The Labour Group “is in good heart” after it’s third thrashing in as many elections!

The Labour Party has been tearing itself apart over the weekend following its beating at the polls on Thursday. I don’t find it easy to intrude on private grief, but here is advice offered, once again in the spirit of comradeship (dismissed in the run-up to the election). I share the following insights, observations and suggestions:

Group leader Gill Mitchell has said: “The new Labour Group met this morning and is in good heart.” You cannot be serious. In good heart? After the third thrashing at the polls in as many elections? The Labour Group should be distraught, should be apologising to the Party and should be asking serious questions about why the Party leadership locally has failed time and time again.

Gill thanks activists for “running such good campaigns”. Gill, other than East Brighton and the Brian Fitch One Man Show in Hangleton and Knoll, the Labour campaigns were generally rubbish, and you know it. That is why you say: “There is now an urgent need to look at how we are organised across the city as a party and how this can be improved to enable us to become a genuine, citywide campaigning party that is regularly in touch with local people.” Gill, you are right but I understand that Labour was once a “citywide campaigning party” that was in touch with local people. So what happened?

Along came Kinnock, Blair and Mandelson who set up a highly centralised party machine and this was replicated at local level. In this election, Labour’s GMB HQ had to be consulted about all aspects of different campaigns. Labour’s Regional Office brought with it the dead hand of bureaucrats.

Nigel Jenner is right when he says: “The Blair factor and also the war etc is still on peoples minds and that is why many jumped to the Greens.” Absolutely right, Nigel. Labour’s recovery will not begin until Labour, locally and nationally, APOLOGISE for Iraq and distance themselves from Blair. But what happened locally just days before the election? David Milliband, a Blairite from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, comes to Brighton, is welcomed by Labour councillors and candidates – and another few hundred votes are lost. What genious thought David Milliband would do anything other than alienate voters? Another avoidable Labour own goal.

D Milliband said after his defeat by E Milliband that he was resigning from front line politics. This demonstrates a mindset that cabinet and shadow cabinet is the front line. And Labour in Brighton goes along with it. If you want to start afresh, perhaps Gill Mitchell could say “we have learned, and we are sorry. David Milliband, so closely identified with Blair and jointly responsible for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is no longer welcome in Brighton and Hove”. Then, and only then, can you hope that the lost voters, the tens of thousands who have deserted Labour locally for the Greens, might just begin to think about voting for the Labour Party again.

Juliet McCaffery touches on something that I have warned Labour about in the run up to the elections – lying to the electorate. Labour did it in Brighton Pavilion in 2010: “only Labour can beat the Tories” and Caroline Lucas exposed the lie and Labour lost several hundred voters in future elections who had swallowed the lie. And then again in this election “Only Labour can form an administration” and the Greens exposed that lie. Why should the electorate believe Labour’s claims about electoral prospects when they have become serial liars.

Juliet is absolutely right when she says: “Several people in Withdean who voted Labour were thinking of voting Green but thought (prompted by me) that Greens had no chance – the danger is that now they will.” The fact is, Labour is finished (in local and general elections) for the next two elections at least in Withdean, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Patcham and, of course, the town centre wards in Brighton Pavilion. In several Hove wards the Greens will, this very evening, be casting their eyes for further gains in 2015. And there will be some idiot in Labour’s ranks drafting a leaflet saying “Only Labour can beat the Tories in Hove”. Stop them now. It’s not true. The Greens are already the main challengers for the Tories in Hove.

Labour should not have lied. Apologise, come clean, and sack whoever was responsible for the lies in 2010 and 2011.

And turning to the Party hierarchy, Kevin Allen, a decent, hard-working, now ex-councillor, is unforgiving: “Regarding Withdean, people have forgotten that local elections are not just about bums on council seats; they are also about keeping people in the habit of voting Labour.  We had three fine candidates who were given absolutely no encouragement by party headquarters.  That’s a disgrace.  Rather than being told to abandon their own ward they should have been advised to canvass hard in order to help rebuild the Labour vote in preparation for the next general election.  What we have now is a Green councillor in Withdean, an entirely avoidable result had our candidates been allowed to campaign properly.”

Get used to it, Kevin. It is going to get worse for Labour before it begins to get better. Labour is offering nothing new. It parades David Milliband, an apologist for war, as the hope for the future. Its party machinery is broken.

I hope to hear something substantial from Labour in the next few days, but I doubt it. And that is a shame for this Blogger who voted Labour last Thursday.

How you can protest this very day against Blair and his war crimes

Have you heard about the small, silent protest you can make against Tony Blair?   People are moving his autobiography A Journey from the biography shelves and putting them on the Crime shelves.  There is even a Facebook group that is advocating this.  Someone has suggested it should be filed under ‘Mass Murder’. 

A Journey has even been spotted on the shelves for the category ‘Tragic Life Stories’ and Peter Mandelson’s The Third Man has appeared in the Fiction section in some bookshops.  I just can’t understand why ….!

I like that sort of subtle protest.  Perhaps a less subtle form was during the Poll Tax when someone appeared on a late night chat show ‘representing’ a group styled “Scotland for the Poll Tax”.  He said it was outrageous that people were filling in the gaps of the bar chart on poll tax bills with black felt tip pens, “Black felt tip pens”, he repeated slowly and with emphasis, then telling the viewers that it caused chaos in poll tax offices.  So he told the viewers one more time that the “must not fill in the gaps on the bar charts with a BLACK ….. FELT TIP …. PEN”.

What are your favourite subtle, or not so subtle, protest stories.  I will publish the best of them.

Can the Green Party follow where Caroline Lucas is leading? I have my doubts.

What next for the Green Party? Having made its historic breakthrough by electing Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as its first Westminster MP, it needs to decide where it is now heading.

In Caroline Lucas the Greens have a photogenic, telegenic superstar, highly, highly competent with a single-minded determination to succeed. She has taken the first steps to make her party electable.  Gone are their Principle Speakers, in is a single Leader (her). Environmental issues are treated as equally important and intrinsically linked with the economy and social justice.

But is the Green Party a one woman show?  At the moment, yes, and Caroline and her immediate team must enjoy every moment of this amazing victory.  But the Green Party needs to ensure that it has more, many more, equally impressive individuals. Sadly, some of the Green candidates left a bit to be desired, and the Party did not make the hoped for breakthrough in Lewisham or Norwich.  And there are some policies that some activists hold on to as if they were in possession of the Holy Grail.  For example, the issue of drugs, and decriminalisation in particular,  threatened to upset Caroline’s campaign over the last weekend.  The Greens great strength, of not whipping its councillors, could prove to be its undoing.

Locally, the Greens have an immediate opportunity to build on this success.  Just as the election of Alex Phillips last year provided momentum for the campaign in Brighton Pavilion, so too could Caroline’s election be the springboard for the Greens targeting Brighton and Hove City Council in next year’s elections.

What do they have to do? Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Do so on the back of Caroline’s election. Don’t be passive, get out there.  Get 200 activists out in each of the next four weeks.  Visit every home in Brighton Pavilion and in target wards in Brighton Kemptown and Hove.  I would expect a ‘thank you’ leaflet or letter from Caroline through my door within the week.  Get a street contact in every street in each target ward.  Make sure that the Party’s 13 councillors are seen from now until May 5th 2011 out and about.  Some are incredibly hard working, but some don’t inspire too much confidence.  The campaign for the City Council starts now.

With Caroline Lucas in Parliament, and a Green-controlled Brighton and Hove City Council, that would make very interesting politics.

I write this as a non-Green Party member, historically a Labour supporter, but one who didn’t like New Labour, mistrusts Mandelson, opposes Trident, wishes to see an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts.  I am someone who is looking to be inspired.  Caroline Lucas did it.  But can her party follow where she has led?

A Tactical Vote in Lewes is a Lib Dem Vote

The first call for the Tactical Voting Campaign is for Labour and Greens to support Stormin’ Norman at the General Election.  Norman Baker MP was elected to Parliament in 1997. A former local councillor he has gained a huge reputation at Westminster for his campaigning from the back benches for a public enquiry into the death of David Kelly.

There should be no difficulty in Labour and Greens voting for Norman, unless of course you are a huge fan of Peter Mandelson.  Baker is probably the MP hated most by Mandelson.  All the more reason for voting for him!

Up against him are Jason Sugarman (Conservative) and Hratche Koundarjian (Labour).  Sugarman was educated at Brighton College and Durham University. He is a barrister specialising in criminal law. Having contested Dudley South in 2001, he appears to be a Tory in search of a seat. Koundarjian was educated at Sussex University and works in public affairs. Unfortunately for him, Labour doesn’t stand a hope in hell of winning in Lewes, so Labour voters should have no hesitation in voting Lib Dem.

The result in 2005 was:

Conservative: 15902 (34.2%)
Labour: 4169 (9%)
Liberal Democrat: 24376 (52.4%)
Green: 1071 (2.3%)
UKIP: 1034 (2.2%)
Majority: 8474 (18.2%)

Since then there have been boundary changes.  The UK Polling Report has adjusted the 2005 result to reflect the boundary changes and reports a notional 2005 result as follows:

Liberal Democrat: 26140 (51.6%)
Conservative: 17212 (34%)
Labour: 4943 (9.8%)
Other: 2359 (4.7%)
Majority: 8928 (17.6%)

Peter Mandelson: A Poltician who scares me

In his 1996 publication, ‘The Blair Revolution’, Peter Mandelson (and co-author Roger Liddle) wrote: “Throughout society, there is a feeling that Britain is in moral, social and economic decline.

“In previous generations, parents felt certain that their children would go on to do better than them. Many (now) worry about whether their newly graduated son or daughter will even get a job”.

So what will the legacy of the New Labour be?They will leave government with record national debt, deep recession, rocketing unemployment. Community relations are fractured with the BNP gaining ground in White working class areas and Islamic extremist rife. Confidence in the political process is at the lowest point in my lifetime.

As a direct resul of it’s libertarian policies we have unprecedented gambing-related debt, alcohol consumption and abuse at record levels, with a 25% rise in alcohol-related cases of mouth cancers, drug use at levels never seen before. The list is endless.

Parents wonder if their recently graduated sons and daughters will ever get a job. Or ever afford to leave home.

The prison population has just topped 84,000 for the first time ever.

What a shame New Labour did not adopt the Mandelson blue print. Stupid me, Blair did.

What will Mandelson put forward next to cover for the failed New Labour model? No doubt he will find someone to blame …. immigrants, the unemployed, the sick, the elderly, trade unionist, socialists, ….. Where will that lead us …. That scenario is truly terrifying!

Still doing the right thing ….

Throughout the week Labour has continued to alienate people when doing the right thing. By macho postering, when saying post office privatisation, ID cards and even Trident may not go ahead, they don’t say they are doing it for ethical reasons. Rather, they are doing it because of financial constraints and then pledge to go back when these schemes become more affordable. Brown and Manleson are a disgrace.

Getting it wrong when doing the right thing

Gordon Brown did the right thing in announcing an inquiry into the Iraq war but got it so wrong by saying it would be held in private. Even when it was so apparent that the public mood demanded that it be held in public, Brown seemed reluctant to shift.

Today Peter Mandleson has said the privatisation of the Royal Mail was unlikely to go ahead. Great news! Was this decision taken on the grounds of a deeply held principle that would galvernise support from disillusioned Labour voters? No. He has said that the legislative programme is too full.

Why why why does Labour get it so wrong when doing the right thing?

Gordon Brown fails dismally over Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown looks increasingly pathetic over the Iraq inquiry. Having committed himself last Monday to a private inquiry, he has faced an increasing volume of calls for the inquiry to be held in public.

Today those calls were echoed by Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, who has said that as much evidence as possible should be held in public in a full retreat from the stance originally taken by Gordon Brown. In a letter to Mr Brown this evening, Sir John said it was “essential” to conduct a mainly open inquiry.

In the letter he said: “More broadly, I believe it will be essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public, consistent with the need to protect national security and to ensure and enable complete candour in the oral and written evidence from witnesses.”

So Gordon Brown has, as predicted in this blog last week, totally failed those who wanted a confidential inquiry (Blair, Bush, Mandelson), and looks weak and ineffective to those who have called for the inquiry in public. As a leader he has failed us dismally and he can take no credit at all for this public inquiry.