Hope together

4 05 2012

Referendums are strange things for Labour party members. We have a great tradition in our party of remaining neutral on referendum matters. We do not demand compliance, we do not impose a party line on others. We allow our MPs, Councillors, Candidates and Members to be guided by their conscience and campaign or not as they see fit. It is the sign of a mature and strong party. It is a sign of our respect for freedom of conscience.

As a result of that freedom, party activists will often find themselves in opposing camps on these big referendum issues. Of course this can cause strain. We want to win in everything we fight for. We are, as Labour Party members passionate, thoughtful and committed individuals.

Yet we recognise that our strength is not acting as individuals. We recognise we are strongest when we work together collectively. When we pool our individual strength and determination and fight for a higher cause.

Almost 30 years ago I was born into a coal mining community under attack from Thatcher. They called my father and uncles “the enemy within” when they fought for their jobs and then “dole scum” when they lost them. Yet in that great assault on my mining family the Labour party was powerless. Too wracked with self doubt and infighting to defend those it was created to protect. I don’t want someone in 30 years time to be saying the same of us now. For as Neil Kinnock said in those hard days:

“There is only hope if there is hope together.”

Some comrades will be happy that Bristol has voted Yes to a Mayor some will be disappointed, but now is the time to pull together. We will listen to our candidates, we will debate their programmes and their aspirations, we will contribute and discuss our own ideas, hopes and plans for their campaign, we will vote on that person and then we will unite, fight and win the Mayoral election in November. We will do all of that because we will do it together.


Vote for the Ballot Box not the Backroom Stitchup to govern Bristol

1 05 2012

I was initially undecided on the Mayor debate. Paul Smith changed my mind. The simplest argument is nearly always the best. Is it right that the leader of Bristol is elected by 70 Councillors or by hundreds of thousands of Bristol’s citizens?

Barbara Janke has set this question into sharp focus by announcing she will stand down as Lib Dem leader at the start of the new Council

What is the current process to replace her?

1. Between now & the 8th May the Lib Dem leadership candidates will privately speak to their fellow Lib Dem Cllrs.

  • We don’t know what promises will be made in this process
  • We don’t know if Cabinet positions are offered or deals are done
  • We don’t know if the candidates will discuss their programme with their peers

2. On the 8th May 2012 the 32 Lib Dem Councillors will sit in secret in a closed room in the Council House and vote on who they want as their leader.

  •  On past performance their leader will probably be elected with a majority of around 2 Councillors (17 votes).
  • We won’t get to know what the person’s programme is, their plans for the city or hopes for the future.
  • The leaders may also “deliver” a block of candidates for the cabinet posts. The preference of these people appears to be based on support for the leader or fencing off “dangerous” potential opponents. Ability to do the job does not appear to be a consideration.
  • The Lib Dem group is under strict instructions not to discuss this with the public
  • As a voter your view will not be sought or considered.

3. Between the 8th and the 15th May 2012 the Lib Dems will probably meet with someone from the Tories (again in secret)

  • I imagine the Tories will extract various assurances and promises for their support of the Lib Dem leader
  • They will not be fully aware of what the person’s programme is, their plans for the city or hopes for the future. (but they will know more than all other Bristol’s citizens)
  • We will not be permitted to know if or how any deal affects the programme of the Lib Dem leader.
  • As a voter your view will not be sought or considered.

4. Sometime between the 8th and the 15th May 2012 Bristol’s 13 Tories will meet in secret to discuss support of the Lib Dem leader.

  • We will not get to know if further concessions are requested
  • We will not know if the Tory group are fully informed by their negotiators of what was discussed.
  • They will vote in secret to support the Lib Dem leader
  • As a voter your view will not be sought or considered.

5.  At the Council meeting on 15th May Councillors will “vote” on the new Council leader.

  • The discussion and debate will be meaningless. The result will already be determined.
  • No representations from the public will have an affect on the selection
  • The Lib Dem leader will not be obliged to set out their programme.
  • As a voter your view will not be sought or considered.

The Yes to Mayors Campaign want to change this. They think we should have a directly elected Mayor:

  • Elected every 4 years.
  • Every Bristol citizen over the age of 18 having a vote
  • Candidates will have to set out their programme for the future of Bristol
  • Successful candidates will look to the public as their electorate and choose their Cabinet from the best people for the job not organising a stitch up amongst supporters.

The status quo is not democracy it is purely backroom politics. The latter is democracy.

The status quo has led to unstable leadership of our city and very very low horizons.

I believe the ballot box not the backroom stitch up is the only democratic way to choose our leaders.

If you do too. Make sure you vote for change and against business as usual in the  Referendum on the 3rd of May.

Politics lessons from Toby Ziegler…

14 12 2011

The Right wing Ultras in our party are rubbing their hands over the negative briefings  against our leader.

I come from a South Wales mining community which was let down in the 80s when Labour became more interested in fighting itself than fighting the Tories. We are in danger of doing this again.

Every time I read about a “high profile Labour MP” or “insider” privately complaining to Dan Hodges or other hacks I’m reminded on the great scene from the West Wing where Toby calls in the Campaign team on a Sunday:

There’s an old saying: “Those who speak, don’t know; and those who know, don’t speak.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I know that by and large the press doesn’t care who really knows what as long as they’ve got a quote… 

We’re a group. We’re a team…We win together, we lose together, we celebrate and we mourn together. And defeats are softened and victories sweetened because we did them together…And if you don’t like this team… then, there’s the door…

It’s great to be in the know. It’s great to have the scoop, to have the skinny, to be able to go to a reporter and say, “I know something you don’t know.”

And so the press becomes your constituents and you sell out the team

I think any senior Labour figures briefing the press needs to decide who their constituents are.

Millions of voters up and down the country aren’t interested in Westminster’s Versailles like palace intrigue. Millions of voters up and down the country want Labour to use Westminster to empower them and to protect them… and if you don’t like it… then there’s the door.

Good news on Green Spaces

23 11 2011

At last night’s greenspaces debate Labour Bristol managed to get the Lib Dems to remove their 3 year opposition to all green spaces in the original list going to neighbourhood partnerships for discussion and neighbourhood committees for a formal vote. Happily the Greens also relented in their leader’s committment to paragraph 18 of this document which would have led to sale of 38 sites without further consultation.

I’m delighted that Labour Bristol stopped the Lib Dem steamroller. In my opinion it’s rarely that Garry Hopkins ever thinks twice. I’m also delighted the Green Party recovered a little sanity in the face of all other parties affording higher priority to green spaces than them and I’m delighted that Labour Bristol has delivered a manifesto commitment even when we are in opposition.

Some questions for Gus Hoyt

21 11 2011

Last week Gus Hoyt called me a liar because he felt I was misrepresenting the Green Party position on Green Spaces

Like a lot of people he uses the term when he finds himself in hot water and confronted with a situation he can’t easily explain.

Here are some yes or no questions based on the statements I’ve made that he considers “lies”.  I’d invite him to answer yes or no and we’ll see how truthful I am.

  1. Does paragraph 18 of this doc represent the position negotiated by the Green Party negotiator?
  1. If, the answer above is no has the Party sought a clarification or amendment?
  1. If, the answer to question 2 above is yes please publish that request for amendment.
  1. Do you accept that the substance of para 18 means the Green Party negotiator agreed 38 green spaces should be sold without reference to neighbourhood partnerships?
  1. 2 weeks ago when asked what your position on green space sales was did you tell me that you weren’t involved in the process and that you and the Green Party supported Tess’ negotiations?
  1. Do you remember being asked at least twice to clarify your personal position of green spaces and you dodged the question twice? Here’s the screen grabs and here’s another to refresh your memory
  1. Do you agree this is different from your stated position on Friday that “I am voting (always was) footer [sic] sell off to go to NPs…”
  1. Would you agree that if this was always your position its odd that you didn’t say so back in October 29th?
  1. Have you deleted your previous tweets in support of Tess and dodging my questions on green spaces? Here is a screen grab from tweettunnel.com for the date in question with apparently missing tweets to help you answer
  1. Would you agree that in apparently deleting tweets it gives rise to the inference you have something to hide?
  1. Now that you have happily changed your mind and oppose your party leader’s negotiated position of some green spaces sales being made by the Council without reference to neighbourhood partnerships:
    1. Have you asked her to vote against that position?
    2. Will you ask her to vote against Green space sales?
  1. Will Cllr Tess Green the Green Party leader vote to oppose green space sales and send all further decisions to neighbourhood partnerships? (Since it’s such and important issue maybe you could ask her?)

Hopefully you’ve answered yes or no and managed to get through these questions without calling anyone a liar. Keep on spinning ;-D

Less than 24 hours to lobby both Green Party Cllrs to help save ALL Green Spaces

21 11 2011

Over 8 months ago Labour Bristol pledged to end the Lib Dems Green Space Sell off and send all decisions on Green Space sales to neighbourhood partnerships. Though we didn’t end up running the Council 5 Labour gains and 1 Green gain forced the Lib Dems to listen to opponents and the people of Bristol and halt the central sale of green spaces.

A cross party committee was set up to resolve the issue. Initially Labour, Greens and Tories recognised how unpopular the Lib Dem parks sales were but then something happened.

The Bristol Green Party and other Green Cllr gave Cllr Tess Green authority to negotiate on the committee on their behalf.

We now have the incredible position that Labour and the Tories favour sending decisions on the disposal of green spaces to neighbourhood partnerships and THE GREENS and the Lib Dems favour a central sale of 38 sites in working class areas. It seems the Greens fight against a Costa on the leafy Gloucester Rd but not FOR the parks of working class Bristolians.

I can well understand Bristolians will not believe this so check out paragraph 18 of the proposal. The situation having been discovered and publicised Bristol Green Gus Hoyt reversed his previous support for Tess Green’s freedom to negotiate and said he would support decisions going to Neighbourhood partnerships and always had… this was despite previously refusing to comment on the matter.

The situation has been described to me by one anonymous Green Party member as the local party’s “Clause IV” moment and I’m told there are serious misgivings in the local party.

THE WORST thing about the situation is that due to illness the vote is looking very very tight. It would be a disaster if the motion fails but for Cllr Green not backing down from this position that runs contrary to everything most people think the Greens stand for.

What can you do? You can lobby Tess Green here  and ask her to change her vote and send decisions to local people and you can lobby and email Gus Hoyt and ask him to persuade the other 1/2 of his Bristol Party to change her mind.

Back to blogging

21 11 2011

Festival of Ideas and Bristol 24-7 have asked me for some future blogs so it seemed like a good time to get back to blogging. I was disappointed that I stopped but work, standing as a candidate and moving house made life too hectic to blog.

So what’s happened in the meantime? Sadly I lost in Bishopsworth. We got the biggest non general election vote in recent years and it goes to show what you can do with very limited resources available. There are no Tory or Lib Dem safe seats in Bristol. I was elected Chair of the Bristol Labour Party and we are currently in the process of selecting candidates and encouraging a broader range of participants. It looks like it’s working.

On a personal note Kat and I moved house and we now own (are owned by) a 4 month old Clumber Spaniel called Herbie (Morrison) Lewis. He is without a doubt one of the most happy and destructive things I have enocuntered.