Wednesday 23 May 2007

Consultation on Future for Left Renewal

Apologies for not blogging over last few days.

My eldest daughter's wedding was at the weeekend and I have been speaking at the PCS annual Conference in Brighton, the ASLEF annual conference in Scarborough and tomorrow I am addressing the POA conference in Southport.

Just to confirm that I haven't gone away!

People have been terrifically kind and supportive. I have received so many messages of support and good wishes it has been really moving.

More importantly the vast majority have expressed real determination to continue the campaign for socialist advance within and beyond our movement. People seem to be confidently bubbling with ideas about what we should do next and how we can move forward. Most have argued that promptly we need to build upon the enthusiasm and large scale mobilisation we achieved in the campaign.

I will publish a brief consultation paper over the next week in order to launch a consultation on how we go forward based upon an assessment of the lessons learnt from our campaign over the last year.

I would welcome people's views and suggestions.

My aim would be to take time in engaging people in as wide a discussion as possible in this consultation but to arrive at an early view on the strategy, structures, resources and programme of activities needed for this Left renewal initiative.

Just when some are hoping the Left has gone away, we can demonstrate our resillience and rank and file strength.

If we can build upon the overwhelmingly successful rank and file mobilisation we achieved over the last year we have the potential fot the most exciting Left initiative in a generation.

Let's get to it.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Don't mourn, organise

I just wanted to follow on from my message yesterday.

I know that many of you will be disappointed that we didn't make it to the ballot paper. It's not just supporters of our campaign who are upset. Above all, Labour party members and trade unionists wanted the right to vote for the leader of our party.

However, I don't want people to lose hope. Our campaign has achieved a huge amount. We've mobilised thousands of people right across the country. Thousands of socialists have joined or rejoined the Labour party. We've linked together activists right across the labour movement. We've recruited a whole new generation of young socialists, and won back those who had long since given up hope. We're now in a stronger position to fight for socialist policies than we have been for years.

We've built a real movement out there. I don't want us to lose momentum after the events of the past few days. I know how angry many of you are, but I would ask you to stay in the party and fight.

Many of you will know that I am the Chair of the Labour Representation Committee, which brings together Labour party members and trade unionists right across the country. I would ask you all to join the LRC so that we can all unite and build on this campaign. Together, we will continue to fight for progressive policies: for public services, not private profit; for peace, not war; for direct investment in council housing; a real living minimum wage; support for free, universal education; and the restoration of trade union rights and civil liberties.

The LRC will have a conference in October to discuss where the left goes from here. I'll be in touch with details about this. If you haven't given us your contact details, please email us at

Above all, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you. You all put a huge amount of work into this campaign. I am proud to have been involved in this campaign with you. You represent the best activists and best traditions that our movement has.

Let's all recall the words of Joe Hill, the IWW organiser: "Don't mourn, organise."

PS: We'll be overhauling the LRC website shortly so that it becomes the focus for the Labour Left - including discussion forums, blogs from MPs, trade unionists and activists, campaigning resources, etc. We'll be in touch about it soon.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Thank you

With Gordon Brown having gained 308 nominations from Labour MPs, it is now mathematically impossible for me to reach the nominations I require to stand. There will not now be an election.

Naturally I congratulate Gordon and wish him every success in Government, but it is a great shame that Labour Party members and affiliates will now not be allowed a vote on the leader of their party or the party's future direction.

I am disappointed for all those Labour Party members who worked so had for the party campaigning to get us elected that they have been denied an opportunity of participating in a democratic election for the leader of this party. I had hoped by standing I would have given them a voice in this crucial decision.

The demand from Labour Party members to debate the issues that confront our country will not go away and we will continue to campaign for a democratic say in that debate.

I want to say a massive thank you to the thousands of Party members, trade unionists and others who have supported this campaign, organised meetings, lobbied and mobilised - and made this a greatly enjoyable grassroots campaign. We have our heads held high, and will continue to fight on the issues. What's been so pleasing is the number of young people who have got involved and given this campaign such momentum. I am so proud to be associated with you all.

An appeal to Labour MPs on behalf of Party members

In the last 24 hours I am urging Labour MPs to nominate me so that Labour Party members are given the democratic right to elect the next leader of the Party.

Year in year out we rely on Labour Party members to deliver our leaflets, knock on doors, and fund the party with their small subscriptions and yet they will be excluded from participating in this election unless Labour MPs nominate me in the next 24 hours.

This is an appeal to Labour MPs on behalf of Party members to give them a vote.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Why I am standing

I am standing for leadership of the Labour Party because I have worked really hard to improve the quality of life for my local constituents but have increasingly come to the conclusion that there needs to be a change in national policies if we are to succeed. One way of securing these national policy changes is to stand for leader of the Party and force these issues onto the national agenda.

I have never been personally ambitious and look upon being MP for Hayes and Harlington as a vocation, not a career. However, if by standing for leader of the Party I can have some effect in improving our constituency and the country overall I believe that taking on this challenge will have been worthwhile.

The odds are stacked against me. It is a David and Goliath struggle, but I believe that I have the support of the ordinary Labour party members and trade unions who will cast the final vote in this election.

I hope that sufficient Labour MPs will nominate me and that they will not prevent Labour Party members having a say in the future of the Labour Government and who is to be the next leader.

Monday 14 May 2007

Thanks to Michael

As many of you may know, Michael Meacher and myself held a meeting today and have together decided that I will stand as the candidate of the Labour left.

I want to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the gracious and dignified speech Michael made at the joint press conference today. Michael and his whole team have already been doing all they can to ensure that our campaign is a success - by calling on his supporters to nominate me, and by offering to do all they can to help.

No-one in Parliament has been more of a dedicated advocate of environmental issues than Michael. I look forward to working with him in the days and weeks ahead, and I am particularly looking forward to his contribution to the pressing issue of climate change.

As you will all know, to get a place on the ballot paper, I will need to receive the nomination of 44 fellow MPs. Today, I have asked my colleagues to nominate to ensure that Labour party members and trade unionists - the people who deliver our leaflets, fight the Tories at elections and keep our party going with their financial contributions - have a say in this upcoming election. I know that many MPs recognise that there is a tremendous appetite out there for a friendly, democratic debate that will only strengthen our party, and I hope that they will nominate me on that basis.

Finally, I want to thank you all for your support. The reason that we have got as far is because of the work many of you have put in to building what is, above all, a grassroots campaign. Already, this campaign has been a success. Let's continue to surprise them.

P.S. As you will know, Michael and myself took part in a friendly debate with Gordon Brown yesterday at the Fabian Society. Below you can see a video from the event:

Saturday 12 May 2007

Thanks to UNISON Scotland, Labour Against The War and Tribune

I just want to give out my thanks to the support that the campaign has received in just the past few days.

I know that everyone involved in the campaign was delighted to read the kind words in Tribune: "But by a simple measure of what they stand for in defining the task ahead, their representation of what the left and the party wants and desperately needs and their tireless campaigning around the country to both listen and convey their message of hope and renewal, John McDonnell and Jon Cruddas deserve a place on the ballot paper." I want to pass on my thanks to the Tribune team.

Yesterday, UNISON Scotland's LabourLink decided to unanimously endorse the campaign. Once again, a huge thanks for the support. I promise to continue fighting for key UNISON policies - such as for an end to privatisation of our public services, an end to pay freezes, support for a real living wage, and the restoration of trade union rights.

Today, I attended leadership hustings organised by Labour Against The War, Labour CND, and Labour Action for Peace. It was great to meet so many activists who have fought with such determination over the years for a foreign policy based on peace and solidarity. I was also extremely pleased that the campaign received the near-unanimous support of those who attended. The fight for an end to the occupation of Iraq and against renewal of Trident goes on.

From the beginning, this was always supposed to be a grassroots movement. I think that we've all achieved a lot over the past few months. After so many years of defeat for the left and for the labour movement as a whole, I am really beginning to sense a new mood of confidence out there.

Once again, my thanks for everyone's support.

We need to raise our game

Please find below an article that I wrote for Guardian's Comment Is Free following Gordon Brown's campaign launch:

We need to raise our game

Political artisans will have appreciated the professional technique of Gordon Brown's launch and the careful crafting of the speech. Like Tony Blair's farewell speech yesterday it was modest rather than boastful about the last 10 years.

Nevertheless if we are going to win a resounding victory at the next election, we are going to have to raise our game: to inspire people once again. This has to go beyond vague promises to listen, garnished with hints of change.

People certainly want substance not celebrity, but this substance must comprise a policy programme that not only acknowledges but corrects the mistakes of the last 10 years, and that offers new policies which reflect the real world we live in, not the political bubble inhabited by residents of Downing Street.

The problem with Brown's speech is that it does not accept the current reality. Therefore it does not make the right prescriptions that would represent the radical break needed to rescue Labour's electoral fortunes and inspire our supporters.

With a few minor policy tweaks, Brown's speech came across as largely business as usual on most of the key issues of the day. He identified many of the key issues including Iraq, the NHS, housing, child poverty and the alienation felt in our communities. We all largely agree the agenda, but his policy responses barely moved us forward.

On Iraq, there is no commitment on withdrawal and while the daily bloodbath of innocent Iraqis continues, inaction is not an opportunity. The illegal 2003 invasion had little to do with liberating Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Instead, the real freedoms and benefits were destined to go to corporations like Halliburton and others that stood to gain from the privatisation of the formerly state-owned Iraqi economy. Withdrawal would mean not only ending the military occupation, but also the economic occupation, so that Iraqis can rebuild their society with our support not our dictates.

The hints at further "reform" of the NHS will alarm both patients and staff alike. We need to arrest the damage that PFI has reaped, plunging trusts into debt and causing cuts in jobs and specialist units. We need an NHS with fewer managers, fewer contractors and more power (rather than choice) to patients - with the input of the real experts: healthcare professionals.

On housing, the chancellor acknowledges the crisis in affordable housing, but said nothing about how he would resolve it - as chancellor he has acted as a block on council's managing and building up the social housing stock. The solution is to give our councils control over social housing so that they can enter into dialogue with their communities about addressing local housing needs, and set a clear target for the hundreds of thousands of homes that we need to build and refurbish over the next five years.

There was an acknowledgement of the rise in child poverty. However, even in this core economic area, Brown offered no solution about how the economy over which he has presided must now be changed and how to now meet our target of eradicating child poverty.

I have drawn together a vision for 21st century socialism, Another World is Possible, which sets out a coherent programme to address all these areas and others such as the environment, the workplace and crime. While Brown offers the market as the solution, we are offering people greater democracy and control over their own lives.

Full list of signatories

As promised, the full list of signatories is now online. I want to thank everyone who added their name. As you can see, support for this campaign exists right across the labour movement - councillors, trade unionists, NEC members, elected party officers, campaigners, students and grassroots party activists.

If you want to add your name, you can email us at

I'll give you an update as soon as possible.

Letter of support

I just want to thank the huge number of people who signed the letter of support in today's Guardian. I've been genuinely overwhelmed by the support the campaign has received over the past few days.

We will print the full list of names on the website by 10am today. If you want to add your name, drop us an email at

I know how understandably anxious many of you are about the leadership situation. I'll update you with the latest as soon as I can.

Below is the letter in today's Guardian:

As a range of Labour party members, councillors, NEC members, trade unionists, activists, community workers and campaigners, we are asking Labour MPs to nominate John McDonnell in order to allow a genuine debate about the future direction of our party. We believe that a coronation of Gordon Brown that excludes party members and trade unionists from having a say will be inconsistent with the proud democratic traditions of our party. Polls show that an overwhelming proportion of party members want the chance to participate in a leadership contest with more than one candidate.

We welcome John McDonnell's commitment to a comradely leadership contest based on policies, not personalities. His grassroots campaign has won huge support right across the labour movement and has succeeded in winning large numbers of people back to the Labour party. Above all, we believe that having a leader imposed on us without any democratic mandate will prove to be far more divisive than having a healthy debate, which can only strengthen our party.

Mike Wood MP
John4Leader parliamentary manager
Tosh McDonald
vice-president, Aslef executive committee
Christine Shawcroft
Labour party NEC
Elaine Smith MSP
Cllr Tony Belton
Leader, Wandsworth council Labour group
Mike Houghton
Secretary, Greater London Association of Trades Union Councils
Steve Battlemuch
Chair, Nottingham South CLP
Walter Wolfgang
Labour Party NEC
Tony Benn
And 332 others

Thursday 10 May 2007

Statement on Today's Events

Many people have contacted us to find out what the latest situation is, so I have set out below the statement we have agreed with Michael Meacher following our meeting today. As you can see from the statement, we are trying to ensure that a candidate is decided by Monday based upon the assessment of nominations received.

I'm confident that we can get there, and I am so pleased and so grateful at all the messages of support that have poured into my office. Everyone at the campaign has been really moved by this show of solidarity. Thanks.

I also want you all to know this that I am doing my best.

"As agreed, the campaign teams for Michael Meacher and John McDonnell have met to assess the level of support for each candidate. The outcome is that the issue is too close to call at the moment and a number of clarifications need to be made.

The good news for the Labour Party is that there is clearly sufficient support to ensure that a leadership candidate will come forward from the Centre-Left.

The Campaign Teams will reconvene on Monday to clarify which candidate goes forward from the Centre-Left. There will be a press conference late in the afternoon. Time and venue tbc."

Monday 7 May 2007

Strangers into Citizens: Demonstration Today.

Today migrant organisations will be out in force on a march called by Strangers into Citizens in support of an amnesty for asylum seekersand undocumented workers. Although I will be fulfilling an earlier commitment to speak at the May day march and celebrations in Burnley, I wish to send my support to the demonstration today.

There has been alot of discussion amongst migrant organisations about whether the amnesty proposal is a good thing. Currently asylum seekers are forced into work illegally for sub-minimum wages. If they are refused asylum they are amde destitute and even though they have committed no crime they can be locked up in detention centres. I have a detention centre and a removal centre in my own constituency.

Regularisation would give them security and enable them to join with others in demanding decent pay and better conditions.

However many migrant organisations are unhappy with the Strangers into Citizens proposals. This includes many I have worked with over the years, such as the All African Women's Group, Barbed Wire Britain, Bolivian Solidarity, Campaign to Close Campsfield, Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq, Colombian Solidarity Campaign, Congo Solidarity Campaign, Cogo Support Project, Day-Mer Halkevi Turkish Centre, Ecuadorian Movement in UK, Latin American Community Association, Latin American Workers Association, Payday Men's Network and Women of Colour in the Global Women's Strike.

There are many reasons for their concerns, particularly that the proposal includes a list of criteria which wouold exclude many migrant such as a four year residency period and a fluent english qualification. The process envisaged w old also take two years to complete.

The Campaign has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament. I haven't signed tthis yet as I want to amend it to propose a more inclusive scheme and one that doesn't divide this most vulnerable community.

I am in favour of regularisation and wholeheartedly support the motives behind today's demonstration but I hope that we can all unite behind a call for regularisation for all so that nobody is excluded.

Friday 4 May 2007

We Must Learn The Lessons

Below is an article I've written for the Guardian's Comment Is Free website on Thursday's local elections:

We must learn the lessons

John McDonnell

May 4, 2007 5:40 PM

The trend in recent years has been for Labour to dip at local elections, but to bounce back at general elections. However this cycle is unsustainable: at each election that dip is getting deeper, and our recovery less. On the basis of last night, the best we could hope for is a hung parliament at the next election.

Having canvassed with Labour candidates in Scotland, Wales and in several English local authority areas, I was not surprised that our vote held up better than was touted. However, we should not believe our own propaganda - playing up fears of a wipeout in the media may soften the blow of these results but, make no mistake, these results are certainly not good.

A share of the vote of just 27% is deeply worrying. The swing against Labour averaged between 5-7% across Britain. Although it is a crude analysis, if this was replicated at a general election the Tories would either be the largest party in a hung parliament or might just scrape an outright majority.

To learn the lessons of last night, we must understand and address what has increasingly turned off our voters, and what has demoralised and weakened our activist base.

By the time all the counts are completed, hundreds of Labour councillors will have been voted out not for their own personal or collective failures, but because of the way New Labour has alienated so many voters and and our own activists - on whom elections are won and lost. One positive is the lack of a breakthrough for the BNP, who fielded more candidates than they have for a generation.

In Wales, Labour remains the biggest party and voters have certainly recognised the "clear red water" between Welsh Labour and New Labour. Even so, if the results of last night were replicated in a General Election, we would lose eight Labour MPs.

In Scotland, the SNP ran a basically negative campaign with little to say about how they would improve Scotland. The fact that they have polled so well is testament to the strength of latent anti-Labour sentiment upon which they have capitalised.

If we as a party are serious about devolution, then we must respect councils and nations enough to determine their own agenda. When I was a GLC councillor, we won and held London as Labour was imploding nationally - running popular campaigns against the Thatcher Government and fighting on our own agenda.

As part of my leadership campaign, which has won the support of a number of local councillors, I am advocating strengthened local government so that councils have the power and resources to address the needs of their communities. In key areas such as regeneration, housing, and education, local councils have lost considerable powers to respond to their communities' needs.

The significance of yesterday's election is to reinforce the message that there is a need for a thorough and objective debate about how our party can re-inspire the broad coalition of support that brought us to power in 1997. Many will have felt relief that this was no wipeout, but it was only a reprieve. We must not repeat what happened to the Tories in the 90s, when they never took that opportunity and eventually went down to cataclysmic defeat.

Parties don't lose overnight, there is a gradual erosion of their base and electoral machine, which leads to sometimes cataclysmic defeat.

Our supporters need re-inspiring and our coalition rebuilding. What better method could there be than a democratic debate for the leadership involving all our members and affiliates?

Thursday 3 May 2007

Good Luck to All our Candidates in Today's Elections

I haven't had the chance to blog this week until now because I have been campaigning in the elections. After canvassing on a visit to Crewe on Friday, I was in Leicester on Saturday and on Monday took a campaign team to canvass for Sue Lent's campaign in Cardiff central for the Welsh Assembly elections. On Tuesday I was in Liverpool at the front of the May Day march.

I was born in Liverpool and my Dad was a Liverpool docker so it was good to be in the city meeting some of the retired dockers. I actually met a few people who lived down our street.

I am always impressed by the hard work our candidates put in on the ground. It is often frustrating that local candidates are not judged on their performance locally but on people's reaction to national politics. The same can apply to the Scottish and Welsh elections.

I wish all our candidates success in today's elections. It is absolutely critical that we especially halt any rise in support for the BNP. Retaining control in Scotland and Wales is essential if we are maintain the momentum of progressive politics. It is the same in local government. Last year the Tories took majority control in my local council of Hillingdon even though we held virtually all of the seats in my own constituency. The best example of what Tory control means in practice is that this month the Tory leader awarded himself a rise in his allowance to £66,000 pa and at the same time announced the closure of our outward bound youth centre on costs grounds.

So good luck to all our candidates in today's elections.