Energy Prices

Energy Prices

There is a consensus that Energy profiteering is at the centre of the OECD’s inflation crisis. This is exacerbated in the UK due to privatisation and asset stripping of the gas and water companies. Brexit hasn’t helped.

Boris says he’ll do nothing and leave it for the next Prime Minister, Truss says she’ll do little except possibly bung the energy industry some wonga.

The silence has been deafening but even Gordon Brown felt safe enough to make a comment.

A friend/correspondent, Paul Cotterill,  proposes his 13 point plan, which seems well thought out. There’s some complexity in the regulatory regime which currently discriminates against those that have to prepay and renewable energy providers. Another friend correspondent, the “Forensic Socialist” writes about the energy extraction companies and their profitability as the centre of the problem.

After a week, Labour come out with a plan, which focuses on households leaving businesses inc. water and councils and other public services to continue to pay too much. It’s not going to be implemented so it doesn’t really matter and if his internal critics shut-up, it might at least skewer the Tories. Labour plan to cap energy prices and tax profits, encourage renewables and insulate the coldest homes. It’s extraordinarily expensive, even if fully funded; he plans to spend in 6 months, what he was previously planning to spend, £28bn, in 5 years on investment.

Richard Murphy criticises Labour’s debt mentality, well he would, but his calling out that businesses, schools and hospitals are not being protected is valid and important

The FT, where the bourgeoisie tell the truth to each other, in an article by Stephen Bush welcomes the proposals, although they question the funding plans and whether labour get the scale and likely duration of the problem. He says,


On the other hand, it seems to my eyes to be a major problem that Labour’s big announcement on energy prices has not convinced either the energy policy experts that they have their arms around the scale, depth and duration of the crisis, or economic experts that they can plausibly fund their policies.

Stephen bush – ft

The elephant in the room is whether to nationalise the BP and Shell, which have a market capitalisation of £250 bn or as Paul Mason suggests take a golden share, or as we assume the Tories will argue that it’s unnecessary because the hidden hand of the market will provide the best answer. Personally I wouldn’t bet on the Tories holding that line, they are ideologically flexible enough to do what they think they need to do to win the next election.

It seems that Labour is making its policy in a darkened cupboard again; its biggest problem in 2019 was that late additions to the manifesto had not been socialised either within the Party or the country, and while it seems they were based on an often deep expertise, this was not visible.

The Government can control prices through OFGEM and tax profits. Why won’t they? It seems that Good Law Project are going to give OFGEM a hand.

But this is a Tory Govt problem, I have some sympathy with those who argue that we should be attacking the Tories; it’s just that when we join the Labour Party, we expect some say in the policy platform and Keir Starmer is not giving us that.

 (So vote for me, and my running mates for Labour’s NEC and MPF, where I am standing with others for the London NPF seats, I’ll stand up for progressive policies and internal democracy). 🙂 …

What does ‘system update required’ say about Labour’s IT?

What does ‘system update required’ say about Labour’s IT?

As part of the ‘drains up’ undertaken after the 2019 General Election, a coalition calling itself Labour Together undertook a review of what went wrong and as part of that review commissioned an organisation called the “common knowledge co-op” to look at Labour’s IT and its management. They produced a report called “System update required”. (original | mirror ) What did it say? I think this is important, but like so many learning opportunities that challenge power and the bad behaviour of the powerful it seems to me to be dramatically under-valued.

When I first read it, I was outraged. I hoped to summarise it in a sensationalist fashion to see if I could interest someone who might pick it and make things better. What I have written is not that exciting and I suspect little will change because the Party doesn’t have the knowledge and experience and today is led by people who care more about their control and position within the Party than they do in winning an election and becoming a government. I mean they’d be happy to be in Government but it’s more important to them that they control the Party.

In summary, the report says, portfolio management was unacceptably poor and not accountable to the highest levels of management although they too didn’t have clue. There weren’t enough IT staff and the more numerous IT management layer wasn’t good enough. The report makes no mention of ‘requirements management’, nor of any benefits analysis tools to allow an understanding the effectiveness of the software applications provided. Labour’s voter ID/GOTV software is no longer the best. Local adoption of the IT tools is low, partly because of poor commitment to training, partly due to a high turnover of local activists and partly because the Labour machine didn’t care.

In more detail,

  1. Portfolio management of the applications was unacceptably poor i.e. there was no strategic ownership of the portfolio or its elements and the owning divisions and their heads did what they wanted including damaging the capability of other parts of the organisation. Much of this is down to dreadful talent management and probably factionalism. Factionalism will have impacted both staff selection, IT priority management and funding programmes. The report makes no comment on the effectiveness of  the “requirements management” process nor how the role of “senior user” in the project teams was undertaken.
  2. There weren’t enough software engineering staff. The management were unable to scale the organisation appropriately as the 2019 election began; they had failed to do so for the Euro-elections. The contractor culture and poor management experience has led to poor documentation. The lack of documentation also inhibits user adoption and training and staff take-on. No effort was made to leverage Labour’s talented membership in systems development.
  3. Labour no longer[1] has leadership in the doorstep/campaigning apps and these, it would seem, are no longer considered competitive advantage; many progressive parties use either open source or third party programs to do this work. (I argue elsewhere and frequently, including below, that one should only build software where the organisation’s functionality is unique and gives competitive advantage).
  4. Local i.e. CLP digital adoption is weakest where it’s needed. Data quality i.e. the contact rate is correlated with party membership and strength. Famously, when David Miliband stood down from South Shields the contact rate was alleged to be under 5%; the Party has been much more careful about releasing the information since then. Many of the IT tools are not used by local parties. Some/many regional staff were not appointed for their IT (or even campaigning) skills.

That’s the end of the summary, you can skip more of my précis by going to the Gaps & Lessons section of this post.

Tools and portfolio management

Labour’s tools are designed as point solutions to single problems and the ‘ownership’ of these systems is/was allocated across at least three divisional heads. There is no single IT strategy and the Heads of Department often refused to co-operate with each other. An attempt was made to the extent that a consultant produced a report to bring these competing managements into alignment, but this failed due to senior management fear of the power of fiefdoms. This envisaged a strong central IT function. This was compounded by an inappropriate appointment to a Director of IT[2] who might have been expected to make this work but didn’t. While applications were owned divisionally, staff were not. There are/were too many managers with no clear chain of command on a decision.

The managerial contention led to frequent circumstances where constituencies and regional staff were denied access to critical tools for campaigning or permissions delayed and deadlines missed in some cases by holidays taken by key staff members. The report documents unprofessional interpersonal rivalries as the motivation for some of these delays.

At best the Labour Party’s compliance with the GDPR is often an excuse/reason for deny people access to the tools. This has led to an ineffective design and use of the tools.

IT staffing cadre and sourcing

There have never been enough development staff, in the summer of 2019, between the Euro-elections and the run-up to the general election, there was one software engineer. i.e. the Labour party had one developer responsible for 7 tools accountable to three divisions. The report recommends that a cadre of 7 would be more appropriate. The staff shortage and the use of contractors has led to inadequate documentation, which inhibits maintenance; both bug fixes and new functionality are too slow to arrive. The lack of documentation also inhibits user adoption and training.

The take-on of temporary staff for the 2019 election was too slow and inhibited by the previous hiring freeze. Tg=he Director of IT also left the organisation during the elction campaign; this can’t have helped scale the organisation to what was needed. This financial policy i.e. the hiring freeze and the delayed staff take-on almost certainly affected the result.

The 2019 campaign failed to take account of and use the vast pool of talented volunteers, unlike in 2017. This is exacerbated or due to the Party’s paranoia for control and secrecy. The code is, at least, held in git repos but volunteers are not given access. There may be good reasons why not, theft of code, or misuse and theft of data. The report recommends and I agree that more should be done to energise and utilise the skills and experience of Labour’s membership. They identify that code developed to leverage Labour’s unique advantage of motivating a large number of volunteers cannot be stolen.

Adoption

Digital adoption is weakest where it’s needed. The answer to this is training and an open source/train the trainer culture, and documentation that works. (I say, that an all members bugs database is needed, an effective trouble ticketing system with time to fix service levels i.e. effective incident and problem management and help desk functions. The long term inadequacy of Organise, a tool being replaced by an off the shelf package is unacceptable. (I write about the data protection risks of a broken membership system elsewhere on this blog.))

Gaps and Lessons

The party needs an IT Governance policy/strategy and needs someone to drive it and ensure it’s useful and meets the Party’s needs. It needs sponsorship from the NEC. I would adopt COBIT as it avoids inventing one, people that understand it are easy to find and I have seen it work exceptionally effectively. One of its central tools that will help Labour and any other organisation is the mantra, Plan, Do, Check, Adjust, where plans are written down. All projects and operational processes need to be approved and checked against the planned benefits. This doesn’t happen in the Labour Party.

Making the point that they had a divided management structure and more managers than coders is cute, accurate but easy. What is the ideal ratio between developers and their managers, operations staff (and their managers) and policy people including Governance, Compliance and Regulation and procurement/finance people? This will vary according to a number of factors, maybe those I explored in Software Programme Management on LinkedIn. i.e. it will depend on the importance of the system, its planned volatility, the maturity of the code and base technology but I am certain that having zero GCR people can’t work. (see also this article on Linkedin by me).

Reading the report makes me ask if the tools i.e applications Labour has, are the tools we need. What no-one questions is whether the tools are the right tools? I had not heard of Turnout, and while I had heard of Impact, no-one in our CLP is interested in using it. We do what we’ve always done. No-one is asking how effective is doorstep work? Let’s remember that Leave won that campaign without one!

Each project needs a business case that states the expected business benefit and each project needs to be evaluated to ensure that it still delivers as expected. (If possible they should be tested if only on paper, against the second best alternative.)

The development/acquisition strategies must take into account the skills market available, not just in the short term, but also longer term. The use of highly adopted technology will allow an ease of recruitment of staff and volunteers. The most important application of this principle/guidline maybe in applying it to a single UI borrowing or implementing common implementations or metaphors. It maybe that android is the most common user interface in use amongst Labour’s members and supporters; whatever is the case, Labour should not be investing in UI design. Despite this, I believe that stopping the use of Nationbuilder[3] may have been a mistake, it had funnel management capability and potentially allow the encouragement of supporters or even voters to become more engaged; it was designed to act as a volunteer management engagement package. It does not meet my, “buy what people use” slogan.

Labour, well everyone really should only build for competitive advantage, no-one should adopt and change[4]. For instance we no longer[5] have leadership in the doorstep/campaigning apps and these are no longer considered competitive advantage; many progressive parties use open source or third party programs to do this work.

Labour needs to develop as if open source so that user authored applications can be easily incorporated.

Recommendations

I now try to briefly explain their recommendations although their words are admirably brief. They recommend slimming down the number of managers[6] and having a single plan[7] which is shared and understood and committed to.

  1. They recommend hiring more staff, most importantly software engineers who can make the code better. They have some weak words on having a strategy and say nothing on requirements management.
  2. They state that a Digital Roadmap is required which is generally available.
  3. There should be a collaboration capability to allow collaboration by the broader membership, for bug fixes and even user authored apps.
  4. They recommend that Labour de-commit from Experian and build an alternative system based on local knowledge for voter id and social media targeting.
  5. Ensure everyone that needs it is trained that documentation is available and trouble ticketing works and is transparent.
  6. That appropriate access permissions are granted; this would involve a roles and responsibilities register.
  7. A common casework tool for all our public officials might be sensible so the Party can track issues although there are data protection issues here. They propose that contact creator becomes real time to avoid over contacting supporters.
  8. They recommend broader GDPR training; in my view a complete rewrite, the policy is designed for control and neither compliance nor operational effectiveness are considered.
  9. An availability tool should be made available so all potential users know what to expect.

[1] There’s a couple of citations in this para on P16.

[2] See page 10/11 of the report.

[3] This product charges on the basis of the database size, I wonder how much this was the motivation for leaving it rather than a skills shortage,  reliability and a weakness in meeting its business case.

[4] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/software-programme-management-david-levy/

[5] There’s a couple of citations in this para on P16.

[6] The redundancy programme did not achieve this goal.

[7]This was clearly not the case in 2017. …

On Labour’s disciplinary rules

On Labour’s disciplinary rules

I have not read, until today, in detail the new rules on LP complaints. The version published before Conference, well during conference, in the CAC reports were very hard to read. The rules are spread over Chapters 1, 2 and 6 and contain significant numbers of cross references, within the chapters and between the chapters. Here is a flow chart of what I believe to be the process.

Flow Chart of the LP Complaints process

The new rules, in Chapter 2, introduced the concept of a prohibited act and codified the prior prohibition of supporting other parties in elections as a proscribed act. There was also an attempt to consolidate a growing body of text dealing with sexual harassment and racist acts. particularly made as an attempt to meet the findings and remediation plan of the EHRC report. I wrote in Dec that I don’t believe these rules meet the criteria of Article 6, the Right to a Fair Trial, of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and have also noted the Forde Report’s concerns about ECHR compliance.

Complaints made nationally are assessed supposedly by LGU who now need certain levels of training and accreditation to determine if the allegation is about sexual harassment, abuse of a protected characteristic, or another complaint, usually a breach of rules. Complaints can be dismissed at this point for being incomplete or failing to meet the eligibility stated in the Complaints Policy. There seems to be no transparency or appeal against these decisions. The classification is also used to guide the investigation process.

The prohibited acts are in many cases pretty uncontroversial the problem being with,

2.I.5.B.v) Possessing membership of, providing financial assistance to, sitting on the ruling body of or otherwise supporting (as may be defined by the NEC) any political organisation that the NEC in its absolute discretion shall declare to be inimical with the aims and values of the Party.

Labour’s Rule Book C2.I.5.B.v

The problem being with the incomplete definition of ‘otherwise supporting’. Article 7 of the ECHR guarantees no punishment without law. This is to ensure that people can avoid illegal behaviour in the knowledge of the law. This rule cannot be complied with because the offences are unstated and thus unknowable. I also note that member on staff bullying and harassment is a prohibited act but not staff on member, and the complaints process may not be used against staff.

The separation of powers within the LGU taking decisions to prosecute, and initiating the collection of evidence is unclear. i.e. no-one has visibility of the complaint leading to a prohibited act prosecution.

I am really unclear on the role of Independent Review Board, it’s job is to confirm/reject NEC decisions but it seems it only reviews cases about protected characteristics. The rules are unclear on this, although there is some text in Chapter 6 which is about if the NEC cannot make up its mind or it has a conflict of interest C6.I.1.D.iv.

CLP prosecutions are guaranteed a hearing at the NCC. Prohibited act prosecutions that require a witness are guaranteed an NCC hearing. NEC disposals on prohibited act prosecutions are guaranteed an NCC appeal. Chapter 6 complaints handled by the NEC can be appealed to the Independent Complaints Board. These would seem to be the only appeals allowed by Labour’s rules. While an appeal to the ICB can be made on the grounds that no-one reasonable could have come to the conclusion based on the facts, the ICB can refuse to hear an appeal.


IRB is independent review board, ICB is the independent complaints board, ICP is an independent complaints panel a subset of the board convened for a specific hearing, NCC is national constitutional committee, NEC, the national executive committee, and CLP constituency Labour Party. EHRC is the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, ECHR is the European Court of Human Rights. …

Inflation

Inflation

The Bank of England was made ‘independent’ of the Treasury in 1997, although not really, so that it could take the blame for any decisions to increase interest rates, such as those taken earlier this week (£) when the Bank increased bank rate to fight inflation.

How does that work? Inflation is believed to have one of two causes, one is that there is too much demand, chasing too few goods and consumers bid up prices. The other is that import prices are rising and thus have an impact on the domestic price level. These are known as demand-pull, or cost push. The current inflation would seem to be caused by the increase in the cost of imports especially primary energy products, exacerbated by a fall in the exchange rate.

The monetarist theory is that there is a real world and money view of the economy.

i.e.

Prices x Product = Money Supply x Velocity of Money

PQ = Mv

This equation is derived via definitions and algebra and thus there is no proof of causality. Monetarists say that reducing the money supply will reduce prices. This assumes that in the short term both the velocity of money and the amount of product are static. Recent econometric studies suggest that the velocity is not constant, and there has always been a problem of defining what money supply is as it must include some credit and so is very difficult to constrain. We should note that consumer credit can be increased very rapidly so can no longer be consider static.

There can be no doubt from studying economic history, that increasing interest rates to reduce the money supply causes a recession, unemployment and poverty. It’s also highly likely that unionised workers will demand higher wages to defend their living standards. In a world where business is internationally mobile, business will defend its profits by increasing prices and/or off shoring the work; this is the wage-price spiral where an economy has high inflation, both cost push and demand pull and low growth.

The drivers of growth and/or the floor to a recession are investment, exports or government expenditure, especially benefits. Increasing interest rates makes investment and the national debt more expensive. It makes exports cheaper in their foreign markets but of course the big factor in the export price uplift is Brexit. Higher interest rates increases the income on savings and the expense on business and domestic borrowing. A squeeze on profits will cause capital to go overseas, especially if the exchange rate is high although this may be ameliorate by the increasing yield in bonds. The other cause of the economic malaise is the poor investment rates by both the private and public sector in the UK.

There can be no doubt that increasing interest rates will cause unemployment. This is how it reduces demand.

The other option to monetary policy is product supply, direct investment such as the EU’s Horizon Europe programme or price regulation to cause a profit squeeze, tax the energy companies and banks, build more houses, control profits, transfer income from the wealthy to  the poor because the poor spend more of their income and of course rejoining the EU’s single market to reduce both import and export frictional costs.

High interest rates are a choice, a choice of theory and a choice of policy. The inconvenient truth is no-one knows if it works.

ooOOOoo

I conclude with some links to key commentators, professional economists. David Blanchflower, writes in the New Statesman, “The Bank of England is recklessly driving the UK into a deep recession”, he warns of the threat of unemployment, elsewhere on his twitter feed he is highly critical of the Bank and its Governor, Andrew Bailey, He is also quoted in a video clip by C4 on twitter, stating that unemployment hurts people more than inflation, which can be seen to be a declining threat. Anne Petifor exposes the role of the global capital markets in ‘managing’ food and energy costs, Richard Murphy provides a modern monetary critique of the theories. I particularly like his calling out of the role of import prices and speculators,

There is a third reason why the BoE policy will not work. It’s not just the assumption that people have too much to spend that the BoE get wrong. They have actually totally failed to identify the proper cause of this inflation.

The inflation we’re suffering is the result of shortages of oil, gas, fertiliser and food, in the main. Some of these are real (food, in particular). Others are being stoked by speculators who are profiting from them, which is why oil companies are declaring such big profits now

Richard Murphy – On Twitter

The featured image has been taken from Blanchflower’s New Statesman article where he asserts its a BoE MPC authored chart. This I assume can e used under the OGL license.  …

Crime and Punishment (in the Labour Party)

Crime and Punishment (in the Labour Party)

I have not studied all the new rules as passed at 2021 conference, but this is a note on proscribed acts and prohibited acts and how they are dealt with.

The existence and role of the Independent Review Board and Independent Complaints Panel are defined across multiple clauses and chapters of the rule book. I think it was designed such that all complaints about discrimination would be dealt with by the new independent review process; certainly this is how it was sold, I think it is two stage. i.e. one bunch of mates of David Evans finds you guilty and you can appeal to …… you get the idea although I should read that part of the rules more thoroughly and write a commentary. It’s certainly designed to be hard to read having cross references across three chapters and delegates at conference were given hours to read them. There is still a role for the NCC but I think it’s easy enough for the bureaucracy to avoid it both within the rules and by bureaucratic manipulation.

On top of this, there are proscribed and prohibited acts. Proscribed acts is supporting other parties in elections, or starting a vexatious legal case against the Party. The duty to offer the accused the rights of natural justice and the right to be fairly treated are excluded from the process of dealing with proscribed acts, but not prohibited acts.

Prohibited acts include supporting another party, physical abusing, threatening or harassing staff, but not other members, failing to pay cost awards against the party, being found guilty by a court of a serious offence, or being the subject of a safeguarding concern. The definition of supporting another party other than at elections is down to the NEC and for each of the organisations proscribed, they have a different list of activities.  These powers are defined in this rule,

Possessing membership of, providing financial assistance to, sitting on the ruling body of or otherwise supporting (as may be defined by the NEC) any political organisation that the NEC in its absolute discretion shall declare to be inimical with the aims and values of the Party.

Labour’s Rule Book

An NEC panel makes the decision which may be appealed to the NCC, on a series of limited grounds, but including,

B. The findings of the NEC are flawed or tainted by bias or unsupported by the evidence;

Labour’s Rule Book

The member is expelled at the point of the decision of the NEC.

The Forde Report says,

Whilst we recognise and applaud many aspects of the Party’s recent reforms of disciplinary procedures, we do have concerns that there appear to be no published procedures governing the use of administrative suspensions and that these appear to be operating without clear criteria for their use being widely available. We are also concerned that the provisions which allow for individuals to have membership removed or denied on the grounds they have committed prohibited acts could be exploited for factional purposes.

The Forde Report – Forward page 7

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Some thoughts on IS programme management

I wrote a note on information systems programme evaluation and management on my linkedin blog. It considers business value vs reliance and observes that this technique permits the management of software products to have different governance policies, that measuring competitive advantage is hard, that IT strategy must be aware of business strategy which will drive the build vs. buy decision together with other project management decisions. Importantly it decries the practice of buying and adapting a software package. These ideas were first taught to me by Dan Remenyi. …

Labour’s macro-economics, “Back to the Future”

Labour’s macro-economics, “Back to the Future”

Starmer made another speech on economics on Monday 25th July. It is reported in the Guardian.

Starmer has been trying to pitch Labour as the party of fiscal prudence and will say: “With me and with Rachel Reeves [the shadow chancellor], you will always get sound finances; careful spending; strong, secure and fair growth. There will be no magic-money-tree economics with us.”

From the Guardian,

The limits of growth & debt

This takes a lot of unpacking, firstly, whether the questions of what we make (or do), how we make (or do) it and who gets what we make (or do) are no longer the crucial systemic questions that economic systems need to answer. Questions of funding old age and care, and combatting climate change are now central to good economic system design; the days when capitalism was progressive are over. While he doesn’t frame the same question, Will Wardley points out that fiscal discipline is incompatible with a Green New Deal although Starner denies the dichotomy.

Starmer recognises the vitriolic anger that hard work doesn’t pay enough and while we recognise that this is a system caused by 12 years of Tory misrule, he won’t support strikers who seek to rectify this state of affairs.

Rachel Reeves made a speech earlier in the month, as part of the launch of the Resolution Foundation’s 2030 economic review called “Stagnation Nation”. The words of the speech were  posted to the Labour press site and she sought to clarify Labour’s position on the debt and deficit,  I quote her later in the article but Starmer states,  

So we will not announce a single penny of day-to-day spending without saying how we would pay for it. We will only borrow to invest to meet the challenges of the future – that’s what our Climate Investment Pledge is all about. And we will set a target to reduce debt as an overall share of our economy.

Sir Kier Starmer

Richard Murphy in a thread on the speeches, points out that for some economists,  growth and fiscal policy are orthogonal, i.e. a nation can afford what we make and do, fiscal policy has nothing to do with it. It helps remind us that economic theory is just that, there is no proof that the theories one adopts are right. Most economists agree that you can’t have growth and Government surpluses, no left wing or progressive politician should be promising this or even suggesting it’s possible. Only growth ensures a reduction of the debt ratio.

Somewhere in the middle of this there might be a recognition that full employment & investment led growth will lead to a high wage, high skills, exporting economy. But he and Reeves choose to anchor themselves to austerity with a promise to reduce debt and ensure that day-to-day government funding is financed by tax revenue. Like the unmentioned Brexit, they say one thing about the direction and policy but have chosen to leave two dirty great anchors in the bed rock.

Starmer acknowledges the need for a fair taxation and says this is “why we will scrap business rates and replace them with a system that levels the playing field”. Business rates are one of the few business taxes that cannot be avoided but fiddling around with them does nothing to ease the tax burden carried by workers and pensioners and this is another opportunity missed to talk about student loan recovery. Also unmentioned is our universal VAT of 20%, surely the first giveaway even a social democratic government would consider is reducing the VAT rates, maybe abolishing them on energy.

Another important idea, glossed over with a managerial approach is regional inequality, levelling up and the need to harness our communities; while asking Gordon Brown to investigate ideas on economic devolution is fine, any programme needs long term guarantees to local authorities, effecting a transfer union just as Scotland has, so the public sector investors know they are getting money next year as well as this year and the transfer mechanism needs to be based on need. This is the opposite of what the Tories are doing and yet despite multiple calls by Labour Conference to restore local government expenditure cuts, nothing is said, whereas what is needed is a long-term guarantee of project finance, as was available from the EU regional & R&D investment programmes. It should be noted that New Labour’s regional policy programmes were blighted by their attachment to workfare and to regional assemblies, although we now have sub regional mayor led authorities, so the latter may not be a problem but everyone will remain suspicious of the former failing with Rachel Reeves as Chancellor.

Nationalisation

Rachel Reeves in her speech, and consequent interview , reported in the Independent, stokes up the row over nationalisation of rail and energy, for some reason, by saying,

“I’ve set out fiscal rules that say all day-to-day spending will be funded by day-to-day tax revenues,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Within our fiscal rules, to be spending billions of pounds on nationalising things, that just doesn’t stack up against our fiscal rules.”

RacheL REeVES

But nationalising something is not a day-to-day expense!!! It’s a capital transaction, as is forgiving and abolishing student debt and abolishing tuition fees which would be an investment in Human Capital. We should note that if claiming to be followers of Janet Yelland’s modern supply side economics, Yelland argues for increased subsidy to child care expenses to ease mothers’ entry into the labour market and subsidies for skills acquisition i.e. University. Others see modern supply side economics as political prestidigitation merely seeking to avoid the label of Keynesianism,

“‘Modern supply-side economics’ strikes me as a new label for Keynesian economics with an emphasis on government spending on investment in labor supply,” said Peter Hooper, global head of economic research for Deutsche Bank ag and a former senior Federal Reserve economist. “There are some good arguments there, but I don’t see it as a totally new economic paradigm.” Bloomberg News

Peter Hooper

Labours social democrats need to say how they’ll control energy and rail prices and profitability if they don’t plan to nationalise.  The step away from common ownership is reinforced and criticised by Andrew Fisher who makes the point about subsidy, prices and profits and calls Sam Tarry & Ed Miliband and even Kier Starmer’s 10 pledges in support of his argument.

Seeing much of this coming, Rebecca Long Bailey, Starmer’s rival for Labour Leader, made a speech, again reported in the Guardian, which says, “The former Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has called for Labour to drop its cautious approach to the economy and fight the next election on a radical manifesto including state ownership and a living standards contract between government and public.” While she argues for a cabinet member in the Treasury to supervise and champion the new social contract, these ideas may not be opposed by Reeves as shown by her speech to GMB Congress 22, obviously not over the nationalisations, which again the Unions in those industries support and even the TUC do so too.

Certainly, the reporting of the two speeches, suggests this is a return to pre-Blair strategies albeit with an Osborne veneer: grow the economy, tax the rich, rebuild the public services presumably with school marm Reeves’s contempt and punishment of the so called undeserving poor! Yet again offering more to the needs for a story of economic credibility than required, following in the track of Jenkins, Smith and Brown. For today’s leadership there is no mention on profits, dividends or redistribution. This return to the economics of the 60’s is harnessed with a political strategy from the nineties; fight the party to show you’re a safe pair of hands. The economics is wrong and unambitious, and politics has changed. The Labour front bench needs to do better, and it could start from the Conference authored Party Programme.

ooOOOoo

UK general government deficit (or net borrowing) was £187.4 billion in 2021, equivalent to 8.1% of GDP; this was 0.3 percentage points lower than the average deficit of the G7 member states.  https://www.ons.gov.uk/

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More consequences of Labour’s cyberbreach

More consequences of Labour’s cyberbreach

The Labour Party can’t issue the ballots for their internal elections; they claim it’s a consequence of the cyber-breach last October.

The Party seems to have attempted to create a replacement membership database by updating its mail manager system and presumably adjusting the feeds although much of the functionality previously offered is no longer available and the feed from the financial system is now days or weeks out of date. We should note that the membership self administration tool is also now not available. The mail manager is obviously from observation slowly dying. It is known to be inaccurate; there are errors in terms of who it considers to be a member, their addresses, and their payment status.

The Party plans to replace this recovered system with an off the shelf package[1] from Microsoft. At the moment we are advised that it is unlikely that local party role holders will get access to this until next year.

Until then we have to use a known to be inaccurate database. From observing, presumably NEC authorised actions, it seems to be considered accurate enough to select councillor candidates and run trigger ballots. Procedure Secretaries have been told that they may not override the membership system even when variances are well known and provable. I question that this is legal in it breaches the duty to be accurate and not to automatically profile people.

What seems to be forgotten that is data protection rests on seven principles, Lawfulness, fairness and transparency · Purpose limitation · Data minimisation · Accuracy · Storage limitation · Integrity and confidentiality. Often too much or too little attention is paid to integrity and confidentiality and issues such as lawfulness, fairness, transparency and accuracy are forgotten.

They are running selections and triggers on data known to be inaccurate. This isn’t right.

This has taken 9 months to get here. While culpability for the breach may be questionable, not having a recovery plan and or not funding it is the fault of the Labour Party and thus its NEC. CEO’s have been fired for less.

Why was there no recovery plan? Did they do vendor due diligence on the member centre hosting provider, did they keep it up to date? Is there a risk register? Has the NEC or the risk committee approved the mitigations? In fact, what is the NEC doing about IT Risk? Is there a DPIA on reusing the mail system? Is there a DPIA on reusing the SAR Tool? Is there a DPIA on using the social media scanners they use? When will we get a data protection capability that protects members data from bad actors rather than from themselves?

Nine months failing to recover is shameful and unprofessional. NEC members should be asking why it has come to this and determine if they, through their inaction, are in fact culpable.


[1] This I consider to be wise, although they will need additional software modules to support Labour’s unique processes, such as donation monitoring. Although it seems they plan to customise the UI 🙁 …

A noble individual

A noble individual

Over the last 24 hours, possibly longer after I actually publish this piece, Sean Jones QC, has published two longish twitter threads on Labour and Brexit. He was inspired or provoked by an interview on Cambell & Stewart’s “The Rest is Politics” of Kier Starmer.

Jones’s 1st thread asks how ‘leaning into’ the Tories Hard Brexit can possibly be a policy success when it’s clear that it’s failed and asks how it can be an electoral success given that so many Remainers have not changed their mind. There are few, if any words wasted in the thread, so have a look yourself, but I am particularly taken with this tweet,

How does backing a hard Brexit heal the division? There is literally nothing on offer to those who backed Remain. This is just as doomed a strategy for him as it has been Johnson because it is not materially different.

Sean Jones QC – Twitter

And this, in a reply to a comment on the thread,

There are compromise options that fall short of rejoining. He has ruled those out too. The problem is it [not] that he’s failing to commit to rejoining, the problem is that he is committing to a Hard Brexit with some tinkering.

Sean Jones QC

I retweeted it, saying,

This is possibly the crux of the problem with Starmer’s speech on #failedbrexit. It is part of a tremendous thread examining the politics and traps of agreeing to the #ToryHardBrexit at the very time the country is beginning to reject it.

Dave Levy – Twitter

The 2nd thread, addresses the pro-Starmer argument that this is a long game. Jones argues that Starmer’s Brexit line is a foolish thing to say because it fails to differentiate him and Labour from the Tories, Starmer’s assuming that remainers/rejoiners who seem to be growing in number will put up with it. Starmer’s policy needs to be effective politically before the election and the basis for effective policy after. The first proposition is questionable, and the second wrong.

On the electoral dimension,

First, the policy is disappointing a very large proportion of his party membership and base. Telling them, in effect, to suck it up is dangerous particularly given the rationale of the plan.

The rationale is, “I need the Red Wall votes, so I have to give them what I think they want”. So the pellucidly clear message is, if you want a different Brexit policy you will have to show him that he will lose your votes. He is literally telling you how to change his mind.

Sean JOnes QC

Starmer should note that the Greens, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the SNP are all going to have, in my eyes, better positions on relationships with the EU and the means of achieving it. On Starmer’s proposition’s utility as a policy guideline, Sean writes on this, but I think this is the best quote,

So if you believe that he is sucking up Hard Brexit in order to get a chance to do the things he really wants to, the bad news is that Hard Brexit makes doing those things much more difficult.

Sean Jones QC

Much of the rest of what Jones says is that Brexit cannot be made to work, saying it can means that all its failures will be down to Starmer, and it is an obstacle to what he really says he wants to do. In the podcast, Starmer talks about his talks with Oscar Scholtz, the German premier, talks about improving trade when that trade failure, the decline in exports and imports are exclusively down to Brexit trade barriers and we haven’t even introduced the customs checks we require y the treaties, yet Starmer claims he can have conversations about trade without talking about the EU.

The problem for the ‘long gamers’ when talking to Labour’s remainers/rejoiners, is that the electoral offer is based on another lie, which together with Starmer’s 10 pledges, and his promise to ‘end factionalism’ are an unfortunate conjunction. The charge that he lies, although not as much as Johnson, has significant evidence.

I’ll finish with a quote from Rory Stewart from the podcast, they were talking about the loss of trust that people have with politicians, and Stewart argues, that it’s not about virtue.

“…  [parliament is full of people who are] most of the time more interested in campaigning and sticking it to the opposition then they are in thinking critically and governing well and we can’t change that by hoping we are going to have noble individuals.”

Rory Stewart – The Rest is Politics

This off course, together with Starmer’s record as a politician, raises the question as to whether Starmer really is a ‘noble individual’. …