Sunday, December 02, 2007

Black Socialist Society Conference - Manchester

On Saturday I went to the Conference which was held at Manchester College of Art and Technology.

It was good to see the BSS back on its feet as a continuing strong relationship with all Britain's communities is vital for the future of the Labour Party.

The organisation has changed its name to BAME Labour and is actively seeking to recruit members and set up branches in the constituencies.

I made the point that as a party we need to deliver both on policies and on representation and we need more BAME Councillors and M.P.s

It was good of Angela Eagle to come and she delivered a very well thought out address to the Conference.

BAME Labour will soon be setting up a website but in the interim they can be contacted at 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0HA or

To join the BSS please visit:

National Executive Committee Away Day - Monday 19th November

This is meant to be the meeting where the NEC discusses priorities for the party over the coming year. Past ones I've been to have been held in Esher at the Amicus residential training college. This year however we held it a the TUC in Bloomsbury.

As you can imagine our priorities remain pretty constant - winning elections, recruiting members, developing policy and having successful meetings.

The detail of how we do it varies and our main local electoral priority will be the London Mayor and GLA elections. It is vital we win in London but its crucial we also do well in the rest of the country and I was glad to see we are sharpening up our research and analysis of Tory policy.

This round of local elections is the smallest in the four year cycle but still includes all Councils in Wales and the metropolitan areas. Its not clear just how many Councils will be up for election as some of the new unitary authorities may came up next year or the year after.

The good news is that membership has almost stabilised as a result of increased recruitment and decreased rates of lapsing.

This leaves us with a membership of 180,000 and its important we recruit more members if we are to do the work we need to do. The £1.00 rate for young members has an important role to play and I would like to see more discounts on membership, if they encourage people to come in to the party.

We've agreed dates for National Policy Forums - December for discussing the second drafts, July for finalising the policy programme prior to submission to Annual Conference and the members ballot after Conference.

The NEC is very conscious of the need to slow the new policy process can deal properly with the contemporary resolutions referred to it from Conference.

I also brought up the need for party structures to reflect political reality and to help reflect devolutions it might help to have the Scottish and Welsh Labour Party Chairs as observers on the NEC.

The Spring Conference will be in Birmingham - 29th February - 2nd March.

Annual Conference will be in Manchester - September 20th to 25th.

National Executive Committee - Tuesday 20th November

The NEC meeting in November is the "first" meeting in the party year - agreeing the composition of Committees and Policy Commissions. The meeting was held at the TUC Headquarters and was a bit disjointed as members of the Government were at this cabinet meeting (That's why we have moved future NECs to Thursdays.)

At every NEC there is a minute's silence when we remember party members who have died recently. I added the names of Albert Jones (Salford) and Jean Tributsch (Bury South) both of whom were good friends and will be sadly missed.

NEC Vice Chair
The first item of business was the sad news that Sally Powell was having to stand down as Vice Chair. It was agreed without opposition that Cath Speight from Amicus/Unite take over as Vice Chair and Chair next year. Cath is a good friend of mine and will make an excellent party Chair.

We then agreed the minutes and recommendations of the various Sub-Committees - the main item being the recommended All Women Shortlists for Nottingham South, Dundee East, East Dunbartonshire, Birmingham Ladywood, Clwyd West and Calder Valley.

It was recommended that Streathams, Cumbernauld, Preseli Pembs, Hull East and Sheffield Central be open and a group of NEC members will be visiting Airdrie to discuss the position there.

Discussions are ongoing with Northampton South, Birmingham Yardley, Wolverhampton North East and South Derbyshire.

These are hard decisions to make as we balance conflicting needs but its vital we continue to make progress in terms of gender and race equality in our MPs.

Annual Conference
While people felt Conference had gone well - especially the improved delegate accreditation procedure - there was a view (which I share) than Bournemouth just doesn't work as a Conference Centre especially in terms of accessibility.

I raised a point which was brought up with me by Mold Labour Party that Welsh delegates had great difficulty in getting called and the CAC agreed to address this problem.

Lesley Quinn
We have just received the news that Lesley Quinn - the General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party - has decided to move on to pastures new. Lesley has worked for the party for twenty-seven years, starting as the Office Junior. Lesley worked hard and conscientiously to become General Secretary in Scotland. She's always been a good friend and she'll be missed.

Bury North

Tuesday night was the joint meeting of East ward and Moorside ward in Bury North. Bury is where I joined the Party in 1973 and its always been a key marginal and a well organised party.

I've spent many General Elections in Bury on the basis that if we lose Bury we don't win the General Election!

It was good to be at the meeting - I got a good idea of what members on the ground are thinking - and the sandwiches were good.

Jean Tribatsch and Albert Jones

We've lost two good comrades in the last few weeks. Albert Jones was in his eighties and joined the party in 1937. A stickler for procedure having been trained in the AEU, Albert was a good friend and will be greatly missed by his family and friends in the Party. Sadly I missed the funeral as I was held up at pay talks in Rochdale but I think Albert would have understood.

I did manage to make Jean Tribatsch's funeral in the church was packed. Jean was a stalwart of the party in Bury South - hard working , loyal and friendly to everyone.

One thing I can do is ensure they're remembered in the obituaries at the NEC and the Party's annual report. If you know any other deceased members who should be remember in this war don't hesitate to let me know.


Out canvassing again on Saturday morning - only three of us but the response was very good. We'll be concentrating on leafleting and Christmas cards for the next couple of weeks and the its full steam ahead with canvassing in the new Year.

Here's aiming for at least one Labour gain next May.

Sunday is leafleting for a by-election in Middleton North, Sunday afternoon is canvassing in Withington and then its down to London for the NEC Away Day on Monday - so its off for a pint now!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Middleton North

Sunday morning in Middleton North leafleting for the by-election on Thursday 29th.

I went up with Fred from Eccles and two things were very clear:

1) The Liberal Democrats have completely run out of steam! Middleton is a nice town just North of Manchester but its been completely neglected by the Liberal Democrats who run Rochdale Council.

Coupled with their plans to reduce bin collections to twice weekly and the sacking of their finance spokesman they are in melt-down at the minute.

2) The Labour candidate - Jonathan Burns - is just the sort of Councillor Middleton needs - young, hard-working and intelligent.

Anyone who wants to help ring Maureen on 07753 282 721.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

North West Regional Conference

It was good to be at the Regional Conference in Southport last week. Its been eighteen months since we've had a Regional Conference and its good to meet old friends and meet new members.

A lot of the Party apparatus has seemed ambivalent about Regional Conferences in the past with some seeing them as a relic of days gone by. While they might need updating, I think its vital we maintain and build these Conferences.

They are a great way for members to meet other Party members from outside their immediate area and can help build a real sense of regional identity.

They play an important role in bringing the regional activists of the Trade Unions and the Party together and it was good to meet up with Unison, GMB and CWU, friends as well as the Unite delegates.

Here's to the next one.

NEC Away Day

On Monday 19th November we will be having an NEC Away Day, where we discus how to take the Party forward over the next year. I've got a few ideas to do with strengthening the party at the base and in our communities but I'd really appreciate any contributions for members.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Help is needed in a crucial by election in North Middleton. This is a Labour seat but we are facing a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats.

Help is needed at the following times in particular:

SUNDAY 11th NOVEMBER. Doorstep canvassing. Meet at 2.00 pm as above.

SATURDAY 17th and SUNDAY 18th NOVEMBER: Postal vote canvass. Meet at 10.30 am at 7 Rudyard Avenue.

For further information please contact Maureen Rowbotham (Agent) on 0161 653 6404 or Mobile: 07753282721.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Southport - The Benidorm of the North West

Next Saturday and Sunday sees the North West Regional Conference being held in Southport.

Given the events of this year it will be interesting to see what the feedback from the members is.

Monday, October 29, 2007


'Countdown to the general election: how can Labour win?'

Saturday 3 November 2007: The East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf

Speakers include David Aaronovitch, Wendy Alexander, Ed Balls, Nick Cohen, Yvette Cooper, Tony Giddens, Lynsey Hanley, Ed Husain, Peter Kellner, Oona King, Ed Miliband, Tim Montgomerie, Estelle Morris, James Purnell, Dave Rowntree, Polly Toynbee, and many more.

Seminar topics include foreign policy post-Iraq, the public services, housing, the security debate, equality and aspiration, business and social justice, Cameron and the Tories, Labour party reform, politics post-spin, the green agenda, and how progressives should engage with political Islam.

The best way to book is online: please visit:

Parliamentary Selections

At the last NEC Organisation Committee, a number of members raised the need to make faster progress in completing the outstanding parliamentary selections. We also need to consider which of them will have All Women Shortlists and review our progress in selecting more Black and Ethnic minority candidates.

It was agreed the we would have a short meeting a our next Away Day to consider these issues and make the recommendations.

Manchester Gorton - Christmas Fundraiser

Gorton are organising a fundraising Curry Evening at the Nawab Restaurant, Stockport Road, Manchester on Thursday December 6th. Tickets are £25.00 and I have heard a rumour of complimentary beer and wine all evening. Contact Luthfur Ali on 07810 5133008.

National Policy Forum

Just received notice that there will be a National Policy Forum held on Saturday / Sunday 1st - 2nd December. For security reasons we're not told where but will be told in due course.

NEC Elections

We have now agreed the timetable for electing the constituency representatives on the National Executive Committee (subject to CAC approval!)

NEC members are elected every two years with all individual members of the Party entitled to vote for up to six representatives.

Constituency Labour Parties will be invited to nominate NEC representatives and can nominate up to six members. Most CLPs will be dealing with this issue at their January and February meetings and the deadline for nominations will be the start of April. The actual election will be held in June next year.

Supper With The Minister

On Friday 19th October we had one of our branch fundraisers with Andy Burnham, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and M.P. for nearby Leigh, as Speaker.

We had over forty members present from Salford, Manchester, Bury and Prestwich and it was a great event.

Everyone seemed to have a good time. Hazel Blears was there and introduced Andy, who spoke very well about his experience so far in Cabinet.

This is a good Labour event. We've organised three so far this year which has allowed our branch to raise over £1,000 this year. Its good of both Hazel and the Cabinet Ministers involved to give up their time. It was also good to see Francine, Emma and Carla from our friends Thompsons the Solicitors.

Through the fundraising we're in a good position to carry on campaigning for next May's local elections.

Ellesmere Port and Neston - Well Done Sue

In the Rossmore Ward by-election on Thursday, you could tell the Tories thought they were in with a chance. They didn't count on Sue Pugh. Labour held the seat with 504 votes, the Tories got 325, the English Democrats 60 and the Liberal Democrats came fourth with 38 - not much sign of a "Ming Going" bounce there! Tory vote share down 5%. Three of us went over for what passes for an enjoyable day for us.

National Executive Sub-Committees

Tuesday 16th October was my day in London for the Sub-Committees of the National Executive Committee.

The meetings are held at Labour Headquarters on Victoria Street, London.

The first meeting of the day is the Women's, Race and Equality Committee.

There was a discussion about Conference which everybody felt had been a great success but there were some concerns about the suitability of Bournemouth as a Conference venue - its particularly difficult for delegates with disabilities.

Harriet Harman will be convening a Women's Summit in November - primarily for elected women - Councillors, MPs, MEPs and, very importantly, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly Members. The aim is to help women members develop a specific agenda and network amongst themselves.

There was then a full discussion on other diversity strategy including the "Winning With Women" campaign and our ethnic minority strategy.

Stephanie Peacock, the Youth Rep, announced details of the £1.00 youth rate. Anyone under twenty-seven who agrees to pay future subscriptions by Direct Debit can join for £1.00 for the first year.

Literature will be coming to CLPs and its important this is used as part of a strategy for attracting more young people.

I think this sort of introductory offer is a useful way of getting over the problems caused by the initially high membership fees and will be pressing for a £5.00 introductory offer.

There will be a Women's Conference as a part of the Spring Conference to be held in Birmingham in February. This Conference will be a good springboard for next May's local elections and its good to see the pressure for a Local Government Conference has paid off. I'm looking forward to doing a pub review of Brum!

Disputes Committee

The Disputes Committee is where problems in CLPs come to the attention of the NEC. Some as matters of report, some for the NEC to intervene in directly. Its not right to go into details, but I can say that the Disputes Committee members come from all backgrounds and take the Committee and its duties seriously.

Organisation Committee

The Organisation Committee meets at 2.00 p.m. meaning essentially the day is one long Committee meeting.

We agreed procedure for selecting Euro-candidates which need to be completed by the end of January 2008. CLPs should be written to during November but will need to deal with this in their January branch / GC meetings.

We discussed selection procedures for Local Government including unitary authorities and it is clear that we need to get a move on if we are to get candidates in place as soon as possible.

Also discussed was next year's Conference timetable and NPF elections. Nominations for election to the NEC next year will probably have to be in by the end of March - subject to Conference arrangements Committee approval.

Anyone with any queries about the Organisation Committees business is welcome to contact me at or 07880 790182.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Campaign Training - Manchester Town Hall

On Saturday we had over eighty people turn up for a full day training session, with most CLPs from the North West represented from Westmorland to Crewe.

The feeling was very good as members are gearing up for both local elections next May and a General Election whenever it comes.

We know we won't have the money the Tories will have but we can more than make up for that by the voluntary contribution of time and effort by our members and supporters.

Finished off the weekend on Sunday with a gentle couple of hours delivering Eid cards in Bury North. Something tells me most weeks will be like this for the next little while.

Ellesmere Port - Little Sutton By-Election

On Friday three of us drove over to help Sue Pugh with her by-election. Friday evening - so nothing too demanding - just a couple of hours leafleting.

The campaign seems to be going very well and Sue would make a great Councillor.

The election is on Thursday 18th and anyone who can help Sue should ring 07809 861 609.

Claremont - The Fight Continues

On Sunday 7th we were out in force in Claremont ward. The big issue - as ever - was the state of the roads and pavements. I've already got Salford's biggest pothole filled in in this area but there's still plenty to do. As you can se we had a good turn out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Manufacturing Demo

One of the big issues facing the world outside Westminster is the future of British manufacturing. We know we have to compete in a cut-throat global market and its vital that we have a Government strategy to keep a manufacturing base in this country.

My Trade Union - Unite - is organising a national rally and lobby of Parliament from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Wednesday 17th October at Westminster Central Hall, Westminster, London. Please come along and urge anyone you know to attend.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


With all the priorities we have for spending money in this country what is David Cameron’s top priority?
He wants to raise the threshold for inheritance tax to One Million Pounds!

That means anyone who inherits a million pounds would save £250,000 in tax under the Tories!

That’s money they could spend on the NHS, more police, pensioners, schools or any one of a wide range of deserving causes but they’d rather give it to millionaires.

David Cameron’s Conservatives – Good for millionaires – Bad for Salford!

Tiverton & Honiton

Friday 5th October saw me taking the short trip to Ottery St Mary in Devon to do a fundraising dinner for the CLP. It’s the first time I've done one of these so I'm a bit nervous. The drive down is about five and a half hours so I've taken the day off work. When I get there I find no room in the inn - all the rooms are taken but I manage to book a room in an Indian takeaway restaurant - another first!

There's nearly 40 people at the dinner - a really nice crowd of people with good support from Exeter - the neighbouring marginal seat. Its also the launch meeting for Vernon - the Parliamentary candidate. Vernon seems like an excellent candidate to me - former Police Officer and current Town Council Mayor - a real asset to the Party.

The food and company are excellent but then I have to sing for my supper! I give a report on how the NEC works and the current political situation. There were lots of questions and genuine interest and it was good to see party members keen in what is clearly a difficult area. Thanks to Alf for arranging things and I hope to be back before long.

General Election

Driving back from Devon I catch the news on the radio - no General Election. It was clearly a difficult decision but also clearly the right one. It's been clear talking to members and supporters that people didn't see the need for an election - we've got up to two and a half years to carry on implementing Labour policies and people want to see us carry on governing.

There will be some fall out from the media but it won't last long. They have the attention span of a goldfish! As for the Tories - Cameron is fooling no-one - the last thing he wanted was a general Election.

It has given us some useful ideas about the state of party organisation and its important we learn from them. Although it looks like an election will be 2009 at the earliest we need to ensure we are operating at full pitch in the marginal seats from now until then.

If any members have comments on the state of our organisation in the country I'd be glad to receive them.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


The Thursday before Conference sees me whizzing down the M6 again - this time to Stratford-on-Avon. With a 1200 Tory majority over the Liberal Democrats. It’s a bit of a contrast to Pontypridd where I was last week - but the common factor was an active committed party.
As well as working their own constituency they work hard in the nearby marginal of Warwick and Leamington where we have a majority of just over 200.

Anyway - a nice bunch of people and they are looking for a lively candidate to fight a General Election. Any aspiring candidate could do a lot worse.

Spring Conference

Following representations the Party have agreed to have a Spring Conference next February.

More details to follow but we are lobbying of there to be a local Government Conference and for it to be in the Midlands.

Candidates Wanted

Two constituencies in the West Midlands are looking for enthusiastic candidates - Stratford-on-Avon and Lichfield.

They are both what people nowadays call "challenging" but both have good lively Labour Parties who want to have a go.

Anyone interested and wanting more information - please give me a ring on 07880790182.


At our recent Salford and Eccles Constituency meeting we overwhelmingly passed a resolution form Amicus / Unite calling on the Council to investigate using their procurement powers to purchase from Remploy.

European law allows local authorities to reserve contracts solely for sheltered workshops.

This is a good way for Council to use their economic power in favour of local people and other CLPs are encouraged to do the same.

By-Election - Thursday October 18th

By-Election - Rossmore Ward - Ellesmere Port - Thursday October 18th.

There will be a by-election in Elsmere Port on October 18th. This is a good Labour seat but it’s a very short campaign, so the Party needs all the help it can get.

The candidate is Sue Pugh, known to many of us in the North West. Its in everybody's interest to win the seat because Sue will make our life misery if we don't.

For details of how to help ring Sue on 07809 861609.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Peter's conference report

Well, we went into Conference with the possibility of one of those old time Labour splits and came out of it with a massive degree of unity and really positive momentum.

The scene was set at the NEC meeting in the week before Conference when we agreed the text of a renewed policy making process by an overwhelming majority. Those Trade Unions and others who were worried about the proposals accepted the decision by the leadership to review developments in 2009 with one of the options being a return to the current system.

The NEC met at Sunday lunch time and confirmed that we would be recommending all composites to be referred into the policy process.

This position was overwhelmingly endorsed at Conference by CLPs AND unions and we now have a real duty to make this policy making process work.

One thing that would get us more debate is if CLPs understood that the motions submitted by the major Trade Unions will automatically be debated and they can safely vote other topics without letting their Trade Union colleagues down. Such an approach would have allowed topics like Darfur to be debated this year. I will discuss with my colleagues on the NEC what we can do about this.

The highlights of the Conference for me were, obviously, Gordon Brown's speech and his question and answer session. Its clear just how far we've come in a year.

The best bit for me is getting out and about and meeting the delegates and visitors. I find out about lots of things going on up and down the country!

I had to reply to the education debate which is always an honour. This year we persuaded the Conference Arrangements Committee to debate education as a separate issue rather than jointly with health. Even though the debate was cut short it was much more focussed than in the past and I hope we'll stick to this procedure in the future.

There were some excellent contributions and the number and confidence of the young delegates we have give me great hope for the future.

Abi, the delegate from Mithcam and Morden, summed up much of our education policy: "I know that under Labour - if I work hard - I'll get on!"

Anyway - Manchester next year and in the meantime well probably be having a Spring Conference - and I'm arguing for Birmingham as the venue.

NEC 18.9.07 - Unity Breaks Out!

The meeting opened as usual with the Leader's report. Gordon made the point that Conference was our opportunity to deliver a message about the future of the country and the need to engage with the public and renew ourselves in Government. We have already seen clear evidence of action on the big issues facing people - Housing Policy, the NHS and the economy.

There were numerous general questions. I made the point that I felt the publicity around Margaret Thatcher as a "conviction" politician ( should that read convicted?) was going down very badly with Party members. I also mentioned recent excellent local by-election victories in Liverpool, Rossendale and Brent - saying any time Gordon wanted an election would suit us.

Other issues raised were Zimbabwe, Remploy, Columbia, student funding and safety at work.
We then moved on to discuss the proposed changes to party policy making. These had been subject to a massive amount of internal discussion and at times it had looked like we could be headed for one of those major internal bust-ups which so damage us with our supporters.

However, to the eternal credit of all involved in the discussions, we reached a position that the overwhelming majority of the NEC could agree on, which will see the proposals being adopted but subject to a throughout review with a report to Conference in 2009. This should allow us to move towards any General Election in a united fashion. There will be Tory wailing and gnashing of teeth!

As this was the NEC meeting before Conference and much of the meeting was devoted to Conference preparations. There are a range of practical details including Conference timings, NEC speakers etc. The really good development from my point of view was that health and education will be debated as two separate issues. In the past we've debated these issues as one which can lead to confused and unbalanced debates. Its good that the Conference Arrangements Committee have listened to the views we relayed from the membership.

It was also good to see Ellie Reeves being appointed as one of the Assistant Chairs for Conference.

The General Secretary's report contained more good news. Finances continue to improve and there is now likely to be a Spring Conference - possibly in Birmingham in February. I wonder if we can read anything into that. There is also going to be a small expansion of staff to support the policy development work.

Harriet Harman gave her Deputy Leader report concentrating on the importance of the women's vote and attracting new women members, especially women Trades Unionists, where the party and Trade Union Equality Agendas are very similar. She also announced a series of visits in the key marginal's, where she will be meeting voters on walkabouts - the tour will be "Harriet in the High Street".

The meeting lasted four hours and we now seem to be in good state for Conference.


On Friday I raced down to South Wales to give an NEC report to the Pontypridd General Committee. It was a long drive but well worth it as the party in Pontypridd is clearly a strong active one. We had a good discussion about a wide range of issues form tuition fees, economic inequality, devolution and the workings of the party.

Jane Davidson, the Assembly member, was also there and it was interesting to hear how the Assembly works in practice.

As Wales were playing Australia in Cardiff the next day, there wasn't a B&B to be had in town and I was faced with a four hour drive back home but Hayden Jones, the Party Chair stepped into the breach with the offer of a bed for the night and a couple of pints in his club.

We had a good night - the club was amazing. Downstairs a normal Working Mens Club - upstairs a Rock Club run by Gaynor from the Club Committee. It was different seeing g a rock band from New York drawing the raffle! A real example of Club adapting to meet the needs of the Community.

Anyways thanks a lot Haydn - you're a great host (and cook as well!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Well Done Liverpool

Last Thursday night Labour candidate Richard McLinden gained Warbeck ward in Liverpool from the Liberal Democrats with a majority of over 700.

This is the tenth consecutive gain that Labour have made in Liverpool.

Labour control of the city is beginning to look a distinct possibility again.

Congratulations to Richard, his colleague Anne and everybody who helped in the victory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cheetham is a very multi-racial area just north of Manchester city centre in Graham Stringer's Blackley and Broughton constituency.

It was the original home of Manchester's Jewish community and now has large Irish, Muslim, Sikh and Afro-Caribbean communities as well.

As well as the prospect of cultural enrichment I was attracted to the event by copious amounts of food and the chance to win a trip to Rome. The event saw open days at Alkhiyra Mosque, Dashmesh Sikh Temple, the Irish World Heritage Centre, the Jewish Museum, St Johns' Church (Church of England), Higher Crumpsall Synagogue, St Chads Roman Catholic Church and the Museum of Transport.

A smashing event sponsored by Manchester City Council, it was great to see all Manchester's communities throwing their doors open - and the food was very good!


The campaign to win back Claremont in Salford continues.

Out canvassing Saturday morning - where people are genuinely pleased to see us.

Picked up some cases to deal with and we're keeping people informed of local issues.

Stalybridge and Hyde

On Friday night I went to Hyde to give an NEC report to their General Committee Meeting.

Stalybridge and Hyde is a good Labour Party with James Purnell as its MP and part of Tameside - a very strong, progressive Labour Council. Very down to earth with a good age range they know the importance of concentrating on practical matters - as I have put it "if you can't get the bins emptied, they're not going to trust you to run the country!"
There was a good range of questions and contributions ranging from the timing of the General Election (if only I knew!), party funding, the need for greater regulation of public transport in the metropolitan areas - a subject there's a growing consensus on, and the need to take into account the needs of traditional Labour voters as well as swing voters.

One of their branches - on a big former Manchester overspill estate - have developed a tool co-operative - where for a small membership fee, people can hire skippers, sanders, generators etc. for a nominal amount. A real way of engaging with the community.

Anyway - a good way of spending a Friday night followed by a trip to the World Irish Heritage Centre in Cheetham, where I picked up details of the One World One Cheetham Festival (more later).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Continuing our series of Claremont Branch fund-raisers – our next guest will be Andy Burnham MP for Leigh and Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Andy is a key figure in Gordon Brown’s new cabinet and it will be a great pleasure to welcome him to Salford. Tickets are sure to sell out early so please book you place as soon as possible.

Tickets will be £20.00 each for a two course meal and are available form me on 07880 790182 or email

Bolton North East CLP

Went to Bolton last week to give an NEC report.

Good turnout and good debate about where the party is going.

There is a good mood in the party at the minute.

We need a realistic assessment of what we have achieved and what we need to do in the run-up to the next election.

Getting Trained - Labour Party Diploma - Manchester Town Hall - Saturday October 13th

At the next General Election one fact is for certain - the Tories will have more money than us!
To be competitive the party will be relying on the effort of our members and supporters and we need to use those efforts as effectively as possible.

That's why its vital we all get as well trained as possible - we've all got something to learn and something to contribute.

That's why its good that the party are organising a training session with all seven modules of the Campaign Diploma being up for completion.

I'm doing it and hope to bring a few friends along. It lasts from 9.30 a.m. to 2.15 p.m. and places can be booked with Lucy Smith at the Regional Office - email or ring 01925 574913.

Migrant Workers In Europe - Saturday 15th September 10.00 a.m. - 2.30 p.m.

The Party of European Socialists has organised a forum on this subject with the Guest Speaker being Jolente Szymanesz-Denesz from the Democratic Left Alliance in Poland with workshops being chaired by the region's three Labour MEPs.

It will be at Transport House, Merchants Quay, Salford and is sponsored by Unite.

All welcome but please confirm attendance either by e-mail: or Tel: 0161 906 0801.

Liverpool Warbreck Ward By-Election, Thursday 13th Septmeber 2007

A by-election is taking place in Liverpool on 13th Septemder in the ultra-marginal Warbreck ward.

The LibDems have held this seat since the early 1990s but we took a seat back in May with our candidate Ann O'Byrne securing a majorty of just 194! We need to take this seat building on our success in May. Richard McLinden, a local community activist, is standing for Labour, the LibDems are running the guy Ann beat in May.

Any help would be appreciated, please call Joe Hanson on 0784 983 6022.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bolton West Summer Fair

Fed up of endless Labour Party Meetings?

Want to come along to an event for the whole family?

If yes, this could be the event for you…

This year Bolton West CLP are holding a traditional summer fair and we want you and your family to come along and enjoy a Labour Party event that doesn’t involve agreeing minutes from a previous meeting!

Come and join us rain or shine at Ridgemont House, Horwich
on Sunday, 26th August, 12.30pm - 5.00pm

Tickets: £4.00 for adults (£5.00 on the day) - children free

BBQ - Cake stalls - Coconut shy - Stocks and cream pie throwing - Face painting - hook a duck - Tombolas - raffles and much, much more ….

We would be grateful if you could buy a ticket before the event.

For more details or to buy tickets, please contact Dorothy or Emma on 01204 693351 or email /

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Manchester Withington

This weekend saw a lot of campaigning in the sunny suburbs of South Manchester.

Saturday morning was a listening surgery at Chorlton Library where Lucy Powell, our prospective candidate and Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council heard constituents with a range of issues from congestion charges to special needs provision in schools.

I must admit the prospect of canvassing on a Sunday afternoon was a bit daunting but we were amazingly well received.

Manchester Withington was a seat the Liberal Democrats won with the big lie that Christies Cancer Hospital was under threat and we are going to win it back. Lucy is an exceptionally talented candidate and will be Manchester's first woman MP - if we get behind her and do the donkey work now.

Anyway - next campaign session is on Sunday August 25th at 2.00 p.m., 4 Holly Royde Close (off Palatine Road) followed by a barbecue.

If you can help let Jeff Smith know at:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Saturday Morning Canvass

On Saturday we were back again canvassing in our ward.

The Council are beginning to address the constant complaints about the state of the roads and I picked up plenty of casework.
The level of Labour support was very good. At this rate the result next May could be very interesting and the roads in the ward should be perfect!

Wirral South

Friday evening saw an enjoyable evening on the Wirral at a hot pot supper organised by Wirral South CLP with Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary of Unite as the Guest Speaker.

It was good to meet old friends from the 1997 by-election and Tony was in good form. It was also good to see a big turn out from Unite members at Ellesmere Port car plant - Tony's old stamping ground.

By-Election Triumphs and Corn Beef Pie

Took a day's holiday to go up to Sedgefield. Left early morning picking up Tommy from Rochdale and Nick from Liverpool.

Called in at Newton Aycliffe first - good to see lots of members busy getting the vote out. It was clear from early on that we were going to win clearly. Then went up to Trimden Labour Club. Sedgefield is a very attractive constituency with Labour-voting villages and town set amongst rolling countryside.
The party in the North East understands the important principle that an army marches on its stomach - and the food for volunteers at Trimden was excellent - especially the corn beef pie - so packed with corn beef it must have been a full cow! Lovely.

When they prized me away from the pie, we went knocking up in Camforth. Again Labour vote solid but a worrying number of young women (in their twenties and thirties) who "never vote".
I don't know if it was because of the Government's need to release petty criminals early but there seemed to be a lot of BNP driving around. It made me laugh when I heard them playing "Jerusalem" on their loud-speakers - it will be in the Internationale! Next.

Had to leave at tea-time to get back to Salford for our constituency meeting but everything under control and good reports coming back from Ealing.
The results are an excellent start to Gordon Brown's Government. Two potentially difficult by-elections successfully and, in the end, quite comfortably negotiated.
Woefully bad for the Tories - "Cameron's" Conservatives were created in West London and they really thought they were going to win at one stage. That crashing sound is wheels coming off the wagon!
Liberal Democrats will be disappointed as they don't appear to have done badly enough to ditch Ming Campbell. That suits us in places like Rochdale, Cambridge and Withington but might not be good in much of the South.

Sedgefield had 2494 BNP votes too many, which needs addressing.

Congratulation to Virendera and Phil and both their campaign teams and all the volunteers who secured their victories. Who's tempted to start betting on a spring General Election (or even October!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Look Forward

Going through the old leaflets the other day I came across the sort of membership pamphlet we used to put out door-to-door - eight pages of text - A5 - no pictures.

The wording of the leaflet carries possibly the best short description of the Labour Party I've come across:

1) Labour is more than a political party. It is a faith and a positive force for good in the world. Constantly it campaigns for social justice throughout the whole range of human affairs. Its deeds are as impressive as its words - an unusual quality in these days of high-pressure economic and political propaganda.

2) Labour's strength in power and purpose is no accident; it comes from the people who make up the Party. People from all walks of life, of all ages, and from every social group. Men and women and young people who see wrongs around them and are determined that society shall put them right. They are people with consciences with ideas, with zeal. Together they add up to a force that can't be ignored.

3) The Labour Party was born sixty years ago. But its roots go back much further than that. Throughout the ages there have always bee men and women who struggled against tyrannies and injustices, visionaries who saw that life could only be really worthwhile if people worked together and not against one another. It was the evil conditions of the industrial revolution, and the continuing injustices which remain even today, that brought people like this together, inspired them to join in common causes, and eventually to bring their causes together in the Labour Party.

The Conscience of the People

1) We stand for justice. Not justice in any narrow purely legal sense, but justice throughout the whole of society - social justice. We realise that we shall not achieve it in the lifetime of the older among us; there is too much injustice - political, social, economic, racial - in the world for that. But if we do not start the advance now, the goal will never be reached at all. We are building for our children and for all children. We want them to inherit the society that we have dreamed of and striven for during these sixty years.

2) We need all the help we can get, for the forces ranged against us are powerful and wealthy, and their motive is an insidious one with a universal appeal to selfishness. Our task is formidable, but every new member who joins us lightens the burden on others and adds more power to our effort. We are not an army on the march, or a crusade with a single purpose: we are the conscience of the people finding its expression. If you think and believe as we do, your place is with us.

This was written forty-five years ago and is the sort of material we used to put through doors. The language might seem a bit archaic but it gets the message right - especially the second paragraph "Labour members - a force that can't be ignored."

National Executive Committee 17 July 2007

Gordon Brown's first NEC meeting as Prime Minister. A brainstorm leads me to think its at Victoria Street not Westminster - resulting in spending £8 for a taxi to go round in a circle! Try to look composed and collected as I arrive five minutes late.

Under the new Prime Minister, Cabinet meetings are on Tuesdays which delayed the arrival of the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers so we had a discussion about the role of the Chair of the NEC and the Party Chair. Many of the previous problems of an unelected Party Chair are solved by that post being held by the elected Deputy Leader.

When Gordon arrived his leader's address was very much in tune with the tone of his new Government - he wants to speak directly to the concerns people have.
New policy initiatives include:
1) A new version of the "New Deal" with big employers signed up to provide work to people who have the most difficulties in entering the job market - an initiative funded by unused accounts of the big financial institutions.

2) Grants for two-thirds of students with loan repayment holidays at key times - such as buying a house, starting a family. Students on education maintenance awards at sixteen to see them carried through any university course.

3) Better housing opportunities with more money for housing to rent and a greater role for local Councils. 550 areas of public land to be released for development. There will be a Housing Statement next Monday.

4) More for younger children - including five hours of sport per week. (That won't be popular with all young people!)

5) A new Pensions Bill with more help for victims of pension fund failures

6) Much greater support for Youth Services

7) More support for carers' - especially those caring for the elderly.

Gordon acknowledged the party on the ground was in a bad state - that's why he's proposing changes to involve all members.

There was plenty of time for questions - let the record show that Gordon's second NEC question as Prime Minister was from yours truly. I welcomed his new initiatives as the sort of down to earth policies we needed but stressed the need for more support for manufacturing and the importance of using the voluntary skills and efforts of our own members in campaigning. The importance of both were acknowledged by the Prime Minister.

All in all - it really does look like we're on our way! Then there were report backs from the National Policy Forum and the consultation on renewing party democracy.

We had a brief report from Harriet Harman. No fault of her's as she had to be back at the Commons to prepare for a policy statement on women.

Amongst other things she referred to sex trafficking and how prestigious local papers are full of advertisements for such things. Have we ever thought of prosecuting them for living off immoral earnings?

The General Secretary gave a full report on the recent deputy leadership elections - which were a credit to the Party and saw us recruit 1000 members per week.

Our finances are really beginning to improve and whilst we're far from healthy we're off the "life support machine" and into "intensive care". We have also safeguarded the staff's final salary pension scheme.

The Hayden Phillips review of party funding is nearing its end - will report back when finished.

We discussed Annual Conference and several of us made the point about the need to have separate debates on health and education - key issues which need their own separate discussion rather than being lumped together as in the past.

The Leaders' speech will now be on Monday.

I raised a request from Constituency Labour Parties to increase the Trade Union affiliation fee which has not been looked at for many years - currently 6p per member. It will be "looked at".

Lots of business packed into a four and a half hour meeting with a brief stop off at the "Red Lion" before the train to Manchester - and a day's holiday booked for Thursday in Sedgefield.


Thursday night saw me going down to Cheadle - just a 20 minute drive - for their GC. A small but enthusiastic group of members were there and we had a thorough going discussion on the state of the party and current political issues.

Cheadle is obviously a difficult seat for us - we came third at the General Election - but the members were in good heart - and happy with the current direction.

Members in Cheadle play an active part in Oldham East at General Election times - this sort of active twinning is crucial for General Election success.

Left after 10.00 p.m. - nice evening, nice people.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

National Policy Forum - Sat14 / Sun15 July

Up at 5.00 a.m. Saturday morning for the drive down to West London for the NPF. Held in a vast hotel near Heathrow which I'm told we got a good discount on.

The day opens with an address from Gordon Brown - a sincere, confident 45 minutes delivered without autocue or notes.

Some very positive news about:

- greater enforcement of the minimum wage

- more grants for student and "holiday" periods from Student Loan repayment at key times: such as starting a family, buying a house

- much greater emphasis on Youth Services

- crucially, a major drive to increase the number of houses being built - including building by Councils.

Gordon really is picking up on the mood in the party and there's a good feel.

Its clear that the super Casino in Manchester is not going ahead but he said the Government were looking at ensuring the same number of jobs via other regeneration programmes.

In terms of the party, he knows the problems of members leaving or becoming detached from the party.

He knows that has to change and wants the party at the centre of the local communities and for that members have to feel a real sense of involvement.

The final policy news was of possible progress on agency workers - as the new Portuguese President to the European Community has made progress on this issue a matter of urgency - watch this space!

We then paid tribute to Ian McCartney who is retiring as Chair of the NPF, for his massive contribution over the last decade and more. We elected Pat McFadden M.P. as his successor unopposed.

All in all - a good morning's work.

The afternoon was taken up with discussion of the second stage papers of the Policy Review.
At tea-time we all (or most of us) boarded a coach for Southall but then - the best laid plans of mice and men . . .!

The distance is just four miles but due to a traffic accident the streets were grid-locked and it took us one and a half hours to get there! Still we stuck with it and managed about three quarters of an hour leafleting before we had to get back.

Most of the shops in Southall seemed to be hedging their bets by displaying posters for every candidate - either being very politically astute or very polite.

The Tory candidate also seems very polite having donated a substantial amount to the Labour Party just a few months ago.

Sunday morning saw a presentation on Gordon Brown's proposal to improve the policy making process. These will be going to Conference in September and should give us a serious debate on how we improve our policy making.

All in all, this was the first NPF I've been to that felt really useful. Thanks to all the staff who organised it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NEC Sub-Committees

Tuesday 10th saw the first set of NEC Sub-committees since March - the May ones being cancelled due to the Leadership elections.

The Womens, Race and Equalities Committee started with us welcoming Will Martin from Stonewall describing their work on diversity and welcoming the Labour Party as one of its diversity champions.

We then welcomed Harriet Harman and congratulated her on her recent successful election campaign.

Harriet outlined her role as Deputy Leader, Chair of the Party, Minister for Women and Leader of the House. It was good to see that Barbara Keeley, our neighbouring MP, is included in her team.

She outlined what she believed should be our three policy priorities:

- supporting the working family - especially older relatives

- tackling violence against women, both domestic and sex trafficking

- community empowerment

On the first point I stressed the importance of the USDAW campaign on carers' allowances, which Harriet made clear she understood.

We then had reports on the continued, pleasing, growth of the Black Socialist Society and reports on the development of LGBT Labour.

On Parliamentary Selection discussions there were reports on a number of seats and discussion on the importance of ensuring the equality dimension of Women and BME candidates do not conflict.
Disputes Committee followed the WREC meeting and amongst other things I've been delegated to oversee proceedings in Derby and West Lancashire so I'll be on my travels again.

Organisation Committee discussed and ratified a number of decisions taken by NEC Officer in the absence of committee meetings including Ealing Southall and Walthamstow (All Women Shortlist).

We had a very full report on current parliamentary selections - where we are now beginning to make real progress. There is still a real issue about the lack of new BME candidates.

Stress was put on the need to win the two current by-elections in Southall and Sedgefield.
We had a report on the progress of positive action in selecting women in Local Government in 2004, 24% of Labour Councillor were women, by 2006 this had risen to 32% - a significant increase but still not up to the NEC target of 50%. It was good to see that Knowsley, a very strong Labour area, now has 50% women.

We agreed to continue positive action procedures and I managed to move an amendment to ensure that CLPs were involved in drawing up the targets - not just Local Government Committees. Anyone who wants the detailed background papers please e-mail me at

I've got to be honest that by the end of what's effectively six and a half hour meeting the brain begins to melt. So If anyone has any queries about other matters - please contact me.

NEC meeting next Tuesday.

Supper With The Minister

On Friday we had a very successful branch fundraiser with Kitty Usher M.P. for Burnley and a Treasury Minister (sorry Kitty, I can never remember all the titles).

Kitty was in great form and it was good to have Hazel there - able to relax on home ground.
The format seems to work - a good two and half course meal for £20.00, raffle, auction and plenty to drink.

Our ward is Liberal Democrat at the minute but we are out canvassing and leafleting and the support shown at events like this tells me we could be on for a Labour gain next May.

Good to see Gary Titley M.E.P. there as well - Gary is a great supporter of the branches and CLPs throughout the North West - just got to find a Minister to come in October now!

Monday, July 02, 2007


Our office is going sunflower crazy.

We're having a sunflower sweepstake with the biggest sunflower by mid-August getting a big cash prize (£20.00) and 25% of the proceeds going to our election fund next year.

Its amazing how competitive people can get over sunflowers.

Here's To The Next Ten Years . . .

Ten years after we won the General Election Tony Blair leaves office and Gordon Brown moves into 10 Downing Street. He inherits a Britain in a much better state than 1997. It is a better place to live then it was then.

Gordon's' new cabinet shows that he's preparing for the next ten years. Interesting to see Shaun Woodward in the cabinet and the promotions of James Purnel and Andy Durham are welcome rewards for talent and hard work. Good to see Hazel at Communities and Local Government - her experience in Salford will stand her in good stead.

Nice to see John Denham back and I thought the appointment of Jacqui Smith as home Secretary was inspired. Very competent but re-assuring as well - and a very nice person. (Personally I just hope she's not as keen on ID cards as the press suggest.)

Most of the messages about the first few days look good - the only mistake was not to find a role for Stuart Pearce in the Ministry of Sport.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Leadership Conference

Well, congratulations to Harriet Harman. Not the result many people anticipated but she clearly worked hard until the last minute and it will be good to have a woman as Deputy Leader.

The weekend went well. Starting with my local Branch Labour Party out canvassing and leafleting on Saturday morning. Five of us (and eighteen month old Ben) managed to cover a good bit of ground and we'll carry on until next May 1st. May Day would be a good day to regain the ward for Labour.

Saturday evening was a barbecue organised by Hazel Blears' supporters. It was a barbecue with surprisingly good food and surprisingly strong cider!

There was a National Executive Committee meeting on Sunday morning at which we received the details of plans by Gordon Brown to improve our policy making - a key priority for much of the new leadership.

The Conference in the afternoon was well attended and it was good to see Neil Kinnock there. Like other NEC members I was disturbed that the result was on the TV before it was announced to the Conference and I'm sure we'll be asking questions about that. Disappointed that Hazel went out first but she's' been prepared to fight her corner and she'll come out of this stronger.

Harriet topped the poll amongst ordinary members in every round so in a way its good to see the members' choice come through.

It's important now that we get on to the campaigning side of things - we can't rely on the Tories to beat themselves but even now its clear that up against a politician of Gordon Brown's substance, David Cameron just looks lightweight.

On Sunday night we'd arranged for Radio 5 to broadcast their political programme from our pub in Salford - The Crescent. BBC put on the food and with plenty of Labour people popping down through the evening, we gave the Beeb a different sort programme and a warm welcome to their new Salford home. Much of the BBC will be moving to Salford in 4 years time.

Anyway - weekend over and its time to more forward.

Dennis Skinner Dinner

Friday 22nd saw Dennis Skinner speaking at a fundraiser at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton.
Dennis is great at this - going round the country helping constituencies to raise funds and get the message across.

He is a great speaker with a distinctive style. I suppose the point about him is that even if you don't agree with him you can see he is genuine. In fact I agreed with every word he said as he laid into the Tories and Liberals and reminded people of just how much Labour has achieved.

A lovely dinner and thanks to all the people at Bolton North East for organising it.