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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Council by-elections

Last night's results:

Brinsley Ward, Broxtowe BC. Con gain from BNP. Con 416 (40.9%, +40.9), BNP 288 (28.3%, -15.7), LD 224 (22%, +22), Lab 68 (6.7%, -22.9) UKIP 21 (2.1%, +2.1). Swing of 28.3% from BNP to Con since 2007. Bizarrely, Ashfield CLP didn't run a campaign in a ward they could have won.

All Saints Ward, Cheltenham BC. LD hold. LD 680 (58.2%, -0.9), Con 395 (33.8%, +0.2), Green 57 (4.9%, +0.4), Lab 37 (3.2%, +0.3). Swing of 0.6% from LD to Con.

Denton NE Ward, Tameside MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1258 (47.8%, +2.3), Con 660 (25.1%, -11.3), BNP 358 (13.6%, +13.6), UKIP 193 (7.3%, +7.3), Green 164 (6.2%, +6.2). Swing of 6.8% from Con to Lab since 2008.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The news that Dartford MP Howard Stoate is standing down because he thinks he would have to give up his role as a GP under new rules about second jobs is desperately sad.

It must have been in the public interest to have Dr Stoate's up-to-date experience as a serving GP contributed to health debates in the House.

Surely the people who framed the new rules didn't intend them to have this perverse impact?
This isn't someone cashing-in on being an MP with lucrative consultancies, it's someone combining public office with frontline delivery of public services.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vote Luke

If you enjoy reading this blog please vote for it in the Total Politics blog poll: http://www.totalpolitics.com/blogs/index.php/2009/07/16/the-total-politics-blog-poll-2009

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lefties bearing gifts

One of the nicer aspects of getting seriously ill is that you find political opponents who you had expected would be organising street parties to celebrate your hospitalisation actually react with great kindness.

So thank you to Hackney Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer and Tory Chief Whip Michael Levy for visiting me and to the Hackney Tory Group for their card.

And thanks to Labour Left Briefing Editor Graham Bash for visiting yesterday with all the back issues of his publication I have missed - including the one where the Periscope gossip column wished me a quick recovery so that Hackney North GC meetings get a bit livelier again.

And finally thank you to Janine Booth of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty for signing a copy of her new book, Guilty and Proud of it. It's a history of the Poplar case in the 1920s and rather well-written as you would expect from someone with Janine's academic background in history and skills as a Trot pamphleteer. She contrasts her leftwing heroes in Poplar who went to jail rather than collect the rates with the sell-out moderates in Hackney, led by my hero Herbert Morrison, which went down a route of legal budgeting. Plus ca change ... According to the introduction, a letter I wrote to the Hackney Gazette in 2001 suggesting it was not a great idea for Hackney Council to go bankrupt so outraged Janine that it inspired this book!

On Norwich

Paul Richards has some pithy thoughts about the Norwich North disaster here.

I was particularly shocked that the entire Cabinet was meeting in Cardiff on polling day. How can we expect to win if our entire national leadership is several hundred miles away rather than leading the effort to get the Labour vote out?

Compass are talking about a conspiracy to oust Ian Gibson as MP because of his left views. Presumably a key conspirator was the equally leftwing Ann Black, who sat on the NEC panel that de-selected Gibson, and last month admitted to the Hackney North GC she had made a mistake?

Finally, an excellent comment from my successor as Castle Point PPC, Julian Ware-Lane:

"I am not one to join the rush to praise Dr Gibson. Dr Gibson may have been a fine MP, but enriching one’s progeny via the taxman is not on. I accept that he is not alone in what he has done, but that does not excuse it. The by-election was needless and I find Dr Gibson’s petulance unforgivable.

This has cost the Labour Party an MP. It is also an unnecessary expense for the tax-payer. Did Dr Gibson not think he could do anything useful in the months remaining before the General Election?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Council By-elections

Norwich North wasn't the only election this week. The LDs gained two council seats from Labour and the Tories lost three (one to UKIP, one to Labour, one to the Greens).

Wembley C Ward, LB Brent. LD hold. LD 1195 (41.3%, -3.1), Lab 934 (32.3%, -7.1), Con 423 (14.6%, +2.9), Ind 240 (8.3%, +8.3), Green 100 (3.5%, -1). Swing of 2% from Lab to LD since 2006. This ward is in Brent North.

Goldsmid Ward, Brighton & Hove UA. Green gain from Con. Green 1456 (38.5%, +16.6), Con 1104 (29.2%, +0.3), Lab 816 (21.6%, -5.1), LD 280 (7.4%, -8.2), UKIP 129 (3.4%, +3.4). Swing of 8.2% from Con to Green since 2007. This is in Hove, the Tories' number 8 parliamentary target seat!

Ramsey Division, Cambs CC. UKIP gain from Con. UKIP 865 (45.3%, +45.3), Con 682 (35.7%, -10.6), LD 308 (16.1%, -21.5), Lab 53 (2.8%, -13.3). Swing of 28% from Con to UKIP since 2005.

Winster and S Darley Ward, Derbyshire Dales DC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 426 (62.6% +33), Con 255 (37.4%, -7). Swing of 20% from Con to Lab since 2008. The winning Labour candidate is Colin Swindell, PPC for the Tory parliamentary seat of Derbyshire Dales.

Ramsey Ward, Huntingdonshire DC. UKIP gain from LD. UKIP 753 (39.2%, +7.6), Cons 569 (29.6%, -8.5), Ind 303 (15.8%, +15.8), LD 295 (15.4%, -10.9). Swing of 8.1% from Con to UKIP since April this year.

Immanual Ward, Hyndburn DC. Con hold. Con 639 (55.8%, +3.6)Lab 506 (44.2%, -3.6). Swing of 3.6% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Colville Ward, RB Kensington & Chelsea. LD gain from Lab. LD 634 (46.9%, +16.8), Con 330 (24.4%, +3.1), Lab 300 (22.2%, -19.2), Green 77 (5.7%, -1.5), Ind 10 (0.7%, +0.7). Swing of 6.9% from Con to LD since 2006.

Ruskington Ward, North Kesteven DC. Con hold. Con 534 (57.1%), Ind 402 (42.9%). Unopposed in 2007.

Dormanstown Ward, Redcar & Cleveland UA. LD gain from Lab. LD 805 (52.3%, +9.9), Lab 515 (33.5%, -1.5), BNP 145 (9.4%, -6.6), Con 73 (4.7%, -1.9). Swing of 5.7% from Lab to LD since April this year.

Reddish North Ward, Stockport MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1218 (49.5%, +1), Con 403 (16.4%, -8.8), UKIP 342 (13.9%, +13.9), LD 303 (12.3%, +0.7), BNP 195 (7.9%, -6.6). Swing of 4.9% from Con to Lab since 2008.

Swanspool Ward, Wellingborough BC. Con hold. Con 548 (46%, -9.6), Lab 361 (30.3%, -14.1), LD 162 (13.6%, +13.6), BNP 120 (10.1%, +10.1). Swing of 2.3% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Latest from Liberal Demolition

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lib Dems to stop bribing students

A big feature of the 2005 General Election was an undeliverable Lib Dem pledge/bribe to give university students free tuition.

In today's Independent Nick Clegg signals the end of this policy, saying "We will have to ask ourselves some immensely difficult questions about what we as a party can afford. A lot of cherished Lib Dem policies will have to go on the back burner. They will remain our aspirations. They will remain our policies. But we are not going to kid the British people into thinking we could deliver the full list of commitments we have put to them at the last three or four elections... you can't carry on promising the same menu of goodies. It is just not plausible."

In 2005 the ploy worked as a number of seats with a big student population switched from Labour to Lib Dem.

Without a student bribe policy and with Iraq fading in resonance as an issue the following LD seats could be re-takable by Labour (list shows notional LD majority over Lab on new boundaries):

Oxford East - 205
Manchester Withington -508
Bristol West - 640
Leeds NW - 911
Cambridge - 5058
Cardiff C - 5593
York Outer - 5907

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Compass suffering from entryism?

Soft left faction Compass is holding its internal elections. Such is the organisation's administrative chaos that ballots have been emailed to non-members, including high-profile Labour moderates who have forwarded them to me.

Compass seems to have an entryist problem. At least four of the candidates in its committee elections are prominent former activists in the "Student Broad Left" faction in NUS. SBL runs candidates against official Labour candidates. It is the student front group for Socialist Action, the secretive Trot grouping that was Tariq Ali and John Ross' IMG (International Marxist Group) before deciding to enter into the Labour Party. Previously Socialist Action has had influence disproportionate to its size in CND, UAF, Socialist Campaign Group News and the inner circle of advisers around Ken Livingstone.

It is interesting they now see the increasingly leftwing Compass as fertile territory.

And tragic that Compass people like Neal Lawson and Sue Goss who fought Militant when they ran the old LCC now have a "no enemies to the left" tolerance of SA.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Council by-elections

An interesting batch yesterday including a stunning gain for Labour in Nuneaton, the Tories’ number 85 target seat:

Portfield Ward, Christchurch BC. LD hold. LD 279 (34.4%, -6.4), Con 278 (34.3%, -0.5), Ind 156 (19.2%, +0.6), UKIP 98 (12.1%, +12.1). Swing of 3% from LD to Con since 2007.

Kirk Hallam Division, Derbyshire CC. Lab hold. Lab 1261 (49.9%, -15.8), Con 783 (31%, -3.3), BNP 327 (12.9%, +12.9), LD 158 (6.2%, +6.2). Swing of 6.3% from Lab to Con since 2005.

Abbotsford Ward, Erewash BC. Con hold. Con 471 (53.4%, +2.1) , Lab 306 (34.7%, -14), LD 105 (11.9%, +11.9). Swing of 8.1% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Moss Bank Ward, St Helens MBC. LD hold. LD 1480 (53.9%, -8.6), Lab 1011 (36.8%, +8.6), Con 111 (4%, -5.3), Green 73 (2.7, +2.7), Ind 71 (2.6%, +2.6). Swing of 8.6% from LD to Lab since 2008.

Droitwich C Ward, Wychavon DC. LD hold. LD 233 (51.1%, +9.6), Con 223 (48.9%, +17.9). Swing of 4.2% from LD to Con since 2007.

Arbury Division, Warwickshire CC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 1331 (41.7%, +13.5), Con 1079 (33.9%, +2.7), BNP 449 (14.1%, -10.3), Green 170 (5.3%, -10.9), LD 118 (3.7%, +3.7), Soc Alt 43 (1.3%, +1.3). Swing of 5.4% from Con to Lab since June this year.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Sunlight Centre for Libertarian Vendettas

Libertarian blogger Paul Staines (AKA Guido Fawkes) has said he’s donated £5,000 towards the £100,000 needed to bring a private prosecution against Jacqui Smith over her expenses claims.

The case is being brought by the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics – which was founded by Staines and employs Chris Galley, the former Tory council candidate and Home Office civil servant who was sacked after being arrested in connection with leaking information to the Tory Immigration spokesperson, Damian Green MP.

Despite their public confidence about electoral victory, the Tories and their "provisional wing" of arms-lengthed blog attack dogs seem to be resorting to increasingly desperate tactics. They are right not to put blind faith in the opinion polls and they know that the next election is all to play for. They are panicking and lashing out with extra-democratic measures in an effort to harm the government. Cameron has already tried to scare voters by warning of riots in the streets if Labour win the next election. His father in law, Lord Astor, has called for the Countryside Alliance to adopt civil disobedience and the editor of the Daily Telegraph has admitted that his papers’ motivation for its exposé of MPs expenses was to get “that place (Parliament) cleared out” because of the “bad laws that have been passed by what we now know to be a number of bad people”.

And now we have the adoption of US-style private prosecutions. Brought with the aim of harassing Labour, diverting it from the job in hand and ultimately discrediting it with the electorate on a "no smoke without fire" basis.

The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics is straight out of the Republican Party handbook of dirty politics. The most famous persecution of a politician through the courts in America was the Starr prosecution against the Clintons – does anyone really think that case did anything to strengthen America’s democracy? It was a massive distraction from the important issues of the day and a huge financial and emotional drain on the targets.

Of course Staines and co are off the leash enough from the Tories that they will, as with the Telegraph expenses saga, take out a few Tory politicians too - acceptable collateral damage for Cameron as it enables him to parachute in more A listers - but social democratic politicians are always going to be the primary targets for the libertarian right.

Cue foaming at the mouth comments and links from the most rabid section of the attack blog dogs.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In praise of "helpful factionalism"

Alex Smith at Labourlist has had a good old whinge about a recent speech by John Spellar to The Black Country Labour First Group.

He accuses John of “unhelpful factionalism”.

Now at this point I declare an interest in that my partner Linda works for John and I run the Labour First email list.

Some context:
· The speech was given to people who already know where they stand within the party to give them confidence that the next election is winnable.
· It was circulated with an appeal for help in the Norwich North by-election.
· Labour First isn’t a policy discussion group or think tank – if you want policy debates you can (and I do) go to Progress or Fabian meetings. Labour First is a network of activists united by wanting to avoid a re-run of the lurch to the hard left in the 1980s and to see Labour stay in power, delivering mainstream policies for our supporters. Many of us in Labour First debate policy at great length in other forums, often disagreeing, but we come together to organise to keep Labour sane and electable. Not everyone in the Labour Party wants to formulate policy – some are too busy with practical politics as campaigners or councillors.

Anyway, here’s John’s speech, which I think is a helpful and positive one:

“Message from John Spellar MP - based on a speech given to The Black Country Labour First Group

All To Play For

Labour First and its predecessors have always been in conflict with the defeatist tendencies in the Party. The formation of the SDP was based on the proposition that Labour could never win power again and could not change. That heresy was proved overwhelmingly wrong at the 1997 General Election. Meanwhile, elements of the Hard Left have always gravitated towards the easy attractions of opposition and would far prefer to pass resolutions than legislation.

Once again we are facing twin pronged defeatism from within our ranks. Some would seem to prefer to lose power than win under Gordon Brown, while the Hard Left seem to have taken satisfaction in resigning themselves to a return to opposition. They both share the view that Labour has its turn in government to try and rush through progressive legislation before running out of steam and public support, leaving the natural party of government, the Tories, to resume control. We have always rejected that pessimism believing that Labour can and should be a party of government not just of insurgency. We also reject the delusional view that what is needed is a ‘New Workers Party’.

We are particularly concerned because both tendencies seem to accept the inevitability of defeat at the next General Election which is not based on the data. We should firstly remember that the Tories currently have less MPs than the Labour Party under Michael Foot after the 1983 General Election – 193 v 209.

So let us look at the arithmetic of the next election – there are currently 647 seats in the Commons, so to have a majority requires 324 MPs (Labour currently has 351) and the Tories 193. So, for the Tories to have a single seat majority they need to win 131 seats. It’s fair to make an assumption that the boundary changes that are coming into force in the next Election will give them an extra 10 seats so we can make a working assumption that they need 120 seats for a majority.

That’s where their problems start. Even in 1997 we only gained 147 seats across the whole of the UK, 132 of them in England. In Scotland the Tories only have one MP and they have little expectation of making gains there. In Wales they have done a bit better, but only have four MPs out of 40. In Northern Ireland the Tories have entered into a bizarre alliance with the Ulster Unionists whose sole MP, Sylvia Hermon, doesn’t go along with the arrangement and there is little realistic prospect of it making gains there.

As a consequence the Tories have to make nearly all their gains in England. That is against a background of stickiness in the polls. In the European elections while the Labour vote dropped the gains were made by minor parties, the Tories only went up by 1%. This is clearly not 1997 territory. It would appear the Tories realise this and are becoming increasingly desperate. We have the demand for an instant General Election and now Cameron is predicting riots on the streets if Labour win.

The danger is that we defeat ourselves, particularly if we become a divided party and an undisciplined rabble. The fault will not be in our stars but in ourselves. History shows us that the public heavily punish divided parties. The reality is the next election is all to play for. We have a good record to fight on and can point to real changes and improvements in our constituencies. At the same time the Tories and Lib Dems have incoherent polices and are making mistakes. These are the messages we have got to get across to the public. At all levels of the party we need to focus on winning by pulling together and putting Labour First.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Medical bulletin

As regular readers will know, posting has been light as I have been in the National Hospital for Neurology since the start of April, being treated for POEMS syndrome, a bone marrow cancer that causes damage to the nervous system similar to MS but thankfully largely reversible once the cancer is attacked with radiotherapy or if necessary chemotherapy.

I moved to a Rehab ward from an acute medical ward (same hospital but focus on physiotherapy and occupational therapy) last Friday. My final day of 20 days of radiotherapy over at UCLH was on Wednesday. They think I will be able to go home in 8, maybe even 6 weeks, able to walk short distances and do stairs, but needing a wheelchair for longer distances for 6 months or so. The radiotherapy has brought rapid neurological improvements, so far to my upper legs, but my feet, lower legs and hands are still weak, so I'm not walking yet.

Council by-elections

Yesterday's results:

Brockhurst Ward, Gosport BC. D0ouble vacancy. 2 LD holds. LD 562 & 523 (50.3%, +2.8), Con 364 & 339 (32.6%, -7), Green 131 (11.7%, +5.5), Lab 60 & 56 (5.4%, -1.3). Swing of 4.9% from Con to LD since 2008 in Sir Peter Viggers' seat (of duck island infamy).

Whittington Ward, Lichfield BC. Con hold. Con 345 (65.1%. -5.1), LD 185 (34.9%, +5.1). Swing of 5.1% from Con to LD since 2007.

Walberswick & Wenhaston Ward, Suffolk Coastal DC. Con hold. Con 316 (66%, -6.1), Green 163 (34%, +34). Swing of 20.1% from Con to Green since 2007.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Council by-elections

Just two yesterday:

Ferndown C Ward, E Dorset DC. Con hold. Con 510 (51.7%, -26), Ind 477 (48.3%, +48.3). Swing of 37.2% from Con to Ind since 2007.

Nonsuch Ward, LB Sutton. LD gain from Con. LD 1665 (50.6%, +3.5), Con 1329 (40.4%, -7.4), BNP 211 (6.4%, +6.4), Lab 88 (2.7%, -2.5). Swing of 5.5% from Con to LD since 2006.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Denham on equality

I’m not impressed by John Denham's argument to the Fabians, reported in the Guardian as that “that "the egalitarian ideal" that has dominated left liberal thinking since the 1960s is redundant, saying Labour's traditional emphasis solely on the poor leaves the vast bulk of the population alienated and left out.”

The creation of a more equal society is not an abstract ideal, it’s one of the reasons – along with providing a political voice for the trade union movement, why a separate Labour Party exists. Take away that mission and we cease to have any distinctive social democratic purpose or identity and might as well merge with the Lib Dems.

Take away the hope of a fairer society that more justly rewards the least well-off – ironically often the hardest working in the most socially useful jobs – than the market does – and what is the political vehicle for the poor to turn to to get a better life if it is not Labour? We either risk creating an underclass totally alienated from the political process, or driving the poor into the arms of the extreme left or the BNP.

A more equal society is in the interests of everyone, not just the poorest, because all the international evidence shows greater economic equality produces better outcomes on a host of indicators for all citizens – less crime, higher educational attainment, more social cohesion, better health.

Labour’s task is to mobilise an electoral coalition of the poor who need a more equal society, those who would not personally benefit from this but are altruistically inspired by it, and those who are in the middle in society but still need economic security and good quality public services.

Equality is not a 1960s ideal as Denham suggests. It is Labour’s timeless Unique Selling Point. We should put policies that increase equality at the heart of our next manifesto.

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