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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amicus/Unite Facebook Straw Poll

In the absence of any scientific polling about the current election for General Secretary of the Amicus Section of Unite, here's the number of supporters each candidate has managed to register on their campaign pages on Facebook:

Kevin Coyne - 116 members

Derek Simpson - 113 members

Laurence Faircloth - 99 members

Jerry Hicks - not on Facebook

Paul Reuter - not on Facebook

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More correspondence from the BNP

Along with other Hackney councillors who signed an anti-BNP letter in the local paper, I've had this email from one of their nine members in the borough:

"Dear Mr Akehurst,

my name is Giuseppe De Santis and I'm writing to you in relation to the leaflets delivered by the British National Party in Hackney. Far from being ashamed,I'm a very happy member of this party. Actually I'm the first Italian to become a BNP officer. I see you are very upset about this leaflet and I wonder why,we are a legitimate political party and have all the rights to deliver our message across even if you find it unacceptable. People who don't like our material can throw it in the bin,we are happy with that as we don't force anyone to accept it. You can argue about the extent of anti-white racism but I can tell you it exists and your denial can only bring more support to us as we are the only party willing to talk about this unconfortable [sic] truth. You claim that Hackney is proud of its diversity and so the support for the BNP is very low. I agree with the latter but not with the former. Personally I don't like to live in a multiracial society and I can't recall any politician asking me if I want to be swamped by mass immigration. A lot of people agree with me on that but you won't find them in Hackney as they may have moved in other areas with very few ethnic minorities. As for diversity I can be proud of it but only if no whites [sic] represent just 1-2% of the population in Hackney as well as in London. I expect you to say I'm a racist and a fascist but,as Hazel Blears admitted last week,this will do nothing to stop us given that one of the reason of the growing BNP support is the inability of other parties to listen to people. Also Trevor Phillips understood that attacking us is pointless so much that he asked government to increase help to the white working class. So please don't be shocked if the BNP is getting more and more popular. Thank you for your time.
Your sincerely. GIUSEPPE DE SANTIS"

Three reactions:

1) According to Searchlight magazine Mr de Santis is Italian-born, and moved to London in 2000 as an economic migrant. Isn't it a bit confused/hypocritical for him to denounce "mass immigration"?
2) He must have chosen to live in Hackney. Given that he says "personally I don't like to live in a multiracial society", why choose to live in one of the most multiracial boroughs in London?
3) He wants "no[n] whites [to] represent just 1-2% of the population in Hackney as well as in London"? How does he propose to reduce the "no white" (sic) population of Hackney or indeed London, from its current level (Hackney's ethnic minority population is pushing 50%, though I would be interested to know if Mr de Santis' racism defines Jews, Kurds and Turks as "no white") to 1-2%? The old National Front policy of forced repatriation or some more sinister method? Is reducing the "no white" population of Hackney and London to 1-2% official BNP policy?

Brown enthuses about public services reform

Interesting ... I'm sat listening to Gordon Brown at the Progress conference at the TUC. He's just said that public services reform - specifically personalisation and greater empowerment of service users - is a key priority for him and will be a major feature in the Queen's Speech. This is ideologically highly significant as in the past Brown has been portrayed as not enthused about the public service reform agenda. Those commentators who tried to portray the PBR as the "death of New Labour" seem to have got it badly wrong.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dale posts back

Iain Dale has posted this response to my post below about Damian Green.

I've commented:

"you say the "thing that most concerns me is the deployment of counter terrorism police and the government's willingness to use counter terror legislation" but a) the legislation was common law not anti-terrorism legislation; and b) the police concerned may sit in the Counter Terrorism Command but that's just an organisational anomaly, these are Special Branch guys who spend all their time investigating crimes connected to politics, they are not counter terrorist police in the way you have implied.

If the BBC reporting of which 4 documents were leaked is true, then a public interest defence is clearly legitimate on some of them, but to my mind the alleged leaking of private correspondence from the whips about expected voting patterns, is, if true, a gross breach of trust and of the duty the civil service to loyally serve the government of the day. Morally, accepting stolen documents where there is no public interest is not much above Nixon's use of burglars at Watergate.

Mr Green should have told his source to only give him documents that the public had an interest in knowing about, not ones that would just confer partisan advantage.

As for Tisdall and Ponting I'm from the bit of the Labour Party that supported Cruise missiles and the sinking of the Belgrano, the 2 issues they were leaking about, so I wouldn't have been any more exercised about their cases than I am about this one."

Since when was the right to nick private documents and use them for party political advantage a fundamental civil liberty?

Council By-Election Results

Council by-election results from last night:

Hardwick Division, Cambridgeshire CC. LD gain from Con. LD 1369 (49.9%, +14.6), Con 1169 (42.6%, +1.3), Lab 208 (7.6%, -7.4). Swing of 6.7% from Con to LD since 2005.

Exminster & Kenton Division, Devon CC. LD hold. LD 1969 (62.5%, +12.1), Con 1182 (37.5%, +0.4). Swing of 5.9% from Con to LD.

Kenn Valley Ward, Teignbridge DC. Con gain from LD. Con 924 (45.4%, +4.1), LD 832 (40.9%, -17.8), Ind 160 (7.9%, +7.9), Ind 120 (5.9%, +5.9). Swing of 11% from LD to Con.

Birchills-Leamore Ward, Walsall MBC. Con gain from Lab. Con 764 (43.9%, +12.9), Lab 661 (37.9%, -16.7), BNP 90 (5.2%, +5.2), LD 72 (4.1%, +4.1), Dem Lab 69 (4%, -2.3), UKIP 52 (3%, +3), Green 34 (2%, -6.1). Swing of 14.8% from Lab to Con since May this year, which is not really surprising given the circumstances that led to the resignation of the incumbent Labour councillor.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Defend the Clapton Square Two!

Another split in the SWP...

One of my constituents in the ward I represent on Hackney Council, Chatham Ward, is John Rees, Clapton Square resident and former National Secretary of Respect.

He has now fallen out with his comrades and been purged from the SWP Central Committee.

Anarchist Ian Bone has been moved to poetry by the political demise of his Leninist opponent at the hands of his fellow Trots.

Tory double standards

Iain Dale is already getting a bit self-righteous about Damian Green being arrested over alleged Home Office leaks.

I wonder what position Iain took on civil servant Sarah Tisdall, jailed for 4 months for leaking documents, or civil servant Clive Ponting, charged but acquitted of a similar offence? Of course it was his hero Margaret Thatcher who ordered their prosecution, so I'm sure he thought it was justified, and didn't huff and puff like he is now.

The sound of whining Tories

It's generally accepted that the House of Commons has a robust style where heckling and barracking is part of the tradition. It was to preserve this intensity of atmosphere, where the mood of the House can make and break political careers (anyone remember Thatcher's anointed successor Health Secretary John Moore, whose career floundered because he got a sore throat and was too easily drowned out by chattering Labour backbenchers? - no, thought not) , that Churchill insisted a small, intimate chamber was rebuilt after the original was bombed in WW2.

George Osborne doesn't seem to be able to cope with a bit of cross-chamber banter - to the extent that he has clearly been whinging to his friends in the press, whose complaints have been echoed by Guido.

Diddums. Is George really cut out for high office if he gets upset about "heckling" from Ian Lucas (one of the mildest mannered and decent MPs I know); naughty Labour MPs outrageously "trying to get him to give way so that they could make interventions" ; the revelation that Mark Tami "chuckled" (what an anti-democratic outrage!); and the facts that Ian Austin "leaned back" (how can you intimate someone by leaning back?) and that Nick Brown "oozed satisfaction"?

Apparently it's now an outrage for Government Whips to do their job by being in the chamber coordinating the Government ranks.

If the House had any respect for Osborne it would hear him out. You can't imagine Ken Clarke being heckled - or caring or complaining to the press if he was. He'd shout right back.

The House has lost respect for Osborne as a person and for his policies, and he has lost the ability to command it.

Time to find a new role more suited to his sensitive nature I think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


PMQs showed there isn't going to be much talk from voters about not being able to tell the difference between the main parties come the next election.

It's quite astonishing just how wedded to laissez faire the Tories have suddenly become, when the response to the downturn is broadly bipartisan in almost every other country.

This isn't quibbling about the details, they seem to have rejected any attempt to reflate the economy, beyond a gimmicky Council Tax freeze - rather meaningless when Labour Councils like my one in Hackney have frozen the Council Tax for several years running, and as Siobhain McDonagh has just told the PM, Labour Groups in places like Merton are proposing a £100 cut to their local Council Tax.

It was good to see the PM remind people of Cameron's experience in Government as Special Adviser to Lamont in the early '90s, when his "special advice" included raising VAT and trying to raise VAT on fuel to 17.5%.

Cameron was as usual polished and well-scripted but lapsed into petulance with his childish and patently daft comment that Brown should "do something useful".

Rather better was Brown's dismissal "I'm sorry I have to give him an economics lecture every week".

Cameron's mantra is now to repeatedly use the phrase "bombshell". This worked in 1992 because Labour was in opposition and no one knew what they would do in power. It won't work this time because by the time the election is fought, the PBR decisions will actually be felt in people's pockets and won't have been a "bombshell" - they will have helped people. By constantly saying "bombshell", Cameron is acting like the boy who cried wolf.

YouGov points to Labour as largest party

Today's YouGov poll, taken after the PBR, puts Labour on 36% (same as at the last General Election), the Tories on 40% and the LDs on 14%. On a uniform swing this would give Labour 313 seats in the Commons (13 short of a majority), the Tories 289, and the Lib Dems 20.

Most people agree that with the exception of ICM, the pollsters are under-reporting Lib Dem support by at least 3%.

I agree but my hunch is that the missing 3% of Lib Dems are primarily in the south and south west and that therefore the negative impact of this will be on the Tories in seats they are trying to win back from incumbent Lib Dems. I would guess that the Lib Dems will hold about 40 seats, leaving the Tories even further behind on about 270 i.e. equivalent to what Kinnock got in 1992.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Canvassing in a winter wonderland

Another by-election looms in Hackney because my colleague Jamie Carswell is stepping down as Deputy Mayor and from the Council.

We seem to specialise in mid-Winter by-elections. Not much fun canvassing in these temperatures.

I think I will have a busy Christmas and New Year as I'm Agent for the constituency in question, and the ward is not without interest to the local Green Party.

My job is to ensure Stoke Newington Central (where I also live) is in the tradition of:

South Defoe - Labour hold - 7 November 1996
Clissold - Labour hold - 22 October 1998
North Defoe - Labour gain - 21st January 1999
King's Park - Labour hold - 13th January 2000
Wick - Labour gain - 12th October 2000
King's Park and Leabridge - Labour holds x2 - 12th December 2002

rather than
Queensbridge - 20 January 2005 - Tory gain
Springfield (20 December 2007) Tory hold

The terrain will be familiar to veterans of LB Hackney by-elections as parts of the old South Defoe, Clissold, North Defoe, Rectory and Northwold wards - all sites of notable Labour by-election triumphs, were merged to create the new SNC ward in the 2002 rewarding.

Game on.

More on the London Labour Party Conference

Anyone interested in a bit more detail than I provided below about the London Labour Party biennial conference can read a very full report (in 3 parts) on UNISON activist John Gray's blog: http://grayee.blogspot.com/

Change the Tories don't believe in

Only a couple of weeks ago we had the ridiculous spectacle of David Cameron trying to jump on the Obama "change" bandwagon at PMQs.

Has anyone told the Tories that Obama's economic policy is, like Alistair Darling's, to use a massive fiscal stimulus to try to reduce the impact of the recession?

Change you can believe in. Except the Tories don't believe in it. The US President they take their economic cue on how to respond to a downturn from is Herbert Hoover.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Whatever happened to Tory triangulation?

I thought the Tory gameplan had been to triangulate and steal the centre ground from Labour. This would imply them outflanking Labour to the left by proposing a more vigorous fiscal stimulus package than us. Instead we just get George Osborne squeaking away like someone who swallowed the collected works of Sir Keith Joseph and Milton Friedman. Triangulation, compassionate Conservatism, new Tories, all gone.

Same old Tories. Same old monetarism. Same old refusal to do anything to curb unemployment or help industry or the most vulnerable in society.

Thank goodness they are not in government now. Their non-response to the current situation would turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

Cameron's schoolboy errors


Boy George Osborne

This is timely: http://uk.youtube.com/webshameron

Saturday, November 22, 2008

London Regional Conference

It's been a good day for the forces of light here at the London Labour Party biennial regional conference in Stratford. Maggie Cosin has seen off a challenge from the left's Lucy Anderson for the National Policy Forum. As a consequence of the tactical mistake of quitting her CLP section seat on the regional board to attempt to oust Maggie, Lucy finds herself off the regional board. I've taken a CLP seat on the Board representing north and east London, replacing leftwinger Aktar Beg. In the other competitive races moderates Joanne Milligan and Christine Bowden were elected. 

Full results of the Board elections:

Len Duvall - elected unopposed

Vice Chair
Linda Perks - elected unopposed

National Policy Forum
Lucy Anderson (left) 24.99%
Maggie Cosin (moderate) 37.13% elected
Patrick O'Keefe (left) 37.88% elected

Disabilities Officer
Sally Mulready
Nick Russell
Rosamund Stock
This election was suspended and will be run by postal ballot instead after one of the candidates tried to take out their opponent by getting their status as a delegate revoked.

Ethnic Minorities Officer
Raj Jethwa 97.96% elected
Narinder Matharoo 2.04%

CLP Section
CLP Division 1 - London North West
Lisa Homan (moderate) - elected unopposed
Chris Payne (moderate) - elected unopposed

CLP Division 2 - London South and SE
Charlie Mansell (moderate) - elected unopposed

Angela Cornforth (left) 5500
Joanne Milligan (moderate) 11000 elected

CLP Division 3 - London North and NE
Luke Akehurst (moderate) 11500 elected
Aktar Beg (left) 2000
Alan Griffiths 1000
Ross Hatfull 2000

Laura Bruni (left) 7000
Christine Bowden (moderate) 9500 elected

CLP Division 4 - London Central
Jenna Khalfan (left) - elected unopposed
Francis Prideaux (left) - elected unopposed

Trade Union Division - 8 seats
Ed Blissett (GMB) 339000 elected
Steve Hart (Unite TGWU) 339000 elected
Stuart King (Unite Amicus) 85000
Amarjit Singh (TSSA) 254000 elected
Alan Tate (CWU) 339000 elected

Leonie Cooper (Unite Amicus) - elected unopposed
Gloria Hanson (UNISON) - elected unopposed
Sheila Thomas (USDAW) - elected unopposed
Rachel Voller (UNISON) - elected unopposed

Co-Op Division - 2 seats
Joe Simpson - elected unopposed
Dora Dixon-Fyle - elected unopposed

Socialist Societies
Huw Davies - elected unopposed

London Young Labour
James Murray - elected unopposed

Robert Evans - elected unopposed

Jon Cruddas MP - elected unopposed
Andrew Dismore MP - elected unopposed

Association of London Govt
Chris Roberts - elected unopposed
Tony Newman - elected unopposed

Friday, November 21, 2008

Decline and fall of the SWP

Some thoughts about the significance of yesterday's by-election, over on Progress:


Council By-Election Results

Just two council by-elections yesterday:

Teversham Ward, South Cambs DC. LD gain from Con. LD 269 (38.6%, +2.9), Con 237 (34.0%, - 30.3), Ind (former Lab County Cllr for the area) 191 (27.4%, +27.4). Swing of 16.6% from Con to LD since 2007.

Mile End East Ward, LB Tower Hamlets. Lab hold. Lab 1208 (47.3%, +15.1), Con 630 (24.7%, +13.7), Respect 604 (23.7%, -0.3), LD 110 (4.3%, -15.7). Swing of 0.7% from Con to Lab since 2006. This ward returned 2 Labour and 1 Respect councillor in 2006 so holding it with a 15% increase in the vote is a great achievement for my Unite/Amicus colleague Rachael Saunders. Respect dropping to 3rd place is a good sign for Labour's chances in the two Tower Hamlets seats in the General Election. Lib Dems continuing to decline in area where they were strong second as recently as 2002. Recent Tory revival in Tower Hamlets continuing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fear and loathing in Islington North

Whispers reach me of a bizarre, and thankfully defeated, attempt at a witchhunt at last night's Islington North Labour Party GC.

The Hard Left in Islington North are getting paranoid and jittery, having long considered their CLP their personal fiefdom, at the emergence of a new generation of activists who are not card-carrying members of the Jeremy Corbyn fan club.

Accused but acquitted of thought crimes against the Islington North Politburo last night were Highbury East members Leo Shulz and Tim McLoughlin.

Apparently their counter-revolutionary activity included denigrating the powers-that-be in their CLP in the comments section of this blog. I understand they are also guilty of excessive canvassing in favour of the national Labour Party, organising too many social events, and associating with known class traitors from Islington's Hodgeite past like James Purnell and Stephen Twigg.

Whether the Islington North ultras will now seek to expel GC delegates who read this website remains to be seen. It may be the only way they can keep a majority next year.

Letter from the BNP

Alongside mislaying their entire membership list, the BNP has been busy sending correspondence to 200,000 people. These included councillors, so I had the misfortune to get a letter from Nick Griffin, enclosing a glossy report alleging that there are widespread "hate crimes against white people", and warning me that ""if you are not prepared to do your duty by the long-suffering Silent Majority who elect you and pay your salaries, don't be surprised when they look elsewhere for someone to voice their very real concerns". I can't say that despite this threat I'm personally expecting a BNP challenger next time I'm up for election, as with only six members in Hackney (or so people who have checked the leaked membership list tell me) they will have trouble finding a candidate for Chatham Ward, but I am concerned that they are mailshotting people in Hackney where there are very harmonious community relations, trying to stir up hatred and fear.

I feel particularly sorry for all the 18 year olds the BNP say they have sent this to - identified by their "date of majority" on the election register. I hope they handle data from the register with more regard to its security than they have the data on their own members.

The BNP certainly seems to have no shortage of cash if it can afford to send 200,000 letters (£54,000 in postage) and print that many full colour 12 A4 page leaflets.

My initial reaction was to ignore the letter and pamphlet so as not to give it additional publicity, but this leaflet is too sophisticated for it to be simply ignored or wished away. It is worth reading it to understand the fears that the BNP are fuelling and playing upon. That way those of us in democratic political parties can develop counter-narratives and arguments for use on the doorstep if canvassers are confronted by these attitudes, fears and prejudices.

The BNP clearly think they’ve been really clever by turning the race hatred motif upside down - in the same way they have, with straight faces, condemned the sacking of BNP members exposed this week as "fascism", but here’s some devil in the detail that I think betrays the continuing neo-Nazi attitudes of the BNP leadership. The sheer amount of text and (especially) the revealing ideologically rooted buzz phrases are not what you’d expect from a conventional rightwing populist party and show that the BNP leadership and its propaganda is still rooted in a far harsher ideology than what they’d have has us all believe.

Buzz phrases in the letter and report will be familiar to students of the propaganda materials of earlier generations of far right politicians here in the UK and abroad:
  • “if you believe the propaganda of the mainstream media or the lies of the old politicians”
  • “the old politicians failed multi-cultural experiment”
  • “our quarrel is not with them but with the politicians…and with the media hacks who conspire to cover up the truth”
  • “the Powers That Be”
  • “undo years of brainwashing by the media and by a racist school system designed to deny our community a sense of pride”
  • “institutionally hostile ruling class”
  • “injustices inflicted upon the majority by the multi-cult” (sic)
  • "ruling political elite”
  • “brow-beating liberal-left propaganda and police bullying”
  • “the demands of the race relations profiteers”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama's Digital Campaign

My boss at Weber Shandwick, former Labour Chief Press Officer Colin Byrne, has some insights into the role of "Inline Communications" in Obama's campaign here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

US Election results - the detail

Loads of analysis here from the House of Commons library:


Even more Labour opinion poll progress

MORI poll today:

Con 40% (-5%)
Lab 37% (+7%)
LD 12% (-2%)

Labour now above its 2005 General Election score.

Seat calculators predict this would produce a Commons of 322 Labour MPs, 287 Tories and just 13 LDs - Labour only 4 short of a majority.

More here.

Clinging to the same old monetarist dogmas

Cameron's speech today is indicating that if they were in power the Tory response to a global recession would be the same as it was when they were in power in the early 1930s, early 1980s and early 1990s. I.e. do not very much and hope it somehow goes away. Or in the case of Cameron's hero Thatcher in the early '80s privately celebrate the downturn and actively try to accelerate it in order to smash the unions, destroy Labour-voting communities, keep inflation down and restructure the economy.

They don't want to borrow, they don't want to spend and I'd be surprised if they want to cut taxes, despite these Keynesian responses having been proven by history to be the only sane way to respond to a crisis of this magnitude.

They'd rather do nothing - in order to stick to the economic orthodoxies of the Victorian era - while productive workers rot on the dole, communities disintegrate and millions of individual tragedies unfold as workers and their families lose their jobs and homes.

This is how they behaved in the '30s and the '80s and the '90s and this is how Cameron and Osborne would behave now if they were in power.

I suppose this is to be expected - look at where Tory constituencies are and it isn't the communities they represent that go to the wall in a recession when there is a laissez faire government - there's not much danger of any of Cameron or Osborne's relatives or friends or neighbours experiencing unemployment and hence it's perhaps unsurprising that they don't want to do anything significant to stop it happening.

Tibet stabbed in the back

Pretty much unnoticed, allegedly as part of the negotiations around Chinese support for the economic package at the recent G20, David Miliband issued a written ministerial statement at the end of October recognising Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and backing down on the UK's traditional support for an independent Tibet.

I really think this is a dreadful betrayal.

The statement talks about "the anachronism of our formal position on whether Tibet is part of China". I see nothing anachronistic about supporting the independence of a country that was invaded, annexed and colonised.

It concludes: "We have made clear to the Chinese Government, and publicly, that we do not support Tibetan independence. Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China."

It's for the Tibetan people or the Dalai Lama to negotiate away the sovereignty of Tibet in return for autonomy and greater human rights within China, not for the UK to undermine their position with a sordid deal linking unrelated questions - Tibetan freedom and the global financial crisis.

Free Tibet has expressed its outrage that British Foreign Minister David Miliband has changed the UK's position on Tibet, stating that it is part of China. Free Tibet believes that the change in position is a major factor in China's walking away from the Sino-Tibetan talks, which have now collapsed.

I am really ashamed of this announcement. The Tibetan people deserved more steadfast support from the UK.

Boris cuts hit the disabled

Finsbury Park is my nearest tube station so I was interested to see this Early Day Motion published, and shocked at the axe Boris is already taking to transport infrastructure investment in London:


Jeremy Corbyn
Ms Diane Abbott

* 2

That this House is very sad to learn that the Mayor of London's investment priorities for Transport for London (TfL) do not include step-free access for Finsbury Park Station, thus preventing people with disabilities who use the station from accessing the Piccadilly and Victoria lines, or suburban mainline services; believes that the programme of step-free access initiated by TfL before the election of Mayor Johnson was extremely welcome and showed real commitment to giving effect to the Disability Discrimination Act; notes that TfL still intends to spend money on improving the station and capacity, despite the resulting disadvantage to the entire community who would have benefited from step-free access; and accordingly calls upon the Department for Transport to demand an explanation from TfL as to why they are taking this course of action.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Taking the fight to Cameron's backyard

Congratulations to my friend and fellow alumnus of Bristol University Labour Club, former Labour Students National Chair Joe Goldberg, who has been selected as Labour's Parliamentary Candidate against David Cameron in Witney.

I don't think Witney is at the top of Labour's target list as Cameron has a 14,000 majority, but it's important that a strong Labour candidate takes on the Tory Leader to keep them busy defending their own backyard during the General Election.

Joe is an experienced campaigner and I think the right candidate has been picked for the job of taking the fight to Cameron's home patch.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Labour Poll Recovery Continues

YouGov poll in Sunday Times tomorrow:

Con 41% (-1%)
Lab 36% (+3%)
LD 14% (-1%)

This puts Labour back on exactly the same score it got when it won the 2005 General Election - the difference being that the Lib Dem vote has slumped 8% and the Tories have gained the same (though there is probably lots of churn - anti-war 2005 LD voters returning to Labour, compensating for swing voters going from Lab to Con).

In a General Election the seat calculator sites say our strange electoral system would, on these scores, make Labour the largest party with 304 seats, the Tories would get 302 and the LDs just 16. In reality I expect the LDs would hold on to a few more due to incumbency, reducing the Tory total a bit.

These are the sort of numbers Cameron will not want to see 18 months out from an election given governments usually recover in the final section of a term of office.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Compass: No enemies to the left?

Soft left faction Compass seems to have a remarkably lax approach to who can contribute to its website. This article is by Salma Yaqoob. You wouldn't know it as Compass don't explain who she is, but this is the same Salma Yaqoob who is a Respect Councillor, is de facto number 2 to George Galloway in Respect, came within 4,000 votes of becoming a Respect MP. Harry's Place has catalogued what her rather nasty political views are.

Is there anyone Compass wouldn't publish the views of? (me probably!)

Republican reaction to losing

The British press seem to have largely missed the extraordinary - indeed bonkers - reaction to Obama's victory by the far right of the Republicans.

According to Associated Press, Republican Congressman Paul Broun (from Georgia's 10th District where he was just reelected with about 70% of the vote) said on Monday:

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force, I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."

He added: "We can't be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him (Obama) to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."

Can Labour really win the next general election?

Yes we can, says Douglas Alexander.

Council By-Election Results

Last night's council by-election results:

Fenside Boston Ward, Boston BC. BNP gain from Boston Bypass Ind. BNP 279 (42.9%, +42.9), BBI 141 (21.7%, -21.6), Con 119 (18.3%, n/c), Lab 64 (9.8%, -14), UKIP 24 (3.7%, -10.9), LD 23 (3.5%, +3.5). Swing of 32.3% from BBI to BNP since 2007.

North Road Ward, Darlington UA. LD gain from (former LD) Independent. LD 561 (50.8%, -4.2), Lab 262 (23.7%, n/c), Con 115 (10.4%, -1), BNP 106 (9.6%, -0.3), Ind 60 (5.4%, +5.4). Swing of 2.1% from LD to Lab since 2007.

Markfield Ward, Hinckley & Bosworth DC. Con hold. Con 637 (35.2%, -0.1), Lab 521 (28.8%, -11.7), LD 390 (21.5%, +12.8), BNP 263 (14.5%, -1). Swing of 5.8% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Coronation Ward, Wokingham UA. Con hold. Con 850 (53.2%, n/c), LD 675 (42.2%, +4.5), UKIP 74 (4.6%, -0.2). Swing of 2.3% from Con to LD since 2007.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The most influential people in local government

The Local Government Chronicle has published its annual list of the 50 most influential people in local government.

The Labour names in the list are as follows - interesting that 2 of the 8 Labour Councillors or Mayors in the list are from my own borough of Hackney:

1) John Healey MP, Local Govt Minister
4) Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, DCLG Secretary of State
6) Cllr Sir Richard Leese, Leader, Manchester City Council
11) Rt Hon Bev Hughes MP, Children's Minister
14) Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham, Leader, LGA Labour Group
21) Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, DCSF Secretary of State
24) Geoff Mulgan, Director, Young Foundation
31) Cllr Steve Houghton, Leader, Barnsley MBC
34) Cllr Sharon Taylor, Leader, Stevenage BC
38) Cllr Jamie Carswell, Deputy Mayor, LB Hackney
39) Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Govt, UNISON
40) Chris Leslie, Director, New Local Govt Network
41) Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of LB Lewisham
45) Jules Pipe, Mayor of LB Hackney
48) Cllr Clyde Loakes, Leader, LB Waltham Forest

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Job ad of the week

Tory PPC for marginal seat requires Assistant Campaign Manager and Assistant Press Officer who can do the following:

"Don’t worry about facts. We are looking for: good writing skills, inventiveness, the ability to cut to the salient points, being able to put forward a persuasive argument and to present the candidate in a strong and positive way. You can draw in other imaginary or real elements in order to do this."

and can deal with scenarios like this one:

“A UFO has landed in Northampton North and some 4500 very small green aliens are running around causing havoc. They are eating their way through people’s gardens, as roses are their staple diet. There is chaos in Northampton North and the people are calling out for action.”

Interested? Apply here: http://www.w4mp.org/html/personnel/jobs/disp_job.asp?ref=16818

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some good news for Labour


Quote from the post above on politicalbetting.com:

LABOUR 35% (+5)
LIB DEMS 16% (+1)
In what is by far and away the best poll for Labour for more than six months the November Populus poll for the Times has last month's Tory lead of 15% down to just 6%.  This is a very big change and means that the pollster is showing a very different picture from ICM which reported at the weekend.  Putting these numbers into the UK Polling Report seat calculator and we get CON 302: LAB 292: LD 27 seats - so Brown's party is just seats behind and Cameron is 23 seats short of an overall majority."

Unite/Amicus runners & riders

I was going to post something trying to explain the runners and riders for the current election for General Secretary of the Amicus section of Unite, and why the election is happening, but Gill George of the Socialist Workers Party has blogged about this already so I will limit myself to linking to her description of what is going on (obviously without endorsing the political views she is expressing).

Oddly, left caucus Unity Gazette (http://unitygazette.org.uk/) which backed Derek Simpson against Sir Ken Jackson is now not backing Derek, nor ex-SWP activist Jerry Hicks, but instead supporting Laurence Faircloth, with most of the online cheer leading being done by Westmorland & Lonsdale Labour Parliamentary Candidate John Wiseman (http://wisemanleft.blogspot.com/) who unfortunately cannot spell his favoured candidate's name.

Will the real left candidate please stand up?

UPDATE: there's another take on the election here (from yet another faction of the left): http://www.dearunite.com/

Finchley candidate

Not seen this reported elsewhere on the Labour blogosphere so worth noting that Barnet Labour Group Leader Alison Moore was selected on the first round of voting on Thursday night as Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Finchley & Golders Green, where MP Rudi Viz is retiring at the General Election. Boundary changes make this one of the most marginal Labour seats in the country with a notional majority of only 31 votes (0.1%). Good luck to Alison in defending this key seat of key seats.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Council by-elections

Glenrothes wasn't the only by-election last night. There were also these 4 council by-elections:

Forth Ward, Edinburgh CC. Lab hold. 1st pref votes: Lab 2013 (29.5%, +0.5), SNP 1841 (27%, +4.3), Con 1180 (17.3%, -2.9), LD 985 (14.5%, -3.4), Green 341 (5%, -0.8), Ind 297 (4.4%, +2.6), Solidarity 80 (1.2, -0.6), SSP 53 (0.8%, n/c), Ind 26 (0.4%, +0.4). Swing of 1.9 % from Lab to SNP since 2007.

Ballieston Ward, Glasgow CC. Lab hold. 1st pref votes: Lab 2257 (46.9%, +5.2), SNP 2027 (42.1%, -2.5), Con 225 (4.7%, -0.3), LD 142 (2.9%, -0.2), SSP 88 (1.8%, +0.7), BNP 46 (1.0%, -0.4), Green 32 (0.7%, -0.2). Swing of 3.9% from SNP to Lab since previous by-election this summer. This is a ward in Glasgow East where the SNP won both the parliamentary by-election and consequent council one just a few months ago.

Whissendine Ward, Rutland CC. Ind gain from Con. Ind 154 (41.3%), Con 148 (39.7%) , LD 71 (19%). Uncontested Con in 2007.

Valley Ward, LB Waltham Forest. Con hold. Con 1183 (50.2%, -9.5), LD 734 (31.2%, +10), Lab 439 (18.6%, -0.5). Swing of 9.8% from Con to LD since 2006.

Labour wins Glenrothes

Congratulations to new MP Lindsay Roy and the by-election team headed by Gordon Banks and Jim Murphy on a stunning and totally unexpected 6700 majority for Labour in Glenrothes. Labour's vote is actually up 3% on the last General Election.

This must be one of the best by-election results for an incumbent government in one of their own seats for decades, quite apart from wiping the smug smile off Salmond's face and making his "yes we can" quotes in the last two days look absurd. It fully justifies Gordon Brown's courage in deciding to break convention and campaign in the seat.

Elsewhere in Scotland Labour also beat the SNP in council by-elections in Edinburgh's Forth ward and Glasgow's Baillieston ward (part of Glasgow East). I'll post the full results tomorrow.

Two great election nights in one week!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cameron & co on McCain & Palin

Let's not forget that our British Tory bunch of losers are joined at the hip with their US official sister-party Republican bunch of losers. They must feel pretty gutted today:

Cameron on McCain:

David Cameron, speaking at a dinner hosted by Barclays Capital at the World Economic Forum in Davos January 27 2008:
“Every generation has to fight and win the argument for free trade and open markets. Just look at the presidential election in the US.
“On both sides of the political divide, there are candidates advocating protectionist policies. There is one clear exception - and I admire him a great deal for his stance. Senator John McCain did my party the great honour of addressing our annual conference two years ago, and we saw then the courage and conviction that saw him go to Michigan and tell the voters directly that the old jobs weren’t coming back and that protectionism was no answer to today’s economic problems. He didn’t win the primary, but he certainly won a lot of respect.”

David Cameron speaking to Time magazine January 24 2007:
“The Conservative Party has also always had a number of good contacts with the Democrats, and we should have contacts with both sides but obviously the Republicans are our sister party. We’re together in the International Democratic Union and other bodies and there are good and strong ties there.”

But now he's singing a different tune suddenly (wonder why?):
David Cameron, November 5 2008:
“In these difficult times people everywhere are crying out for change. Barack Obama is the first of a new generation of leaders who will deliver it - he has my whole-hearted congratulations.”

Shadow Cabinet Member Francis Maude on McCain:
In the Times:
"I'm a strong supporter of McCain. But I think this is shaping up to be a very even race and we need to be in good shape with whoever wins the presidency. There is certainly a lot to be learnt from Obama - he's an interesting guy.”

In http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=7483 on 24 October 2008:
"Former Conservative Party chairman Frances Maude has predicted that Republican candidate John McCain will win the US election, writes Dean Carroll. Maude said he thought that McCain would serve only one term, which would then be followed by a presidential election battle in four years time between Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton. Having attended the Democratic Convention in Denver, Maude added: "It was a most amazing event and Barack Obama is a formidable performance artist. I was one of his 85,000 closest friends in the stadium when he made his keynote address."

Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox on McCain:
Interview for his local paper the Clevedon Mercury:
"While waiting for Dr Fox to prepare for a defence briefing for the regional Press in his Portcullis House office, which used to be David Cameron's, his Atlanticist beliefs are clear. Stickers for John McCain's US presidential election campaign, a detailed map of Afghanistan, pictures of himself with George W. Bush and Air Force One"

Liam Fox on Sarah Palin:
""From the time she became John McCain’s surprise running mate the Republican convention knew that the performance of Governor Sarah Palin would be pivotal. And she nailed it."

Louise Bagshaw, Tory A-List PPC for Corby and East Northamptonshire:
I find her presence of mind and dedication to duty amazingly impressive."
"It's the political brilliance of the announcement that they kept it quiet for so long."
"There's lots more as to how he made this fantastic selection."

Not sure I agree Hazel

Usually I agree with Hazel Blears but I'm not sure I do when it comes to her comments yesterday on blogging:

"We are witnessing a dangerous corrosion in our political culture... Perhaps because of the nature of the technology, there is a tendency for political blogs to have a 'Samizdat' style. The most popular blogs are rightwing, ranging from the considered Tory views of Iain Dale, to the vicious nihilism of Guido Fawkes. Perhaps this is simply anti-establishment. Blogs have only existed under a Labour government. Perhaps if there was a Tory government, all the leading blogs would be left-of-centre?"But mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy." Until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair."

I think this rather misses the point. If politicians didn't misbehave, Guido wouldn't have anything to write about. He reflects public cynicism about the political class - largely self-inflicted by politicos who have behaved badly - rather than generating it. People read Guido in large numbers because he breaks stories which mainstream journalists or their editors are too risk-averse to run with, and because it is an entertaining, funny read. Blaming Guido for cynicism about politics sounds like the MacMillan era Tories blaming That Was the Week That Was and Private Eye for public disrespect post-Profumo.

Guido's personal attacks on the PM are deeply unpleasant - and for Labour supporters like me actually reinforce our sympathy and loyalty to the man - and his commenters are often from the loopier fringes of the right, but his own politics aren't nihilistic, as far as I can work out he is a libertarian, which is a legitimate philosophy to hold even if I disagree with it.

The vast majority of blogs are not "written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians" - mainly they are written by people who are part of the political system or politicians themselves. Unfortunately, the majority of this majority of blogs are painfully dull so no one reads them, whereas Guido at least entertains and informs his audience so people do read him.

The irony is that Hazel's forthright opinions would actually make her a brilliant blogger who people would want to read and comment on.

Labour people need to get stuck in start blogging if they don't like the existing culture of the blogosphere, rather than strike this kind of despairing note.

The skateboarding candidate?

Congratulations to Clyde Loakes, who was selected as Labour PPC for Northampton South at the weekend by a two vote margin. On the new boundaries this has flipped back to being a very marginal Labour-held seat.

Clyde should be able to handle the rather messy local politics in Northampton (including the former Labour MP Tony Clarke running as an Independent) having successfully navigated his way through equally treacherous waters in Waltham Forest, where as the only council leader in the country to list their hobby as skateboarding, he has helped bring major service improvements to what was a failing authority.

That result

That was worth staying up for - though I slept through the first few hours of the results programme recovering from yesterday evening's very jolly Hackney North Labour Party fundraising dinner with Ken Livingstone, who was on good form (before the dinner he told me how his political career was shaped by beating the then John Smith-Special Adviser Vince Cable 24-20 for the parliamentary selection in Tory Hampstead, which meant he was unavailable to run for MP in Hackney North, the seat he had already been selected for for the GLC, when David Weitzman unexpectedly resigned in 1979. Ken told me he had been so miserable and felt his time so wasted by the 14 years he did spend as an MP he was grateful to have avoided getting a safe seat 8 years earlier).

Back to Obama though, I wasn't a fan during the primary season but I freely admit to being choked up during his acceptance speech this morning.

There are clearly a lot of practical lessons Labour here in the UK needs to learn from the Obama campaign about mobilisation of campaigners and voters - but I hope we don't get too carried away as the paradigm is a lot different - in our next election we will be the incumbents, not the insurgents, we don't have any politicians here with the capacity to generate the personal fan base Obama has, and here the demographic trends resemble those of 20 years ago in the US - the continued growth of suburbia and the conservative south, not the more recent changes in demography (and voter registration) in the US that helped make Obama competitive in a number of southern and western states.

I hope that the usual suspects will understand that like other leaders - Blair and Clinton - elected on a wave of hope, Obama is inevitably going to have to take tough decisions that will disappoint his more idealistic supporters - maybe even go to war - and that the left's favourite narrative of "betrayal" doesn't get rehearsed too quickly.

One final note - the CNN coverage was brilliant (web version here: http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/president/) - serious, authoritative and fact based - and avoided the BBC's absurd and childish Jeremy Vine graphical gimmickry we have seen in recent UK elections in favour of graphics that just clearly illustrated the results. BBC please note for future UK elections.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tory candidates are dropping like flies

Tory candidates are dropping like flies:

1. Jill Skalla was the Tory candidate for Colchester (LD Majority of 6000). She resigned in August citing “work and family responsibilities”.

2. Simon Rouse was the Tory candidate for Nuneaton (Lab majority 3843). He resigned in July again citing family reasons. "It is with great regret that Nuneaton Conservatives have to announce that Simon Rouse has tendered his resignation as the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Nuneaton. Sadly, Simon has decided that the inevitably heavy demands upon him as a candidate for a seat as important as Nuneaton are incompatible with his responsibility to his family”.

3. Elly Jupp was the Tory candidate for Hayes & Harlington. She resigned in October saying "It is with deep regret that I today announce that I will not stand as the Conservative candidate for Hayes and Harlington at the next General Election. I remain determined the Conservatives win this seat. I don't want to go into the detail of my decision other than to say it is for personal reasons”.

4. John Woodward resigned as the Tory candidate for Camborne and Redruth in October, citing the economic downturn. The Tories are in third place in this three way marginal seat, (2005 results; Con 12644, 14861 Lab, 16747 LDs).

5. Kevin Hollinrake resigned as the Tory candidate for Dewsbury in October saying he has resigned to concentrate on his business. Kevin Hollinrake is founder and head of the Yorkshire estate agents Hunters Property Group. He was selected to fight the seat last July. Labour MP Shahid Malik's notional majority in the constituency is slightly less than 5,000.

6. David Potts has resigned as the Tory candidate in Edinburgh South West (Alistair Darling’s seat). In September ‘The Evening News’ revealed that he was facing deselection by the local association who were unhappy at his alleged failure to turn up at events. But now Mr Potts, 25, has written to the local party saying he is resigning. In his letter, he said: "You will be aware of the health issues concerning my father, which has challenged my ability to service the constituency as much as I would have hoped." He also cited "strong commitments in Tyneside".

7. Alf Doran resigned as the Tory candidate in Chorley in May. The local association said “Alf Doran had to retire from the Police service having been involved in a motorcycle accident in the early 1990’s; from this further medical attention is now required. Because of the unpredictability of the timing of the future treatment with extended convalescence, Alf has considered that his treatment would harm the prospects of an effective election campaign here in Chorley."

Could a poll from the ‘ConservativeHome’ website shed some light on the phenomenon?
A ConservativeHome survey of 125 adopted candidates tested the quality of support that they receive:
·67% said mutual aid from other associations was poor or very poor.
·59% said the timeliness of financial support from CCHQ was poor or very poor.

There is clearly a problem with the Tory candidates not getting the support they expect from their party, after all, not all of them have a spare £90,000 a year to fund their own campaign as Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park reportedly does.

Perhaps the new ‘A List’ candidates without much background in the party didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for when they put themselves forward for selection?

But is there something else slightly more unusual going on? Could Conservative Central Office or Tory paymaster and Deputy Chairman Lord Ashcroft be conducting a purge of candidates that no longer fit the bill, withdrawing their support from candidates who are not making the grade organisationally or whose faces don’t fit politically?

Electoral College Calculator

This is a neat little toy for calculating scenarios for tonight's vote:


My personal prediction is for the following states to switch into the Democrat column: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia - a 311-227 Obama victory.

But I have to confess to being completely nervous about this one - it just feels too good to come true.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cameron's C Team


Banned in Turkey

A friend who tried to check this blog from Turkey got the following message (persumably due to me spending too much time eating in several of Stoke Newington's great Kurdish cafes and restaurants):

"Bu siteye erişim mahkeme kararıyla engellenmiştir.
T.C. Diyarbakır 1. Sulh Ceza Mahkemesi 20.10.2008 tarih ve 2008/2761 sayılı kararı gereği bu siteye erişim engellenmiştir.
Access to this web site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2008/2761 of T.R. Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Court of Peace."

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