December 8, 2013 Leave a comment
December 7, 2013 1 Comment
This morning, Harlow, East of England Labour Party Regional Board meeting: item one – Lord Ray Collins (of Highbury) and the subject of party reform. His brief introduction was followed by contributions and questions from board members, and Lord Collins’ responses. The subjects that came up most frequently were union links, primaries, and funding.
I made three points. I referred to an earlier comment about Labour being continually blamed for the current economic mess. I said we surrendered the narrative when we had the over-long leadership contest. It was three months of introspection when we could have been defending our record. I hope the next leadership contest is shorter.
I am uneasy about primaries. I think our members should get something for their membership – and choosing local and national candidates is amongst the most important of membership perks. I also think that until you have been involved it is difficult to understand the right attributes required of a candidate.
I also talked about targeting, particularly what I see as our over-reliance on it. Comrades will know that whilst I think it necessary to use limited resources sensibly, I think targeting has many drawbacks.
John Denham MP was due to speak about the Southern Taskforce, but he wasn’t present. There was a brief discussion anyway about strategy and stretched resources.
Eileen Davidson was again re-elected chair of the board (she has held this position in all of my six years on the board). Judi Billing and Vaughan West were elected as Vice-chairs.
A number of reports were given by Dan Simpson (regional director), Kelvin Hopkins MP and Richard Howitt MEP.
Kelvin spoke warmly about Ed’s leadership. In particular he mentioned the vote on Syria (where war was averted thus changing history) and the proposed repeal of the bedroom tax. He was also pleased with this year’s regional conference.
Richard thinks that campaigning for the European elections is beginning to hot up and he thinks it will be a very competitive election.
Dan noted that attendance at this year’s regional conference was 30% up on the previous year’s.
Tim Young has been selected as parliamentary candidate for Clacton.
By the way, last night I was at a Leigh Branch Labour Party discussing the impending West Leigh by-election and campaigning in general. Weekends are not a meeting-free zone.
December 4, 2013 1 Comment
The Labour Party in Rochford and Southend East has recently selected candidates for four wards and now has candidates in place for all eight of its wards that fall within the Borough of Southend-on-Sea.
The full slate for the east of the Borough for Labour is
Kursaal – Charles Willis
Milton – Cheryl Nevin
Shoeburyness – Maggie Kelly
Southchurch – Sean Jones
St Luke’s – Gray Sergeant
Thorpe – Ian Pope
Victoria – Cllr Margaret Borton
West Shoebury – Matthew Dent
November 28, 2013 Leave a comment
I have been sent a copy of the Labour Group’s motion for the next full council meeting of Essex County Council, to be held on December 10th.
Proposer: Cllr Julie Young
Seconder: Cllr Mike Danvers
Supported by: Cllr Melissa McGeorge
This Council acknowledges that until very recently, The Deanes and Glenwood Schools embraced a joint-vision of a community where individual learners, families and the community would share the highest expectations and aspirations for all, raising educational attainment in the area by narrowing the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged.
This Council expresses deep concern that the Cabinet decision on the closure of The Deanes School has neglected to take into account the pivotal role that the co-location would have played in the area with emerging widespread public discontent raising further questions over the educational outcomes for the south of Essex.
Council calls on the Cabinet to reconsider the decision of whether to close The Deanes School and to consider reaffirming its commitment to co-locate the school as well as undertaking a full review of educational outcomes in the south of the County with a focus on raising attainment in areas which need it most.
November 24, 2013 Leave a comment
I have returned from Luton, a weekend in Bedfordshire, attending my seventh consecutive East of England Regional Labour Party Conference. These, in my limited experience, circumscribe a route through the six counties that form the Eastern Region, and seven years ago this journey, for me, began in Bedford. Since then the conference has visited Copdock, Stevenage, Southend-on-Sea, Peterborough and Norwich. Now it is Luton, the only place in the East of England with a Labour MP (and has both of our current complement of two).
Conference began with a brief Regional Board meeting. This was followed by the arrival of Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who after some press interviews gave an address to those gathered for the TULO reception. The evening ended with the Gala Dinner, moved from its usual Saturday night spot to accommodate the presence of the leader. Ed also spoke at this and then made sure he spoke with all present individually.
The conference continued through Saturday and finished lunchtime on Sunday. Speeches were made, reports given, resolutions discussed, workshops conducted, fringes held, questions asked and answered, and other words it was a packed agenda.
I have a number of highlights, not least of which was coming last in the Luton CLP fun night quiz. It was good to see comrades that I had not bumped into in a while. I was also pleased to have been re-elected onto the Regional Board to serve a seventh year, although I did feel for the good friend that I defeated. I did encourage him to keep trying, hoping that he will have another go next year.
The ASLEF organisation fringe reminded me that with nine railway stations in my home town the cost of rail travel and the service provided are of very real interest to the thousands who commute or travel for pleasure on these iron horses. Rail, like water, is a natural monopoly and the choice agenda is therefore irrelevant. I am unashamedly pro re-nationalisation of the railways and I think many people are increasingly of the same opinion, right across the political spectrum.
I came away with some material for the impending European Elections, a tad over six months away. This coincides with the local elections in my neck of the wood, and I will be encouraging all voters to use both their votes for Labour. I intend to dispel some of the scaremongering about Europe, although I am acutely aware that the institution requires reform.
November 9, 2013 Leave a comment
October 31, 2013 Leave a comment
For the second year running I was invited to the Trinity Family Centre’s annual general meeting and volunteer awards evening. I was honoured to be asked, again, to hand out the awards. Many volunteers put in long hours to keep this place running and some of the time put in is truly breath-taking. It seems that many give what they can of their time, and whilst this can be quite modest in some cases (3 hours was the fewest number of hours credited), some efforts can only be described as prodigious. A new award – platinum – had to be created for Norman Cowin who amassed 1154 hours (averaging more than 20 hours for every week of the year).
I managed to have a chat with Mara Chrystie who helps run the Community and Asylum Seekers Together (CAST) charity. I have an interest in this area and have campaigned with Amnesty International to see that those fleeing persecution are treated well. Asylum seekers rarely get a decent press and are frequently lumped in with immigrants, and seemingly blamed for everything that is going wrong with society. It is one of the challenges of canvassing that I am often dragged into debates about immigration. I try to present a balanced view, not always an easy task when so many in our media use them as the convenient scapegoat. I think we do need a national debate about migration and asylum, one where facts and not fantasy prevail.
I left the TFC to deal with a minor domestic incident and then hot-footed it to Thorpe Bay where Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Rochford and Southend East, Ian Gilbert, was having a fundraising event. And that, folks, was my Tuesday evening.
October 30, 2013 2 Comments
I am up for re-election in 2016 which means that sometime during the 2015 summer I will be seeking re-selection by the Milton ward Labour Party. I hope to do enough to convince the ward members that allowing me another term as their councillor would be a good idea. It may be that I am unopposed, although equally it could be a keenly fought contest – only time will tell.
Belonging to a party means having to jump through a number of democratic hoops. As a Labour ward councillor I am not just accountable to the voters in my ward, I also accountable to the local Labour Party. This party accountability is a form of quality control, Labour’s way of trying to ensure that the voters get the best representation possible.
I have been through a fair number of selections. I do not know whether I have more successful than not because I have not kept count. I do know that rejection hurts, but I have always thought that any failure is my fault – I do not blame the electorate. These setbacks are opportunities for self-improvement.
I imagine that the other major parties’ processes are broadly similar to Labour’s. The only glimpse one gets of what goes on is when the candidates are announced, and when the occasional disgruntled participant feels that somehow they have been badly treated and is keen to let the world know about it. However, whilst it may appear to the damaged ego that an injustice has occurred, democracy can only be served if choices are made.
I attend many party meetings and events; most of the time these are shared with broadly the same set of people. Yet come the day of a hustings and who knows who will turn up. Someone may vote against you who you have not seen before and will never see again. But that is what they pay their dues for, and if you really are too good not to be selected or re-selected then you must work to ensure that happens – failure is only one person’s fault.
I do have sympathy for the overlooked and de-selected though. The only consolation I can offer is that there are usually enough alternative opportunities available, albeit ones that may be more challenging to see success in. If it should come to pass that Milton ward opts for someone else to represent them then in 2016 I will then as likely try my hand somewhere else. However, I enjoy campaigning and the challenge of a difficult seat holds no fear for me. I appreciate that not everyone is either as fatalistic or as keen on campaigning as I am. However, I fail to see how not allowing for the possibility of de-selection does anything but cheat the voters.
October 28, 2013 2 Comments
I picked this up recently, a bargain for a £5. I am not about to tackle it yet – I have four books on the go as it is plus a healthy backlog. I confess to wobbling all over the place when it comes to the subject of war, and therefore peace. I am a mass of contradictions; I regret all deaths, yet sometimes it seems inevitable. My father, imprisoned at the start of World War Two as a conscientious objector, much regretted that Britain did not intervene to stop Franco in the Spanish Civil War. I suppose you have to use your best judgement on each occasion. One should defend oneself, but as regards to intervention – it is a far from black and white affair. Whilst I would like all dictators removed and democracies installed, it seems that as a nation we are content to condemn some dictatorships whilst turning a blind eye to others. Anyway, this book, a mere 117 pages, was published in 2011. The front cover picture is from the anti Gulf War march of February 1991. What I am convinced of is the mass producing weaponry only makes the world a less safe place. Those who are curious should have a peak at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade website – if you sign up for updates you will receive a regular electronic newsletter. A number of my friends have been involved in anti-war movements – I wish I had that certainty of belief, but I just cannot reconcile the idea of turning the other cheek whilst the innocent are butchered. I refer again to my father who said that the only way to deal with a bully was to punch him on the nose. My father, the pragmatic pacifist – and here is where the contradictions come in.