Thursday, 15 September 2016

Expelled for this... and how do we scale the heights of power?

According to a report in The Guardian yesterday (14 September 2016), John McDonald, a great-nephew of Clement Attlee, has had his membership of the Labour Party suspended for posting the above onto the social media in August 2015.

Just another example of the madness of the Labour Party right now. Mein Kampf, according to Wikipedia, was published in the mid-1920 — long before Hitler became the man we associate with the name  Hitler today. When he wrote those words, Hitler had yet to oversee the mass murder of those groups in society he hated.

The quote could well be a description of what has happened in this country over the last thirty years. You only have to witness what Labour MPs are doing to Jeremy Corbyn, to realise what will happen to him should Labour be in a position to lead a left leaning coalition (I do not believe Labour can gain power at Westminster without some kind of anti-Tory grand alliance, preferably before the next general election takes place).

I find nothing offensive in the above portrayal of Cameron as a young Hitler.

The Labour Party nationally has lost its way. Suspending and expelling members without due process is unacceptable. Those responsible need to be rooted out so they can no longer exercise such draconian powers.

Even more worrying is the enthusiasm with which the Labour Party's own version of the Stasi go about their business. 

Today, I have voted online for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. I admit to having reservations about the man, but the other candidate appears to have even more warts.  I have written about the need for Corbyn and Smith to power share in previous posts and in a contribution to Labour List.

Over the years I have written and had published a good few articles, plus countless blogs, criticising the Labour politicians both nationally and in Nottingham across a range of issues. I have been tempted by the Green Party, but to date I have found those activists I have met, with a couple of notable exceptions, to be patronising and self-righteous. I like the enthusiasm of NHS Action Party members, but they remain a single issue party with little interest in other issues vital to our wellbeing (which is a pity).

When I was fifteen I could have joined the Young Communist League in Wembley. I thought about it, then decided you have to have power to change things and the Labour Party was a better choice for that reason. Fifty-six years on the same reasoning drives my politics. 

I have not voted Corbyn to bask in political self-righteousness. I remain a libertarian socialist committed to community empowerment and opposed to centralism in all its forms. Since 1997 Labour MPs have betrayed the British public and the Labour Party time and again: the abolition of community health councils; Afghanistan; Iraq; privatisation of NHS facilities and services; abolition of community health councils; PFIs, raiding pension funds, failure to introduce PR and abolish the House of Lords; introducing post-crash cuts and promoting austerity and so my list could continue. Yet, yet, despite all this there remains no viable alternative if socialists want to scale the heights of power. We have to reclaim the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn remains the best chance we have — it is as simple as that.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Beeston's Pete Radcliff: A Labour Party injustice to a family member

I have known Pete Radcliff since c.1980 through the Labour Party in Nottingham and since the of 2014, here in Beeston. We have not been friends, but we have rubbed along and I have never doubted his loyalty and intent for one moment. For some us the Labour Party is family and Pete is a member of that family, so to receive an email from Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party telling me he had been expelled from the Party because of his links with Workers' Liberty (once better known as Socialist Organiser) came as a surprise.

Over the years he has worked his socks off for the Labour Party and I find it amazing that he can be expelled without a hearing. This is the nasty right-wing of the Party at work. History shows that it is the Party's right-wing that betrays it (remember 'The Gang of Four').

Back in 1970, I was on the receiving end of an attempt to expel me from the Labour Party whilst living in Mansfield. A long time ago, but I remember the experience well. After an appeal and support from others in the Party, I was banned from holding office in the Labour Party for five years, but that did not stop me becoming a Nottinghamshire Labour Party county councillor in 1981 and being an election agent in 1983.

In his blog Pete says that he intends to fight his expulsion and I will be one of many Labour Party members standing behind him, as will my wife, Susan Griffiths, who shares my disgust at what the Labour Party's right-wing machine has done. I am sure many other Party members in Broxtowe and elsewhere will be speaking on his behalf given the opportunity. 

The manner in which the Labour Party machine appears to be expelling members is undemocratic and centralist.

There will be a backlash from this and I hope it does not focus on Lilian Greenwood, who has to be in prime position to be selected as the Labour Party's prospective candidate for the new Nottingham South & Beeston constituency, assuming it is created in 2018. She is a critic of Jeremy Corbyn, but I know her, trust her and will support her of she does seek the nomination, even though at the time of her original selection in Nottingham South I actively worked for Christine Shawcroft, recently re-elected to the Labour Party National Executive Committee. I like Christine, but Lilian has earned my loyalty and you do not have to agree with people on everything to support them — which neatly brings me back to Pete Radcliff and where I began this post...

FOOTNOTE: See Pete's blog for his own thoughts and comments.

The title of Pete's blog is Observations from a Third Camp perspective and this link takes you to his home page.

New parliamentary boundaries get closer and I am feeling chuffed about them

Almost five years ago to the week, I received an invitation to attend a public meeting in Derby organised by the Boundary Commission for England to give evidence in person on proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands. Back then I lived in the Nottingham South constituency and our Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, asked me to draft some alternative proposals to those being submitted by the Labour Party (without any local consultation at the time).

This came about because, along with my wife, Susan Griffiths, back in 2000 I had proposed new ward boundaries for Nottingham City Council wards (which came into use in 2003) in opposition to the boundaries proposed by the City Council and its Labour Group. A few Labour Party city councillors and the the then City Labour Party did not object to the ward proposals we submitted in the name of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, which I was chairing at the time. We saw proposals from the Conservative and Liberal parties and, in the end, the City Council did not contest the final boundary recommendations from the Commission. It was quite an achievement at the time and we were actively encouraged to submit our proposals by Commission staff and so it was ten years later with the changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands.

Below are maps I created back in 2011 and submitted to the Boundary Commission at the time. I also posted an entry to my then Parkviews blog (see this one about giving evidence to the Boundary Commission in person dated 31 October 2011).

The original Boundary Commission proposals show a revised Broxtowe constituency including Gotham on the south side of the Trent and West Bridgford becoming part of Nottingham South.

My proposed Nottingham constituencies put Nottingham South with Beeston and moved Wollaton into Broxtowe. I left Nottingham North much as it was and joined the urban Gedling wards with Nottingham East.

The Boundary Commission's revised boundary proposals were publicised yesterday and have been published on the web. As of yet I can find no proper map, so I have captured this online map from the website dedicated to the 2018 parliamentary boundary proposals.

Including Clifton with the proposed West Bridgford constituency makes sense given that it is south of the Trent, but by any measure the latest constituency boundary proposals for Greater Nottingham is a great improvement on the 2011 proposals.

I think I can fairly claim that my proposed Nottingham constituencies back in 2011 have contributed to the formation of the latest proposals from the Boundary Commission. I admit to being chuffed.

You can comment on the proposed boundary changes by visiting the website or attending the Commission's public hearing in Derby on 27–28 October 2016. The chances are I won't be able to attend as I am due to have open heart surgery quite soon (I am just waiting for a date).

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Beeston maps get Pokémon Go

I have updated my Civic Society Blue Plaques map to show changes to Y5 and Y36 bus routes plus drawing attention to how Pokémon Go uses blue plaques, war memorials, pubs, churches etc. as locations. I discovered this when our 17 year old grandson came to stay a couple of weeks ago and he whizzed around Beeston zapping Pokémon balls using the previous addition of the map.

To enlarge the maps below, just click on the map.

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.