Thursday, 30 September 2010

More Tory crowing over Ireland?

Following up on Guido Fawkes's claim that the last Irish budget (you know, the one that has helped push Eire to the brink of double dip, put tens of thousands of home owners in to negative equity, almost crippled their economy, cut welfare, cut public sector pay, began charging a nominal figure for prescriptions, while also cutting VAT, alcohol tax and keeping corporation tax and income tax unchanged ) was the one we should have had here; we have yet another Tory who I'm sure will not be mentioning his past views on Ireland any time soon, especially considering today's news on their exposure to toxic bank assets.

Oh yes, its George Osborne.

To an untrained monkey it is obvious what Ireland attempted to do. Cut tax to allow the private sector and business to swoop in; what is it that George Osborne says about a private sector recovery?

Who is Grant Tucker and Conservative Future

Not Malcolm's younger brother, no. Grant Tucker Esq is Iain Dale's new Executive Assistant. He is also the newly elected Chair of Conservative Future Wales (despite living in London working for The Nations Favourite Political Blogger TM)

Several months ago he was forced to step down after comments made on his Facebook page about George Galloway; in which he stated he would like to see the terrorist supporting, Saddam Hussein helping, race baiting MP dead. Gorgeous George took umbrage to this and threatened to involve the Police. Odd, considering that Tucker was 17, didn't really threaten him, and Galloway had previously stated that assassination of Tony Blair and George W Bush would be just. (That pair taking offence might have been, you know, a little more justified)

So despite his immature statement, his decision (the parties decision) to step down, Tucker is back with vengeance! Re-elected quicker than a Peter Mandelson return to the Cabinet all whilst leaving Gods favourite country for that there London. Hope he has a young persons railcard.

Anyway, this isn't a personal attack on Tucker, Keir is sure that he is a perfectly pleasant fellow, although he does muse whether the Norfolk North botherer was au fait with the "highly knowledgeable and articulate young man..." he chose past. but it does highlight a wider issue. A scandal hit candidate re-elected easily? How so you might ask? Well, out of 18,000 members, 200 cast ballots! 200! Casts Tories comments on the Union turnout in the leadership campaign in a new light and makes an interesting contrast with this:
100 new members at the Cardiff University Labour Students Society. great turn out and great showing. the fight back begins...

Bittersweet Conference

It has been an exhausting few days at Labour Party Conference. And that exhaustion was fuelled by the disappointment of David Miliband losing out by the narrowest of margins to brother Ed.

I admit it: I cried. Not just after the announcement. But at various other points.

Ed will grow as a politician and will grow into his role as leader. But I thought David was the outstanding candidate. Having seen him in action closely over the last 4 months, I thought this man was made to lead this party and this country. He has dispelled the lazy media myth of him being robotic with his interaction with people and his radical Movement for Change project. His speech on the Monday after the announcement, where you knew you were looking at a man who should be Prime Minister, was beyond brilliant.

David has been on a 4-month journey and, as he himself admitted at the Movement for Change National Assembly, has changed. As a politician and a person.

I was devastated for him when he lost.

But today's letter of resignation from the front bench has just blown me away. The dignity and integrity of the man is outrageous. He is a truly remarkable politician.

The way he has handled the situation is worthy of the highest credit.

However, most striking in the letter was his commitment to the radical experiment that he decided to run when this leadership campaign started. After writing about the things he would do next, Miliband said:

"There is also the new politics of community organising that we started with the Movement for Change in the leadership campaign and which has enormous potential that I want to develop for the good of the party."

Keir knows more about the Movement for Change than most so heed these words reader: this is no small commitment from David.

The possibilities for the Labour Party and for our people and communities up and down the country if this project is incorporated into the party are breathtaking. Over 1,000 people were trained in a mere 4 months. What can be done in 4 years?

If you were a follower of David's very active website, you'll know of a character called Ben Maloney. Maloney wrote a number of blogs about his experience of using the training he received through Movement for Change and a particular campaign that he began on the Ladderswood Estate in Enfield Southgate. He concluded with one blog about his "journey" which culminated in making the change that the community there wanted.

If the Movement for Change is rolled out, backed by Ed as it was at Conference this Tuesday and supported and developed by David as he pledged in his resignation letter, we can change our politics.

With it, we could create two, three, many Ladderswood Estates.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Frank Field, Labour?

There was an understandable furore when Frank Field accepted a position as a 'Czar' in the Coalition government, especially given his criticisms of the Labour government previously, and oft repeated rumours that he was considering jumping ship.

Keir spotted this on Michael Crick's 'esoteric' blog (his words, not Keirs)
Nick Clegg was in the chair, and was joined by his party colleague, the Children's Minister Sarah Teather. Among the Conservatives in attendance were David Willetts and the Economic Secretary Justine Greening. But also at the Cabinet table were the Labour MP Frank Field and his colleague from Nottingham, Graham Allen.
Keir, digging up something from the darkest recesses of his mind did a bit of Google fu. Ah, this Frank Field. Does he mention which party he is from there at all? Nope. Not once. Compare that with friend of the blog (and a must for Shadow Cabinet), Huw Irranca Davies's effort, which while admittedly slightly rougher leaves you into no doubt of his affiliation.

Now we have a leader and we can say in one unified voice that the worst Labour government is better than the best Tory government, Frank Field needs to put up or shut up. Which side is his bread buttered? If not, Keir for one would certainly support a nomination challenge come the next election.

Daily Mail gets its priorities right

Does it criticise Ed Miliband because of his reliance on the unions to secure victory? No. Does it criticise him on his comparative inexperience compared with his brother? No. Does it criticise him for his involvement in the 2010 manifesto? No. Does it criticise him because a survey of Labour rank and file saw his brother as the superior candidate in the leadership race and a PM in waiting? Ummmm, No.

So what then?

Saturday, 25 September 2010


He will have many challenges ahead in these next few days, but if he wants to be taken seriously, the first thing he's got to do is own up to his role in creating the mess that Britain is in and tell us what he'd do to fix it...Now is the time for Mr Miliband to tell us what he'd do instead. He promised us a Labour spending plan before the spending review, now we'd all like to see it....
The new Labour leader now has a clear choice. He can either serve the national interest by joining with us and the Liberal Democrats and set out how he would cut the deficit...The fact that Ed Miliband owes his position to the votes of the unions does not bode well. At the moment this looks like a great leap backwards for the Labour Party.
This is the instant reaction from Sayeeda Warsi to the Labour leadership result. Obviously Cameron is staying above the petty political fray, and letting Warsi off the lead. Keir finds it rather ironic that Co-Chair of the Conservative Party in her initial reaction quote to Ed Miliband's election said these things, especially when the following are true.
  • David Cameron refused to spell out where and when cuts would be made to front line services before the election from opposition. So why do they expect Ed to do so four years from an election?
  • At a risk of rehashing old arguments, a coalition government doesn't exactly have a popular mandate, either.
  • Warsi is a fine one to talk on the legitimacy of Miliband's election based on his union support. Especially as she has never faced election. Let me paraphrase: The fact that Sayeeda Warsi owes her position to the whim of David Cameron...

It's Ed

Friday, 24 September 2010

Have I seen you before?

Far be it for Keir to do-down his progressive allies from the other side of the Atlantic, but there was something familiar about the video that the embattled Democratic Party have released in the run up to what is going to be a very difficult election day this November.

I'm sure the delectable Ellie knows what Keir is talking about.

I wonder if Guido will crow about this...

The budget Britain needs was delivered in Ireland

Ireland teetering on the brink of a double dip recession?

Thought not.

Can't see the futility of Ireland's slash and burn Budget making much of an impact on Gideon, either.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Good Government Intervention

It was Ronald Reagan, one of the few Presidents to die before his term ended without anyone noticing, who, in order to pick up some ignorant voters who lived in the square states who didn't like having to have driving licenses or tell the authorities they owned a gun, and some more informed voters who lived in the cities and sat on the boards of big companies and didn't like having to deal with the government (or pay taxes), told people that "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

This summed up his anti-government philosophy perfectly, that government can't do everything (or shouldn't) and therefore it should do as little as possible. Keir was reminded of this (and all the pre-election warning that Cameron was, at heart, a small-government Tory) when he read that Southern Trains had decided that 'refreshed' trains put onto the 90 minute long Portsmouth to Brighton service wouldn't be refitted with toilets. Previously, toilet-less trains have existed (this ludicrous in its own right, disabled? Pensioners? People with bladder and urinary tract problems? (maybe they should take the bus? Oh, wait...)) but only on shorter routes.

Interestingly, in the initial news report (posted on a blog here) there is comment from the Department of Transport that is removed from the link above. Hmmmm.

The Department for Transport said there were no rules on whether or not toilets should be available on trains.
"We expect rail companies to provide a good service," he added.
"However, it is not for the Government to micromanage the industry."

No, Keir thinks it is regulating in cases like this that is exactly what the government should be doing. How far does the government step back? When does managing become micromanaging? This is letting Southern get one over, and more likely than not, save money while doing so. The Department should step in and force minimum standards on trains that will be travelling over a certain distance; just like they should be trying to talk sense into Michael O'Leary about Ryan Air and their ideas over charging for the toilet. Or maybe this is one for the Big Society?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Confusing Polling

Lots of interesting stuff in the recent IPSOS poll. Many of the big topline results have been well publicised. Voting intention was the big result as Labour levelled with the Conservatives at 37%. It was hardly a surprise, although it does mean that Labour activists need to be commended for taking the fight to the new government immediately. Harriet Harman deserves credit for that too. Along with Ed Balls and Andy Burnham who, when back in their Shadow Cabinet roles, have destroyed the Tories. Balls in particular has dissected the body of economic policies and fed George Osbourne his deep blue heart.

But, as an ardent believer in the Sanders' voting behaviour theory, I found some of the other figures particularly interesting.

For those who don't have the time to explore such literature, the theory, very basically, goes that if people's economic expectations (personal and national) are positive, they will vote for the Government. If not, they seek change. He used the Thatcher post-Falklands victory to prove the theory.

However, my firm belief in this relatively simple theory is being challenged by recent events. Has Sanders expired?

I ask because in this month's poll, 48% of the people asked thought the general economic condition will get worse over the next 12 months whereas only 28% said they think it will improve.

Now, normally that would be a disastrous figure for a government to have to deal with. Sure, we are not (yet) close to an election, but that is still a high percentage of people with negative expectations. But, coupled with some of the other findings it may not be as much of a problem for the government as one may think. Because 57% still think the government's policies will benefit the country in the long-term and 57% say the spending cuts are necessary. Despite the fact that 75% said the cuts should be slower, the fact that people buy into the cuts and have negative economic expectations confuses matters. For me anyway.

There's more confusion to be found in the surveys leading up to the last General Election. In December 2009, 32% of people asked said they thought the economic situation would improve and 36% said it would get worse. Come January 2010, the positive respondents had gone up to 44% whilst the percentage saying they thought things would get worse had gone down to 24%.

February: 37% said it would improve, 31% said it would get worse.

So the declining numbers who were optimistic coupled with increased numbers who were pessimistic would lead to a weaker government party performance at the May election. But then April threw up a stonking 41% saying the economic situation would improve with only 26% saying it would get worse and 30% saying it would stay the same! Huh?! And optimism was as high as 47% in a separate Scottish survey.

I vividly remember the night these polls came in and gloating on Twitter that we had convinced people. We had economic expectations up, pessimism down and thus would win the election. I knew, Sanders knew. Hell, Gordon knew and, after we won, he would be hailed as a genius.

Au contraire.

We lost votes, seats, credibility and one of the greatest thinkers in politics as our leader.

So has the picture been changed because of the Tory ability to credibly push the T.I.N.A. message? Or is it because Labour isn't offering an alternative to challenge T.I.N.A.? Or have the people changed? Is Sanders still relevant? Are economic expectations still the best indicator?

So many questions.


Friday, 17 September 2010

Office of the Ministry of the Department

The Clegg has been stating (what once might have been accepted as) the obvious recently. (Some of the responses there are cringeworthy. P.S especially that one)

Otherwise, there are some familiar stories knocking about, that set Keir onto Google, wracking his brains for where he had seen it before. The excellent Political Scrapbook outlined at the end of August the issues facing Nick Clegg's office, with reports from the Standard and the Gruniad that Nick Clegg's team was 'frazzled' by being in office, and unclear of its role and purview in government. (Unsurprising really since they've not had much practice at it)

This tittle tattle was confirmed yesterday in slightly more professional and delicate terms by a report from the Institute for Government: "Clegg must be better resourced, or else the sheer overload of information will overwhelm him."

And it seems the reports advice on assisting Clegg and other Lib Dem govenrment ministers while increasing their influence and 'watchdog' role in government is simple. More SpAds. Oh, whats that, another Lib Dem cherished principle being dropped. Put that [slightly less significant] one with tuition fees and Trident.

So, other than being the second tick in a single tick system, (hands up who really thinks the Clegg has a true veto?) what exactly is it that Nick Clegg does that is making his team so frazzled? Spend all his time redrawing constituencies? (Apolitically of course)

Iain Martin at the Wall Street Journal has an interesting idea about his future at least.

The media is out of touch? Never?

Keir Hardie returns. This is a post just plugging the hole, more substantive, ('streetfighting', if you like) posts will be coming soon.

The PCC upheld a complaint by Clare Balding against AA Gill at the Sunday Times, who referred to her as a 'dyke on a bike' while reviewing a TV program which, fittingly thought Gill, she was riding round Britain.

AA Gill was defended by the Sunday Times as having a "acerbic...tasteless" sense of humour, and by the paper saying that the term 'dyke' has been reclaimed by several groups as an empowering term, including:
...two organisations, which are both called Dykes on Bikes.
The groups represent an American lesbian motorcycling movement and a UK-based cycling movement, whose members had reclaimed the word "dyke".
Seeing as hip hop artists have reclaimed the word 'nigger', I trust AA Gill would, if he so felt, review a documentary about a black person, lets say, who was, for sake of argument walking around Britain, as "...nigger on parade."

No, thought not.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

¡Vive la RevoluciĆ³n!

Keir's found coverage of Fidel Castro's comments funny but infuriating.

Castro was merely commenting that the Cuban model doesn't work anymore. Now, to me, that screams progressive; always looking to the future, not sticking to things that worked in the past. To the Western media, it's saying socialism doesn't work. Not that difficult to read through the bias.

The Western world has always been inhumanely unfair to Cuba and uses opportunities like this to do all it can to make Fidel out to be some sort of mad man. Fact is, despite having been under sanctions and blockades throughout it's 50-year existence, Castro's Cuba has given us in the West plenty more to be embarrassed about other than just our imperialist treatment of her.

Fidel was talking about the economic model, but the reaction in our media has been suggesting that he was admitting that the Revolution has failed. So let's take a look at some wide-ranging areas of data. Cuba's under-5 mortality rate in 2008 was just 6. The UK: 6. USA: 8. Socialism didn't fail the young then. Cuba also has 99% immunisation against measles for 1-year-olds while the UK languishes with only 86% immunised. HIV prevalence is 0.1% in Cuba, 0.2% in UK and 0.6% in USA. Not bad healthcare then. As our NHS begins to be picked apart by a bunch of right-wing economic lunatics, we can only look enviously at the incredible system Cuba has created. Life expectancy in the 3 countries also shows Cuba has much to be proud of. In Cuba it is 79; it is the same in the USA and UK.

My favourite is the literacy rate. Cuba: 100%. The UK: 99%. USA: 99%. Primary school enrolment is 6% higher in Cuba than it is in the US.

So some good evidence that, despite 50 years of inhuman blockades and sanctions, Cuba has kept up if not bettered the UK and US in many areas of social development.

But Fidel was talking about the economic model, so I should address that too. In the past, when I have argued the case for Cuba amongst friends and colleagues, they have always pointed to the economy as proof that socialism doesn't work, that Fidel is a mad man and that Cuba is just an island full of starving poor people. Those who read more than Western newspapers will know that's not the case. But I had a wry smile to myself when our economies began crumbling in the West whilst Cuba managed to sustain growth. It's even more fun when you use the CIA's World Factbook to highlight the point; the same CIA that tried with all it's might to bring down the Revolution in it's early days. Cuba achieved 7.3% growth in 2007 and that then shrunk to 4.1% in 2008 and 1.4% in 2009 as the recession bit. During the same time, our economies in the West went into meltdown. The UK went from 2.7% to -0.1% to -4.9% and the US went from 1.9% to 0% to -2.6%.

So, in the face of global recession and continuing isolation at the hands of the West, Cuba has sustained economic growth. I'd like to think it is the legacy of the first Finance Minister and President of National Bank. I digress.

The reaction to Fidel's comments is therefore pretty ironic. What has failed? Socialism or unregulated capitalism? Which "model" really doesn't work? Cuba's that sustains growth during recession and achieves 100% literacy rate? Or the West's? The model where people watched as their governments let the markets and banks run wild. And where we now allow right-wing millionaires to lead us to double-dip?

"History will absolve me" said the bearded hero in '53.

Independence from imperialism, 100% literacy, extraordinary healthcare and economic growth despite sanctions, blockades and global recession?



Saturday, 11 September 2010

Don't Forget...

37 days on: don't forget our fellow workers.

¡Hasta libertad!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

1,000 People Ignored

Following on from Keir's trip to the Movement for Change National Assembly on August 30th, a quick note to express disgust at the media coverage over the last two days.

How an event that brought together 1,000 people from all over the nation to express determination to strengthen our movement can be overshadowed by one comment from a man who was at the top of the party during a time when it left many members behind is beyond me.

Peter Mandelson did some amazing things for our party, and Keir respects and admires him greatly. And maybe top-down power was needed at the time. But our movement is finding it's meaning again and he should step aside. The future is here and he is well and truly the past.

It's an utter disgrace that 1,000 grassroots members were ignored by apparently "progressive" newspapers and, might I add, blogs. Check the posts on Liberal Conspiracy on the 30th and 31st August. Sunny Hundal tries to make himself out to be a progressive, liberal, bottom-up-power kind of guy. Yet on a day when 1,000 grassroots Labour people turn up to an event to hear each other speak much more than they hear politicians speak, he fails to mention it once. Hypocrisy, Keir says. No; fucking disgraceful hypocrisy.

The Guardian? That bastion of the centre-left. Liberal, progressive, well-fucking-meaning. Did The Guardian mention how the movement had reconvened after decades of dismantlement? Not a chance. No, the day after the largest event of the Labour leadership campaign The Guardian goes with an article about yet another snidey Mandelson remark about one of the candidates. The 1,000 people just get a paragraph at the bottom. Another disgrace.

There is a saving grace however and it of course comes from that source of all that can be powerful in the movement: the people. A blogpost here and there. A letter to the aforementioned holier-than-thou newspaper (scroll down to Clare Palmer's letter). A tweet. Or two. Or three. Or four. Regardless of the pitiful media coverage of such a momentous event in the context of modern politics, the people who were there are speaking. And as Gordon Brown said on May 3rd, "from one person, one candle, can be lit thousands of candles".

Because of this, because of the people, Keir doesn't think we've heard the last from this movement. Guardian or no fucking Guardian.