Monday, December 23, 2013

Tomorrow's Deadline

As an individual member of the Labour Party, I received a copy of a 22 page booklet in today's post entitled "One Nation: The Labour Party Membership Magazine".  On pages 15 and 18, it invites me to join in the consultations over a matter to be found at nation party  When I make the link, I am then directed to
This turns out to be the consultative document "Building A One Nation Labour Party : An Interim Report". In it Ray Collins as General Secretary of the Labour Party states "I would therefore be very grateful to receive submissions by 24 December 2013. If this is a deadline then I (and all other members of the Labour Party who received the booklet today) are given until tomorrow to respond. Luckily, I did not wait until the receipt of the booklet to discover the deadline and I have already sent them this.

But perhaps 24 December was not a deadline, but only a date that would be helpful to Ray Collins.   Yet the special Labour Party Conference is on 1 March and a final report on "Building A One Nation Labour Party" will at least need to be carried by an NEC meeting before then - even if it is just plonked on delegates at the special conference itself. So it is as well to get submissions in as soon as possible to Ray Collins, at least as a belated Christmas present.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Strictly Come Voting

 It is claimed that more than six million people voted in the final of "Strictly Come Dancing". This is a similar number to those who have failed to enter their names onto current electoral registers. It is also 20% of those who turned out to vote at the last General Election; although some of those who voted in the dancing contest will have been under 18s.

Unfortunately, the lesson which politicians are likely to draw from this is that they should become more like celebrities. Yet what is required is to make politics more relevant to people's needs. Given the chance, people are capable of distinguishing between a General Election and a Dancing Contest.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BBC Sources On The Arab World

Currently a range of valuable BBC sources can be found which deal with the Arab World. To start with, links to details about twelve Arab Nations can be found here . Furthermore, when accessing details on any of these specific nations a range of other links can also then be found.

Then here is this link to a BBC's item called the "Arab Spring : 10 unpredicted items". Each of these ten items then provide their own links, which themselves then lead on to extra items.

My own bits and pieces on the Middle East can be found via the labels shown below, although these are mainly related to items about Iraq. It was where I undertook my National Service in 1955/56. The experience and the events of that time helped to push me into politics.

The links I provide are as much for my own purposes as anything else. They will supplement my growing library on the Middle East. Its political complexities should be high on our agendas.  Perhaps the BBC will get round some day to giving an equally serious survey of British politics.

21 December - Now there is more, here.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sign Up

I just signed the petition "Parliament: Debate UK hunger and rise in foodbank use #jackspetition" on It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link to click onto : Thanks, Harry.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cart Before The Horse

enterprise-collaboration-dont-put-the-cart-before-the-horseThe following is my submission to "Building A One Nation Labour Party : Interim Report."

I am deeply worried about two out of the four main areas covered by the Interim Report on "Building A One Nation Labour Party". The problem is that if Ed Miliband is defeated on these proposals at the Special Conference called for 1st March 2014,  he will look like he is a weak and losing leader.  I, therefore, hope that the whole of the Report can be kicked into the long grass until after the General Election and that the Special Conference can be postponed until at least 2016.  

On Issue No.1 in the Interim Report.  Trade Unionists and the Labour Party

The way to encourage outside trade unionists and others into Labour Party activity is not to start out with rule changes.  We should, first of all, adopt policies and programmes which appeal to these groups' best instincts. That is how to attract members and activists. Yet we will have to wait until the Labour Party Conference in September 2014 before we finally adopt a range of policy programmes, which will emerge via the National Policy Review procedure. It is only after we get the programme in place, that we will see if it works and attracts activists into our ranks. After this, we will be in a better position to judge if some rule changes will then help. The way matters are currently being approached is to put the cart before the horse. 

The case for delaying matters is added to by the shortcomings of the proposals which we are being asked to discuss. There is no current evidence that significant numbers of trade unionists who aren't currently members, will suddenly sign up via their trade unions to take out a form of Labour Party Membership. Even if their trade unions pay the affiliation fees on their behalf. Nor is there any evidence to show that people will readily pursue such new procedures. Nor that they would then become active at Labour Party meetings or in its campaigns.

There is a good chance that the new procedure to be used to try to attract trade unionists into this new category of membership, will backfire. Labour would then lose much of its current union funding. Given current problems with funding from the Co-operative Movement, a loss of funding from trade union sources could be a serious financial blow for our operations. Alternative forms of funding which might then be looked for, would be worrying - arising from the private market.

Then numbers of current individual members of the Labour Party could decide to adopt the new form of affiliated membership instead. As all Labour Party Members are expected to be members of trade unions when they can, this could lead to a further loss of party revenue. Some might move from individual to affiliated membership as that will be cheaper. Others might do it for ideological reasons, preferring to enjoy a looser arrangement with the Labour Party than the one on offer to them at the moment.

On Issue No. 3 in the Interim Report.  Using Primaries to Select Candidates.

I understand that between 10,000 and 20,000 registered supporters have signed up since the 2011 Labour Party Conference.  However, this is done mainly via a web-site and the Labour Party operates essentially via a collection of e-mail addresses from these people. As time passes they may have moved, died, ceased supporting Labour or got themselves fresh email addresses. Indeed some may never have supported Labour in the first place, but just fancied voting for a future leader. This all matters, because when there are 50,000 of them they will get a 10% share of the votes in electing the Party Leader and Deputy.

The proposals in the Interim Report seeks to add to the Registered Supporters Scheme. It is proposed to select our next candidate for the London Mayoral elections, by making use of the Registered Supporters Scheme. This could bring in enough people to obtain the 50,000 figure to trigger their rights in Labour Leadership Elections. This would then essentially mean that the Registered Supporters from London would dominate the vote of this section; compared to an estimated 25 such voters from my own constituency. But once the London arrangement is up and running, it could then be exported elsewhere: including for the selections of Labour Parliamentary, European and other candidates. These are arrangements which are currently voted upon only by the individual membership of the Labour Party.  Again some current individual members of the Labour Party might feel that they might as well settle for just being Registered Supporters. 


It would be best to put the whole of the current Interim Report onto the back-burner, to avoid the form of changes which are dealt with above. But if these matters remain virtually unchanged when put to the Special Conference on 1 March 2014, then these items should be rejected.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Late John and Vi Hughes

John Hughes obituaryvi hughes
John and Vi Hughes.

I attended an ex-students weekend at the Rookery at Ruskin College a few years ago to give a talk on Iraq, which I have had an interest in ever since I served my National Service there in 1955/6. Later I went to Ruskin to study, from 1960 to 1962. The talk I gave was at held in the equivalent of the old lecture room I had once attended to listen to John Hughes and other tutors. Shortly after I started my talk, John and his wife Vi walked into the room and sat at the back. It was a telling moment for me. Here was a man I respected as much as anyone I had come across and whose lectures and tutorials had been inspirational. Yet now he was coming to listen to me. My life from my time at Ruskin has been dominated by political education and political practice, Yet John and Vi turning up to hear me at the Rookery of all places, gave me more satisfaction than anything I have ever experienced in these aspects of my life. Way beyond anything like visits to 10 Downing Street, when I became an MP. After my studies at Ruskin, I eventually had the privilege of becoming a tutor on the same courses at Sheffield University which John had once taught upon between 1952 and 1954, including those he covered at Scunthorpe. Thankfully John did not only teach me applied economics, he used the ideal techniques for adult education. I knew whom I had to seek to follow. As an MP, I was in a group of his ex-students who hosted an evening with him in the Commons. Apart from talking to John and Vi after the meeting on Iraq, it was the only meeting I had with him after leaving Ruskin over 50 years ago. When I had a chat with Vi and John at the Rookery, I pointed out that his comments on one of my essays (after his inevitable encouragements) had said that it lacked an analytic framework. I did not appreciate what this meant and failed to raise the matter with him at the time. But after Ruskin I moved to Hull University and studied philosophy, so the point soon became clear to me. So I told John when we met , that I could now do analytic structures at the drop of a hat. My difficulty has been to find sufficient appropriate empirical information to sustain my analysis. John never had such problems. Vi also taught at Ruskin in my time, but not on the course I pursued. Yet we all invariably linked the two of them together and talked of "Vi and John". It was not just an indication of how close they were, but of the combined impact they had on our closed community. The fact that they died within a fortnight of each other must have been a terrible wrench for their family. Yet without seeking an inappropriate religious symbolism, it means that ever since they first met in 1948 John and Vi were together and virtually departed together. Their togetherness in pursing their joint values is what will be remembered, and will give comfort to those who knew them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

100 Years And A Day


Between 1920 and 1942 within a quarter of a mile, there were three Methodist Chapels which were all situated on the southern side of Easington Colliery's main road - Seaside Lane. By the 1930s, the Colliery (in County Durham) reached its peak population of some 10,000.

The first of these Chapels was opened on 22nd November 1913. It is shown in the above picture and it is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. It was initially called the United Methodist Church, which was a title which arose out of the amalgamation of two previous Methodist sects. But at that time a further distinction existed in Methodism between the Wesleyans and the Primitives. The Wesleyans established their own local chapel on 7th November 1917. Then the Primitives purchased two ex-army huts in 1920 which they used as the basis for their own chapel.  When Methodism was united in 1932, the local Primitive Methodists renamed their chapel; calling it the "Bourne Methodist Chapel", after a prominent former leading Primitive Methodist. They were keen to keep their heritage.

The three chapels co-existed and were drawn into the same Methodist Circuit, sharing preachers and various local activities. When the ex-Wesleyan chapel closed in 1942 their members moved a few hundred yards down the street into the building that is shown above, which was renamed St. John's Methodist Church. Then when the Bourne Methodist Chapel closed in 1956, they moved into the same Church which then changed its name a second time to the Easington Colliery Methodist Church.

The initial three chapels, did not of course suddenly spring for nowhere. Paradoxically, the United Methodists first held services in Easington's pioneering days in what is now 22 Bourne Street and also had open air meetings on the grass which later became Bede Street. On 11th March 1911 their society was officially formed at what is now 6 Byron Street. The two women in the above photo are walking in the direction of these places, which are just a short distance away. The Wesleyians and the Primitives were equally active and by 1910 were holding separate meetings in the Colliery's first temporary tin schools.

The Colliery's initial Miner's Union and leading Labour Party activists were often prominent in the local Methodist Chapels; especially George Bloomfield the local Lodge's Secretary (and Checkweighman) from 1911 to 1939 and also George Walker the Lodge President - whom I knew.  Both were amongst the group of six who met at nearby Murton just after the First World War to establish a Constituency Labour Party. They also became active and prominent Labour Councillors. Like-minded Labour activists in County Durham (such as Peter Lee and Jack Lawson) also travelled into Easington Colliery to preach from its Methodist pulpits.

I picked up many of my own political commitments from several years of activity in Bourne Methodist Chapel, until I left Easington Colliery to do my National Service at the age of 18.  By I returned to Easington two years later, I had rejected my former religious beliefs; but I was left with what had been a local Methodist-socialist heritage. My mother was also active in the Bourne Methodist Chapel and she moved to St. John's when they amalgamated. The last time I visited what is now the Easington Colliery Methodist Church was for my mother's funeral service, which was held on my 63rd birthday. Hence my need to record these matters. Although I happen to be a day late in  discovering this anniversary.

(Many of the above facts come from "Methodism in Easington Colliery :1913-1963", which is a Jubilee Brochure. My mother obtained my current copy almost exactly 50 years ago)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Case For Public Ownership

Sidney Webb (1859 - 1947) 
The original version of Clause IV of the Labour Party Constitution, drafted by Sidney Webb in November 1917 and adopted by the party in 1918, read, To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
The move in Britain towards public ownership, a mixed economy and the welfare state came in the years of the Second World War and immediately afterwards. The war effort demanded effective economic organisation and the start of a much fairer distribution of the basic requirements of food, warmth, clothing, and health. Even schooling entered the frame in 1944. The electorate in 1945 decided that we would not return to the days of poverty and exploitation that had characterised the inter-war years. The NHS, welfare provisions, council house building and the public ownership of key elements of the "commanding heights of the economy" took place under the Attlee Government. Even when the Conservatives returned to office, they then limited their programme of denationalisation to the Steel Industry and basically accepted the norms of the welfare state and the mixed economy. Their future depended upon accepting this compromise.  An era of "consensus politics" then emerged, with fewer fundamental differences between the two main parties. The problem with the basic acceptance of the status quo by Labour was that capitalism can always find its way around restraints, unless governments act continuously to block and transcend its activities.

The cohort of voters who supported Labour in 1945 and the early 50s, tended to remain loyal to the then Labour's vision of society. But whilst some of us from that time are still around, we are now a dying breed: long since replaced by fresh cohorts. New experiences and influences began to shape the norms of the new generations. Car ownership, undermined the scope for public transport. Whilst rail denationalisation and the end of much municipal transport, further shifted us away from public transport. The growing world of television was opened up to advertising and to commercial programming, thus enhancing individualistic values. Then whilst Thatcherism rowed upon a wave of anti-collectivism, she also acted to undermine its remaining communal base with the destruction of much of manufacturing and mining. To which she added the sale of council houses. Moves which New Labour never sort to contain. Then in recent years we have moved into a incredible and ever expanding technological revolution. Almost as soon as the latest advances are made in computer-style technology, they become outdated.  Capitalism uses its position to cash in upon these changes - as an avenue for sales and controls. The capitalist power elite established global controls, buying services via the use of the third world's impoverished work force; whilst selling in the dearest markets.

But capitalism always operates for its short term interests. Paying as little as it can for raw materials, labour power and technological innovations. It then sells where it can make the highest profits. These practices lead to an eventual collapse in effective demand, leading to economic deprivation. For capitalism ends up failing to supply people with the money to purchase its own goods and services. The global financial crisis of 2008 is likely just to be a taster of things to come.

Yet there is a huge paradox. This was pointed to by the late Royden Harrison. Things have moved  rapidly in recent years, but events have only confirmed his diagnosis. He pointed out that the objective circumstances for the operation of socialism had never been better, yet the subjective circumstances had never been worse. For whilst objectively we have the skills, knowledge, organisational potential and technology to provide for everyones' basic, intellectual and emotional needs; the subjective appreciation of what is possible have never been worse. Our minds are often taken over by passing consumer fads and the beer and circuses of the modern media. When people rebel (often under stark circumstances) they tend to be consumed by unquestioning and counter-productive doctrines, such as those of racism and militant Islam.

So what can be done about the world's serious situation - climate change, imperial expansionism, fanaticism, starvation, mass poverty, unemployment, economic decline and the threat of economic collapse?  As radical improvement requires a change in people's values and commitments, then it is essentially a question of political education, political education, political education. Luckily there is something to build upon. If people could not be moved to contribute readily to disaster relief funds or to go to people's aid when they saw accidents, then there would be nothing to build upon. But consumerism and individualism still get adjusted by the experiences of daily life into avenues where human sympathy and collective instincts come to the fore. Political education directed towards the best in people is, however, very different from political indoctrination. The strongest educational question is "why?". It rebounds on those who see themselves in the role of stimulating political education. Any of us could be wrong at anytime.

If public ownership is to advance (including the end of outsourcing in the public sector which currently accounts for 24% of expenditure in the UK's public sector). then there are big problems we need to tackle. Public bodies can be prone to bureaucratic centralised controls. Wealth, power and status can come to dominate in the public as well as the private sector.  Democratic controls by producers and users of services are an antidote. Municipal, Consumer Co-operative and Worker Self-Management structures will often be more appropriate than the running of centralised State owned systems. Above all the providers of services and their users need to share a public service ethos. Those who work for a public body, need to see themselves as public servants. Whilst those who benefit from such services need to share similar values, which lead to them not just to grabbing whatever they can. Selfishness detracts from the common good.

I am not seeking perfection, just general standards of human decency and a sense of sharing.

The biggest problem is, however, to get ourselves out of the grip of capitalist domination. Sidney Webb called for the inevitability of gradualness in advancing public ownership. Today, it might take us time to get the ball rolling towards forms of public ownership, for we need to get politicians on board. Each step might be difficult. But once we create the conditions to start the move, we might come to be surprised as to just how revolutionary our gradualism has become. For we will come to realise that the future of mankind is tied in with our actions.

If you see public ownership as an avenue towards our salvation, then check "We Own It" out.  Things did not end with Sidney. Nor with Tony Blair's rejection of Clause IV. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NHS On The Verge Of Extinction

See today's article by Kailash Chand in today's "Tribune" here  
Then act in conformity with Nye Bevan's message below.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Cynical Attack On the Under 25s

In attacking benefit payments for under 25 year olds, Cameron is not only playing on prejudices which he feels are widespread, especially amongst Daily Mail readers; he is also aware that there is a serious under-registration for the vote by the under 25 age group.  So they can't snap back.

But even in terms of electoral advantage, he could be making a blunder. Under 25 year olds have parents and grandparents who may be deeply offended by Cameron's proposals. And he might simulate many under 25 year olds into registering to vote.

What we need is action on Ed Miliband's pledge that Labour will pursue the biggest electoral registration drive in a generation.

David Cameron 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013



At the next General Election, Nick Clegg wants us to vote for a further coalition government. He does not seem to know that whilst we might get a coalition government by accident, this can't be achieved openly. This is because there are unlikely to be any Coalition candidates.

Just what mechanism does he wish us to follow to achieve his end?  Do we vote Liberal to show our support for his case?  Yet if he thinks we should do that, are we not then in danger of electing what he says he does not want?  For we could then get a majority Government - a majority Liberal Government.

Then if he is just after a swing to the Liberals from the Conservatives, that could put Labour in office. Whilst alternatively a swing to the Liberals from Labour, could give us a Conservative Government. Only swings from both Cons and Labs to Libs (as long as they ain't too big) could give us a possible coalition which might entail the Libs.

To get us to vote for a hung parliament, he can't even ask us all to vote just as we did in 2010. For numbers of voters have died or moved overseas since then, whilst many others have been newly enfranchised.

He says he wants to get rid of the two-party system. But if we agree with him sufficiently and, therefore, flock to vote Liberal we could get a one-party Liberal set-up and not his desired Coalition.

The only way to provide a reasonable chance of having continuing coalition governments is to encourage the development of a multi-party system; so that no-one will ever know what form of coalition is ever likely to emerge.  It will all depend upon deals between the elected parties.

Given the electoral logic of our first-past-the-post electoral system, a two-party system is always on the cards. Whether he likes it or not, the role of the Liberals is to seek to become a part of the very two-party system which Clegg decries.

We could, of course, get a coalition government after the next election which excluded the Liberals. It could be either a Lab-Con coalition, or one involving third parties other than the Liberals. Then even without an outright winner, there is still the possibility of a minority government.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Well Done Graham Allen

Precedent plays a big role in parliamentary procedures. There was a tradition of Prime Ministers making use of Royal Prerogative powers to lead us into military conflicts, without the prior consent of parliament being required. This is the way that Tony Blair intended to act over the invasion of Iraq, until a campaign led by Graham Allen the MP for Nottingham North helped to change his mind. What happened is explained below in Graham's own words, as they appeared in Hansard. What he did meant that prior to the invasion of Iraq, Blair was pushed into seeking the support of the Commons for his intended actions. Which at least gave the opportunity for large numbers of Labour MPs to oppose the move, even though we failed to block the proposal.

When it came to the proposal to bomb Syria, David Cameron felt obliged to seek the support of the Commons for this probable line of action. The logic of having a coalition Government might have required him to do this anyway, but Graham Allen's precedent also helped considerably. The Prime Minister still enjoys the ability to resort to the use of the relevant Royal Prerogative Power in the future. But yesterday's defeat of the Government's proposals has further helped to ensure that future Government's are likely to feel the need for prior parliamentary permission before they lead us into military action. Well done Graham.

From Hansard of 13 June 2013, here is Graham explanation of the line he pursued in 2003 -  

"Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): I was one of the organisers of the rebellion, and it was with great sadness that I rebelled against my party and my Prime Minister. Will my right hon. Friend concede that the vote was not gifted by the Government, but hard fought for? Many of us worked for many months to obtain the vote. Indeed, there was to be an alternative convening of Parliament in Church House, at which we would have had a critical mass, and only 48 hours before the Government conceded that there would be a vote. We had enough Members to convene a Parliament to discuss the Iraq war, and the former Speaker, Bernard Weatherill, was prepared to chair it. It would have included Members from across the House, including some very brave Conservative Members, Members from the Liberal party and friends from the smaller parties across the political spectrum. But 122 Labour Members voted on the first occasion, and indeed the numbers went up on the second vote, which is unheard of, given the whipping operation against those who did not want us to go to war. It was not a gift of the Government; it was hard fought for ".

Also, see here on the parliamentary arithmetic of yesterday's vote.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Don't Destroy A Good Idea

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) are proposing that first time voting should be made compulsory, yet other voting should remain voluntary. See here.

Whatever, the rights and wrongs are for compulsory voting: the IPPR are wrong to propose having a two-tier voting system, with voting being compulsory for some and not for others. All voters should be given the same status.

Labour is supposed to be interested in the IPPR Report, with a view to attaching the notion to their proposal for Votes for 16s. This would make things even worse. How can we treat 16 year olds as adults and give them the vote, then say because they are not really adults they will be forced into using their first vote? Talk about crossed messages.

Let us have votes at 16, with electoral registration taking place via schools for 15 year olds in readiness for them attaining the vote. Then run courses for the 15 year olds at school about voting and democracy.

Schools, Colleges and Universities can then be used as a means of updating registers. For those who have left educational institutions, a pro-active re-registration system can be put in place. This would track and catch up with people as they move, in order to get them to re-register. Advertising could also be used to alert people to the need to re-register. If Wonga can use the media to sell their dangerous services, then the State can do it for a worthy purpose. If the State adopted relevant legislation, they could oblige the media to run their adverts for free. Electoral Returning Officers could also be funded to arrange for door to door canvassing to encourage re-registration. All registration should be compulsory, with the numbers fined starting to match up to the numbers of non-registrations. 

But we should treat everyone in the same way.  Not forced voting for some, but it not mattering for others.

My own preference is for all voting to be voluntary. It is up to political parties, individual candidates, political activists and the media to start interesting people in politics and to show that it can have real meaning to people's lives.  As the Labour Party are now advocating votes at 16, they have a special responsibility on this matter.

A universal franchise is only part of the democratic process. But it is an essential element.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Labour and Votes at 16

It is being reported in the media that Labour has come out in support of votes at 16.

There is now a key opportunity to provide important add-ons to the policy, which will (a) ensure full electoral registration for those acquiring the vote, (b) encourage a good turnout from the newly enfranchised and (c) will enable these 16 and 17 year olds names to be retained on the electoral registers as they grow older.

Providing voting rights from 16 can be used as an essential step to tackling the serious problem of voter under-registration. The Electoral Commission reported that at least 6 million people are missing from electoral registers. Yet we also see that the under-registration figure is likely to be larger than this, as census details have revealed 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 actually over the 7 million mark. There are even indications recently by the Electoral Commission that 2 million more may need to be added to these under-registration figures.

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 slip through the net later in life.

As under-registration is high among the 18-25 age group, the poor, the rootless and ethnic minorities; this also 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 amongst young people to use and improve the democratic process. With almost universal registrations being achieved for 16 year olds via their schools, electoral registration officers could also be given the authority and resources to trace the addresses of the people concerned as they grow older and have often moved their homes. This would have an early impact by ensuring that most of those newly enfranchised would be on the registers as they moved into the under-represented 18-25 age range.  Many of the newly enfranchised 16 year olds will also, of course, already fit (or come to fit) into the categories of other groups who currently suffer from under-registration.

Provision for pro-active electoral registration methods (including relevant education programmes in schools for 15 year olds about the democratic process) can hopefully be added to Labour's welcome commitment.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Alice : Who Art Thou?

A prison warden, Hettie Wheeldon, Winnie Mason, and Alice Wheeldon in January 1917 File:Hettie Wheeldon, Winnie Mason and Alice Wheeldon.jpg

Alice Ann Wheeldon (1866 – 1919) was a member of the Independent Labour Party, a  pacifist and a campaigner against our involvement in the First World War. She was arrested in 1917 along with her family and imprisoned. Evidence given in the case against them was fabricated by a government which was eager to disgrace the antiwar movement. She was falsely convicted of conspiring to kill the Prime Minister, Lloyd George.  See here for more details.

 Derby People's History

Alice Wheeldon: a daughter of Derby to be proud of
Derby Guildhall
Saturday 14th Sept : 10.30 – 22.30
This year Derby has honoured Alice Wheeldon with a Blue Plaque; recognising that an injustice was done to her family. Our day will look at the conditions before and during and before the WW1, with talks, music, performance, an Art Exhibition and discuss peace and justice at a time of war. It will be lively and enjoyable, so book your place now and tell your friends.
We have the fabulous Peggy Seeger in the evening (£12.00 and £10.00), Robb Johnson & Rosa’s Lovely Daughters, Workshops and Art (£1.00 day ticket).
Tickets from Derby Live Website.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Third King Harold.

Prince William, Kate middleton, Royal Baby

If you can't beat them, join them. What will the baby's name be? Have a bet on "Harold".

As everyone knows, a King Harold ruled and was killed with an arrow in his eye by the forces of William the Conqueror in 1066.  But he is a huge figure in our history. He was King Harold II. There having been an earlier King Harold from 1035-40.

In 2066, the new baby will reach 53 years of age. His father, Prince William will make 84 that year. Unless the likely coming reign of King Charles III, leads to the end of the monarchy; then William V is likely to hold the crown in 2066 - as nowadays wealthy and privileged people can be kept alive well into their old age. 

William can then resign in favour of his son in 2066, bringing the crown to Harold III exactly 1,000 years after it was held by the really famous King Harold.

Besides my proper name is also Harold and the new baby was born on my 77th birthday. When that is discovered the media can really start giving the chap some coverage in deepth.

Update : He has been called George. The Royal Family obviously have no sense of history. Good job that I never got round to putting a bet on.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Should Democratic Socialists Seek To Engage With "One Nation Labour"?

The above question is currently being debated on the Web-Site run by Independent Labour Publications (ILP).

To follow and join in the debate, you can use this link.

That takes you to an article which I have contributed. But at the close of my contribution, you will also find a series of key links to items by others who generally take differing lines to myself.

We can only advance our own understandings by entering into genuine debates with others.  As the Labour Party is seeking to move its ground from New Labour to One Nation Labour, how should democratic socialists respond? With enthusiasm, opposition or in our own third way? 

Saturday, June 15, 2013


"A forthcoming trade treaty between Europe and the United States could have far-reaching implications for the NHS. Some observers believe the Health and Social Care Act was designed with this deal in mind. Will it add a new dimension to competition in the health service? Peter Davies reports.

The European Union and the United States are about to agree terms for negotiating a free trade treaty. Prime minister David Cameron has made reaching agreement a priority for the meeting of the G8 countries on 17-18 June, which he is chairing. It is hoped the treaty will be signed by the end of 2014. The European Commission says it will be “the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated,”1 adding £73bn (€85bn; $110bn) a year to the EU’s economy.

Officially titled the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), this is the latest in a series of agreements to “liberalise” trade between wealthy nations. The EU has been negotiating a similar deal with Canada, the comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA), since 2009. These agreements focus on “harmonising” regulation and opening up markets: often this involves privatising public services. Though governments negotiate the agreements, they are designed to benefit large transnational corporations and protect foreign investors.

Cameron said of the TTIP talks: “Too often in trade, the voices defending special interests shout loudest. But it makes no sense to exclude vital parts of the economy. Everything is on the table with no exception. ”.

Some health policy analysts have deduced that the NHS will be one of the markets the government opens to US interest. Since the Health and Social Care Act 2012 it has been primed to make ever more use of competition, in England at least. The result could be many more NHS services contracted out to private providers...."


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where Does Miliband Stand On The Future Of Capitalism?

In making his speech to Google yesterday and as part of his advocacy of "responsible capitalism", Ed Miliband made the following statement as a means of distancing his views from those of his Marxist father, Ralph Miliband. Democratic Socialists don't have to be Marxists to the extent that Ralph was in order to be deeply disturbed about the nature of Ed's brief argument.

His father, he said, "thought that the route to a fair society was not through capitalism but through socialism based on public ownership. It wasn't just my dad who thought it, of course. Until 1995 this view was enshrined on the membership card of the party I now lead. Tony Blair got rid of it and rightly so, because nationalising the major industries is not the route to a fair society."

A problem with this argument is that Ed does not distinguish nationalisation from other possible forms of public ownership. If he feels that it is public ownership itself which is problematic, what does he feel should happen to the remains of our public services in areas such as the NHS, the Royal Mail, the Armed Forces and in the remnants our post-war school system? If Ed sees the future economic pattern as one that should be dominated by "responsible capitalism", then is there a limit to his vision? Or has the "inevitability of gradualness" which Sidney Webb saw as being associated with the advance of public services, now been transferred to the growth of Ed's favoured form of responsible capitalism? Does he want more capitalism or less?

There are many possible forms of non-capitalist economic and social structures - including co-operatives, worker-controlled firms, voluntary bodies, services by local authorities, public services and nationalised firms (whose operations could be democratised to overcome any problems which arose from the model pursued by Labour immediately after the Second World War). These all need forms of regulation and patterns of worker and consumer involvement - which (at the least) is what  Ed will need in his efforts to make capitalism act responsibly. For I assume that he knows that preaching is not enough to get exploitive and corrupt capitalism to behave reasonably. Of course, even if we can find some nice cuddley capitalists, these will not be able to ignore the logic of the market in which there are pressures to purchase in the cheapest market (whether for raw materials, technological improvement, or for labour costs) and to sell in the dearest market (via cheap transport, advertising and other marketing techniques).

When Tony Blair came along with his vision of New Labour, many in the Labour Party went along with him thinking it was only a gimmick to ensure the return of a Labour Government. They soon learnt that this was not the case, although far too many Labour activists then just accepted what they were given. Is the same pattern happening under Ed?  Perhaps his "One Nation Labour" owes far more to the ideas of Benjamin Disraeli than is being assumed. Is Labour now being re-shaped to seek  to do no more than tackle what Ted Heath called the "unacceptable face of capitalism"? At the best, Labour would then be aiming to become a non-Thatcherite version of the Conservative Party. But Labour would then be the descendants of Disreali and not of Keir Hardie. It would be much better to have a modern varient of the views of the latter, than of the former.