Arrogance and Bullying

Arrogance and Bullying

At Labour’s conference, the Left won policy, the right won the card votes, famously in the case of re-writing the Leadership election rules, by getting Unison to break its mandate; it’s not the first time, a Union has broken its mandate at Conference; see Unite in 2018, MSF in 1993, and the AEUW in 1968, the first and last being to sink open selection and mandatory reselection, same thing, different names.

Some good radical policy was passed, a Green New Deal, with public ownership at its centre, a £15 minimum wage, day one employment rights and sick pay, and positive policy on immigration albeit mainly and necessarily focused on asylum seekers and the Tories Nationality and Borders Bill. Sadly Proportional Representation was sunk, with ~80% of CLPs supporting and over 90% of the Unions opposing. On rules reform, which seems permanent, the Leadership rules were reformed to increase the PLP support required, reform of trigger ballots to make deselecting MPs (much) harder, and the vengeful abolishing of the registered supporters characterised as £3 entryists.

I only attended one session of the conference, the Sunday afternoon rules debate and the atmosphere was quite unpleasant with the usual right-wing aggressive cheering surrounding me. The chairing of the Conference was the usual combination of oppressive bullying and arrogance. The video “The hunt for the NEC report” catalogues a number of these Chair’s interventions as they sought to ensure that no vote took place on the NEC report to ensure no debate took place on the new proscriptions system.

A couple of left wing and new delegates have written diary blog articles. Elise Marie Lally, a delegate from Liverpool Walton, writes here, and an anonymous blog is published on “Creating Socialism”, which documents the chilling effect of the arbitrary proscription programme. Another 1st time delegate said to me,

Conference is a disgrace. And it’s not a political party but a fan club

Another anonymous delegate

The elephant in the room remains the near silence of the Party leadership on the UK’s continual leadership on the impact of coronavirus on our society; that leadership shows itself in wage growth it seems.  [ A wage growth caused by the low paid stopping work and the mathematical nature of averages.]

What must be disappointing for the Leadership is that Raphael Behr and Owen Jones have written Starmer off. Behr, an unlikely hostile observer, in an article entitled “Labour looks aimless because it’s already searching for Starmer’s replacement” and Owen Jones, again not necessarily the first person to take this point of view, in an article titled, “Breaking promises won’t get Keir Starmer into power”, contains vitriolic attacks on his strategy advisors, describing them as maniacs and incompetent; he summarises Starmer’s offer to the party in contrast to Blair’s as,

While the pact New Labour made with the party’s grassroots was that they would have to abandon many of their principles in exchange for power, the Starmer promise goes like this: renounce both your principles and any shot at power.

Owen Jones

 The truth of which, may be part of why Simon Fletcher published an apology for supporting him and running his campaign for Leader.

The last word in this blog, goes to Phil BC, who in his blog article where he examines the genisis of the playbook of fighting the left, and then concludes,

Starmer’s opposition is proving ineffective and goes unnoticed by those who only look at politics askance because he’s done no opposing. The idea Mandelson’s “millions of voters” are going to suddenly take notice of Starmer’s prioritising of inner party wrangling when Starmer hasn’t bothered addressing their concerns and interests is wishful thinking. …. His [Starmer’s] first proper party conference has announced to the world that he’s on course to lose the next general election. Only a set of unforeseen circumstances, somehow more spectacular and/or devastating than anything we’ve seen this last 18 months could possibly turn his fortunes around.

pHil burton-cartledge

A brief look at the post conference polls, suggest that he and Labour are down, losing their 2019 vote and the Greens are up, and that the country’s youth are relearning to disassociate.

But the arrogance of Luke Akehurst and the entitlement of the PLP, as expressed by Margaret Beckett in the Chair and Shabana Mahmood from the platform has re-inspired me to get stuck in and continue to fight for socialist politics in the UK and the Labour Party. …

A new disciplinary process (for Labour)

A new disciplinary process (for Labour)

This is the speech I would have made on the rule changes implementing an independent disciplinary system.

The EHRC said we needed an independent disciplinary process, independent of the Leader & NEC. As a Party we should expect that we would develop a process conformant with the standards of natural justice and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

People are entitled to “a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal”, article 6 also enumerates criteria of fairness, inc. innocent until proven guilty and the right to present a defence and chose an advocate. It also guarantees a free defence for those that can’t afford it.

Such a scheme would require that the investigation and decision to prosecute should be under the direction of lawyers with an ethical commitment to their peers i.e. other lawyers, and that guilt and sanctions if required, is determined by a jury of our peers, advised by legal advice independent of that of the ‘prosecution’. Let us note that the EHRC also called out Labour for not offering the NCC independent legal advice.

These proposals are the wrong way round and will not protect the party from allegations of a factional use of its disciplinary system, not least because of the central role of the General Secretary, who does not and has not previously held a professional qualification guaranteeing a commitment to a standard of ethics. This is not to say that I consider the current incumbent to be unethical, but the fact is he is a paid officer of the party accountable to the NEC and is thus not independent of it.

We have also been told we have to pass these rules, that not to do so would be crime against the EHRC’s remediation plan and our compliance agreement. This is not so. The NEC could and should have proposed a truly independent disciplinary process; this isn’t. We can do better.

To finish, I am pleased to hear the assertions and promises that these rules will prove we’ve turned a corner, and that this shame will end.


You can see the debate on youtube here, and the rules changes were published in CAC 2. (They are published in the Labour Party’s classic three column, which makes them very hard to read, They cover 17 pages and published the morning of the debate. I will see if I can make a version that is more readable, but the .pdf is very hard to cut and paste, I’ll have to get an alternate source.)

Points I’d like to have made, but probably wouldn’t because it diverts from the thrust of the argument, that this is a factional take on the EHRC’s requirements, and is not independent

No-one is talking about the bullying and cheating going on, often performed, or covered up by staff and/or NEC members.

There is no means of complaining about the GS, or as far as I can see NEC members and no way of pursuing acts in contravention of C2.II.7, which guarantees the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party and Party Officers; today and in the past, we find complaints about Regional Directors being referred to themselves for action.

The record on actions for safeguarding is also poor. There is no recognition that some of the complaints received should be referred to the police.

The picture is mine and and taken in 2017.  …

Labour’s Programme

Labour’s Programme

Sadly, I know the rules well and was asked about how to get policy into the manifesto or create binding policy on the Party’s leadership. Labour’s Rules (C1.V) state that all policies carried at Conference by a 2/3rds majority must go into the programme, and the manifesto can only contain policies from the programme. These rules seem to have been forgotten for quite a while. The control of who can call card votes, is another means by which the rights of members are being suppressed. Not all policy motions get to go to card votes, even if the hand vote is overwhelming. And so they may not get into the programme, not that it matters too much as I don’t think they maintain the document anymore and it takes them 7 months to release the rules, imagine how long it would take to release a programme. The rules in question are in C1.V Party Programme, and can be found, overleaf/below ...

Reeves on Macro-economics

Reeves on Macro-economics

It came as a shock that she spoke for an hour, given that delegates who might want to oppose her, only got 1 minute. I summarise the speech here, as much of it was just political ballast, although sometimes you need to build a justification for what we do.

She started with a litany of Tory failures, and repeated the lessons that we can, post-pandemic, clearly see who are the essential workers in our economy and see how poorly they’re paid. She noted Angela Rayner’s announcement of a series of welcome protections and improvements to the social wage and employment protection law and segued to the need for an effective economy that works for all of us.

Possibly the crucial and welcome quote is,

We cannot have a return to the failed approach of austerity.

Rachel Reeves

She then spoke of tax reform and the need for a fair tax system, she proposes to close the loopholes, establish equity between the treatment of earned and unearned income, abolish business rates, increase the Digital Services Tax (by 600%), and abolish the charitable tax status of private education.

On fiscal policy, she says, that, she would put in place fiscal rules that will bind the next Labour government to ensure we always spend wisely and keep debt under control, so that we have the means to transform schools, hospitals, and communities, and pay for investment in the new industries and jobs that our country desperately needs. But not what those rules are, nor if they differ from McDonnel’s (or Dodds’)

One important point she makes is that she plans to get the money given to failed private sector CV19 interventions back. This is part of her justification for an Office for Value for Money; this strikes me as a gimmick; the Tories just turned off the controls that exist (the Ministerial Code and the NAO) that exist in order to give money to their cronies.

On Industrial Policy, where she shares responsibility with Ed Miliband she declares, “This is all part of our plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain” but there’s no mention of the National/Regional Investment Banks, nor of a replacement for the EU’s, now lost, Horizon 2020 programme.

While talking about combatting Climate Change, she says,

I will invest in good jobs in the green industries of the future; Giga-factories to build batteries for electric vehicles; a thriving hydrogen industry; offshore wind with turbines made in Britain; planting trees and building flood defences; keeping homes warm and getting energy bills down; good new jobs in communities throughout Britain.

Rachel Reeves

And adds

I can announce today that I am committing the next Labour government to an additional £28bn of capital investment in our country’s green transition for each and every year of this decade.

Rachel Reeves

But says nothing about how to choose the industrial winners, develop export markets to give the business scale, nor on a wealth tax, nor on interest rates.

It’s more populist than Annaliese Dodd’s speech last January, and I need to check what Ed Miliband said. As I said, after Annaliese’s speech, is this as good as it gets, we oppose austerity and might borrow to invest. A bit, “Meh” but it could have been worse. Shame she blew the good will she might have earnt by denouncing the Conference’s call to nationalise the energy companies that very evening.

Rachel’s speech is on Youtube, and a text version is on the Labour Party Press site. …

Stiff triggers

Stiff triggers

The Party voted to reverse the 2018 trigger ballot reform which had reduced the threshold required to force a reselection ballot to ⅓ of the membership branches or ⅓ of the Affiliates; now it’s ½ of the membership branches and ½ the Affiliates. While in our CLP, all seven branches voted to confirm Vicky Foxcroft as our candidate, there are only seven membership branches, there are over 20 affiliates and we’re arguing about several more. In any seat with a reasonable number of affiliates, it is now those affiliates that decide if an MP needs to be face the membership.

We had been treated to a speech from Shabana Mahmood, claiming that trigger ballots were a distraction from campaigining, but no-one mentioned the failure to trigger Hooey, Danczuk, or Mann, who at the end of their service had ceased to be supporters of the Labour Party, nor of Keith Vaz who had been under investigation since 2009 and yet had been confirmed by the trigger ballots and allowed to run as Labour candidates. In my article, “The Magnificent 7, not!“, I note that Labour lost 15 MPs during the 2017/19 parliament, six of them due to unacceptable behaviour and the other eight through a loss of commitment to the Labour Party. (Of the six, two were new MPs in 2017, yet four had survived trigger ballots although in 2017, there were none, and not all MPs went through the trigger process in 2019. )

Why do we permit the corrupt and foolish to stand & restand? If we make it harder to lose a trigger, the NEC is going to have to look harder at the records of those who ask to remain in place; as it seems they do for Councillors.

It’s fortunate indeed that Conference passed a rule change to mandate selection processes involving the CLPs in the case of by-elections and snap elections. We’ll see if it survives the tyrannical trifecta of Starmer’s NEC. …

Not a panacea

Comrade Cummins explains why Community Wealth Building via procurement is not a panacea. He also shows how to steal more time from the Chair; he was only due a minute, which is an act of contempt to delegates. What can you say in one minute, particu7oalry if you wish to oppose a motion, and how much time does the NEC get to speak? And the shadow cabinet? Unite report on the speech here The video is below/overleaf ...

Some hope from the polls

Some hope from the polls

It would seem the polls are narrowing, with yougov reporting a Labour lead. I held off commenting because sometimes a single poll is rogue. The politco poll tracker reports the Tories on 38% and Labour up to 35%. The Tories have lost 5% (percentage points) since May and Labour are up 2%. Is this real and sustainable. Maybe!

The Tories have adopted three policies that affect their base. Now that age is the key determinant of how people vote, it seems to be on par with hitting yourself in the nuts.

The Tories are planning to introduce their social care death tax and postpone the pension triple lock which means that an expected 8% rise will not be made. Their “Red Wall” working voters will not be happy with funding this through national insurance. The blue wall voters will be unhappy at the £100,000 cap on assets to get social care help and every house owner is going to be unhappy. This issue is subsurface dynamite, I remember that Cameron overtook Brown after opposing a Brown reform on inheritance tax.

The conservative coalition may be fracturing, between the northern MPs and their voters who need to level up, the Brexit libertarian loons who have a strong presence in parliament, and the middle class/pro-business vote in the south for whom tax and house prices are key economic drivers together with business viability. Here’s hoping that Johson’s “Fuck business” will come to haunt him. Furthermore, I am not sure that the Brexit fuckups have landed yet, but it ain’t getting better. If interest rates rise, there will be a mighty noise from the Tory voter base.

This is what the voting intention looks like.

Change in polled voting intention over summer 21,

And this is what the seats would look like according to Electoral Calculus, and because it cheers me up I have included the Electoral Calculus seat predictions from the yougov numbers.

There’s a way to go, but its more than one poll and the political cause is there to see! …