Wednesday, June 18, 2008

National Executive Committee

On Tuesday we held the NEC meeting which had been deferred from May 22nd to allow for campaigning in the Crewe & Nantwich By-election.

Prior to the meeting we had a briefing on the financial situation while the position is far from great, you can disregard many of the alarmist headlines in the newspapers. We are close to agreement with the people who have lent us money and expect the accounts to be signed off next week.

The full NEC meeting started with an interview with Ray Collins - the candidate for General Secretary. He gave a very accomplished and confident interview and answered to questions. After being badly let down the last time round, Ray - with a solid background in the trade union movement - is just the candidate we need.

Gordon Brown then gave his latest report concentrating on the difficult economic period we're in and the fact that it's worldwide and affecting governments internationally. What's crucial is that we keep our nerve and protect our people from the worst consequences of the world situation.

I raised the important issue of the current court case concerning Mesothelioma and the insurance companies attempting to weasel out of their responsibilities and the need to take urgent action to protect people from the current housing market problems and reduce the number of repossessions. Most other NEC members had their say and there was an impressive sense of solidarity in difficult times.

Douglas Alexander gave an analysis of both the local elections and the Crewe & Nantwich By-election, outlining our approach to the general election. There was a thorough analysis of where the Tories and Lib Dems are and I made the point that we need to put the Tories under maximum pressure as to what their policies are.

During this part of the meeting we were receiving news of David Davies' resignation - sometimes you just can't believe your luck!

We had a report from Bridget Prentice on the progress of the legislation concerning funding for political parties which should be reaching a conclusion soon.

There was a change of membership on the NEC as my friend Tom Watson replaces Dawn Primarolo as a representative of the Government. That convinces me our finances are safe as Tom is not known to be reckless with his own money!

The meeting finished at about 3:30pm and there is some sense that we are going through these difficult times with more unity and sense of purpose than of late!

Henley By-election

With the NEC meeting due on Thursday I took a couple of days off this week to stay at my brothers and went to the Henley By-election on Wednesday, obviously it's not likely to be a great Labour victory but it's important we campaign hard here - people in areas like Henley have problems in relation to affordable housing!

It was good to see the Labour students there - the campaign is in good hands!

Claremont - table top sale

Saturday 7th June saw our branch and Salford young Labour going back to basics by having a stall at a "table top sale" organised by the local community association.

This is like an indoor car boot sale - only with tables instead of car boots!

Members had a big clear out of unwanted books, ornaments and general bric-a-brac!

To be honest there weren't many people at the event but we still raised over £55. Next time out will be a proper car boot sale in the, but that means turning out at 8:00am on a Sunday morning.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


A High Court case started this week with massive implications for those suffering from Mesothelioma - an Asbestos related Cancer which kills 2000 people per year with numbers rising. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibres and can take 40-50 years to develop, meaning that workers who were exposed to Asbestos due to employer negligence in the 60s and 70s are often only now realising they have the illness.

The condition is incredibly distressing for all involved and the only consolation for those with the illness was that their families would be left with some financial compensation - due to past legislation and Trade Union campaigning. However, the insurance companies are constantly trying to undermine this legislation, desperately seeking any way to evade their responsibility.

Their latest attempt (and you do wonder how they sleep at night!) is to argue that their liability under the insurance policies they sold to negligent employers is only from when the illness "develops" - usually defined as ten years before symptoms start - rather than when the exposure occurred. As the time between developing and exposure can be 30 years and most victims will either be retired or at different firms and hence not covered by insurance - this would save the insurance companies hundreds of millions and leaving the bereaved families without a penny. As I say, how do they sleep at night.

Anyway, the test case is expected to last nine weeks and may end up in the House of Lords. My Union - Unite is vigorously supporting this test case and I will keep people informed as to developments.

Salford Young Labour

On Friday I went to a fund raising quiz night for Salford Young Labour at "The Crescent" in Salford. We've got a good bunch of young members in Salford and, supported by older members (like me!) we all had a good night, raised nearly £100 for future activities and the party in Salford is still on the up.

Northern Ireland

On Saturday by I flew to Belfast to meet Labour Party members in Northern Ireland.

Members over there have been busy recruiting and should shortly be in a position to formally constitute themselves. It was great to meet members genuinely keen to build the party and I learnt a lot about the correct political situation there. There is good support from Trade Union members - especially GND and Unite/Amicus.

I met a good spread of members in the pub on Saturday afternoon, followed by more members at a smashing meal in the evening. Many thanks to Boyd and Pat for their hospitality. The changes in Belfast have been amazing since the Good Friday Agreement and the place really seems to be on the up.

You'll be hearing more about the Labour Party in Ireland at conference.

NEC Elections

Ballot papers will be being dispatched shortly and members will be able to vote for up to six representatives of the CLP section.

Obviously I hope you'll vote for me and that you'll study the voting booklet and decide which other candidates you support. It's vital you do vote - the last time only 20% of members voted - it is our party and we need to make sure we are involved.

Personally I think we need independent minded members - who don't take a whip from outside organisations - and we certainly need more ethnic minority members, younger members and more women members. It is also important that we get more genuinely active Labour Party members.

That's why I'll be voting for:

Ellie Reeves: Ellie has been a breath of fresh air since she got elected last time. She's active in a lot of campaigns - both Labour Party and wider - and confidently speaks her mind at the NEC.

Sonika Nuwal: Sonika was the first woman Labour leader of Ealing Council and is a good representative of the strongly Labour supporting Sikh community. Very intelligent and organised, she knows the reality of being a young mum and active in the Labour Party.

Deborah Gardiner: Deborah is active in the Labour Party on the Isle of Wight and leader of the Labour group there - actually having a Labour group on the Isle of Wight is a real achievement!

Originally from Heywood near Manchester, Deborah is an active member of the National Policy Forum and knows the crucial importance of keeping the Labour Party active in the difficult areas of the South of England.

Labour is a National Party - people who are like me and thousands of others try to keep it alive in the urban areas - we need people like Deborah and her colleagues to keep it alive in the South.

Azhar Ali: Azhar was the Labour leader of Pendle Council and has been a European candidate. He'll be a voice not just for the Muslim community but for all Labour members.

All the above are good Labour Party members and members of their Trade Unions. If they get elected we will have a more energetic, independent minded NEC - and that's got to be a good thing.

That still leaves me personally with a spare sixth vote - I haven't made my mind up what to do with it yet.

Temporary and Agency Workers Bill

Amidst the confusion of the last few weeks you might have missed the EXCELLENT news that the Government has finally agreed to legislation which will give agency workers the same rights as full time workers. This is a big step in preventing agency workers being used to undermine existing terms and conditions and preventing the exploitation of those agency workers.