Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party conference’

Royal Mail, Labour conference and the CWU hit list

Sunday 26 September 2010

Tomorrow the Labour party conference will debate a motion from the Communication Workers Union attacking Business Secretary Vince Cable’s plans to fully privatise Royal Mail, and committing Labour to keeping Royal Mail entirely in the public sector.

Meanwhile, the CWU has drawn up a plan of action for campaigning on the ground against the coalition and its MPs. As general secretary Billy Hayes explained at the TUC Congress recently:

“We’ll be going into 71 marginals where the coalition has a majority of less than five per cent. In these marginals we only need to win over five of every hundred to make progress on defeating privatisation.

“We know it’s a big task but we’re helped that all candidates have come out against privatisation.”

Two Lib Dem MPs and one conservative, the maverick Daniel Kawczynski, signed an early day motion against privatisation before the election. But the union is hoping to put more MPs with slim majorities under pressure by linking up with community groups and making the issue about public services under threat.

(On the subject of Royal Mail, Ed Miliband told Labour’s affiliated unions: “I believe that we need to show as a party, including in the case of Royal Mail, that we can modernise and improve public services without resorting to privatisation”.)

(from Tribune blog)


Ed, cuts and the union agenda

Sunday 26 September 2010

Perhaps the biggest policy issue for Ed Miliband’s Labour is how they respond to the coalition’s cuts programme and present their alternative economic strategy.

Right here – in Manchester – and right now, that means deciding what stance to take at party conference. There isn’t much time for deliberation.

Labour’s affiliated unions have mostly decided to go for cuts and the economy in choosing their motions for debate this year.

The GMB and train drivers’ union ASLEF are pushing for a motion on tax avoidance, keen to argue that billions can be raised by collecting more tax. Unison is demanding an alternative to attacks on public services and a review of the effects of privatisation, with a view to reversing the New Labour privatisation trend, while Unite and Community want to get conference to agree to an alternative economic and industrial strategy. Community, in particular, will seek to get in a mention of Sheffield Forgemasters, the plant denied an £80 million loan by the coalition government. This should go in, given that the Labour frontbench have been trying to make merry hell for Sheffield MP Nick Clegg.

Everyone at this conference agrees that the coalition’s cuts are wrong. The question is: how wrong? And what would you do instead? Will Ed Miliband agree with wannabe Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls that this is the time or investment, not cuts (contrary to Labour’s pre-election plan to start cutting the deficit this year)? And will he welcome motions calling on him to agree to that?

On the one hand, he risks being seen as a hard-left deficit denier by the media and public. On the other, he risks failing to put blue water between Labour and the coalition, and sounding too much like his brother.

Union and constituency reps are sitting down today to agree composite motions on the economy, taxation and other issues. Ed M and his team will be watching, at very least.

(from Tribune blog)

Labour could give way over leadership timetable, and more developments

Wednesday 19 May 2010

So Labour decided not to have a deputy leadership contest. Or as one person present at the meeting of Labour’s national executive (which decided it on Tuesday) said: “I don’t think it’s something many people in the party give a toss about”.

That view is hotly contested by NEC member Peter Kenyon (see below) and others outside the NEC and parliamentary party, but in the end it wasn’t up to them. General secretary Ray Collins insisted tho the meeting that the party rule book was with him on this issue (again, pace Kenyon).

More interesting is the possibility that the decision to allow leadership hopefuls just nine days from yesterday to gather at least 34 nominations (the minimum to stand) will be overturned tomorrow at the meeting of the NEC procedures committee, as new blog Labour Uncut reports. Candidates have a window of just four days (Monday to Thursday next week) to submit those 34 names. I’m slightly irked I didn’t find this out – I knew the committee was meeting, but not that the decision might fall within their purview.

Three influential MPs have already spoken out against the short nomination period – left-winger John McDonnell, backbencher and not-leadership-but-maybe-something-else candidate Jon Cruddas and Gordon Brown’s former parliamentary private secretary Jon Trickett, who told me today the decision was “deeply regrettable”.

As widely reported, Labour will unveil its new leader on 25 September – the eve of party conference. And then elections for the Shadow Cabinet will begin – not before as I erroneously reported. I was mislead by the Labour party rule book which calls for elections as soon as possible after a general election – but then it also calls for other things which get ignored every year…

Btw, further to the post below, Liam Byrne has been  in touch to say he has “no plans” to run for deputy leader. So now you know.

Labour’s big election questions

Monday 17 May 2010

Media interest in the Labour party’s internal election plans grows; now Paul Waugh of the Standard is weighing in (and borrowing heavily from the blog of national executive committee member Peter Kenyon by the looks of it).

The key issues are: the elections for Labour’s new shadow cabinet (voted on by the parliamentary Labour party, 258 MPs) and the nature and timing of the leadership and deputy leadership election(s). The Labour NEC will tomorrow decide whether to have a) a summer leadership election or b) one which lasts till September, with the new leader announced at party conference.

Let’s be clear on one thing: elections for Labour’s shadow cabinet – pace Guido Fawkes – are going to happen pretty soon, almost certainly before even an early leadership contest. Party rules say there should be one as soon as practical after a general election. So if leadership candidates want to use a shadow cabinet position as a soapbox, they’d better get canvassing.

As for the leadership, Waugh reports:

“More than a few activists are wary of any attempt to fast-track the process, as are Jon Cruddas and Ed Balls. John Prescott has weighed in and said the party should play the “long game”.

Not just activists, a good deal of MPs too want to see a leadership contest that lasts till conference. And at least one union (see here). Fabian head honcho Sunder Katwala makes the reasoned case for a long contest here.

Plenty of backers of David Miliband, on the other hand, want to see a leader in place by July.

But here’s an extra dimension to the debate. I’m told that the Shadow Cabinet last Wednesday was asked by Harriet Harman for their views on the timetable. The overwhelming message from those gathered in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Shad Cab room in the Commons was this: let’s not hang around and let’s get on with this as soon as possible.”

I can also reveal that Tony Lloyd, who as outgoing chair of the PLP was the influential linkman between Brown and the backbenches, is in favour of a quick contest. He tells me: “Let’s get the leader in situ. We’re talking about two months – that’s longer than a general election contest. If leadership contestants can’t put forward a vision of Labour’s role [in that time]… Most of us would sooner go to the conference not for coronation of a new leader but as part of a campaigning process.” There was, he said, no need to wait till September.

Storm brewing over Labour deputy leadership

Friday 14 May 2010

Next week Labour’s national executive committee – which was hastily pulled together this week to discuss the coalition that never was – meets to decide the dates of the Labour leadership election, along with elections to the NEC and the national policy forum*. But what’s this? There are no plans yet to have a deputy leadership election – as Tribune reports this week.

Harriet Harman told BBC Newsnight on Monday: “I’m deputy leader of the Labour Party and I’ve got no plans to step aside from that role… It’s my plan to stay deputy leader.” The NEC as a whole and Labour chiefs do not believe there is a vacancy for the position, but party rules state that nomination papers for leader and deputy leader should be sent out every year.

There could be a fight. Jim Pickard at the FT reports that ex-minister Liam Byrne would like to be deputy leader “if” there’s a vacancy. Given that his close colleagues insist there isn’t, one wonders what that “if” means.

At least three members of the NEC, led by the maverick Peter Kenyon, think the party rule book means there should be at least a chance for people to nominate themselves for deputy leader by having the party send out nomination papers. Kenyon writes:

“With regard to the Deputy Leader post, no one can claim we are not in opposition. So I hope Harriet Harman, our new interim Leader will lead by example and insist that nomination papers for the post of Deputy Leader are issued with the rest in accordance with the Rule Book. This does not mean there will be a challenger and an election. But this would be a clear sign from her that accountability matters. By doing so she would be drawing a line under 13-years of evasion under New Labour.”

Most MPs seem to disagree (including outgoing parliamentary Labour party chairman Tony Lloyd); left-winger Michael Meacher agrees. Either way, we should know in just a few days.

*Which will both be conducted on a one-member-one-vote basis for the first time, following a rule change at last year’s Labour conference (as I blogged here). This admittedly anoraky change could be one nudge towards creating a Labour party that behaves in a less top-down way – at least, that’s what its proponents hope.

Number 10 rings… a clarification

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Just spoken to Jonathan Ashworth, trade union liaison man at Number 10, who (politely) raised a blogpost below referring to him. I admit that it could be misleading, so have clarified it – take a look.

Having established that Tory central office reads Tribune, it’s nice to know No 10 (or someone in it) reads this blog…

That there Labour rule change I was on about

Friday 2 October 2009

I’m a bit late with confirming the change to Labour’s rules on elections to the national policy forum (see below), but some things are worth noting.

The results in full:

Constituency Labour parties for: 54.5%

CLPs against: 45.5%

Affiliates (trade unions and socialist societies) for: 79.02%

What this means is the CLPs were both organised by supporters of the OMOV rule change and resisted overtures from the Labour leadership – very unusual for both to happen. It also means that the unions were, as predicted, totally in favour except USDAW who abstained, basically ensuring the vote went through. “I can hear the Red Flag playing”, said a gleeful union backer at the Unite party on Wednesday night.

For CLPs AND big unions to unite in this way to defeat the party machine on a rule change is, I think, unprecedented in recent Labour history – in the last 10 years anyway.

I spoke earlier to Alon Or-bach, London NPF rep and a strong supporter of OMOV. He believes firmly that the change will lead to a change in the NPF’s makeup. Candidates for the NPF will have to be elected by a postal ballot of constituency members – i.e. the entire party membership in total –  so they will have to canvass at constituency meetings, meeting people and selling their candidacy to them. Instead of the current arrangement where conference delegates vote, and, it is complained, get pressurised by party staff. A different, better class of NPF rep will emerge, he believes.

The result, though it leaked out on Wednesday evening, was not announced until Thursday morning to minimise media interest. Just like the vote on bringing back those pesky votes on conference motions has been postponed till next year.

Newsflash: No 10 “expects us to win”, says Labour rebel

Wednesday 30 September 2009

In half an hour as I type, Labour’s conference is due to vote on rule changes including the controversial one-member-one-vote proposal for its national policy forum (see below) which could make it easier for more left-wing policies to be adopted by the party – a move the Labour leadership bitterly opposes.

But there’ve been two developments. One: the conference arrangements committee has said that the result of the vote will be delayed till tomorrow. Two: one of the rebel proponents of the move has told me “No 10 say they expect us to win”. All the unions are backing the move, except the highly loyalist USDAW which has now said it’ll abstan, so the weight of votes is shifting in the rebels’ favour. More later…

The Gordon Brown you don’t normally see

Tuesday 29 September 2009

The question on everybody’s minds this morning is: can Gordon pull off the speech of his life? And I think I’ve seen a clue.

Leaving questions over content aside, the key question is surely whether he will display some of the fire, flair and style that Lord Mandelson so effectively flaunted in his widely acclaimed speech yesterday.

Brown’s friends say he is personable and warm in private, but awkward and stiff in front of cameras – as demonstrated by his appearance on the Andrew Marr show (of which more later). No doubt Mandelson will have had a hand in drafting Brown’s speech. What about the presentation?

On Sunday evening I saw a side to Brown that the cameras don’t normally see. Addressing the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation reception, Brown swung into action. He was vigorous, violent even, flashing smiles and near-winks at his audience as he vowed to fight on and to defend British workers at places like Vauxhall(nothing to do with Tony Woodley standing next to him, natch.)

He was, in fact, many of the things he will have to be today. If he can repeat his performance, he’s almost there. If he fails, leadership specualtion – which doesn’t seem to have been rife at conference this year – may re-emerge.

Is this the face of Labour’s future?

Monday 28 September 2009

Colin Burgon MP

“You’re a fucking cunt, Denis!” The words of Colin Burgon MP, memeber of the Socialist Campaign Group, to his more mainstream colleague Denis MacShane, as reported by Tom Copley, chair of London Young Labour. Burgon was behind him at the time and cringed, but didn’t deny it so I guess it’s not in question.

This remark drew some cheers and laughter when it was made at the Young Labour reception last night, cramed into a bar just off Brighton seafront. Burgon, a staunch lefty, was one of the speakers at the event, along with Jon Cruddas and Chuka “British Obama” Ummuna, parliamentary candidate for Streatham.

That’s one lefty and two centre-lefties, not including Nancy Platts, the local candidate for Brighton Pavilion (see below). And the YL chair is Sam Tarry, also chair of the youth wing of centre-left Labour pressure group Compass. Young Labour is, it seems, a lefty outfit. Because they’re young and idealistic, you might say. Well, no; Labour Students is far more in line with government policy. Members of the audience confirmed to me that they thought the speakers were pretty on-message as far as they were concerned.

Will these fresh young faces (possibly slightly less fresh after last night’s drinking exploits) be taking over control of the Labour Party? If so, expect a leftward swing. That’s what they’re planning. But having a few parliamentary candidates, who, let’s face it, are unlikely to win (m)any seats at the next election, won’t be enough.