Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rev. Jessie Jackson – A London trade union reception.

I’m still playing catch up with last week. A highlight of which was attending a reception in the Washington Hotel in Mayfair for the American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, the Rev Jessie Jackson.

It was pretty informal but crowded with people eager to see Rev Jackson. Labour Party MP Keith Vaz chaired the reception with his usual eloquent good humour. UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis welcomed Rev. Jackson and spoke about the successful UNISON campaign “Show Racism the Red Card”.

The Rev. Jackson himself was very impressive with the traditional grand and formal US church style of oratory which us Brits tend to be very sniffy towards. Frankly, in person he knocks spots off the vast majority of our public speakers.

He was very, very supportive of the importance of joining trade unions and collective action to fight for fairness. He also reminded everyone while there may be far less direct and overt racism nowadays (thankfully) you still need to concentrate how many young black people go to college and become doctors, school teachers, professors or senior business executives.

I was with the newly re-elected London UNISON Convenor Gloria Hanson, Deputy Convenor, Conroy Lawrence and Publicity officer Lynn Bentley. There were also a number of other leading UNISON activists present.

Conroy (bottom left) works as an electrician for a NHS Hospital Trust. He is standing in next month’s UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) elections for the “sensible left”.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Unions 21, the Financial Crisis and Capital Stewardship

I missed this conference. A shame. Hat tip thingy to Dan McCurry. Great Video.

UNISON London Labour Link (APF) Forum


I’m playing “catch up” tonight but a quick report on last week’s Forum meeting at the House of Commons.

It is really lovely to have a meeting in this venue, even if was in committee room 9, the “Peel Room” named in honour of 19th century Tory Prime Minister, Robert Peel. No doubt the forces of darkness will see in this some sort of scary conspiracy but such is life.

We had as our keynote speaker, Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, who gave what I thought was a feisty and pugnacious speech reminding everyone what the Government had achieved especially in the NHS. Good stuff! I think it is gradually dawning on some people that actually Labour hasn’t been “all that bad” and that it would be an absolute complete disaster for working people if the Conservatives are elected. Better late than never I suppose.

The debates went pretty well, despite the representative of the bosses’ class from Islington making his usual weird and wonderful comments on a daft rule amendment proposal. I think he threatened to report me to Private Eye or something for exposing last year the practice of SWP branch officers voting for their mates in Labour Link elections. Yeah, well - make my day.

The rule amendment for all elections to take place at the annual forum rather than postal ballot (and thus disenfranchise those who cannot attend) was kicked out pretty convincingly. The motion about supporting the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) was passed and will be one of the two motions we will sent to National Labour Link Forum. I’ll post on this important motion another time.

The Parliamentary report was by Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan, who has done really good work in supporting UNISON in local hospitals in his CLP. National Labour Link vice Chair Rachel Voller gave a succinct update on the review of the UNISON political funds.

I'll post as soon as I know the results of the 2009 London Labour link elections.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Violent Abuse of Housing Staff is “shameful”

This week’s Inside Housing highlights the daily (at least) attacks on public housing officers up and down the country. A freedom of information request of Councils and ALMOs (by the Tories for heaven sake!) showed that nearly 1200 housing staff were attacked between 2006 and 2008. Over one per day.

I think that everyone will accept that this is in fact a massive under reporting of the problem. No Housing associations were surveyed and many organisations actively discourage staff from reporting attacks.

There is also a very sensible proposal that the Audit Commission and the TSA should take responsibility for ensuring housing organisations properly assess risks and take appropriate preventative action which is welcomed.

I’ll bang on again about my argument that there is a common interest between staff and residents on these issues. Housing organisations that fail to look after their staff properly will also be the ones that fail to provide decent services to their residents. Staff are most at risk when trying to protect residents from violence or harassment.

Next month on Tuesday 28 April it is Workers Memorial Day. This is not only a time to remember those who were killed while at work or died prematurely of industrial diseases such as asbestosis but it is also a health & safety campaigning day. UNISON will be organising events to mark this day up and down the country.

Why not set aside a small part of that Tuesday to checking your risk assessments are up-to-date and personal safety control measures are in place and being followed? Remember – housing staff are at risk - it is not a matter of “if” but “when”.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Cuddly Cameron" threats to your rights at work

Just received an email from unionstogther with this new video pointing out to ordinary trade union members the real consequences of Tory leader, David Cameron’s plan to pull out of the European Social Chapter.

“He wants to scrap the legal guarantee that gives us four weeks paid holiday, the right to be consulted about changes at work and our entitlement to parental leave - denying the legal right for parents to spend time with their newborn babies in the critical first few weeks. That's just three examples - but Cameron's threatening dozens more of your rights”.

Sign a petition against this here and fw copies of the email to friends and colleagues.

Victory to Steve and the Labour Party in Royal Docks By-Election.

Just back from the Count at Newham Town Hall. We now have a new Labour Councillor for the Royal Docks ward, Stephen Brayshaw.

Labour 723
Respect 35
Tories 708
CPA 94

22.81% turnout.

A tight result but in the present political environment I think a stunning victory. I will discuss the result in more detail later (and the let us say “ungracious” comments made by one of the losing candidates).

Congratulations to Steve, our organiser Lisa and everyone in Newham Labour Party for rallying around Steve and the campaign.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Off to “The Count” – Royal Docks By-Election

The polling stations have now just closed and I have stopped off to leave the car and make a quick post on this Council by-election in Royal Docks ward in Newham.

I did a couple of hours as a Labour polling agent this morning before having to go off to an excellent UNISON Pension training seminar (post on which to follow) and this evening was “knocking up” in Britannia village and in North Woolwich.

I spent a hour or so in the freezing wind and light rain with Alan Craig of the CPA outside the polling station in Camel Road! I also met the Conservative Candidate, Neil Pearce, for the first time. He said “Hello John” and I responded “Hello Brother Pearce”. Which he took very well.

I’ve got to do it - and I will put my neck on the line and predict the result. Labour won all 3 seats in the 2006 Council election by a fair majority but only by 30 votes in the GLA elections last year (not including postal votes?).

My prediction which will remain in the blogosphere from now on is that Steve Brayshaw will win for Labour by a comfortable margin. At least 100 votes. The Tories will be second, CPA third and Respect last.

Of course - one of the exciting things about politics is when things are close - you never ever really know until the count has finished.

Fingers and toes?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vote Steve Brayshaw - Vote Labour in Royal Docks By-Election 26 March


Tomorrow (Thursday 26 March) is the big day - it is polling day for the Royal Docks By-Election in E16, Newham, London. If you are available to help out please contact 8 Constable Avenue E16 (Bus 474, DLR West Silvertown or across the footbridge from Custom House DLR). Text 07772 723 765.

Picture above includes pics of Government Minister, Tessa Jowell, who went out canvassing for Steve (centre) on Tuesday.

Today was pretty busy, I’ll post on it another time - UNISON London Labour Link/APF Forum in House of Commons, Reception for Rev Jessie Jackson in Washington Hotel and this evening a “Chatham House rules” meeting on Capital Stewardship also in House of Commons.

Looking forward to 6.45am report in for polling station duty.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brother Pearce and the collective ownership of the means of production.

Is the Tory candidate for the Royal Docks By-election, Neil Pearce, a militant far left entryist into the Conservative Party?

This question arose following the shock disclosure in local newspaper "Wharf" (no link) that he is also a Shop Steward for the GMB trade union (General Municipal and Boilermakers Union).

This major trade union is affiliated to the Labour Party and has in its GMB rule book (Rule 2.8) "aims" to help elect MPs and Councillors who

are pledged to collective ownership, under democratic
control, of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.


Nice but dim Royal Docks Tory spokesman Anon claimed that they would report anyone who claimed that Comrade Pearce was not a true blue Tory to the Central Committee. While former Newham Labour Councillor turned Tory firebrand, Mike Law, is believed to have rejected any suggestions that Neil was part of a desperate plot by disheartened militant tendency supporters to infiltrate the Conservative Party.

Working class Tory MP and ex-shadow Home Secretary, David Davies (and grandson of revolutionary communists) is secretly pictured above with his Conservative Red Action supporters during his recent coup attempt to become leader of Conservative Party.

Nuff said?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Labourspace - Countering tax evasion by the super-rich

I received an email today about the new Labour movement website “Labourspace” and the campaign to make the super rich pay their fair share of taxes. The TUC reckon that tax avoidance by the Super rich costs the Exchequer around £25 billion per year.

The TUC are proposing not a higher rate for the richest, but instead a minimum tax rate to help stop the bigger abuses of tax avoidance. Our idea is to introduce a minimum tax rate of 32% for those earning over £100,000, rising to 40% for those earning over £200,000. This is really a pretty modest proposal, leaving room for genuine tax breaks, but suggesting people pay at least a fairer proportion of the tax they are due to pay”.

This has got my vote.

The concept behind Labourspace is simple but clever. Sign up and change your world in 30 seconds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Royal Docks By-election – The Final Countdown

This weekend the weather was very kind to friend and political foe. It was warm and there was lots of bright spring sunshine - perfect for canvassing.

I was delivering targeted letters to addresses across the ward yesterday and this morning. This delivery was really complicated and quite a headache. Thankfully our super efficient organiser, Lisa, had arranged the route and marked the map. I was trying to puzzle out where an address in Pier Parade was when 3 Tory canvassers walked past and one said to me “it's the man with the Blog, Mr Gray!” I responded with my best cheery North Walian “Hi yer”!

This is a really a diverse and complex ward, yesterday outside the ultra modern City airport I saw two horse and cart “trotters” charge by - both driven by young women drivers. In Britannia village a black cat ran across the road in front of 2 young black teenagers one of whom asked the other if this was lucky? The other responded by saying “why does it has to be a Black cat - why not a white one?” Why indeed? While coming down in the rather small lift in one tower block with a young family, who had a very large Shar Pei dog with them, I asked what was the dog’s name? They responded it was “R....” and that it was a “Tory dog”. I replied that it was far too nice a dog to be a Tory and that it must be a “Labour dog”. The father said it would be a BNP dog but they did not want to lose their home. The dog then started to bark enthusically at me. I took it as his agreement that he was a Labour dog - but maybe not.

Today on the way to telecanvass in Stratford I saw Jim Fitzpatrick MP “on the knocker”.

While ringing residents this afternoon I managed to have really serious conversations about the election and why they should vote for Labour. Hopefully these “promises” will turn into actually votes. I've mentioned this theme before. What I think is important is while there is nothing better than actually speaking to people “face to face” there are other effective forms of communication. Telecanvassing can actually reach people who may not be comfortable talking to us directly and will just close the door, but they will speak to us honestly on the telephone. This is interesting stuff.

Some faces in the main college are of course Steve himself, John Saunders on the phone, John Whitworth and Cllr Sharaf Mahmood.

"Put People First" – G20 Demo London 28 March

UNISON is supporting the call for a large turnout of trade unionists at this march next Saturday. The gathering point is from 11am outside Temple tube on the Embankment.

UNISON and the other unions will be sending out more details later.

You can sign a petition and send a message to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown here.

You can also send a message via the Labour Party web site to Gordon and President Obama here.

The official "Put People First" website is here.

At the Royal Court of Justice

On Friday outside the Royal Court of Justice was veteran anti-smoking campaigner and vegetarian Stuart Holmes (see picture). Stuart was protesting about an appeal that was taking place that day by publican Hamish Howitt over his conviction for allowing smoking to take place in his pub.

Howitt lost the appeal which was for a judicial review of his conviction.

As a former very enthusiastic smoker I can understand why smokers feel upset about the ban but the case for it on public health and the safety of staff is (in my view) unanswerable.

I had met up with Labour bloggers Alex Hilton and Dave Osler to take part in the latest farcical episode of our seemingly never ending saga. People will be glad to know that Alex who has been very seriously ill recently with Meningitis is “out and about” although not surprisingly he is still weak.

Dave had to dash off but Alex and I had a curry for lunch over which we sorted out all the internal problems with the Labour Party and how to bring the trade union movement up to speed with web 2.0.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

UNISON London Labour Link elections 2009

Another week, another Labour movement election. This post is a bit late and the ballot papers for this year’s UNISON London Labour Link National Forum and Party conference have to be returned by close of play next Friday 27 March .

UNISON is constitutionally part of the Labour Party. Unlike other trade unions UNISON has two separate political funds.

One for the Labour Party which is called the Labour Link fund (it use to be known as the APF or Applied Political Fund) and the other is the "general" political fund (GPF). UNISON members can choose which fund they pay into or they can pay into none.

I’m standing for election to the National Forum.

All London UNISON Labour link branch officers have the vote in this election (and branch secretaries where there is a current Labour Link officer vacancy).Below is the joint election address and centre left slate which I support. I would urge people to support the slate and no-one else. (BTW - This post is of course in my personal capacity

VOTE JOHN GRAY, JOHN GOUGH, IAN HORRIGAN
&
MARGARET BACK, LYNN BENTLY, GLORIA HANSON, MONICA POWELL AND KIM SILVER

FOR THE NATIONAL LABOUR LINK FORUM

We are all seeking election to represent the views of APF payers in the London Region at the National Labour Link Forum.

We support the link we have with the Labour Party, Labour has delivered improvements for our members, but, particularly in the current recession, Labour needs to do more. We will champion trade union issues and move our members concerns up the political agenda, using our influence to promote;
· Continuing investment in public services
· A fair deal on public sector pay
· Defending public sector pensions
· Access to housing for public sector employees

As active UNISON and Labour Party members we strongly believe in supporting the Party, but also in campaigning for or against change where it impacts on our members.

The elections in the coming year will see Labour face its toughest challenge yet. It is vital that we ensure that Labour link becomes more visible within the union so our members can be reminded of the importance of a Labour Government which creates an environment in which our union can grow and fosters a climate where our members can prosper.

VOTE LOUISE COULING FOR LABOUR PARTY CONFRENCE

If anyone wishes to speak to me about this slate then please give me a ring. The ballot papers have to be returned by 5pm Friday 27 March 2009.

1st. NATIONAL LABOUR LINK FORUM: FEMALE SEATS (5 VOTES - PINK PAPER)
1. BACK, MARGARET
2. BENTLEY, LYNN
4. HANSON, GLORIA
5. POWELL, MONICA
6. SILVER, KIM

2nd. NATIONAL LABOUR LINK FORUM: MALES SEATS (3 VOTES - BLUE PAPER)
2. GRAY, JOHN
3. GOUGH, JOHN
4. IAN HORRIGAN

3rd. LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE: GENERAL SEAT (1 VOTE - PURPLE PAPER)
4. COULING, LOUISE

Friday, March 20, 2009

Warm Woollies turns into Iceland

Okay, it is actually good news for the Roman Road (Bow, London) that this closed Woolworths (a few minutes away from where I work) is being converted into an Iceland store.

In Forest Gate the "Woollies" has been turned into a Tesco Express which is also I think an assert to the local community.

It is still a real shame that the Woolworth chain collapsed. I didn’t visit the store that often like many others but of course now it is closed I am always running out of “essential” domestic items that they would have stocked (e.g. R50 light bulbs, batteries, gloves and Birthday cards!).

No longer will we use the phrase "I'll just pop into Woollies".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

London UNISON members “Stuff” Toy Town Extremists

Today was the London UNISON regional Annual General Meeting and I am really pleased to report that there was a complete victory over the forces of darkness by those of light and reason.

The so-called “United Left” Regional Council Officer (London Executive) candidates who were supported by SWP/Socialist Party/Militant Tendency/Trotsky entryist extremists were all soundly defeated.

This is the 4th year in a row that we have won and I suspect that this year our margin of victory was the biggest yet.

After the meeting I had a chat with some trusted London grass root & Labour Link comrades about whether or not I should be magnanimous in victory on this blog?

They all said without hesitation “No, stuff ‘em”. This view was quite widespread since the behaviour of many of the extremists (not all of them) at the meeting was just frankly appalling.

Since this evening we have had a few sherbets to celebrate I will post properly on the meeting another time.

But I will say this was a good day. Congratulations to Gloria, Conroy, Lynn, Gill and Emma. Many thanks to all our supporters. Next battle is the UNISON NEC elections. I can’t wait!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On the “Dog and Bone” for Steve Brayshaw in Royal Docks By-Election

Just back from a useful and productive evening at the West Ham Labour Party phone bank in its headquarters in Stratford.

There is still no real alternative to knocking on doors and talking to people face to face in elections. However, with many modern residential blocks it is difficult to gain entry so telecanvassing is important.

Remarkably, the people I rang tonight were all very polite and on the whole quite happy to discuss their voting intentions. Our candidate Steve Brayshaw is pretty well known and gets support even from those who don’t usually vote Labour. He is recognised as being a true community activist. We took some hits but I think that is inevitable in the current economic climate but relatively very few.

The community in Royal Docks is diverse and it was interesting to speak to a number of Commonwealth and European Union residents about the elections. Most had never voted in UK elections but many have voted for left of centre and Socialist parties in their homelands in the past and were pleased that the Labour Party was calling them about this election.

The main photo is of Cllr Ron Manley calling Royal Docks voters with Cllr Jon Knott, member Alan Griffiths and Cllr Kay Scoresby.

While 2nd photo is from Monday night with member Ahmed Noor and Cllrs Jo and Ian Corbett.

It's a big day tomorrow – London UNISON AGM!

It will in one way be a relief to do battle with the trots as opposed to the amateur, paranoid and frankly completely batty Tories I have come across so far on this blog over the Royal Docks by-election.

Easy meat” they may be to ridicule and defeat politically but at least with the trots you know while they are completely bonkers and very dangerous in the trade union movement. You can at least dismiss them as having no influence whatsoever in the real wider world.

What is really alarming is that these Tories are members of the main opposition Party in this country and they think they can form the next government...

Such a thought just simply doesn’t bear thinking about.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Royal Docks Tory "lies, deceit and hypocrisy" over City Airport

While I don’t necessary expect political parties to conform to Marquess of Queensbury Rules while fighting local elections, I don’t think official Party leaflets should be telling lies or making personally abusive accusations either.

The latest official Tory leaflet being delivered in the Royal Docks by-election in Newham, East London is pretty dire and depressing for anyone who cares about local democracy regardless of Party.

This official A4 double sided leaflet has the main title “- SEE INSIDE FOR THE TRUTH AND LIES!” Inside indeed there is a headline that “Labour should say “sorry” over City Airport lies...” Strong stuff you would think. There is more. “Angry residents complained to Neil Pearce about Labour’s campaign of lies and deceit” (their emphasis). “Labour Councillors....are falsely claiming the conservatives want to expand the airport with and runaways.” (Not all that sure what that means in English?)”The National Party it has denied any plans”.Neil (says)..., this desperate lies is a disgrace” etc.

So Labour is telling lies, is being deceitful and is a disgrace says Tory boy Neil?

On the same page as the accusation of lies and deceit they clearly imply that Labour Candidate Steve Brayshaw is complicit in these “lies” and that he is “untrustworthy” - see the “ITS A QUESTION OF TRUST?” headline about a planning meeting that Steve could not attend since he was teaching at the time in his college!

Many local Tories have got very excited about such matters – one of them has apparently even made a complaint to the Electoral commission regarding “false claims”.

So Labour claims that the National Conservative Party supports the expansion of City Airport are just lies and deceit then?

So why did the “The Times” (that well known socialist rag) report hereTories clear the way for more flights from small airports”. This article was by the surely inconsequential figure - “The Times” Chief Political Correspondent, Sam Coates.

Let us now be crystal clear “The Conservatives said yesterday that they were willing to expand airport capacity in the South East despite the party’s environmental opposition to a third runway at Heathrow".

"Luton, City Airport or Southend could be allowed increased numbers of flights or an extra runway under the Tories” (my emphasis)

Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson is now a well known enthusiastic supporter of expansion at City Airport. While Tory GLA member Roger Evans has referred to the City Airport protesters as “Climate change Taliban”.

So the Labour leaflets that accurately reported that the Tories are in favour of increasing City airport capacity or even building an extra runway (despite this being difficult to see how) are not “false” it’s not “lies” and it’s not “deceitful” either.

So should those responsible for “City Airport lies” attacks say they are sorry to Steve and the Labour Party? I’m not holding my breath.

Actually I think the (deliberate) decision to personally attack and try to smear Steve and the local Party is a sign of desperation. They were not getting anywhere by any legitimate campaigns so they have decided to resort to plain old abuse.

Now, me getting on my blogging high horse and slating the 'orribble Tories is one thing, putting official Party leaflets out falsely calling your opponents liars and untrustworthy is just plain wrong and is not I think going to impress the electors of Royal Docks.

The only good thing it does possibly do is to make people wonder what sort of candidate Neil Pearce is if he feels he has to imply that his opponent is an untrustworthy and deceitful lair.

To me it just reminds us all that things haven’t changed all that much under cuddly Cameron and the Tories (not all of them) are still the “Nasty Party”.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cuppa & Croissants with “Credit Crunch” Graham Turner:

A good UNISON member has sent me details of this event on Sunday 29 March 2009, 11.30-1pm, at the Bow Idea Store.

Graham Turner is an economist who works locally in Mile End and has published a controversial book called “The Credit Crunch, Globalisation and the Worldwide Credit Crisis”.

I have heard Graham speak twice in recent months here and at the Ken Livingstone Progressives conference. Each time I tried to ask him a question about the concept of workers capital and whether he thought that the lack of it had contributed to the crisis and its possible future role in getting us out of this mess.

He didn’t really respond which I think is my fault since I don’t think I explained the question properly. If I can’t attend this meeting then I hope someone else will.

This sort of local community based intelligent event is a really, really good idea. Well done to those who brought it about.

Fire destroys Bow Sikh Temple

This afternoon at work we became aware of the strong smell of smoke from somewhere outside our office building. I volunteered to go out and check that there was not a fire in or near a building we managed.

Eventually I came across the source which was a fire in the large Sikh Temple and community centre in Harley Grove, Bow, E3 (about 500m away from our office).

I have never in my life seen such a major fire in person. The emergency services had the situation well in hand and the area around the Temple was cordoned off while fire crews tried to put the fire out (or rather control the flames). It was pretty dramatic when the roof collapsed and there was a wall of flames and smoke. The noise was unexpected and pretty frightening.

The Temple is adjacent to the Malmesbury Estate (Bow South) which is now run by the ALMO Tower Hamlets Homes. There were a number of people watching what was going on and you could see everyone was sombre and horrified about what they were witnessing. We all have a primeval fear of fire I think.

Thankfully no-one was apparently hurt. See the East London Advertiser online report. I had worked in the Council housing office directly opposite the Temple for 3 years in the 1990’s. There were some very ugly rumours going around about the cause of the fire which I very much hope are wrong.

There was scaffolding up on the rear of the building which indicates building works were being undertaken and so there may have been an accidental cause.

I think everyone present was very appreciative of the work done by the London Fire Brigade and the Police.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

West Ham tackles desperate Blues in Royal Docks Thriller

This morning I helped out in a canvass team from West Ham Labour Party which was led by our MP Lyn Brown in the Royal Docks By-election.

Photo – From left -Forhad Hussain; Cllr Jon Knott (UNISON member); Ray Smith; Lyn Brown MP (UNISON member); Alan Griffiths (UNISON member); John Cullen and Cllr Winston Vaughan

The Tories have taken their gloves off and have decided in a new leaflet to accuse Labour of “lies and deceit” and make personal attacks on the Labour Candidate, Steve Brayshaw. Which is a shame for the political process but it is not entirely unexpected.

They are also copying the discredited and dishonest Alan Craig practice of publishing a misleading bar chart that claims that “Only 20 votes separates Labour and local man Neil Pearce”. Leaving to one side for now that Steve and tory candidate, Neil Pearce, live within 5 minutes walk of each other so it is a bit strange to suggest that Steve is not himself local? The bar chart refers to the 2008 GLA election but doesn't say so. Pearce may have a high opinion of himself but he is no “Boris”.

The proper comparison should be with the 2006 Council election when Pearce came bottom of all the Tory candidates and their average vote was only 515 votes while the average Labour vote was 761. The last Council election was not “close”.

Later I was sent off to lead a canvass team of Newham Councillors – Cllr Winston Vaughan; Cllr Mary Skyers; Cllr Alec Kelloway and Cllr Andrew Baikie.

Today, the weather was warm and very sunny, the reaction from voters was positive and I saw the first tree blossom of the year.

Spring is well on its way and the tories are obviously feeling desperate since they are resorting to personal abuse.

So all in all, it was a good day.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

UNISON United Left are seen as an “exclusive drinking club” while “Gloria is a Vote Winner”

I welcomed to the blogosphere a little while ago Lambeth UNISON Joint branch secretary (and free thinker), Nick Venedi. Nick has now published here what I think is an important post on the UNISON Trotskyite dominated faction, United Left. Nick has in the past been supported by United left in elections for union positions.

While he clearly supports the current UL slate in Thursday London UNISON AGM elections he thinks that “UL has failed to make the impact it needs to have made to ensure that they win an election”

The mistake the UL keeps making is that it does not appear or looks like a very inclusive product and is seen by some, who are involved with regional politics, as an exclusive drinking club” (shock horror)

The UL also underestimate how clever the current administration are and ignore the fact that Gloria is a vote winner and John Gray has an established following and is seen as someone who is not afraid to speak his mind...” (I couldn’t possibly comment).

While I disagree with some of the conclusions that Nick makes in this post I have always found him to be personally polite, considerate and thoughtful.

I would imagine that some of his UL “comrades” are “hopping, hopping mad” (to say the least) about his post. I would love to be a spy in the wall at the Lambeth UNISON office on Monday.

Keep up the good stuff Nick!

Pay your rent on time – or else! (you’re roast dinner?)

Hat tip thingy to Skuds for this link. Rent collection is really important for all public housing organisations but Arena obviously lost the plot with this postcard which was sent out to some of its tenants.

These tenants have quite rightly complained about the post card and some even say they are being “intimidated” and “mafia” style threats.

Which I think is just a little OTT but I take their point.

It was good to see that the Director has “apologised unreservedly” (BBC).

Minister says “put the Unions in their place – the Boardroom”

Okay he didn’t quite say this but here is a great post by Tom P about the “suggestion” by Labour Treasury Minister, Paul Myners, that trade unions should be involved in the decision making by company remuneration committees. As Tom puts it - a trade union rep would not have agreed to Fred Godwin’s unreduced early pension package (even in the unlikely event he was a union member!)

The real underlying issue is of course about the principle of “ownership”. Fund managers have a fiduciary duty to their companies and shareholders - not to the pension funds who employ them. Yes, in theory they have contractual and regulatory obligations. Experience has shown us that the vast majority of fund managers care only for short term profits and have not been interested in the long term harm that their investments can cause to the wider economy. Their mandates are typically 3 years at best not 30.

Pension funds were also beaten up last week by the UN PRI who call for investors to take the blame for the credit crisis and take responsibility for fixing it.

Last week I attended a well attended London UNISON briefing on Capital Stewardship and governance in the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Nearly all the London schemes were represented. National Officer, Colin Meech briefed everyone on far reaching legal developments and the ambitious UNISON rolling training and support programme for pension representatives.

The total value of London schemes alone was (31.3.07!) £21.25 Billion. Now a lot less but still a huge amount of money. Yet in most schemes there was no effective scrutiny whatsoever of fund managers about their voting decisions at company AGMs. Pension funds “voted” to approve the appointments of the Bank Executives and their toxic remuneration packages that brought the British Banking system close to a collapse. We the Turkeys actually paid so-called experts to vote on our behalf for Christmas? This must never be allowed to happen again.

It’s about time the real long term owners of capital were allowed to start taking more responsibility for their savings. We are saving for our pensions for up to 40 years and on average pensioners live another 15 years on top that. So we at least have no interest in short term profits that can damage the fund in the long term.

So maybe a new trade union pension slogan to the City should be “No Remuneration without Representation”

Friday, March 13, 2009

London UNISON Local Government Committee AGM - "the Horror, the Horror"

A report on yesterdays AGM at the University of London Union (ULU). When I arrived there was the usual UNISON ultra leftpaper sellers” outside the main entrance. I wasn’t sure which room the AGM was taking place so I went to the ULU reception desk were there was an ULU student complaining about the "revolutionaries" handing out leaflets. He claimed they were blocking entry into the union. He was demanding that staff got rid of them. The reception staff were arguing that they were not students and that there was nothing they could do. He responded “Well, who are they?” - I just meekly asked were the UNISON meeting was and then quickly ran away. Things have obviously changed since I was a student.

The AGM itself went "quite" well compared to previous meetings of the LGC that I have had the misfortune to attend. It was the last meeting chaired by its long serving Chair, David Eggmore, (my pesky election rival who had beaten me twice for a place in the UNISON Service Group Executive) was retiring from the post. So people may have decided to be relatively civil and polite to each other I suppose. Which was refreshing but I will not hold my breath for future meetings.

The committee itself is dominated by ultra left supporters from various revolutionary Trotsky Political Parties. So in the elections itself, those who I consider to be the forces of light and reason were comprehensively defeated (including me). However, there is room for optimism. We had a solid 1/3rd of the votes which I think shocked many on the "United Left" who always assume (wrongly) that they speak on behalf of everyone in local government. I am optimistic that we can build on this and we just need to organise ourselves better to win.

There were a number of positive and constructive things discussed during the meeting. But most of the business was not that relevant to my members who are not directly employed by London Councils. UNISON is hopefully changing its structures to more accurately reflect member’s interests but until then we have the LGC.

The chief United left "Red baiter" (of any socialists he doesn’t like) and witch hunter general was there droning on about various things. Every time anyone spoke against the Trotsky received wisdom you would be mildly barracked and glared at by the extremists who cannot deal with any opposition. It’s more unpleasant than threatening but no wonder many moderate "centre left" delegates don’t want to attend such meetings.

However, I am the ever the eternal optimist and I look forward to attending regional service group UNISON meetings in the future whose business directly concerns my members and that people feel confident to attend and participate without feeling, let us say “pressurised”, by those who consider the LGC to be their own private club.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

“On the buzzer” in the Royal Docks By-Election

Yesterday evening I was sent out to canvass Britannia Village on behalf of Labour Candidate, Steve Brayshaw. I was with Cllr Paul Brickell (my ward Councillor) and fellow trade union member, Salim Patel (see left). Salim is a “Train Captain” and member of the RMT.

Our part of the village that we had to call at that night was all private housing blocks with staircase door entry systems - which can be pretty frustrating to canvass. Many residents were out (or looked out of window and pretended to be) and those who answered were most reluctant to let anyone into the block. But you quickly got quite use to talking to people over the entry phone. It is I suppose similar to telephone canvassing but slightly more personal.

I had a number of reasonable conversations with people and was able to leave a card to those who were receptive. What I found a little concerning is the number of residents who said they have never voted in any elections beforehand, local or national. They seemed to be genuinely surprised that anyone was asking them about their past and present voting intentions. These are all relatively expensive flats and apartments. It is not either a student area. We “politicos” of all Parties need to try harder on engagement I think.

It was encouraging that some of them said that they are not Labour supporters but would be voting for Steve at the by-election due to people they know who are endorsing him.

The most difficult contact I had that night was meeting up at Ward HQ and fending off Steve’s very friendly but utterly disobedient pair of “Fred” Basset hounds whose sole object in life is to jump up on you and try to lick you to death. I warned them that if they did not behave I would set “Mike Law” on them but they paid me no heed whatsoever.

Picture left is from Monday's top canvass team Pearson, Amarjit and Pat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Email your MP about “fair play on redundancies” - Unions together

Time is running out. Email your MP now to support this campaign. Check out this excellent short video of from grass roots Labour supporting trade unionists. They explain why they think it is so important that redundancy rates needs to be significantly increased. I posted on this last month about how we also need to stop any race to the bottom by good employers who pay above the rate.

Below is an urgent message from Tony Woodley

This Friday, Members of Parliament will have the chance to vote to make redundancy pay fairer, as Lindsay Hoyle MP's Bill is due to receive its second reading in the Commons.

Labour's trade unions have worked together on this campaign, to get a better deal for workers - a better deal that is more important than ever in these tough economic times.

Unions work hard to look after their members' jobs - but when redundancies do happen, unions also want to make sure that those affected get a fair deal. But for most workers, if they are made redundant, the payment they would get for each year of service is not based on how much they earn a week - it is capped at £350 - about half of average earnings.

This is an issue that matters to millions of ordinary working people up and down the country - thousands of people have got in touch with their MPs to ask them to support the Bill. Earlier this week, we asked our supporters to get in touch with us to let us know why fair redundancy pay matters to them.

Being made redundant has a huge impact on individuals, families and communities. It's only fair that we make sure people get the fairest deal possible.

We have had great support for this campaign from Labour Members of Parliament, and we urge them to turn out this Friday to vote the Bill through. And we also hope the government listens - to their own MPs, to the trade unions, and to all the ordinary people who deserve a better deal - and acts to right this wrong.

Tony Woodley
Chair, TULO - Labour's unions togetherJoint General Secretary, Unite the Union

PS. Email your MP now if you haven't yet done so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The desperate race to be the Royal Docks best loser – Newham Tories or the CPA?

By last night I had recovered from my very severe bout of "man flu" (which of course I had most stoically endured) so I went off after work to help out the Labour Campaign in the Royal Docks by-election.

At first I was given a local leaflet round to delivery. Which went OK apart from last road since on the map it insisted that there were 13 homes to be delivered but I could not find a single letter box? Lisa our ace local organiser was very understanding.

Later I went out with a canvass team with Cllrs Pat Murphy, Pearson Shillingford and Amarjit Singh. Apart from the unpleasant experience of bumping into Alan Craig from the CPA it went very well. The CPA candidate was with him (see right) and she seemed friendly enough. Craig himself just glared at us from a communal balcony.

The Tories and the CPA (the so-called “Christian People’s Alliance”) are currently fighting a rather bitter war about who really is the No 2 contender in this election. I came across a new Tories leaflet last night which referred to the May 2008 GLA election when the Tories came second to Labour. While the CPA has a practically identical graph on their leaflets which claims to show they are first! While I obviously hate to support the Tories their version is accurate while the CPA can only be seem to be telling porkies. They clearly suggest that they actually came first in the area in 2006 when plainly they did not? The leaflet actually refers to the result in neighbouring Canning town South ward which shares the same post code. Most electors will not know this.

Now on the face of things these things "happen" (not the Labour Party of course he says with his tongue firmly in his cheek!) and that you could well argue that worse things happen in local politics. However, the CPA uniquely claims to be better morally than the rest of us “The Mayflower Declaration is a statement of our Christian Democratic values and philosophy. It is a CPA national party document but we apply its basic principles to our work here in Newham. It shows how we seek to apply Christian inspiration to our politics in theory and in practice”. By printing blatant untruths?

It is interesting mind that in 2006 election in Royal Docks the current Tory candidate Neil Pearce came last out of all the losing Tories? I wonder why? The best news last night was that he has republished his infamous “Vinnie Jones” photo in his latest newsletter. This time in colour and with arms folded! Excellent stuff! Even if I have lost a bet.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Workers’ Memorial Day – Tuesday 28 April 2009

This morning I received copies of the UNISON 2009 Poster for Workers’ Memorial Day (see picture). This year I am trying to organise events to mark the occasion at work and within the Labour Party.

I read today in the TUC risks e-newsletter that 1 in every 10 carpenters who were born in the 1940’s will die prematurely of asbestos related diseases. 1 in every 10? I have worked as a housing officer with chippies throughout my career. A few born during this period will still be working but I wonder now about the health of all those I have lost touch with and those who have retired?

Below is from the UNISON website here

What is Workers Memorial Day?

Each year on 28 April, IWMD is marked around the world to Remember the dead, Fight for the living. We remember those killed, made ill, or injured by their own or someone else’s work. Their pain and suffering and that of their families deserves not to be forgotten. We also renew our commitment to, and demand once more, safe and healthy work for all.

Far too many workers and their families suffer each and every year. The figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and which make the headlines, never tell the full story.

So what is the full story? It is estimated that work incidents cause up to 1,600 deaths each year; including deaths to members of the public, work-related suicide, and road traffic accidents whilst driving for work.

On top of this, it is estimated that there are up to 50,000 deaths from work-related illnesses; including cancers, respiratory illnesses, and heart disease. For more detail, see The Whole Story, in the Safety and Health Practitioner

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The revolutionaries who want to devour everyones children

So as well as a return to recession we have the return of people who think that murdering working class teenagers is a good and noble thing. Last night in Northern Ireland two unarmed soldiers were slaughtered by “dissident republicans” while they were waiting for a Domino's Pizza delivery. Four other men including the Pizza delivery team (no doubt seen as "collaborators") lie seriously wounded.

Tonight I fear so called “loyalists” will be gleefully digging up remote farmland to retrieve long hidden caches of weapons. They will be excited at the thought that murdering other teenage working class youngsters in “revenge” is to them also a good and noble thing. No doubt some innocent Catholic taxi driver or a minibuse full of teenagers back from a Hurley competition could end up being slaughtered.

Of course that is what the murderers want to happen. They want more working class kids in their own community to die in order to provoke a “backlash” against the Peace Process. This is total political madness.

I hope before this happens the brain washed cretins who carried out this attack will be soon rounded up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) with the active help of nationalist politicians and the wider community. The troops themselves must remain in their barracks.

If former IRA commander now Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness can laugh and joke with Ian Paisley he can help the PSNI stop further mass slaughter.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Charles Clarke MP “The importance of joining a trade union”

Yesterday lunchtime I was at my Housing Association Group office at Norwich to chair a UNISON recruitment meeting. Our guest speaker was Charles Clarke MP, former Home Secretary and Labour MP for Norwich South. I had bumped into Charles at the Progress Conference last year and invited him to address one of our meetings on this theme. He immediately accepted.

The meeting was sponsored by UNISON Eastern Region Labour Link (APF) who provided lunch. We also had someone from trade unions solicitors Thompsons present and UNISON regional organising staff Jon Hartley and Gwen Williams.

The meeting itself was very relaxed and informal. Charles praised UNISON for having the very good reputation of a union that vigorously defends the interests of its members but also tries to be constructive. It is a “progressive” union that is listened to by the government and taken seriously by ministers.

He pointed out that there were always tensions in the relationship between the government and unions, and this is natural. We are not going to agree all the time. Especially over pay. He pointed out that pursuing better pay is not the only reason to join a union. Issues such as health & safety and equality of opportunity were very important. In fact being a voice for staff and striving to make sure that things are fair in the workplace is probably even more important.

As a MP he is always willing to meet up with trade unions to talk about particular problems with employers. At the moment he has been taken up with the redundancies that have been announced at major local firms.

Charles made an interesting comment that he felt that there was actually too much emphasis and belief on employment laws and regulations. Which he felt favoured solicitors (nothing personal against Thompsons) not ordinary workers? Legal remedies and employment tribunals should very much a last resort since even if successful they take years to complete are complex, expensive and bureaucratic. Instead he felt there should be more emphasis on collective bargaining between employers and trade unions which would result in better work relationships, fewer grievances and far less employment tribunals. In private companies were there are low levels of union protection then employment law is very necessary but in unionised organisations then collective bargaining is best for everyone.

During the Q&A Charles explained there needs to be an expansion of a programme of homes for rent. The current model of social housing finance which is based on assumptions of outright sales and shared ownership is broken. There has to be a new model. He is optimistic that a new model will be (have to be?) announced in the near future.

During a separate question he put forward the idea that public pension funds (LGPS?) could play a direct role in financing housing and other public investments to help revive the economy.

He agreed that having “Supporting People” programmes that only last 2 years is far too short and wrong. They should be at least 3-5 years. This will not only benefit staff but also clients. He offered to help us talk to local authorities to improve commissioning contracts were there are problems.

I asked Charles about the TULO campaign to support an increase in the minimum redundancy payments. He was aware of the private members bill by Labour MP, Lindsay Hoyle and understood that negotiations were going on and he hoped that there would be a good outcome.

There was a general discussion on further equality laws in the pipeline; fair trade; agency workers; religious freedoms at work and the important role that Europe has played in promoting workers rights. Charles stayed around afterwards chatting to people.

The meeting was held in the boardroom which overlooks the St Andrews Business Park were the office is located. Just as he was leaving Charles made the significant remark (to me) that he had never been to a trade union meeting in a business park before today. As we walked down the staircase we discussed how unions can make themselves relevant to such workers and organise in modern day work places.

It was a very positive meeting in a number of ways: we signed up a number of new members and I am confident that many more will join. I am hopeful we will also get another new local union representative out of it as well. There was a meaningful and "grown up" discussion with an informed speaker on the role of modern trade unions, work related housing issues as well as other important local and national matters. I'll try to arrange other similar events.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Leila Deen – Green Custard Bigot.

Tony Blair famously once joked that his New Labour mission would not be complete until the Party loved Peter Mandelson. The unbelievably arrogant, stuck up and conceited Leila Deen has done the impossible. She has made people feel sorry for Mandy!

These sort of bigots don’t care what damage they cause to their campaign by such actions. All they want is vain-glory and their 3 minutes of “fame”. Yes, Mandelson and Gordon Brown have turned it around in their favour and made jokes about it.

However, it could have been acid in that cup and all this will do apart from discrediting her cause is helping those who want to build further barriers between Politicians and ordinary people.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Brown Bashes Boris for slashing homes for rent.



Languishing at home struggling stoically with mans flu (see previous post?) I have just received a “TheyWorkForYou” email alert. I have an alert on my local Labour MP (and UNISON member) for West Ham, Lyn Brown. Whenever she asks a Parliamentary Question they send an alert to me. I followed the link and found that Lyn has asked it of Harriet Harman in yesterdays “Prime Ministers Question Time”. The other Brown (Gordon) was of course across the pond saying Hello to Obama and wowing Congress while Harriet was standing in for him in the bear pit.

Lyn's question was:
Some 34,000 families in my constituency are languishing on the council's housing waiting list. They earn, on average, less than £24,000 per year, yet the Mayor of London has decided to decrease the numbers of homes for rent built in the capital by 10 per cent. Failing to deal with the snow was one thing, but blatantly ignoring the needs of my constituents and tens of thousands of other Londoners is another. Can she—will she—intervene?

Harriet’s reply was
know that my hon. Friend and her hon. Friends will stand up for all those people in London who need housing and need it now. While Boris Johnson, the Mayor, does not recognise their concerns, I know that they have, in my hon. Friend, a champion on housing.

On the link (here) you could actually see a video which I have copied and pasted above.

What Boris is actually doing is letting people who earn up to £72,000 per year buy subsidised homes under shared ownership schemes instead of building desperately needed affordable homes for rent.

Bearing in mind that anyone buying a home during the next year or so is likely to be owning a depreciating asset, surely one thing we have learnt from this “sub-prime” banking recession is that people on very low and often insecure incomes should not be encouraged to take out mortgages. The Tories really don’t “get it” do they? Their ideological obsession with home ownership in the face of the “bleeding obvious” is staggering.

Check out press release by Labour GLA Housing spokesperson Nicky Gavron.

By coincidence I got an email from Lyn beforehand in response to this post. We are going to have “a chat” on the TULO "Fair Redundancy Pay" issue.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Elections are ideally a summer sport

Last night in Royal Docks it was wet and very windy. Not ideal circumstances for canvassers of any political persuasion. As soon as we started off I lost the voter ID sheets for that street in the wind and had to chase after them. I managed to find them under a car.

They were very soggy but still thankfully in one piece. Stupidly, despite the weather I didn’t make sure before setting out from the campaign HQ that we had housing blocks with cover to canvass were we could shelter from Mother Nature.

I was with a trio of Newham Councillors – Andrew Baikie (Executive member for Housing and Little Ilford ward), James Butler (Deputy Executive advisor and Custom House ward) and Clive Furness (Executive member for Health and Canning Town North). On the way out we bumped into Newham Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, on his way out with another canvass team.

It was a bloody miserable night – the only positive thing was that residents were so astonished that we out and about in such weather that we earned brownie points for Steve because of it. I saw no other canvassers from any other party. We had one of us in the car shouting out of the car window addresses to call out at and then take back voter ID reports while the wet ones scurried to and fro. You had to have somewhere dry with a light to read and record information. Outside in the rain your canvass sheets just disintegrated. This went on for a while. It was just about ok since the rain was blustery rather than constant.

Then joy of joys, James found a tower block in the pack which we could canvass. So we finished off canvassing in the dry at least. This block had not been modernised recently. So there were problems which Andrew was taking up the next day. However, I was pleased to see there was a fairly effective security service since the communal stairs and landing were in a very good condition.

After we had dropped off the canvass returns Andrew and I had to have a serious political canvass debrief in the local “So Bar”.

My camera batteries ran out so no pictures – what a shame.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Gray’s Anatomy of the Bible – Alan Craig & the Gutter

This is a classic local politics blogging story. Tonight I was canvassing on behalf the Labour Party in the Newham Royal docks by-election when one of my team mentioned that they had read a post about me by Christian People’s Alliance (CPA) Councillor Alan “no to big mosques but yes to big churches” Craig.

In this post Craig said “a friend drew my attention to another Labour Party Biblicist in Newham, albeit a reluctant one. The references are in the blog (http://grayee.blogspot.com/) of local Labour and trade union activist John Gray”. The post was in September last year. Since no-one reads or comments on Craig’s BBB (Bigoted Boring Blog) it wasn’t noticed until recently.

Now Craig is slagging me off good and proper which is his right I suppose. I am to him apparently some sort of "Life from Mars" 1970's "old left" throwback. Which will come as a surprise to my "comrades" in UNISON United Left. But I'm not complaining about this.

Anyway tonight I posted this comment on his post which I await his reply.

Hi Alan

Tonight while out canvassing in Royal Docks a Labour Party comrade told me about this post. It would appear that you as ignorant as you are bigoted. I would be pleased to be compared by anyone else but you to Jack Jones who is a hero who risked his life to fight fascism and was wounded as a young man in the Spanish civil war.

As anyone who has read my blog would realise Arthur Scargill is no hero of mind even if the coal miners are and I did proudly support them on the picket line during the strike. Nick Cohen’s book “What's Left” is on my bookshelf and while I would not agree entirely with everything he writes upon I am a firm supporter like Nick of the Euston Manifestos.

I note that you do not have the courage to actually reference my posts about you. Nor my fears about the suspicion and division that your hypocritical comments about “mega mosques” provokes in our communities. Anyone interested can check my blog out and in the search button type “CPA”.

It’s not really that I think you ought to keep your opinions out of the pulpit - it is that you should keep them out of the gutter.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mars Hill – 20 Questions to a fellow blogger

Check out this link here to find out my response to the Paul Burgin’s (Mars Hill) 20 point questionnaire.

If you really want to find out about why I started blogging and guess who was the "pompous and conceited" trade union blogger; my best blogging experience; my worse; why I think my best post is “George Galloway: My Part in his downfall”; what inspired me to go into politics and why I use to hide behind the sofa when I was little – then please check it out.

Decent Homes – How Labour has made a difference in Royal Docks.

Tonight I went canvassing in the Royal Docks by-election with local ward Councillor Pat Murphy and Manor Park Councillor Kay Coresby (bottom right of picture). We went to two high rise tower blocks in the ward and door knocked everyone that we didn’t have any voter ID.

The tower blocks were managed by the Council owned ALMO “Newham Homes”. While I am not a fan of ALMOs the blocks had just undergone a high quality major refurbishment under the “decent homes” programme. Some works were still ongoing but I did not hear a single complaint about the works done nor about the contractors. Well done I think to everyone involved.

The Tories while in power staved Councils of money to refurbish and modernise their housing stock. Labour is making a difference up and down the country with the “decent homes” project. There are still problems but tonight talking to people (our people) I felt really proud of what had been done. It is not only about new kitchens and bathrooms. The tower blocks themselves looked clean, in very good repair and well looked after by staff and residents.

Picture of Pat and Kay tonight and top right last week’s canvass team just down the road with local ward Councillor Anthony McAlmont. In one of the blocks we visited last week there was this wonderful titled poster in the ground floor foyer (left).

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Progress Labour 2.0 conference – will 2.0 help us win in 2010?

On Thursday evening I was at an important grass roots union and residents meeting in the Isle of Dogs being held in a tenant’s hall.

Yesterday I was back on the Island but this time at the glass and crystal globe of the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf. Lots of light in the heart of Gotham City (joke). Of course, now that so many of the local businesses are publicly owned I should have felt very much at home.

This conference was organised by Progress and they had 8 sessions with some 26 panel members. That was a lot of information and opinions to take in 11am-5.45pm. I will just highlight some of the things I found interesting.

The opening address was by RH Douglas Alexander MP (who is also the Labour Party campaign coordinator for the General Election). Partly in response to a question that I put to him (which I think he misunderstood - it’s probably me) he suggested that the global Banking crisis last September is an Obama type issue which has changed the world and that it is traditional Labour values of “fairness...solidarity and collectivism” and the “strength of common endeavour” that is the future - this crisis is our “Hope” and “Change” theme (my interpretation).

Joe Rospars, the foundering partner of Blue State Digital was the next speaker and he is of course better known to everyone present simply as God, aka Barack Obama’s New Media Director. He played one of the many inspiring “making the hairs on the edge of your neck stand up” videos. What fantastic stuff. The 13 million supporters, 200,000 local organisers and $500 million dollars raised from 3 million contributors by the New Media Obama machine is an awesome achievement. The decentralisation of the campaign and its “bottom up” nature was key to its success. But as Douglas said with some venom, during question time, the central Obama campaign organisers where not just holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” together each night. They were leading and controlling as well as organising. We should not forget this.

Professor Andrew Chadwick reminded us that yesterday was the 109th anniversary of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) and how the Party started off as a broad church and is still one nowadays. “Pragmatism, co-operation and solidarity”.

Ben Brandzel reminded us that “democracy is not a spectator sport”.

Gavin Shuker that the “narrative” is all important. Complying data without any use is itself useless.

Jag Singh (I finally met Jag for the first time in real life) who despite being unwell spoke amusingly but without bitterness about how as a Hilary Clinton election advisor he had lost his White House cubicle (by 0.5 %!).

Stella Creasy – PCC for Walthamstow has an email list of 2000 names gathered during campaign events which her CLP (usually Stella I suspect) sends out a weekly newsletter. . .......Blimey.

I had a sort of “row” during the last session with panel member James Crabtree (senior Editor, Prospect). He had quite gleefully (in my view) during his presentation predicted that the Labour Party would lose the next election and that they should use the opportunity of defeat to build the Party in order to win in future. I challenged him on this view since I could remember when I joined the Party just before the General election in 1979 I came across people who predicted that the Party would lose and tried to argue that this was a good thing. That opposition would enable the Party to regroup and win next time. This resulted in all these people losing their jobs (Shotton steel workers) and the Tories being in charge for 18 years not one or two terms. James said that he had never said that it was a good thing that Labour will lose the next election. I think he did. To be clear I think we still have a very good chance of winning at the next election. It is not helped by selfish and ignorant defeatist statements.

My big issue is as a Labour Party and Labour movement activist who happens to be a “blogger”. I want to help the Party and if possible help it to win. While I enjoy blogging, is it a useful practical political tool or campaigning weapon? Perhaps not and it is just an enjoyable avenue for activists and theorists to sound off and infuriate internal and external opponents. Or can we actually do stuff of political value to our Party?

What about setting up a central and regional distribution list of labour supporting bloggers who can be sent information and post upon (if they choose to) key issues. What about organising those Labour Party members who blog or post and who would rally to support the Party when it is being “beaten up” on national media blogs and web sites?

Or is there anything else we can do?

At the end of the conference I had a brief chat with Derek Draper (Labour List - right of photo) who I can report in my brief experience as being an extremely polite, constructive and courteous comrade.

Check out these posts on this meeting by panel members Nick Anstead, Andrew Chadwick, Tim Montgomerie (ConservativeHome)

***********Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus*********


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