What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “Labour”

Did Ed need Dinosaurs????

On balance, I think yes, Daniel was right. Pretty much ANYTHING can be improved with Dinosaurs.

Two years in for Ed M

So, it is two years since Ed Miliband gained the leadership of the Labour party, and over at Labour List, plenty of people are taking stock. I think we can be allowed, as Labour supporters, to raise two cheers so far…

We are convincingly ahead in the polls, and this side of the Tory conference, the narrative for the Government is definitely in their hands. Nothing looks as bad as a Government seemingly not in control, one that has also managed to present itself as being sticking firmly to its plans whilst U-turning everywhere; on Forests, on Pasty Tax, on almost anything rather than its most unpopular policies.

Mr Miliband has done something that no Labour Leader has done in eighteen years or more – he has questioned the authority of free markets, and whether they are always the only option when it comes to the economy. This, after the crash, is a vital move, giving hope that we can move towards a modern Social Democratic government in 2015.

With his handling of the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, Ed has been widely praised. Rightly so, he played a good game and has had the Government on the back foot ever since. He backed voting reform, without being associated with they dismal failure of the Yes campaign over AV.

As leader, he has grown in his role – for all the sniping of the right of the party (someone mention Progress?), he has managed to best an increasingly loud and puce David Cameron in The House of Commons, and has silenced (for now) the internal critics oh, and John “Rental” Rentoul.

Midway through this Parliament, the media, and the rest of us, can see Ed Miliband as PM, or at least a serious contender. The low personal rating as opposed to David Cameron as a minor worry to me, as it is normal for a sitting Prime Minister to look more, well, Prime Ministerial. These figures can change, and it would take little to change David Cameron from popular to unpopular. He is already out of favour in his own party, much earlier than Edward Heath was in the 1970s, and there are already stirrings on his back benches.

Milibands’ first speech toy Conference encapsulated al the reasons to support him – including drawing a line under the Blair/Brown years, notably on Iraq. His positioning himself (and us) as an inclusive opposition, trying to heal the rifts of the last eleven years was, and remains a masterstroke.

Yet I do worry. I worry that the polls are just a mid-term blip, that someone will start the back office sniping once again. That Ken Livingstone will try to stuff up Conference from his seat on the NEC.

I also worry that Eds’ management of the part factions in the Shadow Cabinet is storing up problems – Stephen Twigg at Education is a prime example , but others, such as Liam Byrne remain in place.

I worry that those years spent as a SpAd, all that triangulation, all that hanging out in Westminster, far away from the housing estates and run-down town centres where Labour needs to make a difference, will reassert itself.

So two cheers for Ed, so far so good, but we all have much more work to do to win…

” …COME IN G – GEORGE, COME IN G – GEORGE…”

…Or how to be an Old Labour romantic…

I always shed a tear when the young Kim Hunter falls desperately, hopelessly in love with David Niven in Powell and Pressbergers’ “A Matter of Life and Death”. Perhaps my love of melodrama gets the better of me, or the nostalgia for a time I never new. Maybe it is just Powell and Pressberger, after all, the ending of “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” gets me the same way. Perhaps it is Jack Cardiff – the “colour merchant” who shot these two masterpieces, and many more.

I suspect that it is more than this, as when David Niven says that he is “Conservative by instinct, Labour by experience” that is the moment that I well up…

..I can’t help it, you see I am one of that lost tribe, the Old Labour Romantics. I suppose that being politically awoken by the Miners’ Strike and Billy “Between the Wars” Bragg doesn’t help, but that is just what I am. I must confess my sin, that I look back upon the history of our Party and Movement, and my heroes are the Major, Hardie, Maxton, Lansbury. They are the Cooks – both Robin and A J, Bevin and Bevan. They are John Smith and Kinnock, Foot and Mikardo, and hundreds of others that fought the good fight. The unsung as well as the famous, those who fought and negotiated, who put our people first, who had a sense of what was right, a sense of decency.

Bill Morris, Len Murray, Jack Jones, Manny Shinwell and a host of others who did what they thought right, and never wavered in the tasks before them.

The phrase “Old Labour Romantic” has been used to describe that great journalist and biographer Francis Beckett. I suppose that it corresponds to anyone who sees the future of this country as being in the creation of a more tolerant, open, and equal society.

I am working to make the future Red, but maybe, just maybe my heaven is in black and white…

POLITICAL REALITIES – Part One

Now that things have calmed down a bit since the local elections and Ed’s reshuffle, I thought I would write a couple of pieces on where we as a party are, and how we got here. I think that all too often those of us interested in politics can get sucked into the short term news cycle, and I plead guilty to this as much as anyone else. However it is important for me to take a look at the recent past, if only to help me redefine where I think we stand…

1: NUMBER CRUNCHING

So, lets go back to the start: In 1997 Labour won a landslide with over 42% of the votes cast, some 13,518,167 votes in all. This was our biggest share of the vote since 1966, and with high hopes, Labour went into Majority government for the first time since 1974.

Victory was repeated in 2001 on a similar scale, although we lost the votes of a staggering 2,793,214 people in four years under Tony Blair. Low turnout ensured that our share was still around 40%, and New Labour continued, seemingly unassailable.

At his third attempt in 2005, after the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq , the party under Tony Blair saw its vote reduced by a further 1,172,517 to 9,552,436 votes. The war in Iraq also contributed to a rise in popularity for the Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy and Alex Salmond’s SNP.

Finally, back in May 2010, Labour under Gordon Brown polled 8,606,517 votes, and just 29% of all votes cast. That was a further 945,915 down from the previous general election, although this was a considerably lower fall than in either 2001 or 2005.

The May 2010 result ensured a Hung Parliament, although it was clear almost from the first declarations that Labour had lost, even if the Tories had not won. It also meant that a stable Coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems, possibly also with Plaid Cymru and the SNP was simply not possible. Simple arithmetic dictated that if a Coalition could be formed, it would be between the Tories and Lib Dems.

To me, one of the salient facts would be that under Tony Blair, over two elections we lost the support of almost four million voters – 3,965,731 to be exact.

Arguably, Gordon Brown had not so far to fall, but from 2005 to 2010 our vote dropped by just under one million. It lost us the General Election, but I cannot help thinking that had we lost fewer votes between 1997 and 2005, then maybe we could have still been in government today.

Had we lost, say half of those votes lost in that period, then in 2010 we would have polled somewhere in the region of  10,589,382 votes – more than in 2010 and close to our 2005 result. So the questions we must ask ourselves must include why did we lose so much trust between 1997 and 2005?

Could it be that Tony Blair, as much as Gordon Brown was a vote loser after 1997? On the face of it the answer may be yes…

So what lost us those votes?

  BEST WHEN WE’RE LABOUR…”

…to be continued…

OH! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING!

And as the results continue to come in, oh what a beautiful day?

Lib Dems trounced nationally, Labour winning over 500 seats and over twenty councils throughout England and Wales. We have taken seats from the Tories, BNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and UKIP. And it looks as though the SNP may not have won Glasgow as predicted. From Great Yarmouth to Plymouth this is a great result for Labour and Ed Milibands leadership.  Even in Bradford, where we lost seats to Respect, overall we have gained two seats!

Harlow, Southhampton, Dudley – directly from the Tories

Birmingham, Carlisle, Derby, Norwich, Reading – from No Overall Control.

The London results are not yet in, and Scotland is only counting now. The Ken & Boris show is over – too close to call, although whichever way the votes go, David Cameron will have to watch his back…

 

Boris’ Best Mates – Number One: BRIAN COLEMAN

 Londoners will be pretty familiar (and pretty fed-up) with Brian Coleman, the Barnet Councillor, ex- Mayor and London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden, at least until next week. We are used to his habitual rudeness to members of the public, and his total disregard for anyone who disagrees with him. His casual insults are legend.

Now we all know that in politics, as in life, choosing your friends is an important indicator of your character, perhaps as important as your actions. In all honesty we in Labour have our reservations as to some of Ken’s allies, and most of us are pretty open about this, so maybe we should just take a peek at one of Mr Johnson’s closest political allies…

Mr Johnson put Mr Coleman in charge of the London Fire Brigade and Emergency Planning, taking Mr Coleman’s salary to over £120,000 per year, meaning he is one of the five top payed councillors in Britain. Yesterday he gave us an insight into why Johnson so values his services, when his attitude towards the Firefighters he bosses about, and their elected representatives was reported in an interview to be thus:

Most of the Union officials, if they had half a brain cell, they’d be dangerous… We have to break the FBU frankly… 

He also confirmed that there would “inevitably” be job losses, confirming that 27 fire engines, that is 16% of London’s total, could be cut. This is in direct contradiction to  Mr Johnson’s claims.

Let us take a moment to inspect this man’s record, after all, should Boris Johnson win on May 3rd, he will be a key player in the running of London:

Between April 2006 and March 2007, Coleman spent £10,000 on taxi fares. The average taxi spend of all GLA members for this period was £845. Granted, during this time, Brian was banned from driving for speeding, but has he never heard of the Oystercard?

In 2009, in the wake of the national expenses scandal, he was the only Assembly Member to refuse to voluntarily publish his expenses:

I won’t do it voluntarily. Its none of the publics business

Despite a salary of £128,000, Mr Coleman lives in a subsidised Housing Association flat, with a monthly rent of just £546. His landlord is the  Finchley Methodist Church charity. Lucky him. Recently, a single mother, faced with an increase on her rent of £150, taking her monthly rent to £1,100 contacted Mr Coleman see if he could in any way help. His answer, which speaks volumes, was thus:

…live in the real world…

Like many in the Boris camp, he really hates criticism, and just this week it was reported in The Barnet Times that he had called Friern Barnet resident & Psychiatric Nurse Paul Merchant a “twat”, then urged this voter to “clear off out” of a packed public meeting at Hendon Town Hall.

This is the third such incident in the past twelve months alone.

On May 3rd, this man is standing once again as GLA Member of Barnet and Camden. His Labour opponent, ex-local MP Andrew Dismore needs only a 5.5% swing to oust him. Time to eject this pompous, arrogant man from the Assembly chamber I think.

If, like me, you would also like to see this odious creep banished from City Hall, then best you vote for Ken Livingstone as well.

MESSAGE TO GIDEON – ITS YOUR ECONOMICS, STUPID!

So today Britain is officially back in recession. This is no time for shallow politicking, people have no confidence that things will get better any time soon, and millions of us are frantically chasing work. Somehow we manage to have the Olympics, a housing crisis, a major infrastructure deficit and STILL the construction sector leads the way for economic downturn.

It is time for Gideon and Dave to admit what many of us have known for some time, that Plan A is not working, that the cuts have been too far and too fast, whilst tax reductions for the super rich were simply not appropriate at this time. This Coalition is making the ordinary people of the UK pay for an economic crisis caused by unregulated finance and thirty three years of monetarist dogma. The very rich men who agreed to come together in May 2010 to restore the nation’s finances have now proved not to be the economic geniuses that they claimed to be. They pretty much look like a bunch of shysters on the make.

In Scotland, News Internationals First Minister plays fast and loose with the essential economic truth, namely that Scotland’s economy is too tied to that of Wales and England to have any chance of independent recovery. His fictional “Arc of prosperity” disappeared when Iceland and Ireland went bust, yet he is content to take the odd pot shot at the rest of us, whilst the public works north of the border are still largely funded from Whitehall. For all his bumptiousness, at least it gives us a ready made argument against the Growth Deniers – publicly funded projects can save jobs and keep mopey flowing into an economy, austerity has now been proved to do the opposite.

By contrast Ed M and Ed B (or Wallace and Gromit) are looking more credible each day. At PMQs today Ed pretty much wiped the floor with Cameron, and Balls has been slowly destroying Whyborns economic credibility for months now. It seems that Gordon Brown was right back in 2010 – it really wasn’t time for a bunch of novices.

 

KEN4LONDON – A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

Now in the past, I have been public about my attitude towards towards Ken Livingstone, Labours’ candidate for Mayor of London.  I voted for Oona King, and have stated several times that although I respect Mr Livingstone’s many accomplishments for London since 1981, it was time for someone else.

In an open and democratic election process, involving both party and trades union members (making it by farther widest selection electorate of ANY candidate), Livingstone was chosen by the London Labour Party as our candidate, fair and square. Having had our say, those who didn’t vote for him should have then got on with organising a Labour victory against this terrible government, Boris Johnson and his awful City Hall cronies. Most of have, although some, generally on the right of the party have decided that they would prefer to carry-on the infighting in public. Lets forget about vainglorious businessmen for a moment, as they are really the least of our worries. After all, whoever wins on May 3rd, Alan Sugar will still be rich.

The important issues of this election – the economy, housing, transport, and a fair deal for Londoners will only be successfully dealt with if Labour wins control of London. That means voting for ALL Labour candidates, no exceptions.

Victory for Boris Johnson in London strengthens the Tories in Whitehall as well as City Hall. It consolidates David Cameron’s position as Leader of his party, and gives the right evermore confidence in their attacks on our living standards.

Victory for Boris Johnson weakens Labour nationally – it would wrongly be taken as a signal for more idiotic sniping at Ed Miliband, just as we are developing a decent poll ratings.

I appeal to all Labour supporters and members in London – do not let Johnson, Malthouse and their cronies back in.

On May 3rd, vote Labour, vote Ken Livingstone. Let Johnson get on with what he does best – looking after himself.

 

Utoya nine months on…

Today, as the trial of Anders Breivik gets under way, I am thinking about solidarity, about the family and friends of those seventy seven mainly young people murdered in cold blood last July in Norway.

Nothing can ever replace a life cut short, nor could I ever dare to imagine what their relatives and mates have been going through for nine months. Norway is a small place, it is estimated that one in four of the population knew one of the butchered. They were killed as “legitimate targets” in Breiviks opinion because they were members of the Norwegian Labour Party, fellow democratic socialists to us here in Britain. They were, and remain, our brothers and sisters.

As a civilised nation, Norway has no death penalty, so the martyrdom that the assassin seeks will elude him. In place of that, we have seventy seven heroes between the ages of fourteen and fifty one, with an average age of just under twenty.

They died as true martyrs to the causes of tolerance, decency and democracy. Today I salute them, and all in our worldwide movement for justice and human rights. I salute the fundamental decency of the Norwegian people.

Our only lasting memorial can be the re-doubling of our efforts to combat the messages of hate spread by groups such as the BNP and EDL, and hate-filled clerics of every religion. We must concentrate on what unites the vast majority of humanity, regardless of race and creed, once more we must call for the workers of the world to unite, and make all men brothers.

If we could stand silent at this years May Day marches and rallies, it would be a fitting tribute.

The Ken and Boris show….

Ok, hands up all those who are now enthused over the London Mayoral elections? Anybody? Anybody except Brian Paddick? No?… Oh well…

Could it be that since supporters of both the current and preceding Mayor have been running vindictive and negative campaigns for over a year now that voters, stupendously faced with the exact same faces as in 2008 are just a little pissed off? I mean, we all know that the two frontrunners hate each other, hell plenty of their respective parties hate them too. (Although in Johnsons case, most of the haters seem to be in the Cabinet.)

The former member for Henley-upon-UKIP has not been much of a success in his four years – a bike gimmick, some good PR, and that is about it. Oh, and costing Londoners dearly to see his pet Double Deckers replace the Bendy Buses. He has raised fares, rambled on about  Wiff-Waff, and generally been on the wrong side of every issue to affect us in half a decade;  Bankers – excellent chaps, not their fault, no need for regulation. The riots? Don’t expect him to be around if a brick hits your window, he’s on holiday. Policing? Lets just say that mathematics is not his strong point, so don’t expect the numbers to add up.  The Levenson Inquiry? Not needed, this is all a Labour ruse, apparently (maybe he asked his bosses, who own The Telegraph Group?).

But my, he is a card, eh?

After all, who else would announce yesterday in Purley that he is in favour of some kind of economic devolution for London? Now think about this, most Londoners who come from the UK have family living outside this great smoke of ours. We know that outside the mostly affluent Southeast, inequality is high, and money needs to be spent in the regions. Not only is this superficially attractive, but it is pie in the sky – he is only saying that he will ask Gideon Whyborn for a rebate – with no guarantee that he will get it. Still, it sounded good, and well, Purley squire, famous place, nudge nudge…

Since his employment of Linton Crosby, the Australian right wing attack dog starting in 2008, bluff old Johnson and his supporters have developed a smooth and effective online campaigning team, and Livingstone has given them every opportunity to succeed. Now I do not believe that “Red Ken” is actually an anti-Semite, but he has been pally with some who are. Not, you understand, the likes of the Saudi Royal Family, they only deal with top people, like Margaret Thatcher and her son, but with extremist clerics.Oh, and taking money from Iranian Tv companies, as did Andrew Gilligan and a host of other unscrupulous coves. Ever since, there has been a sustained effort by “Bloggers for Boris” types to link Livingstone with Holocaust Denial, Anti-Semitism, and much else. Rather than debate the pros and cons of policy, these people have been resorting to the type of politics that leads to division in our capital, not unity. However, never let it be said that this is an organised campaign, or one of them will take you to task, and possibly threaten you with legal action.

Livingstone has been their best asset again and again, and his tax arrangements, although completely legal, have been a terrible blow. You see, Johnson and his Tory enemies in The Treasury have been happy to make London a tax haven, forgoing at least £1 billion in revenue to keep the super rich happy – yet it is the Labour candidate who looks like a tax cheat!

As a Labour member, I am committed to our candidate, knowing full well his weaknesses, and the quality of Labours policies as a whole. But the whole tone that these two retreads have fostered is one that gives me no cause for pride. With the Conservative candidate happy to run the same “doughnut” campaign as last time, pretty much ignoring inner London (well, he has done that for four years) because out won’t vote his way, and fostering a kind of communalist politics in North London by proxy, and the Labour candidate pretty much doing the same in reverse, I am not filled with hope for the future.

Last week Lady P told me that in the wake of the Budget, and fed up with Johnson, she was considering voting for anyone other than the Tories. Livingstone has put paid to her voting Labour.

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