Never rains …

Never rains …

A short note on Labour’s cyberbreach. Sienna Rogers at Labour List reports on the 3rd party victim of Labour’s cyber breach. The software is I believe provided by blackbaud, who usually provide this as software-as-service, and have been previously attacked, but Rogers states the system is run by Tangent which I believe to be a trading name for Tangent Marketing Services. This article in the Guardian (HTML/ .PDF ) reports (2007) on Labour’s award of the contract and identify Michael Green as the supplier CEO, although his wikipedia page suggest he’s moved on; he us still registered as a Director at Companies House, although the last set of annual accounts state he has resigned. Labour’s General Secretary at the time was Peter Watt whom wikipedia quote the BBC as saying he resigned “following the revelation that a property developer made donations to the party via three associates”. Tangent also appointed an ex-Party Director of Communications, Paul Simpson (HTML / .PDF) as it’s account manager for the Labour Party in 2009, although he left 4 years later.

This story adds to the questions that need to be answered, one of which is why the software and its run time contract has been in place for so long? Has it it been market tested, are the terms and conditions still appropriate?

When the leak was first reported, I wrote a piece on IT Vendor Management (also on my blog) and posed some question. I also wrote a short piece on Cyber-security and the NIST Cyber-security framework. In the first of these articles I described what a decent vendor management policy looks like, and how the use of international standards on IT security, (ISO 27001), and governance (COBIT) would help, as would having a National Executive Committee properly equipped, trained and interested.  …

Sptitzen Kandidaten, the rule of law and the EU’s CoFoE


Yesterday France assumed the Presidency of the European Union, as planned, in time to move forward the final recommendations of the “Conference on the Future of Europe”. In mid December, 39 recommendations were made from the Democracy and the Rule of Law panel. Most surprisingly, they do not recommend changing the means by which the President of the Commission is elected/chosen and yet, they propose the establishment or repetition of the Citizens’ Assembly approach adopted by the Conference.

In the rest of this blog article, I look at how the EU got here, and comment on some surprising and positive recommendations and the one surprising absence.

How it came to be

President Macron in 2019 called for a Conference on the Future of Europe, his plan was to have it done for the French Presidency starting on 1st Jan to allow him a big fanfare and stepping stone to the French Presidential elections. The Conference’s genesis was complex but impetus was given by the shenanigans played in the appointment/election of Von der Leyen as President of the Commission. The Parliament was unhappy that the EPP Spitzenkandidat was dumped by the EPP and an alternative proposed by initially the German Govt and latterly by the European Council. Their successful candidate, Ursula von der Leyen promised a mechanism by which the spitzenkandidat process could be reviewed and strengthened. This was probably unwise as while this would have been popular with the Parliament, it was and is unlikely to win much support within the Council which represents the member states. From this unlikely genesis, there has been a significant pressure expressed in the broader consultations, and from the platform of the plenaries to introduce direct elections for the President of Commission.

In fact, there was massive manoeuvring involved in launching what became the Conference on the Future of Europe, involving deals around its presidency, composition, and terms of reference. It now has co-presidents, the presidents of the three institutions. Most excitingly the Conference includes a number of citizen jurors, chosen randomly with sample construction balancing with reserved places for young people. The question of whether the conference is authorised to recommend changes that require treaty change is unclear; it would seem there is a clear understanding from the Council or a majority of it that they will not engage in treaty change.

The physical conference has been supplemented by a reddit or bulletin board like ‘digital platform’ where citizens and civic society organisations can make proposals which are/have been considered by the citizen’s panels. The digital platform allows comments, up/down votes and endorsements, but one has to login to the platform although it accepts the usual SSO tokens[1].

A Citizens’ Assembly

I have been tracking the Conference, since the summer of 2021 as a member of Citizens Take over Europe coalition whose key demand has been the establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly. They have been big fans of the citizen juror component of the conference but latterly have been concerned at the lack of inclusion of underrepresented groups. Their proposal on a Citizen’s Assembly is #7692 and links to their/our manifesto.

The EU’s conspicuous democratic deficit builds on the underlying crisis of representative democracy. Far from new, citizens’ mistrust towards national and European institutions, as well as towards the political elites, persists throughout the continent. It is urgent to rethink the role of the people in Europe: in times of great uncertainty, especially, citizens’ involvement in decision-making becomes paramount to strengthening our democracies. But to overcome mistrust towards the EU and address the socio-economic and environmental challenges ahead, we need more inclusive and innovative instruments of participatory democracy beyond the nation-state.

I argue that the EU should evolve at a natural pace, not at the pace of the slowest but a treaty change that forces change that the Union is not ready for would be a mistake.

Rule of Law

My feeling is that issues pertaining to what has become known as the “rule of law”, which bundles up issues of human rights and judicial independence have become important to the EU to the extent that sanctions are being built into the expenditure programmes and are being taken up by the Conference Citizen’s panel. One of the EU’s most important achievements is its commitment, via its Charter of Fundamental Rights to the European Convention on Human Rights to democracy and equality. The EU is in dispute with the Polish and Hungarian governments over the issues of judicial independence, anti-LGBT policies and in the case of Hungary corruption. As a Brit., I need to make it clear that a number of the legislative ‘reforms’ proposed and enacted by the current Tory Parliament may well have led the UK into similar disputes and if enacted may well become barriers to re-entry.

Social Programmes

My observing of the 2nd Plenary suggests to me that there is a large constituency calling for an expansion of social programmes aimed at improving and levelling up the social wage. The EU and its member states response to the coronavirus pandemic has also shown people that more can be done, and that inter-state co-operation is desirable. The demand for greater health provision co-ordination may well be an additional demand. Panel 2 has called for investment programmes for full employment, a regional Policy with an economic equality goal or baseline,  and proposes [more] corporation tax and social expenditure, which would probably be an expansion of the EU competencies, although not much and this maybe coming.

There is a widespread recognition that macro-economic policy co-ordination is weaker than desirable. The establishment of the Euro has led to the development of a highly constrained central bank. This has disguised the fact that the EU and the Germans in particular, are wedded to a quantitative money theory of inflation management which they see as the paramount goal of macro-economic policy. The Left should be arguing for sustainable growth and for income/wealth equity. The problem being that tight money causes poverty and after 13 years of loose money, we need to recognise that the historic views of the role of monetary policy and fiscal policy leave people short of the tools they need to fight poverty. I think it unlikely that this will be easily resolved; it may be one where we need the Germans and the so-called frugal four to recognise that a growing, equitable economy is more stable and peaceful. This is a political problem of the centre-right and those of the left that seek to triangulate with them.

Three Recommendations and an absence

There are three recommendations, and one absence which I shall highlight here.

They recommend renaming the Council and the Commission. The names they propose are Senate for the Council and propose to put the word Executive in front of the Commission’s name.  

To me this epitomises the at times juvenile and ill researched nature of the process. It possesses maximum offence to those states and citizens that want a slower journey to political union, and zero benefit. Even if the renaming represented the political reality, it is unnecessary. (It also to my mind is based on a misunderstanding of the role of the Commission and its President, although the monopoly on legislative initiative currently held by the Commission, might be better shared with the Parliament. This was a popular proposal on the digital platform; it’s a missed opportunity.)

The panel did not however ignore one of the most significant roadblocks to greater co-operation and recommend a greater use of qualified majority voting in the Council, and a diminution in the use of the veto. This needs to be done with sensitivity and a recognition of the sovereign integrity of the member states. Managing the veto and legislative initiative are better proposals for more effective decision making.

The big surprise to me is that there no proposals to change the way on which the President of Commission is to be appointed. It would seem that this is a disappointment to Macron and Von der Leyen, together with a number of other political party dignitaries such as Guy Verhofstat. The Commission is a collective entity, there should be no ambition to recreate the US Presidency; the EU could not survive the creation of an unrepresented minority of approaching 200m people.

The 39th and final recommendation is for the adoption of Citizen’s Assemblies. I think this is something that CTOE can get behind and while it opens the lid on issues such as intra-state subsidiarity which I believe to be necessary and the need for guarantees for stronger and more accountable regional consultations.

I recommend for more on how the EU got here, you look at Managed Expectations: EU Member States’ Views on the Conference on the Future of Europe, Minna Ålander, Nicolai von Ondarza, Sophia Russack (eds) and The Conference on the Future of Europe, Obstacles and Opportunities to a European Reform Initiative That Goes beyond Crisis Management by Nicolai von Ondarza and Minna Ålander, both of Stiftung Wissenschaft & Politik in Berlin.

The Citizens Panel 2 on Democracy and the Rule of Law have made 39 recommendations. I have made some notes which I published on my wiki.

[1] I think if non-EU resident, you have to use the SSO providers. The site offers a login ID to EU residents. …

England’s founders

England’s founders

Andrew Adonis, on Twitter, has challenged us to name three people as founders of England. I thought that’s a good game. Who would I choose?

What is England? I think it needs to be seen as defined by its Parliament, its capitalist economy and its social wage, the remaining jewel of which is the NHS. So I nominate the Immortal 7, Sir Robert Peel, and Aneurin Bevan.

The Immortal Seven are seven members of the House of Lords who invited William of Orange to England to ensure a protestant succession. Modern historians may argue about the extent this established Parliament as the supreme authority but it is generally considered the act that ended the English Civil Wars and started us down the road to our current constitution.

Sir Robert Peel not only founded the Tory Party but the Joint Stock Companies Act was also passed under his stewardship, I toyed with Marx as an observer of Capitalism and Brunel as the innovator/entrepreneur, except he wasn’t, but capitalism is about capital mobility and capital markets and so that Act which enabled these two things to happen.

Our benefit system is in tatters, Beveridge and Keynes will be turning in their graves, but the NHS remains, and it seems we have to associate Bevan with it. Bevan is of course Welsh.

At least one commentator on the twitter thread makes the point that analysing history through the lives of single people is not wise.

Left by the wayside are Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell & Horatio Nelson …

Sound the alarm

Sound the alarm

I have just started the Secret Barrister, in the forward, they say,

When you have sat in as many decrepit court cells or tired, coffee stained witness suites as I have, looking into the eyes of someone whose most basic sense of what is ‘fair’ and what is right has been entirely crushed by their exposure to the criminal justice system, you can either slink into jaundiced defeatism or sound the alarm.

The Secret Barrister

And while I have not sat in courts, or witness suites, I (as an accompanying rep) too have met many who are shocked at the lack of fairness amongst our employers, and in our law.  …

A Frost free xmas

A Frost free xmas

Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister has resigned from Govt. He couldn’t square the circle of cakeism! Boris was walking away from a Northern Ireland & CJEU showdown with the EU and further compromises were/are needed; Johnson needs all his political capital to be half sensible on Covid 19. Frost took the opportunity to argue its about macroeconomics and vision, but we all know he’d made the job impossible and like his brexitloon predecessors he was costing the Govt more than he was bring to it on the one metric that counts, Popularity. He’ll lose about £31,000 in pay, but keep the right to claim about £67,000 as a member of the House of Lords as an attendance allowance.

Have I got news for you comments,


Shropshire North By-election

The Tories have lost a seat they’ve held forever. You can find lots of people commenting often spinning it according to their agenda. I am not saying I am not biased, but the one incontrovertible truth is that it would seem that candidate quality counts. The winning Lib Dem is a committed local politician and campaigner, the Tory was not.

See what I said about Batley & Spen and candidate quality then, …

Sometimes ministers go to gaol.

I am astonished to read that Inger Støjberg, an ex-Danish immigration minister has been sent to prison for breaching migrant’s human rights. This followed a European Court of Human Rights ruling. I look forward to one of many cases against Priti Patel going to Strasbourg, for instance, this and this on her illegal and inhumane instructions on push back of refugees crossing the channel or her failures in progressing Windrush compensation or her discriminatory behaviour towards pre-settled EU citizen residents. She should be worried although her mate Dominc Raab has an answer. Neuter the ECtHR. …

Why we shouldn’t leave the Labour Party

Why we shouldn’t leave the Labour Party

The Educator is a monthly political education newsletter for Momentum members, covering topics from Labour history to political theory. Momentum emailed the Dec. issue to its supporter base, in it, the academic Jeremy Gilbert makes a compelling case for the left to stay inside the Labour Party. This is a mirror, the original is posted here, the text of the article is overleaf/below. ...

A turning point in fortune

A turning point in fortune

Two polls this week put Labour well ahead of the Tories and even Poltico’s poll tracker has Labour ahead albeit by smaller numbers and on Thursday, the Tories lost 5 council bye-elections. A couple of things to say, firstly, this may not last, and secondly it’s often said that government’s lose elections rather than oppositions winning them. This turn in the polls may come to be seen as important. I find it hard to believe that ‘partygate’ is the cause of the sudden turn in fortunes, but stranger things have happened. While Thatcher fell because of the Poll Tax, and Major because of Black Wednesday, Brown was overtaken after a spat with Osborne on Inheritance Tax, with Ed Miliband, it was the bacon sandwich and the SNP, and Corbyn lost his lead over May at the same time he was arguing that we needed more evidence to blame the Russians for Skripal poisonings. Sometimes tragedy, sometimes farce but we need to ask will it last. ... More overleaf ...