Tuesday, 30 November 2010

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE

I've arrived home after far too long away - recent months have included worked for the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and touring rural venues with The Kosh's production of The Storeroom - to find a mountain of post.

In amongst this pile is the the new season brochure for the Brewhouse in Taunton [with the fabulous Paper Birds visiting with Others in March], along with this postcard



The text on the rear reads:
"the arts in Somerset receive £159.000 from Somerset County Council [the black line]. This represents 0.0004% of the overall spend. A 100% cut out of the arts development budget next year will have the far reaching consequences for life in Somerset."

And at the bottom:
Draw the line - 100% cuts in one year destroys the cultural core.

My card is currently on it's way to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture and the Creative Industries.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Arts in Somerset - 2

Under the title "County council scythes through voluntary and rural services", my letter on Somerset County Council's decision to decimate the arts in the county by abolishing ALL grants is published in today's Guardian.

"So, Tory-controlled Somerset has voted to cut all direct grants to arts groups. Since her portfolio no longer includes arts, will Councillor Christine Lawrence be reducing her special responsibility allowance of some £16K on top of her basic allowance of £10,000? I work full-time in the arts, touring the country, delivering high-quality live performances to audiences, and I – and my many colleagues in the arts – would be happy to have that sort of guaranteed income."
Paul Bull
Exeter

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Pouring oil on spilt sugar?

There have been numerous outpourings of articles and editorials on the protests over BP's sponsorship of the arts over the past couple of days, most notably in the Guardian's G2 who asked leading cultural figures for their views ["Crude awakening"] and The Telegraph ["Our art. Their money. So what's new"].

Much of this press was inspired by a letter to the Guardian earlier this week from a group of artists, calling themselves Good Crude Britannia, protesting at the celebration 20 years of BP sponsorship at the Tate Britain's summer party. These 141artists represent a cross-section of people from the arts community who "believe that the BP logo represents a stain on Tate's international reputation.

Have they forgotten why the Tate is called the Tate? The benefactor who set up the museum was the Tate of Tate & Lyle, the sugar giants. And they relied on slave workers in their plantations in Barbados - although they were not involved in the slave trade, as some people think. That was abolished some 50 years before their time.

And art has alway relied on dubious patronage...and will have to again when the full ramifications of the ConDemNations cuts become reality...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

NGC 3949


Today's Guardian Review carries a lovely poem by Adam O'Riordan, NGC 3949, about a galaxy in Ursa Major whose formation mirrors almost exactly that of our own galaxy.

NGC 3949 is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major. It is believed to be approximately 50 million light-years away from the earth. The type II supernova SN 2000db is the only supernova that has been observed within NGC 3949. NGC 3949 is a member of the M109 Group, a group of galaxies located in the constellation Ursa Major that may contain over 50 galaxies. The brightest galaxy in the group is the spiral galaxy M109.


Back from the perforated dark and growing distance,
Hubble’s milky image brings us to ourselves.

The echo pitched up from the moss-wet well:
a lover’s shape, that indelible stain on the iris.

(Years down the line, you swear blind
the cut and sway of a dark form is her.

Neon dazzles the rain-slicked street
as you wave away the cab and push

back down through the crowd into the bar,
pilot charting the wrong star by candlelight,

leagues off course; the face, of course, is another’s.)
In this spiral galaxy the arms embrace the core.

Not her – or your idea of her – and never will be.
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your guess is.

From In the Flesh by Adam O’Riordan (Chatto Poetry, £10)


Monday, 24 May 2010

Who give Dave the idea of scapping ministerial cars? Why no-one but that wonderful campaigning MP, Chris Mullen.

In the Guardian today there's a marvelous account of the twists and turns that Mullin had to perform to dispense with his own Ministerial car when - in 1999 - he was appointed a JUNIOR Minister in the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions

His diary entry for 29 July 1999 in his memoirs, A View from The Foothills explains:

"I am entitled to a car and a driver. Entirely pointless since the 159 and 3 buses will continue to run past my door, even though I am a minister. Jessica [his private secretary], who cycles in from Brixton, was sympathetic but explained that the situation is a little more complicated than I might suppose. For a start, red boxes cannot be transported by public transport.

"She also explained that the funding of the government car pool is geared to encourage maximum use of the car. The drivers are on a low basic wage and are heavily dependent on overtime. So, if I accept a driver, he will be hanging around all day doing nothing and hating me for not giving him enough to do."

Mullin found that he would need to give three months' notice to terminate the use of his official car. If the car had to be sold a payment for "unrecovered depreciation" amounting to £4,400 would have to be made.

His department was charged £864 a week for the car and driver, excluding overtime, regardless of how much the car was used. A pool car would cost £704.75 a week.

The chief executive of the GCS sympathised with Mullin but told him that the drivers were "heavily unionised". Even then officials demanded the £4,000 in depreciation. They eventually backed down when Mullin threatened the officials with an appeal to the chief executive.

The eventual Mullin victory prompted Cameron to say this in a speech last September on cutting the cost of politics:

"If there is something that really annoys people it's seeing politicians swanning around in chauffeur-driven cars like they're the royal family. It's actually not as simple as that. There are times when having a car to hand which gets a minister to a certain place on time is absolutely vital to our democratic process – for example, to make a vote in the House of Commons, or to meet a foreign dignitary or open a school.

"But there is no need for 171 of these cars to be on hand for every government minister, whip – and indeed, myself. In these economic times, when everyone is making their own sacrifice, this number cannot be justified. So the Conservatives will cut the budget for official government cars by a third. If that means fewer cars – and ministers using them more efficiently – then so be it."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

OfCom Complaints

Great graphic in today's



Friday, 14 May 2010

The Government of Dave

I haven't checked the details but there are claims that there as many Daves as women in the ConDenNation Government - 6

And with 20 Lib-Dems in Governement, and the corresponding 20 Parliamentary private Secretaries, that means that there are only 17 Lib Dems outside of official Governement!

+1 or 50%+1 or 55%?

The coalition agreement that has allowed for the ConDemNation has this to say on fixed term Parliaments

"The parties agree to the establishment of five-year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed-term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the house votes in favour."

As I see it, this statement only refers to providing a vote for the dissolution of parliament, that is, the calling of a general election, by the RULING Government. At present, Parliament can be dissolved by ONE PERSON, namely the Prime Minister. To ensure the 5-year fixed term life of the new Parliament, this clause gives the Lib-Dems some measure of security in the ConDemNation as the Tories, currently with their 47% of MPs, could easily change the rules of engagement for the coalition by finding the outstanding 3% needed to dissolve both the coalition and Parliament from within the other groups.

And what seems to have been forgotten is that in the Scottish Parliament, 66% of Members need to be in favour to dissolve itself.

I believe that a successful vote of no confidence [by a simple majority] in the Govenment proposed from the OPPOSITION benchs would still bring the Govenment down and lead to a General Election.

This has been the unwritten convention since 1782 - that a significant defeat on a major issue can lead to a vote of no confidence in the government. If the prime minister loses that vote he is then obliged to resign, or call a general election. This happened twice in the last century – the last time when the Scots Nats brought down Jim Callaghan's Labour government in 1979.

In a briefing note on the proposed changes prepared for Left Foot Forward by UCL’s Constitution Unit, Robert Hazel agrees with me:
“The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition agreement proposes a 55 per cent threshold before Parliament can be dissolved. This is intended to strengthen the hand of the Lib Dems: Cameron could not call an early election without the consent of his coalition partners, because the Conservatives command only 47 per cent of the votes in the Commons.
“Some commentators appear to have confused a dissolution resolution moved by the government, and a confidence motion tabled by the opposition. On no confidence motions tabled by the opposition parties, the normal 50% threshold should continue to apply.”

However, there is a weebsite, Say No to 55% and a Facebook page to keep us up-to-date.

I Say No to 55% and say Yes to 66%!

Smoke and Mirrors

David Coneraam holds his first cabinet and the presws report that they agree to a 5% cut in Ministerial salaries. Is it a cut if you haven't been paid it before the election? Perhaps their salaries are being paid on past experience?

And don't forget 75% of the Tories round the table are actually millionaires.

And a source close to Brown's outgoing cabinet [as Nick Robinson would say] tells me that former Labour Ministers hadn't taken their full dues and had a pay raise in 3 years.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

ConDemNation 1

Q: How many Tories does it take to change a lightbulb?

Up until the election, the answer was "None, they'll get The Big Society to do it".

Now, since we have the ConDemNation the answer is of course "None, they just get the Lib Dems to do it" - and they'll get new nuclear power stations to power it into the bargain, with Chris Huhne as Energy and Environment Secretary bringing the Bill forward and then sitting on his hands to abstain during the actual vote.

And as to the question "How many Lib-Dems...?" I suppose the answer is "I don't know, you'll have to ask both the Parliamentary Lib-Dem Group and the Federal Council, and it's how many 75% of both bodies decide it is!"

Friday, 30 April 2010

Campaigning with Twitter

The Alex cartoon in today's Torygraph shows a way of using Twitter on the campaign trail.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Election Time is...[1]

Election Time is...
finding elastic bands everywhere.

At the moment, every single pocket seems to reveal elastic bands, as does the hidden corners of the house. Only the bathroom seems exempt...but that's full of my hairbands instead.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

On the doorstep

As a theatre technician, I've been a long time follower of the humerous strips of Harry Venning [I've even got an original Hamlet one on my wall at home] and I believe he knows a thing or two when it comes to campaigning on the doorstep.

Today's Clare in the Community strip in The Guardian can teach what to do.

We in the Exeter Labour Party are all trying to beat the record of our Chair who kept the Tory candidate on his doorstep for 20 minutes! I've managed 10 mins on the phone and my wife another 10 at a street stall - but did leave the candidate arguing with a local Tory candidate. Result!

Animals

So the Tories used Battersea Power Station for their manifesto launch - surely an interesting metaphor: on the outside all-powerful and imposing, yet there's nothing behind it, it's been derelict for years.










The station ceased generating electricity in 1983 and since closure the Grade II* listed building has remained largely unused, with numerous failed redevelopment plans from successive site owners.

For many of my generation, Battersea Power Station is iconic as the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 LP, Animals. And for anyone who knows anything about that concept album will know that it is
loosely based on George Orwell's political fable Animal Farm. The novella focuses on communism; the underlying concept of the album is a critique of the worst aspects of capitalism. However, both advocate a democratic socialist ideal.


Is there something about symbolism that David Cameron isn't tellig us? Perhaps the old Big White Elephant is the new Big Society?




















None of which appears to match up with David Cameron's vision of the future - what is the Big Society?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Stabbing "The Stilettoed Socialist" in the back?

Travelling to Cardiff by train and the papers are full of it, criticising thw views of Ellie Gellard, who blogs as The Stilettoed Socialist and tweets @BevaniteEllie.

At yesterday's manifesto launch in Birmingham, the 20-year Bristol student sat next to Gordan and Sarah, and told the gathering how the election would be fought not just through traditional mediums like posters and TV, but via blogs, YouTube and Twitter. "We are asking our supporters not just to have a look at our manifesto but to share it with their friends and we're making it easier than ever to do so."

The papers are taking her task because 2 years ago, following Labour's disasterous Glasgow East by-election, she dared to blog criticising Gordan Brown and his actions as leader.

In 2008 she said Labour had failed to "champion the poor and 'normal' rather than the super-rich...How dare he stand by with personal interest watching our party sink. It is not his to lose – it is ours."

She went on to describe her "ideal scenario" in which Brown stood down, recognising that the party had been badly damaged, and Alan Johnson took over.

"In short, Brown (although I had high hopes and don't burden you with total responsibility), get your coat: time's up," she said.

If it's a crime to change your mind over this issue, I also stand guilty as charged.

I wanted a leadership election when Blair stood down.

I was worried about our election chances following that by-election defeat and questioned Brown's leadership then.

Yet I've changed my mind. When Hoon and Hewitt attempted the Judean ousting of Brown earlier this year, I made my feelings known - in this blog and in a letter published in The Independent. Gordan is our man - he has done well over the global financial crisis and he has overseen the rise of the Party's fortunes in the opinion polls.

Bring on the First leadership Debate on Thursday.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Goodbye Chris...and thanks

Today's Guardian carries Chris Mullen's valedictory speech given in the Common's last night.

I've long been an admirer of this cusading socialist MP - not only for his sterling work in helping secure the freedom for The Birmingham Six but also his novel[a subsequent TV screening, with substantial alterations to the plot by Alan Plater], A Very British Coup.


And note to self: must buy and read his latest publication, A View from The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullen. A fascinating read for sure., as some of these extracts from the Guardian earlier this month show.

















Saturday, 6 March 2010

Michael Foot - A true RED ...and GREEN

Apart from my wife, I have 3 major passions in my life - Labour/Socialist politics, Plymouth Argyle and the theatre.

Uniting at least 2 [theatre is a by-product, as the extraordinary Footsbarn Theatre Company was originally founded in Cornwall, in a barn owned by the extended Foot family] was the unique Michael Foot.

And this week, all are united in their grief at the loss of a great giant.

The picture above shows Michael alongside his portrait [in in his Green and Black Argyle scarf which is almost as famous in Plymouth as his "donkey jacket" is nationally] by Plymouth artist, the late Robert Lenkiewicz from his "Addictive Behaviour" project and currently hangs in Portcullis House

I can't hope to compete with the wealth of detail and insight put into the many obituaries published in the media [I favour The Guardian], but I am sure that Michael - a Leveller, in the historical sense of the word - would truly believe the world had turned upside down when the Torygraph published a tribute to him by TONY BENN...


To close, I can only add the biography when he joined the Plymouth Argyle playing staff on his 90th birthday [still the oldest registered league player!]:

"Evergreen left-winger in his first season with the club that he has supported all his life. Unlikely to stray out of position and drift towards the right. Brings with him plenty of experience."

Although never called upon to play, it would have been fantastic to see him on the subs bench.

The Greens will be wearing black armbands today, and I will take my cue from Michael and spend the afternoon at Home Park rather than canvassing with Ben Bradshaw in Exeter.

[Michael using state-of-the art PA in 1950 - oh how times change!]

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Flushed with success

Yet another letter in the Express & Echo...this time about the recent u-turn by the ruling Lib-Dem group on the city council over public toilet closures.


Closing loos plan was indefensible

WE are all aware that the coming financial year is not going to be easy and hard decisions will need to made on our personal budgets.

I am assuming that the ruling Liberal Democrat Party considered the same sort of problems when drawing up the council budget for 2010/11.

I am sure it considered many options to save the £1m required to balance the books. I would have thought it prudent to have made decisions that it was happy with and could robustly defend against any scrutiny.

Indeed only a week ago it confirmed its spending plans at an executive meeting, and ignored pleas to revisit the budget at a resource scrutiny committee.

Yet as a result of strong public scrutiny, we discover that it is unable to defend closing toilets and, in a complete change of mind, has found the money to keep them open. I understand that £60,000 has been found by reducing the sum set aside for expected pay rises over the coming year.

I trust that the Lib Dems do not plan to increase councillors' allowances and expenses over the coming financial year, and that no bonuses will be paid to senior officers.

But it also leads me to wonder if there are any other cuts in the proposed budget that can be reversed given enough public outcry? Cuts to street cleaning, perhaps?

Cllr Adrian Fullam is supposed to be leader of the council — on Monday we saw him lead the Lib Dems into a U-turn.

How many more will we see before the budget is finally set or before he and his weak colleagues face the electorate in May?

Paul Bull
Heavitree, Exeter

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Leadership challengers didn't have grassroots support here


And today's local paper, the Express & Echo published my letter in full, again featuring as the lead letter.

Leadership challengers didn't have grassroots support here


ON whose behalf were the Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt acting when they took their action to destabilise the Labour movement and unseat the Prime Minister? Certainly not mine and many Labour activists here in Exeter, steadfastly working for a fourth Labour term.

Is it yet again an example of the Westminster-centric attitudes of certain MPs that we saw displayed last year around the expenses scandal?

Just as the party began the year with growing confidence, the press was starting to question the lack of Tory policies, a narrowing of the Conservative lead over Labour in some polls and 16 weeks or so to a General Election, who did they think would benefit?

Their treacherous email states: "As we move towards a General Election it remains the case that the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply divided over the question of the leadership. Many colleagues have expressed their frustration at the way in which this question is affecting our political performance."

Yet on the doorsteps and on the telephone, my personal experience of the electorate in Exeter is not questioning the leadership of Gordon Brown. The only way our political performance can be challenged is if we appear disaffected and divided, giving succour to the press and other political parties.

They also claim the leadership election "could be done quickly and with minimum disruption to the work of MPs and the Government. Whatever the outcome the whole of the party could then go forward, knowing that this matter had been sorted out once and for all."

But they know that if there was a move for change, the whole Labour movement would need to be involved with a one-member one-vote ballot — at the very time we need to be on doorsteps reinforcing our message. Once the result was known, the first and only action that our leader would have to take would be to call a General Election. In the meantime, our Tory and Lib-Dem rivals would be making political capital.

They feel: "There is a risk otherwise that the persistent background briefing and grumbling could continue up to and possibly through the election campaign, affecting our ability to concentrate all of our energies on getting our real message across."

I believe their actions have stirred up the background briefing and grumbling. Here in Exeter we have spent the autumn with a successful and encouraging programme of canvassing and other events to discover a strong groundswell of support for Ben Bradshaw. Their actions could seriously undermine that strong determination to re-elect our excellent MP.

And finally they acknowledge: "In what will inevitably be a difficult and demanding election campaign, we must have a determined and united Parliamentary party. It is our job to lead the fight against our political opponents. We can only do that if we resolve these distractions."

Until they threw their tantrum, there was no distraction, we were giving the impression of a serious, determined and united party. But, believe me, it will take much, much more than this to steer us away from strong support of Gordon Brown and the Labour movement.

I hope they are proud of themselves. I plead with them to do the honourable thing — retract their statements, atone for their mistakes and throw their weight behind the Labour Party. Please help us win — for we can win — the forthcoming General Election.

Paul Bull
Cranbrook Road, Exeter

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Plotters against Brown did not speak for the voters





Today's letters page in the Opinion&Debate section of The Independent carries an edited version of my letter AS THE LEAD LETTER!

It now reads as follows:

Plotters against Brown did not speak for the voters

On whose behalf were Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt acting when they took their action to destabilise the Labour movement and unseat the Prime Minister? Certainly not mine, nor that of many Labour activists here in Exeter and around the country steadfastly working for a fourth Labour term.

Just as the Party began the year with growing confidence, a narrowing of the Conservative lead over Labour and 16 weeks to a general election, who did they think would benefit?

On the doorsteps and on the telephone, my experience is that the electorate is not questioning the leadership of Gordon Brown. The only way our political performance can be challenged is if we appear disaffected and divided. Until they threw their tantrum, there was no distraction; we were giving the impression of a serious, determined and united party.

I hope they are proud of themselves. I plead with them to do the honourable thing – retract their statements, atone for their mistakes and throw their weight behind the Labour Party. Please help us win – for we can win – the forthcoming general election.

Paul Bull

EXETER

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Socialism - the Shanky way

It was 50 years ago today that Bill Shankly arrived at Anfield, and even as a Man U fan I have to admire his views on socialism...

"The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It's the way I see football, the way I see life" Bill Shankly





Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Campaign against Home Office restrictions

Have just received the following in an e-mail from Arts Admin





The Home Office recently introduced new restrictions on international artists and academics visiting the UK for talks, temporary exhibitions, concerts or artists' residencies. The Manifesto Club has launched a campaign and petition against these new regulations in the name of internationalism and cultural exchange.

To: UK Parliament

The UK Home Office has introduced new bureaucratic procedures for organisations that wish to invite non-EU artists and academics to the UK. As professionals committed to the principles of internationalism and cultural exchange, we are dismayed by these new regulations - which will curb our invitations to non-EU artists and academics to visit the UK for talks, artist residencies, conferences and temporary exhibitions.
The system is costly to both the host organisation and to the visitor, and has already meant a number of cancelled exhibitions and concerts. All non-EU visitors now must apply for a visa in person, and supply biometric data, electronic fingerprint scans and a digital photograph. The Home Office’s 158-page guideline document also outlines new controls over visitors’ day-to-day activity: visitors must show that they have at least £800 pounds of personal savings, which have been held for at least three months prior to the date of their application; the host organisation must keep copies of the visitor’s passport and their UK Biometric Card, and a history of their contact details; and if the visitor does not turn up to their studio or place of work, or their whereabouts is unknown, the organisation is legally obliged to inform the UK Border Agency.

We, the undersigned, believe that these Home Office restrictions discriminate against our overseas colleagues on the grounds of their nationality and financial resources, and will be particularly detrimental to artists from developing countries, and those with low income. Such restrictions will damage the vital contribution made by global artists and scholars to cultural, intellectual and civic life in the UK.

Sincerely,
I've just signed and I am petitioner number 4570. If you feel supportive, please sign the petition here.

Monday, 23 March 2009

When not doing wrong is not necessarily right

So the Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform , the Right Honourable Tony McNulty says he has done nothing wrong by claiming some £14,000 a year Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) on a second home in his Harrow East constituency, some 9 miles from his main residence in Hammersmith.

He might believe that he has complied with the letter of the law and done nothing illegal - but he is morally in the wrong by accepting these additional allowances.

He must have known something was amiss as he stopped claiming the ACA earlier this year "because interest rates had fallen so far that he was able to meet his mortgage commitments from his MP's salary" - an MP currently receives £63.291 per year (Members Series: Fact Sheet M5 - Members’ pay, pensions and allowances) which in McNulty's case is topped up with a Ministerial entitlement of £40, 759 (Members Series: Fact Sheet M6 - Ministerial Salaries), giving an annual salary of £104,050.

When confronted by the Mail on Sunday for the article published yesterday , in a bizarre bid to deflect criticism, McNulty called for any MP within 60 miles of Westminster to be banned from getting the handout.


The history of the case appears to be that Mr McNulty lived with his parents in the house in Harrow East until his marriage to Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, in 2002.

He then moved into the home Ms Gilbert owned in Hammersmith, itself only three miles from the House of Commons, and this is considered his main residence.

So why is he claiming ACA for the house in his constituency? When asked on Sky News' Sunday Live why he was claiming expenses on a property where his parents live, Mr McNulty said: "I use it considerably. I work there at weekends when I am in the constituency." Yet he has (and in 2006/7 claimed £20,000 for) an office that is just round the corner.

ACA is meant to help MPs whose constituencies are a long way from Parliament to fund a London base, a perfectly reasonable aim. But should this also help London-based MPs? Those of 25 proscribed inner London constituencies (including the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham) are not entitled to the ACA but receive a London Supplement of £2,916. MPs in the outer London constituencies can elect either for the London Supplement or the Additional Costs Allowance.

The Green Book 2006:Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Pensions (follow link from here) is the bible on such matters, and some relevant passage are posted below.

3.1.1. Scope of allowance
The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) reimburses Members of Parliament for expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred when staying overnight away from their main UK residence (referred to below as their main home) for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties. This excludes expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes.

3.3.1. Principles
You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money. Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.

3.3.2.
You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.

So how can McNulty claim he was doing nothing wrong? The expenses and allowances are meant to be above reproach and there should be no suggestion of a misuse of public money. Neither of these case appear to met in the claiming of ACA.

[More information on Tony McNulty can be found on the "They Work For You" website.]

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Post Bank


In the light of the previous posting on child poverty and the implications of punitive bank charges, it comes as no surprise that a new coalition of new coalition of trade unions, a business organisation, pensioner and pressure groups and charities have come up with a comprehensive proposal for a new 'Post Bank' to run as part of the Post Office Network.
The model for a Post Bank proposed by the coalition would:
  • provide more financial services to people and businesses currently not served by high street lenders.
  • strengthen the role of post offices and the Post Office Network making it more viable, creating new job opportunities, and securing its role for the future,
  • ensure a stable source of finance in the heart of communities, particularly for the three million people still not using banks and the many small businesses looking for alternative sources of finance,
  • link the productive economy with finance through a return to the form of relationship banking abandoned by our biggest banks
The Post Office and its network of 11,500 branches (almost twice the number of the major high street banks combined) is a unique national resource which communities, businesses and individuals around the UK depend on. The Post Bank coalition believes there is a unique opportunity to answer both concerns around secure and equitable finance and the future of the post office network by setting up a Post Bank.
More details can be found on the website of the new economics foundation.

The REAL Financial Crisis

Today is the 10th anniversary of Tony Blair's visionary Beveridge Memorial speech where he committed the Labour Government to eradicating child poverty within 20 years. But at present 1 in 3 children are currently living below the breadline

In an article in the Guardian G2, Amelia Gentlemen gives a portrait of 21st-century child poverty.

The chilling indictment is that some of Louise's problems arise from the £7 a week repayment of overdraft charges to LloydsTSB.

When she was still battling with bank charges imposed every time she went overdrawn (which was every week), she would she has to make do without meals herself because there wasn't enough food for herself and her 2 children.

She is now slowly paying of a debt of £600 of fines and charges. In addition, she no longer has a bank account and now only deals in cash.

At £7 per week, Louise will be paying off this debt for the next year and a half. Something chief executives of banks SHOULD be mulling over as they accept unacceptable bonuses and pension pay-outs.

And what can we do? Perhaps we should start by re-reading the July 2006 report and findings by Donald Hirsch to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, "What will it take to end child poverty?",
which concluded:
"that, to make further inroads into child poverty, the Government will need to extend its policy of increasing redistribution to low-income families, but that this will not be enough on its own to meet the targets. In addition, this will require parents to fare better in the workplace, with improved pay and opportunities. Long-term policies working in this direction include better education and training for disadvantaged groups, improved childcare and the promotion of equal pay for women."

The same author in his recent study for the JRF, "Child poverty in a changing economy" (February 2009) , updates and revises projections of child poverty in 2010 and 2020.

He states:
"Despite tough times ahead, there is still political consensus around the goal to end child poverty. Based on new projections taking account of the recession, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has updated its assessment of what it will take to meet the government targets to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020."

One of the key points is that projections based on current policies suggest that child poverty will fall from 2.9 million to 2.3 million by 2010 – 600,000 short of the target.

To meet its target for 2010, the Government will have to invest an estimated £4.2 billion a year in benefits and tax credits above its present plans. The allocation of an additional £2 billion since 2006 has been offset by an unexpected rise in child poverty between 2004 and 2007 and the increased costs of the recession.

By 2020, without new policies to help low-income families, child poverty is projected to rise to 3.1 million.

We've found money to help the banks - indeed last October £17 billion was injected into the very same LloydsTSB Bank that causes Louise such financial hardship. Why can't we do the same to assist those like Louise who face REAL financial difficulties

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Nyman's Double Standards

In today's Arts Diary in the Guardian G2, it's noted that composer Michael Nyman has objected to the installation of CCTV in his local pub, The Draper's Arms.

According to the article he has launched a stinging attack on the the government's growing surveillance culture in the Islington Tribune with the splash headline "COMPOSER IN ATTACK ON PUB CAMERAS."


So is this the same Michael Nyman that only a month earlier was featured in the same Guardian G2 in an article entitled "My Best Shot", talking about his best photographs?
He says:
"I took these pictures during the literature festival in Mantua, Italy, three or four years ago... I leaned out of my window and saw an unexpected photo opportunity: a busy Saturday afternoon, with my subjects below, oblivious to me... In the end, I stood there for half an hour, taking between 60 and 100 pictures."
Or perhaps he might be related to the video maker Michael Nyman who was interviewed about his exhibition, Videofile, at De La Warr Pavilion in The Financial Times in January.
He reveals that he "shot part of the video from inside a dark and narrow passage, looking towards a sunlit street where Venetians walk by." And then goes on to insist that “people are never aware of me filming them”.
So who's watching who watching whom?


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A new dawn - yes we can

I remember the euphoria on 2 May 1997 - travelling to London after spending all-night at a school hall in Charnwood working for the BBC Radio Leicester's Election Night broadcast. It was a time of great hope (some - but not all - of which has been realised).




I had hoped to stay awake for the initial results to come in at at round midnight GMT - but tiredness prevented that.



I woke up today at 5.45 and switched on the telly to see if what we hoped for had occurred - a time of change for America. And it had.



Congratulations to Barack Hussain Obama. We look forward to your inauguration on 20 Jan 2009.



Your speech in Grant park was wonderful...when it was broadcast on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning the passage about the 106-year Ann Nixon Cooper brought a tear to my eye. I wish we could see such passion in our next General Election.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Why do they say these things?

I'm not interested in what Russell Brand or Jonathan Ross get up to. Their "comedy" doesn't interest me, so I don't listen to their radio shows and try my utmost to avoid their TV appearances.

So, after all the furore over the Manuelgate scandal, it was great to read an article with a realistic sense of proportion from Charlie Brooker.

The only complaints about the material that should be acknowledged are the 2 received after the original broadcast and not those thousands made after the subsequent media frenzy.

The 3 points I would like to make are:
1) The phone calls were not edgy , they were puerile and childish. Edgy is Tim Minchin in "Taboo" singing about the language of prejudice involving the 6 letters E-G-G-I-N-R.
2) The BBC needs to tighten up its vetting procedures prior to broadcast. I don't deny them the right to record the material, the young producer did right to refer the matter up to his seniors. So why did they broadcast it? And why haven't they resigned rather than Radio 2 Controller Lesley Douglas?
3) How come it was wrong to broadcast the material yet right for the Daily Mail to publish a full transcript. (I won't fan the flames by posting a link!)?

So, in future, perhaps Jonathan Ross should take his own (or should that be his ghost-writer's) advice? His current book is called "Why Do I Say These Things?"





Saturday, 30 August 2008

Unitary campaigning

After my 6 week sojourn in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, I arrived back on Thursday with a request to join the branch collecting signaturesfor the Unite to Save Exeter petition. Hence I've just spent the last 2 hours outside the Old Debenhams Building on Sidwell Street with several colleagues from St James and St Davids branches.

And there are copies of the newsletter to deliver. One side is specific to St James whilst the other is an Exeter Labour News page outlining the case of a Unitary Exeter. Arrange to collect my 3 delivery rounds tomorrow and get them out early next week.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The People's Rail Charter

Fed up with the performance of the Rail Network. I certainly am. Living in Devon, but working the length and breadth of the UK I see first-hand the problems it faces. So I particularly welcome the new initiative of the Co-operative Party, the People's Rail.

Launched earlier today, they propose a simple solution, which would be welcomed by the train operating companies, the staff, and more importantly, the long-suffering passengers.

Network Rail was created as a public interest company, and provides a vital public service. Who would be a better boss of the rail network than its passengers and the British public themselves?

For Network Rail to become truly accountable, we must all be given the right to become individual members. As a genuine mutual venture, it would be structured so that we all have a voice. It would allow us to democratically elect a Members’ Council, which would have powers over the appointment and pay of Network Rail’s board.

Co-operative and mutual structures deliver organisations that act in our interests. If we are to get the rail network the British public want and need, Network Rail needs to be run in a way that guarantees us real power – not just a pretence.

Network Rail has to change.

That is why the Co-operative Party are launching the People’s Rail campaign, to give real control to passengers and the public.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

An answer to the minimum wage.

Rachel and I are invited to a BBQ over the river - we arrive early evening after a trip to Plymouth to catch up with parents.

Miles and I have a long conversation about many things. He says he hates to be termed a "socialist" but he proposes a very radical socialist solution to the minimum wage.

I say that it is a disgrace that someone working fulltime (40 hours per week) on the minimum wage still needs to supplement their wages with Working Tax Credit. His proposal is that the mimimum wage increases at the rate of 50p per 6 month period. Perhaps employers will need a little incentive, such a slight reduction in national insurance contributions. I think he may be onto a winning idea here.

In this light, I will need to talk in greater detail about his ideas for social housing...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

How does Labour win again?

Last night Compass debated the election aftermath at a packed meeting.

How does Labour win again? A poignant question after the election disaster on Thursday. It was this question that an esteemed panel - Jon Cruddas MP; David Lammy MP; Jennette Arnold AM; Steve Richards, The Independent; John Harris, The Guardian and chaired by Jackie Ashley, The Guardian - came together to discuss in front of a filled Committee Room 14 in Westminster yesterday.

The discussion was started by David Lammy MP, who stated his fear that, 11 years into power, Labour may not be hungry enough to win. He called for a wider vision, wider story and passion.

Lammy was followed by John Harris, who argued that these are new times and we need a new language. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in.

Jackie Ashley then asked Jennette to respond to David Lammy and asked if Labour still had the appetite to win. Jennette answered confidently that of course we had the appetite and that in her constituency the Labour vote came out, because of her local constituencies dedicated campaigning. Reminding us all on the necessity of local ground level campaigning and activity.

Steve Richards went on to astutely describe what he saw as the anti-Tory coalition splintering to be replaced by a strong and growing anti-Labour feeling. Yet the electoral dynamic is dangerous and the policy opportunity interesting. It is now down to Gordon to find the language to bring this together - Bravery is needed.

Jon Cruddas MP identified the rupture between the current terms of the debate and the demands for regulation and radicalism. What happened last week didn't drop out of the sky, and we all know it. We need to ask how do we put it together again. To do this we must develop a more sophisticated understanding of the Tories - we need to understand how Boris - an Eton educated fop - beat Ken, a passionate and outstanding politician with a proven record of success. The response can't be more of the same, and like David Lammy, he said fundamentally we must define what sort of society we want to create, and if we don't, we are free fall.

Neal concluded the debate, stating we are no longer willing to wait for this vision and these policies that Brown has been promising. We need the progressive consensus he called for in 2004 now.

To achieve this Compass is simultaneously launching the a narrative, a vision, on The Challenge of Living in the 21st Century, and what will be the biggest policy and ideas creation process the country has ever seen. This will engage every section of the Labour movement and those beyond, it will work with progressives outside of Labour and political system in NGOs, pressure groups, academics, unions, communities, and other think-tanks. These policy ideas will then be put to a vote, and we will go out and campaign on those selected. This is not about the Labour party, or even the left, this is about deciding what society we want to live in, and then going out and campaigning on it.

Zoe Gannon, Compass

May Manifesto Petition

In the light of Labour's election defeat last week, John McDonnell MP is circulating a manifesto petition to Labour Party members, trade unons and MPs to gain large scale rank and file support for a new policy programme for Labour to bring about a radical change in political direction for the Laboour Government.

John McDonnell MP said:"After the serious rejection of New Labour at the polls last week assurances that the Government is listening are simply not going to be enough to restore any sense of belief in the Labour Party. What is needed is a radical change of political direction."We have to demonstrate that change by introducing a new policy programme that specifically and very concretely addresses peoples' concerns raised on the doorstep. This May manifesto petition is launched so that all our supporters can have a say in pressing for the changes we need."We believe that Labour can win back the support of our people by adopting a new 2008 May Manifesto, which should include:

  • Nailing the 10p tax mistake by the introduction of a fair tax system removing the low paid from taxation and ensuring the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share

  • An increase in the basic state pension, immediately restoring the link with earnings, lifting people off means tested benefits and providing free care for the elderly

  • An immediate start on a large scale council house building programme and assistance for those facing repossession

  • Immediate end to programme of local Post Office closures and liberalisation of postal services

  • An end to the privatisation of our public services

  • A new pay deal for public sector workers to protect their living standards and tackle low pay

  • Abolishing tuition fees and restoring maintenance grants for all students

  • Scrapping ID cards and abandoning 42 days detention

  • Introduction of a trade union freedom bill and measures to protect temporary and agency workers

  • Rejecting the proposals to renew Trident

To sign up, mailto:info@l-r-c.org.uk with the word 'petition' as the subject heading and add your name and CLP or trade union.

Grassroots survey

Labourhome is:
"A pro-Labour, group-blogging effort, that gives the like-minded the chance to have their say (under a mask of anonymity if they choose to wear it), and which promotes the most highly rated articles to its front page." --Bloggers4Labour's description of Labourhome.

Labourhome is a popular political collaborative multiblog specialising in British politics started by Alex Hilton and Jag Singh. Launched in June 2006 with the tagline, "Back to the roots," the site targets supporters of the Labour Party, attempting to reinvigorate the party's base and grassroots. Labourhome is not in any way financed or controlled by the Labour Party. The way we (Labour supporters) communicate to the outside (non-Labour) world is via the Prime Minister and the government. No blog or site can take that away, period.

Now Labourhome in itself is an experiment to reach out to the millions of Labour supporters and voters who want their voices heard. Every now and then, leaders ought to know what exactly their supporters are thinking and feeling, and that’s where web-based social network-enhancing sites like Labourhome and Bloggers4Labour come in.If you wish to get involved with Labourhome, send an email to us via support [at] labourhome.org.

In response to Gordon Brown's promise to listen more, they are runnning a survey and will make sure the party's leadership is presented with the results. I invite you to pass the link on to all Labour supporters you know...

Below are my answers to Q6
What message would you send to the Labour hierarchy, given the party's performance on May 1st?

We need to re-engage with our core support. Too many activists left the party over issues like the Iraq War. I could not - the ideals of the Labour Party are too strong.

How did we get the 10p tax thing so wrong? We've admitted a mistake - but our natural voters are showing us their past and current payslips, showing us how this policy is affecting them NOW. The solutions need to be NOW.

Listen...on the doorstep...not advisors in Westminster.

Consult…with activists who know what is happening in the real world...not policy advisors.

Act...to help the less well-off...not the affluent middle-classes.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Two Jobs BoJo

Why are all the papers full of anger that the writ for the by-election for Crewe and Nantwich has been published?

As I understand it the family of Gwyneth Dunwoody are happy -indeed her daughter Tamsin is the Labour Party Candidate.

What, to me, is more worrying is that BoJo will continue to represent the constituency of Henley after his recent election as Mayor of London. Many commentators estimate that it might be up to a year before he is appointed Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead - a procedural device to effect resignation from the House of Commons.

Purnell: "Let's fight on child poverty"

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell outlined the Government's fightback strategy following the local elections in a speech to the Fabian Society, declaring "ideological confidence is the way out of this week's political setback."

In his Progressive Manifesto Lecture, "Creating an Open Society", Purnell Purnell took on the harbingers of electoral doom, who have likened the political situation to the Conservatives disastrous showing in 1995, saying that although "voters are spooked by the economy, they do not blame the government - they realise it has global routes."

But Labour cannot afford to coast on a promise of stability and a reliance on its record. In order to guide people through difficult economic times, the government needs to build an "Open Society" built on the idea of a "fair chance" he said.

"My argument today is that the goal is simple. To create an Open Society, the kind of society that is best placed to take the opportunities of globalisation."

"An Open Society, most of all, for everyone in Britain - giving them the chance to climb as far as their ambition takes them. But with that ladder rooted on the solid ground of a fair chance for all."

"That is why child poverty matters, and that is how we can make the best case for it."

The lecture was reported on-line by the Guardian - "End of child poverty is still aim", says Purnell.

The article states that Labour is making the fight against child poverty a central aim because the party feels "outrage" at the waste of lives, unlike the Tories who pay "lip service" to the government's commitments.

Seen as a rallying cry to the Labour party to unite behind Gordon Brown after "grim" local election results, the work and pensions secretary, James Purnell, claimed that the fight against poverty binds old and New Labour, and allows the party to expose the Tories.

Speaking to the Fabian Society, he said: "When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown committed us to the goal of eradicating child poverty they spoke for everyone in this party. They also hit its nerve centre. The child poverty target links old and New Labour. The outrage we feel at the waste of lives lived in poverty is what links the Labour party of 2008 with the Labour party of 1908."

He added that the Tories had accepted the need to tackle poverty - but he questioned their commitment. They had spoken of the need to look at the poorest people who earn 40% of median income - the official definition of poverty is people on 60% of median income.
"The Tories don't want to eradicate poverty," Purnell said. "They want to redefine it. All of a sudden, 2.5 million children are no longer poor, as if by magic."

The government has faced criticism in the labour movement because it is unlikely to meet its 2010 target for halving child poverty. Blair and Brown, as Purnell said, promised nearly 10 years ago to abolish child poverty by 2020. It is now accepted that it will be almost impossible for the government to hit even the interim 2010 milestone of halving child poverty.

Purnell said the government had taken 600,000 children out of poverty and he outlined further steps. A lone parents programme, which has ensured that participants earn 24% more than parents who do not sign up, will be intensified, with a £40 weekly bonus for single parents who return to work, advice on how to stay in work, and a £300 payment for people who run into trouble in the first six months after their return to work. "That is the mark of a government that has a real energy," he said.

Election thanks

The "Express and Echo" have published my letter thanking the voters.

ELECTION DEFEAT DID NOT DISCOURAGE ME
I would like to thank, through Points of view, all the 384 people who turned out to vote for me last Thursday.All these people believed in my views and Exeter Labour group's 63 manifesto pledges, which resulted in a swing of nearly three per cent to Labour in the St James ward - in the face of the national trend of swings away from Labour.

I am certainly not downhearted and hope to be standing for Labour in the eventual elections for the unitary council.Until then, to all electors in the St James ward, I will remain your Labour contact and please feel free to contact me with any concerns or issues that you feel should be brought to my attention. I am around for the long-haul, not just election time.

I would like to pass on my commiseration to the former councillors of Exwick, Pinhoe and Polsloe. All three were excellent ward councillors, doing vital work on behalf of their residents. I am sure their presence will be missed over the coming term of office.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Is listening best?

Have spent the past weeks of my election campaign with the pledge "to listen...to consult...to act...and to report back", I was annoyed to read the article "Listening' politicians are a menace" by David Aaronovitch.

He heard the Prime Minister on Sunday telling Andrew Marr: “I am listening to what people have said; I have heard what people have said,” and Aaronovitch thought “Oh bugger.” And this is why. He feels that "If a politician does what I want and not what is best, that is not what I pay my taxes for"

But who says that listening equates to submission to the electors point-of -view? David Aaronovitch seems to think so. He thinks that "a 'listening' politician is one who decides that discretion is the better part of valour" but that isn't the case. By listening I am hearing the views of the electorate (they are the ones who do, or do not, put me into power). And then I can act in their best interest on those concerns.

National Fabian Society lecture

National Fabians Event
Invitation to Fabian lecture with James Purnell MP12.30pm, Tuesday 6th May 2008A rundel House, 13-15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2(close to Temple tube station)

James Purnell MP will give a major lecture for the Fabian Society. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will outline how the Government can sustain progress towards meeting their child poverty targets. The lecture is part of the Fabian Society’s ongoing “Progressive Manifesto” series which was launched by Ed Balls MP last autumn.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Low pay or fair pay?

Madeline Bunting talks about the recently released report from of the TUC's Commission on Vulverable Employment in today's Guardian.

Having promised it would "make work pay", Labour still hasn't delivered.

Brown makes much of his commitment to poverty. Even his most grudging critics concede that some headway has been made on child poverty even if it has not been enough. Many poor families may now have an earner, but it has not got them out of poverty: the number of poor children living in working households is 1.4 million - exactly the same figure as it was in 1997.

Half of all children living in poverty have a parent in work. The advances in child poverty have been among those on benefits, while the number of poor working households with children has actually increased by 200,000.

One in seven of all working households are poor; one fifth of all workers, 5.3 million people, are paid less than £6.67 an hour (two thirds of the median), the worst low-pay rate of any in Europe. It works out at less than a £12,000 salary.

In some regions, the proportion of low-paid is well over 25%, while in some constituencies (in Wales, Birmingham, the West Midlands, even the rural West Country) it is comfortably over 40%.

Labour has made much of bringing in the minimum wage and the working time directive (which gave many workers their first rights to paid holiday) but after these advances, the reality is that progress in tackling Britain's chronic problem with low-paid, insecure work stalled. Increases in the minimum wage are not keeping pace with average earnings, and it is set at a considerably lower rate than in other countries.

This is an issue that any Labour government worthy of its name should have sorted out by now and yet it has devoted a fraction of the effort and energy required. If Labour cannot ensure that at the end of a hard week's work, someone has earned enough to keep themselves and their children out of poverty, then it doesn't deserve power.

The Government announced in March that the adult minimum wage rate will rise from £5.52 to £5.73 an hour in October. The youth rate for those aged 18 to 21 will be increased from £4.60 to £4.77. The Government has also said that the rate for workers aged 16-17 years should increase from £3.40 to £3.53.

So for someone currently working 40 hours a week this means they earn £220 per week or nearly £11,500 a year. A single person, with no dependants, earning this amount and receiving no other benefits is entitled to an annual Working Tax Credit of £504.05 (calculated using the HM Revenue and Customs Tax Credits caluclator). Surely the whole point of the Minimum Wage is that it should be enough to remove single people from the need for benefits?

Eliminate short-term errors and adopt a new long-term strategy.

Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP, the former Home Secretary, writes for Progress on how Labour recovers from its election defeat.

In his article he says:
Throughout the dreadful Thatcher years we had a poster in our house called ‘What Does Labor Want?' The answer was a quote from Samuel Gompers of the American AFL/CIO trade union confederation written in 1893: ‘We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals, more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime, more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact more opportunities to cultivate our better natures.' Prehistoric Labour, perhaps, but no less powerful for its values and sense of purpose. They should still be central to Labour today.

The aim of Labour's progressive politics is to build a fairer, more equal society which improves the lives of millions of people in this country and elsewhere. And it's this group who were the greatest losers from Labour's disastrous defeat last Thursday. They are now vulnerable to Conservative values, Conservative practices and Conservative people, including those who have disguised their reactionary ideology under flaxen hair and unthreatening buffoonery.

Ahead of every other consideration, Labour's all-consuming priority must be to ensure that we do not repeat this defeat at the 2010 general election.

So, first, he believes we have to change the conduct of our politics. We should discard the techniques of ‘triangulation', and ‘dividing lines' with the Conservatives, which lead to the not entirely unjustified charge that we simply follow proposals from the Conservatives or the right-wing media, to minimise differences and remove lines of attack against us.

Instead we need to be authentic, frank and direct as we answer questions and explain what we are doing; we should respect politics and elected politicians with proper transparent funding arrangements and accountability for what we do; and we should govern openly and confidently on the basis of a programme which properly expresses Labour's values and beliefs.

Second we should focus upon the long-term issues which will enable our country to succeed in an increasingly challenging modern world. Immediately before the 2005 general election he proposed to Tony Blair a long-term strategy which he thought Labour needed to follow after the successes of our first two terms. Those goals should be to:-
• Establish a radical, holistic commitment to sustainable transport and energy.
• increase both public and private investment in effective, fair and locally accountable public services;
• relate taxation and charging more closely to expenditure, and reduce our profligate and bureacracy-promoting public administration;
• secure a stable constitutional settlement across the UK, by completing our reforms;
• strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system;
• reinforce the UK's relationship with the European Union to improve the EU's capacity to act on the environment and security.
He believes that the British people would support a framework for forward-looking and progressive government.

Third, we have to address the short-term errors which week-by-week erode confidence in Labour's competence and capacity:-
• The prime minister's pledge to solve the problems arising from abolition of the 10p tax rate must be fulfilled in detail and soon. The subject will resonate until there is clarity. There may now be a case for an early mini-Budget to establish a clear sense of economic direction and strengthen economic confidence.
• We should abandon proposals to increase the period of pre-charge detention to 42 days. This Parliament settled the matter in March 2006 at 28 days and, though I will support the government's proposals, I believe that it would be best not to consider them again during this Parliament.
• Patricia Hollis has put forward progressive proposals on women's pensions which are supported by the House of Lords. The government should accept them. Its current opposition will lead to defeat later this summer.
• The government should suspend the current over-bureaucratic review of post offices in order to consider properly the Postal Services Commission's proposals to give the Post Office PLC greater commercial freedom and allow subpostmasters to expand and develop their services.
• The Labour party has to end the historically unprecedented situation where we have not had a general secretary for over six months.

We do not have much time to reverse the damaging shifts in opinion against Labour which we have seen both in opinion polls and in last Thursday's elections.

We must robustly reject those who say that defeat in 2010 is inevitable. Such people - often relatively comfortable themselves - have no right to condemn whole communities to a decade or more of Conservatism. However their predictions could come true if Labour does not clearly resolve its direction and approach well before this year's party conferences. Everyone in the Labour party and outside will be constantly alert to progress we are making in this respect.
We should start immediately by winning the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Some seem to have accepted defeat already but I think that we can most certainly hold the seat if we
communicate a clear and attractive sense of political purpose.