Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Glasgow East

What can you say? One of the safest seats in Britain, a good candidate looked like a good campaign and we lost.

The result shows just how deep our problems are and it important we are honest about the size of them. It is even more important that we don’t let them drive us into despair.

It seems to me we have two strategic problems. Internationally the world economy is facing major problems in relation to demand for basic raw materials, energy and food being the two most obvious but also for all the basic raw materials requires for manufacturing. This is causing major problems for Government of any political shade.
Domestically we face the inevitable problems any government get in a democracy when it’s been in power for over a decade.

We can either take a fatalistic view like Private Frazer in Dads Army – We are all doomed! Or stick to the belief that it is possible with a combination of hard work and intelligence application of Labour Value to get out of the situation. Gordon’s getting a lot of stick at the moment but there’s no doubt in my mind that he is still the man we elected last year. Devastatingly intelligent, deeply aware of the problems and capable of getting us through. It is up to us the show the solidarity the labour movement has always required in difficult situations.
It won’t be easy but it can be done.

National Policy Forum

As you can imagine the news from Glasgow was not the best start for the National Policy Forum in Warwick this weekend – though it did serve to concentrate minds.

The policy process is a weird one. It consists of a series of draft documents being circulated around the movement and being amended until we arrive at the final stage which was held this weekend in sunny Warwick University.

Over 4000 amendments were submitted to the final draft documents and these are reduced by a process of agreement.
At Warwick itself the representatives negotiate with Ministers either to get agreement on their amendment or, more likely a form of words that all can agree on.
Only if agreement cannot be reached do representatives push for a vote at the final Sunday morning session.

Agreement on all the Trade Union positions was reached at 5.00am Sunday morning and it was great to see that both Government and Unions were prepared to reach that agreement.

The amendments that were carried at the Sunday morning session against the Ministers advice were vote at 16 and greater legislation for Estate Agents. I felt a twinge of sympathy for the Government Minister trying to argue against being hard with Estate Agents – not the most popular cause!!

Anyway we have managed to agree the policy platform which will be the basis for our manifesto and we have got the unity which is the essential basis for our fight back

Thursday, July 24, 2008

National Policy Forum

Off to Warwick for the NPF. I hope by the end of it we have a radical amd realistic policy platform that we can take into the next election. Something that will inspire the millions of people of all backgrounds to continue backing us in our campaign to build a better, fairer Britain. More details to follow.

NEC Election Result

Just been told that I have been re-elected to the NEC with something over 16,000 votes. Many many thanks to all those who voted for me - it really is a great honour to be elected by your fellow Party members. I will do my best to justify your confidence.

Great news to see that Ellie Reeves topped the poll, but disappointing that we still cannot elect a minority ethnic member.

I remain the only constituency rep not from the home counties or London, but don't worry I've got no intention of moving - Salford suits me fine.

Once again, many thanks

Take a Tip From Me

You go for a meal, the food's good, the staff are friendly, you have a good time. The bill comes - "I'll stick a bit extra on for the staff" you think.

In a lot of places the staff will never see any of that money - and what's even worse some restaurants get away with paying below the minimum wage - expecting staff to make the difference up with tips.

That's why it's great to see my union - Unite - and the Daily Mirror campaigning to end the loophole in the minimum wage legislation and also launching a "fair tips" charter to ensure tips are fairly distributed to staff.

We'll be having a big push on this in Manchester for the conference this year, so look out for the "Fair Tips" sticker in Restaurant windows. I'll be doing that and also leaving my tips in cash - that way it's much more likely to get where you want it to go! Ask what happen to the service charge as well - you might be surprised!

Glasgow East

Seven AM on Monday 21st and four of us are on the road to Glasgow. No problem with departure times as I've misread the clock and get of an hour early - only realised when I started ringing people up and asking where they were!

Only took 3 hours to get there and then we had a fairly solid 9 hours leafleting and canvassing. Is it odd to say we enjoyed it?

The response was much better than you'd expect if you relied on the media - there's some rock solid Labour support in Glasgow!

It was good to get up to Glasgow - I hope we’ve played our part in a Good Labour Victory!


The July NEC was a busy one with reports from Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Harriet Harmon.

Gordon concentrated on the need for a Labour Government to meet the needs of the economic difficulties caused by the international economic position. Many of our current difficulties - the credit crunch, Northern Rock etc have been caused by unrestrained free market economics and our job is to protect people from the consequences and ensure the burden is spread fairly.

His message was reiterated by Alistair Darling who outlined the causes of the current difficulties and our record in building an economy which can withstand these strains.

The Party's annual accounts have been signed off with £2m of loans being paid off. The situation is still critical and we are having to cut expenditure wherever possible - hence no Spring Conference next year. I made the point that in the absence of a spring conference we needed a stand alone Local Government Conference.

We had a full report on the Glasgow East By-election campaign and preparations for the European Elections and annual conference.

All in all a very businesslike meeting - in line with the current financial strategies there were no sandwiches served at the meeting - hunger certainly concentrates the mind after 4 hours.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


The East Midlands Conference was held on Saturday in Nottingham at the university. I missed the morning fringe events on “Winning with women” and “Young Labour” (and the lunch) but got there for the policy debates. It was good to see a good number of the local MPs there including Gillian Merron from Lincoln, John Heppel from Nottingham, Paddy Tipping – Sherwood, Vernon Coaker from Gedling and Phil Hope from Corby. There was also a session with Ed Miliband

The East Midlands is an often a neglected part of England but politically its full of marginal seats and as the part of the country with the biggest manufacturing sector its crucial that we do well here.

The evening reception was hosted by Glenis Willmott and addressed my Margaret Beckett MP. There is a good group of young organisers in the region with a big responsibility on their shoulders and they take their work seriously.

NEC Sub Committees

We held the usual NEC sub committees on Tuesday. There was a relatively low turn out with members sending apologies due to illness or work. At the Women’s Race & Equality Committee we received a number of reports about campaigning activities & initiatives including the 60th anniversary of the NHS. There are also proposals to set up a BAME e-academy to assist with electing more BAME candidates.

As it’s the 60th anniversary of the NHS I suggested that as well as celebrating it we should also be encouraging people to give blood, support fund raising etc. Many already do this but the NHS would benefit from highlighting it. So don’t be surprised if you are asked to give blood at conference.

There were also reports from LGBT Labour about their activities at Pride events up and down the country. We also heard that BAME Labour is very active,

After the disputes committee, where for once I didn’t pick up any extra work we had the organisation committee.

The first main item of business was the up date on parliamentary selections where it was agreed that Sunderland Central and Finchley & Golders Green be all-women shortlists. North West Leicestershire and Crewe & Nantwich be open. Differences are beginning to show about how we implement all-women shortlists and how we ensure that under-represented groups are promoted, a subject we’ll be returning to.

All MPs reselections have been completed. Of the 68 remaining selections, 34 are under way. We agreed to look at how to improve the functioning of the Party in Stoke where we face a big challenge with mayoral elections next year. We had a big discussion about the situation in Glasgow and the selection of a by-election candidate. The campaign is under way and we have a very good candidate in Margaret Curran. I’m hoping to get up and help next week.

It was good to hear the result of the elections for the MP/MEP section of the NEC which saw Dennis Skinner, Dawn Butler and Michael Cashman elected. Young Labour had concluded a year long review of their structure with recommendations which accepted for a more democratic structure. There was some discussion of a paper on elected mayors which recommended that the Mayor be the leader of the Labour group. We could see problems with this and referred it back for discussion.

We then discussed possible rule changes at Conference, most were relatively uncontroversial but there is one which may well upset CLPs. The current position is that in a general election year CLPs will receive the campaign portion of the membership sub, approx 50% of each members sub. This was promised to CLPs as compensation for the 50% increase in standard rate subs 7 years ago.

Put simply the party nationally can’t afford this rebate. At the minute Trade Unions
are stumping up magnificently but can’t do it all on their own. So the recommendation to conference is to drop the rebate.

Anyway – that was 6 hours of meetings and then when I got to Euston I had to wait an hour for the first off-peak train. A good tip is that the Bree Louise public house round the corner, sells a nice pint of ‘London Pride’ (£3 a pint) and you can get 50p off if you have a CAMRA card – you live & learn!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

North West By Elections

One thing that struck me recently is that we’ve got out of the habit of sharing information about local by-elections and details of where to help. Obviously it's harder now for required staff to collate this information , so I thought it might help if I tried to put details on my blog.

So if there is a local by-election in your area and you need help – just send me the details and I'll put them here. Let’s see if it works!

High Peak

Had an interesting Friday night in High Peak at the general committee. This is are of the key seats we need to need to win in the next election. Having been gained in 1997 we now hold it with a majority of 735.

We had a good discussion about the current political situation and three points emerged strongly:

1) Too much is being left to Gordon Brown and other ministers have to be more prominent in taking the fight to the Tories.

2) We need to put the Tories under much more rigorous scrutiny

3) We need to clarify and simplify our message – bring back the pledge cards.