Sunday, 25 May 2008

Navigating through the gossip and nonsense!


Well the weekend papers have gone to town, as they were always bound to. Depending on what you were reading this morning, you'd now be thinking that almost any MP was on the verge of some stalking-horse or serious challenge.

The Observer has it that Brown will be urged to bring potential rivals (Miliband and Purnell are named) under his wing, appointing a Deputy Prime Minister alongside, presumably, some sort of reshuffle. Comment in the same paper suggests Miliband, Purnell, Straw, Johnson - even Cruddas - as potential challengers.

The Independent takes the unlikely Cruddas story further, suggesting that he has been approached by Charles Clarke to be a stalking horse, supported by 'left' (sic) and right. The paper reports Cruddas turning down the offer, but leaves a hint that he might change his mind. They have Cruddas at 10-1 to be the next leader (behind Balls at 8-1). They still have Miliband as the favourite. They also report Denis Healey comparing Brown with Michael Foot, and there is a dreadful piece by John Rentoul praising those few MPs who nominated neither Brown nor John McDonnell and suggesting that the likes of Miliband and even Blair betrayed the true path of Blairism by nominating Brown when they did. He ends up listing the usual suspects (all of whom nominated Brown) as the potential saviours.

The Times, in contrast, reports that Miliband is 'ready to go' but doesn't want to wield the axe himself. (Perhaps this ties in vaguely with the Independent story - Cruddas, if he were to accept Clarke's invitation - being Miliband's stalking horse after delivering the MPs of the 'Compass Group').

The Mail gets into more fanciful territory still: Cruddas to stand as Balls' deputy, and so and so on.


All of this doesn't get us very far. All the papers also include every single one of these stories being denied by all parties.

Are they all rubbish? I don't suppose so... There'll be a crumb of truth here and there. What I think it mainly shows is what lots of backbenchers and parliamentary researchers are prepared to say to journalists off the record, rather than what the various people mentioned are really doing and saying themselves.

But it all comes across as so shallow and pointless. In many ways it compounds the problems of the last few weeks and could confirm in people's minds that we're not serious and don't have the answers to their concerns.

All this personality stuff, the plotting, the whispers, is rubbish. It's about the policies or it's about nothing at all. Any sort of alliance-of-convenience with Clarke would be ridiculous. Indeed, any action that seems to obsess on the personality of the Prime Minister would be a dereliction of duty.

We need to spend the next two years bringing in decent, progressive, LABOUR policies. I also think it's the closest we have to a fightback strategy; but that isn't the reason to do it. We should do it because it's the right thing to do. Maybe Brown can't deliver those policies; on that basis and that basis alone should any discussions about the leadership be conducted.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Partnership in Power - some amendments from the experts!

Thanks to Mike Ion for posting Comprehensive Future's proposed amendments to the EDUCATION AND SKILLS document, on Labourhome.

They are:

Page 9

There are two alternative amendments we suggest - both for line 47 following 'Code' They are - We now intend to go further and ensure no child has to face selective entry tests for secondary education (except banding) by ending selection on ability and aptitude.

Or

However many English children continue to face overt selective entry tests on ability and aptitude in order to transfer to secondary education. We intend to commission a wide ranging study on how this affects children, families, schools and educational attainment.

I recommend trying to get the first one passed (I'd be tempted to lose the 'except banding' bit...) and go for the second one if necessary.

Please also use the Defend Council Housing amendments (even though there are hundreds of them!) in preference to my earlier attempt. I know it's virtually impossible to read them at the top, so try here for a Word document, or here for pdf.

If you submit amendments based on those of Defend Council Housing, can you let them know here?

Monday, 12 May 2008

LEAP Conference - Sat. 24th May

On Saturday 24th May, LEAP will be hosting its first conference ‘Beyond the Market Economy – socialist solutions to the economic crisis’. This is the Left Economic Advisory Panel, a group launched by the LRC, that has very successfully looked at how to fund socialist policies for several years now.

There will be platform speeches from John McDonnell MP and Tony Benn - and their experience in socialist economic policy (John from his days at the GLC and Tony from his days in the Cabinet) will be of enormous value - but the real point of the conference is the participation of party members. There will be four sub-plenaries on housing, global finance, social ownership and workers’ rights: hugely important issues for all socialists at this point of time and very relevant to many of the discussions that we've been having on Labour Left Forum.

You can find more details, and register online at at the LRC website.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

How is Socialism paid for?

Many on the New Labour right through this question back at Socialists in the party. Here is a reply I put to a New Labour blogger.

An important political reality is the fact that real political power is held by businesses and corporations and not the electorate. It is a failure of New Labour to realise this considering the facts are glaringly obvious. We have falling voter participation in elections which has been brought on by a belief that all governments and therefore all parties are the same.
At the same time we have a shrinking pot of money that governments have to try to utilise to bring in reforms; therefore you have political leaders not promising anything at election times. (its interesting though to point out here that there always seems to be enough money for Iraq, Trident,anti Terrorism, bailing out banks, struggling rail companies and failing PFI stunts, but still what do I know.......)

In the background you have an electorate increasingly aware at the obvious class divisions in society. For example you have super rich city businessmen flaunting their wealth while the employee class is struggling with food price and fuel and utility bill increases. This increase in poverty will affect the very few people that New Labour concentrated on in the marginal seats, middle England.

Labour has wasted their eleven years in power compared to what the Tories achieved in 18 years. The reforms, (ie minimum wage etc) that they did bring in are now hardly noticed by the electorate. The truth is voters vote against a government and not for a government. That was apparent in 1997 as it is in 2008.We are on the brink of another period of Tory government kept in not by so called ‘unwinnable’ left wing policies but by the very same philosophy that won Labour the election in 1997.

Where do we go from here?

The current status quo is unmanageable, unacceptable and unwinnable. Difficult decisions have to be made but in order to halt and reverse the growing class inequality. You say companies will desert the country. Well ask them to close the door behind them then and we will have to run the companies.

It’s simple really. Governments have a duty of care for the electorate and that includes their economic well being. It just needs a bit of 21st century thinking , a 21st Century Socialism.

That is why I think people like John McDonnell MP need to be listened to. No one is listening to New Labour any more.


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Prosperity and Work: Proposed amendments

You can read the 'Prosperity and Work' policy document here.

My proposed amendments:

Page 13 Line 39.

ADD

"We will reinstate the exemption for people with severe disabilities to continue to receive the higher rate Disability Living Allowance so that they can pay for their care."

(Robert - could you check this and re-word if you think necessary. Also there is stuff in there about Remploy, etc. which I feel could be effectively amended, but I'd prefer someone who had look at this in more detail to recommend the wordings. I will amend this section of the post accordingly in the near future).

Page 21, Line 43

ADD

"We will introduce a Trade Union Freedom Bill which will make provision for the law relating to the rights and freedoms of workers and of trade unions, the regulation of relations between employers and workers, protection of employment in lawful industrial action, and remedies
in trade disputes to bring Trade Union rights in the UK in line with those in other modern democracies."


Page 22, Line 7

DELETE

"The government will continue to work to seek an agreement in Europe on an agency workers
directive that offers appropriate protections while maintaining the flexibility of the UK labour market which has helped deliver record employment in recent years."


AND REPLACE WITH

"The government will introduce a Temporary and Agency Workers' Bill
to provide for the protection of temporary and agency workers and to promote the rights and enforce the principle of equal treatment of temporary and agency workers."


(Again with these sections - experts in the field please sort out my wording - this stuff comes more-or-less from the bills).

Building Sustainable Communities - amendments

You can read the 'Building Sustainable Communities' document here.

These are my proposed amendments:

Page 17, Line 40.
DELETE

"We are working with fourteen local authorities to develop
Local Housing Companies which offer new ways of realising our ambitions for a new
generation of social housing"


AND REPLACE WITH

"We will legislate for direct investment in decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing, to provide housing needs for that large proportion of people who are unable to get onto the ownership ladder. We will enable local authorities to improve all council homes and start the necessary programme of building new council houses to meet housing need (allowing councils to ring-fence rents and capital for investment in housing stock). In this way we will ensure respect for tenants' choice, stimulate the economy, enable democratically elected local authorities to get on with their job and meet our 2005 election manifesto commitment to ensure that all social tenants benefit from a decent warm home with modern facilities by 2010."

Page 17, Line 44

DELETE

"Well-performing"

Page 10, Line 13

ADD

"We will bring the railways back into public ownership."

Back with more soon!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

"Partnership in Power" - time for action

You can now access the policy consultation documents from Membersnet, here.

You will need to log in. I'm looking into how easy it might be for me to direct-link to the documents from here, as it's important that members of affiliated unions who aren't party members can access the documents.

They are, at present, the worst kind of woolly nonsense, characterised by imprecision and vagueness.

We need to make a concerted effort with proposed amendments. John McDonnell's May Manifesto is a good starting point. I shall try and work out what should go where (in terms of which document) over the next few days. Then as soon as your branch or CLP sends in an amendment, could you post it as a comment here too, that way we can follow what's been said and by whom?

You will, of course, need to ensure that you have a meeting in time to make the submissions before 20 June. There are guidelines on Membersnet about how to make the submissions (they should be specific amendments, i.e. page 20 line 6 remove 'compulsory homework for pensioners' and replace with 'nationalise the banks', etc.)

Okay I'm going to be adding links to the documents from here too (it might take a while to get them up). This first one is on Crime, Citizenship and Equalities, and includes anything on constitutional reform, etc. as well as some of the human rights-related proposals (e.g. ID cards, etc.) This is here?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Two important jobs!


Hi all,

Two important jobs for us to do. The first is to sign John McDonnell's petition for a new, socialist manifesto:


PRESS NOTICE:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
John McDonnell MP launches 2008 May Manifesto Petition
In the light of Labour's election defeat last week, John McDonnell MP is circulating a manifesto petition to Labour Party members, trade unions and MPs to gain large scale rank and file support for a new policy programme for Labour to bring about a radical change in political direction for the Laboour Government.

John McDonnell MP said:

"After the serious rejection of New Labour at the polls last week assurances that the Government is listening are simply not going to be enough to restore any sense of belief in the Labour Party. What is needed is a radical change of political direction.

"We have to demonstrate that change by introducing a new policy programme that specifically and very concretely addreses peoples' concerns raised on the doorstep. This May manifesto petition is launched so that all our supporters can have a say in pressing for the changes we need."

We believe that Labour can win back the support of our people by adopting a new 2008 May Manifesto, which should include:
Nailing the 10p tax mistake by the introduction of a fair tax system removing the low paid from taxation and ensuring the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share
An increase in the basic state pension, immediately restoring the link with earnings, lifting people off means tested benefits and providing free care for the elderly
An immediate start on a large scale council house building programme and assistance for those facing repossession
Immediate end to programme of local Post Office closures and liberalisation of postal services
An end to the privatisation of our public services
A new pay deal for public sector workers to protect their living standards and tackle low pay
Abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants for all students
Scrapping ID cards
Introduction of a trade union freedom bill and measures to protect temporary and agency workers
Rejecting the proposals to renew Trident

---ends---


To sign it, send an email to the LRC with 'petition' in the subject heading and with you name and CLP/Trade Union. Go for it, folks!

ALSO...

Get along to Labourhome and contribute to their survey of Labour grassroots.

Together we can save the government, and save it as a socially-progressive government worth saving!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Policy consultation - time for radical new legislation on social housing


Since writing the last post on workers' rights, the results have come in. We've all had a terribly disappointing day. The London results are still coming in as I type, but they are not looking promising.

The one glimmer of light I can see is that lots of people in the movement are saying the same thing: we need to come back fighting, and we need to do that through having a raft of radical policies that will have a clear impact on the lives of our voters who have sent us such a clear message in the last 24 hours.

We have an opportunity to promote these policies through the policy consultation. As well as the workers' rights proposals, we should be able to build a massive consensus around the 4th option re: council housing, which is the agreed policy of the Labour Party and the TUC and was supported by a broad array of MPs in parliament. I've taken a proposed text from an EDM:

The Labour government will legislate for direct investment in decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing, to provide housing needs for that large proportion of people who are unable to get onto the ownership ladder. We will enable local authorities to improve all council homes and start the necessary programme of building new council houses to meet housing need (allowing council houses to ring-fence rents and capital for investment in housing stock). In this way we will ensure respect for tenants' choice, stimulate the economy, enable democratically elected local authorities to get on with their job and meet our 2005 election manifesto commitment to ensure that all social tenants benefit from a decent warm home with modern facilities by 2010.

I would welcome comments from people - especially those involved in the Defend Council Housing campaign to improve that text. Then let's get as many CLPs and union branches as possible to propose it.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Policy Consultation - time for radical new legislation on workers' rights



As I write, the polling stations are just shutting up and down the country. We don't know what the results will be. Fingers crossed that excellent Labour councillors up and down the country won't be unceremoniously flung out of office and replaced by feckless Tories, Lib Dems or worse. Fingers crossed Ken has held on in London.

But whatever the result, Gordon Brown has said that there is going to be a wide-ranging, genuine policy consultation in the party, giving CLPs and union branches the chance to submit full amendments to policy documents before they go to the NPF, and giving us the chance to have a real discussion about policies. People from all areas of the party seem to agree that the time is more than right to get some genuinely radical policies on the agenda. I started off a discussion at Labourhome (and got some interesting responses) and I know other Labour blogs are going to get involved with the discussion too. While there a wide range of interesting reforms being discussed (especially proposed constitutional reforms, etc.) I think we on the left should make a particularly strong push on the issue of trade unions and workers' rights. This is particularly in the light of recent comments by Osborne and the Tories.

We all know there have been policy consultations before, and we all know many have been nothing more than expensive PR exercises. But if we make a concerted effort on this, I think we could push some of this legislation to the top of the agenda, and - if nothing else - make it much harder for the government to talk out future private members' bills in these areas.

The two key pieces of legislation in this area, proposed in recent years, are the Trade Union Freedom Bill and the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill. I think we should use this consultation to make a strong case for the government introducing a Workers' Rights Bill: a synthesis of these two excellent bills, with full government support. Let's try and put in place some fundamental and irreversible protection for working people.

I propose that we come up with a form of words that clearly states that we want this legislation in place; take the words to our CLPs, union branches, etc. and publish here which organisations have proposed the amendment. We could disperse the amendment via the networks of the LRC, STLP, CLPD, Compass, etc, also via Labour Briefing, Tribune, the Chartist, etc. and through various Labour blogs. The temptation will be for everyone to put their own set of words in, and on some issues that will undoubtedly happen. But to have a big effect we should organise and work together.

Let's put our internal democracy to the test: let's try and get a set of proposals with overwhelming trade union support and strong parliamentary support and clear support among party members established as clear PARTY POLICY and then challenge the government to implement it.