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.

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