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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wolverhampton NE selection

Congratulations to Emma Reynolds, until her selection Special Adviser to Geoff Hoon, who has been picked by local Labour members as parliamentary candidate for Wolverhampton NE, which has a majority of over 8,500.

An interesting selection result as someone working for a senior minister and thus associated with the Party leadership beat ex-Campaign Group MP John Cryer in a CLP with a historic reputation as being on the left, and it breaks the recent run of "open" as opposed to All-Women Shortlists resulting in the selection of men.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why haven't the Tories cut Council Tax already?

I was interested to see George Osborne's plans for reducing the increase in Council Tax in his speech today.

I'm a councillor on a Labour authority (Hackney) that has frozen (i.e. not increased at all) its component of the local Band D Council Tax for three years in a row, and gone six years without cutting front-line services, by cutting waste and finding back-office efficiency savings.

The Conservatives control nearly five times more councils than Labour. They are already setting the Council Tax in much of England. Tory councillors didn't need to wait for a George Osborne chancellorship to hold down Council Tax increases. They are in power in vast numbers of town halls and county halls and could have already done it if they wanted to. Maybe it hasn't been a big priority for them?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tory party membership fall

John Mann MP has uncovered figures which show that since David Cameron’s election as Tory Leader:
• Tory Constituency membership has fallen by an average of 24 in 2006 and 93 in 2007.
• Each Shadow cabinet member lost an average of 81 members in just the last year.
• George Osborne experienced a net loss of 240 members since joining the Shadow
• Even Cameron himself lost 19 members in Witney last year.
• 90% of sitting MPs’ membership has fallen or stayed the same.
• 50% of Tory MPs have lost 10% of their membership.
• 20% of Tory MPs have lost 20% of their membership.
• Figures for the last five years show an even longer term decline which Cameron has
failed to arrest, and in places, made worse.

These disappointing Tory membership figures show that there is no real enthusiasm for David Cameron even in his own party. Unlike in what the Tories like to say was the parallel period prior to 1997, when there was a huge increase in Labour party membership, Cameron has presided over a decline. This shows that even though he rides high in some polls his support has little depth or breadth.

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw says, “Cameron cannot convert short term poll leads into anything substantial. His membership is whittling away and his party is increasingly reliant on a falling & aging membership which isn’t enthused and is unable to inspire their friends and family to join. More worrying for Cameron’s leadership is that joining the Shadow Cabinet leads to a membership decline and his friends – the likes of Ed Vaizey MP – cannot recruit members either.”

The Tories’ own figures show Tory membership is in decline. From reports to the Electoral Commission, 90% of local associations with a sitting MP report either no recruitment or a fall in members.

Joining Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet is bad for Party membership. Shadow cabinet members have lost on average 81 members from 2006 to 2007. The biggest drop being in the constituency of former Conservative Party Chairman, Sir Francis Maude MP, now Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with a reduction of 307.

Other big guns shedding members include William Hague losing 267, Dominic Grieve down 92, Michael Gove losing 73 and George Osborne down 69. Only 1 shadow cabinet member reported an increase in membership in 2007.

Not surprisingly, the current Party Chair, Caroline Spellman MP’s membership dropped by 46 in the last year.

Even Cameron’s own local association has lost 19 members in the last year. When he became leader he only recruited 93 new members – a direct contrast to the Sedgefield experience between 1994 and 1997. Even Michael Howard added 516 new members to his local association when elected in 2004.

The most consistent loser of members is George Osborne. The Shadow Chancellor has managed a second membership recession in four years of stewardship of Tatton Conservative Association,
losing 69 members this year. Since joining the Shadow Cabinet in 2004 Osborne has seem his local membership plummet by a net loss of 240 members.

Overall the picture for the Tory MPs in Westminster is even more depressing, 90% of Tory Members who submitted membership figures to the Electoral Commission in 2007 (168 out of 194) failed to recruit a member or have substantially lost members.

In contrast, the Labour Party in opposition experienced a significant increase in membership in the run up to its election victory. National membership boomed from around 260,000 members to the 405,000 peak reported in 1997. Since being in Government the Labour Party’s membership has fallen year on year but since Gordon Brown became party leader, this fall has reduced significantly. It remains harder to retain and recruit members when in government than when in opposition.

Cameron is going to have to appoint a new Conservative Party Chair at some point in the near future. Caroline Spellman’s 2007 membership level is 10% lower than its 2004 peak with 536.

John Mann recommends that Cameron needs to appoint someone who can offer proven expertise to the national party. The contest for Party chairs seems to come down to a shortlist of three:
o Michael Mates having recruited 142 new members
o Mark Field up 73
o Ian Liddell Grainger up 49

An outside bet is Sir Patrick Cormack with 7 new members, his major surge getting into the top
12 Tory growth Associations!

Full sets of data are on John Mann's website: http://www.johnmannmp.com/davesdecline

Friday, September 26, 2008

Surviving an ambush

The micro-politics of the Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP GC continue to be finely balanced.

Last night I was up for nomination for the London Regional Board. You need your own CLP's nomination in order to run.

Hence a very comradely ambush from Graham Bash of Labour Left Briefing:

"I like Luke but we need to purge these discredited Blairites from our structures to punish them for their 10 years of failure. And he isn't black and the other candidate is" (I paraphrase but you get the general tone).

Result - 10 votes for L Akehurst, 10 votes for incumbent Akhtar Beg.

A kind offer to make no nomination at all is rejected, so we move to a second round of voting.

Result - 10 votes for L Akehurst, 10 votes for incumbent Akhtar Beg.

So a coin is tossed, and having delegated the calling to Cllr Linda Kelly of Leabridge Ward, heads it is and I get nominated on the toss of a coin. You don't get elections much closer than that.

Outside in the street as I head off to Hackney South CLP to speak about our local election campaign, I meet the two delegates whose votes would have made it a bit more decisive, arriving late because of a new and unfamiliar venue.

South of the Abbott/Hillier line they do things different and I got their nomination uncontested - which makes 4 so far: Hackney N, Hackney S, Tottenham and Walthamstow.

The split on the left

It isn't just the moderate wing of the Labour Party that has had some differences of opinion about the PM pre-conference.

The Labour Hard Left is at war with itself. Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Socialist Action were leafletting Labour Party conference calling for delegates to defend Brown, and my own local MP Diane Abbott circulated a report to her GC yesterday praising Brown's speech. However, their comrades in Labour Left Briefing are "angry with this approach", have "three strikes - Crewe, Glasgow E, Glenrothes - and you're out" on the front cover of their journal, and its editorial even praises lifelong Trot-basher Siobhain McDonagh for her "call for a wider debate".

Soft left Compass also seems to have some internal issues - Jon Cruddas is backing Brown but not quite clear where Neal Lawson and others are on this.

Council by-election results

Bumper lot of council by-election results last night. A rather better set of results for Labour than we have been seeing recently.

Hampstead Town Ward, LB Camden. LD gain from Con. LD 1242 (44.1%, +11.5), Con 1114 (39.6%, -6.9), Lab 289 (10.3%, -1), Green 140 (5%, -3.3), BNP 29 (1%, +1). Swing of 9.2% from Con to LD since 2006. This is partly explained by the loss of Tory Councillor Mike Greene's personal vote, but may destabilise the Con/LD coalition running Camden as the Tories may wonder what electoral benefit they are deriving from it, having lost Highgate Ward to the Greens on 1 May. This result is also significant in terms of it being in Glenda Jackson's 3-way marginal parliamentary seat.

Chalfont St Giles Ward, Chiltern DC. Con hold. Con 927 (68.1%, +0.6), Lib Dem 434 (31.9%, -0.6). Swing of 0.6% from LD to Con since 2007.

Plumstead Ward, LB Greenwich. Lab hold. Lab 1318 (59.1%, +12.4), Con 542 (24.3%, +1.5), LD 195 (8.7%, -10.6), Green 175 (7.8%, +7.8). Swing of 5.5% from Con to Lab since 2006.

Pin Green Ward, Stevenage BC. Lab hold. Lab 716 (54.4%, +6.8), Con 321 (24.4%, -5.1), LD 112 (8.5%, -2.9), UKIP 85 (6.5%, +6.5), Free England 81 (6.2%, -5.4). Swing of 6% from Con to Lab since May this year - in a key parliamentary marginal.

Minster Cliffs Ward, Swale BC. Con gain from Sheppey First. Con 549 (48%, +1.4), Sheppey First 328 (28.7%, +28.7), Lab 204 (17.8%, +1.8), LD 63 (5.5%, -25.9). Swing of 13.7% from Con to Sheppey First since May 2008. The politics on Sheppey are confusing as Sheppey First and the Lib Dems are in an alliance.

Sheerness E Ward, Swale BC. Lab gain from Sheppey First. Lab 326 (38.4%, +6.6), LD 177 (20.9%, +10), Con 173 (20.4%, -1.8), Sheppey First 171 (20.2%, -14.9). Swing of 1.7% from Lab to LD since 2007, but a good increase in the Labour vote in one of the better bits of knife-edge parliamentary marginal Sittingbourne & Sheppey.

Alfriston Ward, Wealden DC. LD gain from Con. LD 495 (51.6%, +20.2), Con 465 (48.4%, -20.2). Swing of 20.2% from Con to LD since 2007.

Colden Common and Twyford, Winchester City Council. LD hold. LD 1108 (52.6%, -0.4), Con 935 (44.4%, -0.2), Lab 64 (3%, +0.6). Swing of 0.1% from LD to Con since this May.

Comments on http://www.vote-2007.co.uk/ discussion forum are interesting:

Mark Senior (a Tory): "A good set of results for LibDems this week in their important target areas , not bad results for Labour and poor for Conservatives"

Simon Cooke (a Tory): "these were a pretty poor set of results for the Conservatives (other than on the sainted isle of Sheppey of course). We are not converting a national poll lead into success in by-elections as we should and I suspect this is about effective campaigning on the ground - the party seems to have forgotten (other than on Sheppey it seems) some simple facts about campaigning, one of which is to actually do some. And shoving out a leaflet or two doesn't qualify."

Lib Dem Peer Lord Greaves: "This is a batch of quite extraordinary results (even apart from the eccentricities of Sheppey). They are, taken as a whole, very bad for the Tories. The kind of batch of results we used to get and have not seen for a very long time.They are odd, eccentric, bizarre, not in accordance with the world as it is has come to be seen as real. We should all be pinching ourselves.Whether they mean anything outside each of these particular places will be seen in the next week or two. But the LDs did gain a seat from the Tories in Suffolk last week which means three in two weeks.What they do mean, at the very least, is that there is still no automatic and unstoppable Tory tide flowing through the land. Whatever the opinion polls say."

HF (a Tory): "Yes they were a poor set of results for the Conservatives. They may however do some good in shaking up the idleness and complacency that some Conservative Associations seem to have fallen into due to the national polls. Winchester was very bad"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Polls up so let's shut up

YouGov in the Sun has the following bounce coming out of the Conference: Con 41% (-3) Lab 31% (+7), LD 16% (-4).

If we want to sustain this recovery now would be a good time for everyone to just shut up and fall into line.

I don't care about angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debates about whether Gordon is radical enough or too radical on public sector reform.

I don't care about who briefed who at what time on Wednesday morning about the resignation of which minister.

I do care about the fact that a public display of unity and loyalty by ordinary delegates this week has lifted us 7% in public support.

If the great and the good in the cabinet and the parliamentary party behaved with half as much discipline as the rank-and-file over coming weeks, we might end up another 7% up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruth Kelly

I've only met Ruth Kelly once and it seems like a very long time ago. We had dinner together with my friend Matthew Laza at Matthew's mum's house in Chester in September 1995. I was touring the country as Labour Students National Secretary running freshers' fayre recruitment stalls, and Ruth was staying in Chester whilst seeking the parliamentary selection there. She didn't get selected in Chester but went on to win her seat in Bolton. My memory of meeting her then was of a very bright and serious individual so I am not surprised that in the meantime she has gone on to hold three different cabinet jobs.

She has also managed to bring up a family of four with her husband Derek Gadd, who as Lambeth & Southwark Labour Organiser in the '90s went out of his way to befriend and mentor me and other newly appointed younger full-time Labour agents.

They are a fundamentally decent couple and so I was shocked by the churlish reaction to Ruth's announcement she will be quitting as Transport Secretary from Mary Honeyball MEP on her blog here.

Mary Honeyball seems determined to conduct the debate about the fertilisation and embryology bill in a vituperative, personalised and aggressive way. This is the latest in a series of offensive blog posts and articles she has written attacking Catholic Labour MPs and Ministers for their deeply held beliefs on this subject - beliefs that are central to their faith.

I'm an atheist and I am pro-choice on abortion and would support the current bill, but it ought to be an absolute given that we respect the religious beliefs of others on moral issues before Parliament and reject the sort of anti-Catholic prejudice Mary Honeyball has been expressing towards Ruth Kelly.

Nomination Thresholds

The hard left's attempt to move the goalposts by reducing the percentage of Labour MPs needed to nominate a candidate for Labour Leader from 12.5 to 7.5% was defeated by 84% to 16%. Looks like we are not going to be seeing John McDonnell on the ballot paper any decade soon.

In denial

I've had a few accusations this week of being a member of the "ostrich tendency" for staying loyal to the PM. Reaction to his speech from a few people suggests the people really in denial are the ones who had convinced themselves he was going to mess up his speech and now can't come to terms with the fact he played a blinder.

Do I here the snap, crackle and pop of fireworks being gently urinated on?

Balance of power on conference floor

The elections for the CLP section of the National Constitutional Committee give a useful indication of the politics of the delegates being elected to conference by constituency parties. The results were:

Rose Burley (supported by Labour First) 93154 (elected)
Kevin Hepworth (supported by Labour First) 86497 (elected)
Theresa Pearce (supported by hard left) 39730
Rita Stephen 26141

The hard left Campaign Briefing newsletter reacted to the high vote amongst CLP delegates that Andy Furlong got for the Conference Arrangements Committee by describing him as "hard right", his supporters as "the forces of darkness" and insulting elected constituency delegates who voted for him by calling them a "rotten borough". This is the language being used by the laughably named "Campaign for Labour Party Democracy". Seems they don't like democracy if it elects delegates they don't agree with.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I had my doubts at the start of the speech but by the end of it, it had really not just lived up to but exceeded expectations.

I was watching next to two people who are definitely not natural Gordon supporters, one of them an ex-MP, the other virtually the president of the John Reid fan club - both were won over by it.

The "no time for a novice" line was a brilliant put down of at least two people.

Lots of policy meat too, and what I think was the first use of the phrase "new Labour" in a Brown speech.

Getting the reshuffle right

While grassroots delegates are focused on today's speech, MPs are already more exercised about the possible ministerial reshuffle. This is understandable and not unreasonable given their careers and salary levels depend on it.

There is already quite a bit of paranoia about "nights of the long knives" in the bars here in Manchester so my advice to the PM would be as follows:

A) get it over with. The longer that a reshuffle is delayed, the more tense things will get, the more fear of imminent demotion will fuel leadership plotting and the more debilitating it will be to the machinery of government: ministers expecting a P45 don't focus on effective decision-making, and aren't treated with respect by their civil servants. I wouldn't leave it any later than the week after next.

B) Don't do anything rash in terms of the key former Blairites. John Hutton, Hazel Blears and James Purnell are amongst the most effective ministers at a departmental level and the most articulate and proactive advocates for the government in the media. Who cares whether they are in your personal fan club. Keep them in place or promote them - if you don't they will have nothing to lose by moving against you..

C) The brightest and best of the layer immediately outside the Cabinet are former Blairites too. Promote some or all of Jim Murphy, Liam Byrne, Pat McFadden and Caroline Flint to show you are an equal opps boss who is interested in nurturing talent rather than balancing factions.

D) There are already too few veterans and big beasts in the Cabinet. Look after Geoff Hoon and Alistair Darling because experience and gravitas is a key part of the frontbench mix and there's not enough of it there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fights that haven't happened

Far from being the brawl or split predicted, this is turning into a conference so calm and united it must rank as the dullest in recent memory.

Journalists are openly complaining that they cannot find anyone off-message to do vox pops - though the BBC Daily Politics camera crew yesterday that chose to interview me and Catherine Stihler MEP without asking who we were was probably always on a hiding to nothing if they expected a juicy attack on the government.

A lot of the credit for the mature and reasonable way debate is being conducted on conference floor goes to the unions, who are being admirably supportive of the PM. Today's debate on a windfall tax on energy could have been a real flashpoint but instead the unions presented their policy differences with ministers on this in a calm and constructive way.

Alastair Darling's speech today set exactly the right tone of reassurance after the turmoil on the financial markets and was greeted with a warmth that gives some hint of how well the PM's speech will be received tomorrow.


I couldn't help feeling sorry for the speaker from the No2ID campaign who couldn't get into the conference to address a fringe meeting this lunchtime because they er... didn't have any ID.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The day we got our momentum back

I'm in the not very useful situation of being a blogger with a non-functioning blackberry hence the lack of instant reportage of conference.

Through the muzzy haze induced by a series of vodka martinis consumed until 3am this morning I can however deduce that over the last 48 hours the Labour Party has regained an all important political commodity - momentum.

The PM's actions to deal with the financial crisis have restored his reputation for decisiveness and sound decisiveness as well.

JK Rowling has lifted staff and activist morale with her £1m donation.

Comres shows the Lib Dems on 21% (up 4%), Labour on 27% (up 2) and the Tories on 39% (down 5) - a Tory lead of 12% not the 19% shown in their last poll - a difference that is worth 50 seats in a General Election.

A proper poll by YouGov - as opposed to a shonky one by labourhome - of Labour members shows there is no appetite for a change of Leader at the grassroots.

We are back in the game, and if senior figures in the Party regain their political self-confidence and stop trying to hedge their bets about Gordon's leadership, we could still win it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On the train

On the train to Manchester and just spent a pleasant half an hour chatting to labourhome editor Alex Hilton, despite the fact his site is carrying a post headlined"Luke Akehurst is a moron". Luckily I am a very thick-skinned and forgiving moron.

Labour launches new online strategy

Some interesting changes on Labour's website www.labour.org.uk. The Party has re-thought the way it campaigns online to take account of the latest and most imaginative methods. Instead of a top down approach Labour is opening the site up to user generated content and making it a resource to build campaigns on rather than a top down one way flow of information. I'm impressed.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

Ballieston Ward, Glasgow City Council. SNP hold. Final STV round: SNP 2511, Lab 2313. First Round: SNP 2318 (44.6%, +11.4), Lab 2167 (41.7%, -4.3), Con 259 (Con 5.0%, -1.5), LD 159 (3.1%, +0.4), Solidarity 74 (1.4%, -3.1), BNP 73 (1.4%, +1.4), Scottish Socialists 58 (1.1%, -1.1), Green 45 (0.9%, -0.8), Scottish Unionist 43 (0.8%, -1.3). Swing of 7.9% from Lab to SNP since May 2007. This was the seat vacated by the winner of the Glasgow East parliamentary by-election.

Farnley & Wortley Ward, Leeds City Council. Green hold. Green 1183 (27.1%, -17.4), LD 1151 (26.3%, +22.2) Lab 1009 (23.1%, +1.1), BNP 556 (12.7%, -1.1), Con 428 (9.8%, -5.2), Alliance for Green Socialism 45 (1.0%, +0.5). Swing of 19.8% from Green to LD since May this year. Lib Dems leapfrog Labour to take second place.

St Dogmaels Ward, Pembrokeshire UA. Ind gain from LD. Ind 496 (55.7%, +17.4), Lib Dem 177 (19.9%, -41.8), Ind 160 (18.0%, -20.3), Con 57 (6.4%, +6.4). Swing of 29.6% from LD to Ind since May this year.

Woodbridge Riverside Ward, Suffolk Coastal DC. Con hold. Con 313 (46.0%, -8.5), Lib Dem 254 (37.4%, +13.1), Green 57 (8.4%, 3.5), Lab 56 (8.2%, -1.1). Swing of 10.8% from Con to LD since May 2007.

Woodbridge Division, Suffolk CC. LD gain from Con. Lib Dem 970 (41.8%, +2.3), Con 826 (35.6%, -4.4), Ind 378 (16.3%, +16.3), Lab 147 (6.3%, -14.2). Swing of since 3.4% from Con to LD since 2005.

Labour's heroes

The Guardian is running a poll to find out who Labour's all-time heroes are.

The shortlist was drawn up by MPs - frankly it doesn't say much for the grasp of Labour history of the PLP, which appears to be superficial and romantic to say the least. They've come up with Clem Attlee, Nye Bevan, Keir Hardie and Barbara Castle.

I would grudgingly accept Attlee, though he was about the 6th or 7th most talented person in his own Cabinet, and stayed on far too long after defeat in 1951 in a sour attempt to block Morrison as his successor.

Bevan's creation of the NHS ought to be cancelled out by his subsequent record of nutty leftist sectarianism which helped keep us out of power for most of the '50s and was so extreme he was temporarily kicked out of the PLP. I am frankly shocked that Ed Balls is speaking in his favour at the Guardian's debate at conference.

Castle was never more than a middle-ranking figure in the Wilson governments, and to my mind memorable for her slavish support for Wilson himself (not a recommendation) and completely inept handling of the unions over "In Place of Strife".

Hardie's inclusion I think is just people coming up with a name from so far back in the mists of time that it's a cop-out option.

My shortlist would have been:

Herbert Morrison - built the organisation and ran the campaign that won us the 1945 landslide, and built much of London's social housing when he ran County Hall.
Ernest Bevin - founder of the TGWU and NATO.
Hugh Gaitskell - saw off Bevan's loopy followers to save Labour in the '50s.
Neil Kinnock - saw off Benn and Militant to save Labour in the '80s.
Tony Blair - won three general elections.

The Times "web of plotters"

The Times claims that what links MPs hostile to the PM is their support for Hazel Blears' bid for Deputy Leader last year.

This would be an interesting theory were it not for the fact that the people who voted for Hazel also included the PM's own PPS Ian Austin MP, one of his most vocal supporters in recent weeks, Rt Hon John Spellar MP, and at a rather more lowly level, me.

To try to suggest all Blairites are anti-Brown, or all Hazel Blears supporters are anti-Brown, on the basis that some of both are, would be as illogical as suggesting all fish are cod because all cod are fish.

Anti-Labour Home

Labourhome is rapidly developing a reputation for being completely unhelpful to the Party whose name it uses.

Today, they they publish a set of survey results the only utility of which can be to damage individual ministers and the the Party the day before the start of a crucial party conference.

The survey had a self-selecting set of participants, so there is no way of finding out if it is in any way representative.

What's more it was conducted deceitfully, with no effort being made to inform participants that the survey had been commissioned by a newspaper.

Alex, Jag, you could not have been more unhelpful if you had tried. Try switching on your brains and thinking strategically about the future of the party before initiating these sort of publicity stunts.

Message to the PLP

Gordon Brown has sent a letter to all members of thePLP ahead of Labour Party Annual Conference.

It reads:

"Dear colleague,

As we head to our conference in Manchester, our focus is upon helping the British people come through this turbulent economic time, and on our defining mission of building a fairer Britain – winning the fight for Britain’s future.

This week’s international financial turbulence has shown that we are going through a period of extraordinary global change that is taking us into a new world. In this country we will take the tough, decisive action necessary to protect the stability of the economy and to get the financial system moving, as we have done this week and as we did with Northern Rock.

Our first task is immediate support for hard-pressed families struggling with the impact of this global financial turbulence. That is why this month we have been helping families with:

•A comprehensive £1 billion housing package that helps first-time buyers; a one-year Stamp Duty holiday for all homes costing under £175,000; and to help vulnerable homeowners in difficulty, a new mortgage rescue scheme and a more generous safety net to help prevent repossessions.
•Help for families to reduce their energy bills – not just this winter but permanently – with a £1 billion increase in our national programme for household energy efficiency. We have pledged to increase:othe winter fuel payment by £50 to all pensioners (and an extra £100 for the over 80s) this winter;oeleven million older and vulnerable people will be eligible for free loft and cavity wall insulation and other energy saving measures that could save them up to £300 a year in their energy bills. Every household will be eligible to get at least 50% off energy saving insulations.oCold weather payments for the most vulnerable from £8.50 to £25 a week.And we will encourage people to save an average of £150 per household on pre-payment meters and £100 for households on standard credit by switching suppliers and moving to direct debit, in addition to the up to £300 of savings they can make through energy efficiency measures. To make sure people across the country can take advantage of the help on offer and save as much money as possible, we will run a national TV and press information campaign to publicise what help is available.
•A £120 family tax cut that begins to come into force this month.And as we face the challenges that change brings, we must restate the case for our party and values. Fairness matters more at a time of profound change such as this.Fair rules, fair chances, and a fair say for everyone: that is the new deal for this new world.Fair rules with our tough measures to punish and prevent crime; with neighbourhood policing a reality in our local communities; the new points based system for immigration and new tougher, but fairer rules for citizenship; and welfare reform so that those who can work, do work.Fair chances by investing in education and skills for all our people; help for older people; and new support for parents to help ease the pressures of bringing up children.

And a fair say for all with a new approach to public services to give parents, patients and the public greater control over the services they use; a new wave of NHS reform to make the National Health Service a personal health service; and accelerated schools reform.As we work to build a fairer Britain, we face a Conservative Party that has changed its image, but has not undertaken a serious reappraisal of policy or ideology. They have followed a deliberate strategy of avoiding difficult policy choices but when they do make decisions, we see their instincts still lead them down the road of policies that are unchanged and unfair:
•On tax, their first priority is to divert £1 billion to the 3,000 richest estates in Britain;
•On levels of investment in public services, David Cameron says the differences between Labour and the Tories will be ‘dramatic’ and ‘fundamental’. And they have committed to cuts to Sure Start and to cut £4.5 billion from school building plans;
•And on tackling poverty, they refuse to commit to Labour’s target on child poverty and the means by which we are cutting child poverty.

I am confident that we can come through this difficult time and meet the challenges we face a stronger, more secure, and fairer country than before.

And that we can show people more clearly that the choice at the next election will be between a Conservative Party which still believes in helping the few and not the many; and a Labour Party which believes in fairness and opportunity for all and has the policies to deliver them."

Councillors back Brown

This week's Local Government Chronicle reports that "Labour councillors have given Gordon Brown a much-needed boost, with a majority claiming the party can win the next general election with him as PM."

According to a poll of Labour councillors by ComRes 61% of party councillors believe the next general election is winnable with Brown as leader. Just over a quarter (27%) believe the party is destined to defeat without a leadership change, while 12% are undecided.

NEC local government representative Ann Lucas comments in the article:

"With all due respect to MPs and cabinet members, councillors are activists first and foremost and are as good a sounding board as you are going to get. If the leader has 61% support, then you are doing quite well."

A bit of policy

Seems like another era, but back in the summer I attended some interesting Progress seminars about the role of the state, and wrote an article about the flawed governance arrangements for Foundation hospitals. This has now been published as a chapter in their new pamphlet published today.

I've also got an anti-windfall tax article in the conference edition of Progress magazine.

Attacking the Tories

I thought it was odd that an unnamed Cabinet Minister chose to criticise Gordon Brown's presentation to Cabinet about attack lines against the Tories to Anne McElvoy of the Evening Standard yesterday. Odd because I had the perhaps old-fashioned idea that the proceedings of Cabinet meetings were confidential to the participants, not leaked to Tory newspapers, but also odd because the account of the same meeting in the Independent presents a rather more balanced picture.

The Indie's account tallies more with what people present at Tuesday's NEC have told me about the PM giving the same presentation there. He was very impressive - so impressive in fact that it contributed to the unanimous vote, following a debate of just four minutes, to agree that procedurally there was no requirement on the General Secretary to issue nomination papers to Labour MPs.

At the NEC, Gordon said:

"The Tories know that their brand was deeply unpopular. Indeed their own chairman called them the "nasty party". So they set out to convince people that they had changed by saying that they now believed in "progressive ends". What we see, though, is that when they move on from PR to policies they show themselves not to be progressives but Conservatives. Take their flagship tax policy, which gives a £1billion tax cut to the 3000 richest estates in the country. Take their education policy: cuts in Sure Start, new school building plans, EMAs and a lack of commitment to staying on until 18. Take health where they would remove our commitment to GP weekend and evening opening hours and scrap targets for being seen for cancer in 2 weeks, getting your operation within 18 weeks and being seen in A & E in less than 4 hours.

What we see is that their brand may be new, their PR expensive and their rhetoric modelled on Labour's but when you look at their actual policy plans they are very similar to the old Conservatives of the past. They may be spending a lot of money on advertising but behind the PR lies a nightmare scenario of cutting public services to give 3000 of the richest people in the country tax cuts.

We face a tough, long road and there are no easy answers. People won't move instantly from feeling anger about the economy to embracing us with open arms but we can show that we are thinking ahead and endeavouring to protect them in a fair way and ensure that we come through these difficult times. Over the coming long eighteen month haul we will move from this being a referendum on us to people making a real choice between us and the Conservatives - real progressive values and the right answers for the future versus old Conservative attitudes masked by PR and branding".

Interestingly, the faux left/soft left Compass organisation is is more willing to give the Tories the benefit of the doubt, saying their policies actually aren't a threat to the country, and the leadership position is tougher and more "left-wing" than Neal Lawson's!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We need unity, not disarray

A busy day, so rather than write something myself, here's a link to John Spellar's take on the situation, which I agree with.

I was sorry to see another friend of mine, David Cairns, resign, though I have to say I had taken this as a given ever since Siobhain's resignation on Friday, just as I had Joan Ryan's, given the political links between them. I still think they are all wrong. And I don't think they represent majority - or even substantial minority - opinion in the Party.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Have your say

I've set up a Facebook group for anyone to join who wants to make a declaration that they don't want a Labour Leadership election, or further speculation about one, and wants the Party to concentrate on unity and attacking the Tories:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More corrections

Another non-Labour blog that sometimes gets confused about Labour people is the otherwise must-read www.politicalbetting.com

It has run a series of posts this weekend citing John Reid, Jon Cruddas and James Purnell as potential leadership candidates.

Maybe they are accomplished liars, or maybe things will change in very unexpected ways, but I've heard from Labour insiders who have had first-hand conversations with all three in recent days, and none of them are currently interested in running for leader. In fact I'm told it is unlikely that Cruddas would even be up for standing for Deputy Leader again, as he didn't enjoy the campaign last time round. Reid is putting it about that we made our choice in 2007, and he had his chance to run then and didn't, and we should stick with it. Purnell I think is playing a longer game.

Tory priorities

Today's News of the World reveals the Tories want to abolish two Whitehall departments: BERR and DFID.

An interesting sense of priorities given that the former of these supports business and industry, and is tackling the huge issue of where we get our future energy supply from, and the latter runs international development programmes and aid for the third world.

A quick correction to Guido

Occasionally I feel the need to correct leading non-Labour bloggers on their less than first-hand knowledge of Labour internal dynamics and allegiences.

Yesterday, Mr Guido Fawkes listed my local MP Diane Abbott as a "likely suspect" to want a leadership election.

I am happy to say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Less than an hour after Mr Fawkes wrote his post, I actually met Diane when she turned up in Clissold Ward as part of a team of 20 people we had out canvassing (for an election in two years time).

She greeted me with several expletives about Siobhain McDonagh and Joan Ryan, questioned their sanity and reiterated what she has said on numerous occasions on national TV, i.e. that she backs Gordon. I believe Bob Marshall-Andrews has similar views - he appears in Guido's list despite having called for David Miliband to be sacked this summer!

The positions being taken on this defy easy list making by anti-Labour bloggers so I wish they wouldn't expose their ignorance.

Another hara-kiri weekend for Labour

I've spent this weekend feeling a strong sense of deja vu.

My reaction to the calls for a leadership contest from Siobhain McDonagh, Joan Ryan et al is pretty much identical to my reaction to the letter from the 2001 intake of MPs that tried to precipitate a leadership election in September 2006. In both cases I disagreed with the initiative profoundly (I'd be in moral turmoil about trying to oust a leftwing leader like Michael Foot who I disagreed with on everything, let alone someone from my own wing of the Party), but know some of the people involved and respect them and their motives, even whilst disagreeing with them.

I like Siobhain McDonagh, I share almost all her politics, and she cannot be accused of "treachery" because she never supported Brown being PM in the first place. She and her sister, former General Secretary Margaret, are amongst Labour's most formidable grassroots organisers, turning Mitcham & Morden from a Tory seat into a Labour fortress with a 12,500 majority through sheer hard work. They are serious people who will have acted in what the believe to be the best interests of the Party. Their friend and ally Joan Ryan is an equally accomplished campaigner whose holding onto ultra-marginal Enfield North with a swing against her of less than 1% was one of the miracles of the 2005 General Election - and featured some of the most innovative campaign literature I've ever seen.

However, I think their timing is not forgivable in this instance. The PM deserves the chance to turn round the current opinion polling numbers. He has been trying to do that with policy initiatives over the last two weeks and obviously the key moment will be his conference speech. However much people might think there is some unnamed person out there who could do a better job, you don't deliberately destabilise your own party's leader when they are attempting to restore the party's fortunes - particularly when you don't even have a named alternative to support. Everyone in the PLP knew about the timing of the "relaunch" so there is no excuse for torpedoing it. My hunch is that the bulk of the PLP and party members think we owe Gordon the chance to turn things round.

Strategically I also despair at this continued division of the right of the Party. How on earth did we get into this ridiculous situation where people are categorised not by where they sit on an ideological spectrum but by whether they are "Blairites" or "Brownites" - two camps with about as much political - as opposed to personal - difference between them as the Big Enders and Little Enders in Gulliver's Travels (named after their preferred mode of egg eating) yet who behave towards each other like the Montagues and Capulets? I have tried to think of a single policy where Siobhain and Joan would disagree with die-hard Brownites like, for instance Tom Watson and Ian Austin. I can't think of one. Surely people who agree on policy and ideology should be working together to defeat the Tories, the Lib Dems, and in our own party those who want a lurch back to the left, not continuing some blood feud about who said what to whom at Granita in 1994? Or are we destined to see coup after counter coup, revenge political attack after attack, until the current generation of MPs are on their zimmer frames in the Lords (if it still exists)? At some point people who actually agree on everything except personalities have to draw a line and just get on with working together.

I do not see how this spate of resignations can achieve the change of leader the protagonists want. I doubt there are anything like the 70 MPs required to force a vote at Annual Conference. At Annual Conference there is next to no chance of securing a 50% vote to trigger a leadership election - for a start-off, which unions would back it and they have 50% of the vote before the CLP delegates even start voting? If there was a leadership contest and Brown wanted to stand in it, I reckon he would win - we know from the Deputy Leadership contest last year that union members overwhelming follow the advice on who to vote for sent out with the ballot, and I can't imagine National Political Director of Unite Charlie Whelan drafting a recommendation for Derek Simpson to send that didn't back Gordon. Net result: same PM but wounded by a contest, and the Party having wasted a vast amount of money and time on fighting itself not Cameron. If Brown stood down and there was an open contest my money would be on a soft left candidate like Harriet Harman or John Denham coming through on transfers, which surely can't be the outcome Siobhain and Joan want.

It's obviously too late for the people who have already broken cover to retreat from what they are doing, but I hope that other Labour MPs think very carefully before causing further instability in the run up to a conference where unity is vital. We need calls for a leadership contest now like a fish needs a bicycle.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Council by-election results

Last night's council by-election results:

New Park Ward, Harrogate BC. LD hold. LD 843 (61.1%, -14.2), Con 491 (35.6%, + 20.9), Lab 45 (3.3%, +3.3). Swing of 17.6% from LD to Con since 2007. Heavy swing to the Tories in a very safe LD ward.

Stoke Ward, Guildford BC. LD hold. LD 864 (56.0%, +2.5%), Con 410 (26.6%, -0.5%), Lab 211 (13.7%, -5.8%), UKIP 59 (3.8%, +3.8%). Swing of 1.5% from Con to LD since 2007. Continued collapse of Labour vote in a Surrey ward we won as recently as 2003.

Guisborough Ward, Redcar & Cleveland UA. Con hold. Con 1124 (55.9%, +13.5), Lab 887 (44.1%, -0.8). Swing of 7.2% from Lab to Con since 2007. Labour stuffed by local LD/Tory non-aggression pact on this council.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An evening of meetings

... but then most of them are.

6pm I was off to the Board of Agudas Israel Housing Association, where I represent Hackney Council, to consider schemes to provide more much-needed affordable housing for the Orthodox Jewish community.

8pm down the road to the executive of Hackney North Labour Party to report on campaigning and take part in a series of mini-debates and votes about the hot issues of the day to decide how to mandate our conference delegate and what "contemporary issues" to submit text on. A mixed bag: the Campaign Group proposal to reduce the nomination threshold to run for Labour Leader wasn't passed, a motion on opposing Georgian membership of NATO wasn't passed, but the Compass model motion on Windfall Tax went through with only me voting against, and was even amended to include support for nationalisation of the utilities. You win some, you lose some.

Thank you, Walthamstow and Tottenham

Many thanks to delegates at Walthamstow CLP and Tottenham CLP who voted on Thursday night to nominate me to be a candidate at the 22 November regional conference to represent North and East London CLPs on the London Labour Party Regional Board.

Endorsements and non-endorsements

I'm not impressed by all the huffing and puffing from William Hague about the PM's alleged "endorsement" of Obama in the Parliamentary Monitor. Dod's Publishing must be delighted at the free publicity for one of the lesser known of their stable of journals.

I also don't think No10 should be apologising or denying an endorsement so frantically.

There are good political arguments for not interfering in overseas elections: in most cultures it really irritates the locals to have outsiders trying to tell them which way to vote, a good example being the Guardian's crazy scheme where UK liberals wrote to swing voters in Ohio in 2004 begging them to vote for John Kerry, which completely backfired.

But I can't see any in principle reason not to do it - indeed in France and Spain recent elections have seen socialist PMs and party leaders from neighbouring counties as guest speakers at the final socialist party election rallies - after all we on the left are supposed to be internationalists.

One of the few aspects of Tony Blair's premiership that I really didn't like was the hinting that he somehow preferred his diplomatic allies and personal friends Berlusconi, Sarkosy and Aznar winning to their opponents from our sister parties. It was fine to work with them in the EU where that furthered British interests but a Labour Party Leader should always be backing the socialist, social democrat or Labour (or in the US case Democrat) cause in an election - I see that as an obligation of our membership of international political families like the Socialist International and Party of European Socialists (who have a nice and very explicit endorsement of Obama on their website).

My view is that you have to separate out the two hats a Labour PM wears and Brown should be saying:

"In my capacity as Prime Minister of the UK I have to stay neutral and of course I'll work closely with whoever the people of country X choose as their leader.

But as Leader of the British Labour Party I hold a partisan position and I have a duty to call for the election of the candidate from our sister party."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Meanwhile Down Under

I'm sure nothing like this ever goes on in our Parliament. ;)

In praise of the Guardian

For every op-ed by Polly Toynbee that winds me up, the Guardian does something fantastic that keeps me reading, 25 years after I first got hooked as an 11 year old Bennite when the man himself had a back page column, complete with the typos the paper was then infamous for.

This week it's Tim Atkin's beautiful little series of 'foldies' about wines of the world.

For 30 seconds on an early morning 149 bus through Shoreditch today his description of the white wines of Campania transported me to a beautiful holiday overlooking the Amalfi coast.

"Got a wine guide, don't need a glass of wine".

Lessons from history

One of my weaknesses is buying any second-hand books on Labour and union history that I spot in charity shops.

Appropriately for TUC conference week I have just finished reading 'Battered Cherub', the autobiography of NUM President Joe Gormley (1917-1993).

Quite aside from giving an insight into the extreme poverty and hardship of Gormley's youth in depression-era Lancashire, it's a reminder that the Scargill-era NUM was quite different to what had gone before.

Gormley (described by Bevan's wife Jennie Lee as 'an ultra rightwing socialist') and his predecessor on Labour's NEC Sam Watson were Labour rightwingers, and the Miners were a key component in the block of union votes in the Labour Party that vigorously opposed first Bevanism and then CND. As late as 1981's Labour special conference at Wembley, the NUM were voting with the right to leave MPs with a majority of the vote in the new electoral college. Fighting communists inside the union like Mick McGahey on one front, and Ted Heath's Tory government on the other, whilst at the same time having a healthy contempt for Harold Wilson's soft left fudging, Gormley got the miners into a position where by the time he left office in 1982 they had unprecentedly good pay and conditions.

He was also highly concious that they should not overreach themselves politically and could not afford to repeat their 1974 feat of bringing down a government. Almost his last act as President was to intervene to call for acceptance of a 9.3% pay offer from the Tories and see off a national strike call from the Scargillites.

The book ends with the failiure of NUM moderates to run a strong candidate against Scargill, putting him in as President against the background of the Thatcher government and the SDP split. Gormley writes of the need for a balanced energy policy with roles for coal and nuclear as well as oil and gas.

The rest of the story I think we know. Scargill's confrontation with Thatcher. The tragic heroism of the 1984 strike, and the subsequent destruction of the mining industry and economic and social devastation of the coalfield communities.

We are paying the price for that now with high energy prices and strategically terrifying dependence on Russian gas supplies, whilst hundreds of years of coal supplies sit under the ground and once proud miners drive taxis, work in call centres or claim benefit.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Here we go again - in defence of All Women Shortlists

I was a bit surprised to get an invite to join a Facebook group entitled "Support equal opportunities: oppose all-women shortlists" (http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30014641020).

I thought this debate had been settled in the early '90s but it looks like some colleagues want to reopen it.

I think it might have made their case look better if the creators/administrators of the group had not both been men. Particularly in the case of the one of them who I know wants to be a parliamentary candidate, there's a bit of a whiff of self interest. I notice Kerron Cross who I had some intemperate exchanges with about this subject in the early days of this blog has joined the group.

There's a legitimate debate to be had about whether the Labour NEC's Organisation Sub Committee is over-doing their interpretation of the rules around which seats should have an All-Women Shortlist (AWS) for their selection. Personally I think that the Party needs to ensure a national level of 50% AWS in vacant Labour seats and aim for a level of 50% AWS in each individual region where this doesn't affect the national total. At the moment the 50% per region target, because it involves rounding up on small numbers of vacant seats per region (i.e. 1 of 1 or 2 of 3 vacancies must be AWS) is meaning that the national total is likely to be over 50%, which is excessive seeing as women can also contest the other 50% of "open" seats. There is also some micro implementation going on around specific boroughs or counties e.g. there are 3 Labour seats in Anyshire, all of them held by men, so any vacancy in Anyshire must be AWS (even if next door Upshire and Downshire have plenty of women Labour MPs), which has a distorting effect.

There also needs to be a debate about how allegations of the political use of AWS to block particular candidates or help others can be put to rest and complete transparency ensured, so that the principle is not undermined.

We also need to work out how to address the contentious issue of whether AWS damages the chances of increasing the number of BME candidates.

But the principle needs to be stuck with until we get a PLP that represents the electorate and is at least 50% women. The only proven way to get there is AWS. In years where we have had AWS selections Labour has managed to get lots of women MPs selected and elected. In years where we haven't, the numbers have gone backwards. This is something to be ashamed of. We shouldn't need to force Constituency Labour Parties to pick women candidates but the reality is that left to their own devices, all but the most progressive pick men. Unless you believe women are less capable than men as politicians (which there is no evidence for) the only explanation must be conscious or unconscious discrimination by the format of the selection process itself or by members of what is supposed to be a party of the left.

If this discrimination didn't exist then there would be no need for AWS, but it does, and we as a Party believe in equality, so we must use the only proven tool for tackling this, AWS.

Whilst AWS has been unpopular with voters where disgruntled male candidates have made an issue of it, such as in Blaenau Gwent, the net result of AWS, and the thing that only it is proven to deliver, a line-up of candidates with a lot more women in it, is popular with voters and is a major differentiator between us and the Tories and Lib Dems.

I write this as a man who has personally had all the seats near me that I was interested in contesting in selections this time round declared AWS so I was unable to go for them. But if you are a male candidate who believes in a more representative House of Commons, and a Labour Party whose candidates reflect the electorate, you have to accept someone has to miss the opportunity to run in order to move towards our goal of gender equality in our parliamentary party.

As my partner Linda sensitively put it when I moaned a bit about one of the AWS decisions that affected me: "Blokes like you have been in the Commons for hundreds of years, women haven't, get over it!".

That's why I won't be joining that Facebook group and why I disagree with the premise behind it. I'd urge the members of it to "get over it!" and support the principle of Labour's initiatives for getting talented women into the PLP, their council or wherever else rather than worrying about how it impacts on them personally. A little bit of self-sacrifice in the wider interests of the Party and our principle of equality is never a bad thing.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Very little Prospect of success

The press are getting a bit desperate in their search for evidence of a fight brewing at Labour conference.

Today's News of the World reported excitedly that "rebels will table motions calling for the rules to be changed to make it easier to unseat the Prime Minister".

This seems to be a reference to the rule change being promoted by Susan Press and the LRC which concedes that the Hard Left can't even get 1/8 of Labour MPs to nominate their candidates, so are seeking to move the goalposts.

NoTW says this has backing from "at least a dozen local Labour parties" - out of a possible 629!

Even more strangely it says "members from the Prospect trade union will table the rebel motions". But Prospect isn't one of the 15 unions affiliated to the Labour Party so they won't be able to do this.

Start of the canvassing season

The political campaigning season resumed in my local patch, Hackney, today, with our first canvassing session both since the summer break and of the run-in to the May 2010 council elections (we're believers in making an early start - in this case 20 months before the election).

It certainly didn't feel like Labour is a party on its last legs, as the media believes, despite the fact that we were in a ward that has always been marginal. We had a big, and enthusiastic team of campaigners out, and if anything the returns showed a small movement to us since the last council elections in 2006 (at least that's what the Party's computer system tells me).

A number of my councillor colleagues in the team also took time out from canvassing to make a personal contribution to crime prevention in the area by chasing after a group of bike thieves and retrieving two stolen cycles.

Unfortunately I've got out of shape since the Mayoral elections in May and found that charging round with a clipboard up and down the stairs of about 20 5-storey deck-entry council blocks has left me with a few aches and pains. No pain, no electoral gain though.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Council By-elections

Last night's council by-election results:

Newbarns Ward, Barrow DC. Con hold. Con 478 (52.3%, +9.4), Lab 177 (19.4%, -1.7%), People's Party 155 (17%, +17), BNP 104 (11.4%, +11.4). Swing 5.6% Lab to Con since May.

Waterloo Ward, Havant DC. Con hold. Con 809 (48.7%, -21.5), LD 801 (45.9%, +26.6), Lab 95 (5.4%, -5.1). Swing 24.1% Con to LD since May..

Melton Egerton Ward, Melton DC. Lab hold. Lab 314 (43.2%, -4.8), BNP 236 (32.5%, +4.5), Con 177 (24.3%, +0.3). Swing 4.7% Lab to BNP since 2007.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Top 100 Political Blogs

Iain Dale has now published the overall top 100 political blogs in the UK.

I've made it in at number 29, up from number 72 last year.

As usual Labour blogs are a bit under-gunned in the list - I assume this is because culturally the samizdat nature of blogging is more suited to opposition parties.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The tragedy of Charles Clarke

There is something desperately sad about the latest attention-seeking outburst from Charles Clarke.

Sad for him because with every outburst he walks further into the wilderness when he ought to be trying to be a team player and contributing to the Party and the Government's recovery.

But infinitely sadder for the Labour Party because the stupid, stupid timing of his completely unnecessary article has knocked all the positive policy announcements this week off the headlines and given the media the chance to reprise stories about division just as most of the Party is trying to put its weight behind a relaunch.

Charles should be part of the solution but he is repeatedly making himself part of the problem.

I do not understand how such an intelligent man can behave with such lack of self-awareness.

He writes "Everyone in Labour needs to stop obsessing about the past and to start obsessing about the future" but says this in an article that is almost entirely devoted to rehearsing historical arguments about the policy divisions of the past.

He offers not one single positive policy or strategy for the future in his article.

He says "Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are" - but "going on as we are" includes writing coded articles that are clearly designed to undermine the Prime Minister.

He's right about one thing though - "there is no Blairite plot". I know a lot of Blairites and most of them would cringe with embarrassment to be associated with his random and damaging interventions.

Stop doing it please Charles. Just put a sock in it.

Postscript: I failed to notice at first that he also attacks the replacement of Trident in the article - i.e. about the only concrete position he takes on policy is actually to attack one of Blair's most strategically important legacies. At least this helps clarify he is nothing to do with the right of the Party.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Compare and contrast

Within 24 hours of each other the Tories propose to cut inheritance tax for millionaires whilst Labour cuts stamp duty for people buying homes costing under £175,000 and allocates more money to social and affordable housing.

I think this suggests the dividing lines at the next General Election will be fairly clear.

Number 6

Iain Dale has just published his list of the top 100 left-of-centre blogs.

I've been ranked 6th (up 4 places from last year) so thanks to everyone who voted for me.

Well done on a very deserved number 1 & 2 ranking to Tom Harris MP and Hopi Sen.

The full list is:

1. Tom Harris MP2. Hopi Sen3. Stumbling & Mumbling4. Liberal Conspiracy5. Recess Monkey6. Luke Akehurst7. LabourHome8. Tom Watson MP9. Ministry of Truth10. Dave's Part11. Sadie's Tavern12. Harry's Place13. SNP Tactical Voting14. Socialist Unity15. Paul Linford16. Labour Outlook17. A Very Public Sociologist18. Obsolete19. Ordovicius20. Normblog21. Bloggers4Labour22. Theo's Blog23. Kezia Dugdale's Soapbox24. Beau Bo D'Or25. Bob Piper26. Forgesian Thinking27. The Daily (Maybe)28. Stuart King29. Lenin's Tomb30. Pickled Politics31. Never Trust a Hippy32. Chris Paul's Labour of Love33. Bloggerheads34. Chicken Yoghurt35. Bethan Jenkins AM36. Conor's Commentary37. John McDonnell MP38. Neil Clark39. Adam Price MP40. Snowflake541. Jane's the One42. Progress43. Two Doctors44. Rupa Huq45. The F Word46. Fat Man on a Keyboard47. Cynical Dragon48. Scots and Independent49. Byrne Baby Byrne50. Rachel North London51. Drink Soaked Trots52. Adam Smith was a Socialist53. Tory Troll54. Penny Red55. Kevin Maguire56. Nosemonkey's Eutopia57. Five Chinese Crackers58. Grimmer up North59. Guerilla Welsh Fare60. Welsh Ramblings61. Kerron Cross62. Three Score Years & Ten63. Labour and Capital64. Mars Hill65. Wheeler's Website66. Indygal67. Tartan Hero68. John's Labour Blog69. Charlie Beckett70. Ian Bone71. Another Green World72. Harpymarx73. Blog Menai74. Kerry McCarthy MP75. The Exile76. New Direction77. Lancaster UAF78. Modernity79. Organised Rage80. Madam Miaow Says...81. Calum Cashley82. Clairwil83. Councillor Terry Kelly84. Stroppy Blog85. Shiraz Socialist86. Labour Left Forum87. Amlwch to Magor88. Defend the NHS89. Jon's Union Blog90. Paul Flynn MP91. Scribo Ergo Sum92. Andrew Burns's Really Bad Blog93. Don Paskini94. Oliver Kamm95. Bid for Freedom96. Macuaid97. Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey98. Sit Down Man99. Tygerland100. Jon Worth Euroblog
These blogs were voted for by the readers of more than 75 UK political blogs and the readers of TOTAL POLITICS Magazine. Each person voted for their top ten blogs. Their favourite was awarded ten points, their second favourite nine points and so on down to one point. 1,142 people cast a vote.

London Regional Conference

The London Labour Party is gearing up for its biennial regional conference on 22nd November with CLPs and affiliates starting to nominate for the positions elected there.

There's some funny (actually rather un-funny) maneuvering and politics going on in the background so I hope we don't see a slide back away from the unity and cohesiveness that characterised the way London Labour approached the Mayoral election this May.

For the train spotters amongst you, the nominations made (unanimously) by the meeting I attended last night of the Regional Political Committee of the Amicus section of Unite (which I think I'm correct in saying is the largest affiliate to the London Party even without the addition of the TGWU) were as follows:

Chair - Len Duvall AM
Vice-Chair - Linda Perks of UNISON
National Policy Forum - Maggie Cosin of GMB and Pat O'Keefe of Unite/TGWU (reflecting the political balance in the regional party and their hard work as incumbents)
BME Officer - Raj Jethwa of GMB
Disabilities Officer - Sally Mulready
Union seats on Regional Board - our own incumbent members Stuart King (Amicus Section) and Steve Hart (TGWU section), plus Leonie Cooper (Amicus section) replacing our previous member Jennie Bremner. We also nominated the other union reps who are re-standing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The rise of antisemitic discourse

The CST, the organisation which provides physical security, training and advice for the protection of British Jews, assists victims of antisemitism and monitors antisemitic activities and incidents, has just published a worrying report on the rise in antisemitic discourse in the UK last year. In particular it highlights that the nature and scale of the internet is facilitating, normalising and globalising antisemitic discourse on the websites of mainstream media outlets that would not otherwise tolerate antisemitism.

You can read the report here.

"Socialist Unity"

I was sent a link to this blog post: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=2770

Initially on seeing the illustration morphing of the Labour Rose into a swastika, and the quote from Mussolini used to illustrate a piece about the Labour Party, I assumed the post was the work of someone fairly marginal and extreme - depiction of social democrats as being analogous with Nazis and fascists having been a feature of high Stalinism in the early '30s when the Comintern decreed that centre-left parties were "social fascists". Historically this kind of behaviour accelerated Hitler's rise to power as it meant the KPD (German Communists) spent time and energy attacking the SPD (Social Democrats) instead of the Nazis.

I thought I recognised the name of the author - "Derek Wall" - though, and checked him out in the "who we are" page on the site (http://www.socialistunity.com/?page_id=1671).

There I discovered that Derek Wall, the idiot who illustrated his post about New Labour with a swastika and Mussolini quote, "is Principal Male Speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales."

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