Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Next Labour Leader ?

 Image result for Labour Leadership Contestants

The BBC reports that the candidates for the Labour Leadership have obtained the following endorsements from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).

Corbyn 152, Burnham 111, 106 Cooper, 18 Kendle. See here.


That amounts to a total of 387 endorsements. But there are many more CLPs than that.

There is a Labour Party operating in Northern Ireland, but it does not have a constituency structure. As there are 650 parliamentary seats in the UK as a whole, when we deduct the 18 Northern Ireland seats from these we arrive at 612 for Britain. In a few cases CLPs may be virtually moribund and may not have met to consider the issue of endorsements. My own CLP met, but when the issue of endorsement was raised it unanimously accepted that it would not pursue the matter.

227 CLPs have failed to give support to any of the candidates. Yet it is reasonable to assume that some 200 of these have enough of an organisational structure to have submitted supportive endorsements if they had wished to. 

So as something like a third of CLPs have failed to submit endorsements, that places a question mark over the significance of the BBC's figures. In any case endorsements tell us only a limited bit of the story. They are not votes - for these an in the hands of individual members, those recruited for voting purposes by their affiliated Trade Unions and those otherwise signed up as Labour supporters.  CLPs are also made up mainly of delegates appointed by members who attend Branch Meetings or local meetings of affiliated bodies. Unfortunately, the great bulk of Labour Party members don't attend such meetings.

So Corbyn's lead in CLP endorsements, seems to indicate that he has the expressed support of something in the range of a quarter of those who attend Labour Party Meetings. There is a big question as to whether this support will influence the silent majority or is reflective of its views.



 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The ILP Helps To Push "Manifestos Of Intent"

Labour Broken rose image From the ILP Website

Labour Campaigners call for ‘Manifestos of Intent’

Jul 8th, 2015 | By admin | Category: Articles, Frontpage, Lead Labour campaigners are calling on all the Party’s leadership candidates to issue ‘manifestos of intent’ indicating the direction of their likely policies and putting their politics on public show for the voters’ to consider. HARRY BARNES, who has led the requests for ‘detailed and serious’ sets of proposals, explains why they are needed and requests urgent support.


Everyone voting in the Labour leadership elections, plus many outside onlookers, would benefit if the candidates issued detailed and serious manifestos explaining what policies they would seek to pursue if they won the vote. In order to ensure these manifestos are more than just a collection of soundbites, they should at least be 3,000 words long.

This would give us, the voters, an opportunity to decide what is the most appealing set of policies, allow us to judge the depth and interconnections (or contradictions) contained by each candidate’s proposals, and enable us to assess which significant items are missing. Then, when the victors emerge, we will have in front of us some set of ideas which we can press them to deliver, and if there are proposals we disagree with, we can attempt to block them. All of this would add to the democratic processes inside the Labour Party.

Clarity from politicians might not be all we ask for, but it can help us to know where they are coming from.

The Dronfield Labour Party discussion group led a campaign for such manifestos of intent during the 2010 Labour leadership elections, although at the time we did not suggest a minimum length. We had a certain degree of success, but now we need a much greater and more co-ordinated effort to deliver the manifestos in time for the 2015 vote.

Ideally, we need Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to require the candidates to produce manifestos, and some Constituency Labour Party (CLP) resolutions to the NEC, calling for manifestos, have been emerging. It is hoped that other CLPs will quickly follow suit.

However, other organisations, Labour members and supporters can also contact the candidates and their campaign managers themselves, asking them to produce voluntary manifestos.

One response
So far, we have received a positive response on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn. But in order to make a fully informed decision by 12 September, we need more. So, whenever a candidate or their campaign team e-mail you for your support, why not reply, asking them to issue a manifesto of intent?

On 31 August 2010, the Guardian carried a letter which provided details of the Dronfield LP discussion group’s efforts at that time. It still provides a useful summary of what we achieved five years ago.

 It read: “The ballot papers are due to go out in the Labour leadership contest (Labour contenders await Blair, 30 August). At the last minute each of the candidates has produced a manifesto, but (except in one case) these are tucked away in an obscure blog entitled Dronfield Blather, which is run by the Dronfield Labour party discussion group, which ran a three-month campaign to obtain them. It would be helpful if the voters could first see what they are voting for.

The manifestos differ considerably in style and presentation. Andy Burnham’s is entitled Aspirational Socialism and is some 9,000 words long. He is also pushing this via his own website. The others have not yet done this.

Diane Abbott and David Miliband have produced what might be called ‘minifestos’ of under 700 words each. Whilst the two Eds have come up with scissors and paste jobs taken from what they see as relevant and important past items. As quantity is not the same thing as quality, judgments of the relative merits of each of these presentation can only be determined by examining them on the Dronfield Blather website.”

Although the Guardian letter in 2010 led to our blog receiving a record number of hits, in 2015 we need others to add to the pressure on Labour’s the NEC, the candidates theselves and their campaign teams.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.
—-
Harry Barnes is a former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire and author of the blog ‘Three score years and ten’.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Hope For Labour ?

Compass Radical Hope NEW







"Independent Labour Publications" (ILP) is getting together with the campaigning pressure group "Compass" in September to examine the future of the Labour Party and the politics of radical hope. A public meeting will be held in Leeds on Saturday 19 September, just one week after Labour elects a new leader and deputy leader, and four months on from the party’s disastrous defeat at the general election.

The implications of the election results for Labour’s future will be the focus of the day’s activities.

For further details click here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Celebrating The History Of The Derbyshire Miners






Friday 26 June is the centenary of the unveiling of the statues of Harvey (on your left)) and Haslam (right) outside the former Miners' Office on Saltergate in Chesterfield. The above photo was taken shortly after that event.

At 7 pm on Friday, 26 June a short ceremony will take place at the statues themselves to mark the occasion. From 6 pm, refreshments will be available at the Labour Club which is situated close to the statues, but on the opposite side of the road.

Harvey and Haslam were known as the "Twin Pillars of the Derbyshire Miners Association (DMA)", being its major founders and its leading officials from the time of its establishment in 1880 until their deaths just before the start of the First World War. They were also the first miners in Derbyshire to serve as local MPs.

On Saturday 27 June, the following events will be held at the Chesterfield Library to commemorate the unveiling.

(1) Talks at in the Library Threatre from 11am.

   On Harvey and Haslam - Harry Barnes (a former tutor on Derbyshire Miners' Day Release    Courses and then MP for NE Derbyshire from 1987-2005.)

   On Derbyshire Mining in its final period - Cllr John Burrows (Leader of the Chesterfield Borough Council and a former DMA official).

(2) A round-table discussion on the history of the Derbyshire Miners from 1.15 pm.

   Chair : John Halstead (Labour Historian and former tutor on Derbyshire Miners" Day Release Courses.)

   Attendance at these events is free. Refreshment facilities are available in the Library.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Own Memories of Michael Barratt Brown

 Michael Barratt Brown taught adult evening classes and founded Northern College as an adult and community education residential college
Michael Barratt Brown died on the 7th May which was General Election Day. He was 97. The only obituary I have seen about him appeared here in yesterday's Guardian. It covers the general pattern of Michael's life and work - and does this well. I will, therefore, only concentrate on some of my personal memories of Michael and apologize for referring to myself just as much as I do to Michael.

I first came across his writings in the 1958 and 1959 editions of "Universities and Left Review".  I was particularly gripped by a series he wrote called "The Controllers". It wasn't until 1966 that I first remember meeting him; but it is possible that our paths crossed briefly during the 1958-59 period when I attended meetings in London of a body called the "International Society for Socialist Studies" (ISSS). This body was set up following an initiative by G.D.H. Cole. Michael later told me that he had also attended ISSS activities. Shortly afterwards I became an avid reader of the initial political writings in "New Left Review", when it was edited by Stuart Hall.  Michael was then part of its editorial board. Michael's contribution to its first publication in 1960 being an article entitled "Yugoslavia Revisited". The Guardian review spells out details of Michael's war-time experiences in Yugoslavia. This led Michael to maintain a continuing interest in its twists, developments and final break-up.


My first memory of meeting him was when I joined the Extramural Department at Sheffield University in 1966. The bulk of my teaching was with trade unionists who attended Industrial Day Release Classes. At that time the majority of these classes were attended by workers in the areas coal and steel industries. Although this pattern changed and expanded over time. Michael was the Director of Studies for these courses, working tellingly on their development. The general pattern of these classes was for them to run for three years - without placing the hurdles of exams or published assessments in the way of those attending. The adult students attended a day each week for a 24 week period each year, over a span of three years. The first year centred on the study of industrial relations and the development of student skills, the second year on economics and the final year on politics. Michael tended to centre on the teaching of economics. Whilst I normally concentrated on politics. This meant that I often had the privilege of following on from a class he had taught. I invariably inherited a class of seriously minded and skilled students. A normal day would run from 10 am to 4pm, with the tutor joining in with the students for the coffee and lunch breaks - the later often being in a local pub. For tutors and students all of this was essentially part of the learning process. Michael automatically used these social activities as part of the learning experience, without looking as if he was being seriously minded.

The nature of the impact of these classes is illustrated by an initial class I taught. As I was a novice I shared the teaching with an established tutor. Michael then taught this class economics in its second year. The students included Norman West, Terry Patchett, Ron Rigby and Jack Wake. Norman went on to become an MEP,  Terry an MP,  Ron became leader of the Barnsley Council and Jack was then secretary of the NUM branch at Cortonwood - a position he still held in 1984 during the miners' strike.

The Derbyshire Miners classes came to have an extra day's studies added to their second and third years. So there were occasions when Michael and I taught the same class on different days of the week. I was closely aware of the solid and serious nature of his work with them.

I am still regularly contacted by Bryan Robson a former Yorkshire Miner, who invariably sings Michael's praises. Bryan rang me today and I informed him of Michael's death. He was shattered by the news.  I feel that the impact of Michael upon Bryan's life is well illustrated by the quality of his personal library.

The Russell Committee on Adult Education was in operation between 1969-1973. In that time it held a session of its enquiry with the staff of our Extramural Department. This may have arisen from the evidence which Michael had previously submitted to the Committee. For a section of our time was taken up with Michael's major proposal. Namely, that an Adult Education College on the style of Ruskin College in Oxford should be established in the north of England. Michael's father had been a principal at Ruskin and I had attended as a student much later from 1960 to 1962. Along with my fellow students, I had no prior formal qualifications; but as with most others I went on to obtain an Oxford University Diploma which gave me access to a place at University. Michael wished to add to that model, by including regular short courses for communal use. The Russell Committee adopted these proposals and it led to the opening of the Northern College near Barnsley in 1978. Michael was appointed as its first Principal and he effectively built the model provisions he had in mind.

1975 saw the retirement of the head of the Sheffield Extramural Department; Maurice Bruce. The staff were solidly in favour of Michael being appointed to the vacant post. I was secretary of the Staff's Committee at the time and took a deputation to meet the appointment's Committee, which was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. I felt like we were taking icons to the Czar. And it was as successful. The post was given to an outsider.

When Michael subsequently left to take over at the Northern College, I maintained links with him. I arranged for an annual week's short course to be held at the Northern College for student's who attended classes run at our Extramural Department. These classes provided a means by which students (without formal qualifications) could seek Mature Entry into Sheffield University or to other avenues of Higher Education. The full-time students at the Northern College helped out enormously. When we turned up for meals they insisted on mixing with us and making us part of their college life. Even for just a week, the psychological impact of this upon our rather unsure part-time students was considerable. A later survey showed that our evening class students who finally made it to Sheffield University, ended up on-average with better results than student's who entered via formal qualifications. I also filled in for a period at the Northern College when they were short of a Political Theory tutor.

Many of the organisational arrangements I made for our short courses at the Northern College were made via their Bursar. This job went eventually to Mo Mowlen. Until we both met up in the Commons in 1987 as newly elected MPs. Michael and his staff were clearly aware of Mo's potential.

I bumped into Michael once as I was travelling by rail to the Commons. He was always a technical expert and had once claimed that he could teach day release students how to use a slide rule in just five minutes. So I asked him what the best way was to learn how to use a computer. His reply was "have grandchildren". I discovered the truth of this recently when I was sat at my computer with Amy my seven year old granddaughter who said "No grandad. not like that - like this".

 It is almost five years since I last met Michael. I heard him speak at the funeral of his friend Ken Coates at Brimington Crematorium at Chesterfield. It was Michael at his most effective, making a speech of great impact. As always what he said was a combination of the heart and the mind. Except that he had even more thoughts, memories and concerns to draw from than ever.

There was much more to Michael's life than the bits I bumped into. His list of publications is impressive not just in quantity, but in quality. The Common's Library dug a list of these out for me in 1998. His perspective on "political economy" was telling and is worth revisiting given the problems labour movements now face across the world. He achieved impressive results in developing "Fair Trade" arrangements. For he always knew that practice and theory had to be related to each other.

Numbers of his works can be found here


Of relevance to the areas I cover above is his "Adult Education For Industrial Workers", published by the National Institute of Adult Education (England and Wales) and The Society of Industrial Tutors in 1969. 


Spokesman Books | Michael Barratt Brown
Michael Barratt Brown

Michael Barratt Brown

Our good comrade and friend, Michael, died in London on 7 May after several weeks in hospital following a fall at home. During his long and eventful life, he worked closely with the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and the Institute for Workers’ Control, and was a regular contributor to The Spokesman journal. We shall miss him greatly.

Michael Barratt Brown wrote extensively throughout his life on economics, workers' control and politics. During his long career he served in a Quaker Ambulance Unit and worked for the United Nations and, subsequently, in documentary films, in workers' education, in industrial democracy, in socialist economics, in resisting nuclear warfare, in honest academic research, and in Fair Trade among co-operative organisations.















 

   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Manifestos Of Intent" Needed From Labour's Leadership Candidates

My local Constituency Labour Party is having the following resolution submitted to it by one of its branches. If it is carried, it will be sent to the National Executive Committee (NEC) for its consideration. Others might like to press this matter via similar avenues.

Candidates for the position of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party shall be required to issue "Manifestos Of Intent" of no less than 3,000 words to explain the programme that they would like the Labour Party to pursue and that these documents should be circulated to members of the Labour Party to help them determine how they will vote in the coming contests.


The following link was the result of efforts by our local Labour Party Discussion Group to obtain "Manifestos Of Intent" back in 2010. This (as you will see) achieved some success. But this was done late in the day and in an informal way. This time we need the NEC to arrange for such Manifestos to be issued systematically and in a  prominent fashion. Click into this link for the 2010 versions.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

From the Scottish Labour Campaign for Socialism (CfS)

theredflag
News from the Scottish Labour "Campaign for Socialism (CfS)". As posted by Vince Mills their Chair. For the CfS see here.

"The CfS calls for a fundamental review of Scottish Labour’s principles, policies, practices and leadership.

The Campaign for Socialism is devastated by the loss of voices for socialism like that of Katy Clark who lost her seat in North Ayrshire and Arran and that of Kenny Selbie who was standing for the first time in Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy. However their energy and vision will be important in reasserting the importance of socialist ideas in Scottish politics.

It has to be conceded that Labour is no longer the trusted agency of social change in Scotland because many of the initiatives undertaken by Labour since 1997 have been detrimental to working class interests – a continued decline in manufacturing hence well paid jobs, an increase in financialising the economy with de-regulation leading to the crash and austerity; continued suppression of trade union rights and the consequent collapse in wages and the increase in ‘flexible’ low paid employment and the privatisation and outsourcing of services. The Tories may have intensified these, but Labour initiated them.

Jim Murphy and his team personify this history. Therefore he and his team must accept that and stand aside to allow Keiza Dugdale, the Depute Leader of Scottish Labour, to oversee this fundamental re-appraisal.As a contribution to this discussion the CfS will be holding a conference soon in Glasgow to shape a socialist manifesto for the 2016 election.

Chair of the Campaign for Socialism Vince Mills said: “The trust that the working people of Scotland have invested in Scottish Labour, which was built up over a hundred years, has been squandered in two decades by New Labour and its acolytes. It will take years to restore it, but we must begin the task immediately. We hope Jim Murphy realises that he is closely identified with the politics that brought Labour’s demise and that his continued presence will prevent the restoration of Labour’s place as the champion of radical change.”