Monday, March 31, 2008

Supper With The Minister - 20th March

My branch had its fourth fundraising "Supper With The Minister" last Thursday.

We had over 40 members present to meet Caroline Flint and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Both the raffle and auction went well - at the auction I managed to get £10.00 for an Elvis Presley LP, which might have been signed by the King himself.

Thanks to Caroline for taking the trouble to come at the end of a busy day - much appreciated.


Been feeling very under the weather for the last week with flu (I think!) which meant I couldn't make the last NEC meeting. Had a report from my colleague Ellie Reeves which I've posted below and I'm also posting an article I wrote for Tribune about where the party needs to be going.

Now we have a new General Secretary we need to stop treading water as a party.

Orsdall - Quiz Night

It was good to be at the Friendship pub in Ordsall, Salford on Tuesday night. The Branch Labour Party were holding a Quiz Night. As this was where I grew up it was good to go back and see how things were shaping up.

There were well over 20 party members and supporters from different branches in Salford. It was good to see at least 6 teenagers and one - Jade - joined up at the end of the night. Welcome Jade!

The fiendishly difficult quiz was won by the Ordsall All-Stars and the event raised £100.00 for Branch funds. Can't be bad.

Labour's Winning Hat-trick For Victory

Last Monday the Labour Party National Executive appointed David Pitt-Watson as General Secretary. We wish him the best and need to work closely with him to steer the party successfully through the genuinely uncharted waters of current British politics - none of us have ever been into a second decade of Labour Governments. So lessons drawn from history might not be a guide to the future.

To be successful we need a party which has three real qualities.

It needs to be much more open and outgoing, engaging with members and supporters. If you think that's rhetoric, just try going on the party website and finding the number of your Regional Office! We need a massive cultural change at every level!

It needs to be much more competent. The days of failing to comply with or even understand our own (half-baked!) legislation on financial declaration need to end. We need to learn more from both other voluntary and private organisations in bearing down on costs and how we organise the voluntary efforts of our members. The third, and perhaps most important, quality is to give real inspiration to our members and supporters - a reminder that ours is the party committed to fairness and social justice and we will be bold and imaginative in pursuit of these goals.

A party which guarantees that the hours spent leafleting, going to meetings and fundraising are not wasted but genuinely contribute to a better way of running society.

That inspiration is vital for us. Only by a massive deployment of voluntary effort that we can outweigh the Tories' massive financial advantage - put simply they can afford to pay the postage for their direct mail, we'll have to deliver it! They will pay canvassers - we'll do it ourselves!
That three-fold approach of openness, competence and inspiration can renew every aspect of our work.

On policy making we need to ensure a set of radical, imaginative and practical policies which can appeal to every part of the Labour community - the traditional Labour supporters, the marginal AND the people who have never supported us in the past. If anyone tells you it can't be done just remind them about our 1997 manifesto and radical policies for tackling unemployment, low pay and public sector investment which resonated in every part of the country.

On fundraising, people will only donate if they believe in what we're doing and that the money will be properly spent. Our expenditure has to be based on our core income - membership subscriptions and Trade Union affiliations. We can't afford to return to the dire financial position of a few years ago. For me, there's nothing wrong with state money to help finance certain aspects of our work - policy development, candidate support, education for democracy. The model is already there with the Westminster Foundation, which provides support for our links with progressive parties in emerging democracies. Just getting the state to meet policing costs at Annual Conference would be a big plus. The one thing that remains vital about our finances is to make clear that the link with the unions is not for sale. The link with organised labour is a defining characteristic of the party and we are both at our strongest when the link is close.
Inspiration is also required for re-building our campaigning in the communities. There are countless branches and CLPs who show that with the right approach its possible to attract new members and supporters - but we won't hold them if our meetings are cliquey, shabby and unfriendly - and that's something that’s well within the power of all of us to change. Its also something that's vital if we are to attract Labour's missing generation of activists - the 30 and 40 year olds bringing up kids; holding down busy jobs and putting a roof over their families' heads.
Labour people are thoroughly practical people - we have to be to get things done. That doesn't stop us having strong opinions about the society we're building - quite the opposite! If we're to win the next election we need to inspire our members to do the sheer hard graft which will make the difference.

Click on the pic for more info

Friday, March 14, 2008

Manchester City Labour Party

Wednesday night was the AGM of the Manchester City Labour Party (I love that name!) - the Local Government Committee for Manchester. Over 50 delegates were present on a lousy night.

Manchester has got a lot to be proud of. Its been solidly Labour controlled since 1971 and the Council still approaches the task of governing the City with zest, enthusiasm and a real sense of Labour values.

The meeting itself had a good feel to it - plenty of young people and real enthusiasm for the party and the job we're doing. You'll notice the difference if you come to Conference in September.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NEC Nominations - CLP Section

CLPs have until April 1st to submit up to 6 nominations for the Constituency Section of the National Executive Committee. It would appear that so far very few have been received at Victoria Street, the Labour Party Headquarters.

So - if your CLP has nominated please make sure you get the nomination forms back as soon as possible.

If you haven't nominated yet you still have a couple of weeks to do so - so make sure you do it at your next GC meeting. Its our party and we need to take these things seriously! (Here endeth the lesson!)

NEC Business

On Monday 10th March, we finally selected a new General Secretary. We had three good candidates to choose from and it was by no means an easy choice.

In the end we selected David Pitt-Watson, a former Assistant General Secretary of the Party and Councillor in Westminster during the Shirley Porter years. David has a massive task in front of him and its crucial we all get behind him to help build the sort of party we need.

Womens, Race, Equality Committee
The meeting was held on Tuesday morning and we considered reports on activities at the Spring Conference and progress relating to Parliamentary Selections.
We also heard from Steve Timms M.P., who is the Party Vice Chair for relations with faith groups. He described some of the work the party is doing with various faith groups in the country which is vital.

At the Disputes Committee we considered a number of individual cases and we then moved on to the Organisation Committee. We agreed to commence the selection procedure, in Northampton South (open selection), South Derbyshire (open), Birmingham Yardley (All Women Shortlists). 85% of seats now have a candidate and 50 of the remaining 92 selections are under way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Supper With The Minister

We have just a few places left for our "Supper With The Minister" with Caroline Flint MP on Thursday 20th March 2008, 7 for 7.30pm.

Its at the White Horse on Eccles Old Road, Salford and anyone who wants a ticket please ring me on 07880 790 182. £20 per plate.
Starter: Wild mushroom soup or Prawn Cocktail. Main: Lamb Shank & Mashed Potato OR Cajun Salmon and New Potatoes OR Vegetable Cannelloni. Coffee and Chocolate.

Claremont Campaign Day

Saturday March 15th 2008

Our campaign to win the marginal ward of Claremont continues apace.

We've got a big campaign day on Saturday March 15th 2008 with lots of leafleting and Voter ID to do.
Anyone with an hour or so to spare is asked to get along and help - just ring Peter Wheeler on 07880 790 182.

We'll be meeting at 10.30 a.m. in the car-park of the Shopping Giant, Bolton Road, Irlams o'th' Height, Salford. See you there!

Blackpool South CLP

On Friday I went up to Blackpool for a GC meeting and Hot Pot Supper. Gary Titley was also speaking, so I kept it short. It’s a brave man who comes between Lancastrians and their hot pot!

Afterwards I got a chance to talk to most of the members. It was a tragedy for Blackpool to lose control of the Council last May but they are determined to hold on to their two MPs - both vital for a Labour Government!

The Clifton Arms on Preston New Road hosted the event for free - the owners are party supporters - so if you're in the area . . . We raised £200.00 for the local hospice and the hop pot was excellent!

It's David Pitt-Watson...

...the new General Secretary of the Labour Party

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Free Bus Travel for the over 60's

From April 1st, the Government is bringing in free nationwide off peak bus travel for the over 60's and those with disabilities.

To qualify you need a new national travel pass - to get an application form just ring 0161 244 1050.

Or for further information please follow the link below:

Spring conference - how was it for you?

Bit of a rush getting down to Birmingham - best laid plans go astray as a rush job came up at work but all successfully done.

Spring conference is a good opportunity to meet up with party members from all over the country and discuss how they see things.

The turn out for the Saturday morning with Gordon Brown was very big and the speech and Q and A session - chaired by Kevin McGuire of the 'Daily Mirror' was very well received.

In the afternoon, we has a coffee meeting with John Denham MP, where members of the Education Policy commission discussed our priorities with him. I then met up with James Purnell MP discussing some issues affecting employment rights.

All reports say the members enjoyed the conference with the European events being particularly well attended.

On Saturday evening I went to a well attended fringe meeting of the Black and Minority ehtnic group and it was good to meet a lot of old friends there.

Birmingham was a good venue for the conference and I am informed we had a conference in Birmingham 10 years ago and it looks as it it’s changed a bit since then.