Archive for May, 2012

The fightback fundraiser kitemark can help free CLPs from central command and control

31/05/2012, 07:00:45 AM

by Peter Watt

The next election is going to be tight.  We all know that the polls are in our favour at the moment but in all likelihood they will be considerably closer come the start of the short campaign in 2015.  And along with death and taxes the only certainty in life is that elections cost a fortune.  In fact if it wasn’t for the occasional aberration (possibly in 1997 and definitely in 2005) then the other certainty is that the Tories significantly outspend Labour at elections.  If you take the 2010 election then the Tories spent £18m while Labour spent £8m!

Now let’s assume, quite reasonably, that Labour is still pretty broke at the next election.  Let’s also assume that the unpopularity of the Tories impacts on their funding a bit and that Labour is conversely able to raise a bit more.  But given this, it is an odds on assumption that the Tories will still outspend Labour once again.

And in a tight race, extra funds in the right places could really make a difference to the outcome.  Now we could sit around and hope that the parties sort out the issue of party funding in time for the next election.  But if a Labour victory depends on that, then then we are screwed.

Traditionally the Labour Party raises most of its money centrally.  That’s not to say this money isn’t raised locally because it clearly is.  But the bulk is raised centrally with the big trade union money and high-value donations going into the central campaign pot.

And then marginal seats are effectively subsidised in the long months leading up to the short campaign by the central pot.  With the marginal seats being expected to raise a fair old whack themselves of course.

Other local parties support the efforts in marginal seats by sending in activists and by not receiving as much central subsidy.  So a relatively large and professional central and regional campaign team ensures direct mail, leaflets, staff and so on is all targeted on the marginal seats.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Profiles of NEC candidates:Ruth Smeeth

30/05/2012, 06:38:42 PM

by Andrew Betteridge

“We need a strong voice on the NEC which represents all members, both in and outside of London, ensuring that the needs and wishes of the membership is at the heart of the party.

“I am that voice,” Ruth said with the determination and enthusiasm that will be needed if Labour are to defeat the Tories in 2015.

And since joining the party, as an energetic 16-year-old, she has always had that determination and enthusiasm in abundance.

This was best demonstrated when she stood as a parliamentary candidate at the 2010 General Election for the constituency of Burton and Uttoxeter (Burton).

Ruth was defeated but only by the national swing. She was a tenacious candidate, canvassing almost every inch of the constituency.

She said her experience as a parliamentary candidate helped her to understand the needs for local constituency parties such as Burton.

“It gave me insight into the needs of local parties in terms of the support they need and the support they don’t,” she explained.

“Also it showed me the impact on local parties when we lose and the additional resources that members and activists need.

“However most of all, the result in Burton made it clear to that as a party we need to be ready to fight for every vote.”

Ruth, who now works for HOPE not hate, said it forced her to think about the needs of the party and how it operated to make sure Labour could win at the next general election.

Not only just up against the national swing, Ruth was up against Lord Ashcroft’s millions in Burton and Uttoxeter. The Ashcroft machine was clear for everyone to see across the constituency. But she said matching the Tories’ millions alone would not bring them election triumph in 2015.

“It’s not just about money; it is how you spend it and how we best utilise the wider Labour movement to deliver tangible gains across the country.

“My priority if elected would be to make sure that the party has the things it needs to win the next election.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Without a revival in the south there will be no new Labour government

30/05/2012, 07:00:30 AM

by Rob Marchant

It is spring, two years into a parliament, and an activist’s mind turns to…elections (well, we are an odd lot).

Candidates start to be chosen and campaigns planned. We have a much clearer idea of what kind of opponents we will be up against in 2015. A new leadership finds its feet and gets to grips with its medium-term political strategy.

The trouble with the end of an era in politics, as in most other branches of human thought, is that in our rush to turn the page, we’re invariably faced with the baby/bathwater problem. And the next election is no exception.

New Labour is dead, and those of us who were part of it need to be sanguine about the need for moving on. But there’s a current fashion in some quarters of the party to go further: to try and convince ourselves that everything which happened after 1994 was somehow a tragic disaster, an aberration from Labour’s true path.

The truth, as ever, lies somewhere in the middle – it was neither perfect nor a disaster, but it was self-evidently a pretty good thing to be in government for thirteen years. But where Labour decides to draw that line, between what to keep from that success and what to throw away, will arguably determine our fate at the next election.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Could Ed Miliband become the accidental prime minister?

29/05/2012, 07:00:53 AM

by Dave Talbot

As the results of Labour’s leadership election were read out, a collective sigh of relief echoed through the Tory ranks. The prevailing thought in British politics was that David Cameron had already won the next general election.

The Labour party had been demonstrably stupid. The party that had governed for thirteen years had chosen to be comforted, rather than challenged. Ed Miliband would never walk through the door of Number 10, except only as a guest. The party, so the commentariat thought, had chosen the wrong Miliband – and would suffer the electoral consequences.

For many months the analysis held true; the public just couldn’t see the junior Miliband as PM material, the party’s economic reputation was in tatters and barely disguised mutterings of discontent began to ripple through the parliamentary Labour party.

The elephant in the room was Miliband himself. His personal ratings were absolutely dire. At one point only 4% thought he’d be good in a crisis, and 5% a natural leader. Just as Cameron had to prove that the Tories cared, Miliband needed to show he wasn’t a geeky loser. Voters told Tory focus groups that they thought the Labour leader was odd, weird and strange. More odd Ed than red Ed.

How the wheel of political fortune turns. Miliband, for so long uncomfortable in his own skin and unsure of his position, has overtaken the man seemingly born to rule. Cameron’s poll ratings have slumped alarmingly, whilst Miliband’s have increased by 22% – a dramatic shift by any standard. Having triumphed in the local elections, a consistent poll lead has also emerged. It is not quite a transformation from Wallace to Winston, but the shift is in the right direction.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Peter Hammond

28/05/2012, 02:09:08 PM

Amanda Ramsay on the leader of Bristol city council Labour group, Cllr Peter Hammond, one of Labour’s mayoral short-listed candidates.

Campaign literature has been arriving at Bristol Labour party members’ homes for weeks now, glossy leaflets, letters and round-robin emails. One says: “There’s a big chance that November’s election will be won or lost in the next fortnight, depending on who wins the selection, so I hope we choose wisely.

Indeed, once the postal ballot result is known, expected 15 June, whoever Labour chooses will become the favourite to win in November, say Ladbrokes.

According to the bookies, former Labour councillor Kelvin Blake tops the poll at 5/1, councillor Peter Hammond comes in joint second at 6/1 with former MP Dan Norris, while councillor Helen Holland ranks 8/1 and NHS manager Marvin Rees is at 12/1.

Which one of these five short-listed candidates will be best capable of cutting it as Bristol’s first mayor?

“Words are fine,” Hammond says, pointing to his record as former leader of Bristol city council and current leadership of Labour’s 21 councillors. “But only actions change things. Under my leadership we have promoted a living wage, fairness at work, changed the council’s pay policy and fought for an ambitious new council-led housing programme.”

A local councillor for St George West ward in Bristol East, Hammond is an FE lecturer, has worked in the past on the railways and in a small business. He is also a director of Bristol Community FM, one of Bristol’s community radio stations.

“Between 2001 and 2009 I was a member of council cabinets,” he says of his time on the council scene, “and was leader for a short time. I dealt with services for both older and younger people – the largest spending departments – and instigated Bristol’s complete rebuilding or refurbishment of our secondary schools worth in excess of £250 million.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Question time for commissioner candidates

28/05/2012, 07:00:14 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Ballot papers to choose Labour candidates for the new Police and Crime Commissioner roles are set to land on members’ doormats in coming days.

Despite the party’s opposition to the policy, these are important and powerful new roles. Commissioners will set the strategy and budget for their force and revolutionise public accountability, replacing anonymous police authorities with high-profile figureheads to stand up for the public’s priorities.

At least that’s the promise. But will commissioners go native and become little more than the dancing puppet of chief constables? Or will they throw their weight around wrestle with the top brass over where the split between ‘strategic’ and ‘operational’ lies?

Just as importantly, will they reside in their new plush new offices or spend their time out and about, working with communities to tackle crime and improve public safety?

Take it as read each of the candidates will campaign against the government’s crazy police cuts which will see up to 16,000 officers, a similar number of back office roles and 1,800 PCSOs face the chop.

But what are their views on some of the other big issues? Here are a few suggestions about what we should be asking them.

1)    What are candidates’ views on the deployment of water cannons, tasers and baton rounds (rebranded ‘plastic bullets’)? Any repeat of last summer’s riots will undoubtedly lead to further calls for these potentially lethal weapons to be deployed.  However Association of Chief Police Officers President Sir Hugh Orde described water cannons as “useless” in tackling the riots we experienced last August.

Will your commissioner stand up against this creeping militarisation of our policing?


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

The Sunday review: The 2020 Tax Commission and the Beecroft report

27/05/2012, 07:00:02 AM

by Anthony Painter

I like mango. You may not be interested in that fact but I think you should be. It’s not just a taste or preference, it’s a potential public good. I’m not going to leave it at simply enjoying the odd glass of mango juice or a mango half now and again. I’m going to use my love of mango to transform our economy and society. Just you watch me.

First of all, I’m going to get together with other mango lovers and we are going to explore the ways in which mangoes can change the world together. We will talk about the health giving benefits of the fruit, the positive economic impact of expanding consumption and production, the moral benefit to be derived from its consumption and the civic advantages of building a real discourse around mangoes. We will then set up a Mango Commission and ask independent experts to come up with a plan to promote the mango through public policy.

This commission will show how mango consumption can replace international aid to poor mango-producing countries thereby reducing potential migrant flows and saving public cash. The public health benefits will be lauded and a massive mango subsidy will be advocated. Import duties on mangoes will be eliminated and that will increase economic growth as an entire new industry emerges around mango importation, processing, distribution and retail.

By the end of the 2020s, this industry will add 5% to GDP. It will expand employment. Mango growers, sellers and distributors love it and they know what they are talking about. We will live longer, fuller, richer, happier lives. With this new healthy and wealthy outlook, we will commit ourselves to public good works and civic renewal. We will be the virtuous society. We will be the virile society.

So I had the answer from the beginning. I then set about dragging together evidence to prove that my preference was in fact a wider public good. It wasn’t just my taste. There was a wider ethical, economic, political and scientific case.

This pretty much sums up the approach to the report of 2020 Tax Commission from the Institute of Directors/Taxpayers’ Alliance.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Dan Norris

25/05/2012, 02:31:40 PM

As part of a series on all Bristol mayoral short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to former MP and one time Bristol City Councillor Dan Norris.

Back in May 1997, Dan Norris was elected as Labour Member of Parliament for Wansdyke, north east Somerset. He still speaks with great pride, of securing the biggest increase in Labour’s share of the vote in the south west.

After that historic Labour landslide, Norris was re-elected in June 2001 with an increased majority over the Tories, then winning a third term of office at the May 2005 general election. He makes great play of where the Lib Dems came: “At all three elections, the Lib Dems finished a poor, distant third place.”

Boundary changes in 2010 changed things and the new north east Somerset constituency effectively became a Conservative seat, he explains. Since then he’s worked in media and communications, running his own business and becoming more involved with various charities, including Kidscape, who specialise in anti-bullying and the Snowdon award scheme, for students with disabilities.

Of the Bristol mayoralty, he has this to say:

“Our city has punched below its weight for decades. So much so that Bristol people, of all political persuasions, have become cynical about the prospect of change. It means that whenever the local media re-ignite debates about much-needed things like affordable and efficient public transport, an arena, and so on, nobody believes it can happen.

In many ways it’s this mindset that’s the challenge. Get that right, and progress on all issues can flow. We need a ‘can do’ Bristol, not the ‘can’t do’ city that too many people perceive.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Hunt memo proves David Cameron manipulated the BSkyB bid process to favour the Murdochs

25/05/2012, 09:27:51 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Although the media focus this morning is still on Jeremy Hunt, the real story should be about David Cameron’s conduct.  The reason? The already infamous Hunt memo to Cameron, from November 2010, is a game-changer.

For the first time there is clear evidence that the prime minister, as opposed to a junior cabinet minister or special adviser, directly manipulated the quasi-judicial process considering News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, in favour of the Murdochs.

When David Cameron stripped Vince Cable of responsibility for adjudicating on the bid in December 2010, he understood he would face a problem in simply handing over the process to Jeremy Hunt at DCMS.

Hunt was well-known as an admirer of News Corporation: while in opposition he had given a breathless interview to Broadcast magazine where he had eulogised about Rupert Murdoch,

“Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day”.

Shortly after Hunt became secretary of state, he had followed-up in June 2010 in an interview with the Financial Times where he speculated on the BSkyB bid,

“It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change, but I don’t want to second guess what regulators might decide.”

Cameron knew these comments would inevitably surface and be used by Labour to challenge Hunt’s ability to manage the process impartially. The prime minister needed cover for his decision and turned to his cabinet secretary, who duly obliged.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Profile of Labour’s candidates for the Bristol mayoralty: Helen Holland

24/05/2012, 02:32:00 PM

As part of a series on all Bristol mayoral short-listed candidates, Amanda Ramsay speaks to the former leader of Bristol city council, Cllr Helen Holland.

Helen Holland offers a wealth of experience as a former teacher and leader of Bristol City Council. She is regarded as an extremely hard-working case-worker for her Bristol ward of Whitchurch Park, where she has won six terms of office, building-up to over 50% of the vote.

Holland understands the regional dynamics required for the job and once sat on the board of the south west regional development agency. She is also a non-executive director of Bristol Community Health.

The answer most Bristol Labour party members will be looking for, as they start to receive their all-postal ballot papers any day now, is why should a Bristol Labour party member vote for you to be their Labour mayoral candidate?

“I am passionate about Bristol’s future and Labour values. I have the energy and enthusiasm,” Holland tells me, “the experience and vision to win this selection and election for our party.

“I have the track-record of having delivered, in partnership, many of the major projects in the city over the last fifteen years, but there is so much more to do, and this is a real priority for me, to make sure Bristol has all the components expected in a 21st century city.

“If you look at the impact of what has been achieved, both in terms of physical regeneration and job creation, from Symes Avenue in my own ward, to Cabot Circus, and more recently, the Hengrove Park developments, South Bristol Community NHS hospital, the leisure centre and City of Bristol College Skills Academy, you can see how I have made this work for the city and have the credibility to take those big future projects forward.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon