At the minute the Tories are raising (and spending) about five times as much money as us. We want to get strict limits put on expenditure to prevent situations such as Welwyn and Hatfield where, at the last election, the Tories spent £150,000 to our £14,000.
To get these limits we are advised we need a deal with the other parties and Jack Straw is leading negotiations to get such a deal so its important we give him the room to do so.
My position is that we want a deal but not at any price and a deal that attacks the Trade Union link would be too big a price to pay!
It seems likely to me that we will be out-spent at the next election and need to:
1) do what we can to minimise the gap
Jack Straw will be reporting back at the May meeting. I will keep you in touch.
For copies of the press release go to the party website http://www.labour.org.uk/home
Clearly, there are problems with this situation as it raises big issues of representation for women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Decisions of this nature need to be the product of a lot more research and involvement of Party members on the ground than they seem to be at the minute.
There followed a report on our advances in information technology and the forthcoming local, Welsh and Scottish elections. All members now have their own MPURC, a personalised computer site which allows you to access information from the Party. Instructions for settling it up are on the Labour Party website and when I've learnt to do it, I'll pass the information on!
Financially we're getting along, we need £1 million of high value donations by June and we look on target to get them!
I made the point, along with Jeremy Beecham, that the spring events are good but we still need a Local Government Conference and this is being taken on board.
Leader / Deputy Leader Elections
The basic points to emerge is that any Leader / Deputy Leader contest is expected to last around seven weeks. In the event of only one candidate being nominated there will not be an affirmative ballot.
An important feature of the election will be that CLPs are entitled to make supportive nominations and CLPs will be expected to meet early on in the campaign to make these. Guidelines will be issued and the NEC is recommending this is done at All Member meetings.
There will be at least five official hastings during the campaign which all candidates will be expected to attend and there will be an electoral college at the end to hear the result. I successfully moved that all endorsed Parliamentary Candidates be invited and, crucially, won an assurance that ALL Councillors, irrespective of how they pay their subscriptions, will be able to take part (no more of that nonsense we had in the NEC elections!)
The elections will be a big recruitment drive so there will be no six month waiting requirement for this election.
Enough of that though, we now have to concentrate on winning May's elections and after a five and a half hour NEC meeting I trundled off to and Education and Skills Policy Commission.
Education and Skills Policy Commission
To be honest I wasn't looking forward to it after the NEC but I'm glad I went.
We had a thorough briefing from Bev Hughes M.P., Education Minister, on our Early Years Policy For Children and we are clearly making major leaps forward in provision and results. This is obviously a crucial area for tackling inequality.
We then had another thorough briefing from Alan Johnson, Secretary for State For Education, on our policy relating to children in care.
This has been a sadly neglected area in the past and while only 85,000 children are in Local Authority care in any year (0.5% of the total) 60% of young offenders and 27% of the prison population have been in care. 11% of children in care get 5 GCSEs (A-C) compared with 56% of the wider population.
Clearly as a community we've failed the children in our care but Alan and Bev have been taking radical measures to improve this.
It's the details of the radical changes we're making in crucial areas like this that are vital for a Labour Government.
We also considered practical ways of dealing with education submission from CLPs and members and I'll report back on this.