Tuesday, 26 May 2015

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You may be disillusioned, I feel that way sometimes. But being one of the (unfortunate) majority who sits and home and gets radically effected by government policy means you probably regret not getting involved when you realise that to have your say at the ballot box is the only thing that really ensures you exercise your opinion. Even contacting an MP or councillor via email, participating in a 38 degrees campaign or sending a letter, as good as this may appear to many people and as useful as they are as means of contact, does not actually change anything.

Democracy is not perfect. The 'First Past the Post' system renders the majority of seats and therefore the majority of votes pointless in the wider reality of deciding which party wins power. It is known that a handful of votes can change a government either way, perhaps as little as 1000 votes. Crucially, however, these votes have to be in the right seat in order to be the votes that really count. This is unfair on the voter and makes some votes more important than others. It also makes making the case for non-voters to become voters all the more difficult, particularly in non-critical seats.

Activists that I deal with are stoically committed to the power of knocking on doors. I remain unsure and I had a discussion with an "activist's activist" this week who agreed with me that the vote on the day had no real bearing to the many thousands of doors they knocked on during the election and they questioned the ongoing relevance of this means of canvassing. In case you are wondering, this anonymous person is not someone that has appeared on my politics podcast! I accept that breathe a sigh of relief if we are leafleting rather than door knocking, but I do think that people either say they vote for you honestly or pretend to support you just to get rid of you, they say something nasty because it's the only opportunity they have to exercise some bile against politicians or they just don't answer the door. I do believe that being seen out and about does have its benefits, but there is no evidence that the vote collapses in areas where we don't knock, which is many.

I believe that the election result in the May 2015 General Election will increase voter engagement. People will begin to realise that to protest vote, however well-intended, maintains the status quo. As politically opportunistic as this will appear and I make no apologies for it, you will only ever get a Tory or Labour government. Neither are perfect but you choose the overall direction. Do you choose the free market, survival of the fittest of the Conservatives or the enterprising yet socially just focus of Labour. Governments change and Labour will get back in. You decide whether it is 2020 or 2025 when we return. Yes, Labour must offer a presentable and coherent set of ideas, but upon doing so it is you that must vote for it.

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Monday, 25 May 2015

What is Aspiration?

Aspiration is what people like me have towards becoming more than we currently are. Aspiration is to aspire to do better in life either financially or in terms of well-being and I believe the majority of people out there have ambitions, goals and targets in life. As they should.

I look at people like John Prescott, who aspired to become an MP and did it, who became a Lord when offered and raised to the top of government and question whether he would have the gall to sit there and say this was by accident and that it is somehow wrong for the ordinary working man or woman to want to be like them and enjoy similar success they have? Labour must offer hope to the ambitious or we cannot possibly relate to how the majority of people live their lives. I hope for more money, I hope for more status and more success, because I am yet to get it and there is nothing wrong with wanting it.

We can deliver fairness without hammering those who have the wherewithal to get out there and do something with their lives. This can be done alongside providing a fair safety net for those who really need it and a fair tax system so the very wealthy pay for the safety provision offered to the less fortunate. It's not rocket science.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Out of Proportion

Shock, horror! A leaked email from the Bank of England reveals they are working on contingency schemes for such a time when Britain leaves the EU. Bare with me one moment whilst I pick myself up from the floor! Sarcasm aside, it is entirely appropriate that institutions should be planning for all scenarios, however likely or unlikely they are to actually happen. That is good strategic management and this is a non-story as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately this is the type of scaremongering that will be adopted by the press and instead of focusing on balanced, factual arguments easy rhetoric and extreme anecdotes will sway public opinion.

Whichever way we vote it is now clear that the government will be asking our opinion in the not-too-distant future. Cameron is now negotiating with European leaders for a new deal and he has admitted they will be difficult negotiations. Out of respect to Britain and our government's electoral mandate, European countries are willing to have these discussions, but their comments in the media suggest suspicion and thinly-veiled irritation that Britain are attempting to secure a preferential deal for ourselves. I note the similarity with Greece, ironically a comparison the government may now dislike having for many years used that as a stick with which to beat Labour, where Europe were happy to discuss Greece's election of the anti-austerity party, but unfortunately for Greece, the fiscal restraints and high repayments continue.

The political posturing from Cameron on these negotiations from a domestic standpoint is irrelevant. I doubt there are many floating voters who are eagerly scrutinising the deal Cameron does or doesn't obtain before deciding how to vote in the referendum, most of us know how we will vote already. I will be voting to stay in. There are lots of reasons to do so, but my prevailing argument is that we cannot expect a greater role from the outside of the EU than on the inside. I don't think I can be persuaded we are better off out than in, but I will take my vote seriously enough to think about it carefully.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What Next For The Labour Party?

Labour have a unique challenge in appealing to middle England, the rather odd term for those who are not on welfare or filthy rich, i.e. me and most of us!

I have not yet decided who to back for the leadership. I feel that Liz Kendall will enjoy a surge of support because she is not tainted by association in the (unfortunate) way Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are. With Tristram Hunt declared his support for her and deciding not to stand, this will only help her gain momentum. I regret Dan Jarvis and Chuka Umanna withdrew, I think both would have been great. Liz Kendall is another Oxbridge candidate so I remain to be convinced they can bridge the left and right (across the centre would you credit it) in the way Labour needs to in order to get back into power.

I recorded a video discussing some of these things which I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

17th May Politics Podcast with Malcolm and Liam

Liam is back to discuss his campaign and we also cover the runners and riders for both Scottish Labour and the Labour Party leaders as well as our thoughts on moving forward for Labour. Click play to have a listen. We are not going to do weekly podcasts any more but will return every couple of weeks to do a podcast and discuss the latest news so please subscribe so you always know when a new show is available.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Consett in 1978

Here is a video to watch which I am sure will stir a lot of memories and emotions for local party members. I found this video on YouTube which is a documentary feature from late 1978 about Consett, when it was rumoured that 'the company' would close. Those in authority apparently thought not, including Consett MP David Watkins, but we know they were proven to be wrong. 37 years on we know how Consett struggled and prevailed with many hundreds of properties in the Templetown and other areas being built next to our large Tesco's.

Whilst Consett is moving forward with development and about to welcome the finished Academy as that project rumbles on, this video is a nostalgic look back to a time where many people, most probably no longer with us, fought a very valiant battle to protect their way of life and the interests of our local working people. It reminds us that in 2015 and onwards, Labour needs a creative and modern approach to representing different sections of society, but it was no simpler back then to tick all the boxes. Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Thank You Ed

Look out for a video coming soon on who I'm backing for leader and why. #ThankYouEd

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Politics Podcast: Election Wrap Up Podcast with Malcolm

So it's all over. Here is my thoughts for the podcast audience. We will get an interview sorted with Liam soon, he is enjoying a well-earned break with his family at the moment. Our other occasional host, Fraser Tinsley, won his seat on Durham County Council so well done to him on his impressive victory.

Thanks to everyone who has tuned in to our podcast over the past 16 months. I will keep you updated on our plans for it as soon as possible.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Reflecting on a Mixed Night

In terms of the individual campaigns I worked on Labour enjoyed success. Anna Turley swept into Parliament in Redcar as she has been tipped to do so for some time and Anna can look forward to a successful career at Westminster. I recommend you watch this space as she could go a very long way in Politics. Pat Glass, North West Durham, was comfortably re-elected with a 10,000 majority and I was delighted that Fraser Tinsley, Willington and Hunwick, was elected to Durham County Council in a by-election following the unfortunate resignation of Joe Buckham. After a long days canvassing from 8.00am, the result was finally declared in the Louisa Centre, Stanley, at around 3.00am. Climbing into bed at around 4.30am I was up again at 7.30am to head to the Doctors for a blood test. The fact I remain awake at 10.00am to write this post is a minor miracle! But I am pleased to be able to say that I played my part in what was a long six week campaign.

For a number of SNP candidates who would have been selected in seats "they could not win", many now sit in Westminster as MP's with the SNP making huge gains at Labour's expense in Scotland. As I predicted, the results in Scotland proved to be a massive factor in the overall result. Names you will recognise such as Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, Vince Cable, David Laws, Ed Davey, Simon Hughes, Douglas Alexander, Danny Alexander and others have lost their seats, a reminder to us all that being well-known does not excuse any MP from being at the mercy of their electorate.

Parliament will look and feel very different this time. The decimation of the Lib Dems, where out of 632 declared results they lost 388 deposits, means Clegg must go and with Boris Johnson elected, George Galloway booted out in Bradford West, Farage remaining on the sidelines have had the voters in South Thanet saying thanks but no thanks, the lack of any UKIP surge (they even lost a seat), Boris now being unable to be touted as a new PM and Leader and no coalition, this is also a blow to the political press.

Democracy can be a tough game. Labour welcomed huge gains in 1997 and we must accept the defeats we face now as an expression of the public's democratic right to dismiss what we have to offer. We must now offer something else, something better. I feel it is inevitable in the modern political climate that whichever of the two main political parties do not form a government the losing leader has to step aside. So rather than call for Ed to resign I feel it was always likely he would go if he did not become Prime Minister. If and when he does so, I hope the next Labour Leader is chosen due to their appeal to the wider public particularly in the south of the country, that following a likely border review may risk Labour being locked out of power for many years. We must offer a package that is attractive to voters who have passed on us this time, we can only win if we win back their support.

Incumbent governments always lose support because they are the ones who make the decisions. There is really no excuse if we cannot pick up support. We cannot adopt the strategy of trying to win power by "not being them", which for too long was our very safe approach. It backfired and it cannot be repeated.