Archive for the ‘Labour’ category

Let’s Move The Conference Season to Somewhere Practical

September 27, 2008

I’m currently in Birmingham, having attended a few meetings on Friday, and flying back up to Edinburgh tonnight. I’m not staying for the party conference, but I do want to make one observation. The area around the ICC in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party are holding their conference, is awash with police every 10 yards, barriers at every junction, and generally making this party of the city a bit of a headache for locals.

Irrespective of who is paying for the policing and associated paraphernalia (I seem to recall Labour’s Conference this year cost around £5 million in policing, does anyone have concrete numbers?) it seems to be a rather large waste of money to get (a) all the party in one place and (b) get some pretty pictures for the television. For parties that are hoping to spend our money, wouldn’t it be nice if they thought out the box and did it a little differently?

With all the military bases in the country either mothballed or half-empty as troops are in foreign theatres, why not hold the conferences in these establishments? A number of them are close to good transport links, there’s clearly enough accommodation for all the attendees, the various Mess Halls can handle catering and evening entertainment, and the policing/security should be much reduced. Disruption to residents would be minimal, and both (a) and (b) above would still happen. In fact I doubt those on TV would really notice the difference.

And there’s something nice about the image of having everyone behind barbed wire…

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Policy #1: Don’t Vote For The Other Lot

September 24, 2008

Tom Morris Harris might be more than happy that the result of Gordon Brown’s conference speech was “How on earth could anyone vote for that lot [the Conservatives]?” From the party in Government I find this rather poor form.

I want to hear why I should grant your party power to rule over us for the next term of Office. I want to hear what you’re going to do differently from the last 11 years. I want to know what you will spend our money on. I want to hear what mistakes you have made because I believe that if you can recognise and correct your own mistakes you are a far better person/team than those who carry on doing the same thing again and again hoping for a difference.

I know you could easily dismiss this blog post through your pre-emptive “This is a move that is so going to wind up every Tory – and especially every cyber-Tory – in the country.” But I don’t want to be told you should be in charge because “the other lot are horrible.” There’s every chance you’re just as horrible, but by refusing to tell us, you make yourself look worse as a party than those you are tarring and feathering.

42 Days… No… No… No…

June 10, 2008

“While there has been a limited number of cases in Scotland which were investigated in terms of the Terrorism Act 2000, I am not aware of any case where an extension of the period beyond 28 days would have been required. “I therefore share the view of the DPP (Director of public prosecutions) Sir Ken MacDonald and the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, that the requirement for an extension to the current 28 day is not supported by prosecution experience to date.”
Scottish Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini

“For our part as prosecutors, we don’t perceive any need for the period of 28 days to be increased. Our experience has been that we have managed comfortably within 28 days. We have therefore not asked for an increase in 28 days. It is possible to set up all sort of hypotheses … Anything is possible – the question is whether it’s remotely likely. …prosecutors were “better placed” than the police to judge whether or not there was sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.
Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken MacDonald

Lord Goldsmith… repeated that he would have resigned if the Government not previously withdrawn its proposals when he was its chief law officer. “I was opposed to 90 days: contrary to what some commentators have said I never supported 90 days – as was clear inside Government and actually known outside Government too – and would have had to resign if the original 90-day proposal had come to the Lords for a vote.”
(Former) Attorney General Lord Goldsmith

Gordon Brown’s almost religious fervour to have 42 Days on the books (or at least have Conservatives voting against a ‘anti-terrorist’ measure, has now been thrice denied. It remains for a handful of Labour MP’s to stand behind their country, rather than their ‘leader.’

PS: Today is the vote on the changes to the Coroners system, which allows the Home Secretary to over-ride any decision and appoint his or her own choice of Coroner, and to label an inquiry as ‘secret’ and censor the publication of the outcome. That alone should make you worry, but at the same time it can also be applied retrospectively to existing cases. Can anyone think which tube station this might be used in conjunction with?

Could a Glenrothes By-Election Skirmish Threaten Brown?

June 6, 2008

Rumbles today from Benedict Brogan’s Political Blog on a ‘potential’ upcoming by-election – with enough caveats about who it could be as the Member of Parliament is ill. By not mentioning who exactly it was, Brogan set the bloggers a hunting, and the evidence points to the constituency of John MacDougall MP, of Glenrothes.

If there were to be a by-election in the central Fife constituency, it should on paper be a safe seat for Labour. It’s slap bang in the natural stronghold of Fife; Glenrothes is the seat of power in the area both for the local council and Labour; and close by is Dunfermline and West Fife – likely to be the only Labour Gain once a General Election is called. There’s every likelihood that while it won’t be a family inheritance candidate such as Tamsin Dunwoody), it will be a strong, dare I say it ‘traditional’ Scottish Labour Party member (another ‘promoted’ Fife Labour Councillor in the form of Alex Rowley perhaps).

But it’s not that easy. The obvious electoral test is what happened in this constituency at the Scottish Election last year – Central Fife is the closest and saw a 7.6% swing to the SNP from Labour, and with that it was another SNP Gain. Something like a 14.5% swing (if my maths works out) would be needed for an SNP Gain (what was the Crewe and Nantwich number again?), the current majority is around 10,000. Is that do-able? In the current climate both against Labour, and with a credible by-election opposition in the SNP (who can now point to the Scottish Parliament and how ‘responsible’ they are when in power) it would be a very close run contest.

Personally I think it would still be a LAB hold, but with a much reduced majority. Even that would be a dagger in the Labour heartlands – the knives would be out for Gordon Brown if the SNP get within 1,000 votes here – who knows what would happen if they were to loose the seat. Especially as next door to Glenrothes is Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Brown’s own constituency. You’d think that an 18,000 majority would be rock solid, especially as Gagarin Way is inside the boundaries…

If there were to be a by-election, the drawbridges would have to be raised when it’s over. The friendly fire alone would require it.

A Day of English-ness For the United Kingdom

June 3, 2008

“Let’s have a day of Britishness,” thinks the Government, “that’ll be a wizard idea and show we really are behind the Union (ignoring the discrete cough over the Wendyrendum fallout). But we can’t afford to loose any working days, so we’ll just have to put a name on an existing holiday and hope nobody notices.”

Not that the proposal would actually come to anything, but if it takes up a few minutes on the news and deflects attention from the mess of the 42 internment proposals then so much the better.

The Civil Service are sure to have looked over this, they’re sure to have spotted it’s an almost zero-cost (to the economy) policy to give a day a name – something the US Congress does regularly (cf @TV Nation Day” is August 16 1994 – House Resolution 365). I just wonder why there wasn’t a Sir Humphrey pointing out that the August Bank Holiday picked by Liam Byrne is on the 25th August in England and 4th August in Scotland.

The Civil Service wouldn’t let that one slip past them, would they? Is there someone being pulled through the coals as much as Byrne is this afternoon? Or are there quite smiles over a quiet cup of tea?

Curiouser and curioser

Don’t Wait Dave, Go For The Kill

May 23, 2008

I’m sure there will be a lot of comment over what David Cameron and the Conservative party should do over Gordon Brown and his position as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party. There’s a strong opinion that he should ‘ease off’ on Brown because he is their best asset to win the next election.

I disagree with that.

The point of Opposition is to do just that. If there is something wrong, something that they disagree with, then they are meant to oppose it – this is their function in Parliamentary democracy. To challenge, to question and to oppose. Gordon Brown is not an effective Prime Minisiter, therefore it is their duty to continue to pressure him, and to do their bit for the country.

There’s alos the fact that this opportunity may not arise again (after all, the chance for Brown to call and iwn an election has never arisen again either) and they must not show weakness. I want to see decisive action on the part of Cameron, Osbourne, Salmond, Clegg and the other party leaders. The confidence to just go for it is one of the things that made Vince Cable the best leader the Liberal Democrats never had. Yes make sure of your ground, make sure you have the troops behind you (ahem, Wendy) but when the time is right, strike hard and fast.

If the Conservatives chicken out of taking the battle to Brown, then the may come to regret it as much as Brown’s non-election decision.

It’s All Going To Be In The Timing

May 23, 2008

When is the correct time to fire someone from a role? The generally accepted rule of thumb is “as soon as you have decided that they must go.” This question could well be on the minds of close to two hundred MPs as they try to grapple with the question of the leadership.

This is the simple maxim that Labour has to operate on. Make the decision, loud and clear, as a group. Stick with Brown, or stick the knife in Brown. But whatever they do, they have to make a positive decision quickly, and stick with the course of action. All the silly little notes of this showing indecision he who yields the knife never wins, and so on, miss one important fact.

Right now, Labour isn’t working.

And yes, I’m deliberatly aping the slogan, but it’s true. There is no trust in the party, and it stems in having no trust in the leadership of the party. Core values have been betrayed. Doubling income tax on the poorest workers? Is that really the Labour party? And will people who think that Labour is still the party of the worker listen to them on tax and spend at the General Election?

As I see it, the party should be looking at the three potential outcomes. The first is do nothing, and risk getting wiped out so disasterously that the Conservatives will have a three term run in Parliament. If they stay with Brown then this is very likely. A second outcome, which a new leader should regard as a success, is to limit losses and hand the Conservatives a Parliament with a very small majority (say 20-30 MPs) that would allow the Labour party to fight for a swift return after one term on the opposition benches.

There’s even a slim chance that a new leader could invigorate the party enough that the third outcome, a hung parliament, would be on the cards – and to be honest after the mess of Scotland under previous administrations, having the parties in the SNP minority administration working together on separate issues on a case by case basis I’d be more than happy to see that happen in Westminster.

To be effective, whoever leads the Labour party at the end of the party conference should be the one to take them to the ballot box in 2009 or 2010, and do whatever he (or she.., let’s be fair) can do to get to the most favourable outcome possible.