Let's spare a thought for Labour staff

Amidst all the internal elecions and selections going on at the moment, together with the prep for the Annual Conference, we should spare a thought for all the Labour officials making it all happen.


It's easy to forget, if we're not careful.  After all, I don't think I've read a mention of Labour staff in any of the election material I've been sent.  Doesn't mean they're not appreciated.  Certainly in my position as Vauxhall CLP's chair, I've appreciated the support and advice I've received.  And in the Christian Socialist Movement we know at first hand just how committed Labour people are.  In Opposition we will be relying on our people all the more.  It's worth saying every now and then.


Stephen Beer, 26/08/2010

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Why I'm supporting Johanna Baxter for Labour's NEC

I want our NEC members to represent members' perspectives while having the experience and drive to lead the renewal of our Party.  The new National Executive Committee will have a great responsibility.  Labour needs to renew and we need to look again at our structures and how we do things.  But we haven't the time to fight old battles and still less the inclination.  We need to get on and get re-elected.


As a CLP Chair, I am keen that we explore new ways of connecting with the communities in which we are based.  NEC members need to think a lot about how that can work.  The NEC has a greater role in Opposition.  Also, Labour values of fairness and equality must apply in all we do as a Party; internally and externally.


Thinking about what to look for in NEC candidates, I drafted a rough checklist.  I believe Johanna Baxter meets those criteria.  She will inject new thinking into Labour's governing body.  As a CLP Secretary (of a CLP next to my constituency) she understands how the Party works on the ground.  Her union experience convinces me that she will not just talk about new ideas but will press for action.


I like the commitment to regular and open communication with members and to a transparent policy-making process.  Also, Johanna is committed to finding ways we can engage more with local communities.  I think Johanna will provide a fresh perspective to our NEC.


Johanna's Facebook page is here.


Stephen Beer, 25/08/2010

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Someone I would support to be on Labour's National Policy Forum if I could

If I lived in the West Midlands Region I would be voting for James Watkins to be on Labour's National Policy Forum.


With Labour now in Opposition, I believe we must not waste time and must get on with renewing our Party.  That means not only the way the Party works (or the approach to existing structures) but fresh thinking on policy.  Last week I listed some criteria for future NPF reps.  These include having an understanding of how Labour's core values can be applied in practice.  They also include having experience of and/or understanding of how wealth is created and how business works.  We're still not as good as we could be in understanding business; we can do so while being strong trade unionists and supporting workplace rights.


I've known James for some years and I believe he fulfils these criteria.  For example, he has headed a regional economic development body for some time now so has a unique experience of how business works and what we need in future to help them generate more wealth (which means we can fight the 'cult of austerity' that prevails in the Tory/Lib government).  He is an active member of the Labour Finance and Industry Group in the West Midlands and he is also a committed member of Unite, chairing the regional political committee.


We do not have the luxury of time in Opposition.  We need to hit the ground running soon.  That means clear articulation of what we stand for and a robust policy agenda.  It also means we need experienced policy-makers.  James is one such person.  There are others too.  Their responsibility will be great but then so will be the reward - Labour back in government.


Stephen Beer, 23/08/2010

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Labour and business - time to get it right

It really is time for Labour to think afresh its relationship with business.  As we renew our approach and our policy agenda, economic and business policy is a prime candidate for new thinking.


Some approaches we've adopted to business:

  • It generates jobs, which is good, and pays tax revenues which we can use to fund education, health, and other social policy areas, which is also good.
  • It's great, after all look at all these entrepreneurs and their go-getting ways.
  • It tends to exploit workers and others and at best is a necessary evil.

OK so some exaggeration.  But at some point in government Labour seemed to be less clear why businesses are a good thing.  Yes they do generate jobs and yes those tax revenues are very useful indeed.  And sure, some do exploit people and that's what workplace legislation has been about and also what much of the Warwick Agreement between Labour and unions was about too.  In addition, Labour made a different mistake especially in the early years of the last government - we focused too much on high-profile businesspeople who were not really that representative of the business sector as a whole.


But business can be a good thing in its own right too.  It is a place where human beings exercise their in-built creativity.  It can be a place of great satisfaction for people.


Moreover, it doesn't exist in isolation.  Business confidence is a subjective thing and it's pretty low at the moment.  Despite interest rates being very low, business investment seems to be taking a while to pick up (the Bank of England worried about this recently).  All the talk about austerity is not helping.  But government can help in two key ways:

  • Maintain investment in infrastructure to reduce the costs of doing business in the UK;
  • Establish a clear, simple, tax regime for business to reduce uncertainty in business decisions.

There's more we can do, but that would be a good start.


Stephen Beer, 22/08/2010

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The other Labour elections...

We have leadership elections and we are selecting our candidate for London mayor this summer, but Labour members have other elections in which to vote too.  We can vote people to the National Executive Committee (NEC) and our National Policy Forum (NPF).  How should we judge our candidates?

Well, here are some criteria worth considering:
  • no more of the same ie a desire to help Labour renew itself
  • commitment to genuine engagement with members, underlined by a convincing track record
  • regular and detailed reporting to members
  • fairness and equality as fundamental values lived out not just in policy-making but in all aspects of work for the Party
  • a genuine understanding of the needs and aspirations of voters in all regions and nations of the UK
In addition, for NPF aspirants:
  • an understanding of Labour's core values should be applied
  • innovative thinking about policy - not the same old
  • resistance to demands to adopt the latest fashionable policies from pressure groups
  • experience of and/or genuine understanding of how wealth is created and how business and finance works
  • a commitment to an 'enabling' state but a refusal to support statist policies
  • a genuine national perspective
Those are just a few for a start.  I'm not going to just support high profile names for the sake of it.  I'm looking for the people who will work with my CLP and others to renew Labour and get us ready to win the hearts and minds of the British people - and win the next election.

Stephen Beer, 19/08/2010

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