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.