What would Clement do?

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

Archive for the tag “Reform Bill”

Noes To The Left…

Two recent articles on the Referendum on Electoral Reform (no, please wait, its not that dull…) by decent leftwingers against change have got me thinking. Nick Cohen in The Spectator today, and Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures (links on your right) both have it in for AV and Nick Clegg. As a Democrat and a Socialist, I have to disagree with my no-doubt honourable opponents here, and this is why…

Nicks article is mainly a sustained diatribe against celebrity endorsements of the Yes campaign, and, to a certain extent I have to agree – certainly I do not believe that any campaign or issue is “good” on the say-so of an actor, singer, poet or model. Often I find myself taking a reverse opinion, wondering where on earth you could find Fois Gras in Asda, or eat swans stuffed with owls whilst wearing only cruelty guaranteed fur and blood diamonds. But this is simply the reaction of someone who doesn’t like to be hectored at by those richer, safer and more powerful than himself. In the case of Electoral Reform, surely anyone who has the vote in the UK is entitled to their opinion? The charge Nick makes is that we in the yes campaign are hiding Nick Clegg behind the skirts of Helena Bonham Carter.

Now for those of a Liberal Democrat persuasion, there may be some truth in this, but the fact remains that the Yes campaign is much broader based than that. I really have little sympathy for Little Nicky and his Orange Book groupies, but the case for reform of our voting system is much more important than any one party. Mr Cohen and Mr Goodliffe decry the only option on the table for change – that of the Alternative Vote (AV). I understand the misgivings, and the arguments against it, but is it not better to get some change, rather than none? The Royal Commission under Lord Jenkins proposed a system incorporating AV plus an element of proportionality – AV plus, which could be introduced early on if Labour commits to it fully, and we win in 2015. And heres the rub, whatever the Lords have managed to squeeze out of the Coalition in concessions, we still lose 50 MPs and constituencies before 2015. The majority of these will be Labour, in a staggering move more suited to Al Capone than a democratic government. Without a change in the voting system, Labour face the prospect of being gerrymandered out of office for at least a decade. What on earth will be left to save in 2025? Will we have to start all over again? Can we?

For Labour, there is also a tactical consideration here. We oppose the Coalition on pretty much everything they are doing, and that means laying into the Lib Dems. This is no bad thing at all, but we may very well have to form some kind of alliance with them at some stage to win back power. To do this, we must prove ourselves to be willing to make changes, and to live up to the “Democratic” part of Democratic Socialism. We may also see a growing number of Lib dem activists from the Social Democratic wing come over to our side… Yet No campaigners within Labour, honest though they may be, are proving themselves just as tribal as Clegg, and as wedded to the old Tory “No reform” policy as Ham-Face Cameron… Think again Please…

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An Open Letter To Honest Opponents.

In the past few months I have met many Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters in the blogosphere, and in the main, I have found them to be courteous and respectful of other opinons. Obviously I avoid blowhards like the plague, and with Lady P at my side I know better than to simply be rude for the hell of it (however much fun it would be).

I have also noticed that supporters and members of both parties are disgruntled to say the least with certain aspects of the Coalitions policies. In politics, it never does to attribute uniform beliefs to your enemies. In this spirit I ask my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Yes To Fairer Votes Campaign, and Conservatives of a truly One Nation frame of mind to read on and ponder…

Is it honestly true to your principles to restrict the British people’s access to their land? To sell off ancient forests held in common, for the benefit of all?

Is it wise to fillet our Defences, as this administration is doing?

Is it just to erode the living standards of agricultural workers by abolishing their independent wages council?

Is it wise to allow one multinational company unheard of control over the media?

What patriotic Government allows such levels of tax evasion by the wealthy and large British corporations?

Is it good Conservatism, or Liberalism to erode our access to, and connection with Parliament, by destroying long cherished geographical boundaries and regional loyalties?

Is it fair play to instigate campaigning by smear and inference, as in the London Mayoral campaign?

Do you really believe that the upheaval this Government is instigating is in the true benefit of the NHS?

Does it really make sense to further atomise our national Education system, potentially excluding the talented poor for a generation?

Is it not simply politically motivated spite to add further needless anti-Trades Union legislation to the toughest Trades Union laws in Europe? Is this not something Disraeli would have baulked at?

How wise and patriotic can it be to seriously harm Britain’s universally respected voice to the World – The BBC World Service? Is it responsible? Is it truly what you want?

Are you entirely comfortable with a Government that is enacting legislation that was in neither of your parties’ manifestos, nor written into The Coalition Agreement?

I realise that we will not agree on everything, that is the nature of politics. But I also see that many of you oppose some, if not all of the measures listed above. I hope that we can all work together to help ameliorate the flood of ill-written, ill thought out legislation we see coming out of westminster and Whitehall.

For our nations’ sake I know that we will be able to work together at times…

Lords and Reform

It comes to something when those who believe in Liberty and Democracy have to rely on a bunch of unelected grandees…

The Reform Bill is being rushed through the House of Lords, after being guillotined through The Commons in a debated that lasted for only eight days. thats eight days for the “most important constitutional reform since 1832” as Nick Clegg has called it. Government Mps are muttering – how dare these Lords obstruct this Bill? Labour Lords are patiently re-iterating that they are not holding up the first half of the Bill, which deals with holding a Referendum on voting reform, but that they have legitimate opposition to the second part, which will abolish 50 Constituencies, and enlarge the remaining 600.

The Lords have a point, and it is a vital one. For the record, I am a member of the Yes campaign, and support electoral reform as a much needed step towards a more Democratic country, yet I will continue to voice my doubts about this Bill, which includes one of the most naked attempts at Gerrymandering since Westminster Council in the 1980s.

I simply cannot see what is so “progressive” about making our elected politicians yet more distant at a stroke. Neither do I accept that cost is a factor – since when did economy trump Liberty? Honourable Conservatives should have placed themselves at the forefront of a campaign to preserve traditional geographical boundaries, moderated by the Boundary Commission, which has a long record of neutrality. They did nothing of the sort, instead along with Lib Dems, they dutifully trooped through the aye lobby, no doubt hoping that Labour will be the main losers.

And the people? Well yet again , this is another law that no-one voted for. Along with Tuition fees, NHS “reform”, and pretty much every bit of legislation this bunch of well-off Oxbridge types have agreed upon.

Once The Coalition have forced this nonsense through Parliament, it is very tempting to vote “No” in the referendum, if only to upset Liberal Democrats. This would be wrong in many ways, not least that when this badly-drawn-Bill goes through unamended, as it will, the only way to ameliorate the loss of seats would be to pass AV, which may very possibly work against The Conservatives.

The Lords are an anti-democratic force at the heart of British politics, and I readily call for their replacement with an elected second chamber. However, for once, they are doing the right thing…

http://www.yestofairervotes.com

 

Voting Reform – The “Big Guns” come out against…

So, as of this morning, we know exactly who we are up against. In some cases, this is a shame – I think Margaret Beckett simply wrong-headed on this, others, such as William Hague are no surprise. Sad to see Ken Clarke making a serious mistake, but no matter.

The headlines will no doubt be full of the big hitters, and pointing out the high profile Labour people involved…

To Prescott, Beckett, Nick Cohen and the others who no doubt sincerely believe that they are doing the right thing, I can only say “ARE YOU REALLY SO FOOLISH?”

We know that this double-barrelled Bill will pass, leading to massive Gerrymandering during the seat redistribution, possibly rendering a Labour-Led Government distant possibility. We know that the farce of “safe” seats and one-party fiefdoms in Local Government have led to some awful, incompetent, and sometimes corrupt administrations dominated by nepotism and patronage.

The one chance we have to mitigate its effects, and the first chance since The General Election to seriously dent the Conservatives, is by maximising the Yes Vote in April.

AV is not perfect, but it is a start. The anger and disconnection between Government and people has not gone away, why on Earth would we wish to see the Conservatives safely esconsed with the Lib Dems?

There will be very few Conservatives in the Yes campaign, and most will certainly be united against change – unsurprising really, given their origins as the anti-reform party. Labour input would at the very least give rank and file Lib Dems cause to think about who they would rather be in coalition with…

…wouldn’t it also be a wise move to show a little trust in Ed, who is supporting the Yes Campaign?

Come on comrades, get involved with the Purple People…

Yes to Fairer Votes – getting involved.

On 5th May 2011, you have a chance, perhaps the only chance, to change our voting system for the better. The Coalitions’ Reform Bill, portrayed by Clegg and Co. as the biggest constitutional change since the 1830s will pass, very much unamended.

This means that there will be less MPs, further tightening the grip of both Party Machines, and by extension our wonderful “Political Class” on power over us. The boundary changes in this legislation also mean that in effect, a large-scale gerrymandering will take place, and Labour could be kept out of power for a decade or more. Spurious cries from the right of the House that The independent Boundary Commission had rigged its last reviews to favour Labour  hold no water – this is not redistribution, this is a culling of 50 seats – at a stroke your MP becomes much more distant from you, in the name of “fairness”, and at root, economy. One question…

SINCE WHEN DID ECONOMY TRUMP DEMOCRACY???

There is only one potential remedy for this, namely a victory for the Alternative Vote (AV) in the Referendum. Anyone who has voted in thier Student Union elections, Trades Union elections, or recent Labour elections knows that AV is pretty simple.

You mark the candidates in order of preference, e.g. 1st,2nd,3rd and so on, as you wish. The candidate with the least votes is eliminated, and their second preferences shared out amongst the remaining candidates. This continues until there is one candidate with over 50% of the votes. This means that every MP would have to have a majority to win. Easy.

This could lead to a much smaller number of safe seats, making our politicians work much harder for our votes. It would also temper the other parts of the Bill mentioned above,which will surely pass. For those of you who voted Labour last May, and would like to see this Coalition out, this is a vital step in the right direction, given the mountain we will have to climb if it does not pass.

AV is not a proportional system, and it does keep the link between constituencies and MPs intact, meaning we still get to bother them with lobbying, surgeries and the like. If the Yes vote wins, then an elected House of Lords becomes a real possibility at last.

An element of proportionality could be added by a future Labour Government by simply amending the system to the “AV+” system recommended by the late Lord “Woy” Jenkins in his report on constitutional reform.

If we lose, the Tories could be in power for a generation. Think about it. Look at Suffolk County Council – a very “safe ” Tory Council, or look at Tower Hamlets under generations of Labour rule. We have the chance to take some power back, so lets use it.

Join Take Back Parliament, or log on to this site for Fairer Votes:  http://www.yestofairervotes.org/

Get involved…

Ed’s first speech…

OK – having just listened carefully to Eds first keynote speech, I suppose I must give y’all my first impressions…

As as performance, Ed built up a creditable head of steam, and obviously learnt early on that oratory is not necessarily shouting. As a relatively unknown new Leader, he also had to flesh out his backstory for the general public. On the whole, it was a carefully pitched effort, a speech to both unify the party and to reach out to those millions of voters we lost under Blair and Brown after 2001.

A number of points were raised, and although it was of course short on policy, it was heavy on aspiration – both for Labour, and for the country as a whole.

ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, BROTHER…

Starting with the back story of his family was a good move for someone that few outside of politics know much about – his parents flight from the Nazis, their (very) left wing credentials, and general human interest were all covered. Although much the same age as Cameron and Clegg, his background is radically different from either – no landed yeomanry in his past, thats for certain.

On the Unions, he steered a course succinctly between stressing the right and necessity of Unions defending ordinary people and the Bob Crow faction within the TUC, thus undermining Tory jibes (tired as they are) about “Union paymasters”.

The really interesting parts were to come…

OUT WITH THE “NEW”, IN WITH THE…?

Whilst staying reasonable in tone, and paying tribute to the positive legacy of our last thirteen years in government, he drew a line under New Labour.

On Civil Liberties, Equal Rights and Iraq, Ed was a breath of fresh air. Whether we agreed with the ousting of Saddam, or or had problems with dodgy dossiers, it was clear that this was a new page  – couched in the realism that between 2001 and 2010 we lost 5 million voters. olive branches were offered to those of a liberal persuasion, whether LDs or not.

Throughout his speech, Blair and Brown were bracketed together as “Tony & Gordon” – significantly placing blairites and brownites together, whilst also stressing the need to move on.

In fact, in the light of Nick Clegg’s vitriol aimed at Labour in Liverpool, Ed aimed all his attacks at the Tories, and David Cameron. We have a Leader who has grasped that we may need to form a coalition of our own, or maybe Ed is too well brought up to kick a man when he is down, either way, what was to follow was great news…

A NEW HOPE…

The Leader of The Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, came out in full backing of a Yes vote in the AV referendum! He was unambiguous in his personal support for AV, and if we act quickly enough, we may be able to swing significant numbers of Labour supporters and activists behind the campaign. His support for an elected House of Lords was also not couched in the previous lukewarm terms of New Labour, but put centre stage, and both were well received within the hall. This is a major shift in both policy and attitude within Labour, and should not be underestimated.

The next steps were equally as important – Ed’s “Tamworth Manifesto” moment – he introduced the concept of constructive opposition, last used to great effect by the late John Smith. On the economy, he stressed a sensible level of deficit reduction, and wisely, given that we have yet to see detailed government plans, called for support for sensible economies, rather than blanket opposition. We have yet to know what Ed deems a “sensible” cut, or even to know exactly where the axe will fall, but this is a classic and useful position, given that we were advocating economies of our own in our last manifesto.

The call to social unity across the rich-poor divide – that we are happiest in societies that are less unequal, was a great foil for Cameron’s “Big Society”, and has already led to Sir Philip Blond to confusedly mark Ed out as a “red Tory” – it may be that Sir Philip is really a blue Social Democrat…

IN SUMMATION, CONFERENCE…

This speech was a good start, and showed that we have the ability to move on in a way that took the Conservatives ten years to do.

Action is needed, but the central theme that we need to move on from New Labour is perhaps a tacit acceptance that more than one viewpoint needs to be heard in policy discussions and development. Support for AV needs to be converted into action – Take Back Parliament needs Labour input. The studied lack of hostility towards the Liberal Democrats was both refreshing and may be useful for years to come.

This early in a period of opposition, what we need is less detailed policy, more a re-statement of principles. This speech was a good start. Lets move towards making the Good Society a reality.

Ed wins – what next?

So, after all the debating and argument, by the narrowest of margins, Ed Miliband is our new Leader. We have as a party shown that electoral defeat no longer produces a knee-jerk move to the Left, whatever the media say.

I voted for Ed as my second preference, after voting for Diane, my vote for her being a way of drawing a line in the sand after the New Labour period, and to try to foster wider debate within the party. We are now in a position that needs careful handling if we want to win in 2015, as a number of factors come into play:

Firstly, Ed has already stated that our opposition stance will have to be a lot more constructive than it has been so far. This is to the good, as we were clear before May that cuts would have to be made, and it makes no sense to the general public if we spend our time denying the deficit exists. where we disagree with the coalition is on how deep and how fast, and on what should be cut. We all know that we need to have a credible alternative to the worn-out monetarist guff coming from Osborne and Co.

On regulation, it may well be that Vince cable will be able to propose far-reaching changes that will help re-balance the economy in the future. We need to support him where we can, while developing his arguments further. On the Reform Bill, we have a greater problem, and also much more to gain – the blatant gerrymandering that has been included in the Bill is the one serious bloc to Labour support (see Nick Cohen in the Observer yesterday). However, a fairer voting system is manifestly just. In one sense, the passing of this Bill by the coalition would solve one problem, whether or not we support it. The problem of the AV referendum, which is going to b a tough fight, is that if we do not support it, we are open to charges of double standards. Therefore our opposition needs to stress the undemocratic nature of the seat culling and boundary changes, whilst showing support for the Yes campaign.

Charges from the right that Ed is just a Trades Union puppet, such as those made by the (unelected) Baroness Warsi, are not new, but need to be handled carefully. The usual Tory anti-Union line is followed up by the £80 billion cuts to the public sector, which face huge  Union opposition. We must be sure that every cut we oppose can be met with an alternative. And we must strenuously propose our alternatives, if we wish to effectively back any fightback, and give it a chance of success.

Within our own ranks we have to be honest as to why we were so rejected last May. This means asking tough questions, and taking tough measures. Phil Woolas and his agent should be immediately suspended from the Party until an internal inquiry has judged whether or not they have brought the party into disrepute. Likewise certain councillors in East London, Doncaster, and in certain areas of Scotland. We need to clean out the stables, and to win back the trust that we have lost, not just in government, but also in local government too. Ex ministers who have dodgy links to shady businessmen cannot be allowed onto the opposition frontbench. this will be hard, and I doubt that the PLP will like it much, but this needs to be done.

We have an opportunity to recreate our party as the sole national party of opposition, we could be instrumental in helping to redraw the political map of Britain, and we could be back in power in 2015, but only if we are honest, bold, and determined. This week at conference, Ed and the rest of the candidates have the chance to show how far we have already come since May, comrades, don’t blow it.

I’m with John…

“Every free man of England, poor as well as rich, should have a vote in choosing those that are to make the law.”

John Lilburne (“Freeborn John”) May 1647

Good old John, one of the great Levellers of the Civil Wars, and one of the figures whose ideas went on to help create The Labour Movement, and inspire the struggle for adult emancipation in these isles. Trouble is, we have the vote, but it is rendered meaningless by First Past The Post – all parties now chase the few votes that can effectively give them a majority, rather than needing to convince most of the people. So unless you are middle class and live in a marginal seat, you don’t matter.

This is why the voting reform to AV matters to us in Labour – because it is a step that can redress the balance in favour of ordinary people and give them a fair say.

I urge you to come along to the Take Back Parliament rally in Manchester on the 28th at Labour Conference – and to lobby within the Party and Unions for active support of the Yes campaign in the referendum.

This fight harks back to our roots as a movement – not just the Levellers, but Tom Paine and The Chartists should be our inspiration…

Not convinced? Just take a look at the points below…

  1. In 1951, Labour won its largest share of the vote ever, yet we were consigned by FPTP to thirteen wasted years of opposition.
  2. Margaret Thatcher never achieved more than 33% of the total possible votes – John Major even less. As for Cameron…
  3. Under AV, the large number of Labour voters in Tory areas would increase their representation.
  4. In seats such as Waveney in Suffolk, under AV we would have probably won last time.
  5. AV would help to end the farce of “safe” seats – of which the Tories always have more.
  6. County Councils such as Suffolk would no longer be permanently dominated by one party.
  7. Large Majorities produced by FPTP lead to Parties ignoring the grassroots.
  8. AV was in our Manifesto.
  9. We already use AV for our elections – as do Trades Unions and the NUS. If it is good enough for us, its good enough for the country.
  10. In Australia, coalition is the exception, and Labor have won outright majorities in the 1980s, 90s, and this century.
  11. The reform Bill will pass, probably unamended. Without AV, the culling of seats and redistribution mean that the Tories will have gerrymandered the system.
  12. If AV passes, the chance to elect the Lords becomes a real one.

A successful campaign needs your active support, join Take Back Parliament, and lets change the political map of Britain.

Join the TBP rally in Manchester on the 28th and help convince others in Labour to get involved.

AV, Labour and Reform…

STOP PRESS!!

There is a Take Back Parliament Rally with Billy Bragg in Manchester on 28th September, to coincide with the Labour Party Conference. Details at Purple People website. I urge you all to go…

Along with cutting essential services, this coalition is also determined to cut your representation in Parliament – the Reform Bill will mean not only a chance for a fairer voting system, but also the loss of 50 seats in the Commons, and a redrawing of boundaries that will take no notice of local considerations whatsoever.

This is not just a matter for the usual suspects, as The Reform Bill will pass largely unamended, unless we get AV, the Tory Gerrymandering of seats will make it even more difficult for us to win. It is in our own self interest, as well as the interests of democracy, for the Yes campaign to win the referendum. Lets all get involved.

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