Saturday, July 31, 2010

Manifestos of Intent - the latest

The campaign on Dronfield Blather to get the five candidates in the Labour Leadership contest to issue "Manifestos of Intent" is making steady if slow progress. Four of the candidates have agreed that they will do this. But no response at all has yet been received from Ed Balls despite numerous efforts to get him to respond.

August 16th sees the start of the balloting in the contest. All the submissions that are received will be published alongside each on that date - unless all five can be published together on an earlier date. See here also.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

70 Not Out

This is what a Manifesto looks like.

The campaign to get the five candidates in the Labour Leadership contest to issue "Manifestos of Intent"
has the support of 70 individuals or organisations who have votes in the contest. They are drawn from members of some 40 Constituency Labour Parties, plus the Socialist Medical Association and include John McDonnell MP. Others who have votes in the contest can best add their support here via the comment box.

Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott have accepted the proposal. There are rumours that Ed Balls will withdraw from the contest. If he wishes to ditch the rumour, then an announcement that he will issue a Manifesto would help. If he is packing it in, then this will mean that 2 out of 4 of the candidates are on board. That leaves the two Milibands. The issue has been brought to their attention at public meetings, phone calls to their staff, via letters, via emails and on their (and others) web-sites. It would help if those in contact with the Milibands would push the issue with them. Perhaps like Marx and Engels they could publish a joint Manifesto!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Urgent - Act To Defend Iraqi Trade Unions

See Labour Start on what is happening and how you can act to protect the Trade Union Movement in Iraq.

The issue is further explained by the TUC here, here and here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2 Down. 3 To Go.

Diane Abbott has agreed to this request to issue a manifesto spelling out how she would act if elected as Leader of the Labour Party. Andy Burnham was the first to agree to do this.

Responses are still awaited from the other three candidates. They were first contacted on the matter over a month ago. Subsequently David and then Ed Miliband had the matter brought to their attention at public meetings. Whilst Ed Balls has been contacted on the issue by one of his parliamentary nominees.

So we could yet get 5 out of 5. If you have a vote in the Labour Leadership contest, then you can sign up to this campaign here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Improving Labour's Selection Process

Garland. Daily Telegraph 9 July, 2010.
In batches between 20 and 28 June I emailed 141 of my former Labour parliamentary colleagues seeking support for them to back a call to the Labour Leadership Candidates to issue what some of us have called "Manifestos of Intent". Our proposal is explained here.

The candidates themselves have been approached three times since 18 June on the matter, with an extra copy of the request being handed over by me directly to David Miliband at a meeting at Sheffield. The matter was also raised with Ed Miliband at a meeting on Thursday. He had not seen it.

These various efforts have so far received only two responses, both of them positive. One from John McDonnell giving his support and the other from Andy Burnham accepting our proposal.

The two Eds, whom I have never met push the unanswered emails back up to 141. So I wrote a letter to the Guardian about the problem. This was published on 6 July and is given below.

To date, my letter to the Guardian has stimulated a response from only one Labour MP although the person concerned fell outside the category of my above efforts.

I appreciate that there is nothing as ex as an ex-MP, but I had hoped that one or two of the remaining Labour MPs who were around before 2005 would seek to humour me. I now know that the "ex" stands for ex-communication. Although one "out of office" reply did inform me (and thus constituents getting the same reply) that if I did not get a reply after 28 days that I should send another email. So I could get some responses after the leadership contest is over.

If there is anyone out there that is not past their sell by date and has influence with a Labour MP (including the candidates for the leadership), then perhaps they could push our case with them.

Here is the Guardian Letter, under "Question for Labour hustings".

"Polly Toynbee is spot on when she says that the Labour hustings take the oxygen out of the leadership debate (Labour's hustings are dismal, 3 July). It isn't, however, just the nature of the spoken word which has trivialised the contest. What about the written word? Candidates' leaflets, press interviews, circulated emails and blogs are all used to produce the equivalent of soundbites. It is hoped that we will read into them much more than they say.

What is needed instead are the production of serious and detailed think pieces by each of the candidates in the form of personal manifestos, showing where and how they hope to lead the party. On behalf of 50 rank-and-file Labour members from 15 different constituencies*, I have asked the candidates to issue such manifestos. So far Andy Burnham has agreed, while the proposal has received the backing of John McDonnell, who failed to qualify for the present travelling circus.

I hope that the other leadership candidates will respond favourably. In batches I have also emailed another 139 Labour MPs who used to be my colleagues when I was an MP. They may need to check their spam boxes. For my self-esteem, it would be nice if I received more than the two replies which have arrived to date!

Harry Barnes

(Labour MP 1987-2005), Dronfield, Derbyshire"

* = I miscounted, the number of CLPs was 20. We currently have 2 extra, plus the Socialist Health Association. Why not add to these via the top link?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Backing from the Socialist Health Association

The Socialist Health Association are backing the call for candidates in the Labour leadership election to issue "Manifestos of Intent". Andy Burnham is the only candidate who has so far agreed to do this.

Friday, July 02, 2010

One Accepts. Four Reminded

The call which appeared here, has received a positive response from Andy Burnham (photo) and has the backing of John McDonnell. It is a request for the candidates in the labour leadership contest to issue "Manifestos of Intent" related to the democratic socialist principles contained on the back of Labour Party Membership Cards.

The other four candidates have today been sent this fresh email -

"Dear Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, David Miliband and Ed Miliband,

A fortnight ago I emailed then posted you a request to issue a "Manifesto of Intent" for the Labour Leadership Campaign. Manifestos which it was hoped would be issued widely amongst those with votes in the selection. I also handed a copy of the request to David Miliband that day, at a meeting he addressed in Sheffield.

So far Andy Burnham has responded favourably to this request, so I am sending him and his campaign team a copy of this email.

I hope that each of you will now agree to our suggestion.

Full details of our proposal are provided here, listing those who are backing us -

All the best,
Harry Barnes (Labour MP 1987-2005),
(Address, email, phone number and blog details also supplied)."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ken Coates

Ken Coates died on Sunday. He had a great capacity for what others would call work; whether it was political writing, academic output, establishing bodies which integrated publishing with group organisation, being a member of the European Parliament or participating in the dialectics of debate with adult students or political activists.

But none of the above were chores to Ken. What he saw as the real work he undertook in his life was when he was a coalminer from around the ages of 18 to 26. But even (or especially) in those days he learnt a great deal from various of his workmates and those he socialised with about Trade Unionism and Labour Movement Politics. So when he went to Nottingham University to study Sociology in what I will later show was the key political year of 1956, he talked of having discovered a new found freedom which lasted right throughout the week - and for every week. He had moved into a world which was to enable him to pursue two of his related passions - adult education and socialism. No longer did he have to share his precious time with coal getting. When he moved to be a Tutor in Adult Education (also at Nottingham University) he directed his attention to work with miners and other workers, whom he wished to share his newly found freedoms with.

I came to know Ken gradually when I moved into a parallel world of industrial day-release teaching for Trade Unionists (especially miners) at Sheffield University. This was in 1966 when Ken was launching the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, which my wife and I marched with in a protest outside the Labour Party Conference in Scarborough the following year. Then it was on to a huge fringe meeting which was a precursor of the Institute of Workers' Control which Ken helped launch formally the following year.

Ken's political instinct was always to develop initiatives which would draw people together in ways that would expand their understandings and would thus spread socialist ideas. These included War Crime Tribunals, opposing the war in Vietnam, European Nuclear Disarmament, Industrial Democracy, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, a Pensioner's Parliament, an Assembly of Disabled People, a Convention for Full Employment and Spokesmen Books.

Throughout such activities he published masses of related books and articles (some are shown here), whilst editing collections of essays. He seldom worked alone. He worked particularly well with the late Tony Topham, who was a fellow adult tutor at Hull University. Their joint work was normally concentrated around the issue of Industrial Democracy, but they also produced a majestic 900 page work on the 1870-1922 formation of the Transport and General Workers' Union , entitled "The Making of the Labour Movement" (Spokesmen paperback edition 1994). My own copy being a gift from Ken to which he added his fraternal greetings.

In 1970 he came to major public attention when a study of poverty in the St Ann's district of Nottingham was published as a Penguin Special in joint authorship with Richard Silburn, entitled "Poverty : The Forgotten Englishman". He worked with Silburn on related work. He also collaborated closely with Michael Barratt Brown who ran the Industrial Day-Release programme from Sheffield University were I was one of a group of eight tutors teaching on the courses. Ken and Michael's joint work included "The Blair Revelation: Deliverance for Whom?" (Spokesman. 1996) which indicated that Ken would not have an easy relationship with the New Labour hierarchy.

Ken had stood as Labour candidate in Nottingham South in 1983. And although he lost, he had the distinction of having the late Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband canvassing for him with the help of his two sons David and Ed. He then became a Labour Member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 1999. In 1994 his seat encompassed the area of my own parliamentary seat in North East Derbyshire, where we worked together especially on environmental problems which blighted the area.

But the crunch came in 1997. First he was suspended by the Labour Group in Europe for failing to accept the arrangements they had put in place for the shortlisting of candidates for the coming Euro Elections. Tony Benn in my neighbouring seat Chesterfield and myself defended Ken's right to express his view. But towards the end of 1998 he joined the Green's Group in the European Parliament. He had clearly placed himself outside rules which the Labour hierarchy were only too keen to use. I tried to pursued him to pull back from his position, pointing out that there was still scope for rebellion against New Labour at Westminster at least, where 47 of us had voted in the first major rebellion against New Labour Whips over Single Parent Benefits. But Ken was never going to settle for being a loyal grouser.

Ken's uneasy relationship with Labour's officialdom had in fact led to his expulsion from the Party back in 1965. He fought his corner until 1969 before he was re-instated. His story and the wider politics of the period are covered in his book "The Crisis of British Socialism - Essays on the Rise of Harold Wilson and the Fall of the Labour Party" (Spokesman 1971). If he was alienated by Wilson, there is no way that he would continue to operate peacefully under Blair.

1956 (as I earlier indicated) was a huge year for socialists. It saw the Khrushchev Revelations about Stalin, the Suez Invasion, the Soviet Invasion of Hungary and revisionist advance in the Labour Party with Tony Crosland's publication "The Future of Socialism". Ken had been in the Communist Party up to then. But even then he had disagreed with an earlier line that Stalin had taken against Tito (where Yugoslavian Communism developed the concept of Worker Self Management which related closely to Ken's later work with the Institute of Workers' Control). For a period as Ken became an adult student he worked with those who established the International Marxist Group and he had a period on the board of International Socialism. He now seemed to be a Trotskyist.

In many ways Communism and Trotskyism are opposing socialist approaches. But Ken soon developed his own synthesis out of these to fit in with British (and later European) circumstances. He had already been drawn into activity with the New left of the late 1950s, with figures such as E.P.Thompson, Michael Barratt Brown and Ralph Miliband. What emerged for Ken was working with the left of the Labour Party where he could, but never surrendering to right wing practices. But it only made sense to Ken for him to spend energy in opposing the leadership of say Wilson and Blair, if this was only part of his main activity of building towards socialism via key issues such as Worker's Control and Environmental Protection.

We should certainly not dismiss his life as being full of heroic failures. The War Crime Tribunal was a major initiative and industrial democracy made inroads via Lucas Aerospace and others. His work for five years as President of the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament was substantial. Above all he touched the lives of many as a tutor, writer and a political activist. Any of us would have been proud to have delivered a fraction of what he achieved from his "newly found freedom".