Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

David Miliband’s “Thank you” email to supporters

David Miliband

David Milliband

This was David Miliband’s “thank you” email to supporters tonight – not sure if it went to all Labour members or just to those who voted for him – but here it is anyway for anyone who missed it : -

”   I wanted to write to you this evening to thank you for the phenomenal support you have given me, and the Party over the last few months.

I am so proud of the campaign we ran together, it is a testament to each of you that as we campaigned for Labour, we also campaigned to make a difference in our local communities.

I was proud also to see my brother take the stage today, the new leader of the Labour Party, and know you will join me in uniting with Ed to take on this divided coalition.

As Ed said today, we must now secure the opportunity for Labour to serve the country again; to make it a more prosperous, more equal, more fair society.

Yours ever

David    “

September 25, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our union makes us strong

Time to decide...the future!

Image by Scootzsx via Flickr

Within seconds of the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader being announced this afternoon, media outlets and the twittersphere began to complain that Ed had been elected not by grassroots Labour supporters but by the “Unions” – hinting at some terribly un-democratic process which somehow these terrible militant organisations had managed to wield over the Labour Party. (  David Cameron punches air as unions hand Labour leadership to Ed Miliband (guardian.co.uk) )

Well let’s get a bit of perspective on that …

First of all the only Unions that get to have a say in the Labour leadership election are those formally affiliated to the party – and there aren’t that many of them. My own union – the National Union of Teachers is not one of them.

Next – members of affiliated organisations know about their union’s affiliation before they join it – there’s no such thing as a closed shop any more – and can opt out of paying the ‘political fund’ part of the membership fee (although that would also lose them their vote in the leadership election).

There’s also no such thing as a block vote – every vote in an affiliated organisation is worth the same – whether you’re one of the 83 members eligible to vote in the Labour Party Irish Society or one of the 1,055,074 eligible members of Unite the Union – the largest affiliated organisation. Every individual vote counts the same – and goes to make up 1/3 of the electoral college.

1/3 of the college is made up of Labour MP’s

1/3 is made up of Labour Party Members.

This means that different votes have different values in each section. Effectively an MP’s vote is worth 0.12 per cent of the total electorate, a party member’s vote is worth 0.0002 per cent and an affiliated member’s vote is worth 0.00000943 per cent. ( see this Next Left blog for details Next Left: What Labour leadership votes are worth when they are counted) (This assumes 100% turnout btw – which is far from the case)

It’s all very clear – a little involved, but does manage to capture every aspect not just of the Labour Party, but of the wider Labour movement – which allows Labour supporters in affiliated groups to have a say even if they are not formally party members.

Note also that the party, and many affiliated organisations have been very open about giving new members a vote – in this way opening up the election to the general public should they take the plunge and join even up to a few days before voting closed.

The full results Votes by round | The Labour Party show that indeed sections 1 and 2 of the ballot, the MPs and the Party Members, placed David Miliband first, whilst section 3 – the affiliated organisations – of which the unions are the biggest part, plumped for Ed Miliband.

Just have a look at the numbers though – 211,234 returned votes from affiliated members, as opposed to just 126,874 from full members of the party.

Undemocratic ? Not in my book it’s not.

Compare it with the way that the Conservatives choose their leader Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – in the Tory system, the rank and file party members don’t even get to vote until the MP’s have selected the last two candidates for them.  Even then they have to have been a fully paid up member for at least 3 months to get a vote. A distinctly less democratic approach in my own humble opinion.

Democracy is always flawed to some extent, but is an attempt to reach a difficult consensus, in the fairest way possible. I think the approach used in the Labour leadership election is probably the fairest that could have been achieved. I say that having voted David Miliband as first choice – yes I’d have preferred him to win – but Ed Miliband has been elected fair and square by hundreds of thousands of Labour members and members of affiliated trades unions and organisations. I have no complaints – and will support him as best I can.

If Labour were to look at difficulties in the electoral college by the way, they might want to consider the anomaly that a low turnout in any of the 3 sections means that individual votes in that section are given relatively more weight as part of the whole college as a result. Just a thought – maybe next time ?

In the meantime congratulations to Ed Miliband – please leave a comment if you happen to read this !

Ed Milliband MP speaking at the Labour Party c...

Image via Wikipedia

September 25, 2010 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why I’ve voted David Miliband for Labour Leader

David Miliband for Labour Leader

David Miliband giving the Keir Hardie Lecture

There are many factors that influence voters in any election. A party leadership election is a particularly interesting one in that respect.

Why ? Well I feel it’s because a party leader really has two very different jobs – one is to “lead” the party, to steer it in a particular direction, to get the various different forces within the party to pull together so that the resultant force is in the direction which the leader, and the party as a whole want to go.

The second job however is to get the party into government. This means appealing not just to members, or regular voters of a party, but also to those who may not support the party. For an opposition party this is particularly important – without the support of a few more people who voted otherwise at the last election, the party will stay in opposition.

So in considering who to vote for I’ve tried to ask myself : Can I see this person as a leader of the Labour Party, and secondly : Can I see this person as Prime Minister ?

This is what I came up with :

First of all I think the field of candidates is a remarkably strong one – if I have a disappointment it is that there are no more female candidates – I think it’s high time Labour had a woman as leader. If they don’t choose to run though, then that’s their choice. I think Harriet Harman has done remarkably well standing in, in the interim however. I’d have been pleased to have seen Yvette Cooper running as well.

Which leads me nicely to Diane Abbott – I like Diane – she has personality to spare, a strongly evident sense of humour, and is not afraid to be outspoken. I could just about see her as Labour leader – I couldn’t see her as Prime Minister though – the massed ranks of the Tory media would have her for Breakfast, Dinner & Tea (or should that be Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)  – and I think she’s be a very vulnerable target for those wishing to make the Labour Party look foolish. Which is a shame – I still think she has a great deal to offer as a politician.

With Andy Burnham the trouble I’ve had is that I’ve almost had to look him up on Wikipedia to find out much about him. I’ve received less information about him during the campaign than any of the others, and it’s been frankly very low-key – I’d find it difficult to identify a picture of him. An invisible leader will not win any elections, so although I’ve no reason to doubt his ability as a politician, neither do I have much positive evidence either, My guess is that the wider non-Labour electorate would say “Andy who ?” – so sorry Andy, you don’t get my vote either.

Which leaves my top three – the two Miliband brothers and Ed Balls.

I could certainly see any of these three as a Labour leader. I could certainly see any one of them ultimately as a Prime Minister. Whatever the eventual result of the leadership election, I won’t have any worries about belonging to a party led by any of these three – they are able politicians, conducting strong campaigns, and I feel that they all have the potential to bring the public around to supporting the Labour party.

So how do I choose my 1, 2, 3 ?

Well my first instinct was to go for Ed Balls. Ed is someone who has responded to letters from a local MP regarding concerns I’d raised regarding my school, on two separate occasions, with sensible and timely advice. He has read my blog on a number of occasions, and has exchanged e-mails and twitter messages. I’ve met him at the House of Commons, and found him to be very impressive. On a personal level then, this makes him a good choice for me – I’ve not met either of the Milibands, and had no interaction with them up to now.

So it was looking like Ed Balls for 1st choice to me – but how did I choose between the other two ?

It quickly became apparent that the Miliband brothers were the two front-runners in this race. Obvious too, that commentators and some supporters were trying to cast David in the role of the “New Labour” candidate, carrying the torch of the Tony Blair legacy, while Ed supposedly represented a return to “core” Labour values – to win back the votes of disillusioned left-wing voters, who had deserted the party after the commencement of the Iraq war.

For myself, I can’t really believe that any of the candidates will be definable primarily along those lines – I really don’t think that there are massive differences in approach, between these three – but that this Right side / Left side argument which is flying through the online community, is trying to stir this up in order to tribalise the leadership contest.

I blogged on this here some days ago Can we stop fighting amongst ourselves please ? « Northernheckler’s Blog

At the time it was tempting me away from the Miliband brothers who seemed to be the axis of the sudden burst of in-fighting – which led me more towards Ed Balls.

The next day I had a campaign e-mail from the David Miliband campaign : David Miliband Campaign e-mail

I liked what I read. It was almost as if he’d read my blog. Or at least was expressing exactly the same sentiments as I was.

Over the next couple of days, Tony Blair appeared increasingly on the news in relation to his new book. I lost count of the number of negative comments about him – these from supposed Labour supporters – comparing him with Margaret Thatcher, calling him a war criminal, saying he was the worst leader Labour had ever had. Many of them as well linking him directly to David Miliband.

Well actually I rather liked Tony Blair. Rather respected him too – he took principled, if controversial decisions about Iraq, which had huge popular support, as well as a substantial parliamentary majority. He achieved a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, and led Labour to an unprecedented three terms in office.

But I’m not a Blairite. Or a Brownite – I’m a left of centre Labour member and voter. Blair and Brown are gone. New Labour isn’t new anymore. Old Labour is similarly in the past.

I re-read David Miliband’s email. It seemed to sum up everything I was thinking.

And so I voted :

1. David Miliband

2. Ed Balls

3. Ed Miliband

I didn’t indicate a 4th and 5th choice – as I don’t think the other two candidates are Prime Ministerial material,

So a close run thing which has in the end been decided by my negative interpretation of Labour supporters slagging off other candidates and tribalising different factions within the party, and ultimately I’ve been tipped over the edge by a single e-mail. So I’d like to say “Sorry Ed !” to my 2 and 3 selections.

If you find my reasoning quirky or illogical, you could well be right – but that’s how I came to my decision.

I look forward to reading other bloggers’ accounts of how they made up their minds

September 7, 2010 Posted by | blogs, Election 2010, politics | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What’s the big deal with St George’s Day ?


On the Sky News channel today, during the televised leaders debate featuring five candidates for the Labour Party Leadership, a question was posed of the candidates ( YouTube – 2 of the 5 Labour Leadership candidates knew that St George’s day is on 23rd April )  which caused a bit of a flurry on Conservative home Only two of Labour’s putative leaders know when St George’s Day is – LeftWatch

The question quite simply was to give the date of St George’s Day – and 3 of the candidates got this wrong,

(For those of you who don’t know, St George is the patron saint of England, with St Andrew, St Patrick and St David being the patron saints of Scotland, Ireland & Wales respectively)

There is a long tradition of wrong-footing politicians with unexpected questions – like how to pronounce Barnoldswick, or Slaithwaite – or indeed what Menzies Campbell’s name really sounds like. Asking candidates who their favourite Spice Girl or Tellytubbie was, proved a novel way of exploring knowledge of current affairs, and more recently quizzes about Bill Shankly and Ferry Cross the Mersey have been used to try and catch unsuspecting political hopefuls out.

So this unexpected question is perhaps also entirely predictable.

Does it matter that they couldn’t answer ?

Well I’d probably have got it right – I had the 4 patron saints’ dates for the UK drilled in to me as a Cub Scout between the ages of 9 and 11. Assisted in no small part by Blue Peter, who never failed to remind us when there was one coming up (I preferred Bleep & Booster myself).

I remembered St. Andrew’s Day because it was my brother’s birthday – and also Winston Churchill’s – as my working class Tory grandmother was very fond of reminding him. 30th November

I remembered St. David’s Day because it was easier to remember because it was on the 1st day of the month – and also because it was more or less in daffodil time -  1st March. My working class Tory Grandmother would also remind me as this was one of the 12 days per year when she said “Rabbits Rabbits Rabbits” to everyone she met.

I found St Patrick’s difficult to remember because that was the other March one. It was also difficult because my racist working class Tory Grandfather claimed every thing was the fault of the bloody Irish (except for the things that were the fault of Arthur Scargill and Joe Gormless), and my working class Tory Grandmother felt it best not to rattle his cage.  In later life I’ve remembered it because it’s the only one of the four patron saint’s days that ever gets celebrated by anyone March 17th

St George’s day was a funny one to remember because it’s the Queen’s Birthday on the 21st April, St George’s day, and Shakespeare’s birthday on the 23rd of April and my birthday on the 27th. Or was it the Queen on the 27th, me on the 23rd and St George … – you get the picture . My working class Tory Grandmother also had lost interest by this time as it was Spring, and she was getting ready to provide me with a suitably wonderful birthday present. Usually I could just about work out when it was though.

Having lived in England all my life and as an Englishman, how have we celebrated our patron saint’s day ? Well I can honestly say that except for 3 years I never have. Nor do I remember any body else doing, although I’ve seen a few things on pub black boards promoting Happy Hours & the like in recent times.

Those 3 years were of course when I was part of the Cub Scouts. I was the “sixer” of the Yellow Six, and as most of Yellow Six turned up and paid their subs I got to hold the flag at the St George’s Day Parade. This involved meeting with all the other scout and cub groups in the area, and walking down the middle of a road for about half a mile to a Church of England church (this remember was in a fairly secular area, where such Christians as there were, were far more likely to attend non-conformist churches or “chapels”) , where we then had to sing a few hymns and listen to a vicar. The hymns invariably included “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “I vow to thee my country”, “Stand up Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross”, and “Soldiers of Christ Arise”. All of which to be fair were fairly standard fare from my County Primary School.

As an adult I’ve looked back on those times and felt saddened that as children we were effectively schooled in a para-military fashion – donning uniforms, waving national flags, swearing allegiance to our monarch, and to the established church, with it’s militaristic soldiers of Christ. In truth I can’t say it’s done me much harm. It seems a bit weird though.

So that’s what I associate with St George’s day – jingoism & indoctrination – which are thankfully far less common now. As an atheist who’s spent some time swotting up on Christianity as well, I have to say also that the whole cult of sainthood is one of the weaker aspects of Christianity, which stretches the credibility of the movement as a whole.

So what I’d have liked at least one of the candidates to answer would have been this :

“I’m not interested in St George’s day, because I’m not a Christian, I don’t support an established religion, and I have no wish to prop up the church and it’s non-elected leader the Queen by promoting it”

That would have made news. Sadly it would have also played right into Sky and Adam Boulton’s hands, and have lost Labour votes for many years to come. So maybe it’s better that they didn’t rise to the bait.

It wasn’t that tough a question really I guess – and the candidates I’ve voted for as first and second choice  both got it right.

A far easier question actually than predicting when Ash Wednesday falls – something which Sky News’s Kay Burley has found difficult in the past :

September 5, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, politics, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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