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.