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, October 29, 2010

Council By-elections

Results last night, with the trend of the LDs slumping badly in urban areas confirmed by the Camden result in a ward which had 3 LD councillors until May:

Kentish Town Ward, LB Camden. Lab hold. Lab 1411 (53%, +16.4), LD 715 (26.9%, -4.1), Green 349 (13.1%, -2.1), Con 186 (7%, -5.4). Swing of 10.3% from LD to Lab since May this year.

Springbank Ward, Cheltenham BC. LD hold. LD 722 (66.4%, -2.8), Con 188 (17.3%, -13.5), Lab 142 (13.1%, +13.1), Green 35 (3.2%, +3.2). Swing of 5.4% from Con to LD since May this year.

East Kilbride West Ward, South Lanarkshire Council. Lab hold. First preferences: Lab 847 (41.4%, +0.8), SNP 571 (27.9%, -2.4), Con 403 (19.7%, +5.7), Green 82 (4%, +0.2), EKA 71 (3.5%, -0.7), LD 70 (3.4%, -3.7). Swing of 1.6% from SNP to Lab since 2007.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Language in the Labour Party

Former NEC member Peter Kenyon disagrees with the then majority on the NEC about its actions in regard to Tower Hamlets.

He sets out his case here: http://petergkenyon.typepad.com/peterkenyon/2010/10/tower-hamlets-mps-and-labours-nec-are-risking-further-scandal.html

That's fine. He's entitled to his view.

But what isn't fine is his use of the title "Obergruppenführer" to describe former and current London Labour Party Directors Terry Ashton and Ken Clark.

"Obergruppenführer" isn't just a German rank, it's a Nazi SS rank, the highest in the organisation beneath Reichsführer-SS Himmler.

It is childish, tasteless, insulting and gratuitous to use a title associated with the organisation that perpetrated the holocaust to describe Labour Party officials who have been trying to deal with very complex and volatile political situations in a professional way.

What's more, as Party employees they can't answer back.

Peter should apologise to them. This is completely uncomradely and unacceptable language.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tower Hamlets

And now the bad news. After the joy of Labour regaining Bethnal Green & Bow from Respect and holding the 3-way marginal of Poplar & Limehouse, Tower Hamlets Labour has had a ghastly few months. In many ways it is similar to the situation in Hackney in 1996 when a poisonous factional fight only ended when the bad guys expelled themselves by walking out of the Labour Group after NEC intervention. In Hackney this externalised the internal poison and whilst in the short term we lost the 1998 election, long term it enabled Labour to renew itself and come back as a healthier party. I expect the same long term relief in Tower Hamlets. Better out than in!

You can read the full saga of the Labour selection for elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets here on the blog of Ted Jeory, former editor of the East London Advertiser:

Put simply, Labour regional and national figures running the panel process repeatedly judged former Council Leader Lutfur Rahman as not fit to be considered for selection for Mayor. There were numerous allegations all of which have been catalogued by Mr Jeory and journalist Andrew Gilligan. The one they don't focus on was the show stopper though, which was that Lutfur, it is alleged, didn't endorse Labour's parliamentary candidates in the borough (MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali) in the General Election. However, repeated legal challenges eventually led to Lutfur getting on the panel and going forward to selection.

The selection went ahead and Lutfur won.

The irony is that there was no requirement for the regional party to have allowed a democratic selection in Tower Hamlets. We (I'm on the Regional Board) decided to do so perhaps naively. Tower Hamlets Labour Party is under "special measures" and has been for years because of repeated impropriety in internal party selections and what the Aussies call "branch stacking" - Bengali community leaders from two rival factions literally trying to buy Labour selections (and historically Lib Dem ones as well) by mass recruitment of their followers. When this was investigated in the past it turned out large numbers of the inflated membership in the borough (over 3,000 members at one point but down to 1,200 since the national party clamped down on recruitment malpractice) had no idea they had joined Labour, had not paid their own subs, and were just cannon fodder to be wheeled out at selection time by communal leaders. Because of this the regional party had chosen all the recent council candidates, trying to ensure balance between the rival Bengali factions rather than a winner-takes-all-wipeout and some representation for the other communities which make up 70% of Tower Hamlets' population but are not prone to communalist interventions in local political parties.

Post-selection some of the defeated candidates complained to the NEC that there had been electoral fraud in the selection ballot, particularly that very large numbers of people not resident in the borough had voted. This and the allegations about Lutfur's conduct persuaded the NEC to suspend him as candidate and impose the then Council Leader, Helal Abbas. Lutfur decided to run as an independent, thereby expelling himself from the Labour Party, and was endorsed by Respect and George Galloway.

National political alignments appear not to apply in Tower Hamlets internal politics. Despite having publicly supported David Miliband for Labour Leader, Lutfur has been hailed as a socialist martyr by the far left Labour Left Briefing faction and their Labour NEC member Christine Shawcroft, and by the former International Marxist Group entryists in Socialist Action.

This week Ken Livingstone piled in on Lutfur's behalf, doing a walkabout with him and a TV crew in Brick Lane during which he made pejorative remarks about the Labour candidate. This would have led to his automatic expulsion from the party if he had not issued a statement claiming that he was only asking for a second preference vote for Lutfur and for a first preference vote for Abbas. However, Lutfur's Get Out the Vote leaflets all featured him pictured with Ken.

In the event, Lutfur won convincingly:

Rahman, Lutfur Independent 23283
Abbas, Helal Uddin The Labour Party 11254
King, Neil Anthony Conservative Party 5348
Griffiths, John David Macleod Liberal Democrat 2800
Duffell, Alan Green Party 2300

The turnout was a dismal 25.6% with the Bengali vote coming out and splitting 2-1 in Lutfur's favour, and most other voters staying home, confused by this bizarre factional story.

Tower Hamlets Labour campaigners who have been working for a Labour victory are understandably incandescent about Ken's intervention. Abbas' reaction was:

“This is a sad night for those of us who want to build a better future and a united Tower Hamlets.

“Lutfur Rahman has won tonight but not as he wanted, as the Labour candidate.

“Thankfully, Labour’s ruling National Executive had the backbone to stop him from being the Labour candidate.

“We may have lost tonight, but at least the Labour Party has clean hands.

“I am proud that we fought a clean, decent campaign and refused to get in the gutter with the candidate backed by George Galloway and the so-called Respect Party."

Some questions for people to comment on:

  • How does Labour (or any of the other parties) stop itself being used as a playground for rehearsing communal faction fights that are nothing to do with Labour politics, or as a vehicle for well-organised ethnic or faith communities to take over and seize control of local authorities and their resources?
  • How do we tackle communalism - the unhealthy and undemocratic practice of people voting along ethnic or faith lines rather than judging parties and candidates on their policies and merits?
  • How do we give democratic selection rights to genuine party members in a local context where organised groups are "branch-stacking" and trying to buy their way to victory?
  • What action can we take to ensure Ken sticks to the same rules and basics of behaviour that every other Labour member has to? (It's our fault - we readmitted him - which I argued against at the time - knowing he was Labour only when it suited him)
  • Given London Labour members have picked Ken as Mayoral candidate so he's the only one we've got, how do we rebuild his relationship with a loyalist activist base in Tower Hamlets and the wider London Party who will now feel extremely reluctant to go out and work to get him elected?

I'm keen to know what people think as this will be a big issue at the next NEC meeting on 30 November.

I am sad rather than angry about Ken's intervention. The London Labour Party in 2008 was very united for the Mayoral campaign and that involved those of us who had been passionate stop-Keners in 2000 moving on and putting the past behind us. I want another united campaign in 2012 but Ken is going to have a lot of fence-mending to do to make that happen. I will be giving Ken as Mayoral candidate the loyal and very active support from now until 2012 he singularly failed to give to Helal Abbas.

Council By-elections

OK, first the good news. Labour had some storming victories in last night's council by-elections. Take a look at the Bassetlaw, Medway, Oxford and Sheffield results to see what the early verdict on the CSR was in seats where Labour is competitive in parliamentary elections (in areas that are Con vs LD fights it seems to be business as usual despite the fight now being between two Coalition partners).

Harworth Ward, Bassetlaw DC. Lab hold. Lab 1345 (82.3%, +9.6), Con 182 (11.1%, -16.3), Ind 68 (4.2%, +4.2), LD 39 (2.4%, +2.4). Swing of 13.0% from Con to Lab since May this year.

Ashley Green Ward, Chiltern DC. Con hold. Con 399 (72.7%, -2.5), LD 92 (16.8%, -0.2), Lab 47 (8.6%, +0.8), UKIP 11 (2%, +2). Swing of 1.2% from Con to LD since 2007.

Great Missenden Ward, Chiltern DC. Con hold. Con 306 (45.2%, -26.3), LD 281(41.5%, +13), UKIP 90 (13.3%, +13.3). Swing of 19.7% from Con to LD since 2007.

Abbey Ward, East Staffs DC. Result to follow.

Hersham North Ward, Elmbridge BC. Con hold. Con 463 (44.1%, -6.1), Ind 453 (43.1%, +32), Lab 135 (12.8%, -3). Swing of 19.1% from Con to Ind since May this year.

St Georges Hill Ward, Elmbridge BC. SGHI hold. SGHI 515 (53.5%, +19.9), Cons 412 (42.8%, -5), Lab 36 (3.7%, -3.1). Swing of 12.5% from Con to SGHI since May this year.

Andover South Division, Hampshire CC. Con hold. Con 1187 (42.8%, -6.3), LD 1111 (40.0%, +17.6), Lab 245 (8.8%, +1.7), UKIP 233 (8.4%, -13). Swing of 11.9% from Con to LD since 2009.

River Ward, Medway UA. Lab gain from Con. Lab 695 (45.5%, +6.1), Con 631 (41.3%, -3.3), LD 92 (6%, -1.5), UKIP 42 (2.8%, +2.8), Green 36 (2.4%, -0.7), Eng Dem 31 (2%, -0.4). Swing of 4.7% from Con to Lab since August by-election this year. This is in the Rochester & Strood parliamentary seat gained by the Tories this year.

Ashwick Chilcompton and Stratton Ward, Mendip DC. Con hold. Con 491 (45.1%, -13.4), LD 440 (40.4%, +12.8), Lab 111 (10.2%, -3.7), Green 46 (4.2%, +4.2). Swing of 13.1% from Con to LD since 2007.

Capel Ward, Mole Valley BC. LD gain from Con. LD 618 (46.3%, +5.1) Con 558 (41.8%, -5.8) UKIP 97(7.3%, +7.3) Green 61 (4.6%, +0.1). Swing of 5.5% from Con to LD since May this year.

Barton & Sandhill Ward, Oxford City Council. Lab gain from LD. Lab 837 (57.1%, +14.4) LD 334(22.8%, -5.3), Green 119 (8.1%, +1.6), Con 86 (5.9%, -16.9), UKIP 48 (3.3%, +3.3), Ind 42 (2.9%, +2.9). Swing of 9.9% from LD to Lab since May this year.

Manor Castle Ward, Sheffield MBC. Lab 2092 (75.8%, +20.4), LD 303 (11%, -14.5), Green 224 (8.1%, +3.8), Con 142 (5.1%, -2.1). Swing of 17.5% from LD to Lab since May this year. This is in the Sheffield Central parliamentary seat which the LDs nearly won this year.

Newton Ward, Swansea CBC. Con gain from LD. Con 545 (46.6%, +7.2), LD 299 (25.6%, -28.4), Lab 187 (16%, +16), Ind 108 (9.2%, +9.2), PC 31 (2.6%, +2.6). Swing of 17.8% from LD to Con since 2008.

The bad news is on the next thread.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A new night has fallen, has it not?

In amongst all the crazy and harmful cuts yesterday, all of which will in their different ways erode the little sinews and fibres that make Britain a relatively civilised and decent place to live in, one or two stuck out as the products either of total ignorance about the circumstances of the victims of the cuts, or less charitably as acts of simple political and moral evil.

I'm particularly thinking of the savings achieved by taking money from the disabled (as described by the Guardian):

  • "Ending the mobility component of the disability living allowance (DLA) from residents in care home from October 2012. This will save £135m by 2014-15 and will affect 58,000 people claiming the DLA who receive an average of £33.40 a week."
This isn't welfare reform in the sense of helping people on incapacity benefit find a suitable job so they can earn money and get off benefit.

This is just nicking money off the helpless. People in a care home are by definition probably unable to work. DLA isn't a means-tested benefit (you can get it while working), it is designed to help cover the additional costs of transport and care implicit in being disabled, the amount you get varies according to your degree of disability.

So this average £33.40 which is specifically a mobility component helps people in care homes get out in a taxi every now and again (maybe once or twice a week) to see the world outside their care home. And now they haven't got it. These are people who by definition don't have a loud voice in society to protest.

And we in the 6th richest country in the world think that "all being in it together" means getting the weakest in society to give up the tiny amount of independence the state was previously funding for them, for a paltry £135m saving.

In September I wrote about the possible cuts to disability benefits (http://lukeakehurst.blogspot.com/2010/09/sickest-person-is-one-at-no11.html) and comments were put on the post saying:

"It's disingenuous to suggest people with MS or other serious illnesses are being targeted. And it would be a disgrace if they were."

Well they are. And it is a disgrace.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Basics

I'm not going to go into the detail of the rights and wrongs of the Tower Hamlets Labour Mayoral selection due to lack of time, not having been on the NEC when the evidence was presented, and due to the risk of losing the will to live.

But some basics about my expectations of how people involved in contentious selection decisions should behave - not necessarily rulebook basics but the basics of how you operate in a political party and show respect for its decisions and acknowledgement that as a prospective candidate you are not important, its the party that gives you the platform to run on and delivers activists and votes for you that's important.

My basics would be:

  • If you don't get selected, however unfair you think the process or decision has been, you take it on the chin. Afterwards you can pursue your case through the Party or get the rules changed for future selections. But you don't drag the Party through the courts at great expense. And you don't run as an independent because the fact you'd even want to be a candidate for public office without being Labour's candidate kinda proves you weren't that fit to be the Labour candidate in the first place.
  • If you hold national office in the Labour Party or are a Labour candidate yourself, however unfair you think the treatment of a friend or ally was in a Labour selection you don't go public with that during the election and you certainly don't campaign for them or appear in any way to endorse them. You get out there and campaign for the Labour candidate then pursue your friend's case or a change to selection rules within the party after the election.

Simple rules of self-discipline but ones that create unity and harmony. What a shame some people in Tower Hamlets and the wider London Party don't follow them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Council By-elections

Last night's results, some dramatically good ones for Labour though mainly in already safe seats:
Deneside Division, Durham CC. Lab hold. Lab 917 (82.4%, +26.1) Con 196 (17.6%, +17.6). Swing of 4.3% from Con to Lab since 2008.

St Nicholas Division, Herefordshire CC. It's OUR County (Herefordshire) gain from Ind. IOC(H) 589 (45.2%, +45.2) LD 385 (29.5%, +8.5), Ind 173 (13.3%, -23), Con 156 (12.0%, -7.2). Swing of 18.4% from LD to IOC(H) since 2007.

Guiseley and Rawdon Ward, Leeds MBC. Con hold. Con 2075 (45.1%, +4.9), Lab 1708 (37.1%, +8.9), LD 818 (17.8%, -5.3). Swing of 2% from Con to Lab since May this year.

Neath North Ward, Neath/Port Talbot CBC. Lab hold. Lab 437 (57.2%, +10.4), Ind 144 (18.8%, +6.7), PC 132 (17.3%, +1.8), LD 51 (6.7%, +6.7). Swing of 1.9% from Ind to Lab since May this year.

Treherbert Ward, Rhondda Cynon Taff CBC. Lab gain from Plaid Cymru. Lab 883 (50.8%, +9.7), PC 855 (49.2%, -9.7). Swing of 9.7% from PC to Lab since 2008.

Billinge and Seneley Green Ward, St Helens MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1,388 (58.3%, +8.2), Con 624 (26.2%, -3.3), LD 229 (9.6%, -10.9), BNP 141 (5.9%, +5.9). Swing of 5.8% from Con to Lab since May this year.

Central Ward, Watford BC. LD hold. LD 696 (44.1%, +7.3), Lab 622 (39.4%, +4.8), Con 158 (10.0%, -12.2), Green 79 (5.0%, -1.4), UKIP 24 (1.5%, +1.5). Swing of 1.25% from Lab to LD since May this year.

St Pauls Ward, Winchester City Council. LD hold. LD 968 (53.2%, -4.7), Con 606 (33.3%, -2.2), Lab 247 (13.6%, +7). Swing of 1.3% from LD to Con since May this year.

Hull Road Ward, York City Council UA. Lab hold. Lab 860 (58.7%, +24.5) Con 296 (20.2%, -4.8) LD 183 (12.5%, -3.3) Green 84 (5.7%, -8.3) BNP 42 (2.9%, -8.1). Swing of 14.7% from Con to Lab since 2007.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanks for the offer, but no thanks...

As a newly elected Labour NEC member I ought to be delighted when other people start calling for the NEC to have more power.

But I will be saying a polite "no thanks" to a suggestion which the Communist Party of Great Britain is supporting and says comes from soft-left faction Compass, that Labour's NEC should elect the Shadow Cabinet: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004131

They quote Compass as saying: "A more democratic way for the Labour Party to decide who should be in the shadow cabinet, and thus with more of a chance of being in the cabinet once the party gains government, would be for the party’s nominally highest elected body to be given the task".

The CPGB says: "This demand for the party’s national executive committee to be given the job of appointing the shadow cabinet is eminently supportable by Marxists."

Three reactions:

  • What business is it of the CPGB how another party's internal democracy functions?
  • They seem pretty categorical in quoting Compass as saying "a more democratic way for the Labour Party to decide who should be in the shadow cabinet, and thus with more of a chance of being in the cabinet once the party gains government, would be for the party’s nominally highest elected body to be given the task", even linking to the document they quoted from (http://clients.squareeye.com/uploads/compass/documents/Compass%20Transforming%20Labour%20WEB2.pdf) but when you look at the actual document that sentence isn't there. Has someone at Compass retrospectively edited it out because it's too daft even for them? Or did the CPGB imagine this Compass demand.
  • There's a good reason for the PLP electing the Shadow Cabinet. They know them and work with them. As an NEC member I don't have that kind of knowledge of the candidates so I don't feel qualified to make that choice.

Nice idea though. Wonder if they had me in mind when they wrote it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Obviously I’m biased but I thought Ed won it. He struck an appropriate note of seriousness and gravitas. He demonstrated a willingness to be bipartisan on Afghanistan and the tragic Linda Norgrove case. He showed seriousness about the deficit and welfare reform by saying he wanted to reform Disability Living Allowance and sickness benefit. And he chose to focus on a Middle England issue by concentrating on the way the Child Benefit cut will hit families with only one working parent. The forensic probing on this was great – particularly spelling out that the loss to a family on £33,000 after tax with 3 kids was £2,500, equivalent to 6p on income tax. In contrast Cameron was shrill, kept talking about the past rather than about Ed, and seemed in electioneering rather than statesman mode. He seemed rattled.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The LDs and the Right of Recall

The Lib Dem Manifesto just five short months ago when they were, or falsely marketed themselves as (in seats where they sought to compete with or squeeze Labour), a party of the centre-left proposed a right of recall for MPs found responsible of serious wrongdoing.

More useful would be a right of recall when you feel you have been conned into voting for a party that then does the opposite in government to the principles and policies it proclaimed in an election.

If that right existed then students who voted Lib Dem because of them all signing the NUS pledge on tuition fees might be queuing up today to recall the MPs for university seats gained from Labour in 2005 and held in 2010. I note that some of the individual MPs concerned propose to do the right thing and rebel but that does not nullify the fact that the policy will go through only because they agreed to go into government with the Tories. This sort of policy would not command a majority in the House of Commons if there was a minority Tory government rather than a Coalition. A Lib Dem Secretary of State, who signed the NUS pledge himself, has conciously chosen to announce the new policy rather than make it a red line within the Coalition.

What makes this 360 degree policy flip most reprehensible is that the voters taken for a ride were overwhelmingly first-time voters fired-up on idealism. Turning them into jaded cynics who cannot believe a word a politician says is a disservice to democracy and political engagement as well as a con-trick of epic proportions.

Is this the political path SDP defectors like Vince Cable and Chris Huhne saw themselves setting out on when they quit the Labour Party?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shadow Frontbench Teams

Some great appointments, esp. from the talented new intake:


Friday, October 08, 2010

Shadow Cabinet Posts

Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department Rt Hon Ed Balls MP

Chief Whip Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Election Coordinator Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice (with responsibility for political and constitutional reform) Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Rt Hon John Denham MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Health Rt Hon John Healey MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Rt Hon Jim Murphy

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Meg Hillier MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Maria Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Mary Creagh MP

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Shaun Woodward MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Ann McKechin MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Rt Hon Peter Hain MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Ivan Lewis MP

Shadow Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Shadow Minister for the Olympics Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP

Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP

Lords Chief Whip Lord Bassam of Brighton

Shadow Attorney-General Baroness Scotland

Shadow Minister of State – Cabinet Office Jon Trickett MP

Council by-elections

Last night's council by-election results - two very useful Labour gains in the marginal parliamentary seats of Crawley and Rossendale & Darwen.

Saxondale Ward, Blaby DC. LD hold. LD 701 (52%, -17.8), Con 311 (23%, -7.2), Lab 243 (18%, +18), BNP 94 (7%, -7). Swing of 5.3% from LD to Con since 2007.

Tilgate Ward, Crawley BC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 764 (50.8%, +12.2), Con 656 (43.6%, -1), UKIP 79 (5.2%, +5.2), Justice Party 6 (0.4%, +0.4). Swing of 6.6% from Con to Lab since 2008.

Seiont Ward, Gwynedd CC. Llais Gwynedd gain from Ind. LG 399 (40.9%, +40.9), PC 279 (28.6%, +5.7), Lab 184 (18.9%, -8.8), Ind 91 (9.3%, -40.1), Con 23 (2.4%, +2.4) . Swing of 17.6% from PC to LG since 2008.

Harbour Ward, Lancaster City Council. Morecambe Bay Ind hold. MBI 287 (47.7%, +10.6), CON 161 (26.7%, +7.5), UKIP 86 (14.3%, +14.3), LD 68 (11.3%, +11.3). Swing of 1.6% from Con to MBI since 2007. Labour did not field a candidate here due to a clerical error with the nomination papers.

Healey and Whitworth Ward, Rossendale BC. Lab hold. Lab 346 (51.1%, +18.3), Community First 165 (24.4%, -9.5), Con 156 (23%, +0.8), LD 10 (1.5%, -9.7). Swing of 13.9% from Community First to Lab since May this year.

Irwell Ward, Rossendale BC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 277 (37.2%, +0.5), Con 220 (29.6%, -13.5), LD 183 (24.6%, +24.6), Community First 64 (8.6%, +8.6). Swing of 6.5% from Con to Lab since May this year.

St James' Ward, Tunbridge Wells BC. LD hold. LD 649 (62%, -2.9) Con 294 (28.1%, -7) Green 103 (9.8%, +9.8). Swing of 2.1% from Con to LD since May this year.

Maidenbower Division, West Sussex CC. Con hold. Con 1,036 (64.4%, -7.9), Lab 417 (25.9%, +11.9), LD 82 (5.1%, -8.6), UKIP 61 (3.8%, +3.8), Justice Party 12 (0.7%, +0.7). Swing of 9.9% from Con to Lab since 2009.

Tithebarn Ward, Wyre BC. Con hold. Con 847 (73.4%, +0.6), Lab 307 (26.6%, -0.6). Swing of 0.6% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Shadow Cabinet Results

The following have been elected to the Shadow Cabinet:

Cooper 232
Healey 192
Balls 179
Burnham 165
Angela Eagle 165
Johnson 163
Alexander 160
Murphy 160
Jowell 152
Flint 139
Denham 129
Benn 128
Khan 128
Creagh 119
McKechin 117
Maria Eagle 107
Hillier 106
Lewis 104
Byrne 100

And those not elected were:
Thornberry 99
Hain 97
MacTaggart 88
Keeley 87
Coaker 85
McFadden 84
Goodman 80
Lammy 80
Timms 79
Bryant 77
Woodward 72
Thomas 71
Jones 68
Brennan 64
Blackman-Woods 63
Abbott 59
Twigg 55
Harris 54
Bradshaw 53
Wright 43
Gardiner 41
Hanson 38
Lucas 34
David 30
Irranca-Davies 28
Leslie 26
Flello 15
Gapes 12
Michael 11
Joyce 10

Ex-officio members are as follows:
Ed Miliband
Harriet Harman
Rosie Winterton
Tony Lloyd
Lady Royall
Lord Bassam

Some instant reactions:
  • Well done to my fellow Hackneyite Meg Hillier. I think she is the first Hackney MP in a Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet role since Herbert Morrison.
  • It shows the PLP can be trusted to take this decision - it's not a perfect line up but it's a good one with a mixture of experience and new talent.
  • There's a good balance between supporters of different leadership candidates, suggesting a spirit of unity and balance in the PLP.
  • It pays to run for Leader - looks like Balls, Burnham and Abbott (despite losing) got boosted. And it pays to run a leadership campaign as in the case of Murphy, Khan and Alexander.
  • Peter Hain probably lost his seat because too many Welsh MPs ran.
  • All the fuss about the quota was irrelevant as it turned out the PLP wanted 8 women, more than the 6 they had to elect. This is very healthy and in marked contrast to the Coalition Cabinet.
  • There's a marked concentration of power in Yorkshire - the Leader, Chief Whip and 7 elected members have seats in the same region.
  • London is reasonably well represented compared to its under-representation in the past, with Harriet plus 3 elected members.
  • Coming back into the House after a term out through election defeat is a big disadvantage - Stephen Twigg and Chris Leslie would surely have got far more than 55 and 26 votes if their careers had not been interrupted in 2005 when they were both high-flying Ministers of State.
  • All the rumours about how likely John Healey was to get in were true and then some - to get 192 votes when not an incumbent is extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Partnership in Power Review

The Labour Party is carrying out a review of "Partnership in Power", the policy-making process we have had since 1997.

As a new member of the NEC who hasn't until now seen first-hand how the National Policy Forum works, I have an open mind about what needs to change with these structures.

I'd therefore welcome members' thoughts in the comments here.

The questions the review is asking are:

1. What do we expect from our policy making process? What constitutes a successful policy making system for our Party?
2. How do we best involve our members in policy making?
3. What can we do to support our members and local parties in debating policy?
4. How do we best do justice to the involvement of activists in policy making? How do we best communicate the work of PiP and feedback to those who get involved?
5. How can we reach out to and involve the public? How do we ensure the issues raised by members of the public with Labour canvassers are reflected in our policy making process?
6. How can we best engage with external organisations, businesses and other groups on a local and national level?
7. Is the current three year cycle of policy development correct? What do you think of our current system of circulating policy documents for amendment - is it the best way of engaging people or is there a better method? Is there an alternative to the current system which focussed on one large scale ‘Warwick-style’ NPF meeting at the end of the 3rd year?
8. How do we decide which policy issues to focus on? How do we deal with current and urgent issues in our policy making process? How do we ensure that the system is flexible enough to allow for speedy decisions where needed?
9. Is the National Policy Forum the correct focal point for our policy discussions? What do you think of the NPF? How could it be improved? What should be the role of NPF representatives?
10. How aware are you of the policy commissions and their role? How successful are they – could they be improved?
11. Does the Joint Policy Committee work effectively? What should its role be?
12. What should be Annual Conference’s role in deciding policy? What is the best way for Conference to debate policy and how can we ensure debates are topical and relevant?
13. How do we support policy discussion at regional and local level?
14. With limited resources now and in the future a reality, what should be our priorities?
15. How can be best use technology to support our policy making?
16. Do you have any other thoughts, comments or ideas not covered in the above?

If you are a party member and want to respond formally you can do so via the members' section of the Party website here: http://members.labour.org.uk/pip

Friday, October 01, 2010

There was no "Lurch to the Left"

An analysis of the internal ballot results announced at Labour's Conference shows very clearly that in stark contrast to the years following the 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 defeats there has been no "lurch to the left".

For the leadership only 7.3% of members (fewer than 15 people in each CLP on average) voted for Diane Abbott, the only candidate explicitly on the left of the party. Obviously some of Ed Miliband's 29.8% first preference vote came from the soft left, but it also included the votes of people from across the spectrum of Labour opinion. It would have been better for the Hard Left if Diane had not got nominated, as her vote exposed their weakness once turnout goes up - it was fairly similar at 9,314 to the baseline vote that the least strong Grassroots Alliance NEC members get in a normal year.

The increased turnout and a sectarian split in the left vote which is so complex even I can't explain it, coupled with an unprecedented level of organisational co-operation between Progress and Labour First saw me get on the NEC and a net move from a 4-2 balance for the left on the constituency section to a 3-3. This was despite the involvement of the allegedly important soft left Compass faction in the left slate for the first time. The results break down as follows:

Grassroots Labour slate (supported by CLPD and Compass) - Livingstone, Black, Shawcroft, Willsman, Tarry and Taylor - took places 1, 3, 5, 8, 11 and 14 and an aggregate 266505 votes (43.9%)
Moderate slate (supported by Progress and Labour First) - King, Reeves, Akehurst, Wheeler, Gardiner and Ali- took places 2, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 12 and an aggregate 218474 votes (35.9%)
Alternate left slate (supported by LRC and STLP who also cross-supported Shawcroft from the GL slate) - Kenyon, Press, Wiseman - took places 13, 15 and 19 and an aggregate 45114 votes (7.4%)
Genuine independents - Baxter, Sidhu, Matharoo, Bennett, Ware-Lane - took places 7, 16, 17, 18 and 20 and an aggregate 77663 votes (12.8%)

A few points:
  • Name recognition is critical.
  • So is crossover support - most people vote for 4 or 5 of their preferred slate and then 1 or 2 from the other side for balance - hence a balanced overall result despite the election being run on first-six-past-the-post.
  • Unless my maths is faulty quite a few folk may have voted for David Miliband and Christine Shawcroft. If anyone can explain this please do!
  • The disproportionate size of London CLPs and the presence in the race of Ken and Oona has resulted in a very unfair under-representation of other regions - I say this as someone who is proud to be from Hackney (and got nearly 500 votes from the 2 Hackney CLPs) but was also proud to run alongside people from Salford, Dudley and the Isle of Wight, and gutted that they didn't get elected - we need to look at how this can be addressed.
  • Johanna Baxter's near miss with 30,653 votes was an amazing achievement for someone not on a slate (albeit with close links to one of the leadership campaigns) - she has set a new benchmark for the amount of campaigning required to win.

The NPF regional reps were elected by OMOV for the first time which has seen a bit more pluralism in the results - the Grassroots Alliance are claiming they got 19 seats out of 55 but this may include some double-counting (i.e. centrist people backed by both slates) - there was a wide regional variation with the left doing best in Scotland and Wales (oddly I think these were Diane Abbott's weakest areas) and worst in the South East and West Midlands.

For the National Constitutional Committee, elected by CLP delegates to Conference, Labour First's Maggie Cosin took over 70% of the vote.

Thank you to Labour First and Progress for supporting me for the NEC - I wouldn't have won or even run without a lot of people's advice, support and hard work.

That was the week that was

A suitably 1960s title as I think one of the analogies from Labour history - definitely not an exact one - for Ed Miliband is Harold Wilson, a figure who used media perceptions that he was from the party's left to skillfully bind the party together and win four General Elections on a platform of modernising Britain. Like Wilson Ed will find that a lot of the potential talent for his frontbench team sits in the ranks of the MPs who voted for the candidates he defeated. He needs to promote key Blairites (and Brownites who made the wrong call on the leadership) and integrate them into his team just as Wilson did key Gaitskellites. The inexactitude of the analogy is that Ed is objectively from the centre or soft right of the Party whereas Wilson had at least at points in his career been on the Party's left.

I had a good conference with my own NEC win and Ed's win, but it was at times an uncomfortable one as I was conscious very many of the 30,825 NEC votes I got were from people who had backed David for Leader, and that many of my closest friends in politics were mourning the defeat of their preferred candidate.

I was taken aback by the degree of passion David's candidature seemed to have generated - perhaps because I hadn't been in it I hadn't realised how much people had invested in it emotionally.

I think that Ed's speech has started the process of people who backed David getting their heads round the fact that this was not some apocalyptic Benn vs. Healey style battle for the soul of the party, but a literally fraternal contest between two brothers with different but not necessarily mutually exclusive agendas.

I am relieved that we will not have to face a confrontation between the new Leader and the Party and Unions, which I think would have happened if David had won and pursued the radical public sector reform agenda some of the thinkers around him seemed a bit fixated on.

It was actually a big surprise to me that David won in the members' section of the electoral college, but in an odd way somewhat reassuring that members behaved the way they did. I think that many of his supporters came to the wrong conclusion but for the right reasons, backing him because the media barrage saying that he was the person best placed to win a General Election was so strong. I voted for Ed for exactly the same reason - because I think he will turn-out to be the most voter-friendly candidate we had on offer. Ed now needs to harness that tremendous sense that we must get back into power - so different to the outbreak of self-indulgent ultra-leftism seen in 1931, 1951, 1970 or 1979 - and use it to do just that.

The win for Ed in the union section is also significant - a massive victory in the section that is most like the wider electorate and particularly in the GMB and Unite, the two unions with the most private sector workers in the key swing C1 and C2 social classes. To win that big in Unite you need to have won the votes of the people who build Trident submarines in Barrow, the aerospace workers in the Lancashire marginals, the automotive industry workers in the West Midlands, Luton and Swindon, white collar technical and financial workers, skilled electricians and plumbers from the old EETPU. These are exactly the kind of voters we will need to win marginal seats in the next General Election.

I was shocked by some of the hostility to trade unionism I heard after the result. We need to ensure everyone joining the Party gets a thorough education in what trade unionism is for and what is has contributed to the Labour Party and the rights of working people over the years - making us a pragmatic party grounded in tackling the bread-and-butter concerns of ordinary voters, rather than an exercise in theory. Hopefully one consequence of Ed's win will be a growing back together of the Party and our union affiliates, with a recognition that trade unions are an immense source of strength and stability for Labour, not an embarrassing elderly relative sitting in the metaphorical corner muttering. But this will also require the unions to think carefully about the electoral implications of their industrial response to the Coalition cuts, and to deepen their input into the party as affiliates. That relationship needs to go beyond the current very welcome financial support and organisational support at elections and top-level input at Annual Conference, the NEC and NPF. It needs many more TU members to be encouraged to become individual Labour members and activists, and many more TU branches to be affiliated and sending delegates to their CLPs.

The tragedy for David is that he probably would have narrowly won were it not for the sense of entitlement and threat exuding from some of the people on his campaign, and the two heavy-handed and totally counterproductive interventions by Peter Mandelson. It's also a tragedy for Mandelson who has presumably excluded himself from the new Leader's counsel when he still has a lot to offer.

For the people who backed David (I'm not using the term right of the Party because people from the right were at the heart of the campaigns of both Eds, Andy and David), the key thing to do is to accept the result and engage with Ed. The speeches I saw at the Progress Rally seemed to indicate this was going to happen. The more they do engage then the more that their policy perspectives will get woven into the agenda for Labour's next term in government, because this is a Leader who listens to ideas and can be convinced by intellectually coherent argument.

He (Ed) won't always be saying things I agree with. Truth to be told, whilst I was delighted by the rest of the speech, like David I didn't clap when he spoke about Iraq. I still think it was the right thing to do. But Ed said what he believed - and he has to lead with conviction. It's also probably the right way to go electorally. Just as some of us loyally supported Tony Blair despite having serious doubts about his position on public service reform, you don't have to agree 100% with what Ed says to give him 110% loyalty.

Any taking to the hills for guerrilla sniping by disaffected supporters of the losing candidates is likely to see them finished in politics by a leader who has rapidly consolidated his grip on the party despite the narrow results, and would represent a repeat of the errors of the TB-GB internecine fighting. My guess is that what will actually happen will be a period of unity in the Party that we haven't enjoyed for many, many years. I believe that unity will help propel Ed into 10 Downing Street.

Council By-election Results

Last night's council by-election results:

Alderley Ward, Cheshire East UA. Con hold. Con 1647 (67.9%, +16.8), LD 779 (32.1%, +8.5). Swing of 4.2% from LD to Con since 2008.

Brandon Division, Durham CC. Lab hold. Lab 1204 (64%, +13.2), LD 538 (28.6%, -3.6), Con 140 (7.4%, -1.4). Swing of 8.4% from LD to Lab since 2008.

Bowydd & Rhiw Ward, Gwynedd CC. Plaid Cymru gain from Llais Gwynedd. Plaid 338 (57.9%, +22.9), Llais G 246 (42.1%, -6.3).

Battle Hill Ward, North Tyneside MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1344 (58.2%, +11.4), LD 826 (35.8%, -5.6), Con 97 (4.2%, -7.6), Ind 43 (1.9%, +1.9). Swing of 8.5% from LD to Lab since May this year.

Woolavington Ward, Sedgemoor DC. Con gain from Lab. Con 264 (44.8%, -4), LibDem 184 (31.2%, +31.2), Lab 141 (23.9%, -27.3). Swing of 17.6% from Con to LD since 2007.

Longdendale Ward, Tameside MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1275 (48.9%, +5.2), Con 1083 (41.6%, +3.6), Green 99 (3.8%, -5.1), BNP 80 (3.1%, +3.1) UKIP 67 (2.6%, -6.7). Swing of 0.8% from Con to Lab since May this year.

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