Friday, 30 September 2016

Changing the way we do politics has to come

'A lot of the (Momentum) audience had a rather different take. Some said their affinity with Labour was complemented by occasions when they had voted for other parties. They liked Caroline Lucas, a lot. They also liked the idea of, as one speaker put it, “negotiating the future” via a revolutionised voting system, rather than imposing it with the support of a small minority of the electorate.
These were not the hardliners and ideological desperadoes that some people might imagine: their politics felt open, self-critical and realistic about the huge tasks it faces. They may not yet have a clear idea of how a new left politics might decisively cohere – but no one (not even gobby newspaper columnists) does, as yet. The point is to at least begin with a sense of how it might start to mesh, and the breadth of people who will have to be involved.'
John Harris, The Guardian, 29 Sepember 2016, 'A Labour Party of the future is begining to emerge'. An account of a day spent attending the Momentum event which ran alongside the Party's annual conference.
This is the political 'me' he is writing about, with which I have identified for many years. I can trace my willingness to work with others across political parties and within the wider community back to my days as a Birmingham city councillor, and I have the evidence. Becoming a Labour councillor aged 25 was a shock to the system insomuch as I sat on my first council committees and in the council chamber finding myself agreeing with individual Tory and Liberal councillors, whilst disagreeing with Labour councillors.

I broke the Labour Group whip quite soon after my election in 1971, when the Labour controlled Birmingham City Council decided to allow the city's chief librarian to go to South Africa for six months. Back then it took nine councillors to call a special meeting of the city council to oppose the decision, and a small group of Liberal and Labour councillors, led by a left-wing Liberal councilor, Graham Gopsill, got the required signatures, of which a I was one, together with Theresa Stewart (who represented the same ward as me and later became Leader of Birmingham City Council). We lost the vote, but no action was taken against us because we had the backing of what was then the City Labour Party. 

Over the years, other disagreements followed. The truth then, as now, is that the Party is capable of being extremely conservative in its attitudes and cannot see that working with other politicians from other political parties is seen by many voters as a good thing.

Take Theresa May and her plan to create grammar schools. Labour needs to remember that members, activists, councillors and MPs in the Conservative, Liberal and Green parties are also opposed to their re-introduction and Labour should work with them to defeat Theresa May on this issue - which means the Labour Party has to avoid turning this into a campaign which the Party tries to claim as its own.

Labour in Broxtowe should be asking Anna Soubry how it can best support her opposition to grammar schools in Parliament, as she has already spoken publicly against the proposal. Tomorrow morning I will be going to Beeston town square to support the Labour Party on this issue, but I will tell any one I speak to that this is a cross-party issue and I have already told Anna Soubry in an email that I support her opposition to grammar schools - as I support her when it comes to the tram and the cross-party 'Open Britain' campaign.

The way we do politics is changing and Labour has to be part of that change or be left behind. John Harris's article in The Guardian yesterday is a great piece of writing which deserves to be read widely. If you have not read it, then please follow this link.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Expelled for this... and how do we scale the heights of power?

According to a report in The Guardian yesterday (14 September 2016), John McDonald, a great-nephew of Clement Attlee, has had his membership of the Labour Party suspended for posting the above onto the social media in August 2015.

Just another example of the madness of the Labour Party right now. Mein Kampf, according to Wikipedia, was published in the mid-1920 — long before Hitler became the man we associate with the name  Hitler today. When he wrote those words, Hitler had yet to oversee the mass murder of those groups in society he hated.

The quote could well be a description of what has happened in this country over the last thirty years. You only have to witness what Labour MPs are doing to Jeremy Corbyn, to realise what will happen to him should Labour be in a position to lead a left leaning coalition (I do not believe Labour can gain power at Westminster without some kind of anti-Tory grand alliance, preferably before the next general election takes place).

I find nothing offensive in the above portrayal of Cameron as a young Hitler.

The Labour Party nationally has lost its way. Suspending and expelling members without due process is unacceptable. Those responsible need to be rooted out so they can no longer exercise such draconian powers.

Even more worrying is the enthusiasm with which the Labour Party's own version of the Stasi go about their business. 

Today, I have voted online for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. I admit to having reservations about the man, but the other candidate appears to have even more warts.  I have written about the need for Corbyn and Smith to power share in previous posts and in a contribution to Labour List.

Over the years I have written and had published a good few articles, plus countless blogs, criticising the Labour politicians both nationally and in Nottingham across a range of issues. I have been tempted by the Green Party, but to date I have found those activists I have met, with a couple of notable exceptions, to be patronising and self-righteous. I like the enthusiasm of NHS Action Party members, but they remain a single issue party with little interest in other issues vital to our wellbeing (which is a pity).

When I was fifteen I could have joined the Young Communist League in Wembley. I thought about it, then decided you have to have power to change things and the Labour Party was a better choice for that reason. Fifty-six years on the same reasoning drives my politics. 

I have not voted Corbyn to bask in political self-righteousness. I remain a libertarian socialist committed to community empowerment and opposed to centralism in all its forms. Since 1997 Labour MPs have betrayed the British public and the Labour Party time and again: the abolition of community health councils; Afghanistan; Iraq; privatisation of NHS facilities and services; abolition of community health councils; PFIs, raiding pension funds, failure to introduce PR and abolish the House of Lords; introducing post-crash cuts and promoting austerity and so my list could continue. Yet, yet, despite all this there remains no viable alternative if socialists want to scale the heights of power. We have to reclaim the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn remains the best chance we have — it is as simple as that.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Beeston's Pete Radcliff: A Labour Party injustice to a family member

I have known Pete Radcliff since c.1980 through the Labour Party in Nottingham and since the of 2014, here in Beeston. We have not been friends, but we have rubbed along and I have never doubted his loyalty and intent for one moment. For some us the Labour Party is family and Pete is a member of that family, so to receive an email from Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party telling me he had been expelled from the Party because of his links with Workers' Liberty (once better known as Socialist Organiser) came as a surprise.

Over the years he has worked his socks off for the Labour Party and I find it amazing that he can be expelled without a hearing. This is the nasty right-wing of the Party at work. History shows that it is the Party's right-wing that betrays it (remember 'The Gang of Four').

Back in 1970, I was on the receiving end of an attempt to expel me from the Labour Party whilst living in Mansfield. A long time ago, but I remember the experience well. After an appeal and support from others in the Party, I was banned from holding office in the Labour Party for five years, but that did not stop me becoming a Nottinghamshire Labour Party county councillor in 1981 and being an election agent in 1983.

In his blog Pete says that he intends to fight his expulsion and I will be one of many Labour Party members standing behind him, as will my wife, Susan Griffiths, who shares my disgust at what the Labour Party's right-wing machine has done. I am sure many other Party members in Broxtowe and elsewhere will be speaking on his behalf given the opportunity. 

The manner in which the Labour Party machine appears to be expelling members is undemocratic and centralist.

There will be a backlash from this and I hope it does not focus on Lilian Greenwood, who has to be in prime position to be selected as the Labour Party's prospective candidate for the new Nottingham South & Beeston constituency, assuming it is created in 2018. She is a critic of Jeremy Corbyn, but I know her, trust her and will support her of she does seek the nomination, even though at the time of her original selection in Nottingham South I actively worked for Christine Shawcroft, recently re-elected to the Labour Party National Executive Committee. I like Christine, but Lilian has earned my loyalty and you do not have to agree with people on everything to support them — which neatly brings me back to Pete Radcliff and where I began this post...

FOOTNOTE: See Pete's blog for his own thoughts and comments.

The title of Pete's blog is Observations from a Third Camp perspective and this link takes you to his home page.

New parliamentary boundaries get closer and I am feeling chuffed about them

Almost five years ago to the week, I received an invitation to attend a public meeting in Derby organised by the Boundary Commission for England to give evidence in person on proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands. Back then I lived in the Nottingham South constituency and our Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, asked me to draft some alternative proposals to those being submitted by the Labour Party (without any local consultation at the time).

This came about because, along with my wife, Susan Griffiths, back in 2000 I had proposed new ward boundaries for Nottingham City Council wards (which came into use in 2003) in opposition to the boundaries proposed by the City Council and its Labour Group. A few Labour Party city councillors and the the then City Labour Party did not object to the ward proposals we submitted in the name of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, which I was chairing at the time. We saw proposals from the Conservative and Liberal parties and, in the end, the City Council did not contest the final boundary recommendations from the Commission. It was quite an achievement at the time and we were actively encouraged to submit our proposals by Commission staff and so it was ten years later with the changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands.

Below are maps I created back in 2011 and submitted to the Boundary Commission at the time. I also posted an entry to my then Parkviews blog (see this one about giving evidence to the Boundary Commission in person dated 31 October 2011).

The original Boundary Commission proposals show a revised Broxtowe constituency including Gotham on the south side of the Trent and West Bridgford becoming part of Nottingham South.

My proposed Nottingham constituencies put Nottingham South with Beeston and moved Wollaton into Broxtowe. I left Nottingham North much as it was and joined the urban Gedling wards with Nottingham East.

The Boundary Commission's revised boundary proposals were publicised yesterday and have been published on the web. As of yet I can find no proper map, so I have captured this online map from the website dedicated to the 2018 parliamentary boundary proposals.

Including Clifton with the proposed West Bridgford constituency makes sense given that it is south of the Trent, but by any measure the latest constituency boundary proposals for Greater Nottingham is a great improvement on the 2011 proposals.

I think I can fairly claim that my proposed Nottingham constituencies back in 2011 have contributed to the formation of the latest proposals from the Boundary Commission. I admit to being chuffed.

You can comment on the proposed boundary changes by visiting the website or attending the Commission's public hearing in Derby on 27–28 October 2016. The chances are I won't be able to attend as I am due to have open heart surgery quite soon (I am just waiting for a date).

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Beeston maps get Pokémon Go

I have updated my Civic Society Blue Plaques map to show changes to Y5 and Y36 bus routes plus drawing attention to how Pokémon Go uses blue plaques, war memorials, pubs, churches etc. as locations. I discovered this when our 17 year old grandson came to stay a couple of weeks ago and he whizzed around Beeston zapping Pokémon balls using the previous addition of the map.

To enlarge the maps below, just click on the map.