Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Labour - a power sharing leadership?

A few days ago I came across an article in by Paul Mason in which he argued for some kind of power sharing in the Labour Party; that Corbyn and Smith should agree to power share and allocate shadow cabinet posts after the leadership election in a way which reflects their percentage share of the total vote.

Given that I support proportional representation (PR) in local and national elections via the added member system, it seems logical that this approach to power sharing in government at all levels should be reflected in the way the varying interests across the Labour Party work together.

Good friends in the Labour Party, who I have known for many years, some since my Young Socialist days in Wembley, are much like Susan and me. Corbyn was not our initial first choice a year ago, but the way the right-wing of the Labour Party conspired against him, forced Party members like ourselves into voting for him. I remain of the view that he is a centralist when it comes to power, whereas I am (and always have been) a localist, who believes in empowering local communities and local government. I am opposed to Beeston, Broxtowe, Lenton, Nottingham etc being ruled by Whitehall dictat.

Graham Allen argued for a Magna Carta for local government and I have referred to his work and that of his parliamentary committee on many occasions. 

Jeremy Corbyn has come late to the argument and has produced a paper called A new settlement for local government. It is a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough.

His opposition to PR supports my view that he is a centralist. In the last Parliament he was absent for all three votes on changing the voting system (see this link to They work for you). Like Owen Smith, Jeremy Corbyn has his weaknesses.

Today I would vote for Jeremy Corbyn, but I could change my mind and will not decide how I vote until the the last few days of the election.  I am no fan of Smith. Housing and changing the voting system are top of my policy list, followed by returning power to local government. There are other issues, but these are my top three.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Updated Beeston pocket companion

This version of my Beeston map shows route changes to YourBus routes Y5 and Y36 as from 28 August 2016.

The Y5 will no longer serve Old Lenton, Abbey Bridge or Castle Boulevard. At Dunkirk Flyover the Y5 will turn north onto the Ring Road, then join the Derby Road and head towards the city centre via the QMC, Lenton Savoy Cinema and Canning Circus to Friar Lane (the Y5's existing city centre terminus remains unchanged.

The Y36 will follow its existing route from Nottingham city centre into Beeston along Middle Street until it reaches Station Road, where it will turn right and begin a anti-clockwise loop around Beeston, crossing Beeston High Road onto Wollaton Road, then turn left past Lidl onto Broughton Street, along Park Street to Cator Lane, then head south to Chilwell Road, before heading east along Chilwell Road to Beeston Interchange, then continue to the City Centre via Middle Street etc (the existing route)

The Y36 will no longer serve Inham Road, Field Lane or Bramcote Lane in Chilwell.





Just click on the map to enlarge. Its original size is A2 landscape with the aim of it being printed A3 landscape. This is the web version @ 96 lpi.





Thursday, 28 July 2016

Is a 'progressive alliance' a viable option?

'We're a Kodak party in an Instagram era'

Clive Lewis, Labour MP, in Guardian video interview with Owen Jones, 28 July 2016.

Today Paul Mason has a video on The Guardian website calling for a 'progressive alliance' of all left/centre parties to defeat the Conservatives at the next general election.

There is also an article in the same online edition by Clive Lewis MP headed 'I'm backing Jeremy Corbyn for leader: Here's why'.

Put together they hint at an interesting approach to the very real problem of defeating the Conservatives at the next general election. My guess is that Theresa May will hang on until the new parliamentary constituency boundaries come in and she will have an inbuilt advantage because the new boundaries favour the Conservative Party.

I can pinpoint when I became a supporter of proportional representation. It was in 1960, when I attended my first Labour Party selection meeting for the then Wembley South CLP for Wembley Central ward where I lived. In those days local councillors served for three years and a third of the council was elected each year, so we had only one prospective candidate to select. There were four hopefuls and after the first ballot, the bottom name was deleted and on the second ballot, someone got over 50% of the votes cast, so was selected.

Someone in the meeting asked if we could have preferential voting, which was explained as writing 1 2 3 4 against the name of each would-be candidate and the one with the lowest number of no.1 votes would drop out and their no.2 votes would be distributed as allocated. It immediately seemed like a less messy system of selecting a candidate — I only had to vote once, then the votes could be quickly counted as their was only about twenty of us in the hall, but the exhaustive ballot won and it was not until I was in Lenton in the early-1980s that Labour Party members could be persuaded to use preferential voting instead of exhaustive ballots.

It struck me then, at the age of 16, that if the Labour Party would not use first past the post (FPTP) to select its own candidates, how could it support FPTP in elections for councillors and MPs? From then on I became a supporter of proportional representation (PR) and the historian in me quickly learned that until after 1945, the Labour Party supported PR.

Tony Blair set up a commission led by Roy Jenkins which came up with a complicated PR system, then supported the added member PR system for the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly and another PR system for Northern Ireland, but made no effort to introduce the added member PR system for UK parliamentary elections.

When Nick Clegg had his opportunity after the 2010 general election he blew it and we were offered a system even I voted against. Just two votes like we had in the awful county police commissioner election a couple of months ago.

I personally believe in voting for individuals and not political parties and the added member system allows you to do this with a second vote for a party, which means you could vote for a Labour Party candidate and give your party vote to the Green Party.

I believe we need added member PR voting ASAP and the only prospect of this is the one-off 'progressive alliance' Paul Mason talks about and Clive Mason alludes to with his references to agreeing with individual Liberals, Greens and SNP speakers.

You would only need a centre-left alliance for one general election, then the voting system can be changed (without a referendum). None of this is new. Graham Allen has been here before and argued that at local government level, communities should be free to choose their own voting system (see the report on voter engagement which he contributed to to in 2014-15)

If a one-off 'progressive alliance' becomes something Jeremy Corbyn picks up and makes part of his campaign it will be a game-changer for me, because I support the idea. It is, in the present circumstances, both logical and necessary if we really want to beat the Conservatives at the next general election.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Why Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of a former local politician and I want to hear it for RON

So Owen Smith, who has worked as a lobbyist and for a dodgy biotec firm is the 'unity' candidate and I find myself faced with no choice at all in the Labour Party leadership ballot. I have watched him on television already having to defend himself when quotes from his past are read to him. There will be weeks of this, so it will be interesting to see how Smith gets on.

I suspect that I am a 'normal' long-time individual Labour Party member insomuch as I voted remain, wanted a post-2008 strategy which took advantage of the situation to re-build Britain like the 1945 Labour Government did, who believes in local government and a unilateralist since the age of fourteen (I went on my first CND march in 1958), who accepts that Jeremy Corbyn has problems managing a team.

At this moment, logic says I stick with the devil I know (Jeremy Corbyn), but I suspect a good few Labour Party members would join me in wanting to see 'Re-open nominations' (RON) on the ballot paper. Better to take a few months more getting it right than spending years in opposition, which is what will happen if the present stalemate continues.

I am also persuaded by Lilian Greenwood's speech to Nottingham South CLP earlier this week, which you can read in full on her website (click on this link).

I trust Lilian, even though I do not share her views on a range of issues (HS2 for example).

Susan and I lived in Lenton, part of Nottingham South CLP, for thirty-five years until November 2014 and got to know Lilian well. We were not among her initial supporters when she sought the nomination to succeed Alan Simpson back in 2010, but we were impressed by her courtesy and openness from the first time we met her, when she came to visit us in our home at the start of her campaign and we gave her our 100% support the moment she was was selected. Before her selection, we did speak up for Lilian when it came to demands that she live in the constituency, given that she lived not far away.

I do not expect the individual I vote for in a selection meeting, be it a would-be councillor or MP, to have all the same views as me. I have always held the view that you give someone a job and let them get on with it. Quite clearly, Jeremy Corbyn did not give Lilian the support she deserved and other shadow cabinet members tell similar stories. Are they all liars and part of some conspiracy? Life tells me 'no'. 

However there are opportunists who take advantage and there have been plenty of them in recent weeks.

The stories I hear of Jeremy Corbyn remind me of Michael Cowan, a Labour Party councillor for many years on Nottinghamshire County Council and the City Council. Stories abound of the way Michael made decisions and how he treated colleagues. After a longstanding fight with the Labour leadership on the City Council he defected to the Conservative Party.

Michael also lived in Lenton and I got to know him in the 1970s because we were in the same APEX trade union branch. He could be a difficult person to deal with, but I always found him supportive, so my years on the county council chairing the airport and being the arts lead on leisure were enjoyable. Others were not so lucky and found him difficult to work with.

We continued to be friends after he joined the Conservatives and I shared his concerns about the way the Labour leadership managed the city and treated some communities with disdain, like Dunkirk and Lenton. These are well documented elsewhere, including my Parkviews blog, and our personal papers of these times went to the Nottinghamshire Archive a few months ago.

Michael did not have the skills to be a leader, despite his oratory and policy vision (not always right, as with his decision to sell East Midlands Airport to the private sector) and the talk I hear of Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of Michael in many ways.

Jeremy Corbyn's best act of leadership in recent weeks could have been actively seeking his own 'unity' candidate to succeed him. Instead we are left with no choice at all, so the stalemate/madness will continue.

FOOTNOTE: After writing this, I received my daily Labour List email with a news item about Crowdpac's Policy Matchmaker, which I have just done and find myself pretty close to Owen Smith. I am 70% liberty and 71% left. No questions about defence or local government.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Labour Party — madness by another name


I begin with a paragraph from today's email from Labour List by Sarah Vine:

Owen Smith, the latest challenger for Corbyn’s crown, has manoeuvred to appeal to the hoards of young members who previously supported Corbyn by pledging a second referendum on the UK’s eventual Brexit deal. It’s a shrewd move - we could see Smith picking up votes from the pro-European members who are internationalist in outlook and would do anything to see the referendum result reversed.

Also news that there is to be a legal challenge to Jeremy Corbyn's inclusion in the Labour Party leadership ballot without the support of 51 MPs/MEPs.

Then, of course, the decision to ban all Labour Party branch and constituency meetings until after the Party's leadership election is over. I have yet to see anything about how, why and who actually made the decision.

Nor is this madness confined to Westminster and the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, there are clear signs that it exists among Party members in Beeston, Broxtowe and elsewhere.

In Beeston there are Party members who want some kind of grand alliance on the left of politics to campaign for a second referendum. It is a madness they share with Owen Smith and Angela Eagle. Perhaps by the time you read this Jeremy Corbyn will have joined them in this collective madness!

I use the word 'madness' as shorthand for 'extremely foolish behaviour'.

The latest post on Municipal Dreams, one of my favourite blogs, is about Harlow in Essex and ends with this paragraph:

Harlow voted 67% to 33% for Brexit in the recent referendum — that's a metric we have come to recognise as a powerful measure of disillusion, and exclusion, from the more comfortable status quo enjoyed by many... this indicates a working class town which suffers the inequalities and deprivations class bestows'.

Not to understand this and to label those who voted for Brexit as unworthy of Labour's attention and support, which is what a second referendum will do in their eyes, will be an act of political madness. Labour should be saying that it understands why many working class people voted out and that it will support them through this period of change.

Theresa May understands this and her short speech outside No.10 Downing Street yesterday actually used the term 'working class' more than once and it was a speech I would have been happy to hear a Labour politician make.

Political leaders of all parties are good at making such speeches, then not delivering, so we will have to wait and, dare I say, hope in the absence of a Labour victory at the next general election that May will deliver. 

The fact that Labour Party remainers are talking about a second referendum has probably already ensured it will lose local government seats next May and a good few parliamentary seats at the next general election.

In the fifty-six years since I joined the Labour Party I have never known a blanket ban on local meetings. This act in itself tells you the disdain which exists at a national level in the Party for its rank and file members. This act will have stopped countless local government prospective candidates' selection procedures for next May. For this reason alone the decision has to be challenged, but instead the money chases an effective ban on Corbyn being a candidate.

At this moment, wherever I look in the Labour Party I see, with a few exceptions (e.g. Graham Allen MP), what I can only describe a collective madness. I believe I have cited enough evidence to prove my point. If you think otherwise, I suspect you are in a state of denial, refusing to recognise or accept reality.

I would like to say I will look at all the Labour Party leadership candidates closely after ruling Angela Eagle because she supported attacking Iraq and bombing Syria. The trouble is Owen Smith will go the same way if he continues to support a second referendum, which leaves Jeremy Corbyn and I am hearing enough from other Party members I know and trust to wonder about his competence to lead the Party, which means right now Corbyn will get in by default and so the madness will continue!

I do not want a Labour Party Leader to adore or who has the same views as me on every issue. I want a leader who will share wealth and power fairly, not just between classes, but between communities and regions, who will put building homes before HS2 type projects. I could go on, but my wants are modest and I know, from just listening to people, that the same can be said for the vast majority of us.

FOOTNOTE, FRIDAY 15 JULY 2016:
A link to a column in today's Guardian by John Harris, who I like. It is headed There's a fetid cloud of acrimony over Labour — it's the reek of death. 
Click here to read

Also a link to a post I made to my parkviews blog in May 2010, posted on the eve of that year's general election. Click here to read. It seems relevant to where we are today.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Canary says it all: A fight to the death and an Iraq Inquiry footnote

From The Canary.

Says it all. It is a shame it has come to this.

The only reason the rebel Labour MPs don't want to defect is that they want the Party machine and money. Without it they will all, in time, go the same way as Jenkins, Williams, Rogers, Owen & co. 

Corbyn sets out his policies and strategy in The Guardian today and it offers a radical vision, which I am happy to go along with. I want more on returning power to local government, because I believe for socialism/green politics to flourish they need local examples of good government which can be adapted to individual communities.

You can be sure that Corbyn offers more than Eagle or Smith will, given their belief that Labour MPs trump members when it comes to policy and control. Maybe until, but not any more. 

I have been forced into being a Corbyn supporter. I did not start out as one. 

Right now, read my link to The Canary website.

The following link to The Public Whip website may be of interest. It shows the Labour MPs who wanted the Iraq Inquiry to have a wider remit and more parliamentary input. The MPs supporting this view lost out to those MPs who supported the Labour Government setting the terms of reference.

The Iraq Inquiry came about because of years of sustained pressure outside Parliament and inside by a small group of almost exclusively Labour MPs. I suspect you can guess what camps who was in, but it is a telling reminder of why Eagle will fail in her attempt to defeat Corbyn.

The only hope Eagle and Smith have is to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper and they are doing all they can to achieve that — which is why they have to be defeated! 


Friday, 8 July 2016

Chilcot, Iraq and a reminder

The following is what Ross Bradshaw, the owner of Five Leaves Publishing and Bookshop off Long Row in the city centre, put on his Facebook page (click here for link). It came to me via Susan and Chris Richardson, who both do Facebook:

I find Tony Blair impossible to watch. If I was the main character in a Chilcot Report (a tad unlikely...) and was so demolished I'd make a brief statement, answer a few questions, organise a sycophntic one to one interview with a patsy and vanish to spend time with my money. Even the redtops have turned against him. Yet there he is, dragging himself from TV studio to TV studio (and making life impossible for Angela Eagle and his mates in the Parliamentary Labour Party).

Blair will never be prosecuted, we need to give up on that one - the Report did for him and he damages himself further every time he opens his mouth. Corbyn came out of this well - I liked the way he ignored Ian Austin and never even mentioned Blair in his speech. I'd like to think that more of the MPs who voted in favour of the Iraq war will quietly admit they got on the wrong bus. I hope that the fallout from this will lead to a rapproachment between the "40" and the more level-headed of the other members of Parliament who genuinely want Labour to succeed.

Says it all.

Some MPs, like Gedling's Vernon Coaker and Nottingham East's Chris Lesley remain in denial and, if the Nottingham Post is to be believed, still believe they made the right decision at the time. Both are anti-Corbyn.

The Public Whip website shows how MPs voted in 2003 on the war motion (click here). I suspect it is at the root of so much of the hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn.

Among those voting for war were were Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Angela Eagle, Margeret Hodge and Broxtowe's own Nick Palmer*.

On the anti-war side were Nottingham MPs Graham Allen and Alan Simpson, plus Jeremy Corbyn, Robin Cook and lots of others.

In total 256 Labour MPs (including two tellers) voted for war and 85 (including one teller) voted against attacking Iraq.

The Chilcot report damns Blair and in the process all those MPs who, in the words of Graham Allen, were 'bullied' in voting for war with Iraq. How did these people get is so wrong?

Susan has long held the view that something happens to Labour politicians when they get elected to Parliament. They have to prove themselves worthy of being part of the Westminster establishment and I have seen how MPs brown nose first hand. Two MPs, both now sadly passed on, who I knew, Philip Whitelaw and Harry Barnes, said much the same thing to me.

Add to this how many Labour MPs go onto accept peerages, knighthoods and honours, and you the evidence of this seduction stares you in the face. Kinnock is a towering example of this disdain and arrogance.

Oona King voted for war, couldn't beat George Galloway and ended up a peer, who nows wants another EU referendum because, a bit like Anna Soubry, she thinks voters are stupid. The reward for failure, if you brown nose enough, is a peerage and the right to vote in a undemocratic, unelected, House of Lords. It is to Labour's shame that it still exists and is a good measure of the majority of Labour MPs.

Becoming a peer or accepting a knighthood, should result in automatic expulsion from the Labour Party.

Rant over. I feel like Ross Bradshaw. Chilcot has reminded us why Corbyn is better than any of his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

FOOTNOTE: * I know a good few, like Nick Palmer, have since recanted. A part of me was happy to accept this as enough, but the Chilcot report has led me to the conclusion that all those Labour MPs in 2003 who are still MPs now who voted for war on Iraq and the deaths of hundreds of thousands since, and so much more, should stand down and withdraw from public life. Their judgement was, and remains, deeply flawed.