Friday, September 25, 2015

Improving And Using Labour's Policy Making


This is not a criticism of the work undertaken by Labour's National Policy Forums, nor of those who feed material into their deliberations. But we must seek to draw all the people who are part of the Labour Party as associate, registered or individual members into its policy-making procedures. This has not been happening. Only eight Constituency Labour Parties and one Branch have made submissions to the current work of the eight Policy Forum Groups whose work is to be examined at the coming Labour Party Conference.  

When Policy Forum reports are endorsed by Conference, the Labour Party in the past has made totally inadequate use of these.

For instance, Labour campaigned in the European Union Elections in May 2014 with little or no reference being made to the policy positions it had by then endorsed. Nor did it draw from the progressive policy programme which was adopted by the Party of European Socialists (PES). Yet we are one of the PES's 32 political parties from right across the EU, who are supposed to be our comrades.

Another chance to push our programme was seriously missed during the Scottish Referendum, which was held just days before our 2014 Annual Conference. Yet by then our National Policy Forum Report for 2014 was only awaiting Conference's rubber stamp. This programme could have been used in Scotland.  It could have come to have had an eventual impact on the Scottish General Election results,  saving us from the full disaster of what happened.

Even after Conference endorsed the 2014 Policy Forum Report, those at the centre of Labour's Campaign still dithered. The membership needed to be alerted to our policies, so that they could press its general principles when dealing with the electorate. Indeed if our members had been enthused by Labour's proposals, it would have further enlightened and directed their efforts. It would have added a cutting edge to the considerable work that was undertaken.

But even though Labour used its Policy Forum policies late in 2014 to publish a pre-Manifesto  entitled "Changing Britain Together", little campaigning use was ever made of this key document. For instance, when membership cards were posted early in 2015, no information was enclosed with these to spell out where Labour stood. When emails came out to members from Labour's National or Regional Offices they invariably concentrated on fund raising matters. Yet Labour's policies could have been pushed to inform and enthuse members - and that could actually have helped to bring in more donations.

Even when "One Nation" (the Labour Party's membership magazine) was circulated this February as a 32 page booklet, policy items were confined to a few items only on pages 12 and 13. It was a glossy document containing 35 coloured photos and much trivia, containing interviews with both a celebrity and a baroness both of whom I had never heard of.

We had to wait until the General Election was upon us before Labour's General Election Manifesto was issued. It was then far too late for Labour activists to do their own research to absorb what we stood for.

How we determine policy and then disseminate what we determine, now needs to be at the top of our agenda.  If members are fully absorbed into the policy-making process, then they can more easily pick up its outcomes. Yet we also need to publicise policies as soon as we decide upon them - and then keep on about them.

Click here for an avenue to masses of policies we had in place in the run up to the last General Election, but never properly utilised.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

ILP Statement on the Labour leadership election

 Image result for Labour Leadership

A fine statement on the Labour Party leadership elections and on the way party activists and supporters should respond to its result when it is announced on Saturday, has been published by Independent Labour Publications (ILP).

Its flavour can be found in the following extract - "It is vital that the political divisions laid bare in recent months do not cause irreparable damage to the party's future. All of us in the party - candidates, MPs, members and supporters - should commit to some guiding principles based on democracy, respect, pluralism and participation that will allow us to work together whatever the outcome of the election."

The full statement is worth studying and can be found by clicking here.

It is especially appropriate that the ILP should make a case which could help to save and progress the future of the Labour Party. For the ILP was initially founded by Keir Hardie and others in 1893 as the Independent Labour Party and was a key forerunner and participant in the establishment of the Labour Party itself. For a first rate and recent article on the role which Keir Hardie played, click here  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Labour Leadership Candidates Issue Manifestos or Substitute Material


The Campaign to obtain "Manifestos Of Intent" from the Labour Leadership Candidates (as shown here) received a limited success.

Andy Burnham has issued what is clearly a Manifesto, as he did for his campaign for the leadership in 2010. His current document is eight pages long and as he delivered this, it deserves to be examined carefully. See here. Then there is also his Leadership Campaign Web-site to examine here. Added Saturday 15 August. Also circulated via the post as an eight page booklet.

 Yvette Copper circulated a letter by post dated 3rd August, which is some 800 words long and probably qualifies as a "Minifesto". Her Leadership Campaign Web-site with more in it, is here. Added Friday 14 August. Today Yvette has circulated an 8 page booklet to members, on the penultimate page it provides an eight point programme.

Jeremy Corbyn has issued a number of policy documents in specific areas, which in total are much longer than Andy's Manifesto. But whilst detailed and important, they may be felt to cover less total ground than Andy's. They include "Protecting The Planet", "The Economy in 2020" and "Housing Policy". There are a further three documents which unfortunately are defective when printed off. But they can be read on the screen. These are "Housing Policy", "Northern Future" and "A Better Future For Young People". To seek out all these documents and other material, see his Leadership Campaign Web-site here. Added Friday 14 August. Today Jeremy has circulated material to members, it includes a ten point programme under the heading "Standing To Deliver". It can also be found here .

Liz Kendell had an article in the Independent on 2nd August, entitled "The five causes that Labour must put at the centre of our vision for Britain's future". See here. Her Leadership Campaign Web-site is here.

Looking ahead to the next Leadership Contest, there is a need for a requirement for "Manifestos Of Intent" being issued by the candidates, to appear in the Rules of the Labour Party. Amendments for this purpose can be submitted for the Agenda of the 2016 Labour Party Conference.   

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Next Labour Leader ?

 Image result for Labour Leadership Contestants

The BBC reports that the candidates for the Labour Leadership have obtained the following endorsements from Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).

Corbyn 152, Burnham 111, 106 Cooper, 18 Kendle. See here.

That amounts to a total of 387 endorsements. But there are many more CLPs than that.

There is a Labour Party operating in Northern Ireland, but it does not have a constituency structure. As there are 650 parliamentary seats in the UK as a whole, when we deduct the 18 Northern Ireland seats from these we arrive at 632 for Britain. In a few cases CLPs may be virtually moribund and may not have met to consider the issue of endorsements. My own CLP met, but when the issue of endorsement was raised it unanimously accepted that it would not pursue the matter.

245 CLPs have failed to give support to any of the candidates. Yet it is reasonable to assume that at the very least 200 of these have enough of an organisational structure to have submitted supportive endorsements if they had wished to. 

So something over a third of reasonably effective CLPs have failed to submit endorsements. This places a question mark over the significance of the BBC's figures. In any case endorsements tell us only a limited bit of the story. They are not votes - for these an in the hands of individual members, those recruited for voting purposes by their affiliated Trade Unions and those otherwise signed up as Labour supporters.  CLPs are also made up mainly of delegates appointed by members who attend Branch Meetings or local meetings of affiliated bodies. Unfortunately, the great bulk of Labour Party members don't attend such meetings.

So Corbyn's lead in CLP endorsements, seems to indicate that he has the express support of something in the range of the majority of a quarter of those who attend Labour Party Meetings. There is still a big question as to whether this support will influence the silent majority or is reflective of its views.

Jeremy does, however, seem to have a clear advantage in the contest - the enthusiasm of many of his supporters.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The ILP Helps To Push "Manifestos Of Intent"

Labour Broken rose image From the ILP Website

Labour Campaigners call for ‘Manifestos of Intent’

Jul 8th, 2015 | By admin | Category: Articles, Frontpage, Lead Labour campaigners are calling on all the Party’s leadership candidates to issue ‘manifestos of intent’ indicating the direction of their likely policies and putting their politics on public show for the voters’ to consider. HARRY BARNES, who has led the requests for ‘detailed and serious’ sets of proposals, explains why they are needed and requests urgent support.

Everyone voting in the Labour leadership elections, plus many outside onlookers, would benefit if the candidates issued detailed and serious manifestos explaining what policies they would seek to pursue if they won the vote. In order to ensure these manifestos are more than just a collection of soundbites, they should at least be 3,000 words long.

This would give us, the voters, an opportunity to decide what is the most appealing set of policies, allow us to judge the depth and interconnections (or contradictions) contained by each candidate’s proposals, and enable us to assess which significant items are missing. Then, when the victors emerge, we will have in front of us some set of ideas which we can press them to deliver, and if there are proposals we disagree with, we can attempt to block them. All of this would add to the democratic processes inside the Labour Party.

Clarity from politicians might not be all we ask for, but it can help us to know where they are coming from.

The Dronfield Labour Party discussion group led a campaign for such manifestos of intent during the 2010 Labour leadership elections, although at the time we did not suggest a minimum length. We had a certain degree of success, but now we need a much greater and more co-ordinated effort to deliver the manifestos in time for the 2015 vote.

Ideally, we need Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to require the candidates to produce manifestos, and some Constituency Labour Party (CLP) resolutions to the NEC, calling for manifestos, have been emerging. It is hoped that other CLPs will quickly follow suit.

However, other organisations, Labour members and supporters can also contact the candidates and their campaign managers themselves, asking them to produce voluntary manifestos.

One response
So far, we have received a positive response on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn. But in order to make a fully informed decision by 12 September, we need more. So, whenever a candidate or their campaign team e-mail you for your support, why not reply, asking them to issue a manifesto of intent?

On 31 August 2010, the Guardian carried a letter which provided details of the Dronfield LP discussion group’s efforts at that time. It still provides a useful summary of what we achieved five years ago.

 It read: “The ballot papers are due to go out in the Labour leadership contest (Labour contenders await Blair, 30 August). At the last minute each of the candidates has produced a manifesto, but (except in one case) these are tucked away in an obscure blog entitled Dronfield Blather, which is run by the Dronfield Labour party discussion group, which ran a three-month campaign to obtain them. It would be helpful if the voters could first see what they are voting for.

The manifestos differ considerably in style and presentation. Andy Burnham’s is entitled Aspirational Socialism and is some 9,000 words long. He is also pushing this via his own website. The others have not yet done this.

Diane Abbott and David Miliband have produced what might be called ‘minifestos’ of under 700 words each. Whilst the two Eds have come up with scissors and paste jobs taken from what they see as relevant and important past items. As quantity is not the same thing as quality, judgments of the relative merits of each of these presentation can only be determined by examining them on the Dronfield Blather website.”

Although the Guardian letter in 2010 led to our blog receiving a record number of hits, in 2015 we need others to add to the pressure on Labour’s the NEC, the candidates theselves and their campaign teams.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.
Harry Barnes is a former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire and author of the blog ‘Three score years and ten’.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Hope For Labour ?

Compass Radical Hope NEW

"Independent Labour Publications" (ILP) is getting together with the campaigning pressure group "Compass" in September to examine the future of the Labour Party and the politics of radical hope. A public meeting will be held in Leeds on Saturday 19 September, just one week after Labour elects a new leader and deputy leader, and four months on from the party’s disastrous defeat at the general election.

The implications of the election results for Labour’s future will be the focus of the day’s activities.

For further details click here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Celebrating The History Of The Derbyshire Miners

Friday 26 June is the centenary of the unveiling of the statues of Harvey (on your left)) and Haslam (right) outside the former Miners' Office on Saltergate in Chesterfield. The above photo was taken shortly after that event.

At 7 pm on Friday, 26 June a short ceremony will take place at the statues themselves to mark the occasion. From 6 pm, refreshments will be available at the Labour Club which is situated close to the statues, but on the opposite side of the road.

Harvey and Haslam were known as the "Twin Pillars of the Derbyshire Miners Association (DMA)", being its major founders and its leading officials from the time of its establishment in 1880 until their deaths just before the start of the First World War. They were also the first miners in Derbyshire to serve as local MPs.

On Saturday 27 June, the following events will be held at the Chesterfield Library to commemorate the unveiling.

(1) Talks at in the Library Threatre from 11am.

   On Harvey and Haslam - Harry Barnes (a former tutor on Derbyshire Miners' Day Release    Courses and then MP for NE Derbyshire from 1987-2005.)

   On Derbyshire Mining in its final period - Cllr John Burrows (Leader of the Chesterfield Borough Council and a former DMA official).

(2) A round-table discussion on the history of the Derbyshire Miners from 1.15 pm.

   Chair : John Halstead (Labour Historian and former tutor on Derbyshire Miners" Day Release Courses.)

   Attendance at these events is free. Refreshment facilities are available in the Library.