Search This Blog

Friday, 31 January 2020

Labour Leadership Nominations at Brent Central CLP

In a move that will surprise some, Brent Central Labour Party chose to nominate Keir Starmer MP as Leader as a candidate for Labour Leader.  He narrowly beat Rebecca Long-Bailey.  It helps to confirm the depth of his appeal across the Party.

Less surprisingly, Dawn Butler MP won the Deputy leadership nomination quite easily. 

Leaving the European Union

The UK will be leaving the European Union today at 11pm.  Of course we will still be subject to all the rules of the EU in practice.  All we are really doing is giving up the power to decide our own rules.  That and the other contradictions of the Brexit projects will eventually come home to haunt the Conservatives.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Economics of Volunteer Libraries

A little while ago, I found reference to the running costs of Belsize Library in Camden.  For three day opening, it estimates its running cost at £60,000 per year.  Recently, Kensal Rise Library has estimated its costs at £100 per day, which as it is open three days a week would be a bit under £16,000 per year.  Alternatively they mean that they average £100 per day for the full year which would be an annual cost of £36,500.

Of course we don't know what the calculation is based on in either case, so comparison is difficult.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Community Asset Transfer and Public Libraries

Newcastle Business School has quite a good new report explaining the complications behind promises to volunteer libraries and either community asset transfer or other forms of grace and favour funding.  Among other things it is worth pointing out that such things can easily mean that the volunteer library continues as a drain on the public library service.  When discussing this sort of thing with the various community groups during the Libraries Transformation Project, I found that they were quite disdainful of even being asked the questions. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

UK Aid Subsidizing Coal Abroad

I am genuinely shocked that UK aid has been subsidizing the use of coal for power generation.  For once the current government is right to stop this practice, which actively undermines the UK's generally good record in cutting carbon emissions. 

Monday, 27 January 2020

Soul Destroying Universal Credit

The soul destroying nature of universal credit in Oldham is highlighted in this piece.  The misery is actually designed as part of the package, not a mistake.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

The Queensbury in Willesden

The Save The Queensbury campaign appears to have wound itself up.  The successes it lists were actually obtained through a number of previous applications going back to, I would say, 2017.

Community campaigns really do need to think more about when they call it a day.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Labour Win Barnhill and Wembley Central But Lose Alperton

In this week's Council by elections, Barnhill and Wembley Central were won by Labour.  Alperton was won by the Liberal Democrats.  I don't think these have any implications beyond the by elections themselves. Alperton is not part of a wider trend but the result of a Labour candidate who it was belatedly realised had made extremely offensive comments about another religion.  Therefore there was effectively no Labour campaign in that seat.

Friday, 24 January 2020

YouGov on The Labour Party

YouGov have come up with a remarkable finding.  Jeremy Corbyn stills scores highly despite leading the Labour Party to its worst defeat since either 1931 or 1935 (depending on how you look at it).  The members also seem strikingly ignorant of Labour Party history.  There more such graphs here

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Moving on from the General Election Defeat

Zarah Sultana MP has caused controversy with her suggestion that the entire periods of Labour government under Blair and Brown were simply a continuation of Thatcherism.  She is backed up some writers on the Guardian and in recent comments by Clive Lewis MP.

This viewpoint is something I find frankly bizarre for a Labour MP to hold and probably has seeped in from parties that oppose Labour.  It ignores the fact that the last Labour government simply didn't care about reducing the size of the state as an objective meaning it could, for instance invest unprecedented amounts in the NHS as well as very large amounts in education, local government and other public services.  These often then formed the basis of Tory cuts under Cameron and May which the hard left have protested about without really doing very much to support those achievements in the first place.  I would easily reel off a list including improvements in foreign aid, constitutional reform, rapproachment with the EU and so on that relate less to financial issues.

Some in the Party are struggling to react to the 2019 General Election defeat and to accept that its team decided to accept a General election on Conservative Party terms and ran a campaign entirely under its own control and the result was the biggest disaster for Labour in living memory.  Processing these facts is essential to the recovery of the Party under a new Leader.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Public Libraries News on Volunteer Libraries

Public Libraries News, which is an invaluable way of keeping up with public library developments has a short piece on volunteer libraries.  Among other things it shows the enormous growth of these, and the way some authorities have come to depend on them.

"A few of the items this week show how dependent some public library services are on volunteers. North Yorkshire says “acknowledges that without the support of more than 2,000 volunteers and others the service as it exists today would not be possible.”, Oxfordshire open a new branch but say that they will need volunteers to actually run it, and Staffordshire report that they have 1,000 volunteers doing the work that would otherwise keep staff employed to the tune of £1.4m. When library services depend on the unpaid in their thousands to do the work it’s clear to see how things have changed since 2010 when less than ten branches nationwide relied on such generosity."

I have deep reservations about this kind of thing, including quality of service, fairness to volunteers and the whole notion of unpaid working and effective undercutting of the payroll workforce.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Labour's 2019 Manifesto

Andrew Harrop, of the Fabian Society, has come out with a pretty devastating take on the 2019 Labour manifesto, correctly criticizing its general credibility, its reversal of the long held Labour goal of equality, its turn towards statism, its simply inadequate research and its lack of narrative.

It would be difficult to imagine more ways in which a manifesto could fail.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Undiplomatic Language

The new intake of Labour MPs appears already to be showing that whoever becomes Leader may face certain problems that they will need to address.

Zarah Sultana, the new MP for Coventry South, appears to use "white" as an insult rather than a description.  Coventry Council thinks that more than 70% of the City's population is white.  Telling the majority of your constituents that you don't like them because of their race probably isn't politically very sensible and her words are unlikely to appeal to those parts of the country where the majority of people are white.

Some of the other language she has used, also appears be very confrontational in a way that I suspect many people find deeply unattractive.

Already I have attended that a Labour Party meeting reviewing the General Election defeat which left me with the feeling that many Labour members still don't "get" the scale of the rejection by the voters.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Labour Deputy Leadership Nominations

Labourlist is helpfully providing a running total on the constituency nominations for the Labour Deputy Leadership, where Brent Central MP Dawn Butler is one of the runners.  If anybody fails to get the nomination of one big trade union and two other affiliates, this is the only alternative way on to the ballot paper.  A successful candidate would need 33 nominations.  Whereas most of the constituency Parties cover parliamentary constituencies, in Scotland there are 73 since the main organizing unit is the Holyrood constituencies. 

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A Long-Bailey Surprise on Abortion Rights

Thanks to RedRoar, we learn that Rebecca Long Bailey appears to have surprisingly conservative views on abortion rights.  That is not a view generally associated with the sort of politics she is generally supposed to be championing.  Subsequent reporting appears to show her having a more nuanced view

I wonder if she has other alternative takes.

Friday, 17 January 2020

George IV at the Queens Gallery

I saw the George IV exhibition at the Queens Gallery recently.  It is interesting that whereas previous monarchs had used Royal patronage to self consciously promote themselves as monarchs, he was just a rich man showing off his taste.  For example, Charles II consciously modeled his coronation portrait on standard coin images of medieval monarchs, Goerge IV spent money on all kinds of stuff like Chinarosie that had such meaning.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

CND Inside Out

It is a curious thing that the recently reported demonstration against war with Iran included CND (which was once known as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).  They surely know that the Iranian regime is more or less openly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Yet they choose not to address that

I also note that they don't seem called on to make any comment on the violence that Iran routinely promotes across the Middle East.

It is a reminder that these groups have ceased even to make meaningful statements, let alone address any sort of action.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Questions for BDS

I wonder whether it ever occurs to supporters of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that their campaign might help to create the kind of "hostile environment that leads to graffiti such as this.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Ignorance of Scotland

During the Indyref, I would often privately marvel at the sheer ignorance of English MPs when it comes to Scottish affairs.  I recently saw a tweet suggesting that one Labour MP cared about kids in Glasgow as much as kids in England without appearing to understand that education in Scotland is a devolved matter for Holyrood.

Clive Lewis seems to have a similar confusion here, which has also appeared in some of Rebecca Long-Bailey's comments.  Firstly the power to grant an independence referendum is reserved to Westminster.  Secondly, the people of Scotland announced in 2014 that they did not want independence.   Thirdly, even if the UK were still to be a member of the EU by the time of a new indyref, creating an independent Scotland involves creating a new country that would have to apply for its own membership.  Fourthly, trying to disentangle a union that has lasted more than three hundred years means more wrangling over the Constitution than even Brexit does.  Fifthly, cutting Scotland off from the UK in the current states of its budget would mean a massive shortfall between current spend and the tax take.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Continuity Corbyn Meets Retro Corbyn

Rebecca Long-Bailey has already earned the "Continuity Corbyn" tag, which in the wake of him sending the Labour Party to its worst defeat since 1935 in the manner of Field Marshall Haig ordering the British infantry over the top in the Battle of the Somme, is probably not the best badge to have right now.  Still "ten out of ten" award makes it unavoidable.

However, there appears to be an even more retro option than that, of repeating the error of the "Morons" who signed his nomination papers despite not actually supporting him in 2015. Lloyd Russell-Moyle appears to be bidding for this privilege:

Incidentally, why do left wingers now often seem to have double barrelled names.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Limited Choice in Alperton By Election

Following my entry on Friday, I see that Martin Francis has also commented.  Martin has got it slightly wrong.  Firstly if a councillor is not fully paid up member of the Labour Party, he can't be a member of the Labour Group so he would have to sit as an Independent.  He could, of course, refuse to accept office in which case there would be another by election.  As with other recent examples of Independent councillors, not being a member of a political group does not lead to them losing their seats, although they could not serve as members of the Labour quota on Council Committees.

Finally, the Standards Committee could not take action against him for his offensive tweets since was not a councillor at the time and was therefore not bound by the Code of Conduct.  It presumably can't take action against anyone until its former Chair (Councillor Allie, as was) is replaced.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Friday, 10 January 2020

Alperton Council By Election

Labour's candidate in the Alperton Brent Council by election is reportedly suspended.  This does not mean that he is off the ballot paper.  Once a candidate is duly nominated, he appears on the ballot unless he withdraws, which has to be done by himself, his spouse or his agent on the day that the list of candidates is announced.  As he still appears on the Council web site, he presumably has not done this.  This means that he will be on the ballot paper described as "the Labour Party Candidate" and no one can do anything about it, including the candidate himself.

I expect that once the by elections are over, enquiries will be made within the party about how this failure of vetting occurred.  Not least because it was the responsibility of a Labour Party body called the Labour Campaign Forum (LCF), which also failed to submit a Labour Party submission on ward boundaries.  The Labour Party will have to be told why this was either not carried out, or carried out inadequately. 

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Labour Leadership Contest Key Dates

As the Labour Leadership contest is finally under way, here are the key dates:

  • Tuesday 7 January: Nominations open from MPs and MEPs.
  • Monday 13 January: Nominations from MPs and MEPs closes at 2.30pm.
  • Tuesday 14 January: Registered supporters applications open at 5pm.
  • Thursday 16 January: Registered supporters applications close at 5pm.
  • Wednesday 15 January: Second stage of nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and affiliates opens.
  • Monday 20 January: Freeze date for eligibility for new members and affiliated supporters, closes at 5pm.
  • Friday 14 February: Close of CLP and affiliate nominations.
  • Friday 21 February: Ballot opens.
  • Thursday 2 April: Ballot closes at 12pm.
  • Saturday 4 April: Special conference to announce results.
You can also keep up with the Leadership nominations via the Labour Party web site

As in 2016, it is possible for people to join the Party and vote in the contest, provided they do so speedily. At this stage the eventual winner is hard to predict, not least because Labour Party members' reaction to the General Election defeat is completely unknown.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Willesden Green Library Improvements

Brent Council has announced proposed improvements to Willesden Green Library in 2020, although I find it hard to envisage what they mean.  The press release says:

"The new improvements include the creation of two new modern classrooms for Brent Start, an adult education college offering skills and employment training for local people. The classrooms will be located at the front of the building, showcasing to passers-by what a fantastic initiative this is. This will increase awareness of the courses on offer and encourage more to take advantage of education and training opportunities to improve the lives of Brent residents.

A team of social workers will also be moving into the top floor of the library, giving them the opportunity to be even closer to the children and young people they work with and have an office space fit for their needs. This is in line with our commitment to helping to improve the outcomes for all our young people."

I am not sure what they mean by the "front of the building".  They mention that the "reading room" is available for hire, so I take it it is not there.  The education room by the Museum also remains available so I wonder whether they mean the space where the Library Cafe was, which does indeed front the Brondesbury Park side.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

A Quote for the Day from Gordon Brown

I came across this reaction to the 1983 defeat whilst reading stuff on Labour's more recent defeat:

 'We had lost the art of communication but not, alas, the gift of speech'

 A beautiful quote from the then newly elected MP Gordon Brown. 

Monday, 6 January 2020

Library Behaviours

Recently, I was in a Brent library when some one was ejected by the police.  This is a hazard that I think many volunteer libraries under estimate.  Some of the unfortunates who use public services do things that put others off.

This is hinted at in the public notices about violence and personal abuse.  There are also forms of misuse and harassment that warrant ejection, as well as behaviours that fall into more of a grey area in that they make others uncomfortable.  The roots of all this can be a complex mix of health/addiction and personality needs.  They require often a lot of training and persistence to cope with, and I am not sure that volunteers are fully prepared for it. 

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Scots Independence Referendums

Tom Harris has an interesting view on the SNP and the possibility of another Scottish referendum.  I think he correctly diagnoses Sturgeon's dilemma.  However, it is striking how very different different referendums are treated.  The EU referendum is treated as a once and for all existential choice.  The English mayoral referendums were simply ignored no questions asked and the four devolution/independence referendums of 1979, 1998, 2014 and whatever date may or may not be chosen next, fall somewhere in between.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Labour Party Leadership

That YouGov poll of Labour members on the leadership is available.  At the moment, it should be remembered that some candidates have not officially declared and some of the people rumoured to be considering a pitch may not be able/willing to go forward.  Again events and exposure to each candidate could change allegiances quite dramatically so there is everything to play for.

Friday, 3 January 2020

More Reading

Whereas Brent libraries have been successful in promoting library use, they have had only a limited impact on increased loans.  I suspect this has something to do with social change meaning that people tend to read fewer books.  Here is one person's tips for extending the number of titles you are reading

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Related Party Transactions

All members of local authorities are required to fill in a form detailing "Related Party Transactions".   This details where councillors have a close relative doing some sort of work for the Council.  For instance, a relative in a building firm might be given a Council contract.I notice that in Brent, unlike with other forms of reporting such as gifts or appointments, these transactions are not made readily available on the Brent Council web site.

I wonder why this is.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Too Many Representatives?

This is a comment piece about the number of elected representatives from a Conservative source.  It thinks the fewer the better in both Parliament and local government.  Oddly this logic is not applied to the unelected House of Lords which continues to grow beyond any other legislative chamber in the world, not least with the addition of Zac Goldsmith following his rejection by the voters.