London Regional Board. (I'm pretty sure half the rest of them are people I recognise as involved in Compass, which is almost as bad).

So I think what I'm looking for is a deputy leadership candidate who shares Jon's keenness to boost grassroots activism, the union link and membership levels but isn't using this as a not very subtle code for calling for a more dramatic change of political direction, and isn't supported by/flirting with the 57 varieties of Labour leftists... or for Cruddas to explicitly distance himself from Compass and the forces to the left of them.

Apologies for this note of sectarianism in the season of goodwill, but the price of electability is eternal vigilence.

Not bad xmas presents ...

... for Labour supporters from YouGov and Mori:

YouGov - CON 37% (unchanged from Nov): LAB 32% (unchanged): LD 15% (-1%).
Mori - CON 37% (+2%): LAB 36% (+3%): LD 18% (-2%).

Friday, December 22, 2006


To celebrate passing 30,000 hits I have finally put some info in my blogger profile - I think probably getting on for 1/3 of readers know me anyway but that the rest of you might need a bit of context to explain who I am.

Christmas/New Year Wish List

Dear Santa,

in 2007 the political wish list I would like you to deliver is:

1) The UK getting through the year without suffering a major terrorist attack
2) Iraqi security forces starting to defeat the insurgents so that British troops can start coming home
3) Parliament voting for the UK to renew its strategic nuclear deterrent
4) Tony Blair to have a successful final six months in office, and leave at a time of his own choosing with people wishing he wasn't going
5) Hard Left candidates to manage to be nominated for Labour leader & deputy then get humiliated in the actual vote
6) Gordon Brown to hit the ground running as PM with initiatives on tackling poverty in the UK and globally that will be intrinsically important but also unify and re-energise the Labour Party
7) Labour to be relected in the Scottish and Welsh elections on 3 May
8) Regime change to democracy in Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma
9) Global action to stop the genocide in Darfur
10) Real international action on climate change (as opposed to windmills on David Cameron's roof)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kamikaze Wednesday

It's Kamikaze day over on the Labour left. I am having trouble keeping count of all the no-hope leadership or deputy leadership bids being launched: the latest one is Meacher.

The Ken Clause

Mayor Ken Livingstone seems to have inspired an entire clause in the DCLG's newly published Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Bill:

"Codes of conduct
131 Conduct that may be covered by code
(1) In section 49 of the Local Government Act 2000 (c. 22) (principles governing
conduct of members of relevant authorities), after subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) The principles which may be specified under subsection (1) or (2) are
not limited to principles applying to a member or co-opted member only in his official capacity.
(2) In section 50 of that Act (model code of conduct), after subsection (4) insert—
“(4A) The provisions which may be included in a model code of conduct are
not limited to provisions applying to a member or co-opted member
only in his official capacity.”
(3) In section 51 of that Act (duty of relevant authorities to adopt codes of
conduct), after subsection (4) insert—
“(4A) The provisions which may be included under subsection (4)(c) are not
limited to provisions applying to a member or co-opted member of the
authority only in his official capacity.”
(4) In section 52 of that Act (duty to comply with code of conduct), in each of
subsections (1) to (4), omit the words “in performing his functions”.”

Translated into English that means that the law will be changed so that part of Ken's defence in the Finegold case - that he had his coat on and had left the building so was "not acting in his official capacity" would no longer hold any legal weight - anything that any councillor says or does at any time has to comply with the Code of Conduct, there is no such concept as "off duty" if you hold public office.

The Nightmare Ticket

Lansbury, Bevan, Castle, Foot, Benn ... through Labour's history its left (boo, hiss) has had some mighty standard bearers, charismatic, eloquent and capable of inspiring mass support amongst the kind of people who sell newspapers or whose idea of a fun night out is a compositing meeting.

In their foot steps comes the latest Labour left dream ticket reflecting the full array of talent, national profile and heavyweight government experience in the massed ranks of the political praetorian guard that is the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs.

Step forward - John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.

As John McDonnell's campaign website says, "another world is possible". Thankfully another galaxy would be needed before this pair ever got anywhere near winning.

Interestingly, Harry at Reclaim Labour spends most of his post on this slagging off Jon Cruddas, which a) suggests the Hard Left are scared of Cruddas and b) makes me think a lot more favourably of him.

Guardian ICM Poll

Interesting poll in the Guardian today - full details here.

Good news for the Tories as they are on 40% (+1% compared to the most recent ICM poll which was in the News of the World rather than the Guardian) - just into election winning territory.

The strange part is that despite the bad news over the last few weeks Labour is actually up 1% to 32% and its the Lib Dems, whose only news coverage has been Lembit Opik's cheeky antics, who are down 2% on 18%. The Guardian says "Labour's resilient performance confirms a trend suggesting support for the party has hit a bedrock of just over 30% and will not drop below that."

There's analysis by Anthony Wells (a Tory) here and Mike Smithson (a Lib Dem) here

The additional question re. who current party supporters would think about switching to is useful for political strategists:

Of Labour supporters, 30% would consider voting LD, 18% would consider voting Tory, 16% would consider voting Green, 9% would consider voting UKIP

Of Tory supporters, 32% would consider voting LD, 19% would consider voting Green, 14% would consider voting UKIP and only 10% would consider voting Labour

Of Lib Dem supporters, 32% would consider voting Labour, 30% would consider voting Green, 18% would consider voting Tory.

Of "other" voters (the biggest components of which are the SNP and Greens), 38% would consider voting LD, only 17% would consider voting Labour.

So -

Labour has not lost much support direct to the Tories - yet (hence we are not far adrift of our 2005 General Election support).
The Tories seem to have hoovered up a lot of the right wing of the 2005 Lib Dem vote but we (Labour) haven't won back the 1/3 of LDs that we could.
The LDs also need to really fear the Greens (as evidenced in many inner London council wards in May).
There isn't a lot of scope for Labour in squeezing the Greens and other minor parties - we aren't the second preference of those voters.

So going forward we need to work out how to grab back the 1/3 of Lib Dems (about 6% of the total voters) who might think about voting for us without alienating the 1/5 of our current support (about 6.5% of voters) that might defect to Cameron (or the 1/6 of our current support that might go for parties further to the right than the Tories) - and not forgetting about the 10% of Tories (4% of the electorate) who might switch back to us.

The location of these potential switchers is also key - are the 10% of Tories who might go Labour in more marginal seats than the 32% of Lib Dems?

And ... a Tory switcher in a Lab-Con marginal is worth a net change of 2 in the seat's majority (-1 Con, +1 Lab) whereas a Lib Dem switcher or a non-voter persuaded to vote only cause a net change of 1 - they up the Labour vote but don't reduce the Tory vote.

I don't think the LDs have gone as low as they can - a Labour recovery and continued urban growth in activity by the Greens could mean they end up back where Paddy Ashdown started in the early '90s.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Turkeys demand early Christmas

If I was an opposition leader with a mid-term lead of only 1%, I would not be demanding an early General Election which would take place at exactly the point at which the new PM was enjoying their political honeymoon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Political crimes"

Unless I have totally misunderstood the recent coverage, the Yates investigation is going to not result in charges, er... because the law wasn't broken.

So basically an extremist secessionist party (the SNP) has managed to persuade the Met to spend vast amounts of cash and police time investigating a conspiracy theory predicated on a complete misunderstanding of the criteria party leaders are allowed to use when awarding peerages.

If I make enough fuss about it can I get Yates to investigate the SNP for a) wasting police time and b) seditious treason (i.e. wanting to break up the UK)?

It all stands in sorry contrast to the years and years when the police ignored repeated calls for investigations into incidents of "granny farming" (proxy vote fraud involving stealing votes off the elderly) in various parts of the UK. In my own dear borough of Hackney a huge dosier with loads of evidence was handed over by the local Labour Party to the Police in the wake of the 1994 local elections regarding proxy vote fraud allegations. Similar stuff was provided after by-elections. No action was taken.

In the end Special Branch did investigate proxy vote fraud after the 1998 elections - and ended up convicting a Tory and a Lib Dem councillor on charges of conspiracy to defraud, fraud and attempted undue influence, and jailing them both. But in the mean time we had had a hung council for 3 years when the "real" electorate had actually voted for a Labour Council.

One of the 2 guys who was convicted for the 1998 crimes was the person in the frame for 1994 - which suggests he may have been guilty then but the police weren't prepared to resource an investigation...

Self-hating Labourism

Three whole days of nothing worth blogging about (or rather being too busy with Christmas parties to write anything) ... but today's Guardian provided plenty of ammo.

The theme seemed to be "we are Labour but we are ashamed of it, hate the government, hate ourselves for being Labour and are generally consumed with misery and self-loathing".

Which is an odd attitude to have when despite being 10 years into government, deep in mid-term, with a charismatic new opposition leader we are still only 1% behind in the polls - i.e. the hatred seems to be confined to our own ranks and the public who are a bit more objective still think we measure up quite well to the opposition.

Specific articles that wound me up during the 30 minutes of the 06.53 number 243 bus journey:

Larry Elliott appearing to condemn the government for protecting jobs in defence manufacturing (over the BAE/SFO case but actually he is making a wider point about the Defence Industrial Strategy once you delve beyond the headline) despite having been calling for the government to er... intervene to protect jobs in manufacturing in virtually every other article he writes. Presumably the government should instead of protecting "nasty" industries be investing in yoghurt-weaving collectives or similar. All the highly skilled engineers in Lancashire could stop making Eurofighters and re-train as Fresh & Wild check-out staff or recycling inspectors.

Patrick Wintour gets sarcastic about Blair's Middle East tour - despite the Guardian having been calling for us to take a leading role in brokering a Middle East peace deal ad nauseam. Blair actually goes and tries to do something about it, so the Guardian sneers at him.

Jackie Ashley tries to single-handedly reignite the leadership handover timing debate - after three months when there has been a direct correlation between everyone shutting up about the precise timing of the PM's departure and the Tory poll lead declining. Jackie we had that punch-up in September - it was a disaster - kindly don't re-start it.

Roy Hattersley implies that all Labour's major donors were venal and self-interested - a charming way to say thank you to the people that funded 3 election victories and whose main reward seems to have been to have their reputations smeared.

I don't think these people are capable of feeling happy about politics unless Labour is in opposition.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a newspaper in this country that supported the Labour Party unambiguously and featured commentators who were proud, rather than ashamed and self-flagellating, of the Labour Government?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

No.10 replies on party funding and the union link

In my post below about the potential threat to the union link posed by the party funding review, I said "If anyone in No10 is reading this, please tell me the Guardian report is inaccurate".

John McTernan, Head of Political Operations at No10 has posted this response:

"John McTernan said...
Someone in No 10 is reading this and the Guardian report is totally untrue. I can do better than to give an account of what the Prime Minister said to the PLP Parliamentary Committee yesterday afternoon:

The Prime Minister attended the Parliamentary Committee where he was asked about Hayden Phillips Review of Party Funding. The PM made clear that he will do nothing that would break the link. In the discussion he said that the party has some serious decisions to make about party funding. If the status quo remains then Lord Ashcroft's money will mean that the Labour Party will be massively outspent in key Labour seats at the next General Election. We need annual spending limits and local spending limits to be introduced if there is to be a level playing field at the next election.The Tory Party want a cap on donations but they are resisting spending limits. Hayden Phillips needs to recognise that trade union funding is already highly regulated. He is proposing a model where trade unionists opt into paying the levy. That is completely unacceptable to the Labour Party."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people

You can take a ringside seat as Tory activists bite chunks out of each other publicly over whether the drop to a 1% lead in today's Populus poll shows Cameron's strategy has failed. It's all online here.

Best quotes:

  • "I'm no lover of Gordon Brown far from it, but where is the empirical evidence that he is a "loser"? We are in great danger of believing that he will be a push over. As much as I hope he is, I don't think we should underestimate this man."
  • "We're trying to get Cameron into office despite all his most recent efforts to prevent it. When we give up in disgust and failure, there is only UKIP.36% on the poll of polls, down 3% since I started bloggin here, isnt even enough for a hung parliament.Yes I know this is a rogue poll and yes the feeling on the ground is much more positive etc etc etc etcBut "in the bowels of Christ I beseech thee, think thee that thou may be wrong?""
  • "It is clear that the 2% we have lost has gone straight to the 'others', possibly UKIP.
    Greg Clarke may have totaly ruined my dream of seeing the back of Labour with his totally crass statements. He is as much of a fool as some of the crackpots in UKIP who are benefitting from his shocking judgement.
    Why hasn't Cameron sacked him?"
  • "we are NOT going to win a majority in the Commons with 34% of the vote. We won't even get there with the 39% quoted in the Cameron v Brown figures.
    We are NOT going to win by actively trying to turn away conservatives from the Conservative Party!
    Why do you hold conservatives with such raw contempt?"
  • "You and your kind do NOT believe in a broad church. You adhere to the bankrupt Portillo theory that you can alienate your core vote (who will still vote for you out of deference) and win a General Election by picking up floating Lib Dem-leaning votes in a few constituencies in Greater London and the South-East. This strategy has always struck me as utterly bonkers, even from a purely tactical perspective"
  • "We do face a serious challenge from Labour and to convince the public that we've really changed. "
  • ""Putting the brake on change is the last thing we need now. We need to go faster."
    That presupposes that the "change" message is one that appeals to much of the electorate. I don't think it does, and may even be demoralising our supporters."
  • "I cannot live with this "leader" who seems so shallow and uninterested in real issues facing this country. Brown is more attractive to me than Cameron"
  • "I've expecting for months that the wheels would come off the Cameron bandwagon. This poll seems to indicate that the public are finally suffering the long-predicted effects of Cameron fatigue.
    Once Cameron starts to lag in the polls he will soon be easy meat in the water, just as IDS was before him. Then the predators can move in for the kill.
    I voted for Davis in the election last year but I'm moving to favour a comeback by Hague."
  • "On the evidence to date I cannot see the Cameron makeover putting the Tories back into power. Cameron's attempts to woo the electorate are analagous to a younger sister plastering herself in make-up to draw the attention of an older sister's boyfriend. The overall effect is shallow, embarrassing, and ultimately self-defeating. "
  • "Well, as the saying goes, you get to reap what you sow.
    Having prostituted the Party against the wishes of a large minority (at least)of the membership with his reckless and needless gamble at the altar of touchy feely Political correctness, it's landed butter side down.
    What price Ming being the only current leader still in situ at the next GE ?"


Has it occurred to IDS and the other Tories pontificating about marriage being the great social cure-all that they might have mistaken cause and effect? I.e. that contrary to their suggestion that unmarried couples lead to relationships breaking up leads to crime, poverty etc. that it might be that poverty and deprivation, as well as breeding crime, put such strain on people that they contribute to their relationships breaking down?

Defend the union link

If this report in today's Guardian is true, and Blair wants to use the review of party funding to sever the union link with Labour, I am aghast at the short-termism and stupidity.

I can understand that at the moment a number of General Secretaries are seen as destructive or unhelpful towards the government. But the answer to that is for the moderate majority in the unions to get organised and elect some new general secretaries with a less dinosaur attitude.

It isn't for Blair to turn the final months of his premiership into a fight he does not need to have, will probably lose and if he wins it will destroy the character of the Labour Party and ultimately weaken it.

The union link works. It gives a voice in Labour's policy making to millions of ordinary working class voters whose concerns are grounded in the realities and bread and butter issues of the workplace and who counterbalance the esoteric and sometimes extremist views of often middle class individual party members. It means that Labour's leaders are elected by a large, representative sample of those who actually vote for the Party. The only problem with the link is that it needs strengthening at a local level with far more trade unionists being encouraged to both join the Party as individual members and become union delegates to their constituency parties.

The link provides a constant conveyer belt from union activists of recruits to public office - councillors and MPs - virtually the only way in which ordinary working class people get to hold public office - if it didn't exist the PLP would be even more dominated by lawyers and other professionals and career politicians (before anyone fills the comments box, yes I know that I fall into the latter category - it doesn't stop me being objective about Labour's candidates needing to be representative).

In policy terms it is difficult to see how anyone could think that the Warwick Agreement reached with the affiliated unions was not a positive input to Labour's 2005 Manifesto, including important policies on workers' rights that might otherwise have not been committed to.

When the Labour Party hits hard times, the unions keep it going. When it tried to self destruct in the 1930s, '50s and '80s the unions were the voice of sanity and moderation.

We owe our existence as a party to the decision of the unions to set up the LRC with the Fabians and ILP, and to the work of individual trade unionists in setting up a CLP organisation on the ground.

Without the unions we are just A.N.Other centre-left political party like the Lib Dems, the SDP or the US Democrats - rootless, not embedded in the communities we represent, and liable to be blown away by the first political gale just like the Liberals were in the early years of the century and the SDP were at the end of the '80s.

I cannot think of more than a dozen Labour MPs who would back any move to sever the link.

This is not a left-right issue - most of my friends on the right of the party are passionate supporters of the union link.

I declare an interest - I'm an Amicus member, serve on my union's Regional Political Committee and am a union delegate to my local Labour Party.

If anyone in No10 is reading this, please tell me the Guardian report is inaccurate, and if it isn't please try to stop this crass act of political madness before it goes any further.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rudd puts ALP into lead

The switch of Labor leader last week to Kevin Rudd seems to have worked. The first poll since it happened puts the ALP on 46% (up 7%) on its first preference support.

After second preferences from minor parties are redistributed the ALP is on 55%, the Liberal/National Coalition government on 45%.

Official: Luke's blog has more readers than Workers' Liberty newspaper

I enjoyed having a go back at Kit of the AWL in the comments to the last post, so here is the exchange again:

Kit said:

""Solidarity" a fringe journal? Hardly. I know that it has a circulation in the thousands every fortnight from subscribers alone, which include several Labour MPs, trade union leaders, as well as hundreds of Labour members and trade unionists. Trust me. I've stuffed those envelopes. Plus, the AWL website gets tens of thousands of hits every three days or so. More than your blog, Luke. Get a grip, Luke. Quite frankly, you're not important. I just can't let lies and bullshit stand."

I said:
"OK Kit, some facts from the AWL's registration and reports on the Electoral Commission website:

1) Workers' Liberty is a registered political party and has been since 1999. It has no more remit to interfere in Labour's leadership election than the Tories or Lib Dems do.

2) In 2005 sales of Solidarity raised £17,803 at a subscription price of £15 per year (according to the AWL website) meaning it has just under 1200 subscribers which is about 150 less than the number of individual readers I get per month.The AWL website points out that every member has to sell at least 12 copies of Solidarity a month - presumably you buy them yourself if you can't sell them, thus inflating the circulation - effectively Solidarity is just a way of adding £13.20 to each member's monthly fees.

3) AWL membership subs raised £40,647 that year. Members without dependents on any income above £940 a month pay £120 per month to the party - i.e. you could have as few as 28 members - but assuming most of your members are students and don't pay the full whack I'll be generous and assume your entire national "party" has over 100 members i.e. about the size of a single large Labour ward party or just over twice the size of the Hackney Council Labour Group. AWL's own conference report 2006 says: " The general picture is that our own weaknesses, and theweaknesses of the movement around us, have prevented uspushing through the desirable goals we set ourselves in our 2005conference resolution."

The voting figures in the minutes of AWL's 2006 conference report 52 or 53 members present - most of whom I recognised by their "Mark S" or "Janine B" nommes de guerre - as attendance is open to all members and you lot do enjoy meetings, I guess that is the sum total of your active membership.At least you are not the SWP, but please don't kid yourselves you are going to change the direction of the Labour Party.

P.S. many of the hits on your site are me reading the internal strategy documents you helpfully post there. "

Going nowhere fast with John McD

The Alliance for Workers' Liberty' s newspaper "Solidarity" (circulation probably lower than this website) provides some interesting insights into the market that exists out there in the Labour Party for John McDonnell as Leader.

According to AWL the key to the campaign is to "organise local meetings". Just what the labour movement needs, another series of meetings.

Note that it doesn't say invite McDonnell or someone from his campaign to your local branch Labour Party or constituency General Committee. Which may hint at how much of the enthusiasm for McDonnell is coming from outside the ranks of the party he seeks to lead.

Apparently the campaign has "a lack of resources" - something to do with having very few supporters?

There are apparently "hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Labour members and ex-members, opponents of Blairism in the unions and Trades Councils who can help a local organisational push" - again references to groups of people who (even in the unlikely event that they do number in hundreds of thousands - hundreds is more likely) are not all Labour Party members.

Apparently my own dear borough is the organising model for this:
"In Hackney, we've set up an organising group, which on December 2nd brought together 22 comrades willing to take a role in building support for John in their unions - and in other campaigns, such as Keep Our NHS Public, tenants' organisations and Stop the War. Passing resolutions in trade union and Labour branches is part of this work - our ultimate goal is to hold a conference of local working-class activists and community campaigners in March to support John4Leader. Helping John's influence to grow requires gradual campaign-building and an ongoing local organising body, with regular meetings."

I'd love to know who the 22 "comrades" are because counting heads I know John McDonnell hasn't got 22 active supporters inside the Hackney Labour Party (at a rough count I make it about 12).

Then comes the big admission - they have absolutely zappo support or organisation amongst actual Labour Party members:

"Gone are the days when Tony Benn won 83% of the constituency Labour Party vote for deputy leader, when local parties were the main base of the left and the leadership had to rely on the union block vote to save its skin at Labour Party conference. It is not just a question of the Labour membership moving to the right: much more fundamental is the fact that most local parties have withered almost the point of dissolution, so that there is very little left to fight about. True, party members will have big say in the leadership election, but there is little organisation left to provide the basis of working-class party cleansed of Blairism."

I suspect the trade union support McDonnell has is not from Labour Party members involved in their union's political structures but from flotsam and jetsom from other political parties who happen to be trade unionists.

It then goes on to suggest how to organise for McDonnell in your union, citing examples of work done in the RMT and NUT. I hate to point it out comrades but activity relating to a Labour leadership campaign in either of those unions is a complete waste of time as neither of them is affiliated to Labour so they have no voice in the process.

So, the current state of the Labour "hard left":
- backing a leadership candidate who can't win
- no funding because no one supports them
- cheerled by expelled groups of Trots
- mainly organising in unions that aren't Labour affiliates
- incapable of organising in the CLPs due to lack of support
- self-confessedly unpopular amongst ordinary Labour Party members
- but organising lots and lots of extra meetings!

Keep up the good work comrades, at least it is occupying your time so you can't do anything more dangerous.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A new member...

I am glad to report as Membership Secretary of Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP (having waited until he announced it himself) that we have a new comrade ... blogger Dave Osler has rejoined the Labour Party.

We will be in the same ward party, which could mean there will be some interesting debates.

Dave isn't exactly coming from the same place as me in the political spectrum - in fact he named me in his chapter on Labour people in the public affairs industry in his book Labour Party plc - but as he explains in detail in his blog he is not an entryist, so I'm pleased he has rejoined.

We are an extremely broad church in the Hackney North party and manage to combine vigorous differences of opinion with being comradely and friendly towards each other, so I think he'll fit in fine.

Bloggers4labour can now add Dave to their lists ...

Pinochet dead ...

part of me wants to celebrate, part of me to regret that he did not live long enough to be brought to justice by the courts in Chile.

It Says Nothing To Me About My Life

Here we go again ... obscure Tory frontbencher Dominic Grieve has called for a return to Victorian values.

Are we the only country that has politicians who seriously look at society 100 to 150 years ago for moral and policy guidance?

Do the German CDU say "let's get back to Wilhelmine values" or French conservatives say "let's get back to 3rd Republic values".

I don't want to go back to Victorian values - private repression and hypocrisy, gross inequality and exploitation, public moralising and espousals of religiosity by people with lifestyles funded by the systematic ripping off of the British working classes and the colonies.

Grieve's core argument seems to be that all the ills of society are created by people not getting married. As someone who has been with the same partner for 8 years, has a child with them, and has no intention of getting married, I feel personally insulted by Mr Grieve's insinuation that I am the root cause of, according to the Observer, " poverty, school failure and crime."

The reality is that people's lives don't all fit into a neat pattern of marry, have 2.4 kids and live happily ever after. Attempts by the Tories to assert that that's how everyone should live just remind people that they are offering 19th century solutions to 21st century problems.

Every day is like Sunday

As fellow Labour bloggers The Daily spotted (though they didn't bother to come over and say hallo) Linda and I spent Friday evening at the Morrissey concert at Wembley Arena.

As expected it was fantastic - I even forgive him the lyric

"I've been dreaming of a time whenThe English are sick to death of Labour, And Tories"

as I expect does David Cameron, who was there in the audience too, according to the Sunday Times.

Disappointingly he didn't sing "Margaret on the Guillotine"...

Friday, December 08, 2006

The season of goodwill

Christmas is coming, and as it approaches people start to send cards to remind their friends and loved ones that they are thinking of them as this time of goodwill and fellowship.

So I was delighted when the postman delivered my first card yesterday, and could hardly contain my anticipation as I opened it, eager to see which friend had been thinking of me ...

Imagine my delight to discover that my very first Christmas card of 2006 was from Diane Abbott MP.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Clwyd vs Lloyd

Ann Clwyd's defeat as PLP Chair by Tony Lloyd just goes to show how a lot of MPs don't fit easily into categories, how Blair has had personal support from a few lefties (another example is Dennis Skinner) and how Iraq has cut across traditional left-right lines.

Clwyd has been characterised as the "Blairite" candidate in the election because of her support for the Iraq War on human rights grounds. But this is almost the only issue on which she has ever agreed with Blair.

If my memory of conversations with former comrade (now sadly departed to the Lib Dems) Brian Sedgemore is correct, Ann was a big friend of him and other maverick MPs Bob Marshall-Andrews and Dale Campbell-Savours (at least until the vote on the war).

She was sacked from the frontbench by Kinnock for voting against the defence estimates in 1988, and sacked again by Blair in 1996 for ignoring whips' instructions on not travelling to Kurdistan.

She is anti-nuclear and voted against the whip on single parent benefits, invalidity benefits, trial by jury, the pensions/earning link, the NATS PPP, newspaper predatory pricing, and FoI.

My hunch is that the maths of her narrow victory in 2005 being turned into a narrow defeat this time is very simple: some or all of the 17 signatories of the September "Blair must go"letter would have voted either by conviction or because of being PPSs for Clwyd in '05 but in '06 voted for the Brownite candidate instead.

I think it's a shame that a principled politician like Clwyd (who I would disagree with on almost every issue other than Iraq) has lost her position, but I buy into some of the PLP critique that Lloyd will bring more open debate - perhaps if more debate and votes happen at PLP meetings MPs will feel they have had their say and be more accepting of the PLP's collective discipline.

Dave on the Lib Dems

Probably much to his horror/surprise, I quite often find things I agree with on the blog of fellow N16 resident Dave Osler - http://www.davidosler.com/

His description of Lib Dem council candidates today was particularly good:

"the vast majority of council candidate-level activists in Ming Campbell’s mob are unprincipled, opportunist, careerist, scheming, hypocritical, double-dealing, two-faced, pavement politics obsessed inner and outer tossers."

Dutch Courage

This has got to be the sickest joke in military history - medals for the Dutch UN peacekeepers who stood by and watched the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

MPs' pay

My solution to the calls from some MPs for a pay increase from £60k to £100k:

give them the pay increase but cut the number of MPs to 388 so the total bill remains the same.

This would still be more than enough members to provide ministers and opposition front benches and would guarantee that every remaining backbencher had a meaningful scrutiny role on a select committee.

The US manages with 435 Congressmen and 100 senators for a population 5 times larger than us.

Independent salary review bodies have consistently given Directly Elected Mayors more pay than backbench MPs because of the executive powers and management role they have, so let's see council leaders rewarded properly across the country and some of our surplus legislators encouraged to go back into their communities and run the local council.

Just an idea, what do people think?

Another leadership change for ALP

As posted about here over the weekend, the 88 federal MPs and Senators of the Austalian Labor Party held a leadership ballot on Monday.

Incumbent leader Kim "Bomber" Beazley was beaten by 49-39 by Kevin Rudd, running on a "New Labor" ticket.

This follows changes of leader in 2001 (the first time Beazley was ousted), 2003 and 2005.

Both candidates are on the right of the ALP - Rudd is a big supporter of Israel who self-describes as "basically a conservative when it comes to questions of public financial management". The choice was mainly about style - age & experience versus a fresh start.

In his acceptance speech Rudd said Labor stood for "equity ... sustainability ... compassion'' and was the Australian party of "social democrats" and said:

"The bogus proposition, which has been put by those opposite for over a decade or so now, is that somehow we from the Centre Left of politics in this country and around the world have been disoriented by the fall of the Iron Curtain. Our movement for a century fought against Marxism, if you bother to read your history. We have had nothing to do with Marxism and madness. We have always seen our role as what we can do to civilise the market. That is where we come from as a tradition. Why do you think Keynes and the rest of them were called upon to try to save market capitalism from itself after the Great Depression? Because social Democrats believed that you had to have constraints placed around the market, otherwise it becomes too destructive indeed. "

The polls suggest that this change of leader will not impact on the 2-party preferred vote (in Australia they have a transferable voting system where most lower house seats end up in a run off between a Labor and Coalition candidate) but will boost Labor's first preferences share by squeezing the Greens and minor parties.

It may also have a big impact in Queensland, where Rudd is from, where Labor only holds six of I think 23 seats and needs to pick up a lot of marginals to win at a federal level.

The continued chaos at the federal level of the ALP, which has now been in opposition since 1996, contrasts with the state level where the ALP has been enjoying its most sucessful period ever electorally and where a lot of talented ALP politicians have chosen to focus their energy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It's being reported that General Pinochet has been given the last rites by a priest.

I wonder how much of what he did or ordered to be done as dictator of Chile he ever confessed and sought absolution for?

And how many of the socialists, trade unionists and democrats who were his victims had the consolation of receiving the last rites as they were bombed in Allende's presidential palace, tortured to death in the national stadium or military barracks or thrown to their deaths into the Pacific from military aircraft?

There are very few thoroughly evil personalities in world politics, but Pinochet was one of them. During his 17 year rule, which overthrew a previously stable democracy, he is thought to have had 3,000 political opponents killed, about 30,000 tortured and another 70,000 detained.

And this was a regime that many British Tories openly praised ...

Friday, December 01, 2006

"New Labor" may mean something different Down Under

In Australia the Labor Party has a leadership ballot on Monday, the second in as many years and 5th in the time Labour in the UK has had one leader.

No new-fangled OMOV or electoral college there - only the 88 ALP MPs get a vote.

It's between incumbent retread veteran leader Kim Beazley (from Western Australia but historically an ally of the powerful New South Wales Right faction) and Queenslander Kevin Rudd, the shadow foreign minister, who is running as "New Labor". Rudd was historically a Beazley ally but has paired up with Julia Gillard from the Victorian Left faction to pull in left votes. The NSW Right has split over the election with former state premier Bob Carr backing Rudd, but current state premier Morris Iemma backing Beazley.

One Labor commentator called the election one between "Right and Righter" (hmm... how unlike any recent infighting here in the northern hemisphere).

The main rightwing unions seem to be sticking with Beazley on the basis that he has the gravitas to take on John Howard whereas Rudd might be taken apart by the coalition in the same way the inexperienced Mark Latham was. Former Latham supporters are said to be behind the Rudd leadership bid.

The latest round of ALP infighting looks mainly to be helping Howard, whoever wins on Monday.

More here and here

November Stats

During the course of November the site had 5919 page views (up from 5500 in Oct) and 1354 different visitors (narrowly up from 1335 in Oct).

Top 10 referring sites sending people here:http://www.google.com/ and variants – 19% of visitors
http://www.bloggers4labour.org/ - 8% of visitors
http://www.blogger.com/ – 7% of visitors
http://www.davespartblog.blogspot.com/ – 3% of visitors
http://www.lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/ – 3% of visitors
http://www.kris-stoke-newington.blogspot.com/ – 2% of visitors
http://www.antoniabance.org.uk/ – 2% of visitors
http://www.reclaimlabour.blogspot.com/ – 2% of visitors
http://www.ministryoftruth.org.uk/ – 2% of visitors
http://kerroncross.blogspot.com/ – 1% of visitors

(5 of the above were sites having a go at me … thanks for the traffic)

Visitor locations:UK 65% (-2% from Oct)USA 11% (-1%)
Canada 1% (+1%)
Australia 1% (+1%) … must have been the Kim Beazley mention … or emigration of my former researcher at work to Sydney – g’day Tom…

Heaviest day of traffic: Nov 27

Most read posts: this and this

Strangest google seach terms leading to this site:”foie gras akehurst”
“what was the housing like in Dagenham long ago”
“I hate Diane Abbott”

Dom McElroy

The sad news that Gordon Brown's baby son has cystic fibrosis made me think about Dominic McElroy.

Dom was my flatmate in about 1998 and a member of the Labour Students National Committee with me.

He tragically died from cystic fibrosis in 2001 when he was only 27 years old.

Although he knew that he was not likely to live a long life and had to constantly remember medication and diet and go for check-ups he never made a fuss about his condition (most people who met him in politics were unaware of it) and in fact dedicated himself to Labour Party activism - packing in more voluntary and professional work for the Party into his 27 years than many people do into decades.

You can donate online to the cystic fibrosis trust, which is trying to research a cure, here: http://www.cftrust.org.uk/index.jsp

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