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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Council changes of Control

Hat-tip to the LGA Labour Group for keeping us updated on changes in council control as fall-out continues from the 5 May elections.

Labour has now assumed minority control in Reading (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-13552777 ) and The Wirral (http://www.wirralnews.co.uk/wirral-news/local-wirral-news/2011/05/24/labour-in-control-as-lib-dems-withdraw-80491-28754130/ ) - both areas of electoral significance in national elections.

Defending the state

This piece by the Fabians' Tim Horton is a must-read for anyone interested in the debate within Labour about the role of the state:

I agree with Tim's position.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Progress Column

My Progress column today is the remarks I made on "Is the coalition reshaping the political centre?" at a panel discussion at Progress Annual Conference on Saturday:


What Herbert Morrison would submit to the Refounding Labour consultation

The submission Herbert Morrison would have made to the Refounding Labour consultation (http://www.refoundinglabour.org/) if he was still alive, in his own words from his speech to the Fabian Society on 8th October 1945, “The Labour Party of the Future”:

“the membership of the Party must grow... it is even more important that the individual membership shall grow in its diversity of character, in its representative character, and be drawn from all sections and classes of the community. Particularly, it is important that its individual membership shall be good in quality, in knowledge, thought, insight and absolute incorruptibility.”

“The individual membership must be representative of the nation... it must be a real Party of the nation if it is to do its job.”

“And let me say to the upper classes and well-to-do people who join the Labour Party... “Come if you believe in our faith, but for Heaven’s sake do not come in to get a kind of spiritual and psychological cure of your past.” If you come in ... join and work. Do not as a consequence of coming from the doubtful upper class regions think you are under suspicion, and that therefore the only way you can prove your sincerity is going to the extreme left...”

“We want the Party to be broad, training itself for the responsibilities of local and national government...”

“The Party must consider how a man or woman feels when he or she joins the Labour Party. I remember my first meeting. It was a great occasion for me, something like going as an out-patient to a hospital. I was wondering what reception I would get, and I was feeling very nervous. To the new member his first meeting of the ward committee or whatever is the Labour Party. Remember that.

So we must take the greatest trouble to make our ward and polling district [gulp! Polling district level organisation! LA] and local meetings radiate good cheer, comradeship and fellowship, comradeship even from the people who use the word “comrade” rather too much – fellowship from all, and a spirit of mental liveliness throughout.”

“We need our education work ... educational pamphlets and discussion group pamphlets, and we must have our conferences, so that the education of the Party and of the nation through the Party is steadily going on all the time.”

“When the new member comes into the Labour Party, he [sic] would like to do something for the Party. He may want to do something, but, being a modest person, he does not like to ask. Therefore there is a duty upon the officers ... looking out for youth, including candidates for local authorities. Try to encourage the worthy ones to come along... Teach them what to read. Do not rush them into work if they do not want to be rushed... Help the young man or young woman find out what he or she is capable of.”

“We must always be on the lookout for good quality candidates for local authorities and for Parliament. We need quality and conscious training to help them to become proficient in their work. It is no good promoting people to be councillors merely because they want the fun of having “Councillor”... in front of their names; or of people going to Parliament because they want “MP” after their names. We have to get people going into public life ... not in the spirit of self-glory, but in the spirit of public service, conscientious service to the people. That is one of the finest duties to be found upon the earth.”

“Next, the election agents should be lifted up. They are of pretty high professional status, but not high enough. The election agents have to understand humanity and how to handle it. That is a lifetime study, to understand public relations in the highest sense... Therefore our standards have to be higher, our pay – if we can manage it – has to be higher, and for the good man [sic] the security of the job has to be greater.”

“I hope we will avoid any rigid standardisation in local government. If local government is to be local, let it be local.... never let Transport House [i.e. 39 Victoria Street!] try to produce local authorities in its own image. They must not do silly things, but they must have individuality.”

Herbert Morrison (1888-1965) was probably Labour's greatest ever election organiser, winning control of the London County Council for Labour for the first time in 1934, and organising the campaign for Labour's 1945 General Election landslide. He was a Councillor in and Mayor of Hackney, MP for Hackney then for Lewisham, General Secretary of the London Labour Party, Leader of the London County Council, Home Secretary during WW2, and Deputy PM and later Foreign Secretary in the Attlee Government.

A Vanguard Party

There's a very interesting piece about the replacement of the Trident strategic nuclear deterrent and the Vanguard Class submarines that carry it in the FT today.

Headlined "Trident upgrade to be used against Tories" it looks at the most important decision any PM will ever have to make: whether to ensure the UK keeps its ability to defend itself against strategic threats from any other global power. If the wrong decision is taken and the deterrent downgraded, it puts every successive British PM in a position of greater risk, vulnerability and national weakness, at a time when we cannot possibly predict the strategic threats Britain might face many decades in the future when the replacement deterrent will still be in service.

Bizarrely the Tories have decided to allow a Lib Dem Minister, Nick Harvey, to run the official review on this most vital of questions. The Lib Dems are unfortunately, for a party that includes the remnants of the SDP who quit Labour partly over its 1980s unilateral disarmament policy, flakes on this issue. They believe in a dangerous fantasy that the deterrent could somehow be provided on the cheap through Cruise missiles deployed on the relatively small Astute Class submarines, or even from land based silos or aircraft.

All these options actually make the world a more dangerous, not safer place. There is an incentive for a hostile power to launch a preemptive strike to destroy aircraft on the ground or missile silos, whereas a Trident-style system is virtually immune from preemptive sites as it sits at the bottom of an unknown ocean in a submarine - thus doing what it says on the tin "deterring" attacks because any attackers knows they are inviting their own destruction. The Astute and Cruise option is also dangerous because it does not have the range of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles like Trident which can hit anywhere in the world - you have to put the subs in a vulnerable place nearer the shore of the target country, not in deep mid ocean, and even then range of the missile is an issue against some major continental powers with "strategic depth" i.e. important targets a very long way from the sea. Nor is it clear that Astute could provide the CASD - Continuous At Sea Deterrent all year-round that Trident's Vanguard subs do. As soon as you have gaps and delays when your deterrent is not out in the ocean you again invite preemptive strikes.

All this may sound a bit sci fi and far-fetched but we have to forecast threats up to 50 years in the future because of how long Trident's replacement will take to develop and then to be in service. Think about how radically the world has changed in the 50 years since 1960. I don't want a British PM and the British people in 2060 vulnerable to threats and nuclear blackmail by another power because a hung Parliament in 2010 let the Lib Dems get their hands on this decision.

Cost should also not be a consideration. Whatever our straightened circumstances austerity isn't an excuse for making our grandchildren more vulnerable in a changing and potentially more dangerous world. The headline costs quoted always sound huge but in any case they are spread over the whole life of the new deterrent - per annum the deterrent is a cheap way of achieving strategic defence.

As well as the danger here for our country there is a danger here for Labour. This is not a theoretical decision for us as it was in the 1980s when it contributed to our un-electability and we were so far from power additional Labour MPs losing their seats were the main victims of our love-in with CND. This time in a hung parliament with the government likely to be split on this there will be siren voices urging Ed Miliband to side with the Lib Dems on this.

If we do, we will have lost any claim to seriously aspire to power. The electorate will not trust any party or leader that makes the wrong call on such a serious issue of national security. Nor should they. This may not be a big or resonant issue right now but if we show weakness or play politics with it the Tories will dust off the "Labour's policy on arms" attack ads from the 1987 election (showing a soldier surrendering) and destroy Ed's credibility with patriotic voters in exactly the same way they did Neil Kinnock's (see image below). There are far more of these voters, particularly in marginal seats, than there are people who might find Lib Dem backsliding on the deterrent appealing.

This is as big a test for Ed Miliband as it is for David Cameron. I hope they both get it right.

My advice to Ed would be to look for inspiration to the great 1945 Labour Government and Clem Attlee's decision to create a UK independent deterrent, as well as Ernie Bevin's 1946 remark to Cabinet Committee "We've got to have this thing over here whatever it costs .. We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it" rather than Michael Foot's stance on this issue.

As Hugh Gaitskell said on this issue: "There are some of us who will fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we love. We will fight, and fight, and fight again, to bring back sanity and honesty and dignity, so that our party – with its great past – may retain its glory and its greatness." To become PM, and for our Party to be saved and attain power again, Ed needs to put himself on the same side that Hugh was on on this issue.

Monday, May 23, 2011


My Labourlist column this week looks at Ed Miliband's speech to Saturday's Progress conference:


Friday, May 20, 2011

Council by-elections

Now that 5th May is past, by-elections are resuming. There were two last night:

Dyce Ward, Aberdeen City Council. SNP gain from LD. 1st preference votes: SNP 2090 (51.5%, +19), Lab 941 (23.1%, +0.8), LD 446 (11%, -12.5), Con 352 (8.7%, +1.2), Ind 150 (3.7%, +1.6), Green 88 (2.2%, +0.4). Swing of 9.1% from Lab to SNP since 2007.

St Johns and Brookwood, Surrey CC. Con hold. Con 1343 (48.9%, +5.9%), LD 1058 (38.6%, -2.8%), Lab 188 (6.9%, +3%), UKIP 155 (5.6%, -6.2%). Swing of 4.4% from LD to Con since 2009.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NEC Report

My report on yesterday's NEC meeting is available on the Progress website:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Refounding Labour

I've posted on the Refounding Labour website about what I love and what I want to change about the way Labour works as a party:

You can post your thoughts here: http://www.refoundinglabour.org/lovechange/form/

Labourlist column

My Labourlist column this week consists of my top tips for new councillors:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Refounding Labour Consultation

A new website has been launched today for the Refounding Labour consultation on party structures being run by Peter Hain: www.refoundinglabour.org. The website has been designed to encourage and facilitate contributions across the broadest possible spectrum of the party and to enable members to engage with the process of reform in a range of ways.

The aim of the website is to provide a platform for members to critically review and assess the current structures and processes of the Labour Party; and to provide a space where members contribute their experiences, ideas, comments, suggestions, thoughts and insights into what works within the party, and what doesn’t work and needs to change.

Key features of the website include the ability for members to ‘Like’ ideas and proposals directly off the website; contribute 150 word posts on what they ‘Love’ and want to ‘Change’ about the party, as well to provide in depth and full length responses on topics of their choice.

As an NEC member I would encourage other members to take a look and to take the opportunity to express your views.

Progress Conference

Just a quick plug for the Progress Progress Annual Conference 2011: Winning back Britain: New ideas for New Labour, which I will be speaking at one of the sessions of.

This is this Saturday, 21 May 2011, 10:00 to 17:00 at TUC Congress Centre, 23-28 Great Russell Street, WC1B 3LS.

Progress annual conference 2011 brings together Labour members and trade unionists from across the country with senior politicians, union leaders, councillors and political commentators.

Register for tickets now: http://pac11.eventbrite.com/

If you have any problems email: simon@progressonline.org.uk

Confirmed speakers include:
Douglas Alexander MP, John Denham MP, Caroline Flint MP, Tessa Jowell MP, Ivan Lewis MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Hazel Blears MP, Frank Field MP, Tristram Hunt MP, Liz Kendall MP, Bridget Phillipson MP, Rachel Reeves MP, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Anas Sarwar MP, John Woodcock MP, Andrew Adonis, Maurice Glasman, Oona King, Ellie Reeves (Labour's NEC), Luke Akehurst (Labour's NEC), Johanna Baxter (Labour's NEC), David Aaronovitch (The Times), Mary Riddell (Daily Telegraph), Brendan Barber (TUC), Simon Fanshawe (broadcaster).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Progress Column

My Progress column this week looks at the detail of Labour's performance in the South:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gains from the Tories

There's a bit of a myth developing that last Thursday's council elections did not see Labour progress against the Tories. This is because gains from the LDs by the Tories in rural areas which are not General Election battlegrounds for Labour offset the Tories' losses to us.

There were 837 Labour gains and 61 losses, not including the councils with new wards.
The Conservatives had 657 gains and 641 losses.

Of the 837 Labour gains, 415 were from the Conservatives. In the councils with new wards there are now 72 more Labour councillors than before, and six fewer Conservatives.

I.e. almost exactly half of Labour's gains were from the Tories, not the LDs.

Monday, May 09, 2011


How did we do on Thursday? My take is here:

Council gains league table - election by thirds

Number of Labour gains in councils where one third of seats up for election (changes of control shown):

Birmingham +14
Manchester +13
Hull +11 (Lab gain from LD)
Liverpool +11
Newcastle-under-Lyme +10
Newcastle-upon-Tyne +10 (Lab gain from LD)
Sheffield +9 (Lab gain from NOC)
Walsall +8 (NOC gain from Con)
Doncaster +7
Halton +7
Leeds +7 (Lab gain from NOC)
NE Lincs +7
Oldham +7 (Lab gain from NOC)
Rochdale +7
St Helens +7
Wigan +7
Bury +6 (Lab gain from NOC)
N Tyneside +6 (Lab gain from NOC)
Warrington +6
Barnsley +5
Bassetlaw +5 (Lab gain from NOC)
Blackburn with Darwen +5 (Lab gain from NOC)
Bolton +5 (Lab gain from NOC)
Bradford +5
Chorley +5 (NOC gain from Con)
Coventry +5
Derby +5
Gateshead +5
Hartlepool +5
Ipswich +5 (Lab gain from NOC)
Plymouth +5
Salford +5
Sefton +5
Wakefield +5
Wirral +5
Bristol +4 (NOC gain from LD)
Cambridge +4
Exeter +4
Hyndburn +4 (Lab gain from NOC)
Preston +4 (Lab gain from NOC)
Rossendale +4 (NOC gain from Con)
Rotherham +4
Slough +4
Southampton +4
Stroud +4 (NOC gain from Con)
Sunderland +4
Welwyn Hatfield +4
Wolverhampton +4
Calderdale +3
Cannock Chase +3
Harlow +3
Kirklees +3
Knowsley +3
Pendle +3
Peterborough +3
Reading +3
S Tyneside +3
Stockport +3 (NOC gain from LD)
Ashford +2
Basingstoke & Deane +2
Burnley +2
Cherwell +2
Dudley +2
Norwich +2
Redditch +2
Swindon +2
Thurrock +2
Watford +2
Weymouth & Portland +2
Wyre Forest +2
Amber Valley +1
Basildon +1
Carlisle +1
Crawley +1
Daventry +1
Hertsmere +1
Lincoln +1 (Lab gain from NOC)
Sandwell +1
Tameside +1
Tamworth +1
Three Rivers +1
Trafford +1
Tunbridge Wells +1
Winchester +1
No change in Labour total: Brentwood, Broxbourne, Colchester, Epping Forest, Great Yarmouth, Havant, Milton Keynes, N Herts, Portsmouth, Rugby, Rushmoor, S Cambs, S Lakeland, Southend, St Albans, Stevenage, W Oxfordshire
Eastleigh -1 (no Labour seats)
Gloucester -1
Reigate & Banstead -1 (no Labour seats)
W Lancs -1
Worcester -1
Solihull -2
No Labour seats: Castle Point, Craven, Elmbridge, Harrogate, Hart, Huntingdonshire, Maidstone, Mole Valley, Purbeck, Rochford, Runnymede, Stratford-on-Avon, Tandridge, Woking, Wokingham, Worthing

Council gains league table - whole council up for election

Number of Labour gains in councils where whole council up for election (with changes of control):
Chesterfield +23 (Lab gain from LD)
Gedling +23 (Lab gain from Con)
Cheshire W & Chester +19
Telford & Wrekin +16 (Lab gain from NOC)
Ashfield +15 (Lab gain from NOC)
Blackpool +15 (Lab gain from Con)
Mansfield +14 (Lab gain from Ind)
Barrow-in-Furness +13 (Lab gain from NOC)
High Peak +12 (NOC gain from Con)
Leicester +12
S Ribble +12
Luton +11
NW Leics +11
Lancaster +10
Northampton +10 (Con gain from NOC)
Cheshire E +9
Forest of Dean +9
King’s Lynn & W Norfolk +9
Gravesham +8 (Lab gain from Con)
Newark & Sherwood +8 (NOC gain from Con)
Nottingham +8
Stoke +8 (Lab gain from NOC)
Waveney +8 (NOC gain from Con)
York +8 (Lab gain from NOC)
Broxtowe +7
Redcar & Cleveland +7 (Lab gain from NOC)
Wyre +7
Allerdale +6
Corby +6
Erewash +6
NE Derbyshire +6
S Gloucs +6
Thanet +6 (NOC gain from Con)
Bedford +5
Darlington +5
Lichfield +5
Medway +5
Stafford +5
Stockton-on-Tees +5
Wellingborough +5
Wycombe +5
Bolsover +4
Bromsgrove +4
Copeland +4
Dover +4
E Staffs +4
Melton +4
Scarborough +4
S Derbyshire +4
S Kesteven +4
Boston +3
Charnwood +3
E Riding of Yorkshire +3
Kettering +3
Middlesbrough +3
N Warwickshire +3 (Lab gain from Con)
Rushcliffe +3
Sedgemoor +3
S Oxfordshire +3
Suffolk Coastal +3
Swale +3
Aylesbury Vale +2
Babergh +2
E Lindsey +2
E Northants +2
Epsom & Ewell +2
Guildford +2
N Somerset +2
Rother +2
Staffs Moorlands +2 (NOC gain from Con)
Taunton Deane +2
Tendring +2
W Lindsey +2
Blaby +1
Breckland +1
Broadland +1
Canterbury +1
Central Beds +1
Chelmsford +1
Derbyshire Dales +1
Forest Heath +1
Mid Suffolk +1
Selby +1
South Hams +1
S Northants +1
S Staffs +1
St Edmundsbury +1
Tonbridge & Malling +1
Torbay +1
Torridge +1
Vale of White Horse +1
W Somerset +1
Wychavon +1
No Change in Labour total: Arun, Bath & NE Somerset, Bournemouth, Brighton & Hove, Sevenoaks, Surrey Heath
Bracknell Forest -1
Braintree -1
Dacorum -1
Herefordshire -1
Hinckley & Bosworth -1
Warwick -1
N Lincs -2 (Con gain from Lab)
Dartford -3
No Labour seats: Chichester, Chiltern, Christchurch, Cotswold, E Cambs, E Devon, E Dorset, E Hants, E Herts, Eastbourne, Eden, Fenland, Fylde, Hambleton, Harborough, Horsham, Lewes, Maldon, Malvern Hills, Mendip, Mid Devon, New Forest, N Devon, N Dorset, N Kesteven, N Norfolk, Oadby & Wigston, Poole, Ribble Valley, Richmondshire, Rutland, Ryedale, Shepway, S Bucks, S Holland, S Norfolk, S Somerset, Spelthorne, Teignbridge, Test Valley, Tewkesbury, Uttlesford, Waverley, Wealden, W Berks, W Devon, W Dorset, Windsor & Maidenhead.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Progress Column

My Progress column this week is about my return to doorstep canvassing after two years of limited mobility: http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=670

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Labourlist column

My Labourlist column this week looks at what constitutes progress for Labour in Thursday's elections: http://www.labourlist.org/election-night-ready-reckoner

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