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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hackney North results

Unlike Hackney South, Hazel didn't carry Hackney North, though I had the consolation of defeating the Hard Left on the Leadership.

Respect is due to Graham Bash of Briefing for some heavy duty organisation, and Diane Abbott for a very effective pro-Cruddas speech.


Procedural motion to not take item on leadership: defeated 11-9

Leadership: For Brown 13, Against Brown 6, Abstentions 2

Deputy - settled on 1st round as only 2 candidates nominated:
Cruddas 14
Blears 7
Benn 0
Hain 0
Harman 0
Johnson 0

Not very obsessed by Ken at all, actually

All the comments on previous posts made me embark on some self-criticism. Had I really, as the commenters suggested, got a history on here of unfairly criticising Ken Livingstone?

I’ve done a quick check.

I’ve actually only ever mentioned the guy 14 times out of 506 posts in a year – 2.7% of what I’ve written.

Of these:

This week – pointed out twice that he supported Jon Cruddas – I suppose that could be interpreted as criticism
May – mentioned he had tried to stand as Party Leader in 1992
May – mentioned he had sacked John McDonnell as Deputy Leader of the GLC
April – reported CPGB’s attack on him
April – mentioned his time as Camden Chair of Housing in a tribute to Roy Shaw
January – mentioned he appointed Len Duvall to MPA
December – explained relevance of a new clause in the Code of Conduct to the Finegold case
October – described him as “the one Campaign Grouper who did have the charisma and appeal to be a credible leader”
October – a post criticising the Labour Party (not Ken himself) for not running an internal investigation into the Finegold case
October – criticised his deselection of Reg Freeson in Brent East
September – criticised his attack on Trevor Phillips
August – criticised Emily Thornberry for preferring Nikki Gavron to Ken
May – link to a letter I wrote in 2003

So anyone at the GLA of any party wanting ammo to use against Ken would have to wait sometimes as long as 4 months to find me even mentioning him, and would have found about 5 instances when I’ve directly criticised him, 2 of which referred to events 3 and 20 years before I started blogging.

It must be very dull for them having to read all the other stuff in the vain hope that I’ll get excited about events at their workplace.

Sedgefield 4 Hazel

Sedgefield CLP has nominated Blears. What can that mean?

Brown: no “retreat to the soft options”

Good to see in the Times that Gordon Brown is concerned about the risks of having a left-sounding Deputy Leader.

The real gift to the Tories isn't - contrary to the guff some people have been putting in the comments here - party moderates like me attacking the left. In fact the historical evidence everywhere in the world is that when the moderate wing of a progressive party attacks the left wing, that progressive party increases its chances of getting elected - voters want evidence that the moderates are in charge and the left are marginalised.

The real gift to the Tories for the next General Election from this Deputy Leadership campaign would be if we end up with a Deputy Leader who has publicly differed from the Leader on key policies, and whose victory appears to have strengthened and heartened the left of the party.

To my mind there are 3 candidates of the 6 - Hain, Harman and Cruddas - who have pandered to the left and whose election would damage the electability of the Party. Those of us on the other wing of the party need to be extremely disciplined about the way we cast our votes to ensure that we don't end up in that scenario.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Big Brother

I am keen to point out that Respect member Carol, who has just entered the Big Brother house, is NOT representative of East London residents.

London Calling

Tracksy.com is a wonderful thing.

It tells me stuff like the fact that in recent days I have had 303 hits from the domain name london.gov.uk.

Which could explain the rather hysterical anonymous attempts to police anything mildly critical from my commenters - or me - about the Mayor of London, whose organisation hosts that domain name.

Good to see all those ex-IMG central committee members earning their six figure public salaries with a spot of blogging.

Jon Cruddas: an apology

I had been under the impression that Jon Cruddas was a human being with a sense of humour who enjoyed a bit of political banter.

I need to publicly apologise because his fan club have now made it clear to me in comments on posts below that he is in fact:

a) infallible
b) a superhuman campaigner who has achieved miraculous feats like introducing canvassing to Dagenham CLP some 90 years after Herbert Morrison got the rest of the London Labour Party doing it
c) above outdated concepts such as left and right, and supported by a broad cross-section from all planets of the solar system
d) possessed of a unique insight into the aspirations of the British working class, not least their desire to live on council estates
e) personally channelling Tony Woodley's every utterance
f) the front-runner in the Iowa primary, but prepared to settle for Chairman of the DNC
g) the inventor of the internet
h) anointed by Ken Livingstone, who is also above reproach and never, ever, stood in an election against any Labour Party candidate, particularly not one of Jon's other parliamentary nominators

I do apologise, and will buy Jon, Tom and the rest of his campaign team a pint during the lunch break at the Compass Robin Cook Memorial Conference, if they promise not to heckle my speech at the CND fringe.

4 Reasons not to vote Cruddas

From his website, some of the fresh new, innovative thinkers and campaigners who are "nothing to do with the 1980s", factionalism, breaking the whip or any of that silliness. Oh no.:

There's another half dozen Campaign Groupers on there too, but no one would recognise them so posting pictures seemed a bit of a waste.

Just bear in mind when voting, every extra Cruddas vote cheers up Ken, Diane, Glenda and Michael. Make them miserable instead - vote for someone else.

Party on comrades!

The Cruddas campaign has sent me an email inviting me to host a party.

They want me to throw open my home for a house party.

Well, any excuse ...

But perhaps most of my friends might be a bit upset to get round to Beatty Road N16 expecting claret and nibbles and find they are there "to discuss the campaign and the state of the Labour Party in their areas ... to help Jon win this election."

This is not America.

We are not in the middle of the Iowa caucuses.

Jon Cruddas isn't the mockney Howard Dean.

And just in case he is - let's remember that Howard Dean lost. He excited all the excitable students and activists and scared the hell out of everyone else.

Will Jon's own house party be in Dagenham or Notting Hill?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Newsnight hustings

My take on the Newsnight hustings:

Blears - the shortness is actually an advantage - makes her memorable compared to the others. Straight answers and no silly attempts to court the left. As she said in answer to who would she vote for if not standing: "Jon for his campaigning, Alan for his politics, Harriet to have a woman in the leadership team, but I'm standing so you can have a woman with a campaigning record and good politics".

Cruddas - wants everyone to live in council houses is the way it came across - when in fact the working classes mainly want to own homes. "I want loads more council houses" may make sense but is only one step away from "I want everyone to work down the pits" in terms of the message it sends. Good that he's into campaigning - shame many of his supporters are into meetings not canvassing - and if we are just going to elect a good campaigner as Deputy Leader then there are about 10 people on Hazel's campaign team better qualified. Can I be Deputy Leader, I'm good at leafleting?

Johnson - sensible answers, charming, but appeared diffident and laid back. Can't imagine him stirring people to canvass until their knuckles bleed with a rousing rant from the battle bus steps.

Hain - wants to be the "umbilical cord between the Cabinet and party". Which provoked the reaction "yuck, I don't want him as my umbilical cord" from the other half of my household. Postured left until asked about any actual policies.

Benn - very clever, really sound answer on Iraq/liberal interventionism, inspiring for party members but unlikely to appeal to the wider public - too cerebral.

Harman - awful. Just awful. Actually beyond awful. Cringeworthy efforts to appear leftwing - e.g. refusing to give a straight yes or no on Trident, delivered in the style of her former colleague Pat Hewitt.


There's no need for me to have a go at Compass today, as some old friends have returned to the blogosphere to do it for me: http://idiots4labour.wordpress.com/

Rumours of my defeat have been greatly exaggerated

I've received a slightly oddly worded spam email from the Benn campaign.

Sent to councillors - and about local government - it tells me:

"You have represented one of the many council seats we lost."

This was news to me as I wasn't up for election this year and didn't lose my seat when I was in 2006 (in fact we haven't lost my seat in an election since 1968).

And if I had lost my seat, what would be the point in sending an email to my council email address?

Friday, May 25, 2007


I was at Brentwood & Ongar CLP last night for another debate about Trident replacement versus Kate Hudson, Chair of CND.

Some bloke called John McDonnell was also supposed to be speaking, but pulled out at the last minute...

I've now been invited to debate the same subject at CND's fringe meeting at the Compass annual conference vs. Jon Trickett MP on Sat 9 June, so I look forward to seeing some of the regular commenters on this blog in the audience.

Meanwhile, Hackney South CLP was holding its supporting nominations meeting, and went for Brown + Blears. Hazel beat Alan Johnson in the 3rd round of voting by 13 votes to 11. Benn came third. Harman and Cruddas had got only 1 vote each on the first round, and Hain zero, which tallies with the zero he's got so far of the 100+ members of my own CLP, Hackney North, I've spoken to.

Any one got any numbers for voting figures on DL nominations in their own CLP they want to share?

Great moments on the BBC's "This Week"

Last night: Diane Abbott's facial expression - and "talk to the hand" gesture, when Matthew Taylor said how proud he was that his son went to the local comprehensive.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Labour left - completely out of touch with the British people

My post below about today's ICM poll bounce for Labour has led to predictable howls from the Hard Left, which seem to imply they think John McDonnell would have been more popular than Gordon Brown with the public.

They should read the detail of the poll. Then they might recover from the delusion - created by public opposition to the single issue of the Iraq War - that there is public support for a substantial shift to the left by Labour.

"When people talk about politics, they sometimes talk about left and right and the centre. Where would you put yourself on this scale?" the public answer:
Very left wing 3%
Fairly left wing 6%
Slightly left of centre 13%
Centre 43%
Slightly right of centre 9%
Fairly right wing 6%
Very right wing 2%

That's why elections are fought in the centre ground - not just to win a small number of marginal seats - important though that is - but because that's the politics that the vast bulk of the public believe in.

McDonnell's campaign was based on policies that appeal to - if this poll is correct - about 3% of the population.


For the second time in a week - I'd better be careful this doesn't become a habit - I find myself agreeing with Jon Cruddas.

His team think all 6 Deputy Leadership campaigns should have access to a full membership list.

I agree - we need a level playing field so all candidates can contact all members directly.

For the record, the article's insinuation that Hazel Blears has access to a national list as Party Chair is completely false. If only!

The campaign that has the best chance of getting something like a complete list is Johnson's, because he has the lion's share of the MEPs, and each MEP has the whole membership list for their region (I'm braced for the inevitable comments onslaught about my own track record in previous campaigns involving membership lists supplied by MEPs ...)

But a level playing field also means that once you have the list there needs to be some equity of funding - or spending limits - so that those campaigns, like Cruddas', with deep pockets, aren't the only ones who can afford to send mailshots.

And it means that all the campaigns should also have the ability to send mailshots to and canvass the membership lists of all the trade unions and other affiliates - in my own union if you were a rank-and-file member relying on material sent out by the union for information about the candidates, you would be forgiven for thinking given the tone of the coverage that Mr Cruddas was the only candidate standing, or at least the only one with any connection to a trade union.

The public gives its verdict on McDonnell not getting nominated

Today's ICM poll in the Guardian - first one since it became clear Brown would get the leadership uncontested:

"Labour's high profile has pushed its rating to 32%. That is up two points on last month and equal to its score at the end of 2006. The Conservatives - under pressure over grammar schools and Labour's handover - have fallen three points, to 34%, well below recent highs in Guardian/ICM polls. The Conservatives last scored as low as 34% in April 2006."

John who?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Praise for Blears from an unexpected quarter

Having said nice things about Jon Cruddas yesterday, I'm pleased to see that one of his supporters Kerron Cross, previously rather hostile to Hazel, has been extremely complimentary about her performance at last night's Christian Socialist Movement hustings:


2 observations:

- the number of Cruddas supporters with Blears as their second preference is very high (based on my anecdotal experience) - people that are judging the candidates not on ideology but their commitment to focusing on party building and campaigning work
- Hazel is getting plaudits from every hustings so far - the more members that hear her in person the more votes (and crucial high preference transfers) she is getting - I keep getting people saying things like "I didn't expect to be supporting her, but having seen them all, now I am".

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stalin in Hackney

Local trivia for my Hackney readers - the latest biog of Stalin reveals that the 5th Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party took place in 1907....in the Brotherhood Church in De Beauvoir at the junction of Southgate Road/Balmes Road N1. ( now demolished ).

Lenin , Stalin and Trotsky were all in attendance , having arrived by train at Liverpool Street Station a few days earlier.

Agreeing with Cruddas

For the record, I think Jon Cruddas is right about the immigration/social housing issue and Margaret Hodge's intervention has been clumsy and unhelpful.

The problem in Barking & Dagenham - and many other boroughs - is a chronic under-supply of social housing - making it very difficult for people not in crisis circumstances to get a council property, or for those in smaller ones to get a larger one when their family grows - caused by years of right-to-buy, and largely unconnected to immigration.

The newly arrived immigrant families in Barking & Dagenham tend to live in private rented homes - the ethnic minority families appearing on council estates there are in many cases actually not being allocated social housing - they are families that can afford to buy for the first time and the only property they can afford in London are ex-right-to-buy council homes in B&D - the generation of people who first bought them having sold at a tidy profit and moved down the A13 to Canvey Island where I was candidate in 2005, replacing folks who have become immigrants themselves ... in Spain.

I think right-to-buy was in itself a fantastic idea that gave many working class families their first chance at home ownership. The tragedy was that councils couldn't spend the receipts on replacement council housing for the people that needed it and could not afford to buy.

Credit where it's due, Cruddas has got social housing on Labour's policy agenda when it had been shamefully absent for too long. As a councillor representing a ward dominated by estates, and with most of my caseload consisting of people desperate to be rehoused, I applaud that. There are a lot of good reasons why I won't be voting for him to be Deputy Leader - not least because Hazel would do the job better - but I'm happy to record that in this instance I broadly agree with him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

USDAW backs Blears

The executive of Labour's 5th largest affiliate, shop workers' union USDAW, has voted unanimously to nominate Hazel Blears for Deputy Leader.

USDAW is nowadays almost as powerful as the once far bigger GMB and TGWU section of Unite within the Labour Party - with just over 323,000 members affiliated compared to 400,000 each for them.

Total affiliations listed in the TULO handbook are:

Amicus 630,100
UNISON 500,000
GMB 400,000
TGWU 400,000
USDAW 323,652
CWU 210,000
Community 55,246
UCATT 51,000
TSSA 27,653
ASLEF 15,500
MU 10,500
BECTU 7,310
BFAWU 5,100
NUM 1,813
Unity 1,000

Bullying backfires

This silly bit of political bullying is backfiring. I've just had a previously undecided party member tell me they are disgusted by it and are now seriously considering voting for Blears to try to rein in the anonymous MPs behind this story.

I hope this is true

If the Guardian report is true, and Brown is planning a fully elected Lords - and elected by a proportional system - it's fantastic news. I had worried that Brown was instinctively conservative on constitutional issues but the opposite seems to be the case.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Leadership elections Swedish style

One of my hobbies is pointing out how hardline the Swedish Social Democrats are on disciplinary matters to naive British lefties.

They've just had a leadership "election", which elected party moderniser and right-winger Mona Sahlin.

An Election Committee of Party high-ups "consults" local branches.

Then it decides who the most suitable candidate is and presents a single name to an extraordinary party conference. Which then unanimously elects the nominee.

No nominations, no OMOV, no electoral college...

Proposed rule change

The CLPD have reacted to John McDonnell's unpopularity amongst fellow MPs by calling for the threshold for nominations to be reduced from 12.5% of the PLP to 7.5% (26, geddit?).

I'd like to go one further with my own proposed rule change - abolish the threshold completely and bring in simple self-nomination, but with a criteria that any MP who has broken the whip in the course of the current parliament would be barred from running for leader or deputy.

That should keep everyone happy shouldn't it? (I think it even reduces the excess number of Deputy Leadership candidates by one, and would have stopped Charles Clarke running).

Before the howls of protest start, the above is intended to be a source of amusement rather than a serious suggestion. A bit like John McDonnell's campaign in fact.

The first commenter to draw an analogy with Stalin wins a "I probably am so morally confused I think that real dictators shouldn't be overthrown and that Cuba is a workers' paradise but make daft analogies between a man responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people and a democratic socialist whose crime appears to be being too popular with his fellow MPs" award.

Missing the story

Actually my post below missed the real story about Harman's views on parental choice:

1990s - exercises it by sending one kid to grammar school (and the others to faith schools but I'll let her off that as they were comprehensives)

Early 2oo7 - posts letter on her website saying she fully supports comprehensive education

16 May 2007 - expresses scepticism about both parental choice agenda and faith schools

20 May 2007 - Sunday Times - seems to be in favour of parental choice again

I'm confused. But not as confused as Harriet is.

Words fail me

... at the latest gem from Harriet Harman in the Sunday Times:

"Last week Brown declared health would be his “passion” when he takes over as prime minister. However, Harriet Harman, a deputy leadership contender, has said it is acceptable for cabinet ministers to opt out of the NHS.
In an interview in The Sunday Times she argues ministers should be free to use private health insurance and send their children to selective schools if they wish, saying that politicians are no different from other parents faced with such decisions.
“Parents make their own choices, whether they are politicians or not,” she said."

Er... aren't there a couple of other principles involved like politicians using the services they preside over rather than opting out of them, and democratic socialists being opposed in principle to selection in education or queue-jumping with private health care?

This is headlined, presumably by a subeditor with a good sense of irony, "Because I’ll make Gordon look good".

The whole article is here.

It quotes ministerial colleagues saying Harman is "Crap", "desperate" and "bloody incompetent". I would add "hasn't got a clue about the basic principles of the Labour movement regarding education and the NHS".

Saturday, May 19, 2007

For those of you that missed the hustings:

Hazel Blears on Wednesday night:

“like all of you I am sick of tired people actually putting us into separate camps. So let's end it right here – no more Blairites, no more Brownites, just Labour because we're all….In case anybody hasn't noticed, Granita is shut.

… It's about electing a team that can go on to win the next election and I think that the deputy leader should be Labour's campaigner in chief – motivating, enthusing, leading the charge, out there on the streets in our estates. I don't believe the deputy leader should be the deputy prime minister. I think this is a vital Labour party job, elected by the members, not an add-on to some prestigious government department; and this is no weekend job, it's going to be a full time job to get us to win us that next election.

I'm Labour through and through, and I've always put Labour first. I am loyal to our leadership because I believe that unity and loyalty are how you win trust with the public and it's also how you win elections. But make no mistake. I'm nobody's fool and I will fight all the way for the things I believe in. I grew up in Salford in the 50s and 60s, my dad was a fitter in a factory and was an AEU shop steward, my mum was a secretary for the electricians union, they left school at 14, my brother drives a Manchester bus. I don't need a sociologist to talk to me about white working class: I did it the hard way, and that makes you pretty tough.

And if I could sum up the attitudes and values of working class families in this country it would really be this: it's about ambition. And it's ambition not just for themselves but for their communities. It's to get a better house, a better job, make a better neighbourhood and to have a better future for the next generation. I've never met a miner who wanted his son to be a miner, and that's why I believe that Labour should be the party of ambition and success, giving people the chance to work, the powers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, driving up standards in inner city schools so the middle class don't opt out and leave the area. Ambition, success – but also fairness. Labour values and the values of the British people.

I think the deputy leader should focus ruthlessly on winning the fourth term, especially in marginal seats in London and the southeast. Focused on recruiting that new generation of activists because activism is how you win elections. And finally, use every platform to attack the Tories. David Cameron's not going to have an easy ride over the next six months because we're all going to be out there fighting David Cameron and the Tories.”

A wide open race

Assuming that everyone in the MPs and MEPs 1/3 of the electoral college votes the way they nominated for Deputy Leader (which is a big assumption as people will swap around as the front-runners emerge and, for instance, because some people tactically nominated Benn to get him on the ballot but won't vote for him) - the actual shares of the electoral college tied up are:

Johnson 7.4%
Harman 6.0%
Hain 4.7%
Cruddas 4.6%
Blears 4.5%
Benn 4.4%

21 MPs and MEPs - 1.9% of the entire electoral college - did not nominate.

Who are they and what way might they vote?

Firstly there is a group with strong connections to Gordon Brown who we can presume are being held back to pile in behind his favoured candidate:
Gordon Brown - might not vote if he wants to stay above the fray
Jack Straw - his Campaign Manager
Doug Henderson - long-term Brown supporter
George Mudie - worked with Nick Brown to organise 2004 tuition fees revolt
Ian Austin - one of his PPSs
Ann Keen - his other PPS
Alan Keen - Ann Keen's husband
Sylvia Heal - Ann Keen's sister but might not vote as she is Deputy Speaker

The others are:
Margaret Beckett
Anne Begg - probably a potential Harman supporter?
Tony Blair - may not vote if wants to stay above the fray, if he does will be Johnson or Blears
Charles Clarke - I'm guessing he will go for Johnson or Blears
David Clelland - ditto
John Denham - difficult to call which way he will go as he's a kind-of anti-war Blairite
Roger Godsiff - also unpredictable, formerly hard right so probably not a fan of Harman or Hain, but rebels quite a bit now
Keith Hill - Blair's PPS - likely to back Johnson or Blears
Piara Khabra - rumoured not to be well, very important vote as he can sway the votes of several thousand Sikh members in his Ealing Southall CLP, which has the largest membership in the UK
John McDonnell - I'm guessing he will like his closest supporters be switching from Cruddas to Benn
John Spellar - almost certain to back Johnson and I'm guessing second preference is Blears
Richard Corbett MEP - Johnson or Blears?
Linda McAvan MEP

In terms of the other two thirds of the electoral college there's everything still to play for.

I'm picking up movement from Cruddas to Benn and from Johnson and Harman to Blears amongst activists but out there amongst the 90% of the membership who are not active (and on an even greater scale amongst trade unionists) people have not yet tuned into this contest, none of the names have high recognition (except Benn because of his dad, which cuts both ways) and people at the moment can't differentiate between a crowded field of candidates.

I'm old enough to have been a member during the 1988, 1992 and 1994 contests and the key thing to remember is that these are very fluid processes, particularly now that with OMOV so many people are involved.

In the '94 contest Beckett started out as the establishment's preferred candidate as incumbent, but said something wrong during the campaign and much of the moderate vote flipped over mid-campaign to Prescott - e.g. Labour Students nominated Beckett but voted for Prescott.

Key factors are:
- momentum - once someone gets a bandwagon going it develops a life of its own - similarly in reverse if the vultures are seen circling over a campaign
- the ground war - endorsements from TU General Secretaries are all very well but do they have the grassroots networks in place in the big workplaces to turn out their members? - some do, some don't and in some of the big unions the General Secretaries don't politically control every region or industrial sector of their union; similarly with MPs - are the MPs backing you the kind that will go door-to-door in their CLP getting members to vote for you or can they only deliver their own vote?
- the air war - will the 90% of members and 99% of trade unionists who don't go to a hustings see you in the papers and on the telly and if they do will it differentiate you in their minds from the other 5? Will your issues resonate at this level? - these are people who have never and will never go to a party meeting and their views and interests are nearer to those of ordinary voters than they are to those of political activists.

Expect the unexpected - and don't expect the candidates to emerge in the same order they are in in terms of nominations.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brown across the line

I was in the audience at the Brown press conference this afternoon and pleased to hear some of the policy thrust - a Constitutional Reform Bill (sounds dull but will help restore public trust in Government), affordable housing (an absolutely key issue in London and the SE) and an immediate priority of sorting out the NHS - which is what voters want and a policy area where we need to reclaim our natural home turf.

Brown was relaxed and cheerful, as most people would be that just got endorsed by 313 of their colleagues would be.

Buried in the nominations from MPs listed on the party website are the first 7 CLPs to nominate Gordon, and the first 3 affiliates. As more and more CLPs meet over the next few weeks it is going to become abundantly apparent that the party in the country is as united behind him as the party in Westminster is.

Just a case of history repeating itself

I was wrong to suggest in a post below that the Hard Left was blaming people like me for McDonnell's dismal failure to get on the ballot paper.

In fact, in the best Pythonesque traditions, the "People's Liberation Front of Judea" are blaming - in the most vitriolic way they can - in the comments here for instance - the "Judean People's Liberation Front" i.e. Jon Cruddas, Jon Trickett and Compass, for getting various suckers from the Campaign Group to nominate Cruddas, then not reciprocating and instead nominating Brown.

It's always pleasing that the Labour left can be relied on in almost any circumstances to fulfil the role of being their own worst enemies.

But the Hard Left's attempt to portray their failure to get on the ballot as a new and hence newsworthy phenomenon is ahistorical.

In 1992 they failed to get enough nominations (I think it was for Livingstone that time) and hence only the soft left Bryan Gould made it onto the ballot versus Smith.

The same thing happened in 1994 when only the soft left candidates Beckett and Prescott made it through to face Blair.

The dismal lack of support in the PLP for the Hard Left is actually down to the immense strategic mistake made by Tony Benn in 1988 in triggering an unnecessary leadership election against Kinnock. This had 3 impacts:

- it split the Campaign Group and the rump has never been a power in the PLP since
- it led to the threshold for getting nominated in open leadership elections and for triggering contests against an incumbent mid-term both being raised so that the candidate of a tiny fringe of the PLP couldn't force an unnecessary, time-consuming, expensive ballot
- it gave Kinnock the mandate to drive through the Policy Review and accelerate the junking of Benn's policy shiboliths

Plus ca change.

Dear Harriet

Last night at the hustings you "expressed scepticism about parental choice" according to the Guardian.

I actually agree with your stated position on this.

However, didn't you famously exercise parental choice by sending your kids not to the local comprehensive where you live but to St Olave's - a selective grammar school in Bromley?

Hypocrite is a harsh word but one that in this instance you surely completely deserve to have applied to you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hazel ahead in Newsnight straw poll

I had to give up my ticket to tonight's Deputy Leadership hustings because my son was at home teething and took precedence.

So I've just watched Newsnight's coverage and seen Michael Crick say that Hazel was the candidate who impressed him and the audience most and then announce the outcome of a straw poll secret ballot of the 500 members in the audience for the debate:

Blears 26%
Benn 22%
Johnson 15%
Harman 14%
Cruddas 13%
Hain 10%

He said Cruddas was "obviously hampered by his lack of front line ministerial experience".

Line of the night from Hazel:

"I don't need a sociologist to tell me about the views of the white working class."

UPDATE: Crick says Hazel won after transfers of eliminated candidates too - and that he was surprised she did so well when the audience was London-based and middle class.

Nominations update

MP Nominations update - 6pm 16 MayCandidates for the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party have received the following number of nominations as of 6pm 16 May:

Candidates for Leader
Gordon Brown
307 MP nominations
John McDonnell
29 MP nominations

Candidates for Deputy Leader
Hilary Benn
42 MP nominations
Hazel Blears
49 MP nominations
Jon Cruddas
46 MP nominations
Peter Hain
50 MP nominations
Harriet Harman
63 MP nominations
Alan Johnson
70 MP nominations

Benn not on the ballot yet.

McDonnell making no further progress.

New supporting nominations:

Brown - Eltham CLP, Labour Students

Hain - ASLEF

Only themselves to blame

Much squealing from the Hard Left about McDonnell's expected inability to get on the ballot paper.

Apparently this is all the fault of people like me.

Actually I feel sorry for ordinary members who should have had a chance to vote for Gordon rather than him get it without a ballot.

I don't feel sorry for the political incompetents running the Hard Left who:

- made a laughing stock of themselves arguing over Meacher vs McDonnell
- ended up running a candidate who has no cross-over appeal beyond the ultras at all - a guy who whilst he is a good communicator and by all accounts a personable man has never held executive office since the early '80s (surely some recent experience of running something is required in a potential PM); has either the worst or second worst disciplinary record on 3-line whips; and is so left-field that he was sacked by Ken Livingstone - of all people - for extremism

It's all the fault of that nasty old rulebook saying you need 45 nominators ... except that 5 or possibly 6 MPs have proved themselves capable of finding the 45 signatures needed for Deputy Leader - only McDonnell seems unable to do this. And why should candidates representing less than such a small number of MPs be entitled to run?

It's not the rulebook, it's not people like me - it's the long-term rejection by Labour of any return to the politics of the 1980s, the lack of any credible left leader since Tony Benn, the consensus of support from Bob Marshall-Andrews to Alan Milburn for Brown, and the chronic lack of self-awareness of the Hard Left - which enables them to think John McDonnell was a serious leadership candidate - that has got them into this mess.

Don't blame us, comrades. Blame yourselves and go away and consider whether maybe the unpopularity of your candidate and your politics is because they are totally and utterly wrong and misguided, not because they are hard-done-by.

Changes overnight

Brown +15
McDonnell +2

Benn +6
Blears +1
Cruddas +2
Hain +1
Harman +1
Johnson +4

Affiliates + CLPs:

Gordon is off the blocks with Community (formerly the ISTC) and South Holland and the Deepings CLP and Rugby CLP.

No CLPs or TUs yet for any DL candidates.

Nominations latest at 1pm

Candidates for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Labour Party have received the following number of nominations as of 1pm on Wednesday 16 May.
Candidates for Leader of the Labour Party
Gordon Brown
297 nominations
John McDonnell
29 nominations

Candidates for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Hilary Benn
40 nominations
Hazel Blears
49 nominations
Jon Cruddas
46 nominations
Peter Hain
50 nominations
Harriet Harman
61 nominations
Alan Johnson
68 nominations

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The enigma of Jon Cruddas' fan club

Some of my favourite people in politics have nominated Cruddas: Frank Dobson, Tom Watson, others that I know less well but know to be sound like Mike Gapes, Martin Salter and Khalid Mahmood.

Alongside them on the Cruddas list of nominators are Campaign Group members Diane Abbott, Harry Cohen, Ann Cryer, Neil Gerrard, Ian Gibson, David Hamilton, Kelvin Hopkins, Lynne Jones and Austin Mitchell.

The team meetings must be interesting ... I can imagine Diane and Tom getting on fantastically ... one of these sets of people is being taken for a ride, but I'm not sure which.

And where are the rest of the Campaign Group?

The small battalions of the Hard Left

From 49.9% of the electoral college with Benn just a couple of decades ago to the pathetic rag-tag-and-bobtail 27 nominations that McDonnell can muster now:


Who are the Brownites backing?

Not all the key Brownites are backing Harman by any means:

John Healey, Stephen Timms, Andrew Smith - backing Benn
Ruth Kelly - backing Blears
Tom Watson, Gavin Strang - backing Cruddas
Douglas Alexander, Nick Brown, Yvette Cooper, Alistair Darling, Nigel Griffiths, Geoff Hoon, Ed Miliband - backing Harman
Ed Balls - backing Johnson

Still to declare: Jack Straw, Ian Austin, Doug Henderson, Dawn Primarolo, Geoffrey Robinson

Update on the Cabinet

More on what the Cabinet think of their colleagues:

Blair, Brown - not likely to nominate
Blears, Johnson, Benn, Hain - candidates

Reid, Jowell, Armstrong, Kelly, Hutton, Smith - backing Blears
Darling, Hewitt, Alexander - backing Harman
Prescott, Miliband - backing Johnson
Timms - backing Benn

Which means the ones still to declare are Straw, Beckett, Browne.

The regional factor - update

Update on which regions Deputy Leader nominations are coming from:

London: Blears 8, Cruddas 8, Harman 7, Johnson 6, Benn 5, Hain 2
South East: Harman 7, Hain 4, Benn 3, Blears 1, Cruddas 1, Johnson 1
South West: Johnson 4, Harman 2, Hain 2, Benn 1, Blears 1, Cruddas 0
East: Harman 5, Cruddas 2, Johnson 2, Hain 1, Benn 0, Blears 0
East Midlands: Johnson 6, Harman 5, Benn 4, Blears 3, Cruddas 2, Hain 2
West Midlands: Johnson 9, Harman 6, Blears 5, Cruddas 5, Benn 4, Hain 1
North West: Blears 13, Cruddas 13, Johnson 10, Hain 8, Benn 4, Harman 3
Yorkshire: Johnson 13, Benn 8, Cruddas 6, Hain 5, Harman 5, Blears 3
North: Blears 7, Harman 6, Johnson 6, Hain 5, Benn 2, Cruddas 0
Wales: Hain 15, Harman 5, Cruddas 2, Johnson 2, Benn 1, Blears 1
Scotland: Harman 9, Blears 6, Cruddas 5, Johnson 5, Hain 4, Benn 2

My hunch is that given where the membership is heaviest, whoever is knocked out last out of Hazel or Alan can beat Harman in the final round (assuming Benn doesn't get nominated).

The Welsh transfers will be important as personal loyalty to Hain is over-riding some fairly moderate politics with some of his backers i.e. they may transfer to Hazel or Alan. Benn supporters are probably being courted heavily for if their man drops out too.

Cruddas polling well in NW and London - the key internal Labour urban battlegrounds with large Guardianista CLPs, but nowhere in the south outside London having dissed key seats, or in the working class heartlands.


First day's nominations are up on the party website:

MP Nominations update - 6pm 15 MayCandidates for the leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party have received the following number of nominations as of 6pm 15 May.
Candidates for Leader
Gordon Brown
282 MP nominations
John McDonnell
27 MP nominations

Candidates for Deputy Leader
Hilary Benn
34 MP nominations
Hazel Blears
48 MP nominations
Jon Cruddas
44 MP nominations
Peter Hain
49 MP nominations
Harriet Harman
60 MP nominations
Alan Johnson
64 MP nominations

Gala Dinner

I was at the Labour Party Gala Dinner last night - another emotional (for the audience) farewell speech from Blair, and much lobbying of the MPs present by Hain and Blears and their respective campaign managers Phil Woolas and Caroline Flint - I didn't spot any of the other Deputy Leadership candidates.

Blair told a good anecdote about Christine Shawcroft at the NEC saying she was surprised by how much her GC had wanted to talk about his achievements and they had "almost passed a vote of thanks".

I hope Peter Hain didn't think I was being patronising when I congratulated him on getting nominated ...

Charles Clarke told me he isn't nominating anyone, but was affronted by my suggestion this put him in the same camp as John Spellar - "I'm not in the same camp as John Spellar on anything".

One MP actually filled in their nomination paper in front of me (for Blears, of course) - disappointingly the actual nomination form is a rather drab sheet of A4 - I guess I had a mental image of it being a hand-engraved vellum scroll.

The gossip was:
- Benn going absolutely nowhere and no one in the PLP seems to be feeling particularly sorry for him
- Cruddas not making any traction amongst MPs and seen as presumptuous for running as a relatively new backbencher by longer-serving MPs - probably will get nominated but only just
- Harman getting a huge push by the core Brownites
- Johnson going backwards - PLP support has dropped off in the last few weeks - and attempting to portray himself as unity candidate between Blears and Harman

Monday, May 14, 2007

Regional trends

Interesting data from the lists of MP supporters of those 3 DL candidates who have so far declared their hands.

Assuming that the MPs have some sway organisationally in their own CLPs in terms of mobilising members to vote, this could be significant as Labour membership is not evenly distributed - it is heavily loaded towards two regions, London and the North West:

London: 8 Blears, 6 Harman, 3 Hain
South East: 7 Harman, 4 Hain, 1 Blears
South West: 3 Harman, 2 Hain, 1 Blears
East: 5 Harman, 1 Hain
East Midlands: 3 Blears, 3 Harman, 2 Hain
West Midlands: 4 Blears, 4 Harman, 1 Hain
North West: 12 Blears, 8 Hain, 2 Harman
Yorkshire: 5 Hain, 3 Blears, 2 Harman
North: 8 Blears, 6 Hain, 4 Harman
Wales: 12 Hain, 4 Harman, 1 Blears
Scotland: 6 Blears, 4 Harman, 3 Hain

Unlike Hain and Blears, Harman is not ahead in her home region.

What do the Cabinet think of each other?

Position taken by Cabinet Ministers (those who are MPs) so far in the Deputy Leadership election:

Blair, Prescott, Brown - not likely to nominate

Blears, Johnson, Benn, Hain - candidates

Reid, Jowell, Armstrong, Kelly, Hutton - backing Blears

Darling (according to Guardian), Hewitt, Alexander (according to Guardian) - backing Harman

Timms - backing Benn

Which means the ones still to declare are Straw, Beckett, Miliband, Browne, Smith.

Straw's nomination will be interesting as he is Brown's campaign manager.

Are any of Hain's closest colleagues going to back him?

1st weekend of campaign

Judging by the YouGov poll in the Sunday Times showing the Tory lead collapsing, the leadership change-over seems to be playing well with the public.

It certainly is with members - the people I've spoken to this weekend are delighted that we seem to be managing to change leader with a sense of dignity and have a debate without infighting. There is a genuine sense of excitement and anticipation that Brown will unveil a policy agenda that effectively relaunches the government - without junking our hard-won achievements of the last 10 years.

I was personally delighted as a long-term supporter of electoral reform, that according to press coverage of yesterday's Fabian hustings he said he was not opposed to electoral reform as long as it maintained the constituency link.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Across the line

Hazel is now past the magic 44 thanks to Hilary Armstrong, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn and Martyn Jones: http://www.hazelblears.com/?cat=11


... has got a very smart new hair cut. Campaign launch looks good.

As does the website:


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Update 2

Hutton backs Blears: http://www.hazelblears.com/?p=310

Reid backs Blears

Update: Reid has endorsed Blears: http://www.hazelblears.com/?p=308

A day to be proud to be Labour

I'm not managing to come up with anything to say about Blair's announcement that doesn't sound trite or cheesy - so apologies.

A colleague from the Irish Labour Party rang me this afternoon and reminded me of conversations we had had back in 1994 at the start of all this - when European colleagues were sceptical that Labour could ever win again and we ourselves didn't believe the polls - and when just stopping the Tories trashing the country looked like an impossible dream - let alone any of the things that have been achieved. I feel we are incredibly lucky that most of what we thought would take Labour a lifetime to achieve has been done - and then some - in ten years.

As predicted, the polls today are showing people waking up to how lucky they have been to have leadership of this quality.

His success in reshaping the Labour Party into a mainstream, election-winning force is illustrated by the farce today as McDonnell and Meacher scrabble to get 44 nominations between them. There isn't any going back to the 1980s.

More prosaically, I find it a bit undignified that Harman and Hain have chosen today to do big announcements that they've hit the 44 on their deputy leadership nomination totals - this was a day for reflection about the outgoing leadership - there will be time enough for announcements about the coming contest tomorrow.

The Campaign Group seems to be as split on Deputy Leader as they are on Leader - members Dave Anderson, Mike Clapham, Bill Etherington and Bob Marshall-Andrews (!) are all now backing Hain, whilst the CLPD has endorsed Cruddas. I'm guessing we will see Cruddas, Hain and Harman engage in a Dutch auction to try to position themselves as the "left" candidate - ultimately a daft strategy as that isn't where the membership is at now.

Hazel meanwhile is on 39 - with the new ones being Jim Dowd, Frank Roy, John Heppell, Meg Munn, Tony Cunningham, Steve McCabe, Bridget Prentice and Linda Waltho.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More Hazelites

Graham Allen MP and David Borrow MP have signed up to the Blears camp:


also, I hadn't noticed in the last batch a public defection - Roberta Blackman-Woods MP used to be listed as a supporter on the Harman website and now isn't, but is on Hazel's...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hazel's policies

Hazel's policy platform is now online here. What do people think?

Over on politicalbetting.com they are saying this:

"The dark horse is Hazel Blears, who knows the party well enough not to be standing at all if she wasn’t confident of getting enough nominations. As some of Harriet’s support is simply on the basis of gender balance, an early Hazel push with 30-odd nominations could easily siphon off some of Harriet’s nominees."

Presumably the 29 already listed on her website mean getting to "30-odd" could happen very soon.

Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Andy Charlwood and Ryan Norton are running the Great Yorkshire 10K run on Sunday 20th May to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust in memory of Dom McElroy - our friend, comrade and colleague who died tragically young from this dreadful condition.

Please sponsor them here:


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Next date on my tour

For some reason my tour of CLPs to debate Trident didn't end with the Commons vote on the issue.

A couple of weeks ago I debated against CND Chair Kate Hudson at Hampstead & Kilburn GC.

On the 24th I'm off to Brentwood & Ongar CLP to debate against both Kate for the third time, and none other than Leadership candidate John McDonnell MP. Should be fun...

Roy Hattersley

The world has turned upside down.

Roy Hattersley has written an article that I agree with 90% of (the 10% being the bit on Iraq).


I'm gutted by Sarko's win in France, and disgusted by the idea that there are Labour Party members who are celebrating the defeat of the candidate of our sister party.

Reid to leave Cabinet

John Reid has told the BBC he is not staying in the Cabinet.

I think that's a great shame. I rate Reid as one of Labour's star performers, who connects very well with the values and concerns of ordinary Labour voters.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Did the Tories do well in the North?

Cameron says they did, so I went and calculated the numbers of seats changing hands by standard government region:

South East - Con +240, Lab -105, LD -84

South West - Con +181, Lab -43, LD -55

East - Con +125, Lab -47, LD -57

East Midlands - Con +102, Lab -121, LD +2

West Midlands - Con +105, Lab -55, LD -39

North West - Con +82, Lab -48, LD -27

Yorkshire - Con +36, Lab -15, LD -13

North - Con +25, Lab -56, LD -11

I think that is a bit of a pattern - 62% of the Tory gains were in the 3 southern-most regions, grossly inflated by large numbers of gains in districts with tiny wards where they were in straight fights with the LDs and which have absolutely no relevance to the next General Election - that's why they suddenly picked up another 500 gains during Friday afternoon as these areas counted.

Just 15 of these kind of councils accounted for 240 - 27% of the Tory gains nationwide:

Bournemouth (23), New Forest (11), North Devon (12), North Somerset (18), North Wiltshire (16), Shepway (16), South Norfolk (20), South Oxfordshire (10), Tonbridge & Malling (12), Torbay (16), Uttlesford (14), Waverley (25), West Berkshire (9), West Wiltshire (9), Windsor & Maidenhead (19).

Where there were Tory gains in the north they were concentrated in a handful of councils with a rural or suburban character or special issues like the Blackpool casino bid:

1 council - East Riding - accounted for 18 of the 36 gains in Yorkshire (50%)

3 councils - Blackpool (13), Ribble Valley (8), South Ribble (24) accounted for 45 of 82 gains in the North West (55%)

This wasn't the Tories making a broad thrust into the territory they need to win the General Election - it was a massive coming home by their core vote in the deep south, a very patchy performance in marginal areas (notably good in North Kent and the East Midlands) and rubbish anywhere urban.

Southern Discomfort

Sorry if this is getting a bit repetitive.

Not mentioned on the BBC results because they were by-elections rather than scheduled elections, Labour gained 2 seats from the Tories in Hastings on Thursday - causing the Tories to lose their majority on the council.

Hastings is a Labour-held marginal parliamentary seat. It was Tory in every General Election until 1997 and wasn't even a stand-alone seat then, let alone a key seat, it was so far down the target list.

How are the Tories going to win power if they can't win in Hastings?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Even more meltup

And still it goes on. Latest "awful" results spelling the end of the Labour Party (net changes):

Blaby - no change
Copeland - no change
Dudley - 2 Labour gains
Durham - 1 gain
Epping Forest - no change
Gloucester - 1 gain from Con (well done Lucy + Parmjit)
Ipswich - no change
Leeds - 3 gains
Luton - 5 gains and control of the council gained
Newcastle-upon-Tyne - 3 gains from LD
N Herts - 1 gain
N Wilts - no change
Penwith - no change
Redcar & Cleveland - 6 gains
Rossendale - 2 gains from Con
Slough - 1 gain from LD
Stroud - no change
Swindon - 1 gain
Watford - 1 gain
York - 3 gains from LD

Message to David Cameron: you can't take Eastwood - until 1997 the safest Tory seat in Scotland. You can't take the Vale of Glamorgan - held by a Tory MP until 1997.

In area after area that includes parliamentary marginals Labour made net gains: Gloucester, the Elmet bit of Leeds, Luton (2 marginals), Newcastle, Slough, Stroud, Swindon, Watford, Thurrock, Calderdale, Bolton (2 marginals), Bristol, Great Yarmouth, Harlow.

In loads of others the best you could do was to gain 1 solitary council seat.

You've made great strides in the greener bits of the home counties but keep wittering on about South Ribble because it's virtually the only place north of Watford you did well in.

Doesn't that tell you something?

More Meltup

Help! The end is nigh... how can Labour survive when we are getting "terrible" results like these (net change):

Bassetlaw - 1 Labour gain
Berwick on Tweed - 1 Labour gain
Bradford - 2 gains at expense of Tories and Greens
Burnley - 1 gain at expense of BNP
Calderdale - 1 gain at expense of BNP
Cannock Chase - 1 gain at expense of LDs
Doncaster - no change
Gateshead - no change
Kirklees - 2 gains
Liverpool - 4 gains from LDs
N Tyneside - 1 gain
Redditch - no change
Solihull - no change
S Cambs - no change
S Lakeland - no change
Waveney - no change

Mr Cruddas

Jon Cruddas is saying the results are a wake up call for Labour.

Yes they are - they are a wake up call saying pay attention to centre-ground swing voters in places like Gravesend, Dartford and Dover and ignore fruitloops who think we shouldn't have a key seats strategy.


Despite Harriet Harman sticking to a pre-prepared "doom, gloom, we must change direction" script on the BBC last night (with even John McDonnell having the grace and sense compared to her to say that Labour hadn't done that badly) I rather enjoyed the results coverage, whilst my sore feet recovered from a day of GOTV in Castle Point.

Amongst those "disastrous" "melt-down" results for Labour - here are some net changes:

Alnwick - no change in number of Labour councillors
Basingstoke & Deane - no change
Bolton - 2 gains at expense of LDs
Bournemouth - no change
Brentwood - no change
Bristol - 2 gains at expense of LDs
Bromsgrove - no change
Broxbourne - no change
Cambridge - no change
Carlisle - 1 gain at expense of LDs
Coventry - 4 gains, 2 at expense of Tories
Derby - no change
Great Yarmouth - 1 gain
Harlow - 1 gain at expense of LDs
Havant - no change
Macclesfield - no change
Maidstone - no change
NE Lincs - no change
N Lincs - 1 gain at expense of Tories
Nottingham - 4 gains, 2 at expense of LDs
Pendle - 1 gain
Portsmouth - no change
Preston - no change
Rochdale - no change
Rushmoor - no change
Sandwell - 1 gain at expense of Tories
Sefton - 1 gain at expense of Tories
Shrewsbury & Atcham - no change
S Beds - no change
Southampton - 2 gains at expense of LDs
St Albans - no change
St Helens - no change
Stevenage - no change
Stockport - no change
Swale - no change
Tameside - 1 gain at expense of LDs
Thurrock - 2 gains at expense of Tories
Trafford - no change
Warrington - no change
W Oxfordshire - no change
Wigan - 3 gains

I love the smell of burning predictions in the morning.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Respect starts to fall apart in Tower Hamlets

News from the Tower Hamlets Labour Group:

"Cllr. Waiseul Islam joins Labour Party and slams Respect on local record

The Labour Party today welcomed Cllr Waiseul Islam to membership of the Party and the controlling group on Tower Hamlets Council.

Announcing his move to Labour, Cllr Islam said:
“This has been a long and carefully thought out decision by me to leave the Respect Party and to join the Labour Party. I have always believed in the principles of Labour and what it stands for and I have never felt comfortable within Respect since the election in May 2006. I have been more and more frustrated with Respect which offers little in the way of policies, direction or service to the local community in Tower Hamlets, which is the real reason why I entered politics. I reject the notion of dividing the local community for political gain, which is what I believe Respect are effectively doing."

He continued:

“My motivation for returning to the Labour Party is that it will enable me to better serve my constituents and work alongside people that have more in common with my own political views. In hindsight, my move to the Respect Party was a major error in my judgement and if I had the insight into Respect that I do now, it is not something that would have happened. The challenge for me is to represent my constituents and support residents within the borough who are facing a wide range of issues. I believe that I can deliver much more effectively for local residents by being with a party that has a vision and represents all of the communities within the borough.”

“Respect is not a party that can deliver, especially when its elected MP is hardly visible in his constituency, leaving those who voted for him neglected. He has time to attend television shows and present radio shows but not to turn up to his surgery and meet his constituents. I believe this is wrong.”

“With government and council support I believe that local residents can benefit from the socio-economic regeneration of the area. This can only be achieved by working with a progressive party that can carry the citizens of the borough into the future and not take it backward. Labour is also the only party that can truly challenge uninvited Tories creeping into Tower Hamlets and attempting to destroy it with their discredited policies.”

Cllr. Denise Jones, Labour Leader of Tower Hamlets Council has welcomed Cllr. Islam’s decision saying:

“Labour is the only party in Tower Hamlets with both the record and the vision to improve the lives of local people. I am glad that Cllr. Islam will be joining us in this work and I am sure that his constituents in Whitechapel as well as the people of Tower Hamlets as a whole will benefit from his principled decision. Respect has long claimed to be what they are not and now we have heard the real truth from one who knows – he has said that Respect stands for division and inaction and have nothing to offer the people of the East End.”

This means that the composition of Tower Hamlets Council is now:
27 Labour
11 Respect
7 Conservative
6 Liberal Democrat

Local links

Some new/spin-off/reborn Hackney blogs:


http://www.benlocker.com/blog/ (the former Hackney Lookout)


Not over yet

I'm beginning to hope that tomorrow in Scotland might be - with Jack McConnell in the Paul Keating role - "a victory for the true believers".

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Jim on the politics of aspiration

DWP Minister Jim Murphy MP, the faster half of my early morning running partnership at NUS Conferences (in the days when I was thin), has contributed a chapter to a timely pamphlet (downloadable by following this link) launched by the Social Market Foundation yesterday about the Politics of Aspiration.

Speaking at the launch Jim said that the government had made real progress on poverty, but that without public consent we won’t eradicate material, relative and inter-generational poverty. He said we cannot tackle this problem through a ‘call to social solidarity’.

The UK has the second lowest tolerance of redistribution and calling for action on this topic would only reach out to a certain audience. To engage with the public on this need we to change the context of the debate. It needs to be framed around aspiration, because society is increasingly middle class and aspirational and we need to appeal to this "politics of aspiration”.

He said Government has made massive strides on redistribution, despite hostile public opinion. Post-97 we didn’t seek public consent on this matter, we just got on with it but haven’t taken public with us. Live 8 demonstrated that people care about global poverty, but this concern has yet to translate into caring about domestic poverty. Jim also felt that increasing immigration was leading to intolerance of the unemployed. The number of Poles employed in Britain was showing the public that there were jobs available, leading them to the conclusion that Brits on unemployment benefit were lazy.

To get the public on board we need to frame the debate about poverty as one about individuals not being able to succeed unless society succeeds and this problem needs to be tackled for society to succeed. i.e. an individual's success depends on the success of tackling poverty in society. This attitude is driving environmental policy and international policy (e.g. cut emissions for the sake of future generations and intervention in Afghanistan to tackle heroin problem).

He called for Government structure to change, as it is not built to tackle this problem. Institutions designed at a central level lack a community feel, so the welfare state needs to be devolved further. People in local areas know much better than Westminster what works.

He said the Government doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have a lever to micro-manage aspiration. The key way to raise aspiration is to get parents into work. This has a knock on effect on children. The Government also needs to offer more support to those who want to work and match people to jobs.

More compulsion is the way to tackle those who don’t want to work, greater intervention from advisers, more interviews etc. We need to put guarantees in place to ensure that people are better off in work. Periods of long term unemployment creates a scar on your employment record that stays with you.

Good stuff from one of the key players in the up-and-coming generation of middle-ranking Ministers - clear-headed thinking and looking at how the wider country, not just our own people, view tackling the issue, and how to get them to see the merits of Labour's agenda.

Brown on Blair

Thanks to Susan Press for alerting me to Gordon Brown's piece about Tony Blair in the Sun today:

She says it is "nauseating".

I thought it was rather a nice tribute and a good summary of the best ten years in recent British political history.

Ten years ago today

Tom Watson has asked where people were on 1 May 1997.

I was in Holborn & St Pancras, where I was full-time Organiser for the CLP, my salary funded by the RMT (back then it was affiliated to the Labour Party, controlled by rightwingers like Jimmy Knapp and Vernon Hince, and by size the most generous contributor to the Labour Party of any union).

I'd already dispatched my youngest and most energetic activists to Edmonton, the "marginal" Key Seat we were twinned with - where they had a fun day walking to a 14,000 majority.

That still left enough activists to run 14 committee rooms (a central one at our 8 Camden Road offices and 12 ward ones - with a 13th in Bloomsbury where 2 of the activists couldn't bear working together so had an HQ each for half the ward) - to have number takers all day at each of over 30 polling stations - and to run a full knocking-up operation.

If my memory is correct we had 21,000 Labour promises and a contact rate in excess of 60% in almost every polling district - again despite sending teams to Edmonton on a regular basis.

The day before I had augmented the pager I had been given by the CLP with a mobile phone rented for the day. It was the first time I had ever used one. "Don't tell the members" the CLP Secretary had said, "they'll think you are a New Labour yuppie if you have a mobile phone". Hampstead & Highgate CLP, who I shared an office with, had email - I didn't - but as far as I know other than the Organiser only the CLP Secretary and the IT Officer had email addresses. We were still in the age of faxed instructions from HQ and telephone ring rounds by teams of volunteers.

At 7am I opened up and laid out my HQ in an exact replica of the set-up I had seen whilst seconded to the Wirral South by-election, and then started to call my committee rooms to check they were up and running. A very sleepy voice answered in Bloomsbury:
"Why are you ringing me at 7am Luke?"
"It's polling day"
"I know, but the polls open at 8"
"No - 7"
"Oh no, I was still thinking it was the old polling hours from the 1970s"

the number taker just managed to get to the polling station before Frank Dobson MP, who lived in the ward - unless he is reading this he won't know how close he came to not seeing a red rosette that morning.

As the day wore on I was transported round the constituency from committee room to committee room in the back of an open top red Mercedes sports car.

Most of the committee rooms offered refreshments - Grafton Ward was the most extravagant with wine and smoked salmon on offer - they'd earned it as they had the highest promise and contact rate in the CLP.

I rang the Deputy Regional Director David Wilkinson as there was no opposition activity and offered to scale back my operation and send more bodies to Edmonton. He reassured me that the Tories were already scuttling off to Southgate and I might as well relax and enjoy the occasion.

8 Camden Road meanwhile was like the United Nations, as friends from across Europe turned up to get in on the anticipated victory, having heard we had a good party organised for election night. The Chair of the Norwegian Labour Youth presented me with a bouquet of red roses. The now PES General Secretary Philippe Cordery was sent out to knock-up tower blocks in St Pancras, and came back saying "this is like Mitterand winning in '81, I never expected to see this twice in my lifetime".

At the count (the then New Labour) Glenda Jackson looked nervous - she thought she was defending a marginal seat. She won by over 13,000. Frank won by nearly 19,000 and looked miffed that Glenda had done almost as well as him. Janet, Frank's wife, said to me "none of his other Agents ever got him a 19,000 majority" - high praise given that every one of them was by then at director level or above in the national party. I mumbled something about it being more to do with Blair than me.

Off to the Camden Palace to wild scenes as the big screen showed implausible gains in Hove and Hastings. People were laughing at the improbability of it, or crying with relief that we had finally got rid of the Tories. Frank disappeared, braced for the disappointment of Blair not appointing him to the Cabinet - not knowing he would become Secretary of State for Health later the next day.

Belatedly I clocked that the jubilant scenes at the Royal Festival Hall were of the victory party I had given away my staff ticket to - having said something profound about being "with my team" in Camden.

The next day - pure euphoria - swarming across Whitehall towards the Downing Street Gates as the Prime Minister - which seemed the most improbable label ever for a Labour politician to bear (surely Prime Ministers were Tory?) - boozy lunch with CLP activists babbling about the results - strangers on tube trains laughing as they read about Portillo in the Standard - buying all the papers as souvenirs - tidying up the flags and balloons at the Camden Palace - travelling down to Kent to see my family who had a big garden poster left in the lawn to remind their Tory neighbours who had won.

Things did get better. A lot better. We have been a good government that has delivered a good ten years. Blair lived up to and exceeded all the hopes I had for him as a Prime Minister. Let's make sure we get another ten years.

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