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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Political Influences

Mike Ion has tagged me wanting to know my top 5 political influences

Here goes:

1) Herbert Morrison - the archetypal Labour organiser as London Labour Party secretary in the '30s, and both Mayor and MP in Hackney, hammer of the Bevanites
2) Neil Kinnock - inspired me to join the Labour Party and the reason why it still exists
3) John Spellar - turned me away from the LCC (Labour Co-ordinating Committee) before I could accidentally become soft left
4) Stephen Twigg - I agree with him about most issues and he was the person at national level who most encouraged me when I joined Labour Students
5) Doug Naysmith - taught me how to campaign when I was a student in Bristol in the '92 election

Some of those names will be a bit shocked to be listed alongside each other!

Number 72

I've been voted number 72 in Iain Dale's top 500 UK political blogs.

Not bad considering the voting was partly by his readers, who are mainly Tories.

I think I'm also the only person in there with a full scale spoof of my blog by someone else in the top 500 - the spoof Luke comes in rather lower that me at number 274, which he must be crying into his keyboard in Dalston about given the amount of creativity, hours of photoshopping, and sheer bile (can you get a bile transplant if you use it all blogging?) he puts into the job.

Some Tory or Trot - http://www.septicisle.info/ - I couldn't be bothered reading it to work out which - thinks my ranking is outrageous as I'm "the Hazel Blears of the online world". Thanks for the unintended compliment, whoever you are...

George Osborne

Most interesting read of the weekend was the Guardian's profile of George Osborne by Decca Aitkenhead.

The overwhelming impression is of a kind of dilettante who is serious about his career but with no real understanding of why he is the number 2 politician in the Tory Party, or what he wants to do if, God forbid, they win the election, other than that being Shadow Chancellor is a jolly good thing to have on your CV if you are the kind of chap who went to a good school.

Gems include:

"Was he worried by the prospect of Brown succeeding Blair as prime minister? Quite the contrary. Choosing Brown, he smiled gleefully, would be the biggest mistake the Labour party could make."

"not once, in all our conversations, does Osborne attribute his career in Tory politics to a passion for ideological action."

"What about the miners' strike? He narrows his eyes - "Hmm, the miners' strike..." - and searches his memory. "I'm trying to see if I can honestly remember.""

"He seems to use the words "current affairs" and "politics" interchangeably, and time and again the word interested recurs, as if politics were an absorbing diversion that his family found enjoyable to follow, perhaps like horse racing."

"Osborne claims that, after a brief Brown bounce, the polls showed that the parties were on level pegging again: "And that is the shortest political honeymoon any British prime minister has ever had." Ten days later, a new poll puts Brown nearly 10 points ahead."

"For all the Tories' efforts to appear modern and egalitarian, the old question of class unavoidably inserts itself - because, time and again, little telling remarks reveal the chasm that still divides Osborne's perspective on normality from most of the population's."

"Osborne thinks his fee-paying, selective boys' school, St Paul's, was "incredibly liberal. It didn't matter who your parents were. Your mother could be the head of a giant corporation - or a solicitor in Kew" as if this encompassed the full imaginable spectrum of socioeconomic status. At the party conference last year, someone pointed out that he had no working experience of the real world outside Westminster. "Well, it depends what you mean by the real world," he retorted - and, to demonstrate his intimacy with it, offered: "I have plenty of friends who work in law, in the City, in government agencies.""

"People who know him often mention his utter lack of snobbery. But ultimately the concepts of social inclusion and exclusion have had to be learned - like French or Latin. He's impressively fluent, but every now and then his command of their language fails, exposing him. In Manchester, at the agency for the long-term unemployed, he listens respectfully to the director and makes all the appropriate noises. But his questions are "When incapacity benefit clients show up, how many have a genuine disability?" and, "How many of your clients come here because it's a condition of them continuing to get their benefits?" As we are walking across the city centre afterwards, we pass a group of youngsters styled in the classic Mancunian fashion for artful scruff. "Don't people in Manchester look good!" I exclaim. He glances at me as if I have lost my mind."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Last night's by-elections

Last night's local authority by-elections results, which will be being analysed by Brown as he decides whether to call an election or not. My take is that these look OK but not as good as in the previous two weeks:

Portsmouth, Nelson Ward (in Labour marginal Portsmouth North constituency): Lab hold, virtually no swing with Lab up 3.1%, Con up 3.2%)

Sunderland, Washington E Ward - Con gain from Lab with a majority of about 200, they had already won another seat in the same ward this May. This ward is in Labour parliamentary stronghold Washington & Sunderland W.

Cheshire, Gowy Division - Con hold over LDs in a safe ward. Large scale tactical voting for LDs by former Lab supporters as loss of this seat would have made Cheshire County Council hung.

Northants - Corby, Lloyds Division - Lab hold with 700 majority, all major parties esp. Labour losing votes to BNP. This is in the Tories 28th highest Labour target seat.

Dover - Aylesham Ward - Labour hold with swing of over 11% - a former pit village in what was the East Kent coalfield, which is a very good Labour patch in a marginal parliamentary seat

Dover - Maxton, Elms Vale and Priory Ward - Lab hold - Labour marginal ward in a parliamentary marginal

Kent - Dover Town Division - Lab hold with a 5.5% swing to Con - safe Labour county division in a parliamentary marginal

Chester Le Street - Chester Central Ward - Labour hold

Results still to come:

Mansfield - Lindhurst ward - Independent seat

Great Yarmouth - Nelson Ward - Labour seat in a parliamentary marginal

UPDATE - http://www.vote-2007.co.uk/ now has a more full list:
Cheshire County - Gowy: C 1863, Lib Dem 1419, Lab 307, Ukip 107. (May 2005 - C 3936, Lib Dem 2666, Lab 1555). C hold. Swing 1.8% C to Lib Dem.
Chester-le-Street District - Chester Central: Lab 324, C 89, Lib Dem 81, BNP 51. (May 2007 - Two seats Lab 411, 389, C 172). Lab hold. Swing 1.6% C to Lab.
Dover District - Aylsham: Lab 661, C 108, Ind 59, No description 1. (May 2007 - Two seats Lab 831, 808, C 311, 287, No description 75). Lab hold. Swing 11.6% C to Lab.
Dover District - Maxton, Elms Vale and Priory: Lab 365, Lib Dem 274, C 252, Ind 70, Ukip 65, Ind 56. (May 2007 - Three seats Lab 733, 647, C 624, Lab 602, C 566, 545, Lib Dem 381, 296, 291, Ind 243). Lab hold. Swing 5.1% Lab to Lib Dem.
Kent County - Dover Town: Lab 1860, C 1348, Lib Dem 420, Ind 300, Ukip 256. (May 2005 - Two seats Lab 6194, 5888, 3455, 3122, Lib Dem 2658, 2255). Lab hold. Swing 5.5% Lab to C. Northamptonshire County - Lloyds: Lab 1093, C 375, Lib Dem 311, BNP 265. (May 2005 - Lab 2620, C 886, Lib Dem 707). Lab hold. Swing 3% Lab to C.
Portsmouth City - Nelson: Lab 791, C 682, Lib Dem 548, Ukip 90, Green 78, English Democrats 71 . (May 2007 - Lab 840, Lib Dem 717, C 711, English Democrats 199, Green 168). Lab hold. Swing 0.0% C to Lab.
Sunderland Borough - Washington East: C 1196, Lab 994, Lib Dem 206 . (May 2007 - C 1245, Lab 1220, Lib Dem 441, BNP 195). C gain from Lab. Swing 3.7% Lab to C.

and Andrea comments here that Mansfield was a Lab gain from Ind - Lab 339 Ind 302 LibDem 215 Con 61 Green 35

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NCC & CAC landslides

A slamdunk for the forces of light in today's CAC (Conference Arrangements Committee) and NCC (National Constitutional Committee) elections - they sound boring but determine how conference is run and the policing of the rulebook.

Stephen Twigg - 108636 elected
Marge Carey - 86773 elected
Lynne Jones - 48800
George McManus - 28971
Selman Ansari - 9254

Maggie Cosin - 90675 elected
Peter Kenyon - 25438
Rita Stephen - 13863
Stanley Henig - 9252

NPF Results in full

Hat-tip to Peter Kenyon for posting the full NPF results here: http://www.savethelabourparty.org/07_NPF_results.pdf

The hard left candidates can be identified using p7 of this: http://www.clpd.org.uk/ - a little cross referencing reveals every single one of them lost.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Conference - Tuesday

As predicted yesterday, I just missed election to the NPF. The London region results (to nearest half thousand) were:

Nicky Gavron 25,000 elected
Alon Or-Bach 18,000 elected
Lisa Homan 17,000 elected
Joanne Milligan 17,000 elected
Luke Akehurst 15,000
Mike Katz 10,000
Laura Bruni 8,000
Francis Prideaux 7,500
Lorraine Monk 4,000
Chris Roberts 3,000

The politics of this in very broad terms are that Nicky and Alon are both sort-of soft left, whilst Laura, Francis and Lorraine were on the Grassroots Alliance slate.

Monday, September 24, 2007

At Conference - Monday

I was part of a group from Hackney Labour Group who were presented with an award for best practice in campaigning today from Harriet Harman - the first time I've ever made it onto the stage at Conference despite having my hand in the air to speak on many occasions as a delegate or PPC.

Today also saw Tory blogger Iain Dale publish his top 100 left-of-centre blogs list for 2007. I've gone up 25 places from 35th last year to number 10 this year. I'm not sure Iain should really be the arbiter of this (though I'm grateful to make his top 10). Maybe we should exercise a bit more autonomy as Labour bloggers and run our own rankings through LabourHome or Bloggers4Labour rather than being judged by a Tory.

The rather more important matter of the NPF elections is looking less good - being counted now and I'm fairly sure I've come best runner-up - 5th in a field of 10 for 4 seats.

I thought Gordon's speech was very interesting. Clear moral purpose, and an insight into what makes the guy tick. A nice tribute to Blair. No mention of the opposition at all - just positive stuff about Labour's vision. And wall-to-wall progressive policy initiatives, especially on education. If we need to fight an election in a few weeks time, we certainly have a set of policies ready that demonstrate we have not run out of steam after ten years in government, and offer real opportunity to ordinary families.

Other highlights today were a rousing platform defence of the role of local government from Hazel Blears, and former Tory MP Quentin Davies doing a veritable demolition job on David Cameron.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

At Conference

24 hours in Bournemouth already - time flies when you are having fun.

My NPF election looks like it is going down to the wire, with 7 of the 10 London candidates having some chance of getting elected. Voting closes noon tomorrow.

I missed the Chancellor's speech as I was enjoying delicious haddock and chips at the Westbeach on the sea front, which calls itself Britain's best seafood restaurant and deserves the hype.

The debate on party reform was low key, as the four main unions' mature approach to negotiations before conference meant the sting had been taken out of it. The only significant opposition speeches were from Michael Meacher, discredited by his weird leadership campaign, and Tower Hamlets' veteran hard leftie Belle Harris. Hardly a winning oratorical combo.

However, as Tom Watson said in the post-debate briefing for bloggers (an excellent innovation by the party) the ramifications are huge, as we are finally moving towards the style of deliberative policy making favoured by the highly successful Nordic social democratic and labour parties - and both decentralising power to members at the start of the process and giving them the final say in an OMOV ballot at the end. It's going to require a big input of resources by the Party into policy making but hopefully we'll see quality policies as a result.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Kind words from who?

By-election results

Last week saw 3 Labour gains, 2 from Con, 1 from LD in council by-elections.

Last night saw a continuation of the same trend:

Nuneaton and Bedworth, Abbey Ward - Labour gain from LDs, removing the final LD seat from the council

Birmingham, Brandwood Ward - Labour gain from Tories with a 300 majority (Tom Watson is quoting this as a 6.6% swing)

Worcester, St Clements Ward - Tory seat with 470 majority gained by Labour with 126 majority, Tories lose overall control of council

Pembrokeshire CC, Pembroke St Michaels Ward - result awaited

Wigan MBA, Wigan West Ward - result awaited

Copeland BC, Harbour Ward - Labour hold

Southend On Sea UA, Shoeburyness Ward - Independent gain from Tory

so the scores on the doors so far are:

Labour - 3 gains, 2 from Con, 1 from LD, and 1 hold, all in relatively marginal areas
Tories - 3 losses, 2 to Lab, 1 to Ind, no holds

Any bets on an October election?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Galloway on LGBT issues

From the latest edition of the CPGB's Weekly Worker:

"An indication of Galloway’s view on how to play this question came last week when gay rights campaigners ‘outed’ his website. In order to discredit his Labour opponent in the next general election, Galloway listed Jim Fitzpatrick’s parliamentary record. He voted against a transparent parliament and for the Iraq war, ID cards, anti-terrorism legislation, replacing Trident, foundation hospitals and student top-up fees. And included amongst these and other similar ‘charges’ was Fitzpatrick’s position on homosexuality: he is “very strongly for equal gay rights”.

After Peter Tatchell contacted the press over this all reference to gay rights were quickly removed. Just a clumsy mistake? If so, Galloway made the same mistake when he announced his decision to contest Fitzpatrick’s seat on his August 10 Talk Sport radio show. Immediately after reading out the final point from Fitzpatrick’s parliamentary record - the fact that he had voted “very
strongly for equal gay rights” - Galloway stated: “All these are the reasons
why it’s going to be the mother of all battles in Poplar and Limehouse.”
The show containing this statement can still be downloaded from the Talk Sport website."

Another good reason to help Jim Fitzpatrick's campaign to stop Galloway getting back into the Commons.

Migration request

Watching Sir Andrew Green of anti-immigration group Migration Watch giving unwarranted intellectual succour to racists nationwide on Newsnight yet again last night, I couldn't help wishing that the UK's migration statistics would go up by one. If Sir Andrew is so worried about living in a multicultural society that people from around the world want to move to and contribute to economically and culturally, I wish he would emigrate himself, preferably as far away as possible.

Conference - kids and parents not welcome early

After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for our son Jed's (aged 2) Labour conference visitor pass to turn up, we finally managed to get through to Conference Services today.

They said:

- for some reason not a single child's pass has been printed yet - despite most having been received before 31 July
- every parent will have to queue up at Late Accreditation to collect their children's passes

OK, we said, we're coming down on Saturday because the London Region reception starts at 6pm - which is the official welcome to conference for London members. It's in the secure zone so even a 2 year old needs a pass to get in. We'd like to pop in to meet other delegates and visitors from our region. Not least because Jed's dad needs their votes for the NPF election. And it starts at a time that's suitable for Jed. When can we start queuing?

- you can't. Late Accreditation opens on Sunday.

So the average age of the Greater London Labour Party reception will go up a bit, and one of us will be sat in a hotel room watching c-Beebies with a pass-less Jed instead of meeting our fellow delegates and visitors.

Irritating for us, but a really huge issue for other people with kids who have booked into the couple of hotels inside the secure zone - how do they check in to their hotels without passes? If they are planning to be there on Saturday night it will often be because their work requires them to be there early.

Not very good logistical planning from what's supposed to be a family friendly party.

If conference organisers are reading this, please sort out a solution e.g. pass free admission for children on the Saturday.

The political undead

Hackney residents who suffered years of infighting, budget meltdowns, service cuts and chaos in the 1990s when the Lib Dems were in the driving seat in a hung council will surely be delighted at being given the chance to cast a vote against Meral Ece next May.

Meral has, for some unknown reason, been picked as the LD candidate for the Hackney, Islington & Waltham Forest GLA seat. Presumably this is so she can extend the positive impact she has had on Lib Dem fortunes in Hackney and Islington to Waltham Forest.

Meral started her career on the left of the Hackney Labour Party, and within two years of becoming a Labour councillor in 1994 she had risen to Deputy Leader and brought her knack for comradeliness and consensual politics to bear by playing a leading role in splitting the Hackney Labour Group, quitting with 16 other councillors to form the short-lived and extremely misnamed "Hackney New Labour Group", which might more accurately have been entitled the Jurassic Labour Group.

Within a few years she changed group again and became Deputy Leader of the Hackney Lib Dems, who in turn descended into an orgy of infighting, changing leaders three times in three years. Ece courageously went on the chicken run to neighbouring Islington and did not defend her Dalston ward in 2002, leaving the rest of her group in Hackney to reap the electoral whirlwind of the hung council years and go from 18 seats down to 3.

Across the border in carpet-bagger land - oops sorry Islington - the newly re-elected - for a totally different borough - Cllr Ece - acted as the same lucky talisman for the Islington Lib Dems as she had for the Hackney Labour Group and the Hackney Lib Dems. At the first election she went into as their Deputy Leader - in 2006 - they bucked the national trend to lose 12 seats to Labour.

With Meral's reputation as a fence mender, bridge builder, team player and election winner, she is sure to maximise the Lib Dem vote across North East London.

If this sounds a bit personalised, it's because having seen what this woman and her mates did to public services and tax-payer's money in Hackney in the '90s, and having listened to her screeching diatribes across the council chamber, it is my personal view that she has no place in public life, and is not worthy of running a whelk stall, let alone scrutinising the governance of Greater London.

What's really in the Brown proposals

We are hearing such a lot of noise about the sacred cow of "Contemporary Resolutions" being slaughtered that the other aspects of the "Extending and Renewing Party Democracy" have been ignored.

The package as a whole is actually a coherent one deserving of its title. It's a shame a few siren voices have reacted with such venom towards proposals that came out of the soft left and the Cruddas campaign rather than from the right of the Party.

The full package that went through the NEC this week is:

Part One:Involving every party member in policy making
• A duty on all party units to engage and consult with their members and in their communities
• Support for holding local policy forums in constituencies and the holding of Regional Policy Forums
• Invitation to every member to take part in discussions on policy
• More opportunities for party members and the National Policy Forum (NPF) to debate current as well as future policy
• More feedback on the work of Partnership in Power (PiP) so that members can follow the debates
• Extending opportunities for online engagement at a national and local level
• Local parties to work closely with trade unions on local engagement and campaigns
• Socialist societies and other Labour-supporting groups to be involved in supporting local activity where possible

Part Two:Strengthening the institutions of our policy making process
• Greater ministerial engagement with the National Policy Forum, policy commissions and local policy forums
• Greater clarity on timetable for consultations on policy documents and on the meetings of key Partnership in Power institutions
• Utilise new technology where possible to improve communication on the work of the NPF and policy commissions, improve feedback on their work and communication with NPF representatives
• Joint Policy Committee to take on an enhanced executive role in relation to the operation of Partnership in Power and the NPF
• Increased number of NPF constituency and affiliate representatives on the JPC and Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) Chair to be ex-officio JPC member
• CAC to be expanded to include NPF representation
• New contemporary issues process at Annual Conference
• Ballot of the membership on the party programme

Part Three: An outward looking, engaging party
• Local parties to engage and co-operate with local community groups, NGOs and campaigns
• Local parties to maximise member involvement
• Encouragement and support for new members and for young members
• Support for local parties to innovate in devising methods of engagement
• Duty on Labour representatives to take a lead in promoting local engagement

On the most contentious bit, the process replacing Contemporary Resolutions is:
"The Contemporary issues process at Conference:
1. Party units will be entitled to submit one contemporary issue each year, on any issue not substantially addressed through the PiP process. Submitting party units will be able to provide a statement that sets out what the issue is and why the issue should be prioritised in the National Policy Forum.
2. After the deadline for the submission of issues, the CAC will consider whether the issues submitted meet agreed criteria, and group the issues by subject. The CAC report to Annual Conference will outline progress to date on each issue.
3. A priorities ballot will then take place at the start of conference to determine which issues shall be timetabled for debate.
4. The top four priority issues selected by CLPs in their ballot will be timetabled, as will the top four priority issues selected by affiliates.
5. Following the ballot, delegates from the submitting organisations for each successful issue subject shall meet with the relevant policy commission co-convenors, and with relevant ministers to discuss the progress to date on the issue and how the issue might be resolved.
6. The meeting will also decide on two guaranteed speakers from amongst the submitting organisations’ delegates who can propose and second that Conference agrees that the issue should be timetabled for detailed deliberation by the NPF. If there are differing views on the issue amongst the submitting organisations’ delegates then the proposer and seconders chosen should, as far as possible, reflect these differences.
7. The subject groupings that have been agreed will be properly timetabled during Conference week and, subject to the vote of Conference. Therefore each debate will conclude with a vote at which conference will be invited to agree that the issue should be timetabled for discussion deliberation and investigation by the NPF.
8. During the debate on conference floor, policy commission co-convenors will have the opportunity to indicate how the commission will take forward the issue in response to the debate
9. If the vote is carried then the relevant policy commission will fully integrate the issue into their workplan for the year with the proposer and seconder fully engaged in the Policy Commission discussions on this issue over the next year."

Free advice

Amongst the people I would least trust for advice about any aspect whatsoever of how to win an election would be Labour's least successful leader ever, Michael Foot.

That hasn't stopped him offering his advice though.

Foot also says of Callaghan and the 1979 election "What I regret is that he didn't postpone it again". Admittedly I was only seven at the time but my reading of the history books is that it wasn't open to Callaghan to "postpone it again" as he had lost a vote of confidence in the Commons.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Unions back increased Party democracy

Good news from today's NEC meeting where the unions swung in behind Gordon Brown's proposals for extending party democracy. According to this the NEC voted by 23 to 4 (which I assume were the 4 Grassroots Alliance (sic) folk) to back the abolition of contemporary resolutions etc.

My hunch is that union leaders have sussed that they've actually achieved far more of their policy objectives through constructive engagement in the National Policy Forum process - most notably the Warwick Agreement - than through old-style slanging matches and symbolic defeats of the Government in votes on contemporary resolutions.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's going to get debated?

Further to the last post, it looks fairly clear which four issues are going to get picked in the priority ballot for debate at conference:

Equalities & Equal Pay – submitted by UNISON + BSS + Labour Students + 9 CLPs
Employment Rights – TGWU, CWU, USDAW + 13 CLPs
Manufacturing – Amicus, BFAWU + 4 CLPs
Remploy – GMB + 6 CLPs

Then there are the four that the CLPs now pick:

Darfur – submitted by 1 CLP
SE Plan – 1 CLP
Stop the BNP – 1 CLP
Health – 4 CLPs

are the only ones left, unless ... Iraq is valid - which you can't tell because a (deliberate?) typo means that the 2 Iraq motions are the only ones where the recommendation on validity is missing ...

Hopefully the last ever batch of these

"Save the Labour Party" (sic) have helpfully provided the full text of the contemporary resolutions sent to Annual Conference.

Unfortunately 102 of the 150 are not contemporary and have been ruled out as they don't refer to specific events since the end of July.

Reading through them just reminds you that the submission of little essays of well-meaning wish lists or condemnation, which will in any case get composited out of existence, reminds you what an absurd way to try to make policy the resolutionary method is.

The sooner Brown's proposal to scrap this hangover from the pre-1990s policy-making system is passed, the better.

In the meantime 10/10 to West Dunbartonshire CLP and John Spellar's Warley CLP for passing this (although unfortunately this one is being ruled non-contemporary as well):

"Conference notes announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency on 21 August 2007 of a timetable to implement its plan for clearing up outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear activities and giving better access to nuclear sites.

Conference also notes the interviews on ITV News and Channel 4 News with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 12 September 2007 in which he ruled out the abandonment of uranium enrichment.

Conference believes that these developments show that the UK faces an uncertain world where there are continuing challenges in relation to nuclear proliferation.

Conference therefore welcomes the decision by the government and the House of Commons to retain theUK’s independent nuclear deterrent in line with the party’s manifesto for the last general election which stated that “We are also committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent”, as a recognised nuclear state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).Conference welcomes the open approach taken by the Labour government to the decision, including the publication of a white paper, a vote in Parliament, and discussions in the Britain in the World Policy Commission, the National Executive Committee and the National Policy Forum.

Conference welcomes Labour’s long tradition of working to alleviate the threat from the world’s most dangerous weapons and, as a signatory to the NPT, our responsibility to work towards the goal of the global elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Conference also welcomes the commitment to strengthen the international consensus against such weapons and continued work bilaterally and through the UN to urge states not yet party to the non-proliferation treaties, notably the NPT, to join.

Conference notes that the Trident submarines used as the platform for the UK’s existing nuclear deterrent will reach the end of their operational life around 2020 and that a decision was therefore urgently required on the question of the replacement.

Conference believes that there is an overwhelming case for replacement and that the deterrent is essential to the UK’s future defence and security requirements because:
• It is impossible to predict all the security challenges that might arise in the next half century and that therefore to ensure that the UK is as prepared as is possible for potential scenarios we must retain the full range of defensive options available to us;
• As long as potential enemies have nuclear weapons, we should retain them;
• The possession of nuclear weapons remain a means of deterring other states from using or seeking to acquire nuclear weapons;
• Potentially thousands of jobs in the UK defence industry and allied sectors are dependent upon, and could be further secured by, the replacement of our nuclear deterrent;
• Our independent nuclear deterrent plays an important role in maintaining the UK’s international status and influence; and that the signal that would be sent out about our place in Europe and in the world should we decide to leave France as Europe’s only nuclear power, would leave us with a diminished diplomatic status and exposed to greater security threats.Conference therefore reaffirms Labour’s longstanding commitment to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent and calls upon the Labour government to proceed without delay in implementing the decision to replace the Trident system at the end of its operational life."

Deputy Leadership stats

Omar has provided jpegs of the newly published list of who each MP voted for in the Deputy Leadership election:


it all seems a long time ago now, but this is a fascinating picture of the complex voting patterns in the PLP.

A good way to read them is to read each MP's preferences backwards from sixth to see who really disliked who. Particularly as there is no point expressing a sixth preference (if you express 5 then the final candidate must be 6th) it's quite a public way of expressing distaste.

Some of the transfer patterns are predictable, e.g. Blears to Johnson and vice versa, Harman to Blears & vice versa, Cruddas to Harman and vice versa. Others are a lot more idiosyncratic.

One of the ones that jumped out to me as interesting is that Nick Brown voted 2nd preference for Blears.

In praise of Northern Rock

I'm getting heartily fed up with all the sanctimonious commentary about Northern Rock deserving the current crisis on the grounds they lent to people who were high risk.

I've got a Northern Rock mortgage.

I've got it because they were the lender that was prepared to give me a 100% plus deal. I.e. I didn't need a deposit and I was able to borrow a bit more to buy some furniture.

I don't think it's unreasonable that people who don't have a family trust fund to put up a deposit, or who have to buy their own furniture rather than inherit it, should be able to be home-buyers.

There was nothing irresponsible about me taking out that size of loan or about them lending it to me.

They have also been criticised for lending multiples of 5 or more times salary to people. In Hackney a one bedroom flat sells at about £180,000 so unless lenders are prepared to lend at 5x salary then no one with an income under £36k would ever be able to buy.

What is happening to Northern Rock is an outbreak of mass hysteria amongst savers that has nothing to do with the company's business model, which was actually pretty sensible - spotting there were a bunch of people (20% of the market!) who wanted to buy but didn't have a deposit, and helping them get on the housing ladder.

My hunch is that most of the people retrospectively attacking them already own their homes and can deliver pious lectures about "risky lending" without remembering what it's like to be, or to want to be, a first-time buyer.

Liverpool West Derby

An already good weekend of selection results with Leeds West became a superb one with Stephen Twigg's selection for Liverpool West Derby (Lab notional majority of over 14,500), replacing sitting MP Bob Wareing who came 3rd.

This will put back into the Commons one of Labour's star performers. Anyone who knows the work Stephen did in Enfield Southgate will know that the Labour Party and the electorate in Liverpool West Derby will be getting a very impressive and hard-working local MP, as well as someone who will hopefully be back as a minister as soon as they are back in the Commons.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Leeds West Selection

Congratulations to my Unite/Amicus colleague Rachel Reeves, who was selected last night as parliamentary candidate for Leeds West, a Labour seat with a notional majority of over 14,000.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not completely obsessed by Trots, honest

Thanks to Theo Blackwell (http://regentsparklabour.blogspot.com/) for sending me the link to the SWP's response to Galloway's critique of their behaviour inside Respect:


This mini guide to other student factions by the CPGB is fun too: http://www.communiststudents.org.uk/paper/003/bestiary.html

Maggie's visit

Some other Labour bloggers have reacted a little bit hysterically to Thatcher's visit to No10.

My take is:

a) Personally I felt nauseated, but I'm a Labour activist, not a swing voter, and I guess a lot of people who voted Tory in the '80s and Labour in the last three elections - i.e. the people who decide whether or not we get a Labour government - still respect her (and are grateful if they own their right-to-buy council home etc.) and will see this as some kind of implicit endorsement that it is OK to vote for Brown

b) It helps put pressure on Cameron.

c) Protocol - and sheer good manners - dictate that Brown has to be civil to his predecessors as PM - including the Tory ones. This is in the same league as having to work with foreign leaders like Bush and Berlusconi - because they are/were leaders of our partner countries, despite the fact they would be our political opponents in domestic politics. I can remember Wilson and Callaghan being invited to events at No10 by Thatcher, despite her having attacked everything they stood for.

d) Time is a great leveller. She made life very miserable for millions of the poor, the unemployed, miners, you name it - now she's a not very happy and visibly frail woman whose political legacy has been to see her own party shattered and in the wilderness, and us running the show for 10 years. I think we can afford to be magnanimous - it doesn't mean we are forgetting or forgiving Thatcher's politics.

Council by-elections

Big crop of council by-election results last night:

3 Labour gains, 2 from Con, 1 from LD
2 Lib Dem gains from Con
1 Con gain from LD

Chelmsford BC, Broomfield and The Walthams Ward - LD gain from Tories on a swing of over 29%
Mendip DC, Glastonbury St Edmunds Ward - Con gain from LD
Rossendale BC, Goodshaw Ward - Lab gain from Con
Rossendale BC, Irwell Ward - Lab gain from Con
Rossendale BC, Whitewell Ward - LD gain from Con
Liverpool MDC, Warbreck Ward - Lab gain from LD on a huge swing
LB Brent, Stonebridge Ward - good Lab hold despite huge LD effort in marginal Brent Central parliamentary seat
LB Lewisham, Whitefoot Ward - LD hold but with majority cut by Labour from nearly 500 to 85 (swing 6.5% LD to Lab)
Conwy CC, Mochdre Ward - Lab hold with a hugely increased majority over Plaid in what had been a marginal ward
Tunbridge Wells, Pantiles and St Marks - Con Hold in a safe ward

Overall a very good Labour performance indicating that the Brown bounce in the opinion polls means something real on the ground.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tory Split on C-Charge

Former Hackney Councillor Andrew Boff has proclaimed that the Tory Mayoral selection is a "referendum on the Congestion Charge".

Boff is calling for it to be scrapped whilst according to him "Henley MP Boris Johnson wants it to continue in some form."

More here: http://andrewboff.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=38&Itemid=1

Ken is saying:

"‘Andrew Boff is, of course, right that if - as is expected - Boris Johnson is selected as Tory candidate for Mayor, this will represent the overturn of the Tory Party’s seven year policy of opposition to congestion charging in London, a clear indication of the policy incompetence of the party.

‘But it will also be a total reversal of policy for Boris Johnson himself. Boris Johnson previously wrote of the “dark days of the New Labour tyranny, when the maniac Ken Livingstone is charging you an extra £1,200 for the privilege of using the Queen’s highway”(Life in the Fast Lane p185).

‘The likely reversal by the Tory Party of its seven year opposition to the congestion charge will show the incompetence of not only that Party but of all its candidates regarding the key policy issues in London.’"

Maybe she shouldn't have been so sniffy about the day job

I generally think Oona King is a good thing, and certainly infinitely preferable to the odious demagogue who displaced her.

The Guardian review of her newly published diary (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/bookshelf/story/0,,2167902,00.html) reveals though a rather sniffy attitude to the pretty vital role of being a backbench MP, complaining:

"My job, from a parliamentary perspective, could not be more dull, repetitive or low-skilled. In fact, the more correct term is unskilled."

Oh dear. Sorry, Oona, most people would regard it as a privilege to be one of the nation's legislators and particularly to be representing and doing casework for a deprived community like Bethnal Green.

If the Commons was such a bore, it might have made sense to spend every spare minute campaigning, as by the time the above quote was written Mr Galloway was a clear and present danger in the constituency.

Not every MP can be a Minister. Maybe selection meetings need to ask prospective MPs if they will enjoy and be able to sustain enthusiasm for the slog of back-benchery and sustaining the party in a marginal seat. If people aren't up for that then maybe they should look to make a political contribution in other ways that are less "dull" or "repetitive".

Possibly the revelation that Oona actually turned down the first PPS job offered her may also explain the lack of subsequent meteoric promotion.

The bulk of the PLP who get on with being good constituency MPs and would be delighted to make it to being a PPS must be seething to have the job they have struggled to acheive dismissed as "dull, repetitive ... unskilled."

My instinct would be we need fewer prima donnas and more grafters.

Labour hires Saatchi & Saatchi

That's what it says here anyway: http://www.labour.org.uk/just_gordon

Douglas Alexander, Labour's general election co-ordinator, said: "I can confirm that we have appointed Saatchi & Saatchi and we are delighted to have them on board."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On another site


"Inquorate meetings, cynicism and disillusionment" - I wonder whose fault that is?

Interesting post from Susan Press of Labour Left Briefing:

She blames Brown for "inquorate meetings, cynicism and disillusionment" in deepest Calderdale.

Of course, low attendance at Susan's branch meetings would have nothing to do with the other poor folk in her branch knowing that if they turn up they will be subjected to an endless round of whinging diatribes against the leadership, procedural resolutions, hymns of praise to John McDonnell, and model motions from the LRC.

Perhaps the other 131 members in Hebden Bridge joined the Labour Party because they wanted to offer their support to the Labour Government. Just a thought ...

Nothing to Crow about

The rest of the trade union movement delivered its verdict on Bob Crow's recent activities in yesterday's election to the TUC General Council (bigger unions get seats automatically, the smaller ones elect a block of 11 seats):

Jonathan Baume* FDA 431,000
Brian Caton* POA 594,000
Bob Crow RMT 328,000
Jeremy Dear* NUJ 382,000
Gerry Doherty* TSSA 498,000
Michael Leahy* Community 416,000
Joe Marino BFAWU 245,000
Judy McKnight* NAPO 330,000
Robert F Monks URTU 60,000
Ged Nichols* Accord 408,000
Keith Norman ASLEF 191,000
Brian Orrell* Nautilus UK 429,000
Tim Poil* NGSU 412,000
John Smith* MU 459,000
Matt Wrack* FBU 376,000

If my memory is correct, another of the defeated candidates, Joe Marino, was like Crow previously associated with Scargill's Socialist Labour Party.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Postman Pat

I'd like to publicly thank Hackney Council's courier service man for arriving clutching an envelope full of casework and committee papers at exactly the moment that my son was reaching the final free mini-episode on http://www.postmanpat.com/

He went to bed thinking Postman Pat had personally visited.

The poor man must have been slightly confused to be greeted with shouts of "PAT CAT" and Akehurst junior will now grow up thinking the post arrives at 8pm, but it was probably quite a moment if you are only two.

Now, if LBH could paint its vans red and kit the courier service out in uniforms and give each of them a black and white cat...

Cheer up everyone!

I regularly fill in a survey for YouGov which asks you how optimistic you feel about a range of things from your own life through to the state of the world. Everything gets an optimism tick from me except for the "state of the world" box where I have been predicting gloom and doom ever since 9/11 (and as an unreconstructed Cold Warrior I was worrying about China even before then).

I may have to revise that with the publication of the 2007 State of The Future report. The Executive Summary is here:


It gets described by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, as "an informative publication that gives invaluable insights into the future for the United Nations, its Member States, and civil society" so it must be good.

Anyway, the report says it ain't all disease, famine, pestilence, terrorism, war and global warming:

  • "People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, and increasingly connected and they are living longer"
  • "The global economy grew at 5.4% in 2006 to $66 trillion (PPP). The population grew 1.1%, increasing the average world per capita income by 4.3%. At this rate world poverty will be cut by more than half between 2000 and 2015, meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction except in sub-Saharan Africa."
  • "Although great human tragedies like Iraq and Darfur dominate the news, the vast majority of the world is living in peace, conflicts actually decreased over the past decade, dialogues among differing worldviews are growing, intra-state conflicts are increasingly being settled by international interventions, and the number of refugees is falling. The number of African conflicts fell from a peak of 16 in 2002 to 5 in 2005."
  • "The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa has begun to level off and could begin to actually decrease over the next few years."
  • "According to WHO, the world’s average life expectancy is increasing from 48 years for those born in 1955 to 73 years for those who will be born in 2025."
  • "According to UNESCO, in 1970 about 37% of all people over the age of 15 were illiterate. That has fallen to less than 18% today. Between 1999 and 2004 the number of children without primary education fell by around 21 million to 77 million."
  • "According to Freedom House, the number of free countries grew from 46 to 90 over the
    past 30 years, accounting for 46% of the world's population, and for the past several years 64% of countries have been electoral democracies. Since democracies tend not to fight each other and since humanitarian crises are far more likely under authoritarian than democratic regimes, the trend toward democracy should lead to a more peaceful future among nation states."
  • "As the world moves toward ubiquitous computing with collective intelligence for just-in-time knowledge, decisions should improve."
  • "World trade grew 15% in 2006, according to the WTO. Higher oil and commodity prices contributed to the 30% trade growth for the least-developed countries—a world record—and their economies continued to exceed 6% for the third year in a row. The debt-to-GDP ratios decreased in all developing regions, partly due to debt forgiveness."
  • "unethical decisions are increasingly exposed via news media, blogs, mobile phone cameras, ethics commissions, and organizations like Transparency International."
The message isn't that everything is perfect (I've not quoted all the bad stuff as it is better known than the good stuff), but that most key indicators are getting better.

The section about climate change manages to be sobering whilst also suggesting positive solutions.

The bits socialists need to be concerned about though include this:

"Although the majority of the world is improving economically, income disparities are still enormous: 2% of the world’s richest people own more than 50% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 50% of people own 1%. And the income of the 225 richest people in the world is equal to that of the poorest 2.7 billion, 40% of the world."

The report concludes:
"It has been considered ridiculous to try and achieve health and security for all people. Equally
ridiculous today is thinking that one day an individual acting alone will not be able to create and
use a weapon of mass destruction or that there will not be serious pandemics as we crowd more
people and animal habitats into urban concentrations while easy transborder travel exists and
biodiversity is diminishing. The idealism of the welfare of one being the welfare of all could
become a pragmatic long-range approach to countering terrorism, keeping airports open, and
preventing destructive mass migrations and other potential threats to human security. Ridiculing idealism is shortsighted, but idealism without the rigors of pessimism is misleading. We need very hardheaded idealists who can look into the worse and best of humanity and can create and implement strategies of success."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The prodigal son

I spent Saturday morning delivering the Hackney Labour Rose newsletter on one of the estates in my ward.

Waiting for the bus home in Lower Clapton Road, Brian Sedgemore, Hackney South's former Labour MP walked past me. He kept his head down and, I think, deliberately ignored me.

Brian was someone who I considered a comrade - he was on the same side as me on all the local issues in Hackney, and on London-wide politics - and at least on some level a friend (seeing as he attended my birthday parties, which I assumed was not because he loved karaoke).

Since he unexpectedly defected to the Lib Dems on the eve of the 2005 General Election he has completely severed his social, as well as political links, with people who showed him nothing but loyalty during his two decades as MP. He intervened in the 2006 local elections with attacks on Labour councillors who had been his allies in the local party, and in support of Lib Dems he had spent decades fighting.

If you are reading this Brian:

a) surely now that Blair - who I accept you despised - has gone, you should come back to the Labour Party?

b) if you don't feel able to do that, then I hope you will separate the personal from the political and feel you can at least say hello next time we meet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Galloway on Respect

None other than George Galloway himself has written an 8 page critique of Respect. It seems that all is not as comradely as it could be.

You can read it all here: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/686/galloway.htm

The astonishing thing is that a politician of Galloway's experience should seem surprised that the SWP - who after all are Leninists who practice democratic centralism and a vanguard party where "cadres" exploit "fodder" - have tried to control and dominate Respect just like they have every other front group they have ever set up, or campaign they have taken over.

Key quotes:

  • "Ealing Southall ... just a few weeks before, marked the lowest point in Respect’s three-year history. The failure to harvest even the vote we had secured in just one ward of the constituency in the local elections 12 months earlier was a sharp reminder that what goes up can come down and should shatter any complacency about the London elections next May."
  • "Respect is not punching its weight in British politics and has not fulfilled its potential either in terms of votes consistently gained, members recruited or fighting funds raised.
    The primary reasons for this are not objective circumstances, but internal problems of our own making."
  • "Despite being a rather well known political brand our membership has not grown. And in some areas it has gone into a steep decline. Whole areas of the country are effectively moribund as far as Respect activity is concerned."
  • "There is a deep-seated culture of amateurism and irresponsibility on the question of money. "
  • "People pop up as staff members in jobs which have not been advertised, for which there have been no interviews and whose job descriptions are unclear and certainly unpublished. One staff member was appointed at a meeting at which that same staff member was present, making it obviously embarrassing for anyone to query whether they were the right person for the job, whether they could be afforded or why the job should go to them rather than someone else."
  • "at the selection meeting for our Shadwell candidate two members of staff were openly proselytising for one candidate and against another - including heckling - and even after the decision had been taken. This undoubtedly contributed to the exceedingly poor involvement of the wider membership in the subsequent election. No paid member of staff attended the Shadwell victory celebrations and when I asked one of them if they would be attending I was told ‘no, I will be watching the football’."
  • "There is a custom of anathematisation in the organisation which is deeply unhealthy and has been the ruin of many a left-wing group before us. This began with Salma Yaqoob, once one of our star turns, promoted on virtually every platform, and who is responsible for some of the greatest election victories (and near misses) during our era.
    Now she has been airbrushed from our history at just the time when she is becoming a regular feature on the national media and her impact on the politics of Britain’s second city has never been higher.
    There appears to be no plan to rescue her from this perdition, indeed every sign that her internal exile is a fixture."
  • "Then there is the practice of the creation of false dichotomies between candidates for internal elections. Neither Oliur Rahman nor Abjul Miah nor Haroon Miah is Karl Liebknecht. And Sultana Begum is not Rosa Luxemburg. Yet in internal election contests these four contested in Tower Hamlets the divisions between them were deliberately and artificially exaggerated and members mobilised about “principles” which never were. This has led to deep and lasting divisions which show no signs of healing in the current atmosphere."
  • "Relations between leading figures in Respect are at an all-time low and this must be addressed."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bob Crow - recruiting sergeant for de-unionisation

I wonder how many workers on substantially lower wages and worse terms and conditions than tube staff have been put off joining a trade union by the RMT's unnecessary 72-hour long act of economic vandalism this week and are cursing Bob Crow and his members as they walk home or queue for overcrowded buses?

I've actually recruited union members over the years. Once you explain that a trade union is about practical things like negotiating on your behalf, helping you with legal support and advice, trying collectively to improve your conditions at work, people are interested.

But the biggest push back - often from people who would really benefit from being in a union - is the fear that they are going to be signing up for unnecessary and/or politically motivated strike action, and being publicly represented by Trot or Stalinist demagogues.

Crow's brand of neo-Scargillite macho industrial willy-waving is a disgrace to the trade union movement and will make recruitment to trade unionism more difficult. Indirectly, it will therefore damage the working lives of many people who would have benefited from being trade union members.

I would be interested to know how much of the push for the current action is coming from professional revolutionaries from the AWL and Respect who have entered into the RMT as it is a small and easily manipulable union, and in an industry where shift patterns afford opportunities to go to lots of caucus meetings and subsidised travel means you can move around London easily to recruit and sell newspapers. I'm aware of at least one Trot former member of the NUS National Executive, with a PhD, whose career move into train driving then LU station management has facilitated an equally destructive role in the RMT to the one they played in student unionism.

Saner unions should get in there and start recruiting those tube workers who want a leadership for whom strike action is the last resort, not the first way to get publicity.

The TUC should condemn the strike.

Normally I would never criticise a fellow union member in dispute with their employer, but as the RMT are no longer showing any solidarity with the rest of the Labour movement, having stepped outside the Labour Party, I can see no reason why the rest of the Labour movement should show solidarity with them.

Jimmy Knapp, under whom the RMT was a force for great common sense, must be turning in his grave at the current exploits.

Monday, September 03, 2007

ALP heading for landslide?

Good news from Down Under. Labor has opened up what The Australian is calling a "crushing lead" over John Howard's Coalition government.

The ALP is on 51% vs. 37% for the Coalition in the latest opinion poll. After transfers from minor parties, the "two-party preferred vote" is 59%-41%.

An election is expected by the end of the year.

Walthamstow selection

My friend Stella Creasy has just sent me the link to her website for the Walthamstow parliamentary selection: http://www.workingforwalthamstow.org/

It's worth a look for those of you following the selection, wanting ideas for your own candidate or elected representative site, or wanting tips from a local resident on the best restaurants and pubs in and around E17.

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