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. …

GMB agrees to “Oppose Refugee deportation to Rwanda”

My branch proposed an Emergency Motion on the Rwanda deportations, here is the debate, sorry about the sound,

and here are the words,

EM2. Oppose Refugee deportation to Rwanda

Congress notes that on the 14th April, Priti Patel announced that the UK and Rwanda would sign a deal allowing the UK government to send unprocessed immigrants to Rwanda. On the 10th April,  the High Court refused an application to stop the Govt’s planned removal of people seeking asylum by offshoring them to Rwanda despite the UN warning the Home Office off the likely illegality. This decision was unsuccessfully appealed on Monday 13th June 2022.

The move to offshore those seeking asylum is racist , breaches human rights and our international duties to welcome refugees which are embedded in  treaty commitments.

We instruct the CEC to raise awareness of the High Court’s decision on 10.6.22 ensuring our members working in detention centres and work ancillary to the detention centres are informed of the justice and rights of those in their care.

Congress agrees to support the actions of any members in the detention centres and other impacted businesses if they choose to refuse to perform work effecting the deportations

Congress calls on GMB sponsored MPs to campaign to reverse this programme, and for the Labour Party to oppose any parliamentary resolutions enabling this programme. They must recognise that many/most of the transportees are unprocessed asylum seekers fleeing threats of death and war.

London Central General

The CEC issued a qualification which is important to understand the position of the Union.  …

Restore Legal Aid

Restore Legal Aid

I finished the afternoon guiding two motions through the Congress, one on the ECHR and one on campaigning to restore legal aid. The CEC asked to refer them both although requiring to do due diligence on the Law Centre Network strikes me as a bit presumptions; next year I think I'll try and instruct them to work with the Criminal Bar Association, which I should have contacted this year since two weeks later their industrial action to restore legal aid payments started. The speech words are published overleaf.

Non-compete clauses

Non-compete clauses

On behalf of our members, I took a motion seeking to criminalise non-compete clauses, I moved the motion, and it was seconded. The CEC asked us to refer, and given the choice between that and opposition we agreed. Overleaf, you'll find the video, words of the motion and notes of my speech. I conclude with the following phrases,

The CEC will ask you to refer this motion as they have not made up their mind on the govt’s proposed options. Only prohibition works for our members.

Honesty, good faith and genuineness

A friend asked me to look again at Evangelou vs McNicol, which I did, by looking at Evangelou vs Mcnicol Appeal Judgment 20160812

The clause that interests us all is,

24. In the present case, there is no challenge to the rationality of the eligibility criteria and the freeze date, and they are only said to be unauthorised on the true construction of the contract. It is, however, relevant to note that a discretion conferred on a party under a contract is subject to control which limits the discretion as a matter of necessary implication by concepts of honesty, good faith and genuineness, and need for absence of arbitrariness, capriciousness, perversity and irrationality: see Sochimer International Bank Ltd v Standard Bank London Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 116, [2008] Bus LR 134 at [66] and Braganza v BP Shipping [2015] UKSC 17, [2015] 1 WLR 1661, and the cases on mutual undertakings and bodies exercising self-regulatory powers mentioned at [47] below.

I have written about this previously on the ruling, and about irrationality, however I have previously focused on the absence of of arbitrariness, capriciousness, perversity and irrationality, but looking at the current so-called evidence definition for proscription hearings, I come to the conclusion that  equally important are honesty, good faith and genuineness. I should always have started there! …

Labour & NATO

nato flag and badges

The Times ratchets up the argument in the Labour Party about NATO by repeating threats against those, including MPs, who take a more critical view of its history. A friend writes to me.

… it’s an interesting debate as to the role of NATO. The destruction of Libya and role in the Balkans doesn’t do wonders for its reputation. Yet I see Kier is concentrating on those MP’s who possibly question NATO’s role in conflict.

Haven’t we got more pressing priorities with this government both at home and abroad?

In my humble view the rhetoric of this government is very dangerous and upping the ante with Russia. Our leader needs to be urged to urge rapidly [that] Truss and Johnson to tone down their words of incitement.

We are an outlier in Europe after Brexit they are making us an outlier with our NATO partners.

This is not about opposing arming Ukraine or opposing NATO but opposing childish bellicose language from our Government to mask its other areas of scrutiny

Anonymous

It is a serious problem that Labour’s front bench seems more concerned with fighting it’s left wing, and not opposing the stupid, uber-military virtue signalling by this Government, led by a lazy man-child who if he has any sense of military strategy has learnt it from playing Risk. I think that the Tories’ boasting and grandstanding is unhelpful to the people of Ukraine and designed for home consumption but is in fact dangerous; it’s the Tories’ equivalent of ‘come on if you think you’re hard enough’. For the record, I believe that NATO is necessary, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that. Finland & Sweden’s reaction is obvious and if they decide to join should be supported.  …

Miscarriage of Justice

I am reading the Secret Barrister’s first book, I provide a quote,

“In the Crown Court, I have prosecuted many appeals from the magistrates’ court of unrepresented defendants and have lost count of the number of cases where there has been a conviction that is completely wrong in law, or completely wrong in evidence, the fact of which only emerges upon close inspection of the papers. “

The Secret Barrister

If the courts get it so wrong, and when we examine the Labour Parties rules …. …

Let’s have an enquiry into Russian Money in British Politics

I received this email yesterday; The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Hold a public inquiry into Russian interference in UK politics”.

Government responded:

The UK has a robust process to protect against foreign interference, led by the intelligence and security agencies. There are no plans to alter this approach or initiate a public inquiry.

It is, and always shall be, an absolute priority for the Government to protect the UK’s democratic processes against foreign interference. The Intelligence and Security Agencies produce and contribute to regular assessments of state threats, including potential malign interference. We keep those assessments under constant review and, where necessary, update them in response to new intelligence. As new information emerges, the Government will always consider the most appropriate use of any intelligence received, including whether it might be appropriate to make that intelligence public. Given this long standing approach, there are no plans to initiate a public inquiry into Russian interference.

Interference in democratic processes is an international issue, affecting not only the UK. That is why the UK Government will continue to call out and respond to malign activity, including any attempts to interfere in our democratic processes, alongside our international partners including the Five Eyes countries and NATO.

Protecting and promoting a flourishing democracy is a cross-cutting challenge and requires coordinated action. That is why the Government is bringing forward a package of legislation that delivers ambitious reform. Our National Security legislative proposals will give the intelligence agencies and law enforcement the tools they need to tackle the diversifying and evolving threats we face. Our Online Safety Bill proposes a range of measures that will help protect democratic discourse, such as forcing companies to tackle illegal misinformation and disinformation, and by tackling online abuse. Our Elections Bill contains a range of reforms, including strengthening rules on ineligible foreign campaign spending. All of this legislative work is supported by the cross-government Defending Democracy programme, which brings together expertise and capabilities from across Government departments, the Security and Intelligence Agencies and civil society to ensure UK democracy remains open, vibrant and secure.

Cabinet Office


😲 😨 😡

Words fail me; although I could have saved them a lot of words by just saying “No!”. …