Monday, July 28, 2008

After Warwick

“The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they'll sleep at night” - Otto von Bismarck.

There were no smoke-filled rooms at the weekend, of course, following the implementation of a previous manifesto commitment. It was certainly a manic exercise, as over 4,000 amendments from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPSs), affiliated Trade Unions and Socialist Societies, and groups such as Labour in local government were debated, shaping the policy which hopefully will form the basis of Labour's 4th election-winning manifesto.

Things became fraught, as you might imagine, particularly for the magnificent Party staff, who night after night were working without sleep to log agreed wording and update the agenda for the following day. At 2.45am on Sunday morning I signed off what I thought were the last of my North East amendment agreements and wearily headed off to my room, only to be called back to reconcile two final issues. by eagle-eyed staff.

My overriding impression of the process was very positive. My amendments from North East CLPs concentrated on the 'Sustainable Communities' document which included energy, sustainability, local government, the emergency services and transport. I found Ministers in discussions very open to reasonable arguments, and we made real progress in many areas. I was particularly pleased that lengthy conversations on elected mayors secured the pledge that Labour will not impose these on communities (a distinct policy difference with the Tories) and that consultation will take place on how areas which have the elected mayor system can get rid of them if they wish (a hobby-horse of mine).

So with goodwill on all sides, agreements were reached or amendments withdrawn where the case for change could not be made. The North East team of Simon Henig, Georgia Elliott, Nick Forbes, Liz Twist (pictured above) and myself, worked hard and we have a positive record of achievement to report back to the North East CLPs.

And so on Sunday to the final plenary session, where votes took place on those issues which could not be agreed. As you may have seen, there were decisions made which included whether to have a 100% elected House of Lords (I voted in favour), whether to have all fur products marked as such (ditto) and whether or not to have votes for those at 16 years (I voted against, for reasons I'll return to sometime).

What was striking was how marginalised the far left were during these votes. The heirs to the Bennite tendancy in the Party are now coalesced around the Grassroots Alliance, a group which does secure some members on the Party's National Executive Committee via internal elections. At Warwick, where they pressed for decisions to abandon Trident, for example, or overturn our academies policy in education, they lost overwhelmingly. In most votes, where 161 delegates were present, the Grassroots Alliance got fewer than 10 and in most cases around 5 votes.

It shows just how distant the far left is in Labour politics now from the mainstream, and that Gordon Brown leads a united party. Clearly with the economic outlook looking uncertain and potentially negative, the Party is suffering in the polls. Gleeful Tories are assuming some kind of 1997 meltdown in two years time. The difference I think is that we are now, and do not appear to be a divided party in the way the Conservatives did then, over Euurope and other issues. If the economic situation begins to improve, and with a coherent manifesto for the next 5 years in place, we are much better placed to stage a recovery.


Ex Labour. said...

Nick you say..
"local government were debated, shaping the policy which hopefully will form the basis of Labour's 4th election-winning manifesto."

I dont know what you have been sniffing lately but you should of not stayed up till 2am to sign something that is going to be of no use whatsoever.

Labours 4th term you are seriously in need of medical treatment if you think that will ever happen, thanks to Brown!

Ian White, Elected Mayor Supporter said...

I see you are still frightened of elected Mayors, why else would you be putting so much effort into trying to oppose them.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes.....

What worries me, and the Labour Party are not alone in this, is that no Party is consulting the people on what they or indeed we want from national government. Once again, the medicine is being decided by the party members.

Last week David Cameron did not rule out tax rises. Well we don't want any more tax rises. People want the freedom to decide how to spend their money.

Paul Cain said...

It's so depressing.
Just more meaningless managerial jargon about 'sustainable communities' and acres of blather about elected mayors.
There's such an opportunity for a Labour Party that reflects its real, neglected roots.
Ordinary, decent people, the majority in other words, are looking for any political party to protect and nurture the working poor, the reluctantly unemployed poor and the pensioned poor rather than the undeserving poor who infest our lives.
Through its legislative and social programmes, New Labour has amply demonstrated whose side it is on: and put it this way, it ain't on the side of the decent majority.
Don't try to deny it councillor: actions speak a lot louder than words.
Perhaps that is why anti social behaviour stubbornly refuses to go away: because New Labour has formulated a legal and moral framework that means the scumbags will always win. Human Rights Act, anyone?
The Conservatives WILL more than likely win a landslide at the next general election, councillor. That's because people in constituencies such as yours feel the Tories more closely reflect their concerns than you do.
Crewe and Nantwich should have told you that. The local elections in May are further evidence.
Imagine: The Conservatives are more in tune with the decent majority than you are. You should hang your head in shame.
Drop the bizarre obsession with identity politics. Lock Harriet Harman in a cupboard for the next two years. Stop harrassing 80 year old men under anti-terrorism laws because they protest at your party conference; stop councils from fining painters and decorators 80 quid for having a cigarette in their OWN car; repeal a few hundred laws or so, before we all become criminals by default.
Start speaking in English rather than public sector gibberish; and listen to what people are telling you, rather than dictating to them what they should want.
One last point: given that you lied in your last manifesto when you said you'd have a vote on the EU Constitution (sorry, Lisbon Treaty - not at all the same thing, heavens, no......), why should we believe a word that comes out of your weekend in Warwick?

Anonymous said...

Paul Cain, well written.I could not agree more with your comments. The Labour Party will not win again, until they go back to a true Socialist Agenda and not an Agenda that courts the Millionairres, Rock Stars and Oliagarchs. My Mother and Father, who were both card carrying Labour Party Members, would be sickened at the dismal and adept leadership and policies under Brown.
Well said again Paul.

Anonymous said...

Here here Paul they are now reaping what they have sewn.

Brown the Clown OUT

Merseymike said...

What planet are you living on?

The Grassroots Alliance are hardly the 'far left' - and if the pathetic policies emanating from Warwick are all Labour has to offer then it just cements my decision not to vote for you next time.

Gordon Brown leads a party which is going to be massacred at the next election. And deservedly so. Only in opposition can Labour return to being a social democratic party - policies such as academies are simply Tory ideas. Let the real Tories run them - anything but this charade of a 'Labour' government

Merseymike said...

... oh, and Paul - the policies you suggest are far more populist than socialist. Amy left-of-centre coalition does have to carry more than the working class. Reject 'identity politics' and lose a large number of votes...I think the BNP , being a populist party, would best reflect your concerns.

Duncan Hall said...

I'm very interested in this process because my CLP submitted several amendments, none of which (as far as I'm aware) have been accepted. I look forward to feedback from my regional reps (Yorkshire and Humber).

How was it done? Were all amendments considered? Where they done so by a full plenary of the NPF or by regional forums? Was any attention given to the weight of amendments (i.e. the number of CLPs who had proposed similar amendments)? What happens now? Have you 161 people sealed the fate of Labour in a couple of days in my old alma mater?

I am one of those heirs to the Bennite Tendancy (quite unapologetically so - though I found the term 'far left' rather silly) - so of course I will find your description depressing. But I know of many, many amendments of the sort you describe getting merely a handful of votes. So my worry is about the distance growing between the party - i.e. CLP activists - and bodies such as the NPF.

Paul Cain said...

Replying to Mersey Mike: I'm not quite certain what you meant by suggesting that the BNP would be the party for me. If it's a recommendation - then no, thanks; if it was an insult - well, we'll let it pass.
I don't mean to advocate socialist policies and I'd rather remove my own tonsils than vote BNP. At the extremes of politics, the far left and the far right are so close as to be almost indistinguishable. Look at the BNP manifesto: there's a lot there to comfort those on the far left, aside from their racial policies.
I do repeat that we need an end to identity politics. That has been the hallmark of New Labour, and it has been entirely destructive and divisive. It never was a totem of the Labour Party for which I first voted in 1983.
On Councillor Wallis's patch, anyone who is married or in a stable relationship, paying taxes, living by the law and earning more than 200 quid a week is regarded as the scum of the earth by New Labour - fit only to be a cash cow, fit only to be squeezed for taxes and nothing else (and notice, before you say it, I make no reference, and intend no reference to their skin colour, ethnicity, etc, because everyone is affected).
I'd be interested in your observations on what has been called the undeserving poor - you know who I mean - the families into their third generations of deliberate unemployment.
If you live in the Darlington area, look around Branksome, Red Hall, Springfield, etc, and you'll find them. They're a minority but they have a disproportionate and utterly miserable effect on civic life here.
You'll find that those who are most vehemently opposed to the undeserving poor are not middle-class bien-pensants such as Nick Wallis - it's the poor working saps or the retired who have to live next to these creatures.
You should meet my elderly mother and father in law. They live in Branksome. They're lovely people. They share many of your values, I imagine. You'd really like them. And their lives, and the lives of many of their similarly decent neighbours, are a misery because of half a dozen families whose lives consist of a toxic mix of endless benefits, drugs, cheap booze, non-existent parenting and crime.
This is no secret. Darlington Council knows about these troublemakers. So, in spades, do Darlington police.
And nothing ever happens. Nothing ever changes.
Nothing ever improves.
The authorities and the community are powerless. At every turn, the law supports those who least deserve its support.
New Labour's moral and legislative framework is to blame, and that is what I advocate changing.
Populist? Superficial? Perhaps. But I really don't imagine I'm alone in thinking this and I don't think casual slurs such as 'go and vote BNP' really help.
Regards, Paul Cain.

Darlington Councillor said...

Ian - thanks for your comment. I'm not afraid of elected mayors - I just don't think they're a particularly good policy development.

It would appear that a lot of people agree: in the 37 places which have held referenda to date, no fewer than 25 have said NO, most recently in Bury. Little wonder that both the main parties have been exploring ways of foisting elected mayors on us without going to the trouble of actually asking local people what they think of the idea. I'm pleased to say that after this weekend, Labour will not be imposing elected mayors on communities without consent. We'll have to see if that shames Cameron into withdrawing his threat to foist elected mayors on major cities regardless of local opinion.

Alan - this wasn't a closed exercise in policy formulation. In many places I understand that CLP's held open policy forums prior to making submissions.

Duncan. I'm not sure how amendments were prioritised in your region, but I'm sure your reps will be happy to tell you.

In the North East we had to priortise hundreds of amendments into just 15 - 30 for each of the 6 documents. The approach we took was to take forward those amendments which clearly had popular support (ie had been submitted by several CLP's) or which we felt made important contributions.

We were very clear that we would do this regardless of our own particular political views. So I prioritised on the Sustainable Communities document amendments which had originated from the SaveCouncilHousing group, as well as motions on rail nationalisation for example.

We also made sure that amendments from all CLP's were represented in the amendments we submitted. What happended to them of course, is another matter, but we did our best to represent local CLP views, and on council housing, for example, we found we were pushing at an open door as far as Ministers were concerned.

I won't get involved in the spat between MM and Paul Cain - simply to observe that there's a lot of good in Darlington as a community, Paul, which you would know if you lived here and gave the place a chance.

Paul Cain said...

Fair enough Councillor Wallis.
But please answer my question: given what your party did (or didn't do) with regard to the Lisbon Treaty/EU Referendum, which was a manifesto commitment in 2005, why should we believe a single word of what came out of Warwick at the weekend?

Ian White, No to the EU! said... well as a supporter of elected Mayors (no secret there) I also agree with Paul on this call it what you will we were promised a referendum on the EU. Clearly the only reason this has not been granted is the fear of it returining a resoundin NO, In one word I can sum up your fears of a referendum....


Back off Brussels!

Anonymous said...


Firstly I,d cut the human Rights Garbage, re-instate both capitol and corporal punishment.
Remove the platforms from the Liberal PC brigade which preaches the gospel of political correctness and false Tolerance but lives in "splendid isolation"
Cut the fashionable political nonsense.Get proper Policemen/women back on our streets again.
PC could then start to stand for something worthy again.
If a child attacks an adult, or worse murders an adult, they have no right to be tried as a child. They should be tried as an adult.
In the end we only have ourselves to blame and not the disconnected liberal elite. Niceness does not create disciplined behaviour across all stratas of our society.
Sometimes somebody has to be a bit of a "bastard" The only question is whether we are forced into it, or take action now before the meltdown, that is no longer than three to five years away

Anonymous said...

Great last blog NWO.

And over on the TL Website...
somebody has blocked off Millys entrance with a lorry... didumms..
what a load of crap..

Good discussion Nick..worth reading


Merseymike said...

Paul: sorry, but identity politics are important to me and have made a huge difference to my life. I did join the Labour party because it protected minorities and stood up for gay and lesbian people. I'm middle-class through and through - any Labour coalition has to include people who, like me, may not economically benefit from redistribution but believe in a fair society. I am strongly in support of the HRA. I am also opposed to all referenda and pro-Europe

Having sat on a police authority for four years, I al aware of the issues you raise re anti-social behaviour. However, you raise a straw man by suggesting that the HRA or identity politics has any part to play in the failure to deal with this sort of situation. The problem is that whatever you do, people will still end up living somewhere. Turf them out of social housing and they end up in the private rented sector. They won't go away - and the evidence suggests that they will not disappear no matter who is in government.

There may be a case for compulsorily moving them into particular housing away from others, as I think Frank Field suggested - but I think that to make out that attention to the rights of minority groups has led to this is simply not accurate.

The reason why I wondered if you had BNP sympathies was that the BNP are , indeed, quite 'left' economically, and anti-EU, but very socially conservative and opposed to equality for minorities. Your stance appears superficially similar.

If you think as you do, then I can't see why you would ever want to support any left-of-centre party - when your views are clearly right of centre.

Me....I'm actually a not-particularly-left wing liberal (small L) who doesn't feel that any party reflects my views, although the aspects of NL you dislike are probably those I am most sympathetic to.

Anonymous said...

I bet it was a right boreathon. I look forward to the near future when those hapless lambs get slaughtered by the snarling electoral wolf

Anonymous said...

Grassroots alliance far left ? It shows how far to the right the labour party has become if such moderates can be classed as left.

If your mainstream policies (tory) are so popular how come the Labour Party is leaking members and votes at an alarming rate. Dream on you and your careerist chums the dream is over. The fight for socialism will carry on outside of the ranks of new labour.