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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NEC Report

You can read my report on yesterday's NEC meeting here: http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=642

Monday, March 28, 2011

Labourlist Column

My Labourlist column responds to Neal Lawson's piece last week: http://www.labourlist.org/neal-lawson-is-not-mandela

Saturday, March 26, 2011

On the march

I was very proud to be one of 4-500,000) peaceful, disciplined protesters today against the Government's draconian cuts to public services.

It was absolutely elating to be part of a big, popular movement defending services that people really need and care about.
Well done to the TUC for taking the lead on organising today, to all the individual unions, local Labour Parties and community groups who built for it, to Ed Miliband for having the political courage to show his support by speaking at the rally, and to the police for learning the lessons of the student protests and policing it in a friendly and non-confrontational way.

Shame on the handful of anarchist idiots who distracted attention from a march by perhaps half a million ordinary people, and on the media for giving them publicity they don't deserve.

Here's the massed ranks of Hackney Labour (including my son Jed, aged 5, with his "Children b4 Bankers" placard) at the start of the demo:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Council by-elections

Two tonight:

Bellingham Ward, LB Lewisham. Lab hold. Lab 1100 (51.4%, +8.3), Con 340 (15.9%, -3.1), LD 334 (15.6%. -11.1), Soc 264 (12.3%, +12.3), Green 100 (4.7%, -0.7). Swing of 6.2% from Con to Lab since 2010. LDs fall from 2nd to 3rd.

Pontypool Ward, Torfaen CBC. Lab gain from Ind. Lab 178 (31.2%, +0.6), Ind 161 (28.2%, -23.9), Ind 80 (14%, +14), PC 50 (8.8%, +8.8), Ind 46 (8.1%, +8.1), Ind 25 (4.4%, +4.4), CON 18 (3.2%, +3.2), Ind 12 (2.1%, +2.1). Swing of 12.3% from Ind to Lab since 2008.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Progress Column

My Progress column this week is about Labour's new parliamentary selections process:


Monday, March 21, 2011

Labourlist Column

My Labourlist column this week is about the Budget and the TUC National Demo:

NHSOS: Protecting London's NHS Services

Ken Livingstone is running a campaign to protect London's NHS Services.

You can sign his petition here: http://www.campaignengineroom.org.uk/nhsos

Friday, March 18, 2011

Council by-elections

Catching up on last night's two by-elections:

Paisley South Ward, Renfrewshire CC. Lab gain from SNP. First pref votes: Lab 2081 (49.4%, +17.8), SNP 1366 (32.4%, +3.9), Con 388 (9.2%, +2.3), Ind 164 (3.9%, -12.8), LD 134 (3.2%, -9.4), SSP 82 (2%, +1.3). Swing of 7% from SNP to Lab since 2007. Points towards a good result for Labour in the Scottish Parliament in May and in the Renfrewshire Council election next year.

Pembury Ward, Tunbridge Wells DC. LD gain from Con. LD 578 (43.6%, +3), Con 450 (34%, -25.5), UKIP 297 (22.4%, +22.4). Swing of 14.3% from Con to LD since 2010. Disappointing that Labour did not field a candidate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Progress Column

My Progress column this week looks at where the current Labour policy review sits in historical context:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Labourlist column

My Labourlist column this week looks at the contrasting fortunes of Compass and Progress:

Labour and the Budget

This is important so worth quoting in full:

"In a joint press conference this morning Ed Miliband and Ed Balls said the Conservative-led government must think again on the speed and scale of cuts which go too deep and too fast, are choking off growth, increasing unemployment and making it harder to reduce the deficit in the long term.

They called on David Cameron and George Osborne to repeat last year’s bank bonus tax to support the jobs and growth Britain badly needs in 2011.

With the £2 billion that could be raised this year from repeating the bank bonus tax, Labour says the government should:

• Provide £1.2bn to fund the construction of more than 25,000 homes across the country. This would generate more than 20,000 jobs and several times more in the supply chain, and as many as 1,500 construction apprenticeships at a time when demand for construction apprentices has fallen by 31%;

• Establish a £600m fund for youth jobs. This would help more than 90,000 young people into work at a time when youth unemployment has reached almost one million;

• Boost the Regional Growth Fund by £200m. With the first wave of the fund over-subscribed several times over, this would be a quick way to drive new investment. The Regional Growth Fund represents a two-thirds cut from the funding for Regional Development Agencies, which were abolished last year.

Labour will also force a House of Commons vote on Wednesday on reversing George Osborne’s VAT rise on petrol, which is helping to push up petrol prices to their current record levels and adding to the growing cost of living for families on low and middle incomes. Labour’s Opposition Day Debate motion will call for the VAT rise – which has added £1.35 to the cost of filling up a 50 litre tank – to be reversed immediately on road fuels, using the extra £800m from the bank levy."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coalition policies threaten health of Hackney residents

At the Health in Hackney Scrutiny Commission which I chair, the draft priorities for the local Health and Wellbeing Profile were presented last night.

Last year the local healthcare professionals were prioritising preparing to deal with an avian flu pandemic.

This year they list their top priority as:

"mitigating any adverse impacts arising from welfare reform on the health and wellbeing of local by supporting people to cope with changes in their circumstances and income (including the impact of work capability assessments on the large local population receiving incapacity benefit)."

So it seems that their judgement as neutral civil servants is that the Coalition's push to reduce the number of people on incapacity benefit (in Hackney this includes lots of people with mental health issues as well as physical disabilities) won't get them all into jobs, in many cases it will merely make already very poor people destitute, and then they will get even more ill.

What a great piece of joined-up government. An attempt to save DWP money looks like it will end up costing the NHS, council social services and maybe even the police (all of them absorbing massive cuts) loads of money, whilst meanwhile adding to the distress and misery in the lives of some of the most marginalised people in society.

O brave new world! That has such people in it!

Council by-elections

Just two by-elections last night, both confirming the trend to Labour:

Rose Grove & Lowerhouse Ward, Burnley BC. Lab gain from LD. Lab 521 (43.1%, +11.8), BNP 288 (23.8%, +5.4), LD 261 (21.6%, -11.8), Con 81 (6.7%, -10.2), Ind 58 (4.8%, +4.8). Swing of 3.2% from BNP to Lab since 2010.

Brunswick Park Ward, LB Southwark. Lab 1981 (65.1%, +13.3), LD 630 (20.7%, -2), Green 231 (7.6%, -6.9), Con 129 (4.2%, -6.7), Trade Union & Socialist 70 (2.3%, +2.3). Swing of 7.7% from LD to Lab since 2010.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sure Start Cuts

I missed these figures coming out last week but it appears that cuts to Sure Start are following the same principle as local authority cuts - reverse redistribution with the poorest, most deprived local authority areas being hit the hardest.

The House of Commons Library was asked by Labour MPs how much funding would be available next year per child from the Early Intervention Grant, compared to the funding available this year.

Their figures showed:
• On average across England, there will be central government funding cuts of £50 per child for ‘early intervention’ services like Sure Start and childcare
• In some of the poorest areas including Hackney, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Knowsley, the cuts are at least £100 per child
• In some wealthier areas including Richmond, Buckinghamshire, Wokingham and Surrey, the cuts will only be £30 per child
• Overall, funding for ‘early intervention’ services will be down by 22% next year

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham MP said:

“The areas being hit hardest are the most deprived – it’s is not only unfair, it’s the wrong long-term decision for the country. By cutting too far and too fast and asking children and families to bear the brunt, this Tory-led Government is showing that they have no idea what pressure ordinary families are under.

“Early Intervention services like Sure Start Children’s Centres work with families to improve health, education and life chances. These services will be lost for years and this country will pay the price in terms of unfulfilled potential, poorer economic growth and halting social mobility for generations.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Progress Column

I've used my Progress column this week to call on people to come forward as Labour council candidates in less-winnable areas where we have not fielded a full slate of candidates in recent elections:

Monday, March 07, 2011

Labourlist Column

I've started doing a new weekly column for Labourlist. First one is here:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Council by-elections

Barnsley Central isn't the only by-election tonight.

There are some council ones too, with excellent results for Labour including gains in Cardiff and Wigan:

March North Division, Cambs CC. Con hold. Con 616 (52.4%, -3.4), Lab 282 (24%, +10.3), LD 277 (23.6%, -6.9). Swing of 6.9% from Con to Lab since 2009.

Riverside Ward, Cardiff CBC. Lab gain from Plaid Cymru. Lab 1700 (46.8%, +14.4), PC 1099 (30.3%, -13.6), Con 369 (10.2%, -2), Green 277 (7.6%, +7.6), LD 187 (5.1%, -6.4). Swing of 14% from PC to Lab since 2008.

Walkden North Ward, Salford MBC. Lab hold. Lab 1291 (72.6%, +21.7), Con 209 (11.7%, -10.2), Eng Dem 125 (7%, -2.7), BNP 92 (5.2%, +5.2), LD 62 (3.5%, -13.9). Swing of 16% from Con to Lab since 2010.

Kilpatrick Ward, West Dunbartonshire CC. Lab hold. Lab 1382 (60.1%, +4.2) SNP 758 (32.9%, +0.1) Con 161 (7.0%, -1.3). Swing of 2.1% from SNP to Lab since 2007.

Wigan Central Ward, Wigan MBC. Lab gain from Con. Lab 1165 (48.6%, +6.4), Con 652 (27.2%, +1.3), Ind Con 393 (16.4%, -2.2), UKIP 189 (7.9%, -0.2). Swing of 2.6% from Con to Lab since 2010.

Hackney Council Budget

I spent the evening of my 39th birthday at Full Council passing Hackney's 2011/12 Budget.

This was a fairly grim experience on two levels:

a) we were having to absorb £44m in cuts to our budget by Eric Pickles
b) the local bits of the SWP, the Socialist Party (ex-Militant and including the author of the now dormant spoof Luke blog), the Greens and UK Uncut were in the balcony and outside the Town Hall protesting not against Pickles and the Tories but localising the blame, exactly as Pickles wants, against the Labour leadership of one of the UK's most progressive councils for setting a legal, balanced budget

The protesters have an odd way of trying to win allies on the centre-left, which consisted of moronic heckling and disruption of speakers and chanting, nursery rhyme fashion so that the meeting had to be temporarily adjourned:

“So much courage in the Middle-East, So little in Hackney Town Hall”,
“No if’s, no buts, No public sector cuts”,
“Tax the Rich”,
“How can you stand up without a back-bone?”,
“Pipe is delusional”
and “Shove your ‘dented shield’ where the sun don’t shine.”

I was greeted with a chorus of "Twit, Twit, Twit" - apparently they didn't like me calling them "Trot Chumps" on Twitter. They probably liked it even less when I explained that "no cuts" is literally just a slogan - a classic Leninist transitional demand designed to get people fired-up for something that is physically unachievable within the context of democratic elections.

There were some very courageous speeches despite the bully-boy heckling including from newly elected councillors who actually beat the Tories in marginal wards in May, as opposed to armchair revolutionaries who just mouth off about "fighting" them as a way of increasing their party's newspaper sales.

I am pleased to report that a much heralded across the far left press backbench rebellion didn't happen and every Labour councillor showed discipline and solidarity by backing the budget we had collectively agreed at Group.

I am also pleased to report that the Budget protects frontline services in our borough. There will be no raising of eligibility criteria for homecare for the elderly, there will be no library closures, no closure of children’s centres or youth facilities, no reduction in the cleanliness of our streets or many of the other services on which residents in Hackney depend. One of the biggest impact of the cuts has been the Government’s removal of the ‘area based grant’ which was money that more deprived areas received to help tackle the high level of social need. This money was directed through Team Hackney – our strategic partnership. However, the Council has found £3m to contribute to maintaining some of these services that would have otherwise gone completely – in particular around youth crime intervention and domestic violence support.

A lot of this has been possible due to Hackney Council having managed its finances well over the past few years. In previous years, through efficiency savings we have been able to invest in front line services. In identifying savings this year – whilst facing a massive cut to our spending – the priority was to drive out further back office efficiencies, and improve ways of working.

Hackney's Labour Mayor Jules Pipe was very clear about our opposition to these cuts – they are imposed by Central Government and are an ideological attack on services and the communities we represent. But we’ve also been clear that we have to defend residents and services from the Government’s onslaught.

He said if we hadn’t set a Budget for Hackney, then we would be using residents as a weapon against the Government. There would be an immediate shut down of services – nurseries would close, meals on wheels would stop, libraries and leisure centres would close. This would be playing politics with people’s jobs and lives. Next year we face further reductions in our grant funding. None of us became Labour councillors to want to make cuts. But in making decisions we will do everything we can to make sure that the impact of the cuts made by this Tory Government are minimised. We will be applying our Labour values to every decision we make – and will work relentlessly to protect those we came into politics to fight for and represent.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Progress Column

This week I've written about Ed's speech on the cost of living:


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