29 January 2015

Does Everyone in Labour Really Want to Win the Election?

Let me be clear at the start that I am not here to question the commitment of many Labour activists, councillors and MPs who are on the ground canvassing in marginal constituencies. They are fighting to win the election and remove Cameron as Prime Minister. Nor am I questioning Ed Miliband and the team he has around him. He wants to (and needs to) win this election. The question I’m asking is whether some of the factions and significant individuals in the Labour Party want them to lose the election.

In 2003 I was on an intercity train travelling from Glasgow to London. On it there was a rather drunk man with a very posh accent. He claimed to have worked for Major from 1990 to 1992. If I can sum up a rather tedious couple of hours of conversation, he said it had all gone wrong when he had won that election. I paraphrase, but something like, “the bloody fool wasn’t supposed to win”.

Have some of the high profile members of the Labour party (and the factions they come from) decided that they do not want to win this election? Is there evidence of Ed Miliband being undermined, quietly, by his own side? Of course there can’t now be open revolt as we are now in the election campaign, but Blair and others seem willing to damn Ed Miliband with faint praise.

George Monbiot had this to say yesterday:

“If Labour wins in May, it is likely to destroy itself faster and more surely than if it loses, through the continued implementation of austerity. That is the lesson from Europe”

It would be bad for the country to see another blue/yellow coalition for the next five years but Labour and its leader have failed to inspire. Despite that, the electoral system is stacked in Labour’s favour. Even with a smaller share of the vote than the Tories, they will probably end up with more seats. To end up as the smaller party, Ed Miliband is going to have to do worse than Gordon Brown at the polls, and that would require serious acts of sabotage from within his own ranks.

27 January 2015

Green Party Conference in Liverpool

Back in 2007, Rob Smith (a Liverpool Young Green at the time) and I pretty much organised our national Spring Conference at the Everton campus of Hope University, with some assistance from national conference organisers. It was a last minute booking after the original venue in Oxford was cancelled. It felt like we did a tremendous amount of work in a short space of time, while also helping on the election trail. It was a relatively small affair, but it did help generate some local coverage as we went into that election defending John Coyne's position as the only Green councillor in Liverpool.

In 2012, Spring Conference came back to Liverpool, this time at the Adelphi. Last year, Spring Conference was at St Georges Hall, and the feeling from a great number of the delegates was that this was a "real" party conference, based on the size of the venue. Guess what? We were booked at St Georges Hall again, but the #Greensurge of members and people coming to conference means we've had to move to the BT Convention Centre, next to the Echo Arena. We've sent out this press release locally today.

The Green Party of England and Wales have announced a change of Liverpool venue to accommodate the huge number of registrations for their Conference in March.

After initially booking St Georges Hall, where a previous Conference has been held, the Greens will now be meeting at the BT Convention Centre, attached to the Echo Arena [1]. The location of the Conference, in the middle of the Liverpool Riverside constituency, a national target for the Greens, is a clear indication that they are targeting disaffected Labour voters.

Cllr John Coyne, leader of the Greens in Liverpool said:

“This is the fourth time we’ve brought Conference to Liverpool since I’ve been a Green councillor and the change in venue reflects our huge local and national growth.”

“In the last month we’ve seen Labour MPs abstain on the abolition of Trident and a moratorium on fracking. 4 out of 5 Liverpool MPs also supported George Osbourne’s “austerity charter” which commits the country to a further £30 billion of cuts.”

“We are seeing many former Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters move to us because they want a genuine alternative to further central government cuts which will reduce police on the streets, close our libraries, close our children’s centres and impose austerity on the people least responsible for it.”

Martin Dobson, Parliamentary Candidate for Liverpool Riverside, a target constituency for the Greens, added:

“We now have more than 50,000 national members, with more than 60,000 if you include the Scottish and Northern Irish Greens. This is many more than either the Liberal Democrats or UKIP and we are Britain’s 4th largest party by membership.”

“We’ve also seen huge growth in Liverpool, increasing to more than 500 local members last week. We are seeing many new members who are active in supporting party campaigns and that is going to make a big difference to our local election challenges to the Labour Party.”

“It’s an exciting time to be involved and we’ll be advertising events open to the public at the conference a little closer to the date.”


[1] Conference details here http://greenparty.org.uk/conference.html

26 January 2015

The Difference Between Our General Election Manifesto and the Policies for a Sustainable Society

One of the consequences of the #Greensurge is that the media are going to look in detail at our policies. I had a Twitter exchange with two local Labour councillors last week on one example, and Natalie Bennett was given a rough ride by Andrew Neil at the weekend over policies in the PfSS (Policies for a Sustainable Society). You can contrast this with UKIP, who don’t have stated policies and when they are challenged on them will rapidly flip them to suit the public mood.

Now many older members will remember that the PfSS was once the MfSS (Manifesto for a Sustainable Society). Inevitably, as we approached an election, opponents would wheel out policies and talk about the Green manifesto (meaning the MfSS). When we actually launched a manifesto before an election, it wasn’t distinctive and people didn’t know the difference. That was why many of us so-called modernisers within the party, against fierce internal opposition, advocated changing it to the PfSS.

The analogy to use is that our PfSS document, while a statement of policy, is the “Green Paper” for our Manifesto development. The PfSS is regularly updated by Conference thanks to the work of the members, and this underpins our Election Manifesto. As we approach an election, we produce our manifesto on which we contest that election (our “White Paper” if you like). The Election Manifesto will be much more up to date. It takes its input not just from the PfSS, but from Political Committee, GPRC (on behalf of the local / regional parties) and others. A European Election Manifesto will be different from a General Election Manifesto, but both will draw on the PfSS. This isn’t a complete run down on the process, but gives the public an idea how it works.

We’ve been hammered on a couple of points that are in the PfSS but these won’t be in the Manifesto. We (and I include myself as a PPC) should make it clear that we’ll be contesting the election on what is in the Election Manifesto once it is launched, not the full content of the PfSS, some of which will be out of date and out of context when thrown at us by our opponents. The membership of terrorist organisations is one of these. Clearly members of Al-Qaida don’t pay a subscription. The PfSS is clear that if people start organising in a criminal way to commit acts of terror, then they should be arrested, but by having the line that being a member of an organisation doesn’t necessarily make you a terrorist (think ANC in the 1980s or even Sinn Fein for context), there is an obvious out of context attack to be made. Now that the Greens have become a real threat to other parties in terms of vote share, we can’t expect any quarter in the run up to the election.

While we should be happy to defend overall policy aims from the PfSS, we have to accept that parts will be open to attack and are not easy to defend. Part of that defence is to rightly point out that as PPCs we will be contesting the election on our General Election Manifesto. As in 2010, our Manifesto should be thoroughly costed too, with references. In the meantime, if it helps you as a Green PPC to link here when challenged on something like this, please do so.

19 January 2015

Children's Centres

Last week we put an amendment to a motion on the economy at full council. It asked the council to consider a 5% catch up council tax rise. There would have been extra money to spend. Some services could have been saved.

Liverpool Council Tax Rises under Labour

2014 1.99%
2013 1.8%
2012 Frozen (one off 2.5% central govt "bribe")
2011 Frozen

General inflation (annual)

2014 1.5%
2013 2.5%
2012 2.8%
2011 4.5%

In the last four years, Labour in Liverpool has overseen the erosion of our council tax base. Each year the Greens have proposed a rise to try and at least keep pace with inflation to mitigate the cuts. What we can say for certain is the administration done so, we could have saved more local services. However, I think it is accepted by the vast majority, that the power a council can wield is puny compared to the direction of national government. We could criticise Liverpool Labour for the cuts, while finding examples of waste locally, while completely ignoring the national situation. However, that approach is best left to the fast disappearing Liberal Democrats.

So the cause of these cuts is the austerity agenda of the Conservatives and their junior partners. Over four years, Liverpool has experienced the second largest cuts imposed on any council nationally in one of the most deprived cities in the UK. The cuts up until now can be laid at their door.

Yet last week, we had to witness four Liverpool MPs to march through the lobbies at the House of Commons to vote in favour of the extra £30 billion cuts that will result from George Osbourne's Austerity Charter. Why?

If Labour was offering something different after May, our council could hold onto the Children's Centres. The consultation will go on until June anyway, and a new government that saved money by scrapping HS2 and Trident, so we could avoid any further cuts to council budgets, would mean we could keep open these vital centres. That isn't what Labour is offering. Increasingly voters are waking up to that.

We've been lucky enough to make use of a number of the Children's Centres as our sons have grown. It looks like our daughter won't get that chance. For us as parents, the Centres have been a great support. For other parents they can be a lifeline. The closures hurt us and they hurt our city, but the biggest opposition party in this country isn't up to the job. It's no surprise that our more radical policies are enabling us to grow our support and membership, but we need to hope to elect sufficient Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs get elected to force Labour's hand. Cut Trident not Children's Centres. Tomorrow Parliament will debate that very issue.

12 January 2015

Liverpool Greens in 2015 – Part II

As I blogged earlier in a story that has now been covered by the Liverpool Echo, I’ve just been endorsed by Jake Morrison as the Green candidate for Liverpool Wavertree. I’m therefore going to revisit some key points I raised in my blog post last year when announcing my candidacy.

The Wild Card in Wavertree was Jake Morrison

If Jake had stood, I have no doubt he would have saved his deposit and potentially pushed his result into double figures. He would have had a good chance of finishing 2nd in the constituency depending on how much funding he had raised and how effective he was at mobilising unhappy Labour supporters. Luciana Berger is not loved in parts of the Labour party in Liverpool and while the majority of natural Labour supporters would back her, a significant minority would have supported Jake.

Labour Will be Disappointed with Less than 60% of the vote

The Electoral Calculus website has Liverpool Wavertree as Labour’s 14th safest seat. Luciana Berger should simply have to get her name on the ballot paper and regardless of the campaign, will continue to be the MP for Wavertree for life. The issue for Labour in Liverpool will be whether the Miliband Sun gaffe and a general sense of a party leadership rooted firmly in Westminster will depress the turnout of Labour supporters, or see them make a protest vote.

UKIP will believe they can finish 2nd

The electoral calculus puts them nearly at 15%, close the Liberal Democrats who once viewed this as a winnable seat. Just like Labour though, they are going to be hampered by a leader who is happy to endorse the Sun newspaper.

In fact the only party leader from the biggest five who hasn’t endorsed the Sun is Natalie Bennett. In Liverpool, that has been noted. UKIP will be aiming for double figures in their vote.

Liberal Democrats

Beyond a very, very unlikely hold of Church ward by Richard Kemp, there is little to suggest there will be any serious campaigning by the Lib Dems here. Their candidate is brand new and is a student. There vote will be residual. There may well be messages saying that it was "so close last time" and that "only the Lib Dems can beat Labour in Wavertree". Those messages are simply not credible. Their success will depend on their local results and they may hold onto some votes in Church if the Kemps run a good campaign. I'd estimate a result between 5 and 10% this time.

Green Prospects

In what was a supposed Lib Dem / Labour marginal in 2010 the Green vote was squeezed. We had no on the ground campaign in Wavertree. Neither of these things will be true this year. Jake Morrison's endorsement will help in Wavertree ward and beyond. Josie Mullen (a former Lib Dem councillor who resigned from that party when they went into coalition with the Tories) is campaigning for us in Childwall ward. We'll also ensure there is a freepost leaflet going to every home in the constituency (which didn't happen last time either). If that was it, we should expect to save our deposit and not much else.

The big change this time round is that we are less likely nationally to be the victim of a squeeze from the media. We are now punching our weight nationally and the public see us as one of five main parties now. I therefore think we can do better. Social media evens the playing field a bit more, but we'll obviously be dependent on what we can raise in terms of campaign finance, and also how effective our city wide campaign can be, given that Liverpool Riverside is where we are rightly focusing our resources.

Why Vote Green?

What can we offer to the constituency? How Luciana Berger behaves in Parliament may well be influenced by where the next electoral challenge is coming from. If it is UKIP who become the 2nd party here that may have an effect (as it has done already on some northern Labour MPs).

We are proposing that the continued adherence to anti-austerity policies nationally, meaning big cuts locally, must end. Ed Balls and the national Labour team seem to be set in that direction. There are many other policies that will also matter, but our big message must be that voting Green will be a clear vote to end the austerity nationally. The campaign is on.

11 January 2015

Independent Councillor Jake Morrison Backs the Greens in Liverpool Wavertree

I'd like to thank Jake Morrison for this endorsement of my candidacy on Twitter.

I welcome his endorsement - hopefully the first of many. He has been a hard working councillor in Wavertree and puts a tremendous amount into his community. You don’t have to look far to find examples like his meal at Christmas for people who would otherwise be alone, and support for local residents associations.

Politics in Britain is changing and people want politicians they can trust. Last week, Green Party membership in the UK overtook UKIP and we are on track to be bigger than the Liberal Democrats by the time of the General Election. It’s clear that our anti-austerity message is getting across to people who see Labour committing to the same council funding cuts as the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

7 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo

Je suis désolé. For the families of the journalists and cartoonists. For the people of Paris. For the people of France. I stand with you.

I worry for Muslims throughout Europe. Some may be subjected to idiotic "reprisals". I stand with you too.

I admire and support all those in the world who push for tolerance, peace and freedom of speech. I may not always agree with you. I may be offended by what you say but I stand firmly with you.

To those who warp religion for extremism, who seek to strike terror into our lives, I stand against you and will do always. There are many more of us than you, and your extremism will not rob us of our respect for one another.

To those who use these actions to further an agenda that sows division, distrust and division in our society. I will stand against you too, because you play into the hands of the extremists, you give them what they want and need. We stand against you. Your ignorance is no match for our hope, our love and our desire for a better future.