Wednesday, February 28, 2007


One of the shorter trips for a GC meeting - just round the M60 to Stockport Labour Club. Stockport is a strong Labour constituency in a district split three ways with the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

The members clearly work hard to keep the party going in a difficult area and gained a seat from the Tories last May. Amongst a wide range of questions and points, perhaps the key one was never to underestimate the importance of a local activity and the crucial importance of ensuring we keep our presence on the ground.

Liverpool - Speke By-election

A car-load of us went over to Liverpool last Sunday to help in the by-election. Everything seemed very well organised and they clearly have a good candidate in Colin Strichland.

If we can gain this seat from the Liberal Democrats then we can finish them off in May - a key step towards re-taking control in Liverpool.

I'm going over next Sunday and on Polling Day and will try to help with transport from Manchester.

For campaign details contact 0151 260 8770 or 2578294

Claremont & Weaste Labour Parties - Supper with the Minister

8pm, Friday 16th March 2007

M30 Restaurant, The White Horse Pub
Eccles Old Road, Salford, M30 0DX

Claremont and Weaste have no Labour Councillor at the moment and we are fighting vigorous campaigns to regain both these wards. To do that we need funds. So, we've organised a series of socials, which above all are meant to be fun. Come along and join us for supper with James Purnell M.P. - Minister For Pensions. James was elected in 2001 as M.P. for Stalybridge and Hyde and will be a key figure in the next Labour government.

Tickets cost £20.00 and include a two course meal but are going quickly so contact Peter Wheeler on 07880 790 182, reserve your places, make your menu choices and then come along and enjoy yourselves.

Prawn cocktail / home made soup / French liver pate

Main Meals
  • Lamb shanks mash, vegetables and gravy
  • Fillet of chicken in wine sauce
  • Cheese tomato encroute with goats cheese

Warwick Delivery

We've received a useful paper from Hazel Blears on Warwick delivery. It gives three important examples:

1) Pensions Bill

The Pensions Bill links the basic state pension to earnings and goes a long way to tackle the discrimination faced by women and carers.

A second Bill will introduce the right for all employees earning over £5,000 to have an occupational pension with a minimum three per cent contribution.

2) Enforcing The Minimum Wage

The minimum wage is one of this Government's proudest and most radical achievements.
In January, Alistair Darling, brought in tougher fines on criminal employers breaking the law - a £200 fine for every worker underpaid.

Gordon Brown announced a 50% increase in the amount available for enforcement in December.
There is a helpline to report employers not paying the minimum wage: adult rate £5.35 over 22 year olds; development rate £4.45 18-21 year olds; £3.35 16-17 year olds. The helpline number is 0845 6000 678 (Monday - Friday 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.). Why not get your CLP to publicise this number?

3) Increasing Holiday Entitlement

In January the Government published plans to meet our manifesto commitment to ensure all workers receive their eight days bank holiday in addition to the guaranteed four weeks minimum paid holidays brought in by Labour in 1998.

By the end of 2008 this legislation will be fully in place benefiting over six million workers and will especially benefit the low paid.

Michael Leahy, General Secretary of the Union, Community, said: "Community members through the UK will be delighted that the Government is honouring its' manifesto commitment to ensure that the unscrupulous employers will not be able to count public holidays as part of an employees four weeks paid holiday leave. This move means that by the end of 2008 nearly seven million British employees will have an extra eight days holiday a year. As we approach important elections in 2007, this move shows the difference between having a Labour Government in power rather than a Tory one. I hope that employers will realise that this change is coming and look to implement faster than they have to. Employers will only be able to recruit and retain staff if they offer the best working conditions, and that includes holidays."
Full text of Hazel's paper is available at: file://

National Policy Forum

There was a meeting of the National Policy Forum on Saturday 3rd February 2007 at Congress House in London. It was a bit of a low key affair with a low turnout.

After an address from Tony Blair we had group discussion on numerous policy papers and a presentation on General Election Strategy and the New Target seats.

We had a very impressive address from Des Browne on Trident. There were a number of contributions and I made the point that my consultations indicated a majority in the Party against Trident replacement and the Government needed to take this into account.

We will be agreeing the Policy Papers in the summer so I'm not entirely sure what the point of this National Policy Forum meeting was but I've probably not been listening properly!

For more information on how you can help shape Labour's policy please visit:

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hazel for Deputy

Just back from the meeting to launch Hazel's deputy leadership campaign. Smashing meeting, done just right. Launched in Salford (not Westminster). Support from MPs and MEPs, also lots of CLP members, councillors and local community reps - with lots of young people.

After the meeting we had an hours canvassing for the local elections. Just what the Labour Party should be.

If you think about, we are a lucky party. We have six excellent candidates to choose from. So let's have a positive campaign and a proper discussion about our values and the direction of the Party. Let us also make sure we keep focussed on governing the country and winning elections. What we don't need is a navel gazing exercise.

For me there is no decision to make. Hazel has my full support. She is a breath of freash air, positve, dynamic, modern in outlook and rooted in the Labour community she was born in. Hazel will be a real asset as the Deputy Leader.

Come on Hazel!

For more information on Hazel's campaign please visit:

Vote YES

If you are an Amicus member you will soon be receiving a ballot paper through the post.

This ballot gives you the chance to be part of building the most powerful and influential
union that the UK and Ireland have ever seen.

Vote YES for Amicus to merge with the Transport and General Workers Union.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Forest of Dean

The forest is an important marginal seat which we just lost to the Tories last time and want to win back. We've just picked an excellent local candidate in Bruce Hogan and it was a pleasure to be asked to give an NEC report at the General Management Committee on Friday.

The drive down was a real pain - it took two and half hours to do 80 miles but I managed to get there just on time. There was a good mix of questions and feedback. With a lot of interest in questions about funding, policy making, better use of IT and the mechanics of the deputy leadership election.

There does seem to be an injustice that any Councillor on state benefit has their Council expenses deducted pound for pound from their benefit but we still expect them to pay the full subscription and I promised to raise this.

The point was also made that we need to be much more imaginative in how we use electronic communication.
I think the policy making process could be much more outgoing in approaching members for their opinions. If anyone has any thoughts on this please let me know.

Glyn Ford MEP raised the interesting point about Gibraltar being in his European constituency and how we can involve them more and I'll be working on this.

Anyway, it was good to get down to Gloucester and we had a good pint in the Cinderford Mines Welfare afterwards and thanks to Isabel for putting me up.

As ever if other CLPs want to invite me just give me a ring - 07880 790182
Visit the Forest of Dean Labour Party website at:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sunderland Central GC

Friday saw me setting off for Sunderland Central with my mate Dave as co-driver. What should have been a reasonable drive took five and half hours due to the weather but we got there just in time.

It was a good meeting with plenty of contributions from members covering the loans issue, building branches, all women shortlists, buses and public transport and the importance of IT in campaigning.

I'm grateful to Sunderland for the invite - its good to get round the country and listen to Party Members as to how they see issues.

Thanks to George from Usdaw for putting us up.

I'm off to the Forest of Dean next Friday and have been invited to Pontypridd in September (and Devon in June!).

If you'd like me to do a meeting in your area just contact me on 07880 790182 or and I'll do what I can.

NEC Meeting - 30/1/07

The NEC meeting was held on 30th January 2007.

Main issues covered included:

1) Tony Blair's Report

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of keeping our focus on the Government's achievements - crime down, education results up and massive cuts in NHS waiting times. We need to keep the pressure on the Tories who face both ways on all the big economic and political questions.

Issues that NEC members brought up included military aid to the Columbian Army, the welcome agreement on ensure ALL workers receive the full eight days bank holiday and the need for progress on the Corporate Manslaughter legislation.

2) The Foreign Secretary

Margaret Beckett reported on many of the issues being discussed in relation to Trident replacement and other international issues. I raised the importance of a Middle East Settlement and the worrying position in the Palestinian Authority.

On Trident myself and Ellie Reeves have consulted widely and all submissions are being forwarded to the Policy Department and the Britain and the World Policy Commission.

3) Leader / Deputy Leader Elections

It was reported that guidelines for these elections would be brought to the March NEC and that guidelines to ensure neutrality had been issued to all staff.

Concern was expressed that some staff names had been included on the campaign team of one candidate. We were assured that this was a mistake by that campaign team and the staff were very upset to have been included in this way. Having spoken to some of them I'm perfectly convinced they are acting in an impartial fashion.

4) Party Funding

It was agreed that all candidates would be levied - 15% on all donations.

The Hayden Phillips discussions are ongoing but expected to come to a conclusion soon. We stand resolute against any proposals which would sever the Party / Union link.
We also received full reports on finance and this year's elections.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Union Merger

Over 1.5 million members of the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus should have received ballot papers to vote on proposals to create Britain's biggest Trade Union.

The new union will have a great potential to do good both for its members and for working people generally and its important that we secure as big a majority as possible in favour.

Ballot papers should be returned by Wednesday 7th March 2007 - any member of Amicus who has not received a ballot paper by Friday 16th February 2007 can ring the helpline on 0845 850 4242.

Branch Happenings

I've reported before on how we're on a back to basics campaign in our branch. There's a lot of things in the Labour Party we struggle to change a lot of things but we should be able to improve our branches and CLP activities and meetings.

For us, the branch meetings had all but collapsed so the Secretary and myself decided to get the basics right (book speaker, book room, agendas out early, etc) and try to visit every member personally. Not rocket science but so far its working - reasonably good turnout for both the January and February meetings with plenty of political discussion. Now we're in a good position to recruit, knowing people won't be put off if they actually come to a meeting.

The same process is yielding results in other parts of Salford. Irwell Riverside had their biggest meeting for years at a speaker meeting in a friendly pub. It can be done!


There will be a by-election in the Speke ward of Liverpool Garston on Thursday 8th March 2007.

This is a previously Labour area where the Liberal Democrats had gained all three seats. The Liverpool Labour Party have been fighting back and last May we gained one of the seats.

This is one of Labour's key targets in the city and winning it again would be a real boost for the party in Liverpool in the run up to the May elections.

The local party are fighting a strong campaign and if you can help in any way - please ring 0151 260 8730 or 257 82940. The candidate is Colin Strickland - good luck Colin!

There are great public transport links in Speke, the ward even has its own airport!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Agency Workers Bill: 2nd March

A key part of the Warwick Agreement was a recognition of the need to protect Agency Workers. These workers are often subjected to considerably less employment rights than permanent employees.

Paul Farrelly MP has introduced a Private Members' Bill to deliver much needed rights for agency workers. The bill is due to have its second reading on 2nd March 2007 - a Friday - and it needs to win a vote of at least 100 MPs to make progress.

If this bill becomes law it will meet a key part of our Warwick commitments and more importantly - provide real protection for a group of vulnerable workers.

Please encourage your MP to stay in London on Friday 2nd March 2007 and ensure they vote for the Bill.

For further information please visit the TULO website at:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mesathelioma Action Day - 27 February 2007

Mesathelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by asbestos, is one of the hidden industrial disasters of the late twentieth century. Thousands of workers were negligently exposed to asbestos at work and as the disease can take 30 to 40 years to develop are only now realising the consequences.

Trade Unions have been very active in securing compensation for victims of mesathelioma and one of the ways of keeping the issue in the public eye in Action Mesathelioma Day.

Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group
Balloon release in Albert Square 12:30 p.m. to raise money for mesathelioma research and treatment. Donations may be sent to GMAVSG, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD.

Public Meeting 13.00 pm, Friends Meeting House. Speakers: Health Minister Andy Burnham MP; Rory O’Neill editor Hazards Magazine.
Contact: 0161 636 7555

Merseyside and Cheshire Asbestos Victims Support Groups
Meeting at Liverpool Town Hall attended by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Mayor of Wirral at 12:00 noon
Contact: 0151 236 1895 (Merseyside) and01928 576 641 (Cheshire)

Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST)
Asbestos meeting at Winding Wheel, Holywell Street, Chesterfield 11 a.m.-12:00 noon.
Contact DAST: 01246 231 441

Sheffield and Rotherham Asbestos Group (SARAG)
Balloon release with speakers at 11 a.m. at All Saints Square, Rotherham to raise money for mesothelioma research and treatment.
Contact SARAG: 0114 282 3212

Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund (MKMRF) (Newcastle)
Balloon release on Gateshead Millennium Bridge at 11 a.m. followed by refreshments.
Contact MKMRF: 0191 2630276

Ridings Asbestos Support and Awareness Group
Asbestos rally at 11 a.m. in Victoria Square, Leeds (opposite Leeds Town Hall)
Contact: 0131 231 1010

Monday, February 05, 2007

NEC Sub-Committees 23/1/07

Tuesday 23rd January 2007 was a full day down in London for the NEC Sub-committee. The first meeting was the Womens, Race and Equalities Committee. We registered strong opposition to any watering down of the sexual orientation regulations.

We also received copies of new disability guides for CLPs (copies being sent out but I have them if people want) and heard details of a women candidate mentoring scheme.

We heard the details for re-establishing the Black Socialist Society and considered the Organisation Committee Papers. The main concern was the arrangements for the selection of a candidate in Ealing Southall. Its vital we get these arrangements right and we agreed to defer a decision until March.

The Disputes Committee considers a wide range of individual disciplinary cases. Its not right to mention individual cases but its important detailed work in keeping the party running.

The Organisation Committee meets in the afternoon.

We finally agreed rules for the running of the Birmingham Labour Party, establishing members forum for members in Northern Ireland and the Black Socialist Society.

Much of the discussion was about Parliamentary Selections. The NEC is awaiting reports on procedures in Worsley and Milton Keynes North East and we agreed to recommend All Women Selections in Sunderland North, Brighton Pavilion and Selby with the following seats being open: Easington, Brighton Kemptown, Bolton South East, Bristol North West and Swansea East. A decision was deferred on Southall.

We heard that Lynn Jones and Mike Clapham had decided to stand down as MPs. I first met Mike in the early '80s when he was a Yorkshire miner - always seemed a very good fellow and its hard to believe he's old enough to retire - I wish him all the best.

We will be coming up with new proposals on positive action in local government after these elections and we received assurances that the local Government Unit would continue to function with staff being replaced.

These proposals all go to the NEC on 30th January 2007.