Tom and Jerry demonstrate the need for AWS

Perhaps one lesson learnt from the recent leadership elections is that without positive discrimination women have a difficult task in attaining senior positions within the Labour Party. Both leader and deputy are white middle-aged males, and whilst this demographic deserves representation as much as any, it does rather continue a long-line of such types.

Two of the four leadership contenders were women, and they came third and fourth. Three of the five deputy leadership contenders were female; here at least second, third and fourth spot were their lot.

Labour has never had a female leader, although both Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman (twice) have temporarily held that position. They, of course, remain the only two female deputies (from a list of seventeen who have held that position).

Eighteen leaders of the party, eighteen men.

It has been noted that the really big jobs in the shadow cabinet have gone to men, although what constitutes the big roles is a subject of some discussion. Nonetheless, the rules that apply to constituency parties and local authority groups do not seem to apply at the top of the party. This is not a phenomena of the Corbyn leadership – it was ever thus.

We, in CLPs up and down the land, struggle with All Women Shortlists and rules that mean half of our winnable seats must have women candidates, half of our executive committees must have women officers – rules that whilst sometimes frustrating I do go along with. We even have questions on our assessment forms which have to be completed if we wish to be candidates in local elections that specifically ask what we have done to ensure gender equality (“Describe how you have promoted equality of opportunity within the council – in employment and service delivery, and state how you have assisted with the recruitment of representative councillors for the party”, for example). It is galling to find that whilst we, locally, go through all sorts of hoops to encourage women into senior positions it seemingly is not something that troubles those in Parliament.

I accept the argument about choosing who is best for the job, but note that this argument is not used in the grassroots of our movement. The leadership election shows just how innately conservative (note the small C) party members are, opting again to ignore women.

Perhaps we ought to consider a rule alternating gender for the most senior roles – Jeremy this time, a women when his time is up. For a party of fairness to have never has a woman leader seems almost incredible; we really should have had nine woman leaders by now. Whilst women are contending for senior positions, there is no sign that they are about to break through. Like it or not, I suspect that without positive steps to ensure a woman leader in the near future we may be in for a long wait.

St Luke’s Voice Summer 2015


Blenheim Park Voice summer 2015


We may have to get used to the idea of a Corbyn-led party

Whilst an election conducted using the Alternative Vote system means that being ahead on first preferences is no guarantor of success, there comes a point when that lead is strong enough that it becomes more than possible – it becomes likely. The two recent opinion polls (conducted amongst Labour members) show the following :-

Burnham Cooper Corbyn Kendall
28 July Mirror 20 22.6 42 14
21 July YouGov 26 20 43 11

By any measure this is a commanding lead. However, it is only a poll, conducted on a most unusual electorate.

Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that the campaign that has had the most impact is Jeremy’s. In my, admittedly biased, view the campaign that has the most new ideas belongs to Liz Kendall, but if this polling is at all accurate her campaign is gaining little traction.

I have struggled to envisage a Jeremy victory, but when his poll leads are so great then that has to be considered. Of course, it will always come down to how the second preferences are allocated. Is it likely that Corbyn will get enough second (or even third) preferences? When he is so close on first preferences then this does not seem at all improbable.

I think we may have to get used to the idea of a Jeremy win and a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

What will this look like? I do not think anyone can accuse Jeremy of not being clear on where he stands, although I think he will have to revisit some of his ideas when faced with actually running the party. He will also have to somehow argue that despite years of lacklustre loyalty to the Party, the Party should do as he says (and not as he did). The temptation for some to argue that he has no claim on loyalty should be resisted – not only would this signal anarchy, it would wreck any chances of making advances in the long run-in to 2020.

His campaign has attracted new members, and I hope they will be encouraged to become activists. The left has always been better at marching than door-knocking, and yet if they want Jezza4PM then they will have to embrace the concept of actually engaging (and not lecturing) the electorate.

I also think that those who have stated that they will not serve in a Corbyn administration need to think again. It is not Jeremy who will suffer, it will be Labour – and it will be those who need us as an effective Opposition.
I am not voting for Jeremy Corbyn, but if he wins I will work as hard for him as I would if Liz Kendall wins.

Flint (Caroline, not the hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz)


Caroline 4 Deputy

Caroline’s vision for the party:

Our party is not a pressure group. We exist to win elections to improve lives and make the world a better place:

• We need support from all classes, all backgrounds and all corners of the UK. As someone who chaired a constituency party in a marginal seat, Caroline knows we will only succeed if Labour rediscovers its voice, providing real community leadership, especially where we do not have a Labour MP.

• Caroline will work closely with local councillors; she’s even married to one! They have a vital role to play. Labour must be a grassroots movement, not a Westminster elite.

Caroline’s background:

• Caroline was born to a lone parent at 17. She has never known her real dad.

• Caroline was the first in her family to go to university.

• Caroline joined the Labour Party at 17, in 1979. She ran her university Labour Club and was Labour’s student national women’s officer. Caroline was also chair of a marginal constituency in London.

• Caroline worked in local government, the voluntary sector and for a trade union before becoming an MP. In local government she was a union workplace rep.

• Caroline was chair of a marginal constituency in London.

• Caroline was first elected as the MP for Don Valley in 1997. She has been been re-elected four times, and in 2015 she almost trebled her majority, consigning UKIP – who held their party conference in Doncaster – to third place.

What Liz stands for

At my CLP’s nomination meeting I was the advocate for Liz Kendall. I created some notes for the meeting, which in the end I did not use. I think they may be useful for those who want a quick understanding of what she stands for.

Liz will win power to give it back

Liz will devolve real power to the regions, moving power not just from Whitehall to Town Halls, but down to our communities. Liz trusts people to make decisions about their own lives, communities and services.
In politics to tackle inequality
Some of the poorest kids start school over a year behind their classmates, so Liz will prioritise spending on early years education, giving them best chance of succeeding in the future.
We all worry about our parents (and ourselves) getting older.

That’s why Liz wants families to choose their own carer – and to ensure that carers are properly rewarded. She’ll outlaw carers not being paid for travel time and having to buy their own uniforms.

Building a living wage society, with a real living wage

That means more powers for the low pay commission to drive up wages and reviewing tax loopholes to find the money to give public sector workers the pay rise they deserve.

Liz is the candidate the Tories fear

She gives us the best chance of beating the Tories in 2020. For the millions who need us, that’s what really matters. Because, if we don’t win, we can’t put any of our values into action.

Oppose the attacks on trade unionists, fight for a strong voice for workers

As Labour leader, Liz will fight to oppose the Tories’ attacks on working people, and today’s blatant attack on the rights of trade unionists to organise and withdraw their labour.

As Prime Minister in a Labour government, Liz will:
• Make it a priority to reverse these Tory anti-trade union laws
• Give workers a greater say and share in their workplace
• Take practical steps such as allowing online ballots over industrial action

A strong role for trade unions in the 21st Century is essential, and as a proud trade unionist Liz will fight to defend the existence of effective, free and independent trade unions.

If George Osborne won’t tackle low pay Liz will

Balancing the books is not just about how much you spend or how many jobs there are; it’s also about how much people in our society earn. Labour’s historic mission has always been to build nation of people in work and, crucially, ensure a decent standard of pay for all.

The Tories’ record on low pay shows contempt for those who don’t earn enough to get by – and their plan to attack in work tax credits shows they just don’t understand what life is like for millions of people who have to make every penny count. The Tories won’t tackle low pay, they’ll make life for the low paid worse.

Liz is determined to lead a country where everyone gets the fair day’s pay their hard work deserves.

Liz Kendall pledges to scrap failed Tory work programme and give powers to local government

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall has pledged to scrap the Tories’ controversial work programme as a “failed experiment in welfare privatisation” and hand down control of welfare to work scheme to cities.

UK should be calling for UN action on LGBT rights not banning Pride flags

Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall has called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy for LGBT rights as part of achieving equality globally.

The Labour party Liz leads will always remember its purpose

We must end the scourge of illiteracy and innumeracy, broaden the horizons of our young people and give everyone a better chance in life. Under my leadership, Labour will do just that.
So my approach to building a fairer Britain – and reducing the crippling inequality that shames our nation and holds it back – will be rooted in transforming the life chances of all our children; by backing our teachers and parents but challenging them too. And our economic credibility will be based on having a plan that starts before children are born and follows them through the ups and downs of their lives.

And it will be based on a simple truth – that a Labour Party that isn’t talking about education and social mobility has forgotten what it exists for.

Liz wants to increase the number of women Labour councillors by a third

Our councillors are the backbone of our party, working hard to spread the Labour message and deliver Labour values locally. This is why it is just as important that at the local level, as well as the national, our politics looks and sounds like the communities we serve.

Britain needs to play a leading role in Europe

Liz Kendall appoints Margaret Hodge to investigate Britain’s £100bn tax relief bill

The Labour leadership hopeful, who has described regaining the party’s reputation for economic credibility as “the gateway to government”, has appointed Margaret Hodge, the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a renowned tax avoidance campaigner, to look into the United Kingdom’s £100bn annual tax relief.

In addition …

Liz has said that she would never close a successful school.
The country should always come first, not the party.
The UK should spend at last 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
Harriet Harman is right — Labour need to understand that the voters did not trust them on welfare, and that regaining that trust is as important as gaining a reputation for economic competence.

Liz is backed by

Alistair Darling
Chuka Umunna MP
Emma Reynolds MP
Stephen Twigg MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
John Reid
Paul Brannen MEP
Rod Liddle
Simon Danczuk MP
Ivan Lewis MP
Brenda Dean, former general secretary of Sogat
Maggie Jones, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Unison
Margaret Prosser, former deputy general secretary of the TGWU
Margaret Wall, former boss of Amicus
Hopi Sen
John Mills (top Labour donor)
Mark Ferguson (former LabourList editor)
Paul Flynn MP
Tristram Hunt MP
Gavin Shuker
Lord Glasman
Stephen Timms MP
Gloria de Piero MP
John Woodcock MP
Margaret Hodge MP
Toby Perkins MP
Dave Rowntree
… and many more.

Southend West CLP nominates

Southend West Constituency Labour Party met last night to decide who it would nominate for the leadership. It was a comradely conversation, and when I said that whatever the result we had to get behind the new leader this was received well and accepted by all.

I was championing Liz Kendall, and was politely listened to. She had some support, but not enough to win a majority. Southend West, after a vote, has decided to nominate Yvette Cooper.

We also decided to nominate Caroline Flint for the deputy leadership, and I spoke up for her too (so I can claim a 50% success rate).

Each nomination went to three rounds, which indicates the closeness and quality in the contest.

If the kids are united

The four Labour leadership contenders have more in common than they disagree about. This should be pretty obvious. All want to lift people out of poverty, want to narrow the wealth gap, want good public services, etc. Of course there are differences, but in the main these are around the ‘how’ of what we do.

I think we can glimpse at how the PLP would behave under the leadership of the four contenders.

After last night’s shambles that was the vote on the Welfare Bill I think two things have emerged. One is that the leadership contest is badly timed and too long. The other is that indiscipline makes us look dreadful.

Whatever the merits of abstention (and I happen to think it was the wrong decision) all that emerges from last night’s rebellion is a sense of disunity. Whilst this is only one vote, and is not necessarily a harbinger of more to come, the sense of drift that arises from this is going to hang around for a while – possibly until the new leader has been elected.

Harriet Harman has a difficult job. Being temporary is a tough place to impose discipline from. Whilst she is right to acknowledge that what Labour has being saying clearly does not chime with the views of the electorate, hers is surely a continuity role. To do anything else is to somewhat second-guess what the new leader will wish to do.

To do anything but robustly oppose Conservative welfare plans seems a denial of what we fought on in May, and whilst I think we do need a serious rethink on the whole range of policy issues this has to be a proper process. The Labour position came across as a muddled compromise, made up on the hoof.

I wonder whether the move to OMOV for leadership elections has created an air of free-for-all. Under the old system there was a significant say for MPs in who was chosen to lead them, under the current system they could have a leader imposed on them who commands little support from the green benches. This is less than healthy. I can see this being the green light for some to cherry pick what policies they will support. I hope I am wrong, for if one thing is certain it is that the 2020 battle to come will not be made any easier if we are not united.

A letter from Liz


RIP Colin George

The second election I ever voted in took place in March 1980. This was a by-election when Labour came within 430 votes of making political history in Southend-on-Sea. This was the by-election that saw Teddy Taylor and his Conservative Party just about keep Labour at bay in Southend East, in large measure aided by the Liberal Party and the 25% vote share it attracted.

For this reason alone Colin George has a special place in Southend Labour folklore.

Last night I heard of his passing. I knew he had been unwell, but it is still a bit of a shock. The local media will report the passing of a specially adept fundraiser for a number of good causes, but in Labour we will mourn someone who stands out as a campaigning titan.

Of course, Colin did rather spoil his copybook by defecting to the SDP, but this has not soured memories of someone who was known for his work-rate and organisational skills.

Cllr David Norman, when conveying this sad news at Place Scrutiny last night, reminded me and my Westborough colleague that it was Colin that first won Westborough for Labour. I can recall stories about his Westborough campaigning, and it was his attitude to pavement politics that I have adopted in many ways.

I first met Colin through his son, former Southend Labour councillor Stephen George. I have helped Stephen on many occasions around the Kursaal ward he represented, and he has been a real asset to my campaigns over the years. His father flattered me by always remembering who I was, and we would often steal a few moments to discuss local campaigning and campaigning issues.

My abiding memory will be of a gentle giant (he was some way above my 5 foot eight inches) who came within a whisker of a truly transformational result thirty-five years ago. We have battled and battled to come anywhere near that mark ever since.

My thoughts are with Stephen, Colin’s widow, and the rest of the George family.