A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

How does he know?

The chief executive of the Independent Schools Council has had a big rant about how useless state schools are today.

Er... how does he know given that he neither works in nor uses the state sector?

Of course there are some failing state schools but there are also plenty that are huge success stories - here in inner-city Hackney we now have both city academies (all with comprehensive entries, mixed and non-denominational) and non-academy comprehensives that are over-subscribed and getting glowing inspection reports. The primary school where I'm a governor has exactly the kind of intake from disadvantaged backgrounds that this man is so sneering about (in fact it probably has one of the 1% most deprived intakes of any school in the country) yet has just been ranked as "an outstanding school" by OFSTED.

And why is the Guardian giving front page coverage to what is basically a not-very-well-disguised advertising campaign - his message being "boo, state schools are scary and nasty, your child might have to sit next to someone poor or common, perhaps it's infectious? Why not spend £20k a year on putting your sprogs through one of the institutions I represent?"

Lessons from Oxford

Well done to Antonia Bance and her colleagues in the Oxford Labour Party for following up their against-the-national-tide gains on May 1st with a big piece in the Guardian today by Compassite John Harris explaining how they did it.

The key points are worth repeating - and are exactly in line with the causes of similar against-the-trend success in Hackney and Lambeth in 2006 - and need to be picked up and disseminated by the Party nationally:

  • "infectious enthusiasm" - basically you need activists and candidates who want to win and are prepared to make their own luck whatever the national state-of-play
  • "Labour's recent wins took in both semi-detached suburbia and the kind of hard-bitten areas, in which a lengthy waiting-list for social housing - Oxford has worst English rate of homelessness outside London - are by far the biggest issue" - no nonsense about ignoring certain segments of the electorate - you need messages that resonate with our core vote and swing voters
  • "really, really hard work"
  • "a pretty united Labour group that's quite diverse ... and [is] from a fair spread across the party."
  • "on the doorstep, we're more progressive than the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Lib Dems fought this election on lower council tax. We fought on more investment in play schemes, a living wage, and making sure that people felt safe in their neighbourhoods"
  • "messages that have to be that bit more optimistic."
  • "You need to have a positive message about social justice and inclusion. And they're a real blind spot for the Lib Dems. When was the last time you heard a senior Lib Dem talk about childcare policy? You never do."
  • "the dire need, particularly in given the fragile state of the economy, for the government to break out of its current introspection and rediscover what remains of Labour's soul"
  • "We're the progressive option. We're the 'Labour party'. We're going to end child poverty by 2020, so let's go out there and tell the country why we're going to do it, how we're going to do it, how it's going to make a difference ... Let's end some pensioner poverty as well ... That's what it's all about. That's why the Labour party was founded. So let's stop being so bloody timid."
Antonia, who I'm fairly sure would self-define as on the left of the Party, adds:

"Labour's campaign saw a visit from Brown to Blackbird Leys, the estate that has long been a byword for the city's more troubled aspects. "We like having Gordon here," says Bance. "I genuinely mean that. Gordon's my guy.""

At last, some people that actually know how to win elections, putting forward some positive lessons about how we should do that. What a refreshing contrast from the "we're all doomed" stuff we've been reading elsewhere in the same paper for weeks. And what a nice surprise to see John Harris, of all people, write such a balanced article.

Suddenly it all makes sense

A funny thing happened as we drove up the A10 through Stoke Newington today.

The Socialist Party (AKA Militant Tendency, AKA the Revolutionary Socialist League) had a street stall outside Stoke Newington Post Office.

And manning that street stall was the bloke who we spotted taking pictures of our house just after we moved in, pictures that a couple of hours later appeared on the "spoof Luke" blog (with text I gather from the nice chap who lives in Sandringham Road, Dalston, and attacked a disabled member of Hackney's planning committee with a walking stick when they voted in favour of a planning application he didn't like).

Which explains why I had had trouble pinning down the politics of the spoof site: clearly anti-Labour yet also anti-LD, anti-Tory, anti-Green and anti-SWP, but exhibiting a degree of knowledge of internal Labour matters that would only come from someone that had been in the Labour Party at some stage, and puzzlingly indulging in casual homophobia every so often (a trait only really known on the left from Militant, who charmingly used to state that being gay was a bourgeois deviation that would wither away after the revolution). I am only surprised they find my support for nuclear deterrence so awful, given their own history of support for the "workers' bomb".

Now it all makes sense. I've been cloned by the master exponents of political parasitism, the Millies. The glory days of controlling Liverpool City Council now being 20 years behind them, they get their kicks from sending up the websites of obscure Hackney councillors. I almost feel proud.

Keep up the good work comrades, I expect the blog you write gets more hits than you sell newspapers.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Council by-election results

Yesterday's council by-election results, all from rain-affected Somerset, all showing movement from LD to Con:

Shepton East Ward, Mendip DC: Con hold. Con 435, LibDem 307, Lab 127. 3.6% swing from LD to Con.

Street North Ward, Mendip DC: LD hold. LibDem 347, Con 297, Ind 81. 13.7% swing from LD to Con.

Shepton Mallet Division, Somerset County Council: Con hold. Con 950, LibDem 783, Lab 271. 3.5% swing from LD to Con. Labour vote down from 28% to 14% in a ward which we held in the past.

Chard Crimchard Ward, South Somerset DC: LD hold. LD 423, Con 320, BNP 154. Swing 2.1% LD to Con. Labour did not run having got 96 votes last year.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guest Post

Rt Hon John Spellar MP has been doing some research into exactly whether the 1st May local elections deserve to be compared to previous Tory breakthrough years in 1968 and 1978 which heralded a change of government. He thinks not and has asked me to post this:

"Local Election Results 2008
It’s not all doom and gloom

Contrary to the media commentary, the 2008 local elections were far from being a wipe-out for Labour comparable with our defeats in 1968 or 1978 which presaged Tory General Election victories.

In fact, whilst in 1968 and 1978 the Tories made deep advances into Labour heartlands, this year the Tories’ lack of even a toehold in much of the urban north was still evident.

There are 4 metropolitan councils where there is not a single Tory councillor. In a fifth, Manchester, they have only one. In 1978 these five councils returned a total of 159 Tory councillors!

Even in metropolitan councils covering clusters of parliamentary marginal seats such as Birmingham, Bolton, Bury, Leeds, Wirral, Calderdale and Kirklees, the Tory position is dramatically weaker now than it was in 1978. In fact, in only 5 out of the 36 metropolitan councils are the Tories in a better position now than in 1978.

Metropolitan Boroughs:

1976 - 43 Tory Councillors
1978 - 45 Tory Councillors
2008 - 23 Tory Councillors

1978 - 38
2008 - 26

1976 - 45
1978 -46
1979 - 33
2008 -1

1976 - 28
1978 - 37
2008 - 7

1976 - 31
1978 - 35
2008 - 8

1976 - 24
1978 - 27
2008 - 13

1976 - 39
1978 - 40
2008 - 10

1976 - 29
1978 - 28
2008 - 10

1976 - 47
1978 - 54
2008 - 39

1978 - 20
2008 - 14

1976 - 17
1978 - 18
2008 - 0

1976 - 17
1978 - 24
2008 - 0

St Helens
1976 - 19
1978 - 20
2008 - 6

1975 - 40
1976 - 43
1978 - 44
2008 - 18

1976 - 42
1978 - 45
2008 - 24

1976 - 17
1978 - 17
2008 - 9

1976 - 22
1978 - 24
2008 - 0

1976 - 13
1978 - 14
2008 - 0

Newcastle Upon Tyne
1976 - 29
1978 - 33
2008 - 0

1976 - 66
1978 - 69
2008 - 49

1976 - 39
1978 - 46
2008 - 14

1978 - 38
1979 - 38
2008 - 26

1976 - 61
1978 - 60
2008 - 35

1976 - 34
1978 - 34
2008 - 20

1976 - 38
1978 - 48
2008 - 22

1976 - 50
1978 - 50
2008 - 22"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Latest NEC convolutions

Following the Centre Left Grassoots Alliance's (sic) failure to get one of their candidates (Fran Griffiths) validly nominated, they - or at least their main component, CLPD, have decided to urge their supporters to use their sixth vote for Ellie Reeves.

Not everyone on the left of the Party has greeted this decision with acclaim.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Missing the point

According to today's Guardian, former Blair speechwriter Phil Collins thinks that the real problem the Government has is "that Labour's faith in central government draws from the deep, poisoned well of its Fabian tradition" and instead "the only hope for the party is to excavate its liberal treasure".

This is reminiscent to me of theologians arguing over how many angels could dance on a pinhead.

There were many reasons why people didn't vote for us in Crewe, such as being incandescent with rage about a botched attempt to double their income tax, or in despair that its costing more than they can afford to fill up their car or do their weekly shop.

But I very much doubt that a single voter there walked to the polling station thinking "I really must vote Tory because Labour is listening too much to the Fabians and too little to the SMF, and what I really want from Britain's social democratic party is a bit less social democracy and a bit more liberalism."

Self liquidating scenarios

Tory bloggers like Guido are busy exploring fantasy scenarios where Labour will "lose catastrophically" and "the party could swing to the left after a general election to Cruddas or McDonnell - condemning them to decades of opposition."

Now I'm not complacent about the possibility of us losing "catastrophically" - I think that's a real risk if we don't get our act together - but the second part of Guido's prediction would be made impossible by the first part - because if we lose badly enough to precipitate a major change of ideological direction then neither of the two people he suggests might lead it will be MPs anymore, and hence they won't be able to run - Cruddas' seat nearly went Tory in both 1983 and 1987 on far better boundaries than now, and McDonnell's seat was Tory right up until 1997.

The hard left know this. I spent Sunday afternoon chatting to amongst others a Campaign Group MP and a member of the Editorial Board of Labour Left Briefing. To their credit I did not detect any narrow sectarian reaction or attempt to get factional advantage from the Party's current troubles - they were just as horrified by the prospect of a Tory victory as I am, and know there will be no winners inside the Labour Party if we head into another long period in opposition.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taking the long view

I went to the 90th birthday party today of Bert Karpin, one of the stalwarts of Hackney North & Stoke Newington Labour Party.

Bert is very definitely not from my wing of the Labour Party, and has responded in fairly memorably blunt fashion to some of my speeches at Constituency GC meetings in the past, but the eclectic politics of the guests showed that its possible to disagree with people vigorously on a lot of issues but still be proud to consider them as a comrade.

Hearing Bert's wife Greta, our CLP Secretary, describe how he has been a Labour Party activist since 1933 put the current problems facing the Party in perspective: in his time as a member he's seen 10 party leaders come and go (and probably disagreed with all of them), the Party go up from 52 seats to 393, down again to 209 and up again to 418, win 9 General Elections and lose 9 and all the time he's consistently said and believed the same things.

Neither Bert nor Greta has ever held elected public office (though Greta is well known to Labour and union activists for her job working for Clive Jenkins at the ASTMS trade union) - despite both of them having political skills that would put many current Labour MPs to shame - but their voluntary contribution of hours and hours of work over the years has kept our CLP functioning through thick and thin.

It'd be nice to think the Labour Party could give Bert a 90th birthday present by getting its act together and starting to work to win the next General Election.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

As I was going to St Ives ...

I got back from a mercifully politics, internet and email free holiday in Cornwall today, booked as recuperation from the London elections before anyone knew these would be followed by a parliamentary by-election.

So I feel slightly guilty about having spent Thursday night not pounding the streets of Crewe, but looking at St Ives Bay from the balcony of the Porthminster Beach Cafe (for anyone interested in food this place deserves the ranking it got as the UK's number 1 seaside restaurant).

Not having been up there I'm reluctant to start criticising a campaign that I didn't experience first hand, based on the caricature of it presented in the media. My hunch is that the size of the Tory majority means it wouldn't have mattered what we put in our leaflets or what stunts involving people in silly costumes we did or didn't do, we still would have lost. This wasn't an election decided by the local tactics, it was decided by the national strategic picture.

I'm in favour of attack campaigning - it works and you need to give voters reasons not to vote for your opponents, as well as reasons to vote for you - but we made the mistake in Crewe of allowing a stunt attacking a person rather than their, and their party's policies, to take centre stage - the political equivalent to playing the man, not the ball. This made it look like we didn't have much to say about policy, when in fact Tamsin Dunwoody had a lot of good ideas about local regeneration. It also starts a trend we might live to regret in future - if we set the precedent that it's fair game in a by-election to savage the background of a candidate rather than their politics, pretty soon there are going to be Labour candidates on the receiving end of similar treatment, and more and more people of all parties will just not bother to come forward to run for public office. I think it's acceptable and indeed fair comment to go after the Tories in general as a party of and for the privileged, but picking on an individual Tory candidate's background was mean-spirited and a distraction from the real issues.

The real issue of course, is that despite the tax changes reversing the 10p abolition, ordinary people are being screwed economically at the moment. Anyone trying to renew a mortgage that has come to the end of its term is facing a huge hike in interest rates and the necessities of life like groceries and both domestic and car fuel are shooting up in price. In these circumstances I think we were lucky to still find 12,000 people to vote for us in Crewe.

I don't think it's all about Gordon Brown's personality, because that wouldn't explain why the same dour grumpy Scotsman was 10% ahead in the polls last September - he wasn't any more smiley then.

But I do think he needs to stop saying how good he is at steering the economic ship, and going on about trust in troubled waters etc. The trust will come back when actions we start taking actually make people's material conditions better. Until then past record is meaningless and irrelevant - people are hurting in the here and now, not judging us on how good we were until this year.

We need to stop sounding like the economy is something wholly outside the government's responsibility and that all we can do is steer our way through it. That's the kind of attitude that governments had in the pre-New Deal era. Voters think the government runs the country - globalisation or no globalisation - so either we should get on with doing it, or let someone else have a go. If the problem is international, then let's start delivering international solutions with other governments.

I give as an example of the lack of imagination being displayed about how to intervene in the economy, my (about to be former) mortgage lender, Northern Rock. The Government actually now owns it, but rather than use this control to help home-buyers they are actually instructing the company to down-size by only offering punitive interest rates, i.e. one of the levers that could be used imaginatively to help the public keep their homes and pay affordable mortgage repayments is instead being used to make the situation worse.

Some of my holiday reading was memoirs of various Tory politicians of the early '90s (OK so maybe my time on the beach wasn't wholly non-political). Folk in No10 should take a look. The Tories in 1991 were in a very similar place to us now. Just ditched a charismatic three times election winner. New PM who wasn't exactly media friendly and was already being muttered about. Nothing good to say about the economy (in fact as they had 15% interest rates and 3 million unemployed they would have given their right arm for our current scenario). Losing by-elections and local elections on huge swings. Not much to say in policy terms as they were knackered after 12 years in power (at least we haven't suggested a cones hotline like Major did).

They managed to get disciplined, get ministers focused on what policies would deliver for the key segments of the electorate that they needed to win back, and ruthlessly analysed and dissected Labour's policies, then exposed all the flaws they found to destroy our reputation as an alternative government. 1992 showed that nothing is inevitable in politics, particularly not the removal of an incumbent government. We need to start looking at some of the lessons from then, and of how sister parties in the Nordic countries have won multiple terms in government in the past (clue: it's because at every general election they offer a social policy change (such as expanding free childcare) that will improve the lives of ordinary voters that is so big and transformative in nature it defines the whole of the election debate, is impossible for conservatives to want or be able to match, and inspires our people to turn out because they know they can't afford not to) and start turning our fire on Tory policies, not their people or each other.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Blog

My friend Jessica Asato has asked me to post a link to the blog she is writing about setting up the Gareth Butler History Trust in memory of her husband, who died suddenly earlier this year. The Trust will carry on Gareth's twin loves of history and education.

You can read more here: http://garethshistorytrust.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NEC nominations stats

A bit of analysis now we have the full list of NEC nominations:

Azhar Ali (supported by Labour First) - nominated by 56 CLPs
Mohammed Azam (supported by the Grassroots Alliance) - 71
Ann Black (GRA) - 181
Deborah Gardiner (LF) - 60
Peter Kenyon (GRA) - 65
Sonika Nirwal (LF) - 69
Ellie Reeves (LF) - 136
Christine Shawcroft (GRA) - 100
Peter Wheeler (LF) - 132
Peter Willsman (GRA) - 122

By region:
London - 7 CLPs only nominated LF candidates, 9 only nominated GRA candidates, 21 nominated mixed slates
South East - 5 LF, 13 GRA, 18 mixed
South West - 2 LF, 7 GRA, 7 mixed
Eastern - 4 LF, 9 GRA, 9 mixed
East Midlands - 3 LF, 7 GRA, 14 mixed
West Midlands - 12 LF, 5 GRA, 10 mixed
North West - 8 LF, 2 GRA, 25 mixed
Yorkshire - 5 LF, 8 GRA, 7 mixed
North - 1 LF, 1 GRA, 7 mixed
Wales - 3 LF, 3 GRA, 5 mixed
Scotland - 3 LF, 0 GRA, 5 mixed

  • 10 of the "mixed" CLPs are those nominating 4 or 5 LF plus just Ann Black from the GRA (there were only 5 LF supported candidates but 6 from the GRA)
  • Ann Black, Peter Wheeler and Ellie Reeves all got large numbers of cross-over nominations from CLPs otherwise backing the alternative "side", presumably as they are seen as non-factional centrist candidates
  • Note the highly politically competitive nature of many CLPs in London and the North West - no one "faction" dominating so they produce "mixed" tickets
  • Comparative strength of LF in West Midlands and North West
  • GRA weakness in the more northern regions and strength south and east of a line from Humber to Severn Estuary

By tenure of seat:

Labour seats: 43 nominated LF candidates only, 31 GRA only, 72 mixed

Opposition seats: 11 LF, 34 GRA, 51 mixed

i.e. Labour First supported candidates performed best in seats with Labour MPs, GRA noticably strong in areas where the Party is very electorally weak (theoretical rather than practical socialists?)

Yesterday's announcement

Well done to the PM and Chancellor for doing the right thing on the 10p rate compensation - and making sure the solution also benefits hard-pressed basic rate taxpayers suffering from the credit crunch and food and fuel prices. However, I can't help wishing this had been done on April 14th not May 14th, as we might thereby have secured a Labour Mayor of London and a few hundred more Labour councillors, and saved many thousands of people from enduring Tory cuts and ineptitude at their local town halls.

Well done to Frank Field both for his dogged pursuit of this issue and for his apology yesterday which has hopefully drawn a line under the less-than-edifying exchange of insults over the weekend.

I think we are now in with a shout in Crewe - I haven't been able to get up there due to family commitments but friends who have say the canvassing even before yesterday's announcement indicated it was competitive but still winnable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

London results in detail

London Elects has today published the ward-by-ward detail of the Mayoral election results - a must read for electoral train-spotters/borough or constituency campaign strategists:

Barnet and Camden
Bexley and Bromley
Brent and Harrow
City and East (containing boroughs: Barking & Dagenham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, City of London)
Croydon and Sutton
Ealing and Hillingdon
Enfield and Haringey
Greenwich and Lewisham
Havering and Redbridge
Lambeth and Southwark
Merton and Wandsworth
North East (containing boroughs: Waltham Forest, Hackney, Islington)
South West (containing boroughs: Hounslow, Richmond upon Thames, Kingston upon Thames)
West Central (containing boroughs: Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham)

Friday, May 09, 2008

That poll

Yep, the one with the 26% Tory lead.

I think it's about right in terms of a snapshot of where we are now - which is a pretty dark place for Labour. I'm not even going to publish the analysis of the May 1st results I've seen because I don't want to be responsible for a number of Labour MPs defending majorities in excess of 15,000 jumping off Big Ben.

But where we are at now is not where we have to be when we fight the next General Election - which could be as far as two years away. Six weeks ago we were closing the gap on the Tories. Six months ago we had a 10% lead. There is no reason why we should not again be closing the gap by mid-June and 10% ahead by the end of the party conference season, if we get the politics right between now and then.

For the PLP that means separating out a specific putting of pressure on the Government over the 10p tax rate from generalised chaos and indiscipline on other issues - we saw what happened when Tory MPs lost the will to win and any sense of loyalty to their PM and government in the mid-90s. Let's not go there.

For Gordon it should mean a rapid, full and comprehensive settling of the 10p rate issue, with no losers allowed to slip through the net - people without kids are just as deserving of decent treatment by the tax system as those with - followed by coming out fighting with some policy initiatives that will really unite Labour and illustrate to voters what the difference is between us and the Tories. Not ephemera about volunteering or constitutional tinkering but bread-and-butter stuff that will put more cash in ordinary people's pockets or make their daily lives noticably easier. And stylistically he should just be himself and let people judge him on who he really is. If they don't like it and we lose, let's at least have spent the next two years doing things we will be proud to have been associated with.

I thought both John Denham and Peter Mandelson said useful things last night: Denham said Labour's reluctance to acknowledge failings has led to public scepticism and that if ministers did not acknowledge errors the public would not believe they would get it right in the future; Mandelson warned against abandoning one of the key tenets of New Labour - helping the poor:
"If you lose one tenet then the whole edifice starts looking shaky and that's what's happened".

How we handle the period from now until the start of the Commons recess in July is going to determine the politics of the next decade or so: will this be the point at which Labour, having looked over the precipice, steps back and focuses on how to win a fourth term, or will it be the point at which we enter into a downward spiral of panic that will see us crash out of power for a generation?

Council by-election results

There was one last night, and it was in line with the main May 1st results (and in a key marginal parliamentary seat):

Rochester South and Horsted ward, Medway Council: Con hold. Con 1847, Lab 819, LD 767, BNP 257, Green 104 . Tory vote up 8.5% since 2007, Labour down 4.9% so swing of 6.7% from Lab to Con.

And then there were 10?

CLP Secretaries have been sent the list of valid nominations for the NEC.

I'll do some analysis of this in due course.

There now appear to be only 10 people in the running for six places as the Grassroots Alliance's Fran Griffiths - who got in excess of 50 nominations - is listed as "invalid, ineligible or declined". Does anyone know what the story is on this? This would be the first time ever that the GRA hasn't had a full slate in the ballot.

Postscript: have now found out that Fran Griffiths' nomination was invalid because she was not nominated by her own CLP.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Obama endorsed by McGovern

Depressing to see the Democrats take collective leave of their senses.

We now have George McGovern endorsing Obama, which would be a bit like Michael Foot anointing a Labour candidate with the words "trust me, I know a winner when I see one."

Looking at the list of states Obama has won in the primaries it reads like a roll call of places that are either safely Democrat or totally unwinnable - if he gets the nomination it would be the equivalent to Labour picking a leader who was popular amongst the 10% of Labour voters in Surrey, and in our safest seats, rather than their opponent who was a proven winner in say Harlow and Dartford.

Postscript: my colleague has just said this comparison does Michael Foot an injustice, as even he wasn't as totally out of tune with the electorate as McGovern.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I'm not a great fan of tags, the online equivalent of chain letters, but it seems rude to ignore them:

Jane Griffiths (whose views on Reading Labour Party I definitely don't endorse before anyone asks, being a former colleague of her deselection nemesis Tony Page) says I have to tell you six random things about me. Here goes:

- I like pork scratchings

- I came 2nd in the Kent Schools Orienteering League in 1990

- My second toe is a little bit longer than my big toe (I think this is called Morton's toe and causes problems when you are a runner)

- My favourite computer game is Civilisation III (I always play the Romans, badly)

- I have an A grade in Religious Studies O Level (not bad for an atheist)

- My favourite holiday destination is Ostuni in Puglia

Will Parbury meanwhile has instructed me to
Pick up the nearest book
Open to page 123
Find the fifth sentence
Post the next three sentences
Tag five people and acknowledge who tagged you

Oz Clarke's 250 Best Wines 2008:
"Wine styles go in and out of fashion. Sweet wines had their salad days at the end of the 1990s. This century, well, they've teetered - though some smashing stuff is being made - but to be honest, most high street retailers don't even bother to show their sweet wines at tastings any

I'm tagging:

Ewan Watt
Ben Locker
Alix Mortimer
Conall McDevitt
Theo Blackwell


A good new Labour blog has started:

http://colenotdole.wordpress.com/ - by Andy Lomas, part of the Oxford Labour team that got such a great result against the tide last week.

And one that I hadn't seen before: http://thecowanreport.blogspot.com/ by Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Labour Group in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Purnell starts the fightback

Well done to James Purnell for his speech yesterday which set out clearly what Labour's values are and was in sharp contrast to the "we're all doomed" message emanating from some bits of the PLP, or Charles Clarke's bizarre attack on the 42 day detention policy.

Purnell said what needed to be said: it’s time to get off the floor, because our ideas are right. In particular he challenged left commentators to stop taking the Tories apparent conversation at face value. Just because David Cameron says he has changed doesn't make it so. They might well find that having taken the bait hook, line and sinker, that the Tories, having detoxified their brand, go right back to right wing business as usual.

Key bits - I make no apologies for quoting it at length because it's good stuff:

"This is no 1995, the year that Labour got 47% in the polls, the moment the 1997 Election result became inevitable.
It is not 1995, for two central reasons. First, the economic challenge is different. In 1995, it was the government that had punished the country economically. It was a ‘downturn made in Whitehall.’ 3 million people had been out of work. Interest rates touched 15%. The government had done something catastrophic to the British people.
Today, voters are spooked by the economy, worried about how worried they should be. But they do not blame the government for creating this situation – they realise it has global roots. What they do want to know is how we will respond.
... Labour’s answer to the questions that voters asked is better than the Tory answer. The Conservative answer is that the State should help you less: that the State is part of the problem. Our answer is that the State should help you more. Their answer is that people become powerful when the State withdraws. Our answer is that the state can give people more power.
Our basic moral intuitions accept that idea of reward. But they only accept it if we all have a fair chance.
And that means tackling inequality.
Today, we are publishing research which confirms that children of poor families are more likely to go without regular exercise, have interrupted educations, and live in poor housing. Their lives are damaged almost from their outset by poor health, low achievement and low expectations.
I start from the cast-iron belief that all individuals have an equal right to a flourishing life.
It is the priority we accord to this goal that places us on the political left rather than the political right. The thing that people forget about New Labour is that it was Labour as well as New.
The founding argument for New Labour was that, finally, there would be a marriage between social justice and economic prosperity. That poverty was never a price worth paying.
Nobody in my party has embodied this for longer, or with greater success, than the Prime Minister. His political career has been defined by consistent argument and action on debilitating poverty. To be a guiding force in a country which has 600,000 fewer poor children than it had a decade ago, is an achievement which would cause a Labour politician of any vintage to swell with pride.
In our frenetic and cynical age, when it is routine to say that politicians care only about survival, it is worth pointing out someone with a defining message based on belief rather than political calculation.
Because this issue embodies something beyond brand management, beyond electoral arithmetic, beyond salesmanship. There aren’t many votes in child poverty. But that doesn’t matter one bit. The child poverty target is a question of belief. Of justice. Of what is right.
When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown committed us to the goal of eradicating child poverty they spoke for everyone in this party. They also hit its nerve centre. The child poverty target links Old and New Labour. The outrage we feel at the waste of lives lived in poverty is what links the Labour party of 2008 with the Labour party of 1908.
The difference today is that we are no longer the only ones talking about poverty. The Tories now say they recognise relative poverty. We should celebrate that – we have won the intellectual argument. The Tories know that they have to say they agree that poverty is defined relative to the rest of society, or be out of step with the mood of the times.
But willing the end is only the first test. The second, and harder test is willing the means. Willing the means, so that when there is a choice about where to spend money, child poverty is at the front of the queue.
And the Tories have to date failed that test. Last week David Cameron published a document titled ‘Making British Poverty History.’ The title would suggest that the Tories share our target. But in the 17 pages of the document the best they can manage is to say that the Conservatives "have set ourselves an aspiration to meet the child poverty targets... "
But having an aspiration without a policy is empty. It’s a bit like someone having had an aspiration to paint the living room this Bank Holiday weekend. They would really have liked it if the room had been painted by today. But they spent the weekend watching TV and the paintbrushes stayed in their cans.
The Tory tactic is clear. Hope that we don’t meet the 2010 target, and that people decide that there is little difference between an aspiration without a policy and a target that is difficult to meet.
Well, there is a difference. The difference is in the hundreds of thousands of children whose lives have been and will be transformed. Yes, it’s a brave target. Indeed, the Guardian once speculated that some thought this “the most impossible, and stupidly defined, target ever constructed in Whitehall”.
But I’d rather have a target that is tough to meet and lifts more children out of poverty than an aspiration which can never be measured and therefore requires no action.
The target is tough, because it is like running up a down escalator. The incomes of poor families need to increase faster than those of the median family if relative poverty is not to grow.
And when governments stop running, poverty increases. Between 1979 and 1997, inequality in the UK rose faster and further than in any other country. Over a period of 20 years, the proportion of children in relative poverty more than doubled. By 1997, one in four children in Britain was poor.

If we hadn’t started running in 1997, that gap would have grown. Even if the Tories had started walking up the escalator in 1997, and uprated all their policies in line with inflation, child poverty would have grown. In fact, it would have risen by a further 1.7 million.
It would have risen because the nature of economic change was making the problem worse. The salaries of the skilled were, and are, rising faster than the wages of the unskilled. As we closed the economic gap with other countries so we opened up the economic gap within.
So it’s not just that the target, when it was set, was a long way distant. It was receding all the while.
No government with an eye on the main chance would ever have set such a target. This was not a target set with next day’s headlines in mind, it was a target set with the next generation in mind.
But it has spurred us on. We could fill 20,000 classrooms with the children who are now above the poverty line.
And we have announced further measures to lift a further 500,000 children out of poverty. Households with children in the poorest fifth of the population are on average, £4,500 a year better off, as a result of measures introduced since 1997.
It’s a good record, one that stands comparison with any government. But it’s not yet good enough and the target is there to remind us of that.
We need to redouble our efforts. We need to do more through the tax and benefit system. We need to do more to tackle the poverty penalty. And we need to give people the chance to get on.
We know that ending child poverty will not be easy, and nor will it be achieved just by investing more in the tax and benefit system. Over the next few months, we need to show that there is energy and momentum behind the task. I’ve set out some of our ideas today. But that is just the start. As announced in the budget, the Government is developing the details of £125 million of pilots to provide new solutions to tackling the roots of poverty. This must be the biggest anti-poverty experiment ever conducted.

That is not the mark of a tired government. It is the mark of a government that has a real energy, because it is confident that its answers are the right ones to the questions the public are asking.

That ideological confidence is the way out of this week’s political setback. The Tories are paying lip service to our policies because they know their old answers are out of tune. But our challenge is to show that their policies would not achieve the goals they now say they share.

My argument today is that the goal is simple. To create an Open Society, the kind of society that is best placed to take the opportunities of globalisation.

An Open Society for everyone in Britain – giving them the chance to climb as far as their ambition takes them. But with that ladder rooted on the solid ground of a fair chance for all. That is why child poverty matters, and that is how we can make the best case for it."

A history lesson for Jon Cruddas

In today's Guardian Jon Cruddas describes Ken Livingstone as "the greatest London Labour politician ever."

I'm not about to revert to having a go at Ken, having spent the last six weeks canvassing for him, but Cruddas' description is just silly and betrays a profound ignorance of London Labour history. Given Ken's own knowledge of Labour history I think he would feel rather embarrassed by Cruddas' remark, which surely qualifies for Private Eye's OBN column.

"The greatest London Labour politician ever" was by any objective measure Herbert Morrison. Read his wikipedia biog to understand why.

Here's the Ken vs. Herbert scorecard:

London-wide elections:
Herbert: Played 2, Won 2 (1934, 1938) admittedly on better boundaries than the current ones.
Ken: Played 2, Won 1, Lost 1 (2004, 2008) - in 2000 he was not the candidate of the London Labour Party, and in 1981 Andrew MacIntosh rather than Ken won the GLC election.

Achievements in office:
Herbert: creating the Green Belt, unifying the transport system, building vast quantities of social housing, replacing Waterloo Bridge, modernising hospitals (the LCC ran many of them until creation of the NHS), school improvements, smaller class sizes, programme of building swimming pools & lidos
Ken: bringing the Olympics to London, cutting crime, improving public transport, the Congestion Charge (admittedly with far fewer powers than Herbert)

Organisational achievements:
Herbert: Set up the London Labour Party. General Secretary of it for three decades, organised Labour's 1945 General Election landslide, including deliberately moving seat himself to fight marginal Lewisham East
Ken: not really his forte

Career beyond London on the national stage:
Herbert: MP for Hackney South 1923-4, 1929-31, 1935-45, MP for Lewisham E 1945-50, MP for Lewisham S 1950-59; Home Secretary through most of World War 2; Deputy PM to Attlee 1945-51; Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 1945-55; Foreign Secretary
Ken: MP for Brent E 1987-2001.

You could argue a case that Clem Attlee was also a "London Labour politician" having been Mayor of Stepney and then MP for Limehouse and Walthamstow West; or even for Ernie Bevin who despite his Bristol roots was MP for Wandsworth Central and Woolwich East. Presumably Cruddas has heard of the creater of the welfare state and the founder of both the TGWU and NATO.

I'm happy for Ken to take his seat in the pantheon of London Labour greats, but Mr Cruddas shouldn't forget that the London Labour Party he, Ken and I are active in wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Herbert Morrison.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What happened in Wales?

I'm intrigued to know exactly why the results on Thursday in Wales were quite so bad.

Part of the explanation is maths - every seat was up for election, not just the 1/3 of seats in most English councils.

But even so Wales accounted for 133 of Labour's 331 losses.

Anyone know what this was about?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The ones that didn't fit the narrative

Just for the record, I thought I'd list all the councils where Labour bucked the trend and increased our number of councillors on Thursday:

Anglesey +5
Bolton +1
Bridgend +5
Broxbourne +1
Colchester +1
Coventry +1
Hastings +1
Ipswich +3
Liverpool +3
Neath Port Talbot +1
Oxford +3
Pendle +4
Slough +4
St Helens +2
Watford +1

And here's another batch where Labour came out with the same number of councillors it went in with:

And here's the 12 of 14 GLA seats where our share of the vote went up compared to 2004:
North East +11.1%
Brent & Harrow +9.4%
City & East +8.6%
Lambeth & Southwark +8.0%
Enfield & Haringey +5.9%
Merton & Wandsworth +5.2%
Greenwich & Lewisham +4.9%
West Central +4.1%
Barnet & Camden +3.6%
Ealing & Hillingdon +3.5%
Croydon & Sutton +1.3%
Havering & Redbridge +1%

Given that quite a few of the places in all three categories are or include key parliamentary marginals, take any extrapolations of likely composition of the Commons based on projected national vote shares with a big pinch of salt.

Lemmings for Labour

Straight out of the box, with their single-transferable election analysis, comes Compass, pointing their supporters straight towards the electoral cliff and shouting "charge!".

It's difficult to know which bit of sublime idiocy to look at first, so confused and out-of-touch-with-reality is their analysis.

Let's start at the beginning. People have just voted 44% for the Tories who even in their Cameron incarnation are to the right of us, 24% for Labour. Hardly evidence that they want a more leftwing Labour Party. One of their major - and completely legitimate - complaints is that we increased a tax band from 10p to 20p. I think they'd rather we got back to what New Labour was meant to be about - keeping taxes low. They also think we aren't dealing with food and fuel price inflation and that we are increasing the impact of the latter by imposing punitive green taxes. They think we are soft on crime and immigration. And that we aren't doing enough to help homeowners deal with rising mortgage costs. Emblematic of this anger is that the suburbs of London vote Boris, and that we lose control of southern citadel Reading.

Neal Lawson of Compass looks at all this and concludes: "New Labour is now dead. The strategy that saw the Party continually triangulate interests and concerns, tacking endlessly to the right, doing what the Tories would do only doing it first, fixating on a mythical middle England and denying that free market policies are having a damaging effect on society is now finished."

Pardon me Neal? Isn't the problem that "middle England", far from being mythical, went to the polling stations on Thursday and gave us a massive punch in the nose for not listening to them enough?

Lawson manages to correctly go on to say that "The issue is not whether Labour is a party of the middle class or the working class. It has to be both. That was the genius of the 1997 voting bloc." but proposes a move to the left that would delight a tiny demographic of students and Guardian readers but have zero resonance with either our working class base or middle class swing voters, both of whom want practical policies focused on making them prosperous, safe and able to access decent public services, not pie in the sky about "changing the world".

Lawson's policy solution to Labour's troubles has some bits about tax and child poverty and housing that I don't disagree with, but also throws in "Drop detention for 42 days as well as ID cards and reverse the decision on Trident" none of which were remotely relevant to Thursday's defeats. He says that "commercialisation of public services should be halted - modernisation and efficiency should be secured via greater democracy and co-production" - again I doubt many of Thursday's protest voters were motivated by wanting to run their local hospital as a patient co-op. I've got a politics degree and I don't even know what the "co-production" that he advocates is - I think it might be a word he's made up for the occasion. I'm as must an electoral and constitutional reformer as Neal is but I really doubt that the burghers of Bexley and Bury thought that their ballots on Thursday were a call that "Constitutional reform must be fast tracked." Lawson also doesn't seem to have clocked that his admirable call that "real devolution to local government should be quickly embraced" means after Thursday giving more powers to the Tory Party as it is the party actually running local government in most places. And he thinks "concerns over immigration can be eased by proper rights for agency workers." I kid you not.

I wish Neal would go and talk to voters in the places that voted against us on Thursday and ask them what they wanted before dreaming up his recipes for another 18 year stretch in opposition.

Learning the wrong lessons

An interesting debate about organisation is raging inside the Labour machine.

In the sensible corner are Victoria Street apparatchiks who want to invest in full-time field organisers, having seen the impact of putting staff into Brent & Harrow and Enfield & Haringey on Labour's unexpected GLA wins there. It's impossible to deliver the kind of ground campaign that will save Labour marginal seats without people on the ground to mobilise volunteers, tailor the campaign to local specifics, run canvassing and produce literature.

In the senseless corner is a certain Cabinet Minister who thinks we should make our organisers redundant, ignore the difficult but essential task of rebuilding local parties and their activist bases, and spend the cash saved on glossy direct mailshots.

Enough to make you weep.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Well said Ken

I don't share his brand of Labour politics (see below) but I'm proud to have campaigned for Ken Livingstone and his speech just now was dignified, appropriate and set entirely the right tone.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ken '08 = Kerry '04 and Gore 2000

The big lesson of this one is that despite a campaign that was really firing on all cylinders in the final weeks (all credit to Ken Clarke, London Region Labour Party Director) left candidates can't win unless they triangulate and take the centre ground.

Just like John Kerry and Al Gore (and probably in November Obama) we got our core vote hyped up into a frenzy and turnout shot up.

But you can't win an election in London, the UK, or the USA, just by enthusing Guardian readers, students and BME communities. There are other forces in society who are more numerous and will always go one better in turnout.

You have to have something to say to the white C1s and C2s in Havering and Croydon and Bexley. I never saw anything in Ken's messaging or positioning that acknowledged that these people were Londoners too and addressed their concerns directly - and in fact we boxed ourselves into a turnout battle against the suburbs - something that we were never going to win, rather than trying to get the kind of white van drivers who voted Blair in 1997 on side.

Ken's alienation of the Jewish community through the Finegold affair and inviting dodgy Islamist clerics to City Hall was also crass beyond belief - picking a stupid, tokenistic fight with a community whose instincts are liberal, who want to vote Labour, who take their democratic duties very seriously and will turn out - probably a large slice of Boris' margin of victory was Jewish voters alienated unnecessarily by Ken.

This doesn't just apply to London - we will not win the next General Election unless we occupy the centre ground, develop policies that resonate with the suburbs, the C1s and C2s and avoid the temptations of comfort zone politics. However great the campaign, however great the candidate, you can't win without triangulating. That's why Blair and Clinton won and Kerry, Gore, and tonight Livingstone, did not.

Lambeth & Southwark - LAB HOLD

Labour holds Lambeth & Southwark with a majority quadroupled to 23,500 - no progress by the Lib Dems in their number one target GLA seat.

Bexley & Bromley - CON HOLD

Bexley & Bromley - Con hold, swing 6.6% Lab to Con.

City & East - LAB HOLD

City & East results here.

A 31,000 majority for John Biggs (up from 14,000 last time) totally confounding rumours of a Tory gain, and there's a 3.5% swing from Con to Lab.

Ken got nearly 95,000 votes here, Boris got just under 50,000.

The difference is turnout

The positive GLA results so far, with Labour's vote up massively since 2004, show that the Labour vote is still out there and will still come out for us if an election is hotly contested enough.

Labour voters haven't switched direct to the Tories outside London, they have punished us by staying at home - given the right policies they will come out and we can still win a 4th term.

Meral Ece's personal vote

Regular readers will know that one of my least favourite Lib Dems is ex-Labour turncoat and Hackney to Islington carpet-bagger Meral Ece, whose blog can be found here: http://meralece.blogspot.com/

Meral demonstrated her personal popularity in London North East today with a stunning performance as Lib Dem candidate, her vote share down 3.4% compared to Terry Stacey in 2004 and dropping from second place to narrowly avoiding coming fourth.

Labour's GLA member, Jennette Arnold, who Meral has attacked in her blog, saw her vote share go up 11% and her number of votes go up by 36,000!

Mystic Meral also had this interesting take on her blog about the likely Mayoral vote:
"I believe that when the votes are counted, the big surprise will be that Brian (Paddick) will do a lot better than has been predicted."

The results for London North East show the hapless Paddick is in fact even more unpopular than Meral.

LAB HOLD Enfield & Haringey

Our most marginal seat held by 1400 - swing 0.1% Lab to Con

Lab 52655 - 33.3% (+6%)
Con 51263 - 32.3% (+6.2%)
LD 23550 - 14.9% (-1%)
Green 12473
CPA 5779
Left List 5639
UKIP 4682
Eng Dem 2282

Looks like the Tories are back ahead in Barnet & Camden though.


NE - Mayor
BNP - 3776
UKIP 1396
green 9790
christian 3067
left list 2310
tory 37394 - 21.8%
labour 96402 - 56.3%
ind 482
e d 820
ld 19641

NE - constituency LAB HOLD - SWING OF 2.25% from Con to Lab
lab 73551 - 37.9% - (+11.1%)
e dem 3637
l d 28973 - 14.9% - (-3.4%)
con 45114 - 23.3% (+6.6%)
green 25845 - 13.3% (+1.3%)
cpa 5323
ukip 5349
left list 6019

brent & harrow - constituency LAB GAIN FROM CON - swing of 2.35% from Con to Lab
lab 57716 - 37.2% (+9.4%)
con 56067 - 36.2% (+4.7%)
ld 19299 - 12.5% (-3.9%)
green 10129
christian 4180
ukip 3021
left list 2287
e dem 2150

LAB GAIN Brent & Harrow

We've gained the Brent & Harrow GLA seat from the Tories - result has been declared.

Also got numbers for London NE mayoral - Ken got over 90,000 first prefs to 50,000 for Boris.

More from the count

Labour now AHEAD in votes for both Mayor & GLA seat in Camden & Barnet! But the count for this one is miles behind the others.

Result from Enfield & Haringey in 20 minutes & the Tories think we have won it - our most marginal defensive seat in 2004.

Labour still ahead in Brent & Harrow.

Whatever last night was, it was not a rejection of New Labour

A rejection of a tax change that wittingly or unwittingly left millions of lower paid workers worse off in the pay packet they got immediately before they voted - yes.

A howl for attention about being screwed by mortgage lenders and fuel prices and food prices and not being convinced politicians understand how tough it is out there, or are addressing it - yes.

But abolishing the 10p rate is not "New Labour", in fact it is the antithesis to a philosophy that is about combining social justice with economic prosperity.

We know how to win general elections: we've done it three times. The formula that won those elections isn't unpopular, it's that we deviated from it and dumped on some of the people we are here to represent that's unpopular.

Latest from the count

As I left Alexandra Palace half an hour ago, latest situation in the 4 GLA divisions counting there was:

North East: Labour winning by a long way on Mayor & GLA constituency seat

Enfield & Haringey: Labour narrowly ahead on both

Brent & Harrow: Labour narrowly ahead on both (looking slightly better than Enfield & Haringey)

Camden & Barnet: Tories a long way ahead on both

Early London indicators

There were some council by-elections yesterday that count before the Mayor/GLA and give an idea of the way things are going:

Barnet, Hale Ward

Con 2798 (50.1%) +5.2
Lab 1882(33.7%) -1.6
LD 487 (8.7%) -1.6
BNP 213 (3.8%)
Green 206 (3.7%) -5.8

Camden, Highgate - Green gain from Con

Green - 1482
Labour - 1185
Tory - 1180
LD - 633

K&C, Brompton - Con hold
Con 1748
LD 326
Lab 213

Hammersmith & F, Sands End - Con hold
Con 2,257
Lab 1,147
LD 518

Ealing, Greenford Broadway - Con gain from Lab
Con 1790
Lab 1770
LD 529

Tower Hamlets, Millwall - Con hold
Con 2133
Lab 1421
LD 370
BNP 219
Respect 170
Left List 83

Tower Hamlets, Weavers - Lab gain from LD
Lab 1421
LD 930
Respect 637
Con 435
BNP 154
Ind 143
Ind 77

Off to await the inevitable

Won't be blogging this afternoon as I am dragging myself along to Alexandra Palace for the London count, inspired by some masochistic instinct I guess.

Before that though I will be having lunch at the Geffrye Museum cafe with Akehurst junior and two other under-3s, which should be a lot more fun.


Oh well, normality returns.
For those of you who missed it, this was my 15 seconds of fame:


Lib Dem contempt for the electorate

It takes a fairly unique level of contempt for democracy to do as the Lib Dems have in Liverpool and within minutes of hearing that the electorate have flung them out of power, creep back in through a dodgy backroom deal with a defector.

Thoughts at 2.20am

Unlike the BBC I am not particularly hung up about projected national vote share. I don't know anyone in active politics who is - it's not a real measurement - what is real is losing or gaining council seats or control of councils.

I think we probably got the results at a national level we deserved tonight - voters have rightly punished us for the 10p tax rate abolition which was indefensible and a complete self-inflicted wound.

Sadly the people paying the price tonight are good Labour councillors losing their seats who had nothing to do with creating this policy.

We managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, just as with Charles Clarke and the prisons issue in the run up to May 2006 - which is a great shame for Labour groups locally in areas where they had expected gains right up until a few weeks ago.

Given the national context great credit needs to go to the local campaigns that have won through, and have proved that there are still no "no-go regions" for Labour:

Bolton +1
Broxbourne +1
Colchester +1
Hastings +1
Ipswich +3
Liverpool +3
Oxford +4
St Helens +2

Lib Dems lose Liverpool

LD -3
Lab +3
Liberal -1
Greens +1


BBC's Projected National Voteshare:

Con 44%
LD 25%
Lab 24%

ouch. Oh well, the only way is up.


Labour has gained a stunning four seats in Oxford, falling just one short of taking overall control - and missing that ward by just 4 votes.

Cameron: "'It's Bolton ... or bust'

Oh dear - they didn't take Bolton, so looks like the answer was "bust"

The curse of Cameron

There seems to be a close correlation between places David Cameron has visited and councils the Tories are failing to gain: Gosport, Bolton ...


Predicted Labour loss of control in Barnsley hasn't materialised.


Lab +1
Con +1
LD -3
Others +1

Wasn't that one of the key Tory target councils?

Labour seat gains in ...

Ipswich, Oxford, Hastings, Colchester and Broxbourne.

All in the south unless I have suddenly lost my sense of English geography,


No seats change hands in Worcester - a key parliamentary seat the Tories need to gain.


Apparently we've gained a Tory seat in leafy Broxbourne, Hertfordshire....

Hastings gain

Mr Dale has just told me Labour has gained a seat off the LDs in Hastings. Hardly evidence of a southern wipeout.

Birmingham losses

Ouch x 3 (i.e. we just lost 3 wards to the Tories)

Liverpool gains

Latest from the count in Liverpool:

Labour made 3 gains so far from Lib Dem, held 2 more that were under threat - Lib Dems lost another to Greens - Awaiting 3 more that are on knife edge - Just need one of those to make it NOC

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Chorley results

Andrea at politicalbetting.com is providing a stream of Chorley ward results:

Chorley EastLab 974Con 587
Lab hold

Chorley South WestLab 831Con 772
Lab hold

Chorley North EastLab 764Con 650The New Party 276
Lab Hold

Chorley-Euxton North
Con 908Lab 745
Con hold

Chorley South EastLab 890Con 803LD 204
Lab hold (The tories won it last year)


I feel like I should offer some kind of formal welcome to the hordes of new readers currently following the link from here.

Welcome, and please feel free to post in the comments section if you have any gossip to share about tonight's results, or even if you think I've written something daft.

Good luck to any Labour candidates and activists awaiting results tonight.


Turnout in my part of the world seems to be in the mid to high 40s - which in a low turnout borough like Hackney is very near to General Election levels and has to be good news for Ken.

Colleagues in Camden reckon the turnout in Highgate, where there was a simultaneous council by-election closely fought between Labour, the Greens and the Tories, has topped 80%!

Outside London I'm picking up that the Labour vote, whilst not switching, hasn't turned out to the extent we would want.

Ken comes to Stoke Newington

Ken, Diane and Jennette setting out with team from my flat this afternoon to campaign in Stoke Newington High Street:

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