Archive for Labour

An Open Response to ‘A Guy Named Guy’

The following post is the development of some of the points I raised in response to a post by an interesting left-of-centre Brighton blogger. ‘A Guy Named Guy’ , who blogs at Cut the Crap, makes an interesting case as to why he is voting for Nancy Platts in Brighton Pavilion.

Here is my post with some added bits:

“I think we have to remember, despite Nancy Platts being as decent a candidate as she is, she is deceiving voters in Brighton Pavilion.

Despite where Nancy stands on a whole range of issues (and I agree with almost all of her policy positions), she is asking voters in Brighton to return a Labour government and a Labour manifesto that will stand in stark contrast to Nancy’s own values.

The Labour manifesto will include cuts in higher education (despite Nancy standing on a picket line opposing higher education cuts), cuts in social and public services (despite Nancy sending a message of support to the Brighton anti-cuts demo), the replacement of Trident with a new nuclear system that will exacerbate tensions in the Middle East (Nancy is in favour of ditching our nuclear arsenal completely), a continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Nancy opposes both these wars), no repeal of anti-trade union legislation (Nancy calls herself a trade unionist) and the continuation of illiberal anti-terror legislation that will undermine civil liberties.

Labour has been given 13 years in office to push through radical and far-reaching change and they have fallen short. From reforming the House of Lords into a fully democratic chamber to introducing proportional representation (PR) for general and local elections, they have failed to make even the most moderate of changes to the political constitution, let alone advancing on a programme of addressing the deep inequality that exists in society.

I for one find it an absolute betrayal of the principle of ‘fairness’ that the wealth gap has increased under 13 years of Labour and inequality is more entrenched in society than it was before 1997.

Voters in Brighton Pavilion have a unique opportunity in helping shift the “progressive consensus” to the left with the election of a Green MP.

The Green Party is arguably a ‘radical social democratic’ party whose main focus in recent years has been on developing the value of fairness. Not just fairness in opportunity, but fairness in all that an active State does.

The Greens are the only party arguing against the consensus that savage cuts are needed, instead, we have taken a similar understanding of David Blanchflower’s analogy that recession (and the fragile recovery) is a war and (despite the Green anti-war irony here) the only way to fight a war is to throw money at it, you don’t budget or make cuts on the front line.

There is a real danger of a double-dip recession and we need strong, independent voices in Parliament asking difficult questions, lobbying for cross-party support on early day motions (EDMs) that chime with Green policy (take a look at my post on a recent example http://bit.ly/aczQ7f) and shifting the goal posts of what is possible for the centre-left to achieve.

Climate change is a serious, pressing issue, one that has been forced on the back foot by an emboldened climate change denial cabal, nothing sends a stronger message to that cabal than the election of a Green MP.

Having a Green MP(s) will elevate the urgency for action on climate change in Parliament. It will send a powerful message to the next Government that it is an issue that must be addressed in its entirety.

If, and heavens forbid if it does happen, Nick Griffin wins in Barking; we can expect whatever Government to be more xenophobic, more hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers and more likely to pander to far-right voters. This will only create breathing room for the BNP. Already we have heard Gordon Brown talk about “Strengthen[ing] fairness in communities through controlled immigration… .”

Gordon Brown is right when he says that voters should take a second look at Labour, then a long, hard look at the Tories but, I would advise all voters to look back at Labour’s 13 years, look back on their successes and failures, but think more about what they haven’t done and what they’ve failed to achieve.

Despite Nancy’s credibility as a sound candidate, think about what she is asking voters in Brighton to do. They won’t be voting for Nancy’s policies, they’ll be voting for Gordon Brown and the whole Labour cabinet and a manifesto that will give Labour a mandate to inflict savage cuts, to continue with the “war on terror”, to develop costly and dangerous weapons of mass destruction and for a Government that will pander to the far-right and further legitimise the BNP and their vile politics.

The Labour vote in Brighton has collapsed. The 2007 local elections and the 2009 European Parliament elections proves that. The danger of voting Labour in Brighton Pavilion is the possibility of a Tory MP, but also more of the same from Gordon Brown and co.”

However, it is a pleasure to see a new blogger in Brighton and I want to wish Guy well on his blogging adventure in the run-up to the General Election.

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Does Labour really have a chance in Brighton and Hove?

There is little doubt that the race in Brighton Pavilion promises to be one of the most exciting in the forthcoming General Election. All three main candidates, Caroline Lucas (Green), Charlotte Vere (Conservative) and Nancy Platts (Labour) are giving it their all.

A little while back, in some discussions with friends, I predicted that the campaign in Brighton Pavilion would be a sour and bitter one. The threat posed by the Green Party is enough to undermine the status quo of the big three and to upset their predominance in UK politics. A Green win, even in one seat, is enough to challenge all presumptions and conceptions about the party and new forces breaking through at Westminster.

Some will argue that one Green MP won’t make any difference, however, they would only be lying to themselves if they didn’t believe the kind of impact it would have. A breakthrough for the Greens at Westminster would be significant, even if not immediately recognisable. The Greens are a national party with councillors up and down the country and with a policy manifesto that envisages the long-term. What has always been lacking up to this point is a real chance of making a breakthrough at a General Election

For far too long the party held onto a vague sense that Labour would deliver PR or a democratic crisis would become so apparent that changing the electoral system was the only hope of recovery. I am glad to see that the party has since shifted in its tactical and strategic thinking and recognised the necessity of employing a genuine target seat strategy.

This has led a large amount of resources, attention and focus going into Brighton Pavilion. The Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion certainly dwarfs both Labour and the Conservative campaigns. However, we must remember, nationally at least, Pavilion is not a top Tory target seat – it’s number 135 on their list; whereas Hove is 8 and Kemptown is 29.

Brighton Politics Blogger has reported on the shortfall in Nancy Platts election funds compared to those of Simon Burgess, the Labour candidate for Kemptown. Given that Simon has a higher profile in the Labour Party than Nancy (just take a peak at Simon’s record), it is no surprise that he has managed to wrestle more money for his campaign away from Nancy’s and Celia Barlow’s (the Labour MP for Hove).

Labour has a lot more to lose from a Green win in Brighton Pavilion than the Tories. If Caroline Lucas successfully takes the seat, then Labour would struggle to come back as the leading, left-of-centre force in Brighton politics.

There is a real possibility that next year, in the Brighton and Hove city council elections, that Labour could be reduced to having a core rump of councillors from East Brighton and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The Greens could certainly take Labour’s seat in Goldsmid, their two seats in Preston Park, the Lib Dem seats in Brunswick and Adelaide, as well as picking up one in Withdean, Hollingbury and Stanmer and maybe even a third in Goldsmid from the Tories.

This does of course have the potential of seeing the Tories return with an increased majority and overall control of the council, but Labour would of course be decimated, such would be the knock on effect of a Green victory in Pavilion.

If Labour were reduced to four, five or even six councillors, it could very well be the end of them in Brighton politics. If Labour fail to hold on to Hove (which they have next to no chance of doing so), or Kemptown (in which there is an outside chance they will hold on to) or in Pavilion (maybe no chance), then Labour, as a force in Brighton, will be no more. It would not be long before they are seceded by the Greens as the main progressive force in Brighton and Hove politics.


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This and that: A week in the life of…

I have been away from the blog for a week, doing this, doing that. Now I’m back and ready to be as scathing and scrutinising as ever before.

Kent Union elections

I was absent for most of last week because my attention was on the Kent Union elections, particularly the battle for VP Welfare.

I was backing the popular and dedicated Aaron Kiely, who faced tough opposition from the incumbent VP Welfare, Samantha Kennedy. Unfortunately I was unable to be there through most of campaigns week because of my work commitments; however, I was able to do my bit on Friday for the final push.

After a long day in which the weather worsened, it hit 4pm and the polls had closed to the relief of everyone, especially Aaron. That night, we had a nervous wait in store until 11pm when the results were announced. It went to three rounds and Aaron was shy of just 200 votes. The final tally was 1400 to Sam Kennedy, 1200 to Aaron Kiely and 700 votes to the third placed candidate. Whilst the results were disappointing after a long, hard slog, all of us were immensely proud of Aaron’s effort and those of his campaigns team.

Congratulations should go to Zoe Scandrett, Damon Reid-Williams and Tom Pengelly, who were all elected to the positions of Women’s Officer, Ethnic Minorities Officer and LGBT Officer respectively. Kent students are lucky to have three excellent people leading the liberation campaigns for the year ahead.

Victory for Kent staff and students

However, despite the disappointment of Friday night, a silver lining emerged in the dispute between the University management and staff in the Biosciences department at the University of Kent. Yesterday, at 3pm, after a meeting between the University and the UCU, the following statement was released:

“The University and UCU have had further constructive discussions in relation to the future of the School of Biosciences and have agreed upon an acceptable resolution of the matters in issue between them. This successful conclusion to the discussions indicates a renewed spirit  of constructive partnership between management and UCU, and both parties are committed to entering into a Redundancy Avoidance Agreement for the future.   As a result, the threat of compulsory redundancies has now been lifted from UCU members in Biosciences, and UCU has therefore cancelled the planned ballot of its members on taking industrial action which was to commence on Friday 26th March 2010.”

You can read more about this tremendous victory for the UCU and for student-led activism from Aaron Kiely and the Kent staff themselves.

Nancy Platts blocks me from Twitter

In other news, it seems as though the Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Nancy Platts, has blocked me from following her on Twitter.

I for one am shocked and saddened by this move. As a public figure, whose Twitter profile is their candidate profile, Nancy’s move is unprecedented and surprising. Sure, I have criticised Nancy and Labour policy, but never on a personal level. In fact, I have the utmost respect for perspective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Running for Parliament is no easy thing; it requires time, effort and, perhaps above all, maintaining a cool head. If Nancy thinks my soft criticism of her policies is bad, she has no idea what it would be like if ever she was elected to Parliament. I would appreciate it if Nancy could specify as to why she has blocked me but, if I have caused her any upset, I do apologise.

Shame on David Lepper

In further Brighton Labour news, the BBC has reported that Pavilion MP, David Lepper, has broken Parliamentary rules on overseas trips. Mr. Lepper has been visiting Cyprus every year since 2004 and has tabled 29 early day motions (EDMs) relating to the country. Mr. Lepper failed to register an interest when he tabled a Parliamentary question on 13th January 2009, as well as four EDMs between 2006 and 2009.

Whilst David Lepper has apologised for not registering an interest, he has not apologised for using up valuable Parliamentary time in which he should have been focussing on the concerns of his Brighton constituents. He owes his constituents a massive apology for not working in their interests, but instead for the Municipality of Morphou, the Municipality of Famagusta and the Association of Cypriot Municipalities, who paid for his free holidays to Cyprus.

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Snubbed by Kevin Maguire?

Last weekend, Labour’s candidate in Brighton Kemptown, Simon Burgess, was given some extra support from Daily Mirror columnist and political hack, Kevin Maguire. However, what is noticable from Kevin Maguire’s visit to Brighton is the lack of any engagement with Labour’s candidate in Pavilion, Nancy Platts.

It is one of the worst kept secrets in Brighton politics that Simon and Nancy just don’t get on well at all. Whilst both come across as incredibly nice people, they just don’t like each other. I’m sure they’ll both deny this, but any hack will tell you otherwise.

Both Simon and Nancy are fighting over volunteers (as to is Celia Barlow in the super-marginal Hove constituency), as well as funds, resources and media coverage. The one thing you would have thought they’d both share would be endorsements from fellow travellers but, in the case of Kevin Maguire, it would appear not. In other words, it looks as though Kevin snubbed Nancy.

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Why the Tories have stalled

The polls are narrowing, the Tories seem unable to land a knock-out blow on the Labour spin machine, the main parties are become increasingly desperate. To borrow a phrase from Kevin Maguire, ‘Cameron’s mask is slipping’, and you know what, that’s not rhetoric, it’s true.

David Cameron’s personal popularity has fallen 9 points since 2008 and the latest Ipsos-Mori poll shows the Tory lead standing at 5% – the ‘magic’ number that keeps the Tories from becoming the largest party in Parliament after a General Election.

This week was meant to be a bruising one for Gordon Brown, he was meant to have been a broken figure, but the Rawnsley ‘revelations’ turned to dust. Then came Alistair Darling’s “forces of hell” moment, once again, this crumbled away. So, what has gone wrong in the Tory machine? Why have they stalled?

I think the answer is a simple one, very simple in fact, the answer lies in policy, or the lack of any robust policy. I know of only three things to expect from a Cameron Government: 1. a cut in corporation tax; 2. de-regulation for large parts of the economy; and, 3. a ‘free’ vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act (2004). This is all I can remember, I can’t recite anything else. Nothing sticks except for a big image of  Cameron telling us ‘I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’ – which is actually an homage to Tony Blair’s 1997 poster, ‘new Labour: because Britain deserves better’ (which I’m unable to find a link to).

Until we start hearing more from David Cameron and the Tories, the more they will stall. They will fail to land that decisive punch, they will fail to connect with voters on the doorstep and they will be more vulnerable to, what is arguably, a more confident Labour machine. The worry is, that the more policy the Tories reveal, the more likely it is that voters will be unsettled. Voters don’t want to hear about cuts, they don’t want to hear that big business and the City are getting off lightly and they don’t want to see any more haunting posters of David Cameron glaring into their souls.

Instead, what we will see, is a party becoming more desperate and more ugly in their attacks. The Tories will revert back to the old Conservatism that’s more eager to play to our fears,  rather than encouraging our hopes and desires.

Labour are still vulnerable and must admit that they’ve been incredibly lucky this week (the whole “take a second look at us and take a long, hard look at them” line is getting a bit thin). Unless Cameron commits to an agenda, one which he actually sticks to, then the Tories will continue to stall.

Their silence is their undoing.

(FYI  The Tories have their “Spring Forum” in Brighton this weekend)

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Scapegoating students…again

Last week, John Healey, Housing Minister and MP for Wentworth, launched one of the vilest attacks on students yet.

Healey announced plans to grant local councils the power to minimise highly populated student neighbourhoods. The plans will allow councils to license and regulate landlords letting to students in problematic cities.

The Minister for Housing said: “I am giving councils more local powers to crack down on the worst landlords and stop the spread of high concentrations of share homes where it causes problems for other residents or changes the character of a neighborhood.”

These plans to restrict the number of multiple occupation of properties has met opposition from the British Property Federation, director of policy, Iain Fletcher, said: “Clearly, ‘studentification’ is an issue on some areas, but the private rented sector provides far more than student accommodation and any interventions need to be balanced against the impact they could have across the wider sector.”

Already, Liberal Democrat councillors in Canterbury have seized upon the issue. Jo Calvett-Mindell, Lib Dem councillor for St. Stephen’s ward, has long been in favour of a cap on student homes. In 2007, she tabled a motion calling for a 20% limit on the number of student homes per road. She made the exaggerated claim that some streets had “90% student occupancy” without citing any data or evidence of this. This weekend, in a tiny article in the free Canterbury Times newspaper, Cllr. Calvett-Mindell repeated her calls for a cap on student homes in the city.

 The plans are a horrendous attack on students from a Government incessant upon getting 50% of young people into higher education, having committed themselves to narrowing the gap of opportunities for young people after mandatory education, making university an unfair default option for many young people who wish to aspire in other disciplines. How does the Government expect cities to cope with an increasing number of young people attending universities, when it narrows access to decent and fair housing?

It’s bad enough that students have to expect delays in their loans, even when the loans fail to cover the cost of rent for one term. It’s bad enough that students have to accept near poverty wages in jobs with non-flexible work hours. It’s bad enough that time and time again students are scapegoated by local authorities for being the root cause of anti-social behaviour in large towns and cities with a significant student population.

Students can expect to become fodder for negative campaigning in local elections. In cities such as Canterbury- where most students often return home between mid-April to mid-May before the start of the exam season- students are deprived of their opportunity to vote, losing their say and local councillors are fully aware of this. Students can expect local, mainstream politicians to use language usually reserved for the xenophobic BNP. There is already evidence that this is the case.

Under Labour, students have become an easy target. The decline in student activism, aided and abetted by the National Union of Students (NUS), has made cheap political attacks possible. Without the promotion of a culture of activism, students are more likely to be ‘benched’ by their elected representatives when it comes to organising against savage Tory cuts in higher education and the prospect of un-regulated student fees. Permanent campaigning is no longer a fixture for NUS bods and union careerists, they’re far more interested in governance reviews and the re-structuring of their bureaucracies.

Until we see the emergence of grassroots, activist-candidates in student union elections who care more about delivering for students than winning, many students will continually be subjected to a brutalisation that will be surgical, painful and ugly.

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Bankrolling the local party?

A little while back, Brighton blogger (and online community specialist), Dan Wilson, accused Caroline Lucas of ‘bankrolling’ the Green Party (scroll down to the comments section on the link). Most of the hacks, including yours truly, laughed at the absurd suggestion. Yes, Caroline Lucas makes a small contribution to the Green Party (and rightly so), but I believe it  to be a very modest one…and it certainly is compared to Barbara Follett, Labour MP for Stevenage, who was asked to payback £42,483, of which £32,976 has already been repaid. All well and good…I suppose. That is until we take a look at how much cash this champagne socialist has ploughed into her local party, Stevenage CLP. Are you ready for this? £116,100.00! I kid you not. Go on, take a look.

Yes, according to the wonderful folks at The Electoral Commission, Mrs. Follett has given a grand total of £116,100.00 to her constituency party since 2001. Talk about bankrolling a party. (I’m sure she’s enjoyed plenty of parties at her holiday homes in Cape Town and Antigua).

Now, I’m all for elected politicians helping out their local parties financially, I would be a bit peeved if they didn’t. But does anybody else think that £116,100.00 is taking the biscuit? I certainly think so.

(By the way, I’m sure there’s plenty of other Lab-Lib-Con MPs doing exactly the same as Mrs. Follett, I just haven’t bothered checking anyone else out, but I strongly suggest you do).

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