Sunday 29 June 2008

Left Candidate Must be Allowed to Run in Scottish Labour Leadership Election

Now that Wendy Alexander has resigned the Scottish Labour party has a real opportunity of staging a democratic leadership election, which would be able to focus on an honest debate about the current state of Labour in Scotland. It is deperately needed given the way the SNP has been able to dominate the political agenda so effectively since it was elected to government.

My fear is that there will be an attempt to prevent a real political debate either by following the Brown example of blocking any contest or more subtely by only allowing candidates from the right to run. Preventing a candidate from the Left from getting on the ballot paper would be as disastrous in the long term as the Brown no contest strategy. It would be seen as an obvious avoidance of facing to the much needed political debate about the future of the party in Scotland.

A candidate of the Left is needed and I believe that the best and most principled advocate for socialism in the Scottish Parliament is Elaine Smith. Elaine has a superb record of commitment and campaigning. She is articlate, popular and rooted in her community.

I hope that Elaine decides to stand and if she does it is critical that we mobilise to ensure she is on the ballot paper. The right and the bureaucracy must not be alowed to get away with a right wing slate on the ballot paper. We must not let them block Elaine. If they did it would another step on the path to the destruction of the Labour Party in Scotland.

We cannot allow any more coronations or election stitch ups in the Labour party. We must stand up for the right of Labour Party members and affiliated trade unionists to be able to elect a candidate of their choice and from a range of candidates who reflect the spectrum of political opinion within our party. Anything less would be viewed as yet another unsavoury New Labour manoueuvre.

Friday 27 June 2008

Gordon Brown has taken Labour to the edge of extinction

I wrote this article for the Guardian's "Comment is Free" website yesterday. It has just gone up. I wrote it before the Henley by-election result which demonstrates even further the potential political wipe out Labour is now facing.

A year ago so many Labour MPs flocked to nominate Gordon Brown as leader that I had no choice but to concede that I couldn't get on the ballot for the Labour leadership.

Now it all looks pretty bleak. Brown is relentlessly leading the Labour party to the edge of extinction and yet again Labour MPs and trade union general secretaries appear at a loss to do anything but follow over the electoral precipice.

In the first month the euphoric reception for Gordon Brown was based firstly upon the fact that he wasn't Tony Blair and secondly that he promised change. In fact in one speech he referred to change at least 20 times.

The reason for the present scale of disillusionment in him and his government particularly among long-standing Labour supporters is that there has been no change. If anything, the policies have gone further right and the New Labour style of manipulative short-term triangulation is still being pursued but with less competence than Blair

It could have all been so different. A leadership election would have ensured a real debate on the future of Labour in government and the future of our country. For over a year I had already been on the campaign trail speaking with Labour supporters and many others in open meetings just to get people talking again.

A leadership contest would have produced this engaging process writ large, drawing people into a real discussion and testing not only the ideas but also the candidates themselves.

Labour members would have been given the chance to decide. The ideas I was promoting would have proved their popularity and 12 months on we would have all been in a different place. Just think what might have been.

British troops would have by now been withdrawn from Iraq and in Afghanistan we would be deploying every skill of conflict resolution learned in Northern Ireland, including the first stages of unconditional roundtable talks with all sides to enable troop withdrawal.

Trident would have been scrapped and arms conversion put in place to transfer skills and resources to socially productive uses.

The green revolution would be well underway with an 80% target on reducing carbon emissions firmly installed in law, feed-in tariffs introduced and a mass programme of alternative energy projects already under construction. The expansion of Heathrow would have been rejected and with rail back in public ownership the largest investment programme in high speed-rail in Europe would be moving from the drawing board to construction.

The fairness revolution would be in train to create a fair and equal society. To address pensioner poverty the first year budget would have increased the basic pension and restored its link with earnings. To achieve a historic target of abolishing child poverty, child benefits would have been increased. The minimum wage would have been lifted to a realistic level, with pay equity legislation introduced to eradicate discrimination against women and others. A fairer taxation policy would have ensured that corporations pay their way and their £100bn a year tax avoidance scams would have been outlawed. Local councils would have been empowered to build half a million new homes this year and to compulsorily purchase a significant number of the 300,000 homes that stand long-term empty to tackle the housing crisis that has seen the number of homeless households double under New Labour.

The freedom revolution would have already seen the restoration of basic civil liberties and trade union rights. ID cards would have been scrapped and detention without charge would be replaced with a normal rule of law relying upon evidence and court decisions. A draft constitution would have been published for debate extending social rights to housing, education, care and a decent environment.

The democracy revolution would have seen the ending of the privatisation of our public services, and the debate engaged on how each public service could be best managed, by those who are elected to represent local communities, those that deliver the services and those that receive them. Members of the House of Lords would be in their final session before abolition, and a new chamber would be elected by proportional representation, as people also voted on a referendum on the European constitution.

The safety revolution would be at it early stage of implementation, transferring the third of prisoners with mental health and drug problems to suitable specialist centres. At the community level, safer neighbourhood teams would no longer just comprise of police officers but would include family support workers, youth workers, play leaders and community development workers to intervene earlier and more effectively to overcome antisocial behaviour, crime, and violence at their roots.

The education revolution would have already abolished tuition fees and restored grants, class sizes would be tumbling towards public school proportions and more teachers were recruited, with teaching talent released from the burden of tests, targets and league table competitions.

The caring revolution would have been extending free childcare to all families with young children and free care for all the elderly. Elderly care standards would be under intense scrutiny and residential homes under democratic control with direct care and family representation.

The political revolution would have produced a Commons chamber where MPs were not just allowed but would be encouraged to vote on principle and personal judgment. Various coalitions on individual issues would become the norm. Democracy would have been restored within the Labour party, enabling members and affiliates once again to determine the policies of the party. Yes the political debate would have been robust and decisions difficult to pre-judge but democracy would be the better for it.

By now, Labour members and supporters would be proud again of being associated with our party and our government. I can't guarantee that this would have won us the next election but at least it would be a government worth fighting for.

This article was first published on on Friday June 27 2008.

Monday 23 June 2008

Government must listen to low paid

Local Government workers in Unison (my union) have voted by a clear majority to take industrial action over the imposition of a below-inflation pay deal of just 2.45%.

The Government must listen to this appeal. The underlying reason for this vote for strike action is a genuine feeling of unfairness that lower paid public sector workers are being asked to carry the burden of the economic downturn.

Ministers, earning over £100,000 per year will barely notice their pay freeze, but for many local government workers it will mean real hardship.

Thursday 19 June 2008

Government mustn't punish workers for inflation incompetence

LEAP published the press release below on the costs of rising inflation for workers. The Government's statement that Ministers would forego their annual pay rise is a pointless gesture at a time when the Government is imposing a three year pay cut on public sector workers.


Inflation figures released today show that CPI has risen to 3.3% due to rising food and energy prices. RPI inflation hit 4.3% as prices continue to rise. CPI inflation is now at its highest level since 1992.

John McDonnell MP, LEAP Chair, said:"This isn't about pay, and its not solely about the credit crunch, it's about short-term decision making over the last 11 years as New Labour has done nothing to move the UK from a fossil fuel based economy to an economy based on renewable technologies".

Professor Prem Sikka said:"The government now only have blunt tools for managing the economy. The government should use the regulation of gas, electricity and water to impose a price freeze, and also claw back monies through windfall tax on utilities and oil companies to support pensioners and increase tax free personal allowances, so that people at the bottom of the pile have more cash"

Andrew Fisher, LEAP Co-ordinator, said:"Inflation is rising due to the Government's failure to plan for 'peak oil'. Punishing public sector workers for international oil and food prices is economically misguided and will cause further resentment among dedicated public sector workers. It is politically and economically inept."

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Threat of Emergency Powers to be Invoked against Striking Tanker Drivers

I have said all I can on the issue of the 42 days vote in the Commons in an article today on the Guardian's website "Comment is Free." I can't get much angrier at the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the Labour MPs who supported this attack on human rights. But just after the vote on 42 days detention when you thought the assault on people's civil liberties couldn't get worse the Government has briefed the press that it is threatening to invoke emergency powers in the oil tanker drivers' dispute to draft in soldiers to drive the tankers and break the strike. The drivers are members of UNITE.

When the Government introduced the Civil Contingencies Act many of us warned that it would be used against trade unionists and this latest threat from Downing Street confirms the role emergency powers can be used to undermine trade union rights.

Just at a time when there are attempts to achieve a negotiated settlement to the tanker drivers' dispute this inflammatory threat will exacerbate the situation and undermine the potential for resolving the dispute.

If the troops are brought in by the Government the leadership of UNITE will need to consider seriously whether now is the time to call for solidarity action from other union members and other unions no matter what the current law says about the illegality of solidarity action.

42 Days Detention is Another Line in the Sand

Finding time to blog regularly has been a real problem recently simply because of too many commitments and not enough time. Casework and community campaigns in my constituency are just overwhelming at present particularly as the housing crisis worsens and deportations are mounting. We are dealing with many people in some pretty desperate situations.

At the same time trying to cover all the bases on the legislation the Government is forcing through is stretching all of us.

Tonight, sorry, last night the Government guillotined the debate on the Counter Terrorism Bill so that we could only debate less than a third of the issues contained in the section of the Bill timetabled for discussion. The areas we were allowed to discuss included the continuance and tightening of control orders and the power of the Government to scrap juries in coroners' inquests when dealing with cases where the Government itself decides there is an issue of public security.

This means that where a person has died when in the hands of the state or is killed by the state the Government now has the power to have the inquest held in secret and the verdict decided not by a jury but by a special coroner appointed by the Government. The campaigning organisation INQUEST rightfully argued that this proposal undermines the independence of the coroners' system and will deny families access to a fair hearing to discover how their loved one has died. Can you imagine what the outcome of the Menezes case or any death in custody case would be if this provision was in place?

Tomorrow, sorry, today we move on to the Government's proposal for detention without charge for 42 days. I will vote against this further attack on civil liberties because there has been not a single piece of evidence produced to justify such a fundamental attack on the right of habeas corpus secured eight centuries ago in this country. I hope that we will be able to convince enough Labour MPs to reject this assault on human rights. I have been working with Liberty and Frank Dobson as chair of the Liberty group in Parliament.

Throughout the last few days Gordon Brown has contacted Labour MPs and offered all sorts of blandishments and political bribes in return for their votes for 42 days. I am pleased that so many have stood firm on principle and have rejected this combination of threats, grovelling pleas for support and outright political bribery. However we heard today reported in the media that those MPs representing the Compass group are supporting the Government on 42 days. This will undermine the vote opposing 42 days. Ominously they voted for the Government throughout last night on the proposals to to scrap coroners' juries and on toughening control orders.

If this does happen it destroys in my view any vestige of credibility those associated with Compass may claim to have to be part of the Left or part of any project to reclaim the Labour party as a progressive force. Compass may publish policy statements decrying the Government's policies but these are not worth the paper they are expensively published on when Compass MPs go on to vote through policies like this which fly in the face of all socialists should stand for.

I was scheduled to speak at the Compass conference on Saturday at the LRC/Briefing break out session. I will not do so now. I do not want to be associated with those that are willing to support undermining the basic human rights that socialists have fought and sacrificed themselves to secure and protect over generations. There are some lines in the sand you just do not cross. Undermining basic civil liberties by locking people up for long periods without charge is one of them.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Over 700 sign May Manifesto Petition

Over 700 people have now signed up to the May Manifesto petition.

If you have not already done so, you can sign up by emailing with 'petition' in the subject line with your name and CLP or trade union. The petition states:

"We believe that Labour can win back the support of our people by adopting a new 2008 May Manifesto, which should include:

  • Nailing the 10p tax mistake by the introduction of a fair tax system removing the low paid from taxation and ensuring the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share
  • An increase in the basic state pension, immediately restoring the link with earnings, lifting people off means tested benefits and providing free care for the elderly
  • An immediate start on a large scale council house building programme and assistance for those facing repossession
  • Immediate end to programme of local Post Office closures and liberalisation of postal services
  • An end to the privatisation of our public services
  • A new pay deal for public sector workers to protect their living standards and tackle low pay
  • Abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants for all students
  • Scrapping ID cards and abandoning 42 days detention
  • Introduction of a trade union freedom bill and measures to protect temporary and agency workers
  • Rejecting the proposals to renew Trident"

1. John McDonnell MP, Hayes & Harlington CLP
2. Dr Duncan Hall, Skipton & Ripon CLP
3. Cathy Watson, Welwyn Hatfield CLP
4. Rory MacQueen, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
5. Martin Jenkins, Ellesmere Port & Neston CLP
6. Tom Michaelson, Garston & Halewood CLP
7. Pamela Galloway, Central Devon CLP
8. Ian Woodland, Unite
9. Simon Hewitt-Horsman, Walthamstow CLP
10. John Buckingham, Cambridge CLP
11. Walton Pantland, GMB
12. Robert Naether, GMB
13. Nathan Trout, Wakefield CLP
14. Colin Pritchard, Gravesham CLP
15. David Semple, NUT
16. Helen Ingram, Beaconsfield CLP
17. Graham Day, Falkirk CLP
18. Clare Hewitt-Horsman, Walthamstow CLP
19. Susan Press, Calder Valley CLP
20. Tom Davies, Walthamstow CLP
21. Steven Anderson, Jarrow CLP
22. Joseph Boughy, UCU
23. Paul Smith, Yeovil CLP
24. Ravi Gopual, Garston & Halewood CLP
25. Cllr Dave Young, Calder Valley CLP
26. Mike Baldock, Sittingborne & Sheppey CLP
27. Veronica Killen, Blyth Valley CLP
28. Aidan Williams, Altrincham & Sale West CLP
29. Peter Berry, Stockport CLP
30. Eric Wood, Amicus
31. Cllr Brian Smedley, Bridgwater CLP
32. Stuart Watkin, Tooting CLP
33. Glynn Davies, North West Leicestershire CLP
34. Kevin Hind, Bury St Edmunds CLP
35. Steve Brown, Wansbeck CLP
36. Judith Atkinson, Brentford & Isleworth CLP
37. Val Graham, Chesterfield CLP
38. Scott Lomax, Chesterfield CLP
39. James McSporran
40. Angela Sinclair-Loutit
41. Tristan Martin, York Outer CLP
42. Jim Brookshaw, Cardiff South & Penarth CLP
43. Hazel Brookshaw, Cardiff South & Penarth CLP
44. John Giddins, GMB
45. David Stokes, Bournemouth East CLP
46. Pamela Read, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
47. Andy Walker, Ilford South CLP
48. Brian Oldale, Sheffield Central CLP
49. Philip Crawford, Bromsgrove CLP
50. Janet Shapiro, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP
51. Richard Henson, UCU
52. Dave Eatock, Unison
53. Gwen Cook, Chelsea & Fulham CLP
54. Rev Hazel Barkham, South West Wiltshire CLP
55. Tony Holmes, Farnborough CLP
56. Gwyn Bailey, Castle Point CLP
57. Tom Rhodes, Unite
58. Ian Morrison, Sherwood CLP
59. Mat Coward, Somerton & Frome CLP
60. Darrall Cozens
61. Melanie MacDonald, BECTU
62. Ian Sternberg, Wantage CLP
63. Dave O’Mara, Bromley CLP
64. Kevin Hogarth, UCU
65. C Chinnick, Monmouth CLP
66. Paul Bull, BECTU
67. Alastair Gittins, RMT
68. Jacqui Connor, Leyton & Wanstead CLP
69. Henry Birtley, Stafford CLP
70. Tim Boddy, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
71. Ken Thomas, East Surrey CLP
72. Mike Gaskell, Wallasey CLP
73. James Ross, CWU
74. Mike Rowley, Oxford West & Abingdon CLP
75. David Holland, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
76. Pete Firmin, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
77. David Smith, Sheffield Heeley CLP
78. Russ Blakely, Portsmouth North CLP
79. Norrette Moore, Uxbridge & South Ruislip CLP
80. Matthew Corr, Livingston CLP
81. Daniel Nichols, Romford CLP
82. Ed Doveton, Colne Valley CLP
83. Keith Perrin
84. Robert Parker, Amicus
85. M Murphy, Scunthorpe CLP
86. M Todd, Scunthorpe CLP
87. David Carter, Middlesbrough CLP
88. Chris Mullarkey, Unison
89. Paul McLean, Leeds North East CLP
90. David Watson
91. Tony Rea, Westminster North CLP
92. Cllr Geoff Lumley, Isle of Wight CLP
93. John Drewery, Huddersfield CLP
94. Catherine Anne Tanner, Cardiff West CLP
95. Bob Waterton, Leicester West CLP
96. John Prince
97. Matthew Teale, City of Durham CLP
98. Daniel Ashton, Isle of Wight CLP
99. Christopher Charnley, Ashton-in-Makerfield CLP
100. Paul Mannion, Tottenham CLP
101. Glyn Tudor, Southampton CLP
102. Jim Dye, Preston CLP
103. George Durack
104. William Allberry, Esher & Walton CLP
105. David Williams, Wansbeck CLP
106. Tarquin Gotch
107. Chris Wood
108. Clive Searle, NUT
109. Rosemary Addington
110. Andrew Fisher, Croydon Central CLP
111. Julie Prince, PCS
112. Luke Wilson, Leeds Central CLP
113. Jenny Lynn, Halifax CLP
114. Jago Parker, Halifax CLP
115. Michael Richards, Cynon Valley CLP
116. Paul Mansell, Beaconsfield CLP
117. Michael Chewter, Skipton & Ripon CLP
118. Graeme Cowling, PCS
119. Philip Lewis, Unison
120. Tony Richardson, Wakefield CLP
121. Jeff Slee, RMT
122. Cllr John Rodgers, Calder Valley CLP
123. Joe Kowalczyk, Beaconsfield CLP
124. Anne Tanner, Cardiff West CLP
125. Dr Richard Barbrook, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
126. Gwyneth Francis, High Peak CLP
127. Mary Mulligan, UCU
128. Michael Docherty, Harrogate & Knaresborough CLP
129. Annette Thomas, Islington North CLP
130. Suzanne Gannon, NUT
131. John Lipetz, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
132. Joe Marino, BFAWU
133. Helen Simpson, Sherwood CLP
134. Mike Jones, Liverpool Garston CLP
135. Judah Smith, Halifax CLP
136. Malcolm Dunning, RMT
137. Alan McGuckin, Penrith & the Borders CLP
138. Tom Flaws, Hexham CLP
139. Graham Bash, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
140. Dave Statham, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
141. Lucy Haynes, Unison
142. Richard Coates, Maidstone & the Weald CLP
143. Jim Moffett, Unison
144. Jack Preston, Unite
145. Cllr Mark Brain, Bristol South CLP
146. Cllr Simon Crew, Bristol East CLP
147. Mr P T F Gregory, Sherwood CLP
148. Angie Gregory, Sherwood CLP
149. Jon Rogers, Unison NEC
150. Mike Armitage, Macclesfield CLP
151. Peter Thomas, BECTU
152. Frank Leetch, Ogmore CLP
153. Sally Free, Brighton Kemptown CLP
154. Graham Felton, Cynon Valley CLP
155. Claire Wadey, Brighton Pavilion CLP
156. David Williams, PCS
157. Colin Burgess, Thornbury & Yate CLP
158. Pat Thorpe, Huddersfield CLP
159. James Cummings
160. John Merrett Bloom, Waveney CLP
161. Alison Mandrill, Gosport CLP
162. David Gee, Calder Valley CLP
163. Simon Boardman, CWU
164. Adam Spencer, Nottingham South CLP
165. Hucknall Branch, Sherwood CLP
166. Joan Abrams, Hazel Grove CLP
167. Phil Chadwick, CWU
168. Paul Barbour, CWU
169. Matthew Langley, NUT
170. Dr Premraj Pushpakaran, CWU
171. West Branch, Maidstone and the Weald CLP
172. Phil Hingley, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
173. Helen Peters, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
174. Cllr John Bell, Broxtowe CLP
175. John Calderon, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP
176. Max Morris, Clacton CLP
177. Geoff Spall, Sherwood CLP
178. Ged Dempsey, Wentworth CLP
179. Vin Mullen, Jarrow CLP
180. John Bell, Greater Nottingham Co-op Party
181. Cambridge Universities Labour Club

plus another 550 through Facebook

To sign up please email with 'petition' in the title and your name and CLP or trade union