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!