Monday, February 15, 2010
Good turnout on Saturday morning for a training session organised by the Wirral Local Government committee. With members from all four constituencies we had a good briefing from Noel Hutchinson from the regional office and then a session on how to mobilise the support of Trade Unionists. With around 80 days to an election-probably- the spirit among the members is very good.
The figures were announced last week of a 14 year high in reposessions-46,000 last year.
Thats 46,000 seperate tragedies and, contrary to what you might have heard, reposession is NEVER a good thing.
The key statistic, however,is that all the lending institutions were anticipating in excess of 70,000 reposessions. That means that Labour Government action has saved nearly 30,000 people from being reposessed.
Similarly,all the economists agree that labour policies have prevented at least half a million redundancies.
Thats the point about Labour policies. We can't stop all redundancies or reposessions but we can use the power and resources of government to limit the damage, protecting as many people as possible from the economic downside. The Tory view is that such action "distorts" the market and we need to just let events take their course. Thats easier when its not you losing your job or your house.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
We talk a lot about Labour Values, but can often be a bit vague about exactly what they are. Yet, particularly at times like this when hard decisions are called for, it's important we are clear about what we stand for and why!
Our values provide the distinctive basis on which we seek to govern - a better way of doing things.
Perhaps our most important value is fairness. We know life isn't fair - everyone gets dealt a different hand of cards at the start - but we do believe everyone deserves a fair chance in life. That's one of the reasons Labour has put such an emphasis on education.
Fairness is also important when difficult decisions have to be made. People aren't stupid. They know hard times require tough choices, but they want to see the hardship shared out fairly, with the broadest backs shouldering the biggest burden.
Obviously we had to keep the banking system afloat last year - if we hadn't the cash machines would have stopped, pension funds would have collapsed and house repossessions would have gone though the roof. But it's NOT fair that those who caused the crisis carry on receiving massive bonuses as if nothing had happened.
Empathy is about more than being able to see the other persons point of view - it's about being able to see the world as they see it - "if you can walk a mile in the other mans' shoes...."
If we are to win the support of different groups in society we need to understand both how they see the world and why they see it that way. We don't have to agree with them, but we do have to understand them and to do that we have to listen.
Along with this goes compassion. Labour people have always been at the forefront of helping people in trouble or who are down on their luck. It's our natural instinct and it's one to encourage.
Toughness has to be an important value for Labour. If we know something is right we have to stand our ground and face up to the opposition. All our gains, from the NHS to the minimum wage have been made in the face of massive opposition from vested interests.
Solidarity is key for the Labour movement. We believe we achieve things when we work together and when sections of our movement are under attack we stand shoulder to shoulder with them. That's why we believe in Trade Unions and co-operation.
That solidarity leads us to support international co-operation whether it be at the UN or the European Union.
Freedom - from the Tolpuddle martyrs to the campaign against the blacklist and the fight against apartheid, the Labour movement has always been at the forefront of defending and advancing civil liberties. For us the rights and dignity of the individual are crucial. Too many people are only interested in"the bigger picture" without considering how decisions affects people real lives.
Security is of vital importance for all of us. Everyone has the fundamental right to live their lives and go about their business free from fear - whether it's the fear of burglars, muggers or terrorist lunatics. Too often in the past the Tories tried to paint us as soft on crime, when in fact it is working class communities and vulnerable groups who suffer the most.
People also have the right to go to work safely that's why Health & Safety legislation at work is so important.
Many other values underpin our approach to government - working for prosperity, honesty in government. Combining them in our policies can be difficult - how do we match the need for security with civil liberties, the need for fairness with rewards for hard work. There is no easy guide for Labour governance whether at local or national level. When we get it right it can make a difference to the lives of millions of people.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
When people apply to join the Labour Party we ask them what has prompted the decision. Apparently the most commonly cited reason nowadays is George Osborne! Its easy to understand why when you see him on TV. The performance of both himself and David Cameron underlines the point that they are either not being honest about their economic intentions or that they haven't got a clue what they are doing. Whichever is the case voters are beginning to see through them and their opinion poll leads are coming down. If we can just concentrate on putting them under pressure the election is there to be won!
On Sunday Morning I spoke at a course for Labour councillors in Manchester after which around 20 of us went canvassing in Old Moat, Withington.It was interesting for me as we were canvassing the estate my dad grew up on in the 1930's. We had a good response and 20 extra canvassers gave everyone a big lift.
We had a fairly light agenda at the NEC as the Prime Minister had to be in Northern Ireland trying to resolve the problems around devolved policing.
There was some discussion about proceedings at the special selections panel-established to speed up the selection process for candidates. This has come about due to the unprecedented number of late selections we are having to do and the need to get candidates in the field as soon as possible. Whilst the NEC have to ensure we have candidates campaigning for victory, we also need to keep the trust of members that selections are being handled fairly. For that reason I made the point that constituency labour parties should be invited to have an an observer present when the short list for their constituency is drawn up. Unfortunately, despite support from other CLP reps I was in a minority.
However, we have made some real progress in protecting members rights to select their candidates. All short-lists from the special selection panel should have at least four people on them and, at the last NEC I got support for an amendment to ensure that members will always get a vote on who their candidate is unless it is physically impossible so to do e.g.a candidate falling under a bus on nomination day!
We had a report from Harriet Harman on the current political state of play and Ed Milliband outlined some of his ideas on the Manifesto.
I stressed the importance of the minimum wage-the country's biggest collective agreement-and the need to at least maintain its current level.
We received an organisational summary about the General Election and then Lord Mandelson outlined his views on the campaign-a session I had to miss due to the need to catch a train, the meeting having lasted 5 hours by this point. I'm sure someone will fill me in.
All members of the NEC are on commissions of the National Policy Forum.
I'm on the Education and Skills working party. The meetings can be difficult to get to-its hard to justify the expense of a train trip to London for a one hour meeting. However when I can get down to them they are always interesting as we get up-to date, detailed briefings from Ministers on the latest developments in their areas.
I went to the meeting last monday, prior to Tuesdays NEC. The first discussion was led by Lord Young from the business and innovation dept. about apprenticeships followed by a presentation on free school meals from Dawn Primarolo and Dianne Johnston.
Amongst the useful things I learnt * in 1997 there were 65,000 apprenticeships-only 1/4 of
of which were completed.In 2009 there were there were 250,000 apprenticeships,70% of which were completed.
* The current percentage of eligible young people going to university is 43%.
*By the time of the election there will be 3,500 childrens centres-the tories would probably close 20% of them.
* progress is being made in the provision of free school meals. As of September there will be a trial local authority in each region offering free school meals for all primary school children and half a million primary school children whose parents get working families tax credit will also get free school meals.
Last week I got one of those calls from out of the blue. It was from the New Statesman-never had that before!
They wanted to know who I thought should be the next Leader of the Labour Party-I thought I had missed something at first then I realised it was just another of those fishing expeditions designed to keep a non-story about the leadership going.
There is always a decision to make with these things.If you get involved you risk prolonging the story, if you dont get involved then the Labour view doesn't get put. In the end I gave them the following qoute,which hasgone down well with most members.
"The next leader of the Labour Party should be Gordon Brown-there is no vacancy. Without Gordon Brown we would be facing the same sort of economic meltdown they have seen in Iceland or Ireland. We are facing a Tory party more right-wing at every level than it was under Margaret Thatcher. This isn't the time for these dinner party debates;its time for Labour supporters to be campaigning hard for a Labour victory. I am just on my way out to deliver some leaflets-anyone is welcome to join us"
Monday, February 01, 2010
In the late 1970's and early 80's I worked as the assistant agent for the Ipswich Labour Party-probably the best party in the country!We had a 3.5% swing TO Labour in 1979, held the seat in 1983, won the council in 1979 and held it for 25 years and trebled our membership over a four year period.
I'm still in touch with the members in Ipswich and they are still delivering the goods with one of the highest contact rates in the country and leading the fight against the Tory /Lib Dim plans to sell off the counil owned Bus company.
I mention this because I have just received a copy of the Party's annual report-a very professional reminder that the party on the ground is ready to take the fight to the Tories, whenever it comes!
Good luck to the Ipswich Labour Party and Chris Mole MP
I recently received a pamphlet from the CWU about the issue of the pension fund deficit. Entitled "Time to deliver" it gives a detiled background to the issue and further copies can be o
obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pension fund has nearly half a million members and is currently in major deficit-in large part due to a 13 year pensions holiday taken by the employer. The deficit is £10 Billion and following the collapse of the plans to part privatise the post office the Government needs to tackle the issue-recognising its responsibility as the sole shareholder
Down to Whitefield last week to give an NEC report to their General Committee. We had a good discussion about what we need to do as a party and members are well geared up for an election
Its good to get to local meetings and if you would like me to come to yours just give me a ring on 07880 790182