Friday, December 07, 2012

Get Your Socialist New Year Calendar

 The Following Is Taken from the ILP's Web-Site. I Have Just Ordered My Copy.


Cartoon Calendars to Mark ILP’s 120th Anniversary

Nov 19th, 2012 | By Matthew Brown | Category: Articles, Frontpage, News
Iconic political cartoons from the 1890s and 1920s are featured in a new wall calendar published by the ILP to mark our 120th anniversary next year. ILP Calendar cover

Launched to celebrate the founding of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford in 1893, the A4 calendars are illustrated by biting socialist cartoons first published in Keir Hardie’s newspaper, Labour Leader, in the 1890s and its ILP successor, New Leader, in the 1920s. They are not only a poignant reminder of our past but retain significant political relevance today.
The founding conference of the ILP on 13 January brought together local ILPs which had already been established, particularly in the north of England, plus the Scottish Labour Party and many individuals eager to promote its cause. The ILP became Independent Labour Publications in 1975.
The ILP 1893-2013 wall calendars cost £9.00, including postage and packing, from Independent Labour Publications, PO Box 222, Leeds LS11 1DF. Cheques payable to ‘ILP Trust Ltd’.
To buy a calendar by PayPal, click here.
For more information email: Calendar Jan
To read more about the ILP’s history visit our History section here.
To mark the anniversary, the ILP will also be publishing an updated version of The ILP: Past & Present in the new year while this website will feature a series of biographical articles on significant ILPers from Labour history.
More details of 120th anniversary publications and events will be published here in due course.
ILP Calendar FebILP Calendar MarILP Calendar JulILP Calendar Sep                   

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Where Prisoners Have The Vote

The nations in Europe where prisoners have the vote are Albania, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland. Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Ukraine. See here.

What makes us different, apart from prejudice?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Votes For Prisoners - Remove The No-Go Sign

The following is from a BBC Report, see here.

"Ministers will give Parliament another vote on whether to give prisoners the vote this week, the BBC understands. Political correspondent Carole Walker said she understood MPs would consider options, on Thursday, including votes for those serving six months or less and those serving four years or less. A third option on the draft bill would be no votes at all, she added."

I wonder if any MP will do the honourable thing and put down an amendment to the Government's list of options, in order to allow all prisoners to have the vote. If there are worries about prison loads of voters distorting the outcome in specific constituencies, they could be given votes via their last known places of residence prior to their imprisonment.

The main reason that prisoners should be able to have the vote is that they are human beings. But even if they are thought to be not very nice human beings, that is no reason for disenfranchising them. For quite correctly we don't otherwise try to separate the wheat from the chaff when we decide who is entitled to the vote - not since we  came (basically) to adopt the correct overriding principle of adult male suffrage. Separating the wheat from the chaff is an elitist response, contrary to democratic values.

There is also the fact that masses of people who commit serious crimes, never get caught. There is no mechanism we can adopt to remove the franchise rights of those who have murdered, raped and pillaged, but have got away with their crimes.

Everyone resident in the UK over a certain age (which I feel should be 16) should have the vote as they are subject to the laws which parliament determines. This is obviously the case with prisoners, as the law has caught up with them. The only exception to the right to vote should be for those who can't vote, due their having the most serious of learning difficulties. And even then we should err on the side of caution.

I just hope there are some MPs who see things in the above light. After all they are supposed to be at the cutting edge of democracy.

I have never heard a principled argument against what I say above. There are only appeals to our prejudices, as shown by the interviewer in the video attached to the link in my opening sentence.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Clay Cross - 90 Continuous Years With Labour


It is a 90th Anniversary. Since 15 November 1922, Clay Cross has been represented in parliament by only Labour MPs. Since 1950, it has been part of the North East Derbyshire Constituency and the MPs (in turn) have been Henry White, Tom Swain, Ray Ellis, myself and currently Natascha Engel. Yet prior to the 1950 General Election, Clay Cross was itself the name of the Constituency which bore its name. Below I give a synopsis of of that Constituency's Labour Parliamentary History.
The Clay Cross Parliamentary Constituency operated from 1918 until the time of the 1950 General Election. It covered much of what are currently the southern areas of both the North East Derbyshire and Bolsover Constituencies. In those days it was an area in which coal mining abounded.

Yet although the Constituency was dominated by the miners’ vote and the Derbyshire Miners' Association (DMA) was a powerful influence in the area, out of the six different Labour candidates it ran for parliament at various elections, only two of these were miners. The absence of miners as Labour candidates in parliamentary contests in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1929, 1931, 1933. 1935 and 1936 (when four different Labour candidates ran) showed an independence of mind amongst local miners from the pressures of the leadership of the DMA. This was aided by the influences of a socialist-inclined local Methodism and by left-wing activists in the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in areas such as Bolsover. The ILP, however, went on to disaffiliate from the Labour Party in 1932. A further factor leading to the period in which miners' were not run as candidates, is that Clay Cross became one of the safest Labour seats in the country. It, therefore, attracted the interest of leading figures at national level in the Labour Party.

The first election in the Clay Cross Constituency in 1918 followed a conventional pattern for an area dominated by the DMA. . Fred Hall, the Labour candidate was a leading official of the DMA, who eventually served for 29 years on the national executive committee of its parent body, the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. He was, however, the only Labour candidate for the Clay Cross Constituency who ever failed to win the seat. He lost by 1,221 to a Liberal who had Conservative backing. For the Conservatives and Liberals who had been the larger elements of the 1915-18 War-time Coalition had joined into a deal aimed at not running candidates against each other. 
When Fred Hall dropped out of standing for the seat just prior to the 1922 General Election, Charlie Duncan was selected in his place. He had helped to found the Workers’ Union who had been involved in the birth of the Labour Party and represented unskilled workers. He had been the Labour MP for Barrow-in-Furness from 1906 to 1918 and had spells as both Whip and Secretary for the Parliamentary Labour Party. He won the elections in Clay Cross in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1929 and 1931. His final success revealed how Labour had built up the seat. The 1931 election was held following the collapse of the minority Labour Government in the middle of a major financial crisis, with Ramsay MacDonald its leader defecting to run a National Government. Labour’s position at the subsequent General Election collapsed from 288 to 52 seats, yet Labour held Clay Cross by almost 10,000 votes. A massive Labour majority in the adverse circumstances of the time.  
When Charlie Duncan died in 1933, Clay Cross adopted Arthur Henderson as their candidate. Known as “Uncle Arthur” he was a huge figure in the early history of the Labour Party. He was leader of the Labour Party from 1908 to 1910 (with another spell at the start of the First World War). He served as Labour’s first Cabinet Minister in the First World War Coalition Government from 1915 to 1917, resigning when his idea for an international conference on the war was voted down by the rest of the cabinet. He helped shape the pre-Blairite structure of the Labour Party as its General Secretary, a post he held from 1912 to 1935. He was Home Secretary in the first Minority Labour Government of 1924 and Foreign Secretary from 1929-31. When MacDonald defected Henderson took over as Labour's temporary leader until 1932, but gave up the position because he had by then lost his parliamentary seat. Clay Cross provided his avenue back into Labour’s parliamentary politics. In the by-election one of his opponents was Harry Pollitt the General Secretary of the Communist Party who lost his deposit with 10.8% of the votes to Henderson’s 69.3%. So there was a total left vote of over 80%. Whilst he was MP for Clay Cross, Henderson went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and was held in high regard it being claimed that “no-one ever sought his help in vain"*. He died in 1935.  

At the subsequent General election, Clay Cross ran the 35 year old Alfred Holland who was a local Methodist. But within 10 months he was stricken with spinal meningitis and died shortly afterwards.

A by-election in 1936 led to the Clay Cross Labour Party running its fourth candidate in five years. George Ridley had been on the Executive of the Railway Clerk’s Association since 1909. He was seen as “becoming the Labour Party’s leading pamphleteer*”. In 1944 he also died whilst still an MP.

After 26 years, Clay Cross once more adopted a Derbyshire Miners’ Candidate in Harold Neal the area’s Vice President, who went on to become Secretary of the Miners’ group of MPs in parliament. There was a war-time pact amongst Churchill’s Coalition partners at the time, which covered the Labour Party. This was not to run candidates against coalition partners in by-elections. So only two independent candidates stood against Neal. One ran as a “Workers Anti-Fascist” and the other as an “Independent Progressive”.  Neal got 76.3% of the votes. When the war ended, he improved his position by taking 82.1% of the votes in opposition to a Conservative.

When the boundaries were redrawn and the Clay Cross seat was absorbed into other areas, Harold Neal became the Labour MP for Bolsover. He had a period as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fuel and Power in 1951 and retired as MP in 1970 to be replaced by Dennis Skinner who was the Chair of NE Derbyshire Labour Party, President of the DMA and also an active member of the Clay Cross Labour Party. 
A souvenir brochure published by the Clay Cross Divisional Labour Party in 1948 pointed out Labour’s dominance in the area, stating that there were “46 Local Government Seats (exclusive of Parish Councils) within the Constituency : of these 40 are held by Labour members. In addition, there are 16 Parish Councils : in the majority of cases we have 100 per cent representation”*.  ( * = The two earlier quotations are also taken from this souvenir brochure.) 

Those were the days. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It Is Time To Worry

We now have concerted attacks upon the BBC, the NHS and the Courts. Here is the latest.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Labour Got It Wrong

Labour's vote in helping to defeat the Government yesterday was a big mistake. Only those handful of Labour MPs who take a full anti EU line should have been in the rebels' lobby. Is there any Labour MP who has expressed his or her concern about what happened? And did any Labour MPs vote with the Government or positively abstain? Labour should vote on what it judges to be the rights and wrongs of an issue, not from reasons of political manipulation. There are sound practical reasons for acting in line with your own views and values, as well as moral reasons. In politics, your sins are liable to find you out. And voting for what you don't believe in is something that is habit forming.

There is, of course,  plenty that is wrong with the EU. Above all. it needs a democratic framework. But it needs actions other than those of political manipulation to start to achieve this.

Update 2nd November : Labour MP Margaret Hodge is claimed to have said that being asked to vote with Tory rebels in favour of a cut in the EU budget was "hateful" and "outrageous". Yet she still went into the lobby with the Tory rebels.  See here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Shape Of Things To Come?

The British Electoral Registration system is already in a mess with several million people missing from the voting lists. But changes in the rules for registration will make the situation far worse. Do these developments in America show the shape of things to come? Given a class-biased electoral registration system, Romney seems to have it in the bag.

Friday, October 26, 2012

From Today's Guardian : Letter To The Editor


        Fallout from the Scottish referendum

One of the strongest arguments for giving the vote to 16-year-olds, as proposed in Scotland (Editorial, 22 October), is that it is an essential step towards tackling voter under-registration. The Electoral Commission has reported that at least 6 million people are missing from electoral registers. Yet now we see that the under-registration figure is likely to be larger than this, as census details have just been revealed which show that 1.57 million people in England and Wales have second addresses and this will entitle many of them to double registration. If, say, 1 million throughout the UK have done this, that means that under-registration is then over the 7 million mark.With votes at 16, the names of "attainers" would be included on registers when they were 15, showing the dates of their coming birthdays and their then entitlement to vote. If registration for these first-time voters took place via their schools, an initial registration of almost 100% could be achieved. A proactive registration system could then be put in place to ensure that most of those who initially registered did not later in life slip through the net.

As under-registration is high among the 18-25 age group, the poor, the rootless and ethnic minorities, this leads to a situation where the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies are seriously distorted. A system of initial registration via schools, with an associated and imaginative educational programme, could start to correct this imbalance and develop a commitment among young people to use and improve the democratic process. Or are we going to leave it all to Alex Salmond?

Harry Barnes
Dronfield, Derbyshire

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Clay Cross Rent Rebellion

It is the 40th Anniversary of the Clay Cross Rent Rebellion. So what was it all about?

In 1970, the Conservatives had a surprise electoral victory. Ted Heath replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister and became known as Selsdon Man, because he adopted a set of free market and anti-working class policies which were in line with what would later be called Thatcherism. The strong reactions against his approach later led him to alter his basic stance via a set of "U" turns, for which Thatcher was later to deride him.

In the year in which the Heath Government was established, council house building was still widespread and only fell marginally short of the total number of houses built under private enterprise for both owner occupation and renting. Furthermore, many Labour Councillors themselves lived in Council houses and understood the needs and interests of communities they were part of.  The Heath Government wished to switch the housing pattern for working class people away from their heavy dependence on council housing.

In pursuing their interests, the Conservatives produced a White Paper entitled "Fair Deal for Housing" which prefigured their Housing Finance Act which received the Royal Assent on 27 July, 1972. Well before the measure became law, the Government's intentions were well understood and were creating considerable concern amongst council tenants and their Labour Councillors. Government subsidies to reduce rents were to end. Councils were to be stopped from supporting council rents from the rates. Then (as a start) most Council Rents would have to be raised by £1 per week in October 1972, which is an amount approaching £11 in today's prices. If a Council failed to act in conformity with these provisions (a) any subsidies for Council House Building would be ended and/or (b) a Housing Commissioner would be sent in to operate the Act. 

On 10th June 1972, 223 delegates from 87 ruling Labour Groups met in Sheffield and carried a resolution by 74 votes to 1 (with 5 abstentions) demanding that "the labour movement shall not take steps which may lead to the implementation of the Bill."

Clay Cross in North Derbyshire had a population of 10,000 and had 1,400 council tenancies catering for over half of its population. Its 11 Councillors were all Labour. On 4th September 1972 it unanimously adopted the following motion - "That this Council will not operate any of the provisions contained in the Housing Finance Act 1972, and the Electorate shall be informed of the decision together with the reasons for coming to this decision and that the officers of the council be instructed not to make any preparations for implementation of any of the provisions of the Act nor to act on behalf of the Conservative Government as a Commissioner".

Initially a total of 46 Councils failed to operate in line with the legislation, whilst 80 Tenants Association were organised to hinder its operation. In the Chesterfield Rural District Area which surrounded Clay Cross their Tenant's Association ran a campaign for the non-payment of the £1 increase which its Labour Council had "reluctantly" introduced. In Dronfield, situated at the Northern End of the Chesterfield Rural District, its Urban District Council was Conservative-controlled and it had jumped the gun with a 50p increase in the April. Its Tenants and Residents Association, therefore, started out with a fortnight's rent and rates strike exactly 40 years ago today.  Dronfield had 1,000 Council Tenancies.

But much larger and immediately to the north is Sheffield where a Coordinating Committee for Tenants, Residents and Community Associations had been established in 1971. Sheffield having 76,000 Council Tenancies. Dispite this bodies' pressures, the Sheffield Council implemented the Act by 53 votes to 42, carrying out a later increase by 45-40. The second increase rested on the votes of 12 Sheffield Aldermen, but at least a non-eviction pledge was given for those withholding the increases.

Powerful pressures were, however, placed upon all the non-implementing Councillors and upon the tenants and residents who withheld rent or rates monies. By January 1973, 32 of the rebel Labour Councils gave up the struggle. 12 held out until later in the year. That left only Bedwes and Machen in Monmouthshire and Clay Cross in Derbyshire as non-implementing Councils. They both had a Housing Commissioner sent to their authorities to enforce the legislation. Bedwes and Machen did not block his work, so they were then out of the struggle. Clay Cross, however, blocked the work of the Commissioner and continued the fight.

Acton was taken against them by the District Auditor who claimed that they were responsible for a shortfall of £69,000 in their revenue account and could be bankrupted and thus debarred from office.  Eventually this position was upheld by the a High Court Decision by Lord Denning on 30 July 1973.

Fresh elections were then held in Clay Cross and Labour took 10 of the 11 seats with a 85% turnout. Local Government Reform meant the Clay Cross Urban District Council would be absorbed into a larger authority a month after the election and those elected would then become Parish Councillors, without Council Housing responsibilities. But for its remaining month as a District Council, the Labour Councillors refused to implement the Housing legislation. This led to the District Auditor surcharging them "jointly and severely" so that their liabilities fell over the £2,000 mark which would lead to their debarment. To save fresh bankruptcies among the second team the local Constituency Labour Party ran a defence fund, which paid off their debts. This fund, however, did not cover the much wider surcharges levelled against the original team of Clay Cross Councillors.

The Clay Cross situation was a matter of continuous dispute within the Labour Party from 1972 until 1978.  In 1972, Conference passed a resolution supporting the local campaigns of tenants, trades councils and Labour Parties "to spearhead the campaign against the Act". But it rejected a move for the retrospective clearing of "any councillors who suffer any penalty through their actions." Yet in 1973 it passed resolutions supporting "opposition to continuing rent increases" and backing Clay Cross. Furthermore, David Skinner one of the non-implementing Clay Cross Councillors stood for the Constituency Section of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and obtained 144,000 votes. This section invariably elected Labour MPs and, although David, wasn't elected it was a telling result which showed strong support in the Labour Party for the Clay Cross struggle. The Clay Cross issue was pursued unsuccessfully at the 1974, 1975 and 1976 Party Conferences. But then in 1977 Conference overwhelmingly carried a resolution stating "This Conference deplores the continuing disqualification from public office of the 21 Clay Cross Labour Party members and demands that the Government introduce a Bill to remove the disqualification forthwith". David Skinner went back to the rostrum the following year complaining that the NEC had not even pursued the matter with the Labour Government.

Whilst the struggle against the Housing Finance Act did not succeed in its objectives, it was part of wider campaigning which led to Heath dropping his Selsdon Man approach. When Labour returned to office there was then a recovery in Council House building, until it was successfully undermined by Thatcher's tactics. The persistence with which the Clay Cross issue was pursued at Conference (especially on the initiative of its Constituency Labour Party) also shows the significance of the democratic arrangements that were then open to the rank and file of the Labour Party, which have since been removed. 

Yesterday evening the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group were fortunate to discuss these matters, when David Skinner addressed it on the "40th Anniversary of the Clay Cross Rent Strike". What appears above is, however, my own contribution and not a report of David's fine talk. My main sources have been Leslie Skfair's article "The Struggle Against The Housing Finance Act" in 'Socialist Regsiter 1975' and the Annual Reports of the Labour Party for the period. Anyone spotting errors, should use the comment box below.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Ed's Clause 4 Moment

 In effect it now reads -

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable predistribution that may be possible upon the basis of the operation of responsible capitalism."

Below is the relevant extract from Ed Miliband's speech made (appropriately) at the Stock Exchange where he called for "predistribution" under "responsible capitalism" . The full speech can be found here.

"Of course, redistribution will always remain necessary.  But we've learned that it is not sufficient. And fiscal circumstances will make it harder not easier.  The new agenda is that we need to care about the model of the economy we have and the distribution of income it creates.We need to care about predistribution as well as redistribution.

Predistribution is about saying: 'We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy'. It is neither just, nor does it enable us to pay our way in the world. Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, higher wage economy. Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples' home. Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to offer them more: Higher skills.  With higher wages. An economy that works for working people. Centre-left governments of the past tried to make work pay better by spending more on transfer payments. Centre-left governments of the future will have to also make work pay better by making work itself pay. That is how we are going to build growth based not just on credit, but on real demand. And that is how we are going to help the squeezed middle of this country and, build a better economy when there is less money around."

So what are Eds the first steps in his journey towards predistribution under responsible capitalism?

He went on to say "to tackle the challenge of predistribution...we have made proposals on changing the way the banking system works, and promoted a British Investment Bank...Sir George Cox, formerly Director General of the Institute of Directors, is leading our review on short-termism...We need proper competition in all sectors of the economy so that consumers get a fair deal. That means not allowing any cosy cartels to develop in any sector, from energy to our train network...We also need...all Government departments working together, including through procurement, to support British business...We need a skills system...And we plan to build that new agenda with schools, young people, businesses and trade unions working together to fashion our new vocational training system...We need a special welfare state that encourages people to work, and rewards those who do...the move towards responsible capitalism is actually being led by many business people...A responsible capitalism is a resilient capitalism".

Ed's dream seems to be a belief in the establishment of a system of "perfect competition", whose early advocates claimed would work for the benefit of all - whether they earned their living from their land, their labour or their capital. But it is a long time since this idea was even seen as a dream. We have long since moved into a world dominated by forms of monopoly capitalism, whose interests have themselves come to dominate political activity. An effective move to predistribtion would require measures such as a ceiling for earnings and wealth holdings, as well as improved minimum wages and benefit levels. But that would be called redistribution, rather than predistribution.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Alf Morris

Many fine tributes have been made to the memory of Alf Morris who died yesterday at the age of 84. In particular, he has been remembered for pioneering a Bill through Parliament in 1970 which became the first Act ever in the world to recognise the needs of disabled people. It led on to his being appointed to the post of Minister for the Disabled in 1974 by Harold Wilson. Again he was the first person in the world to acquire such a position. He then continued to pursue the concerns and interests of disabled people for the rest of his life.

I began to know him from 1987 when I was first elected as an MP. He had already served in the Commons from 1964. Under a Conservative Government in 1991, he introduced a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Although this was unsuccessful, it was a key stage in a campaign which eventually led to legislative improvements.  In the 1992-3 session, Roger Berry re-introduced the Bill. Whilst the measure was again defeated, it gained considerable publicity for the cause it pursued. Nicholas Scott (the Government Minister leading the opposition to the Bill) was obliged to resign over the role he played. Whilst Lady Olga Maitland a Conservative MP was obliged to apologize over her tactics in opposing the measure. She had been given a series of amendments to submit against the Bill by the Government, as part of its tactics of holding up progress. Yet both she and Nicholas Scott denied their roles when challenged about these in the Commons. When they were discovered to be misleading the Commons, they had to make recompense.

In the following parliamentary session, I was lucky enough to be in a position to re-introduce Alf's Bill. Then the Government embarrassed by the previous sessions manoeuvrings, also introduced their own measure which was a pale imitation of Alf's. In the end it was the Government's Bill which triumphed, but the hassle between the two measures led to certain amendments and improvements to the Government's proposals. Although the version of Alf's Bill which I had introduced carried its Second Reading by 175-0, it was held up in its Committee Stage by the tactics headed by the responsible Government Minister, William Hague. When the measure returned to the Commons for its Report Stage, it was given little time and with a host of Government amendments to it, its Third Reading was never reached. Alf Morris and Roger Berry, however, played key roles in guiding and helping me to pursue the measure; including their membership of the small Standing Committee which spent six weeks on that stage of the Bill. But above all, it was Alf's Bill that I had taken on board.

When Labour was elected in 1997, Alf moved to the Lords. But he was a key figure in persuading the new Government to introduce and carry Legislation which set up a Disability Rights Commission. The Act was passed in 1998. It has since been superseded and Labour did not fulfil all the aspirations which were contained in Alf's pioneering Civil Rights (Disabled Persons Bill). But what Alf achieved from 1970 onwards improved the quality of life of numerous people - and without him this would not have happened. These days there aren't that many politicians we can say that about.

It was a privilege to have known him and to have run a lap carrying his baton.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not Gold, Silver or Bronze; but Paper

Click onto the above to enlarge it.

The Twin Pillars of the Derbyshire Miners

I took these two photographs today outside of the former offices of the Derbyshire Miners' Association (DMA). The statues are of the two key figures who established the DMA from around about 1880. The top photo shows James Haslam who was the first Secretary of the Derbyshire Miners. He became the MP for Chesterfield from 1906 until his death in 1913. The other photo shows William Edwin Harvey who held several leading positions in the DMA, becoming their Secretary after the death of James Haslam.  He became the MP for North East Derbyshire in 1907, until his death in 1914. The statues were jointly unveiled at a common ceremony in front of a huge crowd of miners and their families in 1915.

Monday, July 09, 2012

It's The Weather, Stupid

The issue at the front of people's minds this summer has been the state of the weather. If Labour wishes to relate to people's concerns and problems, then why are they not attempting to place the  floods and climate change at the front of the political agenda? It is not that nothing is happening. As can be seen here, Mary Creagh Labour's Spokesperson on the Environment pursued flooding problems in the Commons on 25 June. Whilst here on 13 June we see Caroline Flint Labour's Spokesperson on Energy and Climate Change announcing that Labour has commissioned a "fundamental and wide ranging" review on Green Growth. No doubt there are many other bits and pieces that can be pointed to. But what we need is Ed Miliband on a platform in front of the TV cameras with Mary and Caroline, telling us what major initiatives Labour are pursuing at this moment to tackle the consequence of the floods and to seek to overcome the problem of climate change. Or is it that Labour has nothing to say?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Walmart and Inequality

Walmart  is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department and warehouse stores. The company is the world's 18th largest public corporation,  and the largest when ranked by revenue. It is the biggest private employer in the world with over two million employees, and is the largest retailer in the world. Walmart remains a family-owned business and is controlled by the Walton family who own a 48% stake. The six heirs of the founders of Walmat have a total wealth that equates to that of the bottom 30% of the people of the USA. See.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wanted - A Fresh Lot Of Labour MPs

At yesterday's meeting of the National Policy Forum in Birmingham, Ed Milband said

"We need a politics where politicians look like the constituents they represent. That’s why we should not rest until 50 per cent of our MPs are women. That’s why we should not rest until ethnic minorities are properly represented in Parliament and in our party. And we should not rest until we deal with one of the most glaring omissions: the skewing of our politics away from working class representation. And I have asked Jon Trickett from our Shadow Cabinet to lead our work on this issue."

What ideas would you like Jon (above photo) to recommend to Ed? What about (a) a bigger role in the nominating and selection procedures for both the rank and file and affiliated Trade Unions, (b) as Labour still has a residual working class base, limiting future nominations for the post of parliamentary candidate to those already living in a constituency and (c) making the Labour Party a body which working class people wish to join?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

My Submission

This is my submission to Labour's Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities Commission.

In his speech to Progress three weeks ago, Ed Miliband said that Labour "will embark on the biggest drive to register new voters in a generation". This is a welcome commitment, but if such a campaign is limited to the period up to the next General Election, it will be unlikely to overcome the massive problems associated with electoral registration in the UK. We also need a policy commitment to say that Labour will tackle registration problems once elected, by introducing the necessary legislation.

The size and nature of the problem surrounding electoral registration has been revealed in a recent report by the Electoral Commission.  They show that at least 6 million people are currently missing from electoral registers, with only 56% of 19-24 year olds being covered, and with the same low percentage for those in private rented accommodation. The major shortfalls in electoral registration occur amongst the young, the rootless, ethnic minorities and the poor. This has a knock on influence in distorting the shape and size of parliamentary constituencies, so that the most deprived areas in the UK are seriously unrepresented in parliament. The move from household to individual electoral registration is likely to add significantly to the numbers missing from registers, thereby worsening the current pattern.

What can be done to tackle such problems? First of all, we need to consider who should have the vote, and why. As the vote should be considered to be a fundamental human right, it should go to all of those who have established residency in the UK. For all residents should have a say in what laws, regulations and taxation regimes they operate under. The only exceptions to such  an arrangement, should be (1) the exclusion from electoral registers of those who are incapable of exercising voting rights due to serious mental incapacity, and (2) those (owing to their age alone) who have not yet reached sufficient maturity. As it would be open to manipulation to employ tests as to when a person was mature enough to vote, an arbitrary age needs to be employed to decide when people will first qualify to vote. For reasons I give later, I suggest that the qualifying date for obtaining the vote should be a person's sixteenth birthday.

Under the above proposals, the current franchise would then be extended to (a) sixteen and seventeen year olds, (b) residents in this country from overseas (at this moment this right is restricted to those who come from Commonwealth Nations and from the Republic of Ireland) and (c) all prisoners (whose new franchise rights could be related to their previous place of residence).

To ensure everyone who had enfranchisement rights would receive them, numbers of improvements would need to be made to the electoral registration system.  First of all, the Government would need to conducted regular advertising campaigns, telling people of their electoral registration rights and duties. Secondly, Returning Officers would have access to records which showed the places of residence of the people living in their areas; including details of residential movements in and out of such areas.  Thirdly, a person would only be entitled to register in the place of their sole or main place of residence; with those changing such residence being contacted to ensure they make use of the existing rolling electoral registration provisions which allow them to transfer their voting rights.. Fourthly, the annual canvas by Returning Officers would require canvassers to engage in door to door canvassing, especially of residences where no-one had registered or where there are significant changes since the previous canvas. Finally, canvassers would undertake searches, to ensure that homeless people were registered. 

The extra costs incurred by Returning Officers in fulfilling their duties, would come from Central Government Funds. It would be no excuse to say that we can't afford democracy.

A sound reason for giving people votes at sixteen, is that a person's initial registration could take place at school when students were fifteen year-old and were due to attain the vote. Local Returning Officers will need to send canvassers to schools in their area to facilitate the process - passing completed registration forms on to neighbouring Returning Officers where this is necessary.

We need wide-ranging changes to the electoral registration system, to repair the damages to the current system caused by increased social mobility, de-politicalisation, breaks in the social bond and operations of anti-social measures, such as that of the breach caused in the past by Thatcher's Poll Tax.

Monday, June 04, 2012

School of Democratic Socialism

The School of Democratic Socialism (SDS) will be holding two separate (but related) meetings on Friday, June 15, at the Aspect Court building [Room 15104] of Sheffield Hallam University.

Aspect Court is on Pond Hill, which runs past the bus Interchange, down towards the ring road and railway line. There will be an afternoon seminar at 14.00 hours on the question of Money and Finance: the Economic Crisis. John Halsteadl has prepared a brief paper to provide a focus for the discussion. Allowing for a break, the afternoon session should end by 16.30 at the latest.

This will be followed in the evening, at 19.00, by Linda McAvan, MEP, speaking on The Future of Europe, under the SDS general theme of 'there has to be a better way forward!'.

This is in advance the SDS preparing its programme for 2012-13. The two themes are related and require a greater political response than we seem to be getting from the political parties. There will be ample opportunity for you to express your views and we hope you can attend. Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone who may be interested.

Aspect Court has a reception, which is manned until 17.00 hours. SHU rent rooms on the first floor, while others occupy the top two floors. There is a porter on the door, who controls admittance after 17.00. The entrance to the Aspect Court building is opposite the old Queen's Head public house.

Those attending both the 14.00 and 19.00 hour sessions, may wish to make arrangements in-between the sessions for a snack and/or drink.

For background on the first year of the School of Democratic Socialism see here.

John Halstead, Ken Curran and Harry Barnes.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

What Happened 60 Years Ago Today?

If you are sixty or over, what were you doing the day that Elizabeth became Queen?

I was a fifteen year old at school and had exams in mock 'O" levels in Maths and Plant Drawing (which was part of studying "Art") . In the evening I went to a meeting of the Christian Endeavour at the Bourne Methodist Chapel at Easington Colliery which was addressed by a local Minister. I even seem to have played the piano for the hymn singing - which must have been the greatest achievement of my piano playing, as I packed in lessons around that time and can't play a note now. When I got back home, I took the dog for a walk at 10 pm.

A few week's later, I went on to fail 'O' level Maths and just scraped the pass mark in Art. No mention in my brief diary notes (then or afterwards) of George VI's death. Nor can I take the dog for a walk in remembrance of that evening. It is raining too heavily and I don't now have a dog.  Nor do I have a religion.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who Should Have The Vote?

What should be the principle on which we decide who should have the vote?

To me enfranchisement rights should go to anyone who is directly effected by the decisions of those who determine laws, regulations, taxation and other public measures which impinge upon their lives.  The only justification I can see for restricting voting rights would be on the grounds of a person's incapacity to exercise such rights. This limiting factor should, however, err on the side of caution - excluding from enfranchisement only those, say, under 16 years of age* and those with such a serious mental impairment that it makes them incapable of exercising voting rights.

That would mean that anyone who is settled in the territory concerned would have the vote. Yet we currently exclude people from voting who have settled here from overseas and are citizens of countries other than Ireland and Commonwealth nations. We also exclude many who are imprisoned. Yet they are clearly subject to the laws of the land. 

The only problem to resolve under the principle I propound, is what should happen to British citizens who are settled overseas? It seems to me that it is only if they are significantly effected by the general principle I am using, that they should qualify here. It is the only area which calls for any serious judgement to be made. Otherwise the principle I am using is straightforward.

Are any of our politicians arguing the above case? If not, that is seriously disturbing. It indicates a flaw in their commitment to democracy. As is the fact that even under our current inadequate enfranchisement provisions, millions of those entitled to vote are not registered.

* = we need to recognise that the qualifying age for voting is arbitrary; but any selective method of determining when a young person should be allowed to vote would have serious dangers attached to it - which could lead to pressures to limit adult enfranchisement.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Will Labour Campaign For A Full Franchise?

                                                               Click above to enlarge

In his speech to "Progress" (see here), Ed Miliband has announced that Labour will be undertaking the biggest electoral registration drive for a generation. I hope that this means that such a campaign will make full use of Labour's parliamentary avenues.

When I introduced a Private Members Bill in the 1992/3 parliamentary session aimed at tackling under-registration it was talked out by the Conservatives. For the measure to progress, we needed to win the closure vote and have a hundred members in our lobby. But despite the support of the Labour Front Bench (including that of Tony Blair, then Shadow Home Secretary, in the above letter), we failed as we "only" won the division by 78-0. It is hoped that in any re-run, sufficient Labour back-benchers will turn up.

In 2000, the Government eventually carried legislation which made various improvements in the electoral registration procedures, including a measure enabling those who moved home to transfer their registration arrangements without having to wait for the annual registration procedure. Unfortunately, the Electoral Commission now show that only 14% of those who have moved their homes are making use of this facility.

I hope that Yvette Cooper, Labour's current Home Affairs' Spokesperson, will have a look at my own failed efforts to improve the legislation, including the unsuccessful improving amendments I pursued when the Commons dealt with Labour's measure in 2000.

The serious nature of the issue has been revealed by the Electoral Commission.  At least 6 million are now missing from registers, with only 56% of 19-24 year olds being covered and the same low percentage for those in private rented accommodation.

Ed's and Yvette's campaign needs to draw from the Chartists and the Suffragettes, whose efforts have unfortunately been seriously undermined in recent years.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Monday's May Day Meeting In Chesterfield



TIME :  1.30 pm

DATE :  MAY DAY, Monday 7th May

VENUE : Council Chamber of the North East Derbyshire District Council,
               Saltergate, Chesterfield

CHAIR : KEN CURRAN : Chair of the Sheffield Co-operative Party


ROSIE SMITH : Youth Officer, North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party

GEOFFREY MITCHELL :  Editor of "The Hard Way Up", the autobiography of Hannah Mitchell

BARRY WINTER : Independent Labour Publications, Chair of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation

PAUL SALVESON : Author of "Socialism With A Northern Accent",
                               Secretary of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation

Entrance to the District Council Offices will be via the rear of the building.
On the Hannah Mitchell Foundation see -

The two items below give details of the full May Day Programme at Chesterfield.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

May Day, May Day, May Day.

May Day Programme In Chesterfield : Monday 7th May.

9 am to 3.30 pm - Stalls and Entertainment in Winding Wheel.

10.30 am - March Assembles at Town Hall.

11 am - March Off.

11.30 am - Rally and Speeches in Rykneld Square.

Speakers : Mark Serwotka (PCS Gen. Sec)
Cheryl Pigeon (Midlands UCATT)
Tony Perkins MP (Chesterfield)
Kostas Katarahais (Gen. Sec. Greek Health Workers)

1 pm - Nottingham Clarion Choir in Winding Wheel.

1.30 pm -





PAUL SALVESON : Author of "Socialism With A Northern Accent", Secretary of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.

ROSIE SMITH : Youth Officer, NE Derbyshire CLP.

BARRY WINTER : Independent Labour Publications, Chair of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.


1.45 pm - Brampton Community Band in Winding Wheel.

2.30 pm -Boomerang Generation and Kworye at Winding Wheel.

Refreshments available in the Winding Wheel provided by the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centres, as well as an Exhibition of Anti-War Art by Chris Holden.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Needed :Respect with a small "r".

I am no supporter of George Galloway, but he has issued a wake-up call and has shown that our parliamentary democracy is in deep crisis. He is worth listening to here on the alienation of the electorate and especially of the young, who are too often non-voters. Unless the main parties (and Labour in particular) take his warning on board, then we are likely to see minor and perhaps newly scambled-together parties making a break-through onto the centre of the political stage - including UKIP and the BNP. Democracies become a sham, unless there is a degree of mutual respect between parliament and the electorate. We, therefore, need to build respect, with a small "r".

Bradford tells us much about the journey of the Labour Party, from Keir Hardie and the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893 up to George Galloway today.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Record Eleven Government Defeats : But More Needed

The Government have now lost a record eleven votes on the Legal Aid Bill. The House of Lords have voted to protect disabled people, children, and domestic violence victims from the worst of the legal aid cuts. It's vital that the Government does not overrule these changes. To help, see here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Government Manipulates Public Opinion

It is clear that the Government has acted to create a run on petrol, in an attempt to line up public opinion against UNITE. It is also a ploy to get people to stock-up on petrol, so that UNITE's position will be weakened if eventually a strike should emerge. It is all a move to weaken the Union's negotiating position. It is classical Thatcherism.

UPDATE : The following from Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph on 30 March, confirms my above claim - "now that I have heard the Conservatives’ private explanation, which is being handed down to constituency associations by MPs, I begin to feel angry. The private message is as follows. 'This is our Thatcher moment. In order to defeat the coming miners’ strike, she stockpiled coal. When the strike came, she weathered it, and the Labour Party, tarred by the strike, was humiliated. In order to defeat the coming fuel drivers’ strike, we want supplies of petrol stockpiled. Then, if the strike comes, we will weather it, and Labour, in hock to the Unite union, will be blamed' ”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Worth 45 Minutes Of Your Time

This talk by Peter Kellner is worth 45 Minutes of your time, even though you might not agree with the last bit.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Abdullah Muhsin Outlines The Plight Of the Independent Trade Union Movement in Iraq

Abdullah Mushin has a long term involvement in seeking to establish independent trade unionism in Iraq. He is currently the foreign representative of the Iraqi Teacher's Union and is in daily contact with trade unions in Iraq. This article initially appeared on the web-site of Labour Friends of Iraq. He gives details of the current state of play in the struggle for widespread and independent trade unuonism in Iraq. His cause is in need of continuing support by trade unionists in this country.

Nine years after the end of Saddam’s regime, and more than two months since Iraq gained its full national sovereignty, the country is experiencing a state of political chaos at best and extreme disintegration at worst.

This has unfortunately allowed fascists such as Al Qaida and Saddam’s diehard loyalists to kill and maim many innocent Iraqi civilians in the last few weeks with suicide car bombs and the assassination of a former leader of the Iraqi Teachers' Union.
Democrats hoped that the end of Saddam’s authoritarian regime in April 2003 would be a new dawn for Iraq’s once mighty democratic trade union movement to rebuild itself in a democratic and independent fashion from the ashes of wars and dictatorship.
However, Iraq's new political elites are unconcerned about the plight of Iraqis who are living without proper social services and with great insecurity.
Instead, these elites are fighting each other for bigger shares of political power and control of Iraq’s natural resources.
Saddam’s unions disappeared in 2003 but left a bad cultural legacy in the minds of Iraqi workers who see unions as no more than instruments of violence in the hands of the state.
The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) was openly and democratically created in May 2003 to replace Saddam’s defunct labour fronts.
It aimed to be a workers voice that champions and defends rights to social justice, jobs, fair pay and working conditions. It aimed to arrest and then eliminate Saddam’s cultural legacy.
However, the occupation authorities, from day one, opposed the IFTU by deliberately keeping Saddam’s anti union laws in place and by putting hurdles in its way.
Successive Iraqi governments have endorsed and maintained this opposition towards nascent democratic unions. They have also repeatedly meddled in their internal affairs to control them and, if that failed, to hinder them vehemently.
The failure of democratic politicians (there are many in parliament and government) to make the necessary changes has helped lead to the near total collapse of law and order and Iraq being engulfed by sectarian strife which segregated Iraqi society along lines of ethnicity, religious and ideological and nationalistic affiliations.
This impacted heavily on workers' attitudes, for they were not immune and they also responded in extreme lines. This national political mess led to the creation of opposing unions along sectarian, religious and ideological and nationalistic lines.
The IFTU, itself a new and fragile structure, recognised immediately the danger but its hands were full with no legal rights to organize and no access to its monies and resources.
The IFTU was battling to build genuine independent and democratic unions, fighting to free its monies and to abolish Saddam’s anti-union diktats in favour of labour laws compliant with ILO standards.
And it struggled to build one united trade union movement that’s capable of halting the threat of sectarianism ever getting grip of Iraq’s nascent trade unions. The IFTU also campaigned to build unions capable of standing up for workers' and women's rights.
From late 2004 it initiated a quiet policy of contacting and speaking to all trade unions centres in Iraq including those in Iraqi Kurdistan. The purpose was simple: for the short term it was trying to find a common ground to work together on issue of common interests. In the long term it was trying to set the foundation for building a united , democratic and independent grassroots trade union structure that has no room for extremist ideas of any shape and form.
This quiet policy initially paid off and a unification meeting was set for September 2005 in Syria at the ICATU headquarters where I was one of four people who represented the IFTU.
The IFTU signed a merger statement with leaders of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), the old official federation and the General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU) which had split from the GFTU after the invasion of Iraq to form the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW).
The unity statement agreed that the GFIW should work to organize a national conference within three to six months to democratically elect a new leadership and adopt a new democratic internal constitution.
In 2008 two more Islamist federations joined the GFIW which now united five trade union centres. The IFTU's reasons for merger were genuine but unfortunately others had sinister motives. Some of these unions’ leaders who joined with the IFTU worked covertly with some dominant Islamist elements within the state to control the GFIW right from the beginning.
They wanted to divert the GFIW from its primary task of defending workers' rights and to make it a new instrument in the hands of some dominant parties.
Progressive Iraqi forces failed to make a legal and moral democratic stand in support of the Iraqi unions. Combined with extreme government pressure and interference by hardline forces this meant that the unions were finally over taken by the Iraqi state.
The state acted covertly in co-operation with their stooges in the GFIW leadership. The Ministry of Labour used state resources, including security forces, to secure total control of the GFIW at a meeting of its national general council on 18 January 2012. The GFIW website details these twists and turns.
My hope, as one who has spent much of my life in defending and building independent trade unionism, is that the GFIW can regain democratic ideals and values such as social justice, independence and above all serving workers rather than the interests of hardline political masters.
To be blunt, however, the struggle is now harder than before. Further sacrifices and hardship are needed as well as continuing support from the international labour movement. I have some hope that this can be done if the original spirit of the Arab Spring can be harnessed.

Hat tip : Labour Friends Of Iraq.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Priority For Easington Colliery

My blogging is thin at the moment as I am trying to write an article about Easington Colliery which is on the east coast of County Durham. It covers the period 1911 to 1924. It was a time during which the pit, the community and the local miners' lodge took off. It included the 1912 Minimum Wage Strike, 1913 Unofficial Strikes, 1920 Datum Line Strike and the 1921 Lock-Out. Then there was the impact of the First World War with 198 names on the War Memorial in the Easington Colliery cemetery for that conflict, plus the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-9. There was also political activity, first by the local Branch of the Independent Labour Party and then with Sidney Webb being elected as the local Labour MP in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He had his work on the Sankey Commission of 1919 to thank him for that.

If anyone thinks that I seem to be missing anything or they have their own nuggets of information, then please let me know via the comment box attached to this thread.

The photo shows my Dad and myself, with next door's dog looking over the wall. It was taken around 1959 in the backyard of our home at a colliery house in Baldwin Street - although in the period of the 1926 General Strike and the Miners' Lock-Out, Stanley Baldwin the Prime Minister was only popular amongst the coal owners and not the miners. My father was brought to Easington when he was two and lived there until he died 84 years later. My mother lived there for 70 years, from the age of 20 until her death in the Nursing Home which had been built as a home for the local pit Manager. For my tributes to my mother and father click here and here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


On the situation in Greece, don't miss Dr. Peter Morici on Radio 5 at the end of this item on Left Foot Forward.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Turn Up The Heat

Edited, this is the latest message from 38 Degrees.

This Wednesday, there's a crunch NHS vote in Parliament. MPs will vote on whether to demand the publication of a secret government report into the risks facing the NHS. That could be another nail in the coffin of Andrew Lansley's plans - so let's pile the pressure on our MPs to vote the right way.

Right now, Andrew Lansley is in a tricky position to defend. He wants MPs and Lords to back his plans for the NHS. But he's refusing to let them find out what the risks are. If we work together to put our MPs under pressure, there's a decent chance they'll refuse to do Lansley's dirty work for him.

This vote could go either way - send your MP an email asking them to back publishing the secret report - it takes two minutes: see here.

The vote will take place on Wednesday afternoon. That means we've got just over 48 hours to convince enough MPs to vote to publish the secret report. The more of us that email our MPs right now, the more likely we are to succeed.

38 Degrees members, doctors, nurses and academics have all been warning for ages that Lansley's plans put our health service at risk. We know there's a secret report that could prove that we're right - so let's work together to get this report published before it's too late.

Last week we managed to get e-petition past 100,000 signatures. Now there's a crunch vote on the risk report.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Karl Marx reviews "Downton Abbey"

 From "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844"

"His family history, the history of his house etc - all this individualises the estate for him and makes it literally his house, personalises it. Similarly those working on the estate have not the position of day-labourers; but they are in part themselves his property, as are serfs; and in part they are bound to him by ties of respect, allegiance and duty....It is necessary that this appearance be abolished."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Dennis

Dennis Skinner is 80 today. Knowing all the tricks of the trade which he learnt over 40 years ago when he was a new MP, he is still as effective as ever in the Commons. Here are some recent snippets which prove the point. He is also worth listening to in describing his early experiences as a coal miner back in 1948 - see here. The area he represents was mainly covered by the Derbyshire Miners' Association, who have had representatives in the Commons for most of the years since 1906. It is a tradition which he thankfully still keeps alive.

When I was an MP, I represented a neighbouring constituency to the one Dennis represents. But I did not normally sit next to him in the Commons in case I looked as if I was trying to be his apprentice. I was, however, sat next to him on his 65th birthday when much to his embarrassment Betty Boothroyd as Speaker congratulated him. So I hope that I am not doing the same in a smaller way.

For a good number of years we both had offices off the same committee corridor. If I needed advice on how to tackle an issue, he was the best person to turn to. He is just the same today.

Happy birthday Dennis. I don't need to tell you to stick to your principles.

Clarification 12 February : My memory of what Betty said on 11 February 1997 is incorrect, although in response to a point of order related to Dennis being 65, she did briefly respond. It was, however, John Major as Prime Minister who took up the point. This is the Hansard record -

"The Prime Minister: I should like to wish the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) a very happy birthday. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] That is warmly echoed by my hon. Friends. Wrong though the hon. Gentleman has been on almost every issue during his long parliamentary career--in a minute, he is going to say that he is not 65 and I am fiddling the figures--I hope that he smiles before he is 66.

Mr. Skinner: Perhaps the Prime Minister would now deal with the real issues in Britain today. He has been in power since 1990. He has doubled the national debt, and the public sector borrowing requirement is now more than £25 billion. He is the Prime Minister who came from the belly of the banking establishment, even though he only swept the floors at Standard Chartered. He is the Prime Minister who, on Black Wednesday, 16 September 1992, along with his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, lost this country £10 billion in an afternoon--and never went near a betting shop.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is becoming quite curmudgeonly in his retirement. The fact is that we have the lowest debt ratio of any of the larger economies in Europe. It is far lower than in 1979. [Interruption.] "Doubled it," shout the Opposition. If we had continued their policy, it would have more than quadrupled."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Refinding Labour

Since the election of Ed Miliband as leader, the Labour Party has been (and still is) messing around in a highly undemocratic fashion altering its structure and rules. The cover for this has been two disgraceful procedures under processes known as "Refounding Labour" and "Partnership Into Power". Policy formation has been on the back foot, although mainly non-party members were at one time supposed to be listened to under a sham consultation procedure called "New Politics, Fresh Ideas". But it now seems that policy-making in the Labour Party will at last get on the move from the time of the 2012 Party Conference. There is still time, however, for any Labour Party members who can follow what is going on to submit ideas to Shadow Cabinet Policy Review Groups. Although from past experience, we know that this will be like throwing paper darts. In fustration, instead of discussing policy democratically inside the Labour Party, would-be activists are driven into setting up pressure groups such as Blue, Purple, Red and Black Labour. Having not fallen for colour schemes there are other groups such as "Winning Labour".

The problems about pushing policy ideas via the procedures of the Labour Party are revealed in the following extract from Ann Black's unofficial report of what happened recently at a meeting of the National Executive Commitee of the Labour Party. Without Ann Black we would not even be able to look through a glass darkley.

Here is the opening of her report of the National Executive Committee meeting of 24 January 2012 -

"Peter Hain, Chair of the national policy forum, gave a report. He circulated a list of shadow cabinet review groups, though these had not been updated since the reshuffle and it was still not clear how to engage with them. A shining exception is international development, where Ivan Lewis has written:

“Following my appointment as shadow secretary of state I have been contacted by many grassroots Labour members across the country who passionately believe as we do that Labour should continue to vigorously fight for the rights of those living in poverty across the world.”

He invites people to sign up for their newsletter at http://fresh development or by emailing Hopefully others will follow his initiative.

The policy-making cycle would start in earnest after conference 2012, following the review of Partnership into Power. Several of us again pointed out that in two years the NPF has held only two rushed one-day meetings. Conference calls and e-mails are useful, but not a substitute for direct dialogue. No dates have yet been set for 2012, and I wondered if the party could afford the NPF in any meaningful form. The latest joint policy committee was again poorly attended. NEC members, particularly the new trade union contingent, suggested that consultation documents should be open to formal amendment, and asked where final authority lay: with the NPF, the JPC, the NEC, conference, or elsewhere?

In the meantime please keep writing to the policy commissions, and copy me in. Their addresses are:

Britain in the World:
Sustainable Communities (housing, environment, local government, transport, culture, media, sport):
Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities: )
Education and Skills ( )
Health ( )
Prosperity and Work - economy, welfare, pensions, workers’ rights ( )

See Ann Black here

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Education, Education, Education

This link shows the need not only for a commitment to improving education at school, but it also illustrates the case for adult and continuing education for both late developers and others who need further chances. Adult and continuing education was something I was grateful for over 50 years ago. We could learn from those days. There is no reason why adults should be at the back of the queue.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Needed - A Left Turn

Following the serious economic downturn of September 2008, I advocated the following economic, social and political programme. It is still what is needed. It would be good to see a Labour Party which proposed it. Dream on.

To Increase Economic Demand

1. Increase Pensions and other Benefits.

2. Increase Expenditure on Social Provisions in areas such as Health, Social Welfare and Education.

3. Finance a Council House Building Programme.

4. Take over houses that have been repossessed and rent these out to their former occupants.

5. Raise the Income Tax Threshold, without allowing the wealthy to benefit from this.

To Pay For This Programme

A. A Wealth Tax.

B. Windfall Taxes on Super Profits and Bonuses.

C. Raise Income Tax on the Top Earners.

D. Corporation Tax Increases.

E. Work also for International Taxes on currency and other forms of speculation. With the proceeds being used to overcome third world poverty.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Parliamentary Pitmen Politicians


1. Explain the Handout. (Maps and Details).
2. Set the Scene via James Haslam. (Above).
3. The Twin Pillars – Haslam and Harvey.
4. Liberal Hard Liners – Hancock and Kenyon.
5. Labour but Defeated – 1914 Martin, 1918 Hall & Lee.
6. Turning the Tide – 1922 Lee, followed by White.
7. The Strange Case of Clay Cross – until Neal.
8. The Four I Knew – Swain, Varley, Skinner and Ellis.
9. Conclusion – Land, to Capital, to Labour. What Now?

James Haslam (above) was the first of eleven pitmen to become an MP in North Derbyshire, when he was elected to represent Chesterfield in 1906. It started a tradition which lasts to this day under Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover. How did these pitmen politicians emerge and did they achieve what they set out to do? This is the topic which I will be covering at the following meeting.

Organisers....Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Labour History Society

Topic...........Parliamentary Pitmen Politicians of North Derbyshire

Speaker.......Harry Barnes (former MP for North East Derbyshire)

Date............Saturday 21st January 2012

Time...........2 pm (doors open at 1.30)

Venue.........Chesterfield Labour Club, Saltergate, Chesterfield

(See here for a related item.)