Labour and Foreign Policy

Labour and Foreign Policy

I have just done the Labour List survey on Labour’s foreign policy advertised and written by the Labour Foreign Policy Group (Who they? Ed). I note that on their question on Brexit, they repeat the political trick used in the corrupted referendum,  Do support the Leadership’s attempts to move on and make Brexit work or should we rejoin the Customs Union and Single Market or the EU, or just satisfy ourselves with a ‘closer relationship’.

I believe we need to re-join the Customs Union and Single Market, to alleviate the economic damage caused by the increased trade friction and this is a closer relationship with the EU. I also believe we should re-acquire our political rights i.e. rejoin. The Labour Leadership have a fantasy that the Tories hard Brexit can be fixed, and we can now see the beginnings  of the Tories  phase III, the repeal of the Working Time Directive, revoking the Banker’s bonus cap and the restarting of fracking. Wake up, we have an equally unprincipled Prime Minister who is an effective servant of the ERG and the UKIP entryists.

With respect to the survey, I wanted to vote for all three ‘No’s but couldn’t as it was a radio button widget answer. This is how they win, it’s called divide and rule and this is why the PR campaign won’t talk about systems until the principle is agreed.

I also said with respect to supporting the Ukraine that Labour should ensure that Russian money is expelled from UK politics and while the Tories and Leave campaigns are the obvious first port of call, Labour needs to make sure its own hands and the hands of its parliamentarians are clean!

I think my first principles would be that a Labour Government must promote democracy and the rule of law at home and abroad, democracies don’t war with each other, …

Labour and the EU

Labour and the EU

I have written an emergency motion for Labour Party Conference, I have ’till noon on Thursday to get it submitted, so better get a move on, unfortunately doing this from a CLP is a bit tricky . I need to check if it’s on the Agenda but that’s a bit tricky, I am not sure they have published all the motions to hoi-polloi like me yet.


Conference notes the announcement by Liz Truss on 19th September that there will be no post Brexit trade deal with the USA, and that the Govt is once again postponing (16th Sept) the imposition of the agreed customs checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.is a bit tricky, made worse by the direction not fo

Conference further notes that the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ has led to reduced foreign inward investment, a worsening balance of trade deficit, reduced employment, a labour shortage in many industries, most obviously in agriculture, hospitality and in the NHS,  jobs are being offshored to western Europe and sterling is at its worse exchange rate ever with both the dollar and the euro. The labour shortages are compounded by the xenophobia released by the referendum and the Tory’s “hostile environment”.  

Conference believes that these negative economic consequences of Tory policy are significant contributors to the cost of living crisis.

Conference believes that to start reversing the damage inflicted by the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ Britain needs to significantly reduce the trade frictions it has imposed on its imports of goods, services and labour from its biggest trading partner, the EU.

Conference resolves that Labour will call for a closer relationship with the EU in order to alleviate the trade frictions the Tories have introduced, that we will seek to rejoin Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, and that we will repeal the cruel and intrusive hostile environment. …

The time has come …

The time has come …

If you follow this blog, you’ll see that I am concerned with the line that Labour is taking on Brexit and the post-Brexit deal. I have written this motion which I believe will get some broad support; it might not be insufficiently assertive on rejoining the single market, I think its clear but others may want some stronger words.


The Tories’ ‘Hard Brexit’ has intensified the cost of living crisis.

Conference notes:

  • The Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ has led to reduced foreign inward investment, a worsening balance of trade deficit, reduced employment, a labour shortage in many industries, most obviously in agriculture, hospitality and in the NHS and jobs are being offshored to western Europe. The withdrawal from the common energy market, has contributed to the UK’s increase in energy prices. These negative economic consequences of Tory policy are significant contributors to the cost of living crisis.
  • The labour shortages are compounded by the xenophobia released by the referendum and the Tory’s “hostile environment”.
  • Northern Ireland’s post-brexit economic performance is outperforming all other parts of the UK, except London.
  • It was a mistake for Keir Starmer to whip Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ trade deal.
  • To start reversing the damage inflicted by the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ Britain needs to significantly reduce the trade frictions it has imposed on its imports of goods, services and labour from its biggest trading partner, the EU.

Conference resolves that Labour will call for a closer relationship with the EU in order to alleviate the trade frictions the Tories have introduced, that we will seek to rejoin Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, and that we will repeal the cruel and intrusive hostile environment.


This is 223 words so there’s another 27. If you like it but want the last paragraph to call for rejoining the single market, and include freedom of movement for Labour that would be great. I am putting this to my GC as a conference motion but with Deptford, who knows, it might get trapped between the remaining Lexiter’s and Starmer loyalists.  …

Labour’s Money 2021

Labour’s Money 2021

The Labour Party posted ( mirror ) its 2021 accounts to the Electoral Commission site earlier this week. The papers, the Independent and the Guardian rapidly picked this up. They and Labour List focused on the first deficit in years and the loss of 91,000 members. I look at the numbers and and add the observation that individual donations are very weak, and donations as a whole remain dominated by Trade Union donations.

Figure 1:: Operating Surplus vs Membership Income

They were followed a day later by the Forensic Socialist who published (or my mirror) a presentation on twitter. Esther looks at the decline in membership and membership income, the reduction in net assets, i.e. the best measure of liquidity, the increase in running costs, including a strange and unexplained £6m item & the operational deficit, which was only transformed into a balance sheet surplus by a pension fund re-evaluation. She estimates that if Labour continues to spend like this it’ll be bankrupt (or need bank loans in 18 months).

Income

Income was £45½m which is just under £4m less than 2020, most of this reduction was due to the reduction in membership fee income which was £3.1m lower than 2020. Donations were up from a very low number in 2020, but have become dominated by trade union donations. Membership income is projected to fall further in 2022, this is based on informal surveys, we know that people have been leaving in 2022 and those that left in 2021 without resigning will still be assessed as in membership on 31st December 2021.

Figure 2: Income 2021 by source
Figure 3: History of income by source

Donations

I also looked at donations which are available on the EC site (my version) . The rich donors are not yet coming through and the total individual donor level is pretty low. The Trade Unions are once again the single largest category of donations contributing over 70% of the donation income. Of the individual donations , over half of the cash donated came from two people. I wonder if Unite (£1.7m), CWU (£500k) & GMB (£1.3m) will continue to pay at this rate.

Figure 9: Donations by category of donor 2021
F: Donations History

For these charts I have removed three trivial classes to make the charts easier to read.

Blair’s Labour Party raised over £7m in individual donations in 2005 & 2007 and even they run out of money to fight elections. Last year’s individual donations was under £1m with as already noted half of that coming from two people.

Also the Electoral Commission changed the way in which they classified Short Money and other public grants to the party. Ideally these should be removed from the chart above but disentangling the Short Money itself from the other grants would require going back to the base figures over the 11 years. The Labour Party accounts show the public grant income as a single budget head separate from donations. The electoral commission have it seems moved the Short Money from Public Funds to Other. Does the electoral commission have a minimum threshold for reporting?, How does the party account for such donations?

Expenditure

Expenditure was the highest ever, dominated by running costs (80%) which are up by £5.2m and dominated by staff costs.

Figure 4: Expenditure 2021 by classification
Figure 5: Expenditure History

It would be curious to know how much of the staff costs are recurring or can be expected to not be incurred in FY 22. How much were the redundancy payoffs, how much spent on contractors (on time limited contracts) vs staff, how much on 3rd party consultants inc. lawyers?  This increase in staff costs was despite the average number of employees being down by 10% (40 employees). It’s clear that the contractor cost of staff in Legal and Governance Unit, currently employed in searching for and expelling members and ex-members of Socialist Appeal and the AWL together with members and ex-members of the LLA; meanwhile bullying is ignored. Do the reported staff numbers include short term contractors? It is also noteworthy that the senior management team costs increased by £347K; this should be explained.

Chart, bar chart

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Fig 6: Headcount 2021 vs 2020

There is a £6m item called political activities and publication, this was trivial in 2019 and jumped to £3m in 2020 and £6m in 2021 i.e. since Starmer became Leader and Evans became General Secretary.

I note that in this year’s annual report, the General Secretary is declared as the Treasurer, I can’t imagine that’s acceptable to the bank. The report says,

The Registered Treasurer of the Party is required by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to prepare financial statements for each financial year which give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Party and of its surplus or deficit for that period. In preparing those financial statements, the Registered Treasurer is required to:
• Select suitable accounting policies and then apply them consistently;
• Make judgements and estimates that are reasonable and prudent;
• State whether applicable accounting standards have been followed, subject to any material departures disclosed and explained in the financial statements; and
• Prepare the financial statements on the going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the Party will continue in business.
The Registered Treasurer is responsible for keeping proper accounting records which disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Party at that time and to enable him to ensure that the financial statements comply with the Act. He also has delegated responsibility from the National Executive Committee for ensuring that appropriate controls are established for safeguarding the assets of the Party and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.

Labour’s Annual Financial Report to the ELECTORAL Commission

I’d like to see and examine the IT Risk Controls and learn how often their effectiveness and coverage is reviewed. The last bank I worked for did this every 3 months.

CLP grants have fallen £900K, this is a slight fall in the grant to membership income ratio. This can be impacted by a number of things. The basic grant is based on a fixed rate payment/member. These payments will be supplemented by development grants. The membership income will depend on the number of members and the number paying a reduced fee, the average fee paid is 7!% of the full rate. It might be interesting to learn how much of this expense item is discretionary. The mandatory component is about 5% of the full rate fee, so there’s possibly some question to ask and answer about how much is discretionary and how and where it’s spent.

Figure 7: CLP Grants vs Income & Fees

Net Assets

Here is my version of the net assets position chart, showing a 2019 peak.

Figure 8: Net Assets History

I finish this review by quoting Esther,

We have seen that the most material component of income to the Party is membership income, which increased by more than 300% (£13m) between 2015 and 2020. Now this income is on the wane, with a reduction in 2021 of £3.1m, with further reductions to come.

Running costs are at an all-time high at £40.1m. The extent to which these costs include non-recurrent severance costs should be clarified. The Party must reduce its running costs in order to bring the finances into balance.

Should the Party continue at its 2021 running costs, but with income decreasing as set out above, the Party would run out of  reserves within two years

All of the above analysis is based on figures provided in the 2021 accounts and the published donation datasets. NEC members will have access to 2022 figures, but these are closely guarded. Some NEC members say they do not have access to comprehensive and understandable financial data-.

Esther Giles – “”

Questions

Is there a plan to eliminate the operating deficit?

What is the projected annual surplus/deficit for 2022?

Is there a reserve policy and is the Party meeting it?

Are all donations reported to the EC? i.e. is there a donation threshold that allows donations to not be reported? If so does the Party report everything to the EC? If not where does this money appear on the accounts?

How often and in what detail are party expenses reported to the business committee and the NEC?

How much of the staff costs are recurring and how much can we expect to be able to avoid in 2022? i.e. how much

Given the reduction in staff numbers, why is the staff cost so  high?

What is political activity and publishing?

Why has the senior management team costs risen so high?

Are any members of the SMT on personal service contracts?

Of the CLP grants how much of this is discretionary as opposed to mandated by the rule book.

Have you reserved and if so how much for either fines or compensation payments as a result of the cyber-attack?

ooOOOoo

Featured Image: from flickr CC GotCredit 2017 BY …

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. …

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. It notes the powers of the NEC to define prohibited acts in the support of proscribed organisations. It notes the remaining role of the NCC and concludes with a quote from the Forde report expressing concern of the use of admin suspension and the concern that expulsions may be used for factional purposes. For more, use the 'read more' button ...

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,

This article looks at growth and debt, Starmer and Reeves flirtation with Osbornomics and Reeves' rejection of nationalisation on the grounds of cost, I note countervailing views from Murray and Long Bailey and note that Reeves places herself in the sad queue of shadow chancellors undermining Labour's election chances by 'telling the truth'. There's more overleaf ...

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 🙁 …

Labour, me and the Forde Report I

Labour, me and the Forde Report I

The Forde Report commissioned by Labour’s NEC has been published. I have not read it all yet but have discovered the first quote, on the dangers of continued factionalism as it related to the new proscription rules and had the second on the need to conform to A6 of the ECHR pointed out to me.

§A 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.

§F 3.1 We note the new arrangements, approved by the Party at its Conference in 2021, which make provision for various reforms, including the establishment of an IRB in cases involving accusations of discrimination. The Party will need to be vigilant that those new procedures, when combined with the further reforms we recommend in this report, deliver a system which, as far as is practicable, enshrines the core principles of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ….

The Forde Report

Three things: I’d have preferred a stronger mandate than concern and a need for vigilance, and for me A6 is so last year. I have moved on to A7 “No punishment without law”, which states “ No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.” Obviously, the scope needs to be changed to be prohibited under rule or law, but the principal is obvious and the NEC is in flagrant breach of this principle.

Finally, the report seems exclusively focused on discriminatory behaviour, it seems to fail to address bullying and cover-ups whether undertaken by staff or senior role holders. …