Using Mail on a Nokia-Orange Phone

Nokia have turned off my e-mail client on my mobile phone without my permission. I have been using a Nokia 5800 Xpress as my personal mobile phone since leaving Sun Microsystems. I got it because it runs S3 and could be used to host Joikuspot which turns the phone into a wifi internet gateway. Over the 21 months I have been using it, my use has varied, to the extent that I also used an HTC Hero for two weeks. …

DE HQ Reunion Barge Trip

The Reunion barge trip is over, we travelled on the Stourport Ring, to and from Tardebigge, via Worcester, Stourport, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

I have started to upload and convert the images and videos. I used a Nokia phone, and a Sony camera and Handycam so there’ll be some mucking about to make a video/slide show for youtube, laptops and the ipodtouch. The rest of the pictures are on flickr in a set called Barge Trip 2011. …

Party Democracy, the accountability of Politics

Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats at their annual conference voted down their platform position to support the Coalition Government’s NHS “Reforms”. The platform position was proposed by Paul Burstow, the Minister of Health and a Liberal Democrat MP. I am pleased that the left Liberal Democrats are finding their voice, but a historical look at the effectiveness of democratic conferences’ ability to manage their parliamentary parties in opposition, let alone government doesn’t give one much hope.

The NHS revolt is led by some of the most senior Liberal Democrats, but being in Government is new to this generation of Liberal Democrat activists.  Its conference and democracy was not built to manage a party of government.  Julian Huppert , now an LD MP,  and Isabel Fox have twice taken opposition to the Digital Economy Act/Bill to the Liberal Democrat Conference, have twice won their votes and motions, and yet the Liberal Democrats in Government have failed to get repeal of the DE Act into the “Great Freedom Bill”.

However, at the least the Liberal Democrat conference agenda is still under the control of its members and they can criticise and advise their leadership in this public and collective fashion.

One really has to wonder if the Labour Party is still capable of undertaking such an action. Labour Party Conference had a long and proud record of attempting to lead its party and for many years was “sovereign”, subject to the law of the land. (Not a constraint that it understood well!) 1

It’s common currency that Blair proved his electability to the British electorate by taming the Labour Party and the most visible victory was the re-writing of Clause IV. However, this was a fight at the end of long process, one that, it’s often forgotten was started by John Smith;  all ‘reforms’ aimed at taming the Labour Party and its membership.  These reforms either took power away from the membership, or weakened the leadership’s accountability to the policy of the Labour Party. They include,

  • One man (sic), one vote for Party Leader,
  • Prohibiting MP’s from standing for the Constituency Section of the National Executive Committee
  • Inhibiting CLPs from sending the same person to conference in consecutive years
  • Prohibiting CLPs from proposing policy at conference,  this is a result of the creation of the National Policy Forum, which now proposes policy to Conference
  • Individual Balloting for the Constituency Section of the NEC
  • Individual Balloting for the membership of the National Policy Forum

The result of these reforms is to take policy development and even debate away from the membership and restrict it to the National Policy Forum. Individual balloting stops the members holding the leadership accountable to policy because successful candidates have mandates of their own. Before 1997, the Parliamentary leadership chucked in some rallies as consultation and listening activities  but this stopped soon after they won the election. Labour has turned its conference into a rally to which they now sell tickets to its members.  Its policy development now takes place in poorly lit broom cupboard.2

I rejuvenated my involvement in the Labour Party during the last election because a number of its members and campaigners convinced me that the Labour Party was where people that wanted a fair society were. I am delighted to meet new (& old) friends and comrades as I expand my contacts and resuscitate old ones, and proud to meet people that campaign for a better society and use their elected council positions to do their best to protect those at the brunt of the cuts. But in the 70s & 80s, I believed and felt that the Party’s policy belonged to the members of the Party, Unions and affiliated socialist societies, but with the changes made in opposition in the early 90s I am not so sure.

The election in May was not a single election. Many things happened, but one thing that is true is that in many parts of the country the Labour Party on the ground had a better election than the Party in Millbank. The national leadership owe the party on the ground a huge debt that allows us to begin to oppose the Tory led Government from a considerably stronger position than might have been the case. The least they can do is listen to its membership on policy.

Labour’s National Policy Forum was designed to take policy away from conference. It was designed to isolate the policy makers from their mass movement and the people they represent. Its designers wanted policy to be set by the Parliamentary Labour Party, or more truthfully its front bench. Despite their rhetoric, which they backed with successful action to reverse the decline in membership since 1945, the membership, especially individual members weren’t to be trusted with policy. The National Policy Forum was created and Conference prohibited from deciding on policy. The irony is that the Party Blair and Brown recruited in the mid ‘90s probably didn’t need such treatment. Its successor gave Dianne Abbot, the only Left wing candidate 7½%  of 1st preferences. It’s a long time ago since Tony Benn won 49% of the Deputy Leadership elections.

When conference was the Labour Party’s policy making body, it was possible to know and be involved in the selection of the conference delegate. The National Policy forum does not have this accountability.  I suggest it had zero impact on the policy of the last Labour Governments, which is, shamefully, about the same level of influence as the NEC.

This article was started a long time ago and I have participated in two meetings to discuss this since. In one of them, Ellie Reeves, one of the NEC members responsible for the review made the point that there are two dimensions to the disenfranchisement that members feel, repeated here on YouTube, one is that their ideas disappear into a black hole, there is no commitment to transparency, and secondly that some of the ideas that the Labour government did pursue, such as Privatisation of the Post Office and the Digital Economy Act were never put to the Party. To most Party members, they came from nowhere.

I think the NPF has to go. It was not designed to enhance democracy, nor to ensure that Labour Party policy represented its member’s views. Let’s start with a blank piece of paper and a will to listen to what members want. I hope that that is what Ed Miliband and Peter Hain have promised,  a rejuvenation of the party’s democracy, that allows members to be more than cogs in the phone bank.

This blog article has a short URL of http://is.gd/tawmaW

oooOOOooo

1.    I originally went down a rat-hole about the great and not so great events at Labour’s Conferences and the lessons of the past for today’s activists, I shortened it to make it more readable and focused the article about making Labour Party policy today, but the research, as is often the case with the Labour Party, is hard, as there is little on the internet but it seems to me that a history of Labour Conference is one worth writing.
2.    The old jokes are always the best. (No they’re not!). …

Don’t live complicated lives!

UK CensusI moved into a new flat which had been empty earlier this year and am now being chased by ONS for a Census return. I was not living in, nor renting the flat on the Census date, their web site does not permit one to notify them of the fact the premises was vacant, and I have been visited by an agent of the ONS and informed them that the flat was vacant. NB I had already filled in Census forms about two other address It can’t be that these circumstances are rare, why is it so hard to tell them that the address was vacant, and more importantly, that this is nothing to do with me! …

Sour Grapes

It seems that #yes2av is #downthetoilet, but I was watching Twitter tonight and two tweets passed me by the first says,

“congratulations cameron, congratulations murdoch, your lies have denied the country a democracy. #yes2av #vote2011 #libdems #tories #labour”

and the second, which I can no longer find says something like

“Nick Clegg , you #fail HAHAHA etc….”

You get the idea. There is a very short term view here. I hope some of my Labour friends understand what they’ve done. It’s a huge mistake. First past the post is not democratic, it’s also not helpful to our cause. …

Fair Votes, honest and dishonest arguments

In summary, I believe

  • MPs representing communities should have the support of the majority of their voters,
  • AV may nationally exaggerate the size of popular majorities, but it is likely to constrain the power of unpopular minorities and this is a good thing,
  • the choice of government should not be taken by a small number of swing voters in middle English constituencies, and I mean English,
  • AV is harder to ‘game’, people will be able to vote for their first choice, it gives more people a reason to vote and we’ll all see the real attraction and support of each of the parties,
  • AV means that more people’s vote will count,
  • many MPs will need to appeal to more than their tribal support,
  • the British system asks people to vote for an MP, not a government, the voting system should support this,
  • ‘First Past the Post” is dying, we use other systems for the European parliament, executive mayors, the Greater London Authority and in Northern Ireland, it’s time to move on.

I shall be voting for AV today, it’s not my first choice, but its better than what we have, why don’t you join me?

Clegg and Cameron enter No 10On issues of tribalism I was unhappy to receive a No2AV leaflet, with a picture similar to the one on the left.  I have tried to scan the original to share with you, but my scanner isn’t good enough. Interesting that they have Cameron’s back to us. Are they hoping that Labour and other left wingers will forget that the coalition is Tory led by the simple ruse of having him turn his back on us?. (It won’t be the last time!) The leaflet is decorated with text in UKIP’s Purple and Yellow. (Did they have some ink left over from the General Election?). The text suggests that we should oppose AV because of broken promises and back room deals, and that we, the voter, should punish the dishonest. It’s merely another attempt to keep the interests of the Tory party out of the debate. How stupid do they think we are? Why should we punish only Clegg and the Lib Dems for a deal they did with the Tories!  Anyway, outside London we can punish them both in the local & national elections by voting against them.

The biggest lie is that the current system is in democracy’s interest. If you vote on the merits of fair voting, you’ll support change, otherwise you have a party agenda, and the Tory Party agenda at that. …