Sunday, 6 December 2009

The end of the Labour Party

The Sunday Times (6th December) published a dispiriting story that I think sums up the New Labour Party and the real end of the Labour Party that I once proudly belonged to for almost 40 years.
Paddy Tipping, the Labour MP for Sherwood in Nottinghamshire is stepping down at the next election.
The Party has decided that it will be an All Women Shortlist and it would appear that the front runner is Emille Oldknow,the Regional Director for the East Midlands.
The gist of the story is that another local woman is withdrawing from the selection process because of a series of dirty tricks originating from the Regional Office.

Oldknow is well known in Northampton South, almost singlehanded she and another numpty,Matt Forde(an adolescent organiser now dispatched ro work for the Mayor of somewhere) destroyed the party in this constituency.

She is simply a hack in the worst 'jobsworth' tradition.There was a time many years ago when the Party employed organisers who were competent at organising ,often a bit obsessed by the rulebook,but flexible enough to understand that the party was made up of volunteers who needed support not instructions.
Go to Labour Home and pump in Northampton South and you can read the whole awful saga of the destruction of a constituency party by the sheer uselessness and incompetence of the Regional Office.
Since a few of us were expelled two years ago we have demanded an open and public inquiry,and we would have settled for the outcome.
Instead of which they have continued to attack the CLP, suspended it, and are currently holding a series of show trials to expel the few remaining activists the party has left.
Oldknow is of course assured of a safe Labour seat, she has what is left of the party machine behind her(her boyfriend works directly for Gordon Brown) and after the xperiences in Northampton South,there can be little doubt that dirty tricks are going on to secure her the nomination.

But then only a few months ago attempts were made to parachute Georgia Gould into a Labour held seat, and as the election gets closer the Inner party clique who now run New Labour will ensure that all the favoured sons and daughters will find what they hope to be safe berths in Westminster.
Can this be true? Well in the same Sunday Times piece it indicated that Oldknow's boyfriend is also likely to find a nearby'safe' seat!
Years ago there used to be seats that appeared to be in the 'gift'of certain powerful unions.Now it would seem that such seats are the exclusive gift of what Chairman Mao used to call"the Top Party People in Authority taking the Capitalist Road'
Except our modern capitalist roaders are insignificant political pigmies interested only in being career politicians-they probably don't really care which party!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

It's the Sun wot did it!

Gordon Brown's short hand written notes to bereaved families struck me as a generous and humane gesture.Yet even such simple gestures become the stuff of political intrigue and frenzied speculation-dominating the news for days!
From such small beginnings whole empires can crumble.
parking an old car and leaving it with an out of date tax disc reminds us all where lack of attention to detail can lead!
So Gordon Brown has lousy handwriting, and his staff don't appear to check his out going mail.
The young soldier's mother is extremely upset and agitated at the apparent slight-and the Sun gets a whiff of a not very significant story!

Within hours Brown is a cruel and uncaring man, not fit to be PM, in fact probably not fit for anything other the politician's knackers yard.
A whole career shot down because he uses a felt tip pen and hasn't mastered joined up writing.

If that was a measure of failure then half of Fleet Street would be collecting P45's and the other half would be composing articles with a John Bull Printing Set with the 'w' missing.

The real question of course is why are their troops in Afghanistan in the first place?
Right at the outset I believe it is sometimes right to intervene in situations where fascism in any of its hydra headed forms is kikely to appear.The events in the former Yugoslavia proved that intervention was right,the only problem being that it was too late to prevent genocide.
There are other places where the threat of genocide or the development of extremely oppressive regiemes call for action.
Sadly however we in the West rarely intervene, we allowed apartheid to murder thousands without even the hint of sanctions.Yet for decades this country supported the US in imposing sanctions on Cuba.
A small nation whose crime against humanity has been exporting 40,000 of its doctors and health care workers to assist in the poorest countries of the world(more than all of the G20 countries put together!)
The Bush led coalition went into Iraq, a miserable little dictatorship, no better or worse than any other,to topple the evil 'Saddam'.
There was an easier way- to support the indigenous people and the Iraqi trade union movement who were trying internally to defeat the Ba'athist regieme.
But that was too simple, there might have been a popular left leaning government-oh and the big oil companies might not have got back in!

Then there is Afghanistan.The obvious reason we were told was to close down the terrorist cells that the Taliban were ptotecting.Given that there are fewer than a couplr of hundred Al Queda left then that was not really a valid objective,and given that most of them hang out with our friendly nuclear armed Pakistan Government anyway...
Then we were there to bring equal rights to the Afghan people and free them from the oppressive yoke of the Taliban.
Was that the same Taliban that we armed in order to fight the Russians and the pro-soviet government of Najibullah?
The Government that opened schools, health centres,education and equal rights for women, the breaking of medieval practices of the Taliban?
Shurely shome mishtake?
Do you see a pattern emerging.Cuba supporting healthcare-Communist led Aghanistan supporting healthcare-penny beginning to drop?
For the last few decades we have always been on the wrong side,defending the indefensible and opposing any progressive movement.
If we really wanted to hit at the heartland of international terrorism-apart from a small nuclear attack on Texas it would seem that Saudi Arabia, home of all those democracy loving princes ,would be the first target.
After all most of the world's terror 'gangs' have connections with that particular dictatorship.
Silly me! I forgot they were our allies!
The west is in Afghanistan simply once again to play the great game, to ensure that progressive forces throughout the middle and far east find it impossible to make common cause.
The presence of the West in Afghanistan is providing the same geopolitical purpose as continued support for the state of Israel does-the old imperialist function-divide and rule.And of course ensure the continued wealth and power of the oil companies-the modern day East India Company!
The only people who will defeat the Taliban will be the Afghan people, when freed from international intervention, the Taliban bandits, and the corrupt Afghan government.
If the UN gave every fatmer a tractor, grain and an opportunity for real education then the drug crop and the power of the warlords would be gone forever-and Gordon wouldn't need to scrawl tragic little letters.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Titter Ye not!

In those far off times when Terry Wire and I shared the same party,if not always the same politics,Terry was the Chief Whip on the Labour group.
He had many fine qualities,he was utterly brutal and no member would ever have been allowed to abandon an old Astra in the Guildhall carpark for102 days and he was also a fine mimic.

Terry could do anyone,he was especially good with old tory buffers and did a mean Frankie Howerd.
I wonder if he did his Frankie to entertain David Milipede,the Foreign Secretary at the Ex-Servicemen's Club last night?
I bet they needed a few laughs.

Ions ago when I was a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate it was impossible to persuade the Regional labour Party to send a big name speaker.
Frankly it was almost impossible to get a small name speaker, the shadow Under Secretary for paperclips was usually as good as things got!
I'm sure after special pleading we once got the shadow Minister for the Health of Retired Greyhounds (East Midlands Region) and that was bliss!
How times have changed, yesterday Sally Keeble had harriet Harman,Deputy Leader of the Party in the afternoon and Clyde Loakes(who he?) had the Foreign Secretary no less to grace a 'fundraiser' for the Loaksey parliamentary fiefdom.
Mind you, the much vaunted 'big gun' was only allowed to speak to a private fund raising meeting(prop.T Wire impresario) and one suspects the audience was imported from other constituencies to make up for the glaring spaces caused by the suspension of senior CLP members.
I expect however Cllr. Tess Scott had recovered from her sudden illness that coincided with Monday's Council meeting and I expect she had her autograph book with her.
It is of course probable that in the crush she got Terry's signature instead of Dave's.
And very wise too, for the only public evidence of the state visit was a press photo of Milipede and a grinning Wire.
Of Loakes, the McCavity of local politics-not a trace.
So it raises two questions-is Terry the real Labour Party candidate in Northampton South? and secondly, given that Regional Office always handled important front bench visitors was this secret debacle down to Little Emillie?
As we are told proudly that the Regional Office are now running the CLP we must assume that the invisible visit of the Foreign Secretary is the first triumph of the dynamic duo-scarcely visible Emille and the totally invisible Clyde.
The Labour Party once stood for something worthwhile in this town and attracted the sacrifice of generations of fine and committed people.That it has been reduced to this shambolic performance once may have been a tragedy-now it is simply a farce.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The job of an opposition is to....well oppose

It can be grim in the Council Chamber.There has always been a fanciful notion tthat it's best not to bring politics into local politics.
The current(although maybe not for much longer) leader of Northampton Borough Council cewrtainly does not like 'politics'.He refused to attend a meeting in the Guildhall that was called to discuss Sixfields and the Market Square and other issues because he said that it was'political'.
He then decided that complaints against him storing his untaxed car in the Guildhall car park was trivial and 'political'-the complaint initiated by a couple of us who were not 'bona fide' and indeed were'political'.
Leaving aside the fact that Tony Woods is the leader of a Liberal Democrat administration and last time I looked the Liberal Democrats claim to be a 'political' partyit is all rather strange.
Pete Seeger once said that everything is political-try singing the wrong hymn in the wrong church or try to persuade a child to eat his greens!

Nursery rhymes were often filled with political comment,'Mary Mary quite contrary' was an allegory about Mary Tudor and her attempt to rstore Catholicism just as 'Little Jack Horner' was a rhyme about her father Henry's closures of the monestries.
And if your ever tempted to croon the old ballad 'My bonnie Moorhen' remember your campaigning for the Jacobite cause.

Persuasion, discussion, arguement are all political processes that need to take place inorder to demonstrate that places like local councils are not monolithic bastions of little grey people who all agree with the supreme being in control.
The most important function therefore of the opposition,whether within the ruling administration or outside it is to test the executive,to challenge their ideas and to question their decisions.
As a callow young Labour councillor I was first an administration, but after one term became part of an opposition and remained that for many years.
With large Tory majorities we recognised that we had few opportunities to present an alternative view that the public might get to hear about.The press rarely if ever attended committee meetings and even Council meetings were sparsely attended.
But every six weeks or so the full Council meeting was the public platform that an effective opposition could use creatively.
In those far off days we had 'shadow' chairs of each committee and it was the job of the shadow to know their brief and to try and put pressure on the chair.It was especially true at budget time when Geoff Howes had gone through every budget and ensured that no stone was left unturned.
For many years I was shadow leisure spokesman and every meeting I relished roughing up dear old Fred Evans-who once his chief officer brief was used up he was on his own!
Council meetings are where the opposition can do the job it is supposed to do.Now I know the smaller the group the harder being effective can be,but Tony Clarke as a group of one has been more effective than all the others put together.
On Monday however the depths were reached.There are only five Labour members and on that day only two were present! The Leader was away, his deputy was away and the group whip was absent too!
Bad planning perhaps-maybe they were all at the TUC-oh no, they couldn't have been, for Councillor Tess Scott had agreed to second a motion put forward by a Liberal PPC attacking the local rail unions for their actions the previous Sunday.
Now apart from the fact they got the union wrong, they thought it was RMT when in fact it was ASLEF, and apart from the fact that it was none of the business of the local authority,and apart from the fact Cllr Scott hadn't discussed it with her colleagues it was all a bit tragic.
Luckily for Councillor Scott she fell ill at about 4l15pm that afternoon and was unable to second the Liberal's opportunistic motion.

But then I'm sure she will be able to explain her political rationale to her other group members at their next meeting to discuss tactics and I'm sure Keith Davies will be encouraged by Tess's political initiative,he was after all a staunch union activist in another rail union for many years(TSSA)
I'm sure also that when the crafty political brain that Tess so obviously has she will enjoy explaining her stance to Comrade Loakes and Brother Miliband when the Foreign Secretary addresses the assembled multitude(by invitation only) of Northampton South Labour Party at the Ex-servicemens Club in Sheep Street this Thursday. Perhaps Milipede will bring back tales of fraternal discussions from the TUC to regale the assembled brothers and sisters.

PS. When Loakes approaches ASLEF for an election bung will he take Tess with him as his political advisor?
PSS Is ASLEF still affiliated to the now suspended Northampton South CLP?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Boringate-sorry once more!

I'd hoped that 'Astragate' was behind us, that the due process would take its 'due process 'course and Tony Woods would end up wishing he had done what he should have done in the first place.

On Tuesday morning I popped into my favourite little Italian cafe on Fish Street for my usual coffee.Sitting in a huddle by the counter the traditional conspirators of the Lib-Dem firmament-Cllrs Meredith,Church and the man of the moment-Woodsy!
"Morning Dennis,Morning Richard " and as Woods refused to acknowledge me " and morning to your friend!"
With that jaunty little greeting I went on to place my order.At that point Woods got up and rushed out of the cafe at an unusually fast pace-leaving his coffee.
"Something upset your friend!" I ventured a small piece of drollery.
At which point that nice Mr Church unleased a very nasty and very public piece of invective against me.I really didn't listen too carefully but the word 'shit' appeared to be his favourite word.
Let me make it clear once and for all.I do not like Tony Woods,I think he is a bully and an inept local politician(I'm sure those feelings are mutual)-but that's politics!
However when I reported his actions to the Standards Board it was on the request of NBC employees who felt they were not able to complain themselves.Subsequently it would appear that not even the Chief Executive was able to persuade Woods to do the right thing.

Political motivation? Probably that could be argued, but the fact that he was in the wrong and he knew it seems to me adequate justification.He could have ended this saga before it ever got started.
By the way for local Lib-Dem activist to argue in the letters column tonight(25th August) that he was doing his neigbours a favour by not parking in the street is a somewhat pathetic defence as the vehicle was untaxed.
Politics is not about being liked, or even about being popular, its about making judgements and hoping you've got it right.
Tony Woods made the wrong judgement and made the life of a number of NBC employees difficult.
Richard Church,in his abusive defence of the indefensible simply demonstrated how shallow and insecure the administration at the Guildhall appears to be.
A number of Lib-Dem supporters and putative Lib-Dem supporters have asked to keep personalities out of politics.
Well I may be a scruffy little muppet but I have yet to call an opponent a shit in a public cafe!
Mind you there is still time I suppose, or I could even invoke the John Prescott response.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Is Tony Woods a bona fide Councillor?

After months of waiting the 'Astragate' report is now a public document and at last i can comment on it without fear of being thrown in the jug!
Astonishingly after having led a blameless and law abiding life for decades I have been threatened twice with legal action in the past six weeks.
The first is widely known, former Labour Councillor Les Marriott and almost but not quite County Councillor Tess Scott tried to get CC&BC TCexMPexPC and myself incarcerated for forgetting to put my address on an election letter.
It would appear that we have beaten that rap.
But then Francis Fernandez,NBC head honcho Borough Solicitor threatened me with all sorts of punishments(imprisonment,huge fines,losing my status as a bona fide citizen,having to listen to Tony Woods deone on...)if I released details of the Astragate complaint to the press.
As it happens I didn't need to, they already had a copy when they telephoned to confirm a detail.

I made the complaint to the Standards Board some time ago, alongside a former NCC member.In his response Cllr Woods claimed that it was not a 'bona fide complaint and was politically motivated'.
As to being 'bona fide', well I've been a tax paying citizen in this Borough for over 40 years!-Tony Woods I believe came in or around 2002-Get your bona fides out Tony!!
For the record I was asked to assist by long serving employees of NBC who knew I was both a former Council Leader(a decade of bona fides there Tony!) and an Honary Alderman(bit more bona fides Tone?) and that they had little confidence in the direct approach.

Given that Tony Woods ignored the Chief Executive three times, the Town Hall manager once and his own Chief Whip,Dennis Meredith it would seem that their lack of confidence in the supreme leader was well placed.

His other complaint that it was politically motivated is somewhat bizarre given that he ..a local 'politician' but chimes in with his general world view.
Remember when there was a packed public meeting in the Guildhall some months ago and the same Cllr Woods refused to attend(even though he was in the building) because it was 'political'.
I understand that Woods likes to appear the hard man of local politics, and likes the fact that some of his group call him 'Stalin'- well Tony, lrts make it clear,your no JVS!
Indeed if you had any of his qualities half your group would be in a gulag near Daventry by now and the other half would be too!
By the way if you really think of yourself as Stalin-who in your group is your Beria?

I was wondering why you were looking so glum at the Pig concert and wondering around like 'little Billy no mates', you had obviously read the final report of Philip Mears.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Is it too late for NewLabour?

Norwich North may well be the end of Newlabour as we know it.
Dozens of Labour MP's are tainted with the expenses scandal.Some very senior members,like Geoff Hoon,hazel Blears and Jacqui Smith are all deeply involved.
Brown promises to clean up, and the NEC create a 'star chamber' to root out the bad'uns.
Astonishingly only three NEC members make up the quasi judicial panel and the names of the accused are put forward by Nick Brown the Choef Whip and Ray Collins,the Party's General Secretary.
Si far a magnificent 5 members have appeared before the 'star chamber' and all have been instructed to stand down at the next election.
One of them Dr Ian Gibson, a well liked an competent local MP appeared before only 2 members according to press reports.
His offence was frankly on the lighter end of the scandal, but he was chopped, and as a decent 'sort of guy' resigned his seat.
Nothing has been said about serial house flippers such as Hoon and Blears, and I suspect most people were outraged when the grinning muppet flashed a huge cheque when she went to pay back! Contrition, embarassment,humility-Naw! Just her trademark inane grin!
So Gibson was sacrificed and the labour Party lost a good if somewhat radical member, and they then lost the by election in humiliating style.
A great deal of humbug has dominated the airwaves since last Thursday but there were two significant factors:
1.Traditional Labour voters didn't troll out and vote for alternatives,70% of former Labour supporters stayed at home.
2.The party had troble getting enough enthusiastic volunteers to leaflet the whole constituency.
Wonder where that vast cohort of MP's were during the election campaign?
Charles ClarkeMp for Norwich South described the defenestration of Ian Gibson as "arbitary,unfair,incompetent and unjust".
Absolutely right-but why didn't Clarke speak up ages ago and challenge the careerists who now run the Party/
If he had made his views known, and threatened to resign with Gibson in an act of solidarity-then things might well have been very different.
Trouble is most MP's would rather moan about Big Gordon than realise that the problem is not just a poor leadership.It is a problem of a party that he longer has a political vision and a party that has lost,one way or another,most of its active footsoldiers.
The ieony of Norwich North is that the Tory winner,Chloe Smith,looks and sounds like your average Blair Babe circa.1997.
In the papers today there are hints that other Labour MP's might quit to force other by elections,their purpose is to force Brown out.
A forlorn hope-they had their chance to show solidarity with Ian Gibson months ago, but they fancy hanging on to their parliamentary salaries for a few more months.
NewLabour has done more that simply weakened the ideological base of a once genuinely radical party,it has destroyed the real enthusiasm for socialist ideas and filled its upper echlons with a bunch of careerist numpties.
Truth to tell the next very small PLP will resemble a few dozen Chloe Smith's and not much else!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Sewing the Mailbags

Regular readers to Tony's blog on NIV website will now be familiar with the saga of the Castle ward Two.Indeed someone appears to think that we are both inside at the moment sewing mailbags and pretending that we are Lord Archer and Jonathan Aitken.
No such luck, and I know that will upset some of our fans in the darker reaches of New Labour!

But what the story reveals is the poverty of political nous that sections of New Labour in Northampton demonstrate.
Les Marriott, onetime Labour Councillor and soulmate of Terry Wire was the agent at the County Council elections for Tess Scott.Once again the imposed candidate on Castle Ward Labour Party.

Strangely Marriott appears to enjoy his role in masterminding Calamity Scott's bids for power,last time he was so keen on ensuring she slipped into her Borough seat that he managed to lose his own in St.James.(On the last saturday before the Borough elections he was shoring up his own vote by chaperoning Ms.Scott in Spring Boroughs)
Marriott has been boasting that he was the one who reported our omission on the postal vote letter to all and sundry.his explaination appears to be that if he hadn't drawn attention to our malfeasance then someone else would

So it's now New labour policy to make their political mark by worrying about a letter that we sent to individual named electors in Castle Ward, with Tony's name, address, telephone number and signature all on prominent display.

A serious criminal act or someone wasting Police time?

But then what are the New Labour heroes doing?
Supporting NBC tenants in warden controlled accomodation who are at the sharp end of the cutbacks?
Well there was a demonstration lasr week with a rally addressed by Tony and Ron Mendel of the Trades Council.Binners was there,David Palethorpe was there, and even Malcolm Mildren of the Lib-Dems put in an appearance.
But the magnificent five New Labour Councillors? Not even a message of support from Leader Davies.
Equally important is the issue of privatisation of public services,delightfully described by Tony Woods as 'a market testing exercise'.
With the prospect of many job losses on the Borough and a reduction of services to residents,one might have thought that the issue was tailor made for a resurgent Labour Party looking to take on the Lib-Dems.
Tony Clarke has suggested a call in to examine the process, it would appear that Sally Keeble would welcome such a call in, as indeed would Joy Capstick and the Labour Party Local Government Commitee. Leader Davies is opposed such call in,I understand on the grounds that
1.He thought market testing was not such a bad idea and
2.The Lib-Dems have offered him a place on the committee reviewing the proposals.

So next week it seems highly probable that the local Tories will outflank Labour, anf it is even possible that some Lib-Dems will see the dangers ahead and will support call in.

But then Northampton New Labour have much more important issues to address-like our letter to postal voters in Castle Ward.

And what was the result M & S ?

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A New Beginning

It is a widely held view that the BNP won their two miserable seats in the European Parliament by taking votes from Labour.
Now it is true that the Labour vote declined dramatically and that the BNP picked up seats because of the lower turnout.That much is true and it is largely the result of the Labour Government fixing the threshold for seats at too low a level.

Could that simply be a result of an extremely generous impulse to assist minority views get an airing or a cynical view that maube Labour itself would need a lower threshold to keep itself in business?
Too cynical a view even for me to contemplate.

But Channel4 research reveals that whilst the large Labour abstentions helped the fascists reach the % points necessary,there was no widespread evidence that large numbers of voters were attracted to the fascist fold.

Firstly their actual vote was down on last time,despite the vast sums that they have claimed to have been able to spend on the election.

Secondly and perhaps more interestingly is the evidence that they attracted that section of the white working class,the manual workers who read the Sun and the Star and were working class Tory voters.
The simple and obvious fact is that the BNP have attracted exactly who has always been likely to vote extreme right anywhere in Europe.
Working class semi-skilled and lower middle class 'aspirational' have always been the targets of xenaphobic bigots and hatemongers.

Think redneck-the sort of mediocrity that always needs someone else to blame for their own failure.
You can bet your life that the average BNP voter blames everone and everything for what's gone wrong in their lives-only happy when they can point the finger and blame someone else.
Preferably of course an immigrant with a dark skin who will have taken "their job,their house,their hospital bed,the food out of their children's mouth,their wife,their children and probably even their pet"

Nick Griffin blames 'red thugs' for lobbing an egg at him, will he also condemn 'red,white and blue' thugs who intimidated a Labour counting agent at a polling station in Northampton on Thursday?
Why do I expect the ill named 'Northampton patriot' to bleat about needing proof and citing lack of Police involvement as proof that nothing happened?

But of course few people are willing to risk fascist intimidation-it has a long and ugly history!

The BNP did badly in Northampton, almost as badly as the Christian People's Alliance,keen defenders of the BNP's right to spew racist ideology, but as long as their is a white underclass determined to plead victimhood,then there is a leechlike political ideology willing to feed their paranoia.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Where did it all go wrong?

I've canvassed for the Labour Party for about 40 years.I canvassed in the good times and in the bad times and in the very bad times.
In the early seventies,when parts of Duston were in Castle Ward I remember a leading trade union official who lived there sort of secretly pledged support but wouldn't put a poster up-in case the neighbours would be offended!
Times changed of course and that trade union official went on to be a prominent Borough and County Councillor.
When times were good everyone wanted to show that they were part of 'New Labour'-millionaires and TV personalities and honest fresh faced property developers and bankers all flashed their party affiliation like it was going out of fashion.

Of course New Labour lost some of the features that made the Labour party distinctive.Socialism was an early casualty, and not long afterwards even Social Democracy took a bit of a tumble-but what the hell! After 18 years of Tory misrule we were winning and it didn't much matter how we won.
Old lefties were derided and hounded into either silence or exile.The New Labour project was always about winning regardless of what we were winning.
And that's the rub, a Parliamentary Party consisting largely of chancers and opportunists.
Principles-that's Old Labour-policies-who cares as long as we win-ideology-that's even older than Old Labour.
So what you are left with is a hollowed out shell of an organisation and what is happening in Westminster today os the result of the destruction of the values of the Labour party.
The nepotism and cronyism is endemic in the Labour party because all it has been about over the last few years is winning
Lets win Mondeo man,lets win suburban middleclass,lets win businessmen,lets win the high rollers.
Parachute our gfavoured sons and daughters into 'safe' seats and get rid of the awkward squad-those who thought the Labour Party was a political Party that cared about social justice and equality.
The events two years ago in my own ward of Castle here in Northampton should have been warning enough.The regional Labour party,that once had some real power and influence in deciding policy and even had annual regional conferences is an invisible bunch of forelock tuggers.
Did you know it is impossible to get a list of members of the East Midland Regional Executive!
Invisible little grey apparachniks.

the Regional Director(no less) decided on some very flimsy evidence that Castle Ward was not fit to select its own candidate-and imposed a useless creature from outside(but luckily a friend of S.Keeble MP,friend of tumble driers everywhere)
Imposing candidates on Castle wardhas become a habit of the Regional Director and she has done it again for the County Council(same candidate)

Two years ago the Regional party ,without telling the local branch or constituency spent over £800 of members money getting this woman trailing home a very poor second.

This time round,with no ward organisation and over 70 other candidates facing meltdown,they intend to spend over £800 again to try and get this pathetic candidate back!

This is the evidence of a Party without purpose or principle,simply perpetuating their own clique because there is nothing left to do.

What they are doing in our ward is replicated up and down the country and reaches its apex in the ugliness that is the PLP saving its own bacon!

There is now no purpose in the presently constructed Labour Party.
Forty years of effort and the end result is Sally Keeble and Tess Scott!!
and an authoritarian right wing political machine that leaves great swathes of social reform untouched.
Socialism anyone?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Now is the time to come to the aid of the County

No,I don't mean the County Cricket Club-too early in the season for that but rather the County Council.
June 4th sees the County Council elections and already the turn out predictions are dire.Some commentators are talking about a 20% turnout, and something similar for the European elections.

This is the anti-politics nation and we are caught in a national consensus of 'I can't be bothered'.

Anyone who has canvassed over the past twenty(or in my case forty) years has seen the decline in interest in political ideas and activism.In fact canvassers are as rare as hen's teeth these days and for a number of reasons:
1.the reluctance of people to open their front doors because of television/fear/indolence/or a simple lack of interest in anyone from outside!

It is frequently argued that the rejection of the political process represents a healthy cynicism-that frankly is bollocks!
What the rejection of the political process represents is a fear of getting involved in thinking about ideas and consequences.It is interesting to observe how many people say that they are not interested in politics and then come out with an astonishing dribble of half baked opinions and second hand anecdotal evidence that consists of hand me downs from the popular press.

Too many people talk and think scribble,and they of course are the raw material on which the bottom feeders of politics thrive.
The BNP and their ilk,UKIP and the Christian Peoples Allianceall exist in the shadowy world of anti ideological politics-the politics of hate,envy and bigotry.

Trouble is they exist in a vacuum that the major parties have created.Most particularly the Labour party,that over the past couple of decades have abandoned the social democratic/socialist principles it once stood for and become a party with no roots and no vision.

The labour party will evolve into radical party once again,but there may be a great deal of pain involved in that evolution and there will be casualties on the way.
But only a strong socialist party with a collective vision for the future will be able to resist the anti politics of the far right.
Part of that process will be the rebuilding of strong roots in the communities that need to work as communities,as local people organising together in the interests of all their neighbours.
The labour party was founded by trade unions who saw the need to combine together to improve the lives of everyone.
Right now we are back at the earliest stage of building such combinations and communities again.
That's why it may be necessary to create local centres to organise and fight on local issues and to encourage people to come from behind their front doors and forget whats on the TV-to hope again!
That's why the sort of campaign that Tony Clarke is fighting in Castle Ward is worth supporting!

And despite all the bluster and bravado the nazis of the BNP,with all the big bucks rolling into their coffers can only manage three miserable candidates in Northampton.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

James Larkin Jones

Somewhere along the line I missed the tributes to Jack Jones from Gordon Brown,Tony Blair,Peter Mandelson,Jacquie Smith and the rest of New Labour.
Obviously somewhere they have paid their tributes to one of the outstanding leafers of the Labour movement in the 20c.-it's just that I missed their comments.
I expect we may have to wait until fledging Labour MP Georgia Gould casts her formidable political intellect in Jack's direction before we get the definitive NuLabour spin on him.

his name gives his history away- born in Liverpool of Irish socialist parentage, a docker on Merseyside,a fighter with the International Brigades in Spai and the most formidable leader of the TGWU in its history.
The T&G has had some fine leaders,Ron Todd,Bill Morris,Moss Evans-but it has also had some stinkers-Arthur Deakin and Ernest Bevin spring immediately to mind!
But Jack had natural courage-he was wounded on the Ebro-and was a natural leafer.But he never compromised and dspite all the offers of wealth and power he never forgot who he was and what he represented.
There are many in New Labour who would call Jack a 'dinosaur' and desmiss his politics and his values as old fashioned and meaningless in the modern world.
Well if the choice is between a man like Jack Jones and a waste of space like Peter Mandelson or Derek Draper I think I know whose side I'm on!
In the same way that the late Jack Jones always knew whose side he was on.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

"OK Jerk pork-come out with your rice up!-it's a fair cop!"

Can you believe it?Eight of the Met's finest in stab proof vests alongside a small posse of Council officials entered a Caribbean restaurant and ordered it to be closed immediately because ot was operating within 400 yards of a school.
Thats right, because it was operating 'without planning permission 400 yards from a school AND a park the Council instructed that it be closed to prevent primary school children nipping in at lunchtime for a quick dose of cholesterol building jerk pork, rice and peas.
Now apart from the fact that it had been operating for three years unmolested and had only closed for re-furbishment, that it was not in fact a take-away,that it is surrounded by numerous fast food burgeries ,and the school that was being protected is a primary whose children are not allowed out at lunchtime anyway!

Apart from all that,how does it feel to live in a society where it is possible for a hard pressed Police service to be used to enforce a pointless council by-law in such a heavy handed way?

Presumably the logic is that if the youngsters walk say 410 yeard to the nearest MacDonalds they will have burnt off enough calories to justify the exclusion zone , or maube of course the little tubbies will have to run back to avoid being late for school and that way get fit!

An ingenious bit more of useless legislation invented by the well named Minister Balls.

But what is harder to believe that there is a Council anywhere in the UK who can be arsed to try and enforce such a regulation with a council leader prepared to defend this in public.

So step forward Clyde Loakes-leader of Waltham Forest Council and PPC for Northampton South.

I now understand why Loakes spends so little time in town-he has important legislation to implement down south!

Strange to say the school children that he is protecting so assidiously in Leytonstone from the perils of Caribbean jerk pork are the same ones who cluster around the ice-cream vans after school !
But Loakes is obviously a New Labour drone(sorry clone) prepared to do the bidding of any passing Cabinet Minister.
Could that be how he won the postal ballot in Northampton South so convincingly?

Monday, 6 April 2009

Where do you hide a cabinet minister?

In the olden days when the labour party wanted people to notice what it was doing we invited the press to the opening of a matchbox.
In those far off days when I was a parliamentary candidate the visit of any old back bencher was an opportunity for the press to photograph some unknown old codger sitting outside Charles Street with me,an unknown young codger,mugging to camera!
How times have changed.
A couple of weeks Northampton South Labour Party had a visit from a cabinet minister-the iconic Hazel Blears(memorably described by Ann Treneman in The Times as the 'Duracell bunny') visited to town to support the almost newly selected (well about six months ago) invisible PPC.

Strangely the visit went unreported, no press,no photographs,no radio,no TV- just a deafening silence and an empty Hazel sized space where the cabinet minister should have been.
There are a number of explanations:
1.The Party are embarrassed by Hazel-that little packet of dynamite.
2.The party are embarrassed by their PPC-maybe he is especially ugly or wants to keep a low profile.
3.The Party are embarrassed that it couldn't afford to use the Labour Club and had to find a cheaper venue.
4.Northampton South has ticked the no publicity box.

Of course it is just possible that the combination of the eccentric cabinet minister and the monklike candidate is a step too far even for Northampton to contemplate.but it does raise the question- what on earth are they afraid of?

We are told that Haze met with a delegation of Post Office workers who were there to raise the issue of why the government wants to destroy the post Office as a public service and if it is true that the secretive PPC arranged that meeting one might have thought that he would have been pleased to publicise his role.
But maybe he's frightened of Trade Unions too!

One has to aeeume that if barack Obama turned up for ameeting in Northampton then Labour's PPC would turn up with a paper bag on his head.
There again its possible that the local party has been duped and they have selected a hologram-the ultimate New Labour creature!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Bye bye New Statesman-hello New Labour!

For years I have subscribed to the New Statesman-through the dreary years of righteousness to the radical days of sort of dissent.
I've tolerated everything, the days when it thought it was the house organ of the now defunct SDP,when it thought it was the vanguard voice of the revolutionary proletariat-even the recent innovations of piles of shadow cabinet members writing about their compassion.
I thought I could cope with everything,until last week.
A special edition with a big glossy cover edited by Alastair Campbell!

Now much as I loathe Mandelson with a passion in all honesty the creepiness of Campbell puts even Mandelson in the shade.If you want to know just how dreadful it really was inside the blair big tent-read Campbell's diaries.They make even Adam Bolton's collection of trivia almost worthwhile.

We all knew the Labour party was in trouble when they invited mandelson back into the cabinet,not so much a big beast but a dainty dinosaur, and then the NS invite Campbell as guest editor.

Forget about rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic-now we're playing deck quoits.

It was really like Private Eye with no jokes(actually that's just like Private Eye).All that was missing was the word balloons on the glossy cover,but then Alex Ferguson and Allie himself gave ample opportunity to invent your own caption.
Inside the Private Eye theme continued.The jokey interview between Fergie and Allie,leaden in the extreme, then a diary from Sarah Brown with all the quotes from Gordon(just like the Supreme Leaders page in the Eye, and finally there was the Vicar of St Albion prating on about God!

You couldn't make it up if you tried.So who edits the next edition? Lord Gould's 22 year old daughter about to be parachuted into a safe Labour seat!

Clive Loakes has got it all wrong, if he wants to win a seat he should have got Philip Gould to adopt him,and became Alastairs love child by way of a focus group.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A deep feeling of unease

I watched the 9/12 Lancers parade through Northampton Town Centre over a coffee and with a growing sense of unease.

it was abeautiful sunny day and the parade was a grand spectacular and the crowds were enormous but one had to ask -why?

Apart from the fact that the soldiers were not really local in any accepted sense, if you wanted a 'local' regiment then the Anglians or more appropriately the Pioneers were better bets.

Then again why at this time? I don't remember local parades when they came back from tours of duty in Ulster,or the Falklands for that matter.
Why did I get the feeling that it was all about instructions from on high to get a bit of gung ho patriotism for'our boys and girls' and the wonderful job they were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Best way to defuse unpopular wars is to run up the flag and see who salutes!

The demonstrations of patriotic zeal being re-enacted all over the country has really nothing to do with our returning heroes but cynically an attempt by the government to legitimise two useless wars under the guise of patriotism-the last refuge of the coward!

So if you don't support our heroes then somehow you are unpatriotic and are insulting the men and women who risk their lives 'protecting our freedom'

What utter balderdash, I have no doubt that our young men and women are brave and loyal,but in the end that is what they are paid to do and they act under orders.
it's a fair bet that most of them had never heard of Iraq or Afghanistan until they were sent there-and for what?

To prop up American oil interests in the middle east and reactionary war lords in the east!

Both wars are unecessary and meaningless in terms of 'protecting our freedom'.
It is not the fault of those young men and women that they had to go, it was the orders of the politicians-who should be ashamed that they ever got troops involved in the first place.

The old east India Company had it about right two hundred years ago.To protect their financial interests they raised their own mercenary army .it seems to me that if Exxon or Mobil or Esso want to protect their oil interests in the Middle east they should perhaps buy a company army-I wonder then if we would be so keen to rally round the flag!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Milk not for everyone

Sean Penn won an academy award for his portrayal of the San Franciscan gay activist Harvey Milk in the movie'Milk'
You might have thought that a film that won the Best Actor award this year might have featured in the programmes of one or both of the town's main multi-plexes.

Not a bit of it! If you wanted to see Milk you had only three or four days up at Lings Forum.

It was a magnificent film, full of hope and optimism-something that we are all in short supply of at the moment,so anything that cheers the spirit is worth shouting about.
But what do we get,a short run,poorly advertised in a remote small local cinema.

Fair play to the managers at the Forum and indeed to NBC for keeping this last little bastion of cultural values alive in the Philistine Borough of Nothinghampton!

But why were the mainstream houses afraid to show Milk ?
They were williing to show the fairly routine and uninspirational Frost/Nixon and yet unwilling to show Milk-now it can hardly be because Sean Penn is not box office can it? Especially as the film got rave reviews and Penn a very well deserved oscar.
And further the film well reflected the Obama mood of hope- so what held the moguls back?
Homophobia perhaps ? A reluctance to show a gay man in a heroic role ?

A great sadness, for when the 'twinky bar' defence was put forward for Dan White's murderous action-the whole shallowness of US justice was exposed- and in the current climate a timely reminder.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

What's the point of Peter Mandelson ?

We all know that he is the grandson of Herbert Morrison.
Frankly if that old fraud was in any way related to me I would take strenuous efforts to keep quiet about that.
It is also said that he was once in the Young Communist League,but that must have been a passing nanosecond for there is little evidence of his connection.

Peter Mandelson is the perfect metaphor for the modern Labour Party-shallow,aimless and hopelessly authoritarian.
it takes some doing however in 48 hours or so to deliver three blows to the party that he is supposed to be committed to that will end ots electoral chances for a couple of decades.
Firstly we are told on the sunday press that he intends to halt the few progressive items left in the Queens speech of two months ago.Out goes extendended maternity leave,out goes protection for agency workers and out goes tougher equality legislation.
He has friends you understand in the 'business' world.
One of them is the Russian oligarch who owns LDV vans in the West Midlands.Mandelson has decided to stand aside and watch his billionaire chum close the van plant and lose about 6,000 jobs.
Well the only silver lining in that particular cloud is that Jacqui Smith will lose her matginal seat!

Thirdly he is determined to privatise a chunk of the Post Office,ensuring that again there will be massive job losses,the Labour Party will lose £1million from the CWU-and probably most of its activists too!
Yet the smirking bastard continues unhindered to wreak havoc.

To those old friends still in the Party and suffering from a vicious and unrelenting attack from the regional party hacks remember this-

They are the spawn of Mandelson not the children of the Labour party.
If you want to save the party the only thing you can do is to leave it and start building again from the ground up,
leave Lord Mandelson and his apperachniks the empty vessel they have so richly created.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

There's a valley in Spain

February 24th 1937

On that date just outside madrid a 25 year old Scot climbed out of a trench and went to pick up a wounded comrade who had been shot by a fascist machine he bent over to pick up his wounded comrade another bullet passed through the base of his spine.

his name was George Dickie and he was my father's younger brother, although on that hillside at Jarama he was known as Jack Brent and was registered as a Canadian.

He had not been long at the front but was considered an asset within the International Brigades,he had previously been a Cameron Highlander and thus had some experience of military life and handling weapons.
But not very much.

Geordie was part of the Canadian battalion,MacKenzie-Papineau who were attached to the American's-the Abraham Lincoln battalion and they were ordered to the front lines to replace the legendary Dimitrov's,who had been holding out against the fascist surge since February 11th.

Like so many other young men of the time Geordie had left his village school in Whithorn with little real education and little real prospect of work in depression ridden rural Scotland.A butcher's boy was not really a long term career move.

He had run off to join the army,and he stuck it for a couple of tears, but the bull and bullshit did for him as it did for many others.He was based near Invergordon so its possible that he heard about the 'mutiny'by the sailors on that base.After all the baldwin government were cutting the wages of the ratings whilst upping the salary of the officers.
Geordie was put in charge of the stores for a while, he and a mate 'liberated' a couple of suits and with a used train ticket went on the run to London.

He became Jack Brent while passing through Brent in North London.It's always been a family joke that he was lucky that Willesden Junction dodn't catch his eye that day.

He spent years drifting aeound London,taking odd jobs here and there,living in doss houses,living the life so graphically described in Orwell's book 'Down and out on London and Paris'
That was the period that he learned his politics, not in a university college but under circumstances of poverty and hardship.I suppose he could have gone any which way.

But seeing some blackshirts beating up a Jewish girl convinced Geordie that there was only one way as he waded in to help the girl and batter the fascists.

Probably the event that made the man who subsequently found himself on that Spanish hillside that cold February day.
Working class history is full of heroes and heroines largely un-named and unknown, but at least we know of the men and women who went to Spain.
There are only a small handful left today,perhaps most notable 93 year old Jack Jones.
He's worth a thousand mediocre Labour ministers and every second rate union leader ledt to whimper in his paid for union limo!

By the way you can read my columns that don't get on this blog every Wednesday in the Northampton Chronicle & Echo or on

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Where privatisation leads

Want to know where privatisation leads?
Especially in the prison service?
Well consider the case of the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre,Pennsylvania.
There youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer,given hearings that lasted a minute or two,found guilty and sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offences.
Nothing out of the ordinary except that two judges,Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in kickbacks to send the kids to two privately run youth detention centres.

Yes-they took graft from the owners of private facilities -whose names ironically were PA Child Care LLC and a sister company Western PA Child Care LLA-and thousands of youngsters were locked up illegally.

The judges have both cut a plea bargain deal and will probably get 7 years apiece, so far nobody from the companies has been charged.

Interestingly Conahan shut down the county run juvenile prison in 2002 and then helped the two companies secure contracts worth tens of millions of dollars,and at least some of the contracts depended on the numbers locked up!

My friend and fellow monkey-man Don over in SF sent me this little publicised story and his comment says it all:
"There's a special place in Hell waiting for these two bastards.Another glowing success for privatisation".

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Labour's long road halted?

The essence of radical politics in this country has been an emphasis on localism.This has been particularly true in Northampton where despite the radical traditions of local workers-the influence of shoe workers-the dominant political force has been an institutional conservativism.
Oh its true that the shoeworkers elected Bradlaugh and Labouchere,but they were in many ways blips on the political landscape.
It was in local politics that radical traditions were first established in the 19c.

The traditional non-comformist spirit,including a healthy dose of congregationism,allowed for a strain of liberalism and subsequently a lively social democrat and labour influence.

Before there were SDF councillors in Northampton there were elected SDF members on the Bpard of Guardians-including the redoubtable Rose Scott, the wife of Councillor CJ Scott-who were amongst the earliest socialist activists in the town.Scott was elected for what was then North Ward-now most of modern Castle ward(old traditions die hard in these parts!)

But the real emphasis was always on providing local voices for the local community.
Sucessive governments throughout the last century tried to weaken and marginalise local government.
Centralist tendencies have always been a feature of Westminster Governments of whatever complexion-they abhor any rival power base of whatever hue.

I was first elected in 1973-the time of the last great upheaval in local government when County Boroughs (aka unitary authorities) like Northampton were abolished and the dog's breakfast that we know as two tier was introduced.

Mind you the creation then was done in a more organised way, indeed for the year 1973-74 the town had two Councils running in tandem, the old County Borough running down and the new District Council (NBC) running in.
It did allow the new authority a time to sort out its structures and the newly elected members to work out what they were doing.
Sadly the last structural re-organisation (around 2002/3) allowed for no such run in period and the cabinet system has shuffled on ever since.
It has been and continues to be a disaster.It was an attempt to mirror what happens in Parliament and even adopted the language and styles of Westminster-the only thing missing being the House of Lords!

What we have is in effect a one party state with no effective means of holding the execurive to account.
The 'cabinet' or 'portfolio holders' is as good an example of rampant cronyism that you could find-and the fact that'portfolio holders' get much larger allowances than the rest of the common herd,and their position is in the gift of the leader-then it is hardly surprising that the main beneficiaries of the system are toadying mediocrities.

But allowing for the fact that even under the old system Committee chairs were largely in the gift of the leader there were at least committees in place that included opposition members who could be involved in part of the decision making process.

It is alleged that the way the executive is held to account is through the scrutiny system.
Now given that the scrutiny committess are largely if not completely chaired by members of the administration-then the idea that they would hold their collegues to any sort of account is an insult to the intelligence.
Added to which the scrutiny process has little or no support to investigate the cabinet.
They are supposed to replicate parliamentary select committees,but without any research support,or indeed any means of examining decisions with professional assistance,from day one scrutiny was a toothless process.
And one of my last activities as a Councillor was to chair the Finance Scrutiny committee during the Keith Davies 'administration'.

We could of course question and examine decisions, but only after the ebvent-decisions were taken and then 'called in'-but that was always retrospective and the administration had done what it wanted.

Added to which the modern system now prevents any real examination by the whole Council.there are less meetings,and many important decisons are either taken in cabinet in private or delegated to officers.
There is considerable disquiet amongst opposition members=or at least some-well at least Tony Clarke!-about how little elected members are allowed to know about the Council of which they are members.
It is clear that that disquiet extends to many members of the Lib-Dem administration too,where many of their back benchers feel that they are being given the mushroom treatment-kept in the dark and fed bullshit!
For many years it was the Labour party that argued for strong local government, indeed through the Thatcher reich it was Labour local authorities that kept the resistance going.Neil Kinnock described Labour Councils as the 'battered shield' of democracy.
For years it was the likes of the Scottish authorities,the London Boroughs,Clay Cross ,Sheffield and yes,Liverpool,that gave hope and inspiration to those who wanted better.
It was the inspiration of many Labour Councillors that persuaded many of us to get involved and create if not quite the Socialist Republic of Northampton at least a few 'red bases'-People's castle ward for one!

The last reorganisation was a disaster and if there is to be any semblance of localism left a decade hence then efforts need to be made now.
Here in Northampton we can argie again with considerable vigour for a unitary authority for Northampton, an end to the absurd cabinet system that ctrates two and three tier councillors and maybe,just maybe-the idea of a proper champion for the town-a directly elected Mayor answerable to the whole electorate of Northampton.
It would be good to think that the Labour Party-for so long the champion of local accountability would be leading the charge against this woeful Lib-Dem administration.
But sadly the famous five are showing no inclination to lead on behalf of the people of Northampton.
The labour leadership is non existant and lies supine at the feet of the Lib-Dems!
But then they did rewatd Keith with a generous increase in his special responsibility allowance!
Responsibility for what?