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.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Peter Watt

I'm sorry to hear that Peter Watt has had to resign as Labour Party General Secretary.

We were both recruited as constituency organisers at about the same time in 1996 - in fact for a couple of weeks after he started we were based in the same building in Battersea, with Peter as Battersea CLP Organiser and me upstairs working for Anita Pollack MEP.

I think the same of him now as I did then - that he is a serious, highly professional person totally dedicated to the Labour Party.

His swift and dignified resignation is a measure of the principled person he is.

I haven't got a clue how he - or his officers - came to believe the Abrahams donations through third parties were acceptable (in either sense of the word). But I believe him if he says he thought they were.

As for Mr Abrahams I don't think he gets it. The law is designed to make donations to political parties transparent. We wrote it. That means donors have to choose between either publicly making a donation, or if like Mr Abrahams they don't want publicity, giving their money to a charity not a political party or not giving it at all. As it happens he's ended up with far more publicity and of a far worse kind than a transparent and properly declared donation would have involved, and cost a good guy his job, and the party he was trying to help a huge reputational hit.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Celebrating the Ruddslide

Today started well watching the live coverage of the Australian General Election on the ABC news website and switching on just in time to see them predict Howard had lost Bennelong, with the presenter accidentally saying "the swing to ABC" instead of the "swing to the ALP" because Howard's Labor opponent is an ex-TV journalist.

By happy coincidence we had a Labor-voting Australian staying with us which made watching Kevin Rudd storm to victory even more enjoyable.

Then out into semi-arctic temperatures to organise a team of 20 canvassers, including Diane Abbott MP, in the Springfield Ward by-election - covering off all the uncontacted doors in the whole of the best one of the 4 polling districts, plus a large estate in the next one - we have now pushed our way to well over 1,000 Labour promises, half way to our 2,000 target with almost a month still to go until polling day. Thanks but no thanks to the Hackney Tories for triggering a by-election in this weather!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Boris attacks the police as "trigger-happy"

Whether Boris Johnson is fit to run London's policing if he became Mayor is in some question after he told the BBC, without interruption from the interviewer:

"I think the real reason Jean Charles de Menezes got killed in the Stockwell Tube was not just because the police were too trigger happy, although I think you could argue that they were, but also because if you look at the chain of events that led to his killing he was accompanied by several police officers throughout that morning, several surveillance officers, and at no stage did they think it worthwhile or possible to tap him on the shoulder and inquire who he was."

Online here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/wato/

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Carmarthen CC, Llandybie Ward - Ind hold with Lab staying second

Conwy CC, Rhiw Ward - Lib Dem gain from Con with quite a high swing

Dundee CC, Lochee Ward - SNP hold

Forest Heath DC, Manor Ward - Lib Dem gain from Con in a seat where they were unopposed in May

Norfolk CC, Aylsham Division - Lib Dem hold with a hugely increased majority over Con in what had been an extremely marginal division

Rossendale BC, Hareholme Ward - Lab hold in a marginal ward in a marginal parliamentary seat, no swing at all

Wellingborough BC, West Ward - Con hold in a safe ward

Winchester DC, Wickham ward - Lib Dem hold with a small swing from Con to LD

So a very good night for the LDs, and a good result for Labour in the Rossendale seat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Australian election turns nasty

The final days of the Australian General Election (polling day Saturday) have seen the ruling Liberals exposed for a dirty tricks campaign in the marginal electorate of Lindsay in western Sydney.

Liberal activists distributed a bogus pamphlet purporting to be in support of the Labor Party from an Islamic organisation that doesn't actually exist.

The husband of retiring Liberal MP Jackie Kelly rather daftly tried to cover his face when caught delivering the pamphlets - but did so with a copy of the offending document:

Nomination in

The most nerve-wracking aspect of being an election Agent is now over - getting your candidate's nomination papers in by the deadline in valid format - something I and every other Agent have nightmares over.

Labour Candidate for the Springfield Ward of Hackney Council by-election on 20 December is therefore the excellent Mohamed Munaf Zina.

For purposes of election law I'll therefore append this post with:

Promoted by Luke Akehurst of Flat 1, 8 Beatty Road, London, N16 8EB on behalf of Mohamed Munaf Zina of 91 Kyverdale Road, London, N16 6PP. Hosted (printed) by Blogger.com (Google Inc) of 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043 who are not responsible for any of the contents of this post.

Neal Lawson on Newsnight

Well done to Paxman for puncturing Neal Lawson's balloon last night on Newsnight, introducing Neal as "Neal, err... sorry I've forgotten your surname, from Compass, the think tank not the sandwich maker".

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alan Davidson

I've just learnt through references on Facebook and then confirmed by Lambeth Labour Leader Steve Reed's website that my friend and comrade Alan Davidson has died suddenly aged only 43.

This is devastating news - Alan was a fantastic man who was completely dedicated to the Labour Party and trade union movement and known to lots of us in London through the Amicus Regional Political Committee and his campaigning in Streatham CLP.

It's incredibly sad that someone so full of energy and warmth should pass away so young.

My thoughts are with his family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another great candidate selected

Labour's candidate selection process this time is continuing to produce some excellent candidates, particularly in the All Women Shortlist seats. As reported by Tom Watson last week Ruth Smeeth has been selected for the Staffordshire Labour marginal of Burton. I would share Tom's analysis that Ruth, Rachel Reeves (Leeds W) and Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) are likely to be amongst the stars of the next intake of Labour MPs.

Oxford Union and the BNP

I don't normally take a great interest in the activities of the Oxford Union debating society (being an embittered Oxbridge reject) but do think it's worth commenting on the idiotic decision of some of the nation's allegedly cleverest students to invite Nick Griffin of the BNP and David Irving to speak. There's now going to be a referendum on this issue on Friday of this week concurrent with elections to the Union's officerships.

If you are an Oxford graduate and took out life membership of the Union you are entitled to turn up on Friday and vote. Please do.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Back tomorrow

Apologies for the lack of posts. I've been in The Hague attending the 15th anniversary conference of ECOSY, the youth section of the Party of European Socialists, as a Veteran (Euro poltical speak for has-been) - I was Vice-President of ECOSY for 4 years back in my youth... normal service will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Labour to regain Blaenau Gwent?

The parliamentary selection in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales looks like it might in experienced campaigner Nick Smith (previously at the NSPCC and Wales Labour Party), who grew up locally in Tredegar, be coming up with a candidate who can win back what ought to be a safe seat for Labour. It was lost to independent Peter Law and then in a by-election to his Agent Dai Davies in the fallout from a previous controversy over All Women Shortlists.

Nominations have now closed, with each branch nominating a man and a woman and a BME candidate, and three candidates have secured nominations from branches with a majority of the CLP membership and are therefore automatically shortlisted: Nick, Keren Bender and Nicholas Dobrik.

Nick’s website is: http://www.nick-smith.net

The Hackney Wick fire

Hat-tip to Dave Hill (http://davehill.typepad.com/claptonian/) for posting a dramatic picture of how the fire in Hackney Wick yesterday looked from Hackney Town Hall. The tower blocks in the picture are the Trelawney Estate in my ward:

Labour MPs as employers

One of my pet hates is the small number of Labour MPs, who, despite belonging to a Party set up to represent the interests of working people, fail for whatever reason to treat their own employees properly in terms of issues such as pay, conditions or workplace rights. All Labour MPs should be setting an example as employers, not embarrassing the Party with the way they carry out this role.

Lynne Smith, who used to be active in Hackney South CLP before moving up to Bradford and becoming a councillor, has just had to fight a case at Employment Tribunal against her former employer Marsha Singh MP (Bradford West).

She won her case for unfair dismissal.

Perhaps the PLP could play a more active role in ensuring high standards as employers are kept to by all Labour MPs, and providing a central pool of management advice to help MPs deal with situations they are not trained to manage in a way that does not put them on the wrong side of employment law.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Latest Aussie poll

Latest poll in the Australian General Election shows Labor's lead on the two-party preferred vote increasing to 10%:


Remembrance Day

Today I went to the smallest of the three Remembrance Sunday events we hold in Hackney - one for each of the three former boroughs of Hackney, Shoreditch and Stoke Newington - in the vestibule of Stoke Newington library.

It is a very short and simple ceremony - the main civic service is held at St John's Church in Hackney - with a wreath being laid by the Council's Deputy Speaker, representatives of the other political groups on the Council, and the local Air Cadets, who then parade past the old Stoke Newington Town Hall.

On the wall is a war memorial which, for WW1 alone, lists over 1,000 names of Stoke Newington residents who died.

Above the door to the library is a short inscription which reads:

"All ye who pass in quest of happy hours,
Behold the price at which those hours were bought."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Council by-election results

More evidence of the incredibly competitive state of the fight between the two main parties from last night's council by-elections:

Tamworth BC, Castle Ward - Lab gain from Con - Tory maj of 181 in May turned into Lab maj of 6. This is in a key parliamentary marginal with a majority of about 2,500.

Guildford BC, Holy Trinity Ward - Con gain from LD

Telford and Wrekin UA, Brookside Ward - Con gain from Lab picking up second seat in what had been a split ward in May

Thursday, November 08, 2007

That resignation

No not Lord Drayson.

Last night Hackney Town Hall was rocked by the sudden resignation from the council of Tory Group Leader Eric Ollerenshaw OBE, announced by means of a note slipped under the door stating he was no longer a councillor effective from midnight.

A shame he did not tell us last Wednesday at full council as it would have been good to say goodbye formally.

Eric has been a councillor for 17 years and led the Tories since the elevation of "Tory Joe/Mr Hackney" Lobenstein to the Mayoral chair in the mid '90s. The Tories in Hackney are not awash with talent so his departure leaves a bit of a gap for them. Rumour is that Harvey Odze and Maureen Middleton will compete for the leadership of the group in a clash of the municipal titans...

Eric, to his credit, always tried to stay on friendly terms with opponents even whilst enjoying a knockabout style of debating in the chamber. Again to his credit when Hackney was threatened with Government intervention if we did not appoint a stable leadership in 2000, he did the right thing and worked with Labour. To his discredit, much of the chaos that created that situation had been made worse by his "it's all a big game" attitude and willingness to take defectors from other parties of any calibre, however low, down to and including Isaac Leibowitz, who ended up as a convicted vote rigger.

Now there's going to be a council by-election in Eric's Springfield Ward in Stamford Hill - won by under 200 votes in 2006 and by only about 30 in the 2001 by-election - on better boundaries for the Tories - following Leibowitz's conviction.

Should be a competitive one, but a bit disruptive of my Xmas shopping. Apologies if it distracts me from blogging.

Eric is off to fight marginal Lancaster and Fleetwood for the Tories in the next General Election.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Walthamstow selection result

Congratulations to my friend and former colleague at Lewisham Council Stella Creasy who was selected yesterday as Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Walthamstow (Lab maj 7993), the seat where she lives, in succession to Neil Gerrard MP.

I think Stella will make a big impact both on the PLP and on delivering local improvements for Walthamstow - she's a very hard working campaigner and a policy ideas person too.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

On the telly

I was interviewed by BBC1's The Politics Show yesterday at the Progress conference - basically about whether Labour should move to the left. I think you can guess what I said.

If, like me, you missed this moment (or 20 seconds) of TV history because you have better ways to spend your Sunday lunchtime, it's online here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A new comrade

Haringey Lib Dem Councillor Catherine Harris has seen the light today.

Madonna, Julie Burchill and Luke Akehurst

I wasn't ever aware I had anything in common with Madonna and Julie Burchill until today's Jewish Chronicle article on friends of the Jewish community cited the three of us as examples.

Council by-election result

Only one council by-election last night:

Ashfield DC, Sutton West Ward: Lib Dem gain from Independent (with the LDs not having run last time), Labour staying in second place.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Five questions for members of the Socialist Workers Party…

There were so many e-mails flying around in October 2007! Notably “Respect” and Socialist Workers Party E-mails about the current break-up of Respect that really were not meant to reach amused spectators.

A friend of this blog missed the opportunity to ask questions of a prominent SWP member at the end of October, but here are those questions:

1) Have you discovered any clues towards identifying the people who broke Cllr Oliur Rahman's (Respect (Independent) as opposed to Respect) windows?
2) Could the defenestrators have any connection with the people who, in April 2005 in Tower Hamlets, abused a crowd of elderly Jewish people who had gathered to commemorate a 2nd World War tragedy?
3) Now do you now understand the meaning of Jamaat-i-Islami?
4) Are you feeling a new-found empathy with the Iraqi Communists who formed a bloc with Ba'athism between 1972 and 1978?
5) Are you getting a new and more profound insight into the meaning of "What goes around, comes around"?

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