Posts Tagged ‘london’

Stormy waters lie ahead for Labour in local government, most of all in London where the conflict over ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ brings overtones of Brexit

20/10/2021, 10:32:16 PM

by Paul Wheeler

For generations Labour locally had a unique and enduring offer for working class communities. Labour councils provided decent and affordable housing for millions of families and in time their adult children, they offered high standards of education for their children and in many instances provided secure employment across a range of skills. In return those communities provided the bedrock of Labour support across a whole range of towns and cities.

But that solidarity has been shattered by decades of privatisation and council house sales and none of those essential services are now provided on any scale by local councils. More recently national politicians have urged supporters to view local elections as a referendum on the respective party in power centrally (‘send them a message’) much to the outrage of local councillors who wanted to be judged independently of their parties national standing.

But that strategy has faltered in recent elections. Local politics has become more transactional. This is most clearly seen in the rise of hyper localist independent groups bidding for council seats and usually aligned with a desire to maintain property values and stop any form of housing development. For the Conservatives the trend is most clearly seen in rural and suburban District Councils where they have lost control to an array of Residents Groups and Liberal Democrats trading on a localist anti-development platform

For Labour the trend is more complex. In many of its metropolitan councils and county councils the hyper-localist parties have been able to exploit long standing grievances in local Townships that the ‘Town Hall’ doesn’t understand or care about their concern. There was evidence of this in the recent Batley and Spen by-election in respect of the policies of the ‘remote’ Kirklees Council. Across conurbations such as Greater Manchester such discontent has translated into support for independent councillors in traditional Labour towns such as Radcliffe, Farnworth and Failsworth.

The Conservatives as the governing party have a range of responses to the rise of transactional politics. They can offer a range of financial incentives such as Town Fund Bids (which have an unerring tendency to be awarded to Tory councils and constituencies) to keep voters on board locally. They can also simply abolish troublesome District Councils as part of a wider move to larger unitary councils.


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London’s lesson from Jamaica: don’t write off your candidate

08/01/2012, 12:01:04 PM

by Conrad Landin

While Britain slept off its Christmas excess, Jamaica went to the polls on 29 December. Overnight, result after progressive result rolled in as the votes were counted.

The scale of victory for the People’s National Party (PNP), the main left-wing grouping, was a surprise. Poll after poll in the last weeks had shown the election on a knife-edge, with most showing the governing right-wingers slightly ahead.

In the event, it was a contest of policies and records. Poverty had skyrocketed under the incumbents, who also faced negative publicity from their connections with Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the drug dealer who made global headlines last year when the island’s government refused to extradite him to the US.

But behind all this lies a remarkable woman: Portia Simpson-Miller. Despite her youthful appearance and manner, she has been on the country’s political scene for the best part of three and a half decades, entering parliament seven years before Tony Blair first graced the green benches.


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Give us a Barnett formula for the North to match the Marshall plan we have for the South

05/09/2011, 09:09:24 AM

by Kevin Meagher

“Power, wealth and opportunity” should be “in the hands of the many, not the few” intones Clause Four (Section Four) of the Labour party constitution. An admirable sentiment and one that we could usefully start by applying to our unbalanced and dysfunctional national economy.

No, this isn’t a moan about the iniquities of the Barnett formula, which was revealed last week to shower a fifth more public spending on Scotland than England.

For those of us living north of the Wash, our beef is not with our Caledonian neighbours, but our Southern English brethren. Yes, the problem is our old friend the North/ South divide; that drag anchor that mars all efforts to deliver the wise words emblazoned on the back of our membership cards.

You can see why, when the unemployment rate in the South East is now half that of the North East. The TUC estimates that there are 158,000 fewer jobs now than there were on the eve of the recession in December 2007. During that time, the North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions have lost 60,000 jobs apiece. London, on the other hand, has actually seen 122,000 more jobs created.

Meanwhile the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s latest quarterly labour market outlook found a stark differential in business confidence, with employers in the South expecting to increase staffing levels over the next three months, while those in the North predict further job cuts.

The government’s response to this glaring asymmetry? The department of business has just confirmed that it has only managed to green-light one out of fifty approved bids to its new regional growth fund, the scheme designed to bolster the private sector in those regions most reliant on the public sector (and therefore most exposed to cuts). Yet even if all its projects were up and running, this £1.4bn pot amounts to just a third of what Labour’s regional development agencies were spending.


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Not today

09/08/2011, 10:00:04 AM

by Dan Hodges

Not today. Please, just not today. Laurie Penny, I think you are a beautiful and gifted writer. But don’t tell me violence cannot be mindless. Or that it is all about catharsis. Not today.

Sunny Hundal, your real and passionate desire to break politics free from its straight jacket of committees and speeches and selection meetings does you credit. But please, don’t circulate any more time lapse photography of people’s homes burning and tell me it’s “brilliant” or that it’s “art’. Not today.

Owen Jones, the working class need a voice, and you are an articulate spokesman. But please, no more hand wringing about the dangers of an “authoritarian backlash” against those who tried to loot and burn our city to the ground. Not today.

Ken Livingstone, you were once a great and radical figure. But no one needs to hear your cheap politicking about your statesmanlike dash from the Olympic awards ceremony. Or your back of the envelope theories about how 14 and 15 year old rioters trashed JD sports because they are not able to provide for their wives and children. Not today.

Boris Johnson, I’d actually liked to have heard something from you. But instead I had to put up with your spokesman Kit Milhouse explaining why it was fit and proper for the Mayor of the world’s greatest capital city to watch from afar as his charge exploded in an orgy of destruction. We’ll no doubt hear the same excuses trotted out often this election year. If we must. But not today.

Theresa May, I understand being the only senior member of the government, (Nick Clegg hardly counts in these circumstances), is tough. But I don’t want to hear any more rubbish about “policing with consent” when that consent has been brutally withdrawn by a small but violent minority. And I’d park the protestations that cutting thousands of police officers won’t have had any operational impact. For today.

David Cameron, I don’t actually blame you for taking a much needed break in Tuscany. And it was nice you made friends with your waitress. But as you sit savouring the taste of your Tuscan Dream please, do one thing for me. For all of us. Don’t tell us we’re all in this together. We are, of course. But we don’t need to hear it from you. Not today.

There is lot we do need to hear.  And lots that needs to be said. About the dislocation of inner-city youth. About the link between crime and poverty. About race and resentment. About lack of employment and educational opportunities. The widening gap between the rich and poor. The politics and the sociology and the criminology. All deserve, indeed require, an airing.

We must debate, and examine, and interrogate. We must argue and enquire and report. We must ask ourselves what sort of society we really want to be, and take a deep look within our own communities, and souls.

We must do all of these things. Just not today.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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No way back from losing London?

03/06/2011, 07:30:54 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Can you hear it? That creaking, grinding metallic sound, emanating from the capital.

Even faintly in the background?

No? Well, it will get louder in the coming months till it’s deafening.

It is the sound of the clock being turned back twenty years to a time when London was a Tory town.

Labour might have lost the 2010 general election, but London remained a last redoubt in the south. Despite all the troubles, Labour was still the dominant party, winning 36.6% compared to the Tories on 34.5% and the Lib Dems on 22.1%.

In terms of seats, the result was even better with Labour taking 38 seats, the Tories 28 seats and the Lib Dems just 7 seats.

But that was then and a year is an eternity in politics.

2011 could go down as the year in which the Tories turned back a generation of Labour ascendancy in London and pulled decisively ahead.

A new Uncut analysis of YouGov polling shows how a Labour lead of 2% in January had become a deficit of 4% by the start of June.

Polls can be deceptive and there is always a debate to be had about the extent to which they really reflect voting intentions, but two factors make these figures particularly worrying for Labour.


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The Oona King interview: **contains Wire spoilers**

26/08/2010, 03:30:48 PM

Oona: cute child not included

There are many signs on the wall in Oona King’s campaign office. One states that you may have “tea, or coffee, and MAYBE a biscuit”. A poster charts the details of hot drink preferences for every member of the office (Oona, decaf coffee with milk). Somebody has hand-drawn a week countdown calendar to the ballot on a piece of A4 paper. It is simple but well organised.

Oona’s office is up a tiny spiral staircase. There are dog-sized seagulls staring in at the window of the boathouse-type affair on Heron Quay, but even their squalling, which occasionally drowns out the recording, can’t do much to mask Oona’s cackling laugh. Had we used the Uncut Laughometer for our crowdsourced interviews, Oona’s would have won on the decibel of her laugh alone.

As the campaign staff whisper around the Newsnight team setting up downstairs, Oona perches in heeled patent red boots on her office chair, next to a picture of her model-cute son and cackles away with her spin doctor. (She can’t show us any pictures of her little girl, she explains, because her phone and laptop were stolen at the weekend).


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Young dynamism and old pragmatism, Shelly Asquith makes the case for Ken

20/07/2010, 11:29:48 AM

"This isn’t just Red Ken anymore; it’s Green Ken, Pink Ken; Ken the chameleon."

When I heard Ken would be standing for Labour as London Mayor in 2012, I was thrilled. It didn’t even occur to me that there may be  an alternative contender. But now the pantomime of Oh Yes We Kens and Oona You Cants has started, I feel we need a reminder of why Ken’s still the man for the job.

I’m too young to remember Red Ken. Ken, the maverick leader of the GLC, reviled by Thatcher and hailed by the unions. But I do remember King Ken:  trouper of the Thames; boss of the bendy bus; guardian of a truly Greater London.

In all of his 8 years as mayor, Ken transformed the city. He encouraged sustainable lifestyles with the congestion charge, a hugely extended bus service, low emissions zone and London Energy Partnership. Livingstone testified his commitment to public transport at a lower cost in his fight against PPP, his plans for the Cross-rail scheme and a reduced price service for students and OAPs.

Contrast this with London since Boris took over: fares have sky-rocketed across public transport; train line expansion is under threat; the western extension of the congestion charge has been scrapped.  While inner-city London dwellers are penalised, wealthier commuters get a cheaper deal.

Forming dual ventures with Eco Cities in China, Ken lead the way towards London becoming Europe’s green capital. If re-elected, Ken will protect London’s green belt while extending affordable housing projects, something the city has seen slashed since 2008. He also pledges to improve insulation in every building in London over ten years.

Ken champions diversity. He pioneered London’s anti-racism and Muslim, Jewish and International festivals, and oversaw the reduction of racial attacks in London by a third. Ken also did a remarkable job of uniting the city after the tragic 7/7 bombings with his We Are Londoners campaign.


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