Archive for May, 2010

Laws

May 29, 2010

David Laws is, quite rightly, going to take a lot of stick for his dodgy expenses claims.

Who knows – perhaps Cameron will have to lay down the Laws (boomboom) and start looking for a new Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

He’d have a hard time finding a ‘talented’ Lib Dem to replace Laws. It would be a real headache for the coalition.

Laws’ expenses will be great ammo for Government critics to fire at the coalition. How is he now going to sound authoritative when demanding massive public spending cuts?

Some will also wonder why he was so keen to keep his sexuality secret. None of our business, perhaps, but in this day and age it’s a crying shame when a politician can’t be open about being gay. Bizarrely the Liberals seem to find this particularly problematic.

But I was already disgusted with Laws even before this news broke. How could someone campaign on a platform arguing that cuts this year would damage the economy and then, upon being offered a plum job by Big Dave, become a sudden enthusiast for immediate austerity measures?

Previously sanctimonious but now scandal-tainted Laws is the pin-up boy for Lib Dem hypocrisy and for a Coalition Government made up of rich, greedy politicians who plan to decimate our public services.

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Stop nominating Milibands!

May 27, 2010

It’s not big and it’s not clever. If MPs keep insisting on only nominating leadership candidates with the surname Miliband then we are not going to have a very interesting contest, the media will mock us for being so dull and people won’t be so willing to join the Labour Party to participate since there won’t be a huge choice of potential leaders for them to vote for.

I was worried that the calls on the PLP to manage the process so that all declared candidates get nominated were only coming from the hard left devotees of McDonnell and Sunny from the Liberal Conspiracy blog (is he even a party member? Hasn’t he spent the last few years advocating votes for all parties apart from Labour?!).

However, seeing that ‘moderates’ such as Tom Harris and Sunder Katwala also agree that something should be done to get them all nominated it’s obvious that these calls can’t be dismissed as the bleatings of a minority of disaffected lefties.

Indeed, former cabinet members Burnham and Balls are having to work hard to make sure they get to the 12.5% threshold. It’s not just Abbott and McDonnell who would benefit from a relaxation of normal procedure.

Lots of us, from all wings of the party, will be disappointed if the PLP provides us with a purely Miliband choice of leadership candidates. MPs should give the people what they want!

Are the Liberal Democrats taking this allegation of anti-Semitism seriously?

May 26, 2010

In yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman (a gent of Jewish extraction) started off his response by slamming the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Tories. Maintaining this Lib Dem-bashing theme (here here), Sir Gerald accused his Liberal Democrat opponent in the recent election of trying to use anti-Semitism to win votes:

I say something else to the Liberal Democrats: they will have to indulge in some internal house cleaning. Their candidate against me at the general election, Qassim Afzal, went round the constituency to mosques and other places where Muslims gather, telling people to vote against me because I am a Jew. That is what their candidate did. I was told that again and again by Muslim voters. My Muslim voters are possessed of a decency and generosity of spirit utterly alien to the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency, because they organised for me as they never had before and voted for me in many thousands.

The incidents that took place in my constituency as part of an anti-Semitic campaign went on and on. One of my constituents, a Muslim, told me how the Liberal Democrat candidate Qassim Afzal came to his house, which had a poster of mine in the window, and said, “You cannot have a poster in your window of a Jew. Take it down.” I told two Liberal Democrat Members before Parliament was dissolved that that was what their candidate in Gorton was doing. They were horrified. They said that they would bring it to the attention of their leadership. I do not know whether they did. I do know that their Liberal Democrat candidate, against the decency and humanity of my Muslim constituents, went on conducting an anti-Semitic campaign right through to polling day.

I say to the Liberal Democrat leader, now the Deputy Prime Minister, that if he did not know about that before, he should have done. His MPs told me that they had told him. He knows about it now. I will wait to see what he does to deal with an overtly anti-Semitic candidate who fought an anti-Semitic, and personally anti-Semitic, election campaign. If the Deputy Prime Minister does not take swift action to deal with that person, I will know that he accepts that anti-Semitism is a run-of-the-mill form of campaigning by Liberal Democrats. [Interruption.] Well, it is up to him. That is what their candidate did, disgusting thousands of Muslims in my constituency. It is up to the Liberal Democrats to decide whether those are acceptable campaigning tactics.

The thing is, Qassim Afzal is not just an ordinary Lib Dem (if such a thing is possible…). He has been a Lib Dem candidate in many previous elections and a Lib Dem councillor. Plus he sits as an elected member on the Federal Executive of the party alongside Clegg, Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and other bigwigs.

His website is quite amusing. He seems quite a, um, character. I couldn’t be bothered to trawl through his 9 page CV to establish if he’d ever been a member of an anti-Semitic organisation. Hopefully the Lib Dems will themselves investigate to see whether such a prominent member of their party engaged in these disgusting anti-Semitic tactics, as Kaufman claims.  

Battle of Barking and Dagenham 2010

May 25, 2010

I’ve just received the latest issue of Searchlight. It is fairly self-congratulatory, but deservedly so. After all, Searchlight’s Hope not Hate campaign in Barking and Dagenham contributed to the glorious crushing of the BNP’s hopes to gain their first Westminster seat and control of a local authority.

I regret that I didn’t get out there so that I could feel like I played my part. All my political campaigning activities have been restricted to within half a mile of Jako Towers for the last six months. Obviously I would have felt awful if the BNP had been successful. Therefore I’m satisfied with being slightly regretful.

I was disappointed to hear that Nick Griffin plans to step down as BNP leader in 2013. With his history of blatant Hitler-fancying, his ability to provoke even his closest allies into wanting to kill him, and his clear incompetence and general weirdness, we anti-fascists must be concerned that the BNP will find themselves a decent leader to replace him. However, that seems unlikely.

Anyway, congratulations to Searchlight. Surely everyone must now recognise the wisdom of Searchlight’s strategy of long-term engagement in local politics, winning the support of trade unions and other community groups and co-operating with Labour as the party most likely to beat the BNP in places like east London and Stoke.

Praise be that Searchlight were in Barking and Dagenham and prepared to patiently carry out all the canvassing and leafletting that they did. The ‘tactics’ of Unite Against Fascism – organise a noisy demonstration and more often than not these days end up fighting the police –  are worse than useless.

Searchlight is undoubtedly the top dedicated anti-fascist campaigning organisation in the country, perhaps even the world. Good on them.

From each according to their nomination-securing ability, to each according to their nomination-securing need

May 25, 2010

I don’t like linking to Guido, but he has been forwarded an email apparently being sent out by Labour leadership hopeful John McDonnell to his comrade competitors.

McDonnell pleas:

“Now that nominations are underway I am writing to ask if you would consider the proposal that we work together to ensure that every declared candidate gets onto the ballot paper so that we have a range of candidates that truly represent the party both men and women, black and white and a range of the political views reflecting the spectrum of views of our party members.

This would mean asking members of the PLP to nominate other candidates once you have reached the 33 nominations required. Going beyond the 33 would certainly demonstrate the scale of support you have in the PLP. However, this could also mean others don’t get onto the ballot paper and prevent the full range of political views in the party being properly represented. We would also avoid any allegations that mounting up unnecessary nominations is just an act of vanity or competitive irrelevance.

I think that our members and affiliates want to be able to hear the full range of political perspectives and want to be able to choose from a full range of candidates. If the way the system works at present denies them this opportunity I believe that they will feel let down by all of us.”

I have to say, this is an improvement on McDonnell constantly complaining that the entire process is a stitch up rather than doing his best to win over his parliamentary colleagues and secure their support.

I still feel that it would be best for the Labour Party if we hold a genuinely open leadership contest with a healthy choice of candidates for members and affiliates to choose from.

Assuming this McDonnell move is genuine, Labourites should be made aware of his proposal so that pressure is put upon the candidates with an unneccessary surplus of nominations. I’m looking at one of the Miliband brothers (reports differ as to which one has the most at the moment!).

Don’t be greedy David/Ed – share the nomination love around so that all the wannabe leaders can participate in the contest.

Remember kids, sharing is caring.

Spot the difference

May 24, 2010

Welsh Labour MP Ann Clywd

Tory Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan

Have you ever seen them in the same room?

 

A few more leadership thoughts

May 21, 2010

Diane Abbott running? Hoooo-ey, didn’t see that coming!

Ms Abbott has many well-known faults but her candidacy certainly makes the contest more interesting and I’m glad she’s put herself forward.

John McDonnell’s clearly a more serious socialist alternative than Abbott. The question is whether both of them – or indeed either of them – can get the necessary 33 nominations from their fellow Labour MPs.

Abbott seems a tad more confident than McD. Apart from anything else, the fact that these two Socialist Campaign Group members are simultaneously standing shows how disorganised that ‘campaign’ is.

I agree with the rule that candidates need to be nominated by a percentage of Labour MPs. One of the core objectives of Labour is to maintain a parliamentary party. It would be ridiculous to have a Labour leader who couldn’t command the support of even a modest number of MPs.

In theory getting 12.5% of your colleagues to nominate you sounds reasonable. It shouldn’t be too much of an ask, which makes McDonnell’s complaints about it being too difficult sound quite whingey.

However, we also know that many MPs want to be on the ‘winning team’ and are too conservative-minded to take a risk nominating someone who might have something to contribute to a far-reaching internal debate but isn’t established as a credible leadership contender. At the moment each MP is only able to make a single nomination.

So perhaps the 12.5% threshold should be maintained but MPs could be allowed to sign the nomination papers of multiple candidates. For example, a confused leftie like Jeremy Corbyn could endorse both his Hackney neighbour Abbott and the Campaign Group chair McDonnell. Or an MP who just can’t get enough of that Miliband magic would be able to nominate David AND Ed!

This would maintain the ‘security measure’ of leaders of the Labour Party requiring a certain amount of support from the PLP whilst more MPs would be able to stand in the contest. 

Obviously this measure would still mean that the PLP maintained the initiative over the whole process and would not necessarily guarantee a healthy choice of candidates. But it would be a step in the right direction.

Thoughts on the leadership

May 21, 2010
  • Tom Harris makes an excellent point when he questions why leaderhip candidates have to start listening now? Surely this should have been done on the doorstep during the election? I for one want a leader who runs on a clearly defined and thought-out platform – not a mish-mash of me-too-ery.
  • Further to this, I’m sick of all the bilge that too many Labour figures are coming out with regarding our organisation. This unhealthy obsession with ‘opening up’ the Party through primaries and supporters’ networks will lead to Party membership being practically worthless. And it’s all very well to talk about the Party playing a fully engaged role in local communities – I’d like to know where the bodies and money are coming from. Political parties do not exist to act like a cross between the Women’s Institute and Neighbourhood Watch and activities that divert us from our core task of winning elections are unhelpful.
  • There are two jobs that the leader must fulfil: they must oppose the government effectively, vigorously and sensibly; and they must be seen as a potential alternative PM. David Miliband fulfils the second role perfectly adequately but I doubt whether he’s the best man for the first. Ed Balls, by contrast, is probably the best man for the first role but falls down on the second.
  • Ed Miliband will be a lot of people’s ‘least disliked’ candidate. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and leans enough to the left to be more palatable than his brother to a large number of members. However, he suffers from two weaknesses: first, he is not nearly as normal as many of his supporters would have you believe. He may not be as nerdy as David but he’s still a fair way along the spectrum. Second, he has an annoying habit of telling members what he thinks they want to hear. His speech to the Fabians did not mention crime once, it mentioned immigration only as a ‘class issue’, we were also told that we did not regulate markets enough. Hopi has mentioned this before.
  • Diane Abbott wont win but her supporters’ second preferences will be very valuable to whoever picks most of them up. She is the only serious London MP standing. One lesson from the last Deputy Leadership election is that London is disproportionately influential due to a large number of geographically-concentrated and well-networked members. Surely this is the only reason why Harriet Harman won in 2007 despite being such an obviously weak candidate.
  • In many respects, Andy Burnham would be the most attractive candidate to both traditional Labour supporters and swing voters. He is down-to-earth, friendly, provincial and politically sensible. However, a latent snobbishness in the Labour Party may cause these attributes to be held against him. The Deputy Leadership election was proof of this: these were all qualities displayed by Hazel Blears. In many repects he has the opposite problem to Ed Miliband in that he is culturally and politically closer to Labour voters than he is to Labour members.
  • What I will look for when I cast my vote are: a serious and moderate policy position on the economy, deficit reduction and support for manufacturing; a commitment to Party campaigning activism coupled with scepticism of Party reform; a degree of energy and vigour in attacking our political opponents and a personality that will be attractive to potential voters. I’m currently leaning towards Burnham and regret that his chances appear slim.

BA Strikes

May 19, 2010

Obviously the High Court ruling was ridiculous and very worrying for anyone concerned for workers’ rights.

However, it’s not exactly shocking to hear that a judge was unsympathetic to striking workers and their trade union.

Plus legal types have a tendency to sometimes be strict about things such as the letter of the law

Unite has a lot of staff and a lot of money. Union members pay their dues so that they have professionals helping them in a dispute such as this.

I’m thus more shocked that Unite managed to mess up the balloting process. It may have been a small error but it should not have happened. It has embarrassed the union and the striking workers.

On a related note, all the leadership candidates so far have made nice noises about Labour re-engaging with trade unions and their members.

I wonder when they’ll be asked to comment on the BA situation – an increasingly messy industrial showdown where no-one is going to emerge smelling of roses.

It would be good to hear what the aspiring Labour leaders have to say about the specifics of the case and the potential ramifications for union laws and working conditions in a period of economic retrenchment.

That’ll sort out the men from the boys!

Jon & John

May 19, 2010

I’m a wee bit miffed that Jon Cruddas isn’t throwing his hat in the leadership ring, but I’m not surprised and frankly don’t blame him.

The refreshingly modest Cruddas admitted that he probably didn’t have the qualities needed to be leader of the Labour Party and wannabe PM. He wants to maintain a semblance of ‘normal’ human life and lacks the ambition and slight narcissism needed to get right to the top.

Anyway, as much as I wanted Cruddas contributing his ideas to the leadership debates I could not say with great certainty that I intended to vote for him. 

I simply hope that he has a central role to play in reforming the Labour Party over the next few years. I thought that having him as a candidate would force the more likely future leaders to discuss class and inequality and that the publicity generated by even an unsuccessful Cruddas leadership campaign would put him in good stead for the Shadow Cabinet elections.

So sans Jean le Cruddas it seems we’ll be left with Milibands, Balls and Burnham. All served in Government. Each comes with various advantages and disadvantages but in terms of ideology there’s not a huge amount to distinguish them.

Therefore, I am tempted to agree with Don Paskini’s argument that John McDonnell should be nominated for the leadership.

It seems to me that we members deserve to be given a proper choice; it would be healthy for the other candidates to be arguing with someone who comes from outside their political comfort zone; and McDonnell may even be able to make a convincing case for the relevance and electability of Labour leftism.

Of course much of the press would revel in criticising a McDonnell candidacy as evidence that Labour is lurching dangerously to the left. But an election featuring only Milibands, Balls and Burnham may equally be slammed for being dull. Plus the bastards in the press have spent the last few years demonising Labour anyway so I don’t think we should let them scare us away from holding a genuinely open and interesting contest.