Welcome to Grassroots Labour
What Labour's Right Wing really thinks Print E-mail
Monday, 09 February 2009
Luke Akehurst, reportedly an officer of the hard right organisation, Labour First, sometimes lets on as to just how off the wall the Right Wing are. For example, he has publicly stated that what he has been most proud of in Labour's second term is the invasion of Iraq. In January, he went on record (on his blog), attacking the NEC's Code of Conduct for party officials, stating - 'the daft code of conduct stops Labour staff doing their job. They should not be neutral referees. They should be able to promote the candidates and policies of the elected leadership of the party against their internal critics. Back in Morgan Phillips' day ...... there was none of this nonsense about neutrality, the party staff explicitly had a role in giving the left a kicking.'
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Peter Willsman News from the NEC Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 February 2009

A report by Peter Willsman (0208 854 7326) of some of the issues at the January NEC meeting.  Peter is a CLP rep on the NEC and has represented CLPs and members on the Party’s National Committees since 1981.  For more information visit www.clpd.org.uk and www.grassrootslabour.net

 

·         Leader’s Report

Gordon Brown stressed that since the international banking system had broken down it was vital to have international agreement on a new system of global supervision.  In April the government is hosting a Conference of world leaders to move this agenda forward.  He highlighted that the policies of laissez faire have been completely exposed and that Labour, with its belief in the significance of the role of the state, can work towards a situation where markets and financial systems act much more in the public interest.  Gordon stressed that our government must, above all, seek to protect the general public from the worst effects of the crisis, especially this means combatting unemployment.  Ministers are looking at schemes in Germany and Holland, which subsidise training to avoid redundancies.  There will be a considerable increase in jobs in the construction industry.  Local authorities will be enabled to build houses and give mortgages.  Northern Rock will be renamed and turned into a national lender.  Ann Black said VAT reductions should be targeted rather than blanket.  Dennis Skinner said the message should be that the Government is really only lending money to the banks, whereas it is giving real money to the public.  Peter Willsman said the scandal of the tax havens should be addressed and that pressing local councils to hold down their budgets will mean a reduction is local services and investment, which is exactly the opposite of what is required to combat the crisis.

 

·         Vote 2009

Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander presented a detailed paper setting out the Party’s organisational strategy for the 2009 elections.  Many NEC members drew attention to the serious threat from the BNP.  Tom Watson and Peter Willsman deplored the fact that due to the nonsense of proportional representation, the far right can win Euro seats with as little as some 8% of the vote.

 

·         Partnership in Power Report

The chair of the NPF, Pat McFadden, came under heavy fire from Andy Kerr (cwu) and other union reps. for the latest moves against Royal Mail.  The unions argued that what was being proposed was effectively a form of privatisation and was against the last Manifesto commitment and against NPF policy.  Pat contended that this was not the case.  Mike Griffiths asked about the understanding that there would be a second stage to Warwick II.  Peter Willsman argued that all the CLPs, involved with the remitted Constitutional Issues from last year’s annual conference, should be able to attend the relevant Policy Commissions.  Pat’s answers to both questions were somewhat equivocal.

 

·         EPLP

Peter Willsman asked Glenis Willmot, the new leader of the EPLP, if the favourable trade agreement between the EU and Israel could be suspended, given that its human rights provisions have been violated.  Glenis confirmed that there is a lot of sympathy with this point and that the agreement has been put on hold.

 
NEC meeting 17/18 November 2008 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The NEC’s first meeting after party conference was a 2-day ‘awayday’ held in the context of the widely unexpected Labour victory in the Glenrothes byelection, and of Gordon Brown being seen by many commentators as leading the world in response to the banking crisis.

MEMBERSHIP - RETENTION AND RECRUITMENT

The first day focused on membership and recruitment. There are now 168,059 members, a further reduction although the number of active resignations is fewer than last year. Recruitment targets lapsed members who in fact account for 25% of ‘new members’. People who join most commonly give as a reason for joining that they ‘support Labour values’ or ‘oppose the Tories’, whilst those who leave say that ‘it is not the party I joined’. Readers may disagree with the speculation of some officials that perhaps their expectations were ‘too high’!

Historically, spurts in membership follow Labour successes. In the debate,
Gary Titley, Labour’s leader at the European Parliament, suggested that the Party emails to members currently read too much like government propaganda – it would be helpful if they were more discursive, and raise issues for discussion.

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Conference Capers Print E-mail
Monday, 03 November 2008
A report of some of the Shenanigans at Annual Conference in Manchester, September 2008

•    A delegate in the Yorkshire Region has reported to their GC that at Manchester regional full time officials recommended a slate for the Conference Arrangements Committee which included NPF Rep Andy Furlong (a so called ‘moderate’ in the West Midlands), but did not include the T&G candidate, Mick Murphy.
•    In the London Region a CLP Chair has complained to his CLP’s EC members that regional officials were texting some delegates with a recommended slate for the CAC.
•    In the Southern Region a delegate has complained to his GC that groups of delegates were taken out of Conference by regional officials to meet Minister, Pat McFadden, who told then why they should not support the unions over the abolition of the opt out from the European Working Time Directive.
•    In the Eastern Region a delegate has complained to their CLP’s EC members that regional officials were lobbying delegates as to how they should vote.
•    In the North West Region a delegate has complained to his CLP Secretary that a regional official strongly recommended voting for the two so-called ‘moderate’ candidates for the NCC on the grounds that ‘there are easier to work with’.
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How the Grassroots can rebuild Labour Print E-mail
Monday, 05 January 2009

by Mark Seddon

Future historians may well look back on 2008 as the year in which the free market consensus was finally broken. They may even pin-point the collapse of US Bankers, Lehman Brothers as the tipping point; the point in which all of the received wisdom of the past twenty five years was finally turned on its head.
‘Events! Events!’ former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said when asked what shaped his Government. Political parties that can loosely be described as on the Left have not shaped these latter day events. The European social democratic parties have been floundering for the best part of two decades, unsure where to go. Britain’s Labour Party transmogrified into ‘New’ Labour, going much further than the French Socialists or the German Social democrats in embracing de-regulated, privatised free market economics. Peter Mandelson, now Lord Mandelson, the high priest of ‘New’ Labour once famously said that he was ‘seriously relaxed’ about the super-rich, and by extension the massive growth of inequality and insecurity, that has now culminated in the collapse and nationalisation of a number of major banks here and elsewhere, and job losses amongst the middle classes that are beginning to resemble the job losses experienced by the working class as manufacturing industry was allowed to go the wall, since the future, we were told lay in financial services and the retail sector.
Britain is likely to suffer more in this new economic depression than many of its European counterparts. Along with the United States, Britain is more dependent on the collapsed financial sector and collapsing retail sector. For it was turbo charged Anglo American capitalism that was offered as the model to what was disparagingly called ‘Old Europe’, and it is Anglo American capitalism that is at the root of our current crisis.

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Labour Party Conference 2008 – CLPD Assessment Print E-mail
Monday, 01 December 2008

The political back drop to this Conference was the campaign by a group of Daivid Miliband supporting Blairite MPs calling for a leadership contest and for the issuing of nomination papers, whilst they neither had a willing candidate nor sufficient parliamentary support to successfully nominate a challenger.

This was the first year where ‘Contemporary Issues’ were submitted for consideration for the Conference agenda. The recent procedure of ‘Contemporary Resolutions’ had been abolished last year. In order then to raise their topics of concern the unions made greater use of the ‘Emergency Resolution’ procedure this year. On the issue of the UK’s opt-out from the 48-hour maximum working week did the unions insisted in pursuing their emergency motion to the point of having the vote (and of course it was passed). Otherwise the unions used their emergency motions as bargaining chips in negotiations with the leadership and then withdrew them.

Brown’s Leader’s speech, as with last year, was angled towards traditional Labour issues. Again, like last year, a few new policy measures were referred to.

The Blairites aborted leadership campaign

CLPD favours the issuing of nomination papers across the party as indicated in the party rules and carried out every year until 1998. The Blairites who this year called for nomination papers had supported the abandonment of the previous practice of issuing papers. They did not put forward a candidate for leader when there was a contest in 2007 and their political attack on the government has been from the right – criticising Brown for not sticking sufficiently strongly to Blair’s policy agenda. In such circumstances there was no benefit for the left or centre of the party in supporting their efforts to dislodge Brown.

Issues submitted to Conference

148 Contemporary Issues (of which 49 were on the topic of fuel poverty) were submitted for inclusion on the Conference agenda. This is a similar quantity to the 153 Contemporary Resolutions submitted last year. The four principal union topics were Fuel Poverty (ie windfall tax), Energy Regulation, Employment Rights, and Workers in a Global Economy

Given the new procedure of ‘Issues’ excludes the possibility of the Conference taking a direct vote on policy, the party leadership did not consider it necessary for centre/left submissions to be ruled out of order; the practise of recent years had been to rule many out so as to exclude the possibility of Conference agreeing a policy at odds with the government’s line. With that risk eliminated under the new procedures the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) ruled almost all the submitted ‘issues’ in order, including centre/left issues. Only 4 (in comparison with the 67 of last year) were ruled out of order this year and a further 3 were referred to the NEC because they were deemed to be about organisation. Issues were even accepted that had been already been discussed at the NPF irrespective of what the criteria explicitly states.

Five emergency motions were submitted with the CAC deciding that two ‘did not meet the criteria’.

The priorities ballot: (4+1 – yet again)

Campaign Briefing called on CLP delegates to prioritise Georgia, The Economy, Housing and Water Ownership. – these being the main topics on the ballot paper (different from the four principal union topics) with clear centre/left motions on the agenda.

The result in the CLPs vote, as with last year, added just one extra topic for discussion (in addition to the four from the unions) – Housing – (the same additional topic as in 2007). As with past years there was a conscious effort to limit the number of topics discussed by encouraging CLP delegates to ‘support the unions by voting for their preferred topics’. Party staff, MPs and NPF members are all reported to play a role in this effort.

Policy debates on NPF Documents, Contemporary Issues and Emergency Motions

Conference overwhelming passed the union’s emergency motion that unequivocally opposes the working time directive opt out with just a small number of hands going up against the motion, Conference also agreed the National Policy Forum (NPF) Document that is considered to be an endorsement of the government’s approach. The government indicated it would ignore the motion so enthusiastically passed, claiming the NPF Document takes precedence. The latter document, passed at the Warwick NPF meeting, is deemed to back the opt-out, although most of the 180 people voting at Warwick were not aware of this. NPF Chair Pat McFadden argues that in a section of the text covering agency and temporary workers the phrase “maintaining the flexibility which has been central [to job creation]” should be understood as meaning “supports Britain’s opt-out”. This shows the importance of winning the right to vote on NPF Documents in parts, rather than the present arrangement of voting on an “all or nothing” basis.

Reports (Annexes to the Policy Commission Document) dealing with the previous year’s Contemporary Resolutions which had been referred to the Policy Commissions, were voted separately at this conference. All were accepted apart from the chapter on Remploy, which was not, so goes back to the Policy Commission for further consideration.

Elections

Teressa Pearce, the grassroots centre left candidate for the NCC, who had served on the NCC for 12 years was knocked off by the right, aided and abetted by full time officials.

Rule changes

The votes on rule changes were:-

i)   delete the clause giving constituencies an extra £12 per full- rate member in a general election year – carried by 97.5% overall (95.6% in the constituency section / 99.3% in the affiliates section)
ii)  raise membership subscriptions annually by inflation – carried by 89.8% (90.6% / 89.0%)
iii) allow an extra woman conference delegate where a constituency has 100 woman members, and an extra youth delegate for 30 members under the age of 27 – carried by 98.8% (97.6% / 100%)
iv)  allow constituencies who make every effort to find a woman delegate in the “women’s year” to send a man the following year – carried by 96.5% (93.0% / 100.0%)
v)   charge constituencies £25 per month from summer 2009 to build up funds for the following Euro-elections – carried by 92.9% (86.9% / 98.9%)
vi)  re-word the disciplinary rules to cover constituencies which have all-member meetings rather than general / executive committees – carried by 97.5% (95.4% / 99.6%)
vii)  new rules for electing Young Labour officers and committee – carried by 92.9% (94.5% / 91.2%)
viii) replace “sexuality” with “sexual orientation, gender identity” – carried by 98.4% (98.4% / 98.4%)
ix) replace “the country” with “Great Britain” in specifying where the party organises – lost with 10.2% in favour (10.6% / 9.8%)
x)  lower the threshold for nominating candidates for leader and deputy leader from 12.5% to 7.5% of MPs – lost with 16.1% in favour (22.2% / 10.0%)
xi)  raise union affiliations to CLPs from 6p to 10p per member – lost with 7.7% for (14.7% / 0.7%)
xii)  raise union affiliations to CLPs from 6p to 20p per member – lost with 5.2% for (9.5% / 0.8%)
xiii) alternative rules for Young Labour elections – lost with 16.3% for (22.6% / 9.9%)

The role of the party machine

Despite assurances that there would be an end to the past practise of party staff organising to influence the outcome of votes, this remained an ‘unofficial’ role played by the party machine this year. Regional officials invited CLP delegates to meet Pat McFadden, in groups of 25, to be explained why they should not support the trade union emergency resolution and the leadership’s ‘case’ for Britain retaining its opt out from Europe’s maximum 48 working hour working week. The delegates approached for these meetings are carefully selected so as to avoid drawing in delegates identified as firmly on the centre/left.

The party machine wants to end the unions’ control of the CAC if possible so that centre/left topics of union concern can be kept off the agenda if necessary. As part of this, in 2007, there had been attempts to add three NPF reps to the CAC, however after union objections the proposal was withdrawn, This year another rule change came forward to add one extra person to the CAC, again, thanks to CLPD, this was kept off the agenda by the unions. This year the election to the CAC was systematically manipulated, with officials targeting UNITE to ensure that CLPs delivered a low vote to its candidate (Michael Murphy) whilst campaigning for a high vote for NPF member Andy Furlong. Normally UNITE’s person normally comes top in this election, but this year he was the bottom elected candidate. UNITE’s overall vote of 83% in 2006 was reduced to just 59% this year. Officials targeting of UNITE’s vote does not help the party given the centrality of UNITE’s financing of the Conference specifically and the party in general.

 
The saga of Warwick II Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2008

This year, for the first time, following pressure from Unions and CLPs, backed by CLPD, the constituencies were given the right to submit textual amendments to the 6 final-stage NPF documents. CLPs were able to submit as many amendments as they wished. But, instead of going direct to the NPF at Warwick II (25/27 July), they went instead to one of eleven regional meetings (each consisting of 7 NPF reps – 5 regional CLP reps and 2 reps elected by the whole region). Altogether over 200 CLPs submitted a grand total of some 4,000 amendments.The large majority of these sought a change of direction towards more progressive policies. At the regional meetings the 7 reps were under no obligation to progress the amendments, but they were generally encouraged to pick them up and submit them to the NPF in their own names. Around 1,500 of the CLP amendments were picked up and progressed to Warwick II. Given that there was considerable duplication of amendments, it seems likely that the vast majority of the CLP amendments were progressed. In addition, the other members of the 190-strong NPF were able to submit textual amendments to Warwick II. Many took this opportunity, especially the trade unions and the four CLGA – supported members of the NEC (Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft, Peter Willsman and Walter Wolfgang). Altogether over 2,000 amendments were submitted to the NPF.

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