The Fabians canvass for policy

The Fabians canvass for policy

Momentum have run a policy primary to decide what topics and motions to push for Labour Conference 2021. The Fabians seem to have decided that this is a good idea and issued a shorter, more guided questionnaire to the world at large. They ask five questions, ... a new policy Labour should back that could transform the country, one thing Labour should do to reconnect with voters who rejected the party in 2019, one commitment from the 2019 Labour manifesto that the party should abandon, one idea for creating more unity and harmony in the Labour movement, and name one Labour MP the party should make more use of. The last is just asking for trolling, my answers are overleaf/below and feel that I have a right to offer my advice as I only left the Fabians last year having joined it to help me rethink my ideas about policy and strategy. ...

Voting in May

Sadiq for London

America has Super Tuesday, and in the UK this year we have Terrific Thursday. In London we are running the elections due last year, the Mayor and Assembly and in New Cross, there is a by-election in New Cross Ward. In order to vote you need to be on the electoral roll. This post advises how to get on the roll, how to get a postal vote, and how to help the campaign in London and Lewisham.

Cowardice

Cowardice

Just a quick note, a comment on ‘desperate from Hartlepool’, and a longer comment from the Irish Times on Britain, the EU, and the creation of compulsive narratives.

Starmer’s rejection of rejoining, is a slap in the face for those members and voters who want to do so, and that number is growing. Starmer’s strategy would seem to be based on that of an Ostrich and following Corbyn’s, “what unites Hull and Hackney is social justice, we shall not be divided by Brexit” whcih worked so well. This issue cannot be avoided and the post brexit trade deal is poor. It’s killing SME importers and exporters and is exacerbating tensions in Northern Ireland and fuelling racism in Britian. Starmer’s positioning reminds me of some of the games I have played where one positions your party according to one metric, usually tax to ‘win’ the game; it’s also a return to focus group led policy making.

You can’t make Brexit work without engaging with the failings of the current situation and policy. In my mind this requires reentry to the customs union and single market.

The Irish Times article is a damning indictment of Labour’s silence in the knowledge that, that silence concedes space to poor policy and xenophobia and its hard to turn an oil tanker round, once the big lie is established, its opponents will always be on the backfoot.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay …

Vendor Management and the Labour Party

Vendor Management and the Labour Party

I wrote a blog on linkedin, on what I call Vendor Management. This is based on my experience as an IT Security and Compliance consultant, and leans on ISO 27001. Some of the words in this article, mirror what I say in the linkedin post. I argue that rule one is to have a policy which must deal with how to apply a risk based approach to the supply chain. This means segmenting suppliers into value or risk classes, using a classic risk matrix of estimating probability of failure vs. the impact. This will help one understand how important any supplier is to the business. The policy should also have authorisation limits and policies to counter the threat of corruption and life-cycle policies inc. sunset clauses to ensure it remains relevant. The policy must define the monitoring requirements, which may create liabilities on both sides and also the need for terms to exit the contract, and remediation where the supplier unilaterally exits the market.

All IT supply must be under contract which must be appropriately authorised financially, legally and technically, i.e. someone must have signed of on the risks of confidentiality, availability and integrity. The nature of the contract and risk analysis will depend on the importance of the supplier to the enterprise. Contracts need to establish the right to use, rights to software updates, the rights to bug fixes and engineering effort under a service level agreement, the right to request enhancements, contingency in the case of the vendor’s market exit such as code escrow, functional future proofing (most importantly compliance functionality), intellectual property transfer and its exclusions, termination conditions and data protection commitments and controls. Contracts must be monitored and compensation agreed for failure to meet service levels which may exist on both sides, for example, the buyer will need to ensure it meets the agreed licensing rules and payments, and the supplier that any availability guarantees are met.

The Party must consider getting its software portfolio and IT Organisation ‘branded’ as of a suitable and professional quality. The GDPR defines a 3rd party certification as proof of that an organisation’s controls are adequate and the Party must for many reasons also register its HR systems with, possibly both, “Investors in People” and “A great place to work” , as it’s clear that professional advice and goals are needed to fix the problems obvious in the behaviour of several Regional Directors and first identified by the Chakrabarthi Report.

Do the Labour Party have a robust vendor management policy? The critical software product for compliance is probably the financial system, and to drive this, the membership system is required to record facts required for selection and to record if members are in good standing. Also do the Labour Party own a data centre (or two) or do they use a cloud provider? It’s obvious that some software is SaaS. Has due diligence been done, has a risk register been created for the portfolio? Not everyone will remember but Nationbuilder, no longer used by the party, which was the volunteer management product failed during the 2015 general election. This is important to get right and with questions raised by Unite’s evidence to the Forde Enquiry the audit and authorisation functionality of our financial systems must be questioned as must recent portfolio acquisitions such as Anonyvoter.

This is all kept secret, and it would seem that many NEC members have little interest in this part of the job.

The important thing here is that these problems have been solved before, and there is agreement on the right way to do things. The Labour Party can’t make this stuff up, as the whole of local government have just discovered with the imposition of Commissioners in Liverpool.  …

Labour’s 3 year rule

Labour’s 3 year rule

When considering making rule changes in the Labour Party, designers need to take into account the so-called three year rule, and in 2021, need to consider that the rule defines the embargo in terms of conferences and so 2020 will not count. The rule states,

‘When Party conference has made a decision on a constitutional amendment, no resolution to amend the constitution or rules of the Party having the same or similar primary objective shall appear on the agenda of the three following annual party conferences, except such resolutions to amend the constitution and rules that are in the opinion of the NEC of immediate importance.’

Chapter 3, Clause III, 2.H (page 20 of the 2020 Rule Book)

So, let’s dispose of two pieces of pedantry; motions become resolutions on passing. Therefore proposals for change are motions, the use of the word resolution in this rule is legally illiterate.  It’s referred to as the three-year rule, but in effect it’s a five year rule, only rule changes that failed in 2016, or earlier can be considered, and a lot of rules were changed at the 2017-2019 conferences.

Critically, we have the phrase, “the same or similar primary objective”. This is designed to stop factions behaving like children having a tantrum and nagging until they get what they want, but not to prohibit CLP (or affiliate) proposed rule changes designed to review or improve a rule.

The CAC decision as to whether a proposed rule change contravened Rule C3.III.2.H is taken on the recommendation of staff. The CLPs have two representatives, the Unions and other affiliates have five and one member is elected by Conference which seems to mean that the Unions choose them. The fear is that staff will rule out motions that the leadership don’t want and be backed by a compliant CAC majority. Recently we have seen that the Unions will not vote for a rule change not supported by the NEC, on which they have ⅓ of the members. The CAC and staff may well play fast and loose with ‘primary purpose’ and consider any further changes to a specific rule to be ultra-vires.

Careful study of the text suggests that a revoking motion would be in order, as would an orthogonal amendment. I think I might still try my Nolan Principles rule change proposal which seeks to amend C2.II.7 which was introduced in 2018 to see if primary purpose will be interpreted with textual literacy or with factional intent. The ‘open selection’ motion at 2018 was deemed to have fallen because the NEC rule change was carried. Has conference ‘made a decision on a constitutional amendment’? Sadly probably as it carried the trigger ballot reform motion and the CAC report that deemed open selection to fail but the words ‘made a decision’ require conference to have done so, withdrawal means that a decision has not been taken.

It’s a mess but the same as everywhere else, like the sailing the rules are a weapon, unlike sailing, there’s no real independent judge as to what the rules mean. …

News on the Forde Inquiry

News on the Forde Inquiry

The Labour Party have announced further delay in the issuing of the Forde Inquiry into the leaked document prepared for the General Secretary on antisemitism in the Labour Party. The Forde Inquiry reports this delay here, which includes the text of a letter to the General Secretary and a note for the NEC. I believe the report is essential for the Labour Party to begin to work together in a unified fashion and to genuinely begin to end factionalism. I believe it is important to do so and do so in a way that doesn't involve one side winning. If wrong doing has occurred, it needs to be discovered and punished. The delay, it seems, is caused by a fear that premature publication would interfere with the ICO investigation. Some commentators dispute that this is the case. Forde says, in his letter to David Evans, hosted on the Inquiry site on a page named, 'Update on the Forde Inquiry', For more, inc. the text of Forde's statement, use the read more button ...

Thank you Lewisham Deptford Labour

daveinbrusselsepchamber

I was elected as Secretary of my CLP tonight. We were running late and so I wasn’t able to speak. This is what I would have said.

Thank you for your confidence in me.

Most of you know me, I have been in Deptford for 10 years and in the Party for much longer. I campaign more than some, less than others. I ave done a couple of branch offices and been on the EC for a number of years although not last year. I am Union delegate from the GMB.

We have a task to pick ourselves up after our defeat in 2019, the last year has not been easy for local activists due to the pandemic, we need to learn new tricks to keep in touch with our voters and those our MP and councillors represent.

I hope to serve in maintaining members power in the Party, a manifesto based on our collective experience with democratic legitimacy is a powerful tool that will help us reconnect with voters, win power and allow us to build a better society.

Our strength is our collective experience, knowledge and thirst for justice, together we develop a programme, distil a manifesto and then choose candidates for public office to pursue these policies.

We, in Lewisham Deptford, have a proud record fighting racism, we campaigned to oppose NRPF in Lewisham and London, opposing the hostile environment, and acting in solidarity with the families of the dead and dispossessed of the Grenfell fire, and in solidarity with the Windrush generation, supported by our MP who has signed the “MPs not border guards” pledge. I hope we continue with this.

We need to make the party welcoming for all, everyone’s opinion counts, everyone must be able to speak without fear.

Let us remember the Labour Party is a cause not a career. Let’s win the London Mayoral election and have a great Conference as we prepare for the next council and general election. …

Making Policy in the Labour Party

Making Policy in the Labour Party

The Party have asked 10 questions, some of which seem very similar; I have not had time to decode many of them. I have submitted my answers which are based on the CLPD model answers but in some cases mine are shorter because argument is taken out and in some cases I have added new content. It's critical to ensure conference and the membership remain central to policy making and the manifesto. For more, use the 'read more' button ...

Total Rewrite

judges gavel

I am writing something else about a positive response for the Labour Party to the EHRC’s excoriating report on the Party’s disciplinary process. Unlike many I consider the lack of process and the lack of process controls to be the worst finding, I think that the EHRC has failed to balance Human Rights vs. Equalities law but the Labour Party’s disciplinary process needs to be reformed because it’s dreadful on every dimension. I propose to say,

The Labour Party needs to rewrite its disciplinary code, embedding Article 6, together with the principles of natural justice, innocent until guilty, proportionate punishment, the MacPherson principle, technical & organisational controls to stop the destruction of records or other improper behaviour, robust victim care, fairness to complainants to stop the premature and arbitrary rejection of complaints, rules on how to deal with NEC & Staff, policy about how to exercise the Party’s safeguarding responsibility and inform the police or other responsible persons of any crime, policy on how and why administrative suspensions are to undertaken, prohibiting disguised double jeopardy and guaranteed timescales.

Dave Levy

It’s shameful that a committee i.e. the NEC, where every member is a trade unionist and over one third are activists or full time employees of and within the Unions, that such a piss-poor state of affairs can exist, and do so for so long!

Corbyn & Wadsworth

And the process needs to apply to all complaints, and as I think about it, the grounds for punishment, are currently, ” … [action which] is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party“, this permits expelling people due to the reputational damage caused by acts of speech, this is wrong. The test should be the contravention of the equalities law or other laws we consider critical such as the PPER or the Bribery Act. i.e. bringing the party into disrepute is not good enough, uncomradely behaviour might be, criminal acts of relevance to politics definitely is, although they should be dealt with, in the first instance, by the police. …

Thinking about macroeconomics with Anneliese Dodds

Thinking about macroeconomics with Anneliese Dodds

While writing, Responsible Opposition, about Sir Kier Starmer’s 1st speech of the year, I pointed out that Anneliese Dodds would be giving the Mais Lecture, which had been previewed in the Financial Times (paywall). They said that she will,

 …  call for a ‘responsible fiscal framework’ based on ‘pragmatism, not dogmatism’  … [and] … signal … that the Labour party is backing away from the hard-left economic policies of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, seeking instead to fight the Conservatives on economic competence and protecting the UK’s recovery from the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chris Giles – Financial Times

The speech has now been delivered and I heard/watched it live. The first thing to say is that I do not consider this to be a repudiation of late stage Corbynomics.

I needed help to work out what was said, it was a very low key speech, certainly not in the style of a UCATT shop steward, more in the style of one of the academics from the cast of Inspector Morse. There was no emphasis and so we need to work out what’s important and what is just said in passing. Stephen Bush points out the unusual nexus of welcome from James Meadway & Chris Giles, he writes,

… [ the speech] attracted a glowing write-up from the FT’s influential economics editor Chris Giles and an approving tweet from James Meadway, the adviser who more than anyone bar John McDonnell himself shaped the Labour Party’s economic strategy under Corbyn

Stephen bush – New Statesman

Meadway’s tweet was trolled by Richard Murphy, who was one of the authors of Corbyn’s original Corbynomics manifesto and is a supporter of modern monetary theory (MMT), but Labour stepped away from these monetary & fiscal policy  ideas after 2016.

I found the speech underwhelming, almost academic in its tone, which given the host may have been appropriate. I am certainly of the view that it is not a step away from or a rejection of McDonnel’s policies. If anything, the call for a ‘responsible fiscal framework’ based on ‘pragmatism, not dogmatism’ is an attack on Osborne and the politics of austerity and his remaining fans in the Tory party. She praised the independence of the Bank of England, but this has had its problems; it failed in 2008 and it was politicians that rescued the economy and the argument for its independence is based on the argument that politicians and their electors can’t be trusted to make the right decisions. If those decisions are painful, why should they? Independence is a way of baking in neo-liberalism. She was clear however that monetary policy is not enough to build a successful macroeconomy.

Over-relying on monetary policy levers for economic growth – as the UK has arguably done for the past decade – can lead to undesirable outcomes. Without accompanying fiscal action, low interest rates and gargantuan quantitative easing programmes can exacerbate inequality and concentrate economic gains in the hands of those who were already asset-rich, at the expense of those who rely on income from their labour. Risky indebtedness, especially combined with a highly unequal distribution of assets, can exacerbate inequality.

Anneliese Dodds

She spoke on fiscal policy; did she repeat McDonnel’s Golden rule? If she did, she qualified it by saying that borrowing to invest is only available because of the low interest rates. I have two things to say, firstly, I thought interest rates are a policy instrument, so if a government which is a currency sovereign wants them low, then low they are! Secondly, defining what is current account expenditure is not simple. Why is the education budget not considered an investment in human capital?

Is this as good as it gets? We are to be grateful that a Labour Shadow Chancellor still intends to borrow to invest and that monetarism is no longer part of Labour’s macro-economic tool kit.

On the upside she mentioned wealth inequality and aggregate low wages as constraints to growth but no mention of remediation which would be an effective wealth tax, a better minimum wage, reformed procurement policies and labour law reform. She also mentioned critically the growth in value of unproductive assets, such as art and wine; but surely this is the result of quantitative easing and a side effect of the increasing marginal propensity to save by the rich, again addressable by a wealth tax.

She announced a series of technical changes to the budget management process, all of which are good, but not particularly left wing and so likely to be nicked by the Tories. These consist of ensuring equality & carbon impact analyses on the budget and spending plans and placing a longer term time frame on the budget together with using more very long term bonds.

I also noted that while it seems that Labour is committed to a high wage, high skill economy, our reticence to talk about the means by which we select the short and medium term winners is not talked about; under Corbyn’s leadership, the new National Investment Bank was to be the instrument for seeding innovation and new jobs, but the means of funding it, and the way in which loans and grant were to be allocated remains unclear.

I submitted a question on this i.e. selecting industrial and innovation winners, which the moderator, Prof. Barbara Casu put as her first question; if Anneliese Dodds had wanted to talk in detail, this would have been in the speech, it wasn’t and her answer to Professor Casu’s question added no clarity.

It was a very technocratic speech, delivered in a technocratic style, presumably designed not to frighten the horses. It was a rejection of both modern monetary theory (MMT) and fiscal consolidation but not a manifesto for socialism.

ooOOOoo

The speech was introduced by the Dean of Faculty at CASS, Paulo Volpin, and the questions moderated by the Professor of Banking, Barbara Casu. Both would seem have been initially educated in Italy, I hope that the new immigration rules post Brexit will allow others to follow their route and come to the UK to teach.

I have written previously about Corbynomics on this blog and also on MMT on my bliog, and on my wiki, and on QMT in my obituary on David Graeber, on the blog. …