Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spring conference - welcome to Brum!

It's good we're having our spring conference in Birmingham. To the best of my knowledge, it's the first time we've had a national conference in Birmingham and delegates will notice there's a lot going on in the city.

The conference is coming at an important time as we prepare to sharpen our act for the coming local and London elections. There are lots of important internal decisions to be made - especially the General Secretary appointment - and I will be using the conference to discuss such issues with as many party members as possible.

Whilst I haven't had the opportunity to do too much research, good places for such consultation can be found along Gas Street - the old Birmingham canal, just over Broad Street from the BICS. There are a host of eateries and drinkeries but the Canalside (the former lock keepers cottage) looks very good - but beware its easy to get locked in the Gents! There is also a Tap and Spile which does real ale and a Jazz club on Paradise place.

Anyway, If you are at the conference, say hello, if not, then I'll be reporting on it next week.

Crewe & Nantwich CLP

Friday 22nd was the AGM of the Crewe and Nantwich CLP. I went down and we had a good discussion about the role of the NEC and how it works.

Members had one major issue on which they were very angry. Cheshire is about to be divided into two Unitary authorities and members in South Cheshire are very unhappy about the outcome, which would put Crewe & Nantwich in with a guaranteed Conservative run East Cheshire authority.

My concern is that there doesn’t seem to have been a point when the Party in Cheshire formed a consensual view and I will be making formal enquiries.

Bury South

St Mary’s ward in Prestwich had a campaign weekend last weekend which involved leafletting, voter ID and a Treasure Hunt on Sunday afternoon which seemed to revolve around a lot of Prestwich pubs. Congratulations to Kevin and everyone involved.


I was invited down to Stockport for the AGM on Wednesday 19th February.

Could have been a difficult meeting as it’s the first time I’ve ever been invited back! So, I might have struggled for new things to say! Needn’t have worried as the party members has loads to say about the current position in the party.

Stockport was traditionally a strong party being based on two marginal constituencies (now one safe seat). They have their own club and are hopeful in making gains in Mays elections. They were very keen to hear more details of the reduced membership fee for young people.

Euro Elections

Just received my ballot papers for the Euro-elections. The bad news for us is that Gary Titley is standing down. Gary has been a great servant for the party over the years and I know he’s going to carry on working hard for labour.
However, we’ve got some good candidates coming through. They all look good to me but I will be voting to re-select our sitting MEP’s – Arlene McCarthy and Brian Simpson. For the women’s place I will be voting for Theresa Griffin – who is a very active trade union and party member from Liverpool – and Riaz Ahmed – well respected councillor from Oldham.

Northampton South CLP

On Friday 15th February, I went to Northampton South for their GC meeting and a fund raising curry evening.

The meeting was in the Labour club which clearly provides a lot for local youngsters. We had a good discussion about the state of the party.

For these not familiar with the local history – Northampton is a town where we’ve had a lot of difficulties internally and we lost the parliamentary seat, in the south, as well as getting hammered in local elections last year. The problems are clearly deep seated and I know enough not to make judgement without knowing all (the rest of) the facts. I do know we are going to have to sort them out if we are going to have a chance of regaining the seat and the local council.
After the meeting we has a great curry at the restaurant over the road owned by Mr Aziz, a strong party supporter from Bangladesh. If you’re ever in Northampton make a point of calling in at the Balti King on Earl Street.

Thanks Anjona for putting me up for the night.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Supper with the Minister - Caroline Flint MP

Thursday 20th March 2008

7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m.

White Horse, Gilda Brook Road, Salford

Tickets £20.00
will be at our latest "Supper With The Minister"!

It will be a great night out and tickets are going to sell out early. To book yours contact Peter Wheeler on 07880 790 182 or with your menu choices.

Wild Mushroom Soup or Prawn Cocktail

Lamb Shank & Mashed Potato or Cajun Salmon and New Potatoes or Vegetable Cannelloni

Coffee & Chocolate


On Saturday I crossed the Pennines to give an NEC report to the Yorkshire Regional Meeting - a great honour for someone from the Red Rose County :-)

I gave a report on NEC events over the last year with a special emphasis on the dogged defence of the Trade Union link we have put up.

I also stressed the need for policies to tackle the problems facing us today - the need for action on agency and temporary workers, tackling climate change and supporting manufacturing industry in a global climate - to name but three.
The meeting was well attended and it was good to meet many of the members who came leading the fight for labour in Yorkshire.

Manchester Withington

Winning back Withington and electing Lucy Powell as Manchester's first woman M.P. is a top priority and the party in Withington and Manchester are really gearing up for the challenge.

On Friday we had a big fundraising dinner with Ed Balls as the key speaker. Nearly two hundred supporters and members were present and it was good to see a lot of trades unionists present - Unite, USDAW and the CWU to the fore!

Ed was on good form and just as important as the lots of money we raised was the spirit of the members. There's a long way to go but in Manchester they can't wait for a General Election!

Streatham CLP - 31st January 2008

Taking advantage of the fact that I was in London anyway I was able to get along to speak at the Streatham CLP meeting and give my NEC report. It makes a long day but I find it interesting - London CLPs are different from others - in a good way.

So if any other London CLPs want me to get along to them after an NEC meeting I'll do my best.
Despite what local members assured me was a low turnout (I do seem to have this effect!) it was still the best attended GC I've been to for a long time. The CLP is in the middle of a Parliamentary Selection and with London Mayor and GLA elections coming up there's clearly a lot going on. It was good to see Keith Hill MP again who is clearly enjoying life and reported back with a very distinctive style. It was a good meeting to be at, I learnt a lot and the party there has a real buzz about it. Thanks to Sean and Michelle for putting me up and good luck with the baby!

National Executive Committee - Elections 2008

Nominations are open for the NEC elections this year. Each CLP can nominate up to six members and they have to be done before April 1st 2008.

I hope your CLP will be able to nominate me.

I can also recommend Ellie Reeves (Lewisham) for your nomination. She works really hard, speaks common sense and is a breath of fresh air on the NEC.

Other good people I know of who are standing include:

Deborah Gardiner (Isle of Wight CLP) - a real activist on the National Policy Forum, Deborah works hard in the party throughout the South of England to keep us alive in some very difficult areas. She's originally from Heywood.

Sonica Nirwal (Ealing Southall) - Sonica was the first Asian woman Council Leader in the country. She's exactly the sort of young party member we should be promoting and as a young mother she knows all about the problems of combining working life, family life and Labour politics.

Azhar Ali (Pendle) - Azhar is well known in the party in the North West and was previously Council Leader in Pendle so he knows all about tackling the Liberal Democrats.

Let me know if there are any other good members you know standing.

Lancaster and Fleetwood

Friday night gave me a quick trip up the M6 to one of my favourite towns - Lancaster. It’s a seat we lost at the last election but boundary changes for the next election bring Fleetwood into the seat which should help tip the balance to us.

The party have selected a good local candidate in Clive Grunshaw from Fleetwood.

I gave my NEC report and we had a good discussion covering issues such as the need for "cultural" changes in the party, the Government's approach to public sector pay and how we improve policy making.

It was good to see Joan Humble MP at the meeting - Joan could have opted for selection in either seat but chose to stay with Blackpool North. Joan gained the Tory seat of Blackpool North and Fleetwood and I think she'll be in Parliament for a long time to come.