Posts Tagged ‘Islington’

Islington South & Finsbury’s leadership nomination and the self-flagellation tendency

July 20, 2010

At last night’s nomination meeting of my local CLP a healthy majority of us voted in support of Ed Miliband for Labour Leader. I was pleased with this.

Coming second was Diane Abbott. I found it hard to take seriously the suggestions that she was a principled leftist. I don’t think anyone seriously thought she would make the best leader – perhaps a matter of hearts overruling heads.

Many think this contest is going come down to Labour going for a Miliband, and there’s certainly much going for that view.

Supporters of David Miliband were few in number but fairly vocal and articulate. They propagated the argument that, whilst their man may not have appealed much to most of the assembled members, it was actually important to select a candidate who talked of things that didn’t necessarily please party members.

The logic was that pleasing party members too much = self-indulgent leftism which would not win over the electoral centre ground.

On the flip side, displeasing party members = a sign of responsibility and potential Prime Minister material.

Truly, advocates of such an argument are Labour’s self-flagellation tendency.

This way of thinking is tired and should be abandoned. There is no inevitable contradiction between being able to enthuse party members during a selection campaign and then going on to win a parliamentary majority after a general election.

We should be looking for a leader with widespread appeal who is able to build alliances with others. Political positioning disliked by lots of party members is not the strategy of a ‘broad church’ candidate. It should not be spun as some sort of brave demonstration of leadership quality.

I want someone to lead us who puts a bit more effort into unifying the party and is less tarred by the divisions of the past few years.

Also: Chris Bryant MP randomly turned up to speak in favour of David Miliband but was turned away as he was not a CLP member and none of the other candidates had guest speakers putting the case for them. A bizarre and amusing occurence, though I’m not sure he appreciated his wasted journey to the Holloway Road when there was so much Gove-baiting to be done in the Commons!

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Vaz’n’Hodge – two of my least favourite Labour MPs

June 9, 2010

Will Straw of Left Foot Forward has released a joint list of endorsements for Commons Select Committee chairs with Tim Montgomerthingie of Conservative Home. Isn’t the bipartisan spirit sweet? A nice bit of the new politics there.

Unfortunately the two Labour candidates they have expressed support for are Keith Vaz (running to remain chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee) and Margaret Hodge (going for Public Accounts).

Yukeroo!

The Daily Mail is of course a filthy rag, but stories pointing out Vaz’ sleaziness stick. He is one slippery customer and I don’t trust him one inch.

The Left Foot Forward/ConservativeHome endorsement reads: “his strong network within the BAME community and experience in foreign affairs gives him valuable insight”. Some of us consider Vaz’ principal achievement in foreign affairs to be his attempt to secure passports for rich foreign business buddies and so helping to cause a political scandal.

Those of us with even longer memories (or a taste for history) recall this BAME community networker joining the ridiculous Muslim demonstrations against The Satanic Verses.

All quite unforgivable.

The endorsement of Hodge points to her record in local government. It somehow manages to avoid mentioning the Islington child abuse scandal over which she presided as council leader.

Undoubtedly all politicians have skeletons in their closets, but Vaz and Hodge are examples of Labour MPs with particularly undistinguished careers IMHO. It therefore seems wacky for the editors of Left Foot Forward and Conservative Home to express support for such embarrassing politicians.

Launch

April 11, 2010

Just back from the official election campaign launch in my ‘hood.

Very good speech from my MP in which she reminded us of all the good stuff she’s done compared to the local Lib Dems’ addiction to taking photos of themselves outside post offices/hospitals and then simply whingeing.

Guest speaker was Tessa Jowell. She was not so inspiring. I was rolling my eyes (I don’t think I was the only one) when she tried suggesting – in apparent seriousness – that because this is such a high-profile marginal seat it will get a lot of attention from journalists and therefore party activists should make sure they remain ‘on message’.

Pah. We are having most success on the doorstep when we focus on the policies of Islington Labour and when we make clear to people that an ‘x’ next to the name of the Labour Party candidates doesn’t have to signify an enthusiastic endorsement of Gordon Brown and everything the Government has done since 1997.

A good start.

April 6, 2010

The day didn’t actually start particularly well. I was faced with dastardly Liberal Democrats leafleting outside the tube station at ten to eight this morning.

“Oh no!” I thought, “they’ve got momentum! And as everyone knows, politics is all about the mo-men-tum! They’re out leafleting and I barely had time to brush my teeth properly before setting off for work. We’re doomed!

However, reflecting upon the situation on the escalator I thought about how inefficient leafleting Angel tube station is when you’re trying to target Islington South and Finsbury voters. Half the people going there have got off buses from Underground-deprived Hackney.

Therefore, Foxy Bridge was simply wasting lots of paper. Let’s hope for the sake of the planet that people recycle her propaganda.

Melancholy returned at the news that the councillors would have attend a tenants’ association meeting and wouldn’t be able to come canvassing tonight. In fact, it looked like it would just be me and one other comrade. This would not have been momentum-tastic, to say the least.

Yet come 6.30 one of the councillors had decided he could join in the door-knocking, plus we got the MP and people from her office along and another local member unexpectedly turned up. Woop woop!

To top it off, the reception was good. Hardly any self-identifying Liberals (as usual), a handful of Tories, but lots of people remaining loyal to Labour. Some of these folk seemed to be even more dementedly pro-Labour than me! It was great!

Momentum is here and hopefully it’s here to stay. Tomorrow we visit Bevan Street. I will get stroppy with any resident of Bevan Street who does not plan on voting Labour and suggest they move to Thatcher Avenue (or something like that).

Clegg: Blah blah blah.

March 14, 2010

You know that when Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been the main story all day on the BBC News website that nothing much has happened in the world.

For Lib Dem activists here in Islington, most of whom are on the left-leaning Social Democrat side of the Lib Dem spectrum, it must have been quite frustrating to hear their party leader’s recent praise for Thatcher.

Although he’s clever enough not to say so, I’d guess that Clegg would be more comfortable in a coalition with Cameron and the Conservatives than with Brown and the Labour Party. But beggars can’t be choosers, eh?

Anyway, I’d like to know how Islington Lib Dems have worked out that I’m not a potential yellow voter. Even though we have never been canvassed, both my flatmates are receiving personally addressed letters from the Lib Dem candidate and yet I receive nada.

Lib Dims – not as stupid as they look?

Tales from the Islington doorstep.

March 6, 2010

The door had garlic hanging above it, which is always a clue of mentalism. We were not disappointed.

“Yes?” says the resident opening his door, a man of Chinese extraction.

“Sorry to bother you. We are calling round on behalf of the local Labour Party. This is one your councillors.”

“Labour? I vote National Front! I’m fed up with the Muslims blowing things up! Hahahaha. But good luck!”

Pluses and minuses.

March 2, 2010

Here’s my analysis of tonight’s canvassing session:

  • Poor turnout. It was just me and one comrade so we didn’t get much done.
  • We were canvassing next to a busy road and could hardly hear anything.
  • Not many people were in.
  • Not many people identified as enthusiastic Labour.

But:

  • It wasn’t raining.
  • No one identified as enthusiastic Lib Dems or Tories.
  • My fellow canvasser told an Italian lady that since she was a citizen of the EU she was entitled to vote in the local election. Upon being asked which party she usually voted for in Italy, she replied: “Anyone on the far-left”. She then said that she would be happy to vote Labour in May. Woop! We’re securing la vota communista!
  • Equally amusingly, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate walked past and clearly wasn’t happy to see us. Woop woop!

The political pleasure, the political privilege is mine.

February 20, 2010

Before I moved to Islington two years ago I had always lived in safe seats – constituencies where political campaigning is generally considered to be pointless.

Things here though are very different. I now reside in both a parliamentary constituency and a council ward where the upcoming elections (hopefully to be conducted on the same day, Gordo!) are going to be extremely close fights. 

Every single vote counts. There is zilch room for complacency. The happy result of this state of affairs is that my Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, is very hardworking and my Labour councillors have helped formulate a bold policy programme that they would implement if the party regained control of Islington Town Hall. Even when things nationally are looking bleak and uninspiring, the local political struggle is invigorating.

The resurgence of the Conservatives under David Cameron has also made things around here less predictable. Politics in Islington has traditionally been a contest between Labour and the Liberals, but the Tories have emerged as an unwelcome presence in the election results!

Middle-class anti-Labour voters who may have previously voted Liberal Democrat now seem to be turning blue in increasing numbers. This could help Thornberry hold on at the parliamentary level (Islington will not be returning a Conservative MP anytime soon) but there is a nasty danger that an anti-Labour vote uniting behind the Tories could unseat my Labour councillors. I really have very little idea what will happen on May 6th. Will I wake up the next day with a Labour or a Lib Dem MP? With Tory or Labour councillors?

What a wacky situation! But it is so much more preferable to the mundane consistency of political life in a safe seat.

Yellow Tories trying to pinch votes off Blue Tories in Islington.

December 18, 2009

My flatmates (but not me!) received a letter recently from a Mr. John Szemerey that was published and promoted by Islington Liberal Democrats.

John Szemerey is someone who readily admits to having spent many years of his life campaigning for the Conservatives in Islington (hardly a productive use of anyone’s time). Apparently he has twice been the Tory parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Islington South and Finsbury. A Conservative man through-and-through, you might think. 

However, John Szemerey says that he is so “desperate to see change in Islington” that he is now supporting the Liberal Democrats. Nevermind that the Lib Dems have been in control of Islington council since 200o! Szemerey clearly thinks that the Labour Party is the principal enemy of both Tories and Liberals.

Let me quote some of this at you:

In Islington South & Finsbury, the Conservatives just can’t win. In fact, a Conservative has not been elected round here for 45 years.

Suggesting that Szemerey’s years of campaigning for the Tories did not do much good.

Just 484 votes separate local campaigner Bridget Fox and Gordon Brown’s Labour Party. Voting Conservative will actually help Gordon Brown and his failed Labour Government hold on.

Comically, Mr. Szemerey seems to think his Tory-sympathising readers must be a bit slow on the uptake. He repeats the above message almost word for word at the end of his letter:

I hope you’ll join me in lending your support to Bridget Fox and the Lib Dems at the next election.

With best wishes,

John Szemerey

P.S The Conservatives can’t win in Islington South & Finsbury. Voting for them will just help Gordon Brown hold on. Only Bridget Fox’s Lib Dems can beat Labour here.

I was always brought up to believe that the postscript was meant to contain additional information to the main body of the letter, but nevermind. Szemerey wants to bang his point through.

This letter basically makes me think that:

a) The local Liberals are terrified of the middle-classes turning to the Conservative Party rather than voting for them.

b) The local Liberals would prefer a Conservative government to a Labour one. Szemerey is essentially saying that the best way to get Cameron into No 10 is to tactically vote Lib Dem in this constituency, and Islington Liberal Democrats are happy to print this.

Shame on these Tories of both the blue and yellow variety! The next time I come across a voter on the doorstep who mistakenly sees the Lib Dems as a left-wing alternative to the Labour Party, I will draw their attention to this letter.

Islington’s Lib Dems want to take away free school meals because they do not understand the importance of universal public service provision.

December 7, 2009

It was recently revealed that Islington’s Liberal Democrats (who unfortunately are in charge of things around here) are planning to take away free school meals from the borough’s primary school children after the upcoming local elections.

They’ve never liked the idea of providing free school meals to Islington’s kids. The Labour group only just managed to get the policy passed at a council meeting. The Lib Dems have been complaining about it ever since and have been reluctant to implement the change.

In the latest edition of the Islington Tribune the Lib Dem executive member for finance explains his party’s position on the issue. Some of the critical points made by Councillor John Gilbert have some validity. For example, the issue of pupils coming to Islington’s schools from neighbouring boroughs is admittedly problematic. But then no scheme is absolutely perfect, and I’m sure that some sort of solution to this could be sought.

However, the principal Lib Dem argument is that free school meals should be opposed because some wealthy families will benefit from it. Some well-meaning folk may be persuaded by this point of view, but I’m not.

The previous situation was that only the poorest of the poor were given free school meals. There is substantial evidence that this targeted service provision was not wholly effective because of the social stigma associated with free school meals. The quality of the meals themselves also left much to be desired.

It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again: a service for the poor will usually end up as a poor service.

If the Lib Dem’s logic is taken too seriously, then perhaps we would end comprehensive schooling altogether. We would have free schools for the very poor and make everyone else pay school fees. Likewise the NHS, from which we all currently benefit and therefore take an interest in protecting and improving, would become a skeleton service for those at the bottom of society whilst everyone else would be expected to have private medical insurance (a bit like the situation in the US).

Our relationship with food is very important and is something Britain’s education system should be taking more seriously. Providing free school meals for all pupils is a step in the right direction. Lib Dem opposition to universal service provision of free school meals in Islington’s primary schools demonstrates the party’s lack of awareness, lack of imagination, and lack of political courage when it comes to this important issue.