Labour and the 4 Day Week

Labour and the 4 Day Week

This is the text of the Working Hours resolution at #Lab19, calling for a 4 day week with no loss of pay.

Composite 8 -Working Hours

Working time is a major industrial and political issue in the UK. This conference is seriously concerned that compared to other countries in Europe, we have some of the worst public and statutory holiday entitlements; full-time workers have amongst the longest hours of any country; UK workers work unpaid overtime worth billions of pounds; and with the forthcoming increase in the state pension age, we will have the longest working lives.

But this has not delivered benefits to workers: average pay is lower than before the financial crash; productivity lags significantly behind other countries; and in-work stress is at record levels. The recent report from Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign outlines the health and wellbeing costs of overwork. Work-related anxiety, stress or depression accounts for half of all working days lost to ill health.

Instead of building a country that works for everyone the Tories are building a country in which you work until you drop –and with the current imbalance of power in the economy, new technology and automation risk exacerbating this by continuing to intensify work, polarise terms and conditions and replace jobs entirely.

Conference believes there is a growing consensus around reductions in working time, including support from the TUC, STUC, Labour Party frontbenchers, individual unions and 63% of the population and that reducing the standard working week, with no loss of pay, must be a central pledge in the manifesto and a key aim of a Labour government.

In particular, Conference believes this should be part of the strategy to address under-employment, build a more sustainable economy, boost productivity and ensure workers benefit from the 4th industrial revolution and leads to opportunities for parents and a decrease in gender inequality.

Conference believes Labour should support the aims of Labour for a 4 day week campaign, go beyond the pledge to introduce four new public holidays and commit in the next manifesto to set out a plan to achieve a standard four day or 32 hour gross week with no loss of pay within a decade through sectoral collective bargaining and a new ‘UK Shorter Working Time Directive.’

Mover: CWU
Seconder: Perth and Kinross CLP
 …

The digital economy, surplus value and monopoly

The digital economy, surplus value and monopoly

More thoughts from a seminar. It was organised by one of the North London CLPs and was advertised as a look at the Digital Economy. So what did I learn and what did I think?

On asking how transformational is the Digital Economy, I am reminded that CV 19 has shown who are essential workers and raises the question as to why they are so poorly paid and that the Digital Economy is not yet ubiquitous. Distribution is not yet virtual and will never be, although with AI driven trucks and airborne drones, a lot of jobs can still be eliminated but I am reminded of Carlota Perez’s comments that the railways created demand for more horse drawn freight miles. The other work apart from the obvious health service workers that cannot be virtualised is cleaning and security.

One thing that was not said is that the platform companies and their software benefit from massive economies of scale, and the critical scaling factor is the number of market participants i.e. the consumers and suppliers; for Air BnB, room providers and renters, for Uber, drivers and riders. While some market place creators have applied massive imagination and science to the problems of IT scalability to support their global marketplaces, the IT plant is not at the heart of the value of these market places although we need to recognize that we’ll have to pay for cycles and the power they consume.

Copyright and closed source makes the software monopolistic which is then applied to the relationship with Labour, and in the case of both Air BnB & Uber non software capital is outsourced to the supplier! The value of the company is based on this market activity, not the value of capital employed and not the so-called cost of the software; the software expropriates the surplus value from the suppliers and the size of these markets acts as a further barrier to entry for competitors.

Copyright since it inhibits copying of the software, also underwrites the share value. This is important as we consider if these monopolies should be placed under common ownership. We need to recognize that copyright enables rental income on an infinitely available resource i.e. the software.

These problems are not new, it’s about how combine labour and the world’s natural resources to produce new stuff, the market is meant to optimise this and the platform companies break these economic rules, but fortunately we know how to regulate monopolies.

There is a need for some new thinking about the value of software and how markets might ensure optimal resource allocation but today the basic facts are that software copyrights enable the expropriation of surplus value and establish a rental income yielding super-profits, super-profits funded by the consumers.

The relationship between these marketplace platform companies[1] and their suppliers is exploitative, copyright laws add to the barriers to entry. Their practices are contrary to decent behaviour and the monopolistic nature of the enterprise, together with the subversion of the capital markets undermines their economic justification.

That’s the problem for socialists


[1] Banks are platform companies. …

STV & the Labour Party

STV & the Labour Party

There’s a sudden revival of interest in STV as the LP adopts it as a means of electing the CLP reps. There are in my mind, three problems with STV for party managers and one for voters. The fact that “order” can be critical in the results is important. When combined with the degree of discipline within Party voting blocs and the propensity to bleed votes from the block, getting the quota early is of advantage to parties. The problem of avoiding having large numbers of your votes trapped in the losing quota is also critically important for party managers particularly if the quota is high.

The Order based nature of STV counting leads to a series of well-known problems with STV in that it is one of the easier systems to game and has a number of design features which encourage manipulative or gaming behaviour. STV is not monotone, participative, consistent nor does it meet the No-Betrayer criteria.

There is no strategy that can compensate for a bloc’s voters not voting for all the candidates in the slate. Even within the activist or membership layer, many are more committed to their faction than to the Party, which may lead people to desert their first choice slate for another as the individual candidates become distasteful to the voter. I am curious if we could model the effect this ‘bleed’. The speed of desertion may well be determined by the slate construction as some on the slate might be exceptionally unacceptable to the otherwise loyal electorate. We should also note that not transferring reduces the quota[1] and so is equivalent to a (part) vote for all remaining candidates and acts as de-facto vote in favour of the highest remaining contender.

Early success militates against having votes lost in the losing quota, particularly as the STV transfers surpluses before eliminating candidates.

If running a complete slate, the offer of a recommendation to support as a second choice is not worth so much.

The disadvantage to voters is that their optimal strategy may not involve voting in a straightforward way as it may be best if someone likely to pick up a lot of transfers is eliminated before the transfers occur. This is more acute in instant run-off elections and depends on whether they want a candidate to win or prefer that others lose.

I can’t see what to do about weak discipline. If we take the example of the UK where we have Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the Tories, we can see how people, who’s first choice might be, say, Labour might switch to the Green list after one or two votes for what ever reason and the Greens might go in both directions to Labour or to the LibDems. The system is designed to have this effect.


[1] This is the failure to meet the Participation Effect. …

Knowledge Graphs

Knowledge Graphs

I attended a Capco/Semantic Web Company webinar, on Knowledge Graphs which provoked these thoughts, on how far we’ve come, new solutions to old problems and the social inhibitors to new technology adoption. The complexity of the data administration problem is why specialist tools have been developed and matured to the point that Gartner produce a Magic Quadrant on Meta Data Management tools, in which the Semantic Web company’s Pool Party appears as a visionary. The MQ report is currently being distributed, as is normal, by one of the “Leaders”, Informatica.

Andreas Blumaur, who was one of the speakers, repeated his suggestion, start small with committed users and that possibly the best 1st solution is a semantic search. (I thinl I’ll have another look at implementing something on my wiki.)

I have felt for a while that semantic web technology could be used to match work to resource in the cloud, with cloud entities advertising their capability using XML, it shouldnn’t be a stretch and with Azure, these systems are being defined in XML. The other application that interests me is if the XML/RDF models can be used to create a model of the person in the enterprise, maybe implemented in SQL; my current researches have not been fruitful. …

Labour’s leak, rights of privacy and the public interest

This is the first part of my three part article on the Labour leak of a management report into the activities of Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) in its handling of anti-semitism complaints. This part looks at the act of the leak, the legal (or lack of) immunities, the rights of the employees and those of the management and the anti-corruption laws, basically the legal position outside the rules of the Party. For more, see overleaf ...

Voting Systems Theory and STV

Voting Systems Theory and STV

It is important to understand that a bunch of clever people have thought hard about voting systems; we don’t have to invent this. I remember that our management in Sun Professional Services tried to imbue us with the mantra, “Innovate, Don’t Reinvent” and others have declared that the process of innovation is standing on the shoulders of giants. Voting system qualities known as criteria have been defined. There may be some as yet undiscovered criteria, but it would be best if we debate the pro’s and con’s using an agreed categorisation and science.

One has to be brilliant to be both in a minority and right, and most of us are not that brilliant.

Wikipedia, on their article, Comparison of Electoral Systems, says this,

Attitudes towards systems are highly influenced by the systems’ impact on groups that one supports or opposes, which can make the objective comparison of electoral systems difficult. … To compare methods fairly and independently of political ideologies, voting theorists use voting method criteria, which define potentially desirable properties of voting methods mathematically.

Wikipedia – Comparison of Electoral Systems

One thing we should note is that not all criteria can be applied to all systems, the key differences are between single winner systems, and multiple winner systems and then between list based and non-list based systems.

While some consider and seek to judge instant run off elections, sometimes referred to as the Alternate Vote as a special case of STV i.e. an STV with only one winner, the fact that there is only one winner makes it a separate and quite different system. This is shown by the fact that it passes and fails different voting criteria. Also, in AV elections, there is no transfer of a surplus votes and the minority i.e. the wasted voted can be as high as 50% – 1. This is better than simple plurality systems where the losing proportion can easily be quite high majorities. It seems to me that one critical goal of democratic voting systems should be to ensure that the “wasted” or losing votes are as small as possible.

Some criteria only apply to singe winner elections, and while it’s hard to game an STV election, it is not impossible. Games can be played by candidate/parties or by voters. STV’s problems come from the fact that surpluses and eliminations occur in an order and thus transfers are impacted by this ordering.

The Wikipedia article tests STV against 7 voting systems criteria and fails it on five. Some of the criteria seem to be remarkably similar and, it seems to me, all relate to honesty and motivation in voting behaviour and how the voting system reflects this honesty. STV fails the Monotonicity Criterion as there are cases where you can support your preferred candidate by down ranking them. It fails the Consistency criterion, probably by design and I am not sure it’s all that desirable, but this is about sub-set aggregation which can’t be done in STV, Participation, that your voice is always stronger if you vote, and “No favourite betrayal”, where you have no incentive to vote for anyone other than your favourite.

It’s certainly not perfect but we should learn from thinkers that have gone before us.  …

Fatal Weaknesses

Fatal Weaknesses

This is part II of my commentary on the Labour Leak, it looks at the missteps and failures to control the bureaucracy from 2015 to 2019 and looks at the structural faults, the need for a robust segregation of duties, how Labour has changed its rules to make expulsion of alleged antisemites or troublemaker’s easier and how McNicol’s eventual departure allowed both damage to be continued and a cover-up to become deeply embedded within the Party.

A better segregation of duties

I have written a lot during Labour’s democracy review on the issue of segregation of duties. The General Secretary is too powerful; it’s a feature of the role’s design and this is worse at the Regional Director level where they inherit powers from both the GS and the NEC which is designed as the means of accountability and control for the General Secretary. We have been shown that a General Secretary that has the confidence of the NEC, or at least enough of it to block any sanctions can do what they like, which includes breaking the rules and maybe the law.

The Govt. Department responsible for supervising & enforcing the country’s anti-corruption laws is the Ministry of Justice, they have issued guidance which states that,

‘Improper performance’ is … performance which amounts to a breach of an expectation that a person will act in good faith, impartially, or in accordance with a position of trust.”

MoJ Guidance on the bribery act

Improper performance is the result of any action designed to having the effect of gaining advantage through an improper performance and is a crime.

The key question is how do we stop this happening again?

If we look at the literature and commentary on corruption, it is clear that anti-corruption programs have to come from the top and the critical controls are the performance management system, strong and clear financial controls, a robust whistleblowing system , the need for decisions to be taken by more than one person and an effective Risk & Audit Committee. While some may argue that McNicol has proved the need for change, we need to understand the role of those who ensured that the controls that do exist didn’t work.

The problem is the powers of the GS, and the concurrent GMB affair shows that election without controls is not the answer to the problem.

What happened here, it would seem, is that the General Secretary took a number of decisions on a highly factional basis, encouraged staff to do the same or ignored staff who behaved in this way and this has been covered up  by his sponsors/supporters on the NEC; attempts to clean the stable have failed because there isn’t the will and because those on the losing side at a national level were just waiting to inherit the same powers.

We need to consider why the NEC permitted this to happen because McNicol was gone within two months of the special bye-election for NEC places that led to the election of Momentum Chair, Jon Lansman together with Yasmine Dar and Rachel Garnham. We must assume that before that, the votes weren’t there to hold McNicol and GLU to account.

Matters other than antisemitism

The leaked report was only looking at the conduct of GLU with respect to antisemitism, it fails to document the 1,000’s of bullying complaints, and the misuse of the disciplinary system for political control, not just at national level but in many CLPs,  Labour Council Groups, together with Labour Campaign Forums especially during the selections for the all member 2018 council elections.

We need answers as to whether the decisions taken in the run up to the 2016 leadership challenge which were supported by the NEC were taken in good faith and in accordance with the principles of good governance. In legal terms, were all relevant criteria considered and all irrelevant criteria ignored. The national regulatory regimes which govern these issues are the Nolan principles i.e. the report of the committee into standards in public life & the Bribery Act.

We also need to understand if ‘improper performance’ occurred during the selections for MPs for the 2017 election;  the PLP lost 14 members in the two years of the parliament for various reasons, from perjury through sexual harassment to a lack of commitment.

These are not victimless acts, the victims are the ordinary members suspended and even those investigated and cleared and let’s remember that they invented a procedure whereby they wrote to people saying that they had no evidence but that if another complaint was made then it would be taken as a factor In any future investigations.

Labour’s rules

The NEC have rightly fought to ensure there is no place for antisemitism in the Party, and have launched two enquiries, issued three codes of conduct, and changed the disciplinary rules three times. After the original stories about antisemitism and its weaponisation in Oxford Labour Students and NOLS, the NEC commissioned a report by Baroness Royall, which found little; Corbyn commissioned a report by Shami Chakrabarti which made a number of recommendations and also proposed changing the rules, proposing the abolition of the absolute free speech defence. McNicol’s NEC refused to bring these rule changes to #lab16 and in the tradition of the Labour Party in playing the player not the ball, their allies launched a campaign to denigrate Shami Chakrabarti and the report. Despite this, the NEC brought rule changes to Conference for the following three years. (2017 – 2019). All these changes weaken the presumption of innocence.

The effect of all this is that the segregation of powers where the Conference defines the rules and thus unacceptable behaviour, the secretariat investigates complaints, the NEC decides to if there is a case to answer and the NCC acts as judge and jury taking into account the accused’s defence has been weakened. The NEC writes the Codes, and now also decides on guilt and sanctions without a right to state one’s defence. We now have evidence that the investigation process has been corrupted over the last four years. This agglomeration of power is not something we permit in our judicial system as it breaches the principle of a fair trial.

Wrong steps

The transition from McNicol’s term of office to that of Formby was not handled well. The use of compromise agreements, involving extra contractual payments for McNicol and other key senior staff. One lesson must be that the widespread use of Non-Disclosure Agreements and the use of peerages to supplement senior staff pensions needs to stop.

The fact is that Corbyn’s office were so grateful for their agreement to go that they were prepared to pay any price. The eulogy by Corbyn, reported in this Telegraph article, dated 24th Feb 2018 is shocking in the light of the allegations, I reproduce the full quote in my blog article, “Not even the basics”.

“I would like to personally thank Iain McNicol for his long and dedicated service to the Labour Party as General Secretary.

He has run our party’s organisation at a time of great change, including a near tripling of the membership, two general elections and the EU referendum.

Iain has served the Labour Party and trade union movement in a wide range of roles throughout his career and is a credit to our movement.

I am confident Iain will continue to play a major role in politics and our party, and will support our team inside and outside Parliament with his experience and skills.

Jeremy Corbyn (according to the Telegraph)

At the time McNicol resigned, the Head of Compliance, Stolling and London Regional Director, Fleming also resigned but were all allowed to work their notice. This is pretty much unheard of in the private sector.   We also need to know if others were involved. The exposure of one individual’s WhatsApp records shows that much of this was undertaken using IT tools to which Labour’s management had no access.  There may be much more to find.

The contents of the leaked report suggest that acts of gross misconduct and conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which “in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party” have occurred.  If so, employees should be dealt with under the staff disciplinary rules and if necessary, under the party’s disciplinary rules. Each allegation against those no longer employed by the Party needs to be assessed but if any compromise agreements were signed with people that have been shown to have performed acts of gross misconduct then the Party should look to recover the, in some cases, very generous compensation payments made. …

Labour’s policy consultation

Labour’s policy consultation

The Labour Party has extended its national policy consultation and so policy proposals, comments and votes can be made at https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/. In order to vote you must have a “my labour” login and login to the policy site. If not a member, you need to register at the site itself.

I have written proposals on the economy, a post-Brexit trade & co-operation deal, employee protection, and the surveillance society & police powers. I have supported proposals on free  movement/immigration, and anti-union laws, It’d be great if if you could vote them up,

I would be grateful to be pointed at great proposals on social care, social security and education.

Other’s may find this & this on a Post-Brexit deal, inspired by Labour Movement for Europe worth voting up. …

What cost equality?

What cost equality?

51.5% of Labour MP’s are women and 20% of Labour MP’s are BAME.

But what about the class background of MP’s?

29% of MP’s went to private school (7% of the population did), 14% of Labour MP’s went to private school.

25% of MP’s went to Oxbridge (0.5% of the population did)

50% of MP’s went to the Russell Group of Universities, 24 ‘top’ universities (11% of the population did).

In 1979, 15% of MP’s came from ‘blue-collar’ backgrounds. In 2019, 3% did!

 …