Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

The Cost of Living

Labour has decided that councillors in Bristol should preserve democracy by ensuring that there is a constructive opposition on the council. The debate about that decision is raging in plenty of other places, I want to think about what constructive opposition might mean. Opposition is easy, highlighting the mayor’s mistakes (which there are bound to be, no-one is perfect), use the council structures to frustrate his plans (very difficult given the power’s of a mayor) and use any opportunity to criticise.

Being constructive is more difficult. But being constructive is what is required and needed by the City. Below are a few ideas but there are bound to be more:

Scrutiny and overview. The scrutiny committees have struggled to find a role. Labour could use them as they were intended to look in detail at key issues, to engage with experts and citizens (these overlap of course – seeks Venn diagram) to develop policies to propose to the Mayor and or develop feasible alternatives to his policies (even he admits he doesn’t have many beyond urban design where his views are pretty sound so there is plenty of scope to influence).

The full council meeting: This meeting is and always has been the worse of the council, its structure, indeed the layout of the room encourages bad behaviour. It is also the place where members of the media and even sometimes the public attend and is thought to typify the way the council works, whereas it is often a twisted parody of what people expect of politicians. Labour needs to avoid falling to the trap of this meeting, using it to showcase policy proposals rather than loutish tribalism.

Mayoral commissions: It seems likely the mayor will establish policy commissions. We should encourage Labour members and supporters with the necessary expertise to play a full role in this, they will be an excellent opportunity to promote progressive policies.

Outside the council Labour should not concentrate on leaflets attacking the Mayor. The – door knocking which is solely about identifying peoples’ traditional support has limited value. The work with the citizens of Bristol needs to be a discussion rather than an opinion poll. The work Marvin Rees started at the beginning of his campaign needs to be continued. Holding meetings open to the general public on issues of importance to seek solutions to the cities problems, having a real debate with local people. These could be in large groups in meeting rooms and halls or among a small group in someone’s living room.

Constructive opposition’s aim is not to disagree and resist but to persuade and influence. It is not about focussing on the here and now but also about preparing for the future.


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New Years Day #2012

The twittersphere is an interesting place to see the Labour Party turn in on itself (used to have to go to meetings for that – no more).

The main complaint is that Ed Milliband has failed to impress the electorate and that Labour has not pulled away from the Tories in the polls. Both these things are true but, for me not unexpected, but then I was active in the Thatcher years and have seen the country move away from one term Government of the 60s and 70s to a more stable view around giving a party the chance to get things done.

Firstly why is Labour only neck and neck with the tories.  As someone who spent a lot of time on the door step I know that many people were unhappy with the Labour Party in Government, some of this was classic ‘time for a change’ but was also coupled with some anger (Iraq, 10% tax, economic collapse – people had 13 years to decide which issue had upset them).

While Labour people seem to think that the voters realise that the economic collapse was due to the inevitable periodic implosion of capitalism. Many voters still see the Labour Government as at least partly responsible (which one could argue that the failure to regulate the City or to deal with bonus excess until the horse had bolted).  The general election was not that long ago and people don’t switch their views that quickly, even those suffering under the austerity programme.

This is also partly the reason why the Tories are maintaining their popularity (above general election levels).  People who support their analysis of the economic problem are happy to support them, there are others who do see them as trying to sort out the mess left by the previous Government.

The Tories have also been partly shielded by the Liberal Democrats whose polling collapse has almost returned us to 2 party politics. The view seems to be – ‘we expect the Tories to be bastards, they are doing what tories do’ indeed some people who are not conservatives are privately pleased that they are tackling ‘excess’ in public expenditure and the welfare system.  The lib dems are another matter, having sold themselves as fluffy, left of centre, tree hugging pavement politicians they have found themselves branded as traitors and turncoats who have rejected their principles for power. This is not entirely fair, Nick Clegg did promise ‘savage cuts’ and did give interviews to magazines like the Spectator putting forward a right of centre agenda – unfortunately for him people weren’t listening to that and so the u-turn on tuition fees – a totemic lib dem policy – and lib dems fronting Tory policies has done them in. This means the people who like the Government’s policies are crediting the tories and those that don’t are blaming the lib dems.

So why isn’t Ed Miliband having an impact.  Wouldn’t Labour be better if David had won. I think that whoever the Labour party had at its head would make little difference. As the opposition 3 years away from the general election the media and the public largely see the Party as irrelevant.  It could have perfect policies and a fantastically charismatic leader, but it can’t do anything – not yet anyway – so its pronouncements are largely meaningless. Any policy the Labour Party had now is almost certainly not going to be in the manifesto – the world and the economy is moving and the answer today will be wrong in 2015.

The only interesting domestic politics is the dynamics between the three parties of the coalition – the tories, the lib dems and of course the completely barking tory fringe.

So Labour people if you want to make a difference stop refighting the last leadership election and engage with your communities and work places and build a foundation for 2015.

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Well with the Bristol elections over for 2 years and the dust settled from the emotion around the elections who were the big winners in Bristol.


Labour gained 3 seats from the 2007 election (elections are fought on a 4 yearly cycle) and regained one seat which was lost in a by-election.  These were reasonable results but in no way matched the results in the Northern cities where Labour swept the board.  The swing to Labour was from the lib dems was 4% only half that achieved nationally. All Labour’s gains were at the expense of the Lib Dems and failed to win any seats from the Tories.

Labour will feel that they have momentum and are winning seats again but have failed to make a big enough impact to take control of the council over a four year cycle – If all the seats had been up Labour would have won around 32-34 seats just short of taking control.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems have lost 5 seats and lost control of the council but must surely being quite pleased not to have lost more. Indeed they increased their vote since 2007 by just over 3,000. They will be calculating that the next elections in 2013 could leave them level with Labour on seats or even the second party.


On bristol247.com Tony Dyer the Green’s election guru had predicted two gains, Ashley and Southville. In the end they won in Ashley (with the highest vote on the night). This extra seat allows them to register officially as a party on the council which is a big step forward for them. However they will be a little concerned with the size of the loss in Southville and the failure to make progress in Easton.


The Tories are treading water they neither lost or won a seat. The tories in Bristol don’t seem to be going anywhere and they have more vulnerable seats up in 2013. They will be a little worried that unlike the national party which advanced against the lib dems while losing seats to Labour they have made little impact in Bristol.

Parliamentary Seats

Two parliamentary seats had all their local wards contested, Bristol East and Bristol South. There has been surprisingly little change in vote share since last years GE:

Bristol East

Labour + 2.6%

Con  +0.2%

Lib Dem – 4.9%

Bristol South

Lab +3.5%

Con -2.9%

Lib Dem -6.6%

Given the results it is hard to identify a real winner from the Bristol elections. All parties will take some cheer from the results and all have reasons to be depressed. Overall the Liberal Democrats, despite their losses, probably have had the best result given the national situation.

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The Leader

The Labour Leadership race has started, here is what I am looking for (in no particular order):

1) A commitment to a fairer distribution of wealth and opportunity – which means closing tax loopholes for the rich, tackling tax havens, Robin Hood tax, investment in early years, attacking unemployment, fairer system of benefits/tax/tax credits

2) A liberal attitude to society – less interference from state in personal affairs, no ID cards, no control over internet in favour of powerful vested interests, no detention without charge for more than a week, reappraisal of drug rules and a more effective and humane system for dealing with asylum claims

3) Commitment to public services – rejection of ‘private sector management philosophy’ replace with a strengthened public service ethic with a balance of consumer needs and professional skills of staff, reduction in target lead culture to one concentrating on outcomes rather than outputs (this is already starting).  Front-line is meaningless ensure skilled staff have proper support and training.

4) Ditch Britain’s costly, pointless and immoral nuclear weapons. End to US led intervention abroad, army for national defence, UN  and relief work.

5) Policies to tackle Britain’s housing problem – not enough houses in the right places, lack of social rented housing in South making prices unaffordable and many major cities, not enough effective regulation of private rented sector.

6) Move to carbon neutral economy with action to reduce energy usage and increase renewables. Nuclear power is not a green energy folks and should not be classed as green jobs either.

7) Recognition of the critical role of universities in developing high tech high skill economy.

8) Bonfire of the quangoes (spell checker suggest mangoes) with their expensive offices, senior management teams and annual reports. This can be achieved through a combination of nationalisation, localisation (passing responsibilities to individual or groups of local authorities) or provision through third sector.

9) Democratic renewal, review of national and local voting systems, fully elected second chamber, increase proportion of single tier authorities and expand number of elected mayors.

That’s all for now, sure others will occur to me after pressing “publish”

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Shout To The Top

Rory Doona’s latest leaflet

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The Three party slogans for the general election are now out.  First came the Conservatives with

Then Labour’s

and then unable to choose between the first two they are amalgamated into the Lib Dem

Interestingly on a blue background.  Presumably in Tory marginals the first one phrase will be used and the second one in Labour marginals.

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Pretty Vacant

A big thanks to Labour List for publishing a political biog, yes I know it has a typo or two, but then it wouldn’t be mine if it didn’t.


For those of you who are not sure PPC means Prospective Parliamentary Candidate not Pay Per Click.

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