Wednesday 28 November 2007

Once and For All End the Link Between Labour and Dodgy Donations

All through the last week I have refused to comment on the latest donations scandal that has hit the Labour Party. I have declined all media approaches to comment because like most Labour Party members I couldn't believe that we were back into another dodgy donations episode and I was hoping that all the questions would be answered swiflty and the the issue put to rest.

That hasn't happened and we are now facing the prospect of another Police investigation into the activities of the party hierarchy.

So today I have written to the Prime Minister urging that he take immediate and decisive action to restore the confidence of the electorate in our party. I have asked him to make an early statement explaining that he is putting proposals to the Party's National Executive Committee which end the practice of receiving large scale donations from rich individuals once and for all. I have proposed to him that he announce a cap of a maximum of £1000 per annum is placed on donations from individuals.

I have suggested to the Prime Minister that if the introduction of this cap results in a budget shortfall for the party then any shortfall is made up by the determined rebuilding of our party membership, which has become so depleted over recent years.

We cannot ever again allow our party to be dragged through the media as a result of any untoward financial arrangements.

Alert! New Housing Bill Sells Out Fourth Option.

After years of campaigning by the Defend Council Housing campaign and after securing overwhelming support at successive Labour Party conferences hopes were raised that the Government would at long last bring forward a housing bill which would tackle the housing crisis which has seen the number of homeless families double under New Labour since 1997.

The Labour Party conference policy is straightforward. It is the Fourth Option, allowing councils to access funds in the same way as housing associations so that councils can start building council houses again. This would enable us to launch the large scale housing programme that is desperately needed if we are to overcome the severe housing shortage which is causing such immense homelessness, overcrowding and the return of Rackman-like landlordism under the buy to let regime introduced by Gordon Brown.

Last night whilst many eyes were focussed on the latest party donations scandal the Housing Bill was debated in Parliament. The Government launched the Bill with a fanfare of claims announcing that we are to build 3 million new homes. Gordon Brown said in June "Councils will be able to build homes again."

This now looks as though it was just spin again. Our hopes have been dashed by the publication of the Government's new Bill. The Defend Council Housing Campaign has explained that the Bill means the Government will continue to discriminate against councils building new homes while offering public money to profit making private companies with little protection to either tenants or taxpayers. Profit making private landlords will be able to apply for social housing grants while councils cannot unless they set up arms length companies. At the same time councils will be pressurised to put public land into public/private partnerships that will build private not council housing. A new definition is also introduced for low cost housing which introduces for the first time in our history a means test for access to council housing.

Last night the Bill secured its second reading in the Commons only on the basis that backbench Labour MPs would be bringing forward amendments to the Bill which would reflect Labour party policy of supporting the Fourth option. The DCH campaign will be mobilising support in the Labour party, the trade unions, housing and tenants organisatiosn for the campaign to amend this bill, including a lobby of Parliament in the New Year. We all need urgently to get behind this campaign before it is too late and public housing is totally privatised. For further info look at the DCH website

Monday 26 November 2007

Gordon Brown Should be Advised that Endless Publicity Relaunches Just Wont Work.

Another week and another relaunch of Gordon Brown. Someone needs to advise him that endless publicity relaunches just won't work. This week's relaunch is particularly ineffective as it completely undermines the green credentials he tried to establish with his environment speech last week. Backing expansion of Heathrow, promoting nuclear power and weakening our environmental planning controls patently contradict the commitment to tackling climate change he asserted in last week's relaunch as well as diverting resources away from much needed investment in alternative energy.

Thursday 22 November 2007

Heathrow Expansion: Climate Change Betrayal.

I have set out below the press release I have sent out this morning on the Government's decision to go ahead with the expansion of Heathrow airport. This isn't just a local issue for me as a local MP, it has national and global implications because it undermines the Government's proclaimed cimmitment to tackling climate change.
Press Release

Labour MP John McDonnell accuses Government Betrayal over Heathrow Expansion Plans

Labour MP, John McDonnell, whose constituency includes Heathrow airport, has accused the Government of betrayal over its announcement today that it will back a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.

John said The Government has betrayed the communities that will be devastated by this massive expansion of Heathrow airport and betrayed all those who believed the Prime Minister’s promises this week to tackle climate change. The Government’s proposals go well beyond the plans set out in the original aviation white paper and will double the size of the airport. This will result in the forced clearance of up to 10.000 people from their homes with the demolition of whole communities, homes, schools, and churches. People feel betrayed on every count.

Betrayed because the Government promised a short runway, but they have now come forward with a full length runway with a sixth terminal wiping out even more homes and communities.

Betrayed because it has now been revealed that BAA has been allowed to dictate the Government’s drafting of the consultation paper. The credibility of the consultation document has been rendered laughable by the Government’s argument that a doubling of the size of the airport will have no impact on increasing air and noise pollution and climate change.

Betrayed because the consultation has been curtailed and fixed in advance by the Government is refusing to even have a consultation exhibition in Sipson, the very village they acknowledge will be demolished.

Betrayed because in the week Gordon Brown made his main speech on climate change his government announces an expansion of aviation which will undermine any attempt to meet emission reduction targets and is to introduce new planning legislation to prevent local people having an effective say in the planning process to determine this expansion proposal.

I warn the Government that it now faces against it the biggest environmental campaign that we have seen in our history, which will permanently destroy its environmental credentials.

Sunday 18 November 2007

First Test of LRC Broad Front Strategy Comes this Week on Climate Change

Yesterday's LRC conference was an overwhelming success. About 250 delegates from Labour parties, trade unions and various campaigns came together in an open, lively democratic discussion about the role of the LRC in the coming period. There was a serious and honest analysis of the situation of the Left within the Labour Party, trade unions and outside of the party.

After a no punches pulled debate about the future role of the LRC, agreement was reached on the need for the LRC to work both within the Labour Party and outside the party to form a broad united front, campaigning issue by issue with all those who have a shared concern on these issues. This includes working in solidarity not just with organisations within the Labour and Trade Union movement but also linking with the social movements campaigning within the wider society.

The LRC's strategy statement, available on the LRC website, sets out this analysis of the current circumstances facing the Left and describes the principles of this broad front strategy.

An early test of this strategy will come this week. The media is full this weekend of the latest UN report on the rapid deterioration of the global environment under the impact of climate change. As usual the Brown administration has tried to spin its way out of real action by briefing the media that he may raise the UK target for reducing emissions by 2050. This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious.

In the week we receive the hard evidence that the plight of the world's environment is reaching desperation point Brown will launch on Thursday the consultation paper which commences the process of expanding Heathrow airport. This would in one simple action undermine all efforts and plans to reduce emissions in the UK by 2050.

What is worse is that we now learn that the British Airports Authority has been able to influence the evidence upon which the consultation paper has been drafted to try and convince us that a third runway and 6th terminal at Heathrow can go ahead without harming the environment.

The decision on Heathrow expansion is the issue which will determine whether any government or political party is serious about climate change. It will be the most significant and I predict the largest environmental battle over the next generation across all of Europe.

If the LRC is to be taken seriously on climate change and environmental issues more generally it will need to link up with all those within the Labour movement who are opposed to this expansion policy and as importantly with all those environment campaigning groups within our wider community. If a broad united front can be established on this critical issue I believe we can win in transforming the whole approach to environmental policy making in this country. Instead of allowing our environment to be polluted for profit, we could start the process of planning the preservation of our planet.

Friday 16 November 2007

Contrast the Government's Support for Northern Rock with its Remploy Closure Programme

I have been out of action on the blogging front for the last week largely because of a heavy campaigning schedule in the run up to the LRC annual conference tomorrow but also because of an extensive range of activties in my constituency. I have established in Hayes a regular local community conference based upon a local network of grass roots local community groups, residents associations, trade unions and campaigning organisations. The aim is to transform the community conference into a community council, completely inclusive, open and fully representative of the local community. This aims to empower local people to take control of the future of our area rather tahn laeve it up to bureaucracies or developers.

Anyway one of the issues that has brought me back to the blog is the depth of anger I and others feel at the contrast between the Government's behaviour over recent days towards Remploy and Northern Rock.

Earlier this week Labour MPs were presented with the Remploy Board's revised proposals for a major closure programme of a large number of its factories, which employ workers with disabilities who are either unable to work in the private sector or are being prepared for return to mainstream employment. We are told that the Government is generously willing to support Remploy for the next three years at a cost of about £160 million a year in order to make the Remploy operation cost effective. £160 million may sound alot but it does not reflect the immense benefits Remploy provides workers with disabilities and their families by ensuring that they can work with dignity and alongside colleagues live a productive working life that would otherwise be denied them and which many of us take for granted.

In addition contrast the support for Remploy with the £22 billion shelled out to support Northern Rock. Most commentators estimate that this will reach £30 billion by Christmas. It is calculated that the Government is likely to lose £2 billion over the Northern Rock debacle.

When the Northern Rock crisis happened I along with others called upon the Government to bring it into public ownership. Some, including some Labour MPs, denounced this as out of date nationalisation looking back to the 1980s. In effect this is virtually what Alistair Darling did in using such large amounts of public money to prop the organisation up. He used taxpayers' funds to cover the risk but is preventing them gaining any benefits.Interestingly even the BBC's economics adviser on Newsnight this week suggested that it would have been cheaper for the Government to have brought Northern Rock into public ownership.

The one thing you can guarantee about the Brown government is that its neo liberal ideology will always override practical common sense policy making.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Manchester health worker sacked for campaigning against cuts

Today, I issued the following press release:

Labour MP backs Manchester health worker Karen Reismann

Labour MP John McDonnell is seeking to raise Karen Reissman's case in Parliament to draw attention to the heavy handed attempt by the Manchester Mental Health Trust to silence Karen from speaking out to expose the implications of cuts in local services for patients.

John McDonnell said

"I believe that many Members of Parliament will be shocked at the heavy handed and bullying tactics being used by this health body to silence one of its critics from exposing the effect its cuts in services will mean for patients.

"That is why I am seeking to raise this issue in Parliament in the hope that the Health Trust will back off from trying to intimidate staff in this way."

Her sacking is an absolute disgrace. Karen is a community mental health nurse and a member of the Unison National Executive. Who benefits from her sacking? Certainly not the community she serves who rely on public service workers such as Karen who are prepared to defend the services they provide against cuts.

Credit must also go to Unison members in Manchester Mental Health Trust who voted 87.3% to go on strike in defence of Karen.

For more information, see the Unison website.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Queen's Speech: Rehashed Mix of Neo Liberal Policies at Home and Neo Con Policies Abroad.

For long periods during Tony Blairs reign most progressives in and outside the Labour Party queried whether there was any light at the end of the tunnel. Many saw the arrival of Gordon Brown as that light. After todays first of Browns Queens Speeches all I can suggest is that you let your eyes get used to the dark.

This Queens Speech fails to provide any clear direction at a time when people are increasingly losing confidence in Labours ability to deliver the policies and public services they require. It will do nothing to lift the morale of Labour supporters and painfully we seem to be allowing ourselves to be out manoeuvred by second rate Tories.

Todays legislative programme comes across as an uninspiring, rehashed mix of neo liberal economic policies at home and neo con policies abroad which in no way addresses the underlying demand for change in our country.

At the next election Labour will largely be judged on our record of delivering public services that meet the real needs of our community. Continuing to dress up privatisation as public sector reform wont deliver the quality of public services we need and will continue to demoralise the public servants whose dedication we rely upon to achieve success. Unless the Labour leadership gets a grip people will increasingly lose hope in us both as a Government that understands the real world issues they face and also lose confidence in even our managerial ability to deliver.