Ann Black vs Hayden-Phillips

December 18, 2006

Ann Black published her report of last week’s NEC over the weekend. The account shows how wide the NEC consensus was against the Hayden-Phillips proposals and how members were alarmed at the apparent double dealing from No. 10.

Party Funding: Facts and Rumours

Mike Griffiths and Hazel Blears summarised the story so far.  In the wake of the loans affair, Sir Hayden Phillips was charged with reviewing party funding.  A working group chaired by Jack Straw oversaw the drafting of Labour’s submission, agreed by the NEC and by conference.  On 16 November Hayden Phillips published an interim report posing specific questions, including whether there should be a limit on donations.  The Labour party responded in line with conference policy.  On 4 December Hayden Phillips issued more detailed proposals. 

Some were regarded as acceptable, including increased transparency, better enforcement, national and local spending limits, and state funding for purposes such as training candidates and improving feedback from Partnership in Power. 

Others were alarming.  All donations, from individuals and from organisations, would be capped.  Trade unions would no longer operate a collective system of affiliated membership through their political funds.  Instead affiliation would become “individualised”: the party would have to write to over 3 million union members, every year, explaining how their contribution had been spent and reminding them that they could choose to stop paying. 

As Hayden Phillips said, in a masterpiece of understatement, “the proposals will be especially demanding for the trade unions.  They will need to introduce new systems and new accounting arrangements”.  And for the party, the average affiliation payment of £3 a year would be entirely consumed by paperwork.  A Thatcherite dream come true.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jack Straw on the Trots

December 14, 2006

One of Jack Straw’s jobs as Leader of the House is to pitch up and answer questions from Lobby hacks at the afternoon briefing.  The Daily’s eye was drawn to this exchange about the meeting of the Trade Union Group of MPs earlier this week:

“It was a fraternal meeting,” he said.

A Lobby correspondent said that he had heard that there had been blood over the walls.

Mr Straw replied, “Yes – it was a fraternal meeting. This is a set position if you are a Labour MP. You spend your life advancing the cause of socialism and as soon as you get close to doing that, you are accused of doing a sell-out by the people who put you there.  That is how it works. It goes with the territory. This has been said, by the way, with some levity – ever since I was a teenager and was able to spot a Trot at 50 yards – and with those bastards I am pleased to plead guilty.”

Class.


Downing Street denies dodgy deal on donations

December 14, 2006

John McTernan is the Director of Political Operations (the post was formerly known as Political Secretary, but McTernan evidently got a more sinister sounding title in lieu of a pay rise one year) at No 10.  It has been alleged that he was sent to speak to Hayden Phillips about trade union donations, behind Jack Straw’s back, and with a message deviating considerably from the Party policy unanimously agreed by the NEC and Annual Conference. 

Luke Akehurst, like the rest of us, was pretty unhappy about this idea. Unlike the rest of us, however, Luke clearly has a following in high places.  McTernan (presumably with a bit of time on his hands in between making the tea) has issued a rapid rebuttal via Luke’s comments section:

Someone in No 10 is reading this and the Guardian report is totally untrue. I can do better than to give an account of what the Prime Minister said to the PLP Parliamentary Committee yesterday afternoon:

The Prime Minister attended the Parliamentary Committee where he was asked about Hayden Phillips Review of Party Funding. The PM made clear that he will do nothing that would break the link.

In the discussion he said that the party has some serious decisions to make about party funding. If the status quo remains then Lord Ashcroft’s money will mean that the Labour Party will be massively outspent in key Labour seats at the next General Election. We need annual spending limits and local spending limits to be introduced if there is to be a level playing field at the next election.

The Tory Party want a cap on donations but they are resisting spending limits. Hayden Phillips needs to recognise that trade union funding is already highly regulated. He is proposing a model where trade unionists opt into paying the levy. That is completely unacceptable to the Labour Party.

It would seem that Blair is listening to the Labour Party after all – or at least to Luke Akehurst, anyway. So if you have a complaint, question or query for those people running the country, post on Luke’s blog; the Downing Street monitoring unit will pick it up and get an answer straight back to you. We’ll have to comment there more often!


Blair’s legacy: a break with the unions?

December 13, 2006

If reports in the Guardian (twice), Times and Telegraph are right, Blair’s Christmas present to the Labour party is set to be a proposed break with the trade unions.  Hayden Phillips – the man asked to looked into funding issues surrounding big businessmen buying peerages – seems to have gone off on one and come up with radical proposals on all aspects of party funding. 

Reports have dribbling out of Westminster like undercooked fat out of a turkey’s backside this week, but piecing everything together, Hayden Phillips looks set to propose:

* Capping trade union and corporate donations, lumping collective organisations of millions, with democratic structures and accountability, in the same boat as the spivs and fat cats in the city.

* Ending collective affiliation of trade union members to the Labour party, replacing it with individualised membership for levy payers, direct with the party – not through the union.

* Forcing unions (or the party itself) to check in with members every single yearif they want to continue their new indivdualised membership of the party.  (Unions currently have to consult members in a ballot on continuing collective membership every ten years.)

* BUT – cleverly, Phillips will allow individual members of unions to give “up to £50,000”, just like rich businessmen.  Which is, we’re sure, a huge relief to dinner ladies in UNISON and bus drivers in the T&G.

The proposals have the “sympathy” of the Prime Minister and according to the Guardian, “Mr Blair and Mr Cameron discussed the inquiry during a private meeting last month”.  Labour MPs are apparently up in arms and – the Telegraph tells us – held a meeting on Monday night to discuss the issue.

If MPs are “ballistic” about these proposals, they might want to do something about it.  Someone in the government or in the unions is telling the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph what is going on — but from where party members are sitting, it looks like all MPs have done so far is having a bit of a meeting.  MP Kevan Jones, in the Telegraph, stuck his head above the parapet, calling TU donations “the most democratic and transparent money of all”.  However, Nick Palmer busy commenting on politicalbetting.com, tells us that the rumours are so bad that they can’t be true. 

That’s not good enough.

Labour people don’t agree on every issue, but there is real consensus across the whole party on the importance of the party-union link.  The bottom line is that if we end the union link – which these proposals would do – then the party is over.  

Since 2003, reports have suggested Blair has been worried that his legacy will the disasterous mess which is Iraq.  But Blair now has a cunning plan to erase that from memory – instead, he is going to leave us a disastrous mess of a Labour Party in meltdown.


Seasons greetings John

December 12, 2006

John Reid on Sunday sparked another bout of one of the most stupid new traditions that we’ve imported from the US. That’s moral outrage at the “war on Christmas”.

Making headlines in the Sun, Telegraph, Times, Guardian and anyone else who’ll listen, he said: “Like the vast majority of people, I’m sick and tired of this sort of mad political correctness that said you can’t wear a crucifix on British Airways, or you can’t put up decorations for Christmas, or you can’t call Christmas ‘Christmas’.

Today it turns out that Reid’s Christmas cards don’t have a single mention of the word Christmas, saying instead “Season’s greetings”.

Good work John. Repeat ten times, people who shout about ridiculous issues, end up looking ridiculous. Christmas is not going to disappear, and if it’s loosing its meaning, then that’s more to do with rampant consumerism that “political correctness”.

As a lesson to us all, here is the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart responding to right-wing TV presenter Bill O’Reily, who orchestrated last year’s campaign in the US against the “war against Christmas”


Times Poll shock: no real change

December 12, 2006

A bit of a non-story in the Times. The poll finds the Tories down two points to 34 percent and UKIP appear on the radar on two percent. Labour remain stable at 33 percent.

“David Cameron faces fresh unease from the Conservative Right after a new poll showing a fall in the party’s rating to its lowest level since April,” Reads the first paragraph.

However… Although the paper doesn’t publish the margin of error, it’s probably somewhere between 1 and 2 percentage points. Meaning that there is probably no statistical proof of any real change at all.

Although it’s nice to see the Tories down a bit, it’s one of those polls, where poor journos have to scramble around to make something of a poll that the paper spent a lot of money on, but which showed nothing new at all.


Sports personality of the year

December 11, 2006

Is the state of British sport really that bad that the sports personality of the year is Zara Philips?

She swept professionals who dedicate their lives to their sport aside to reach the title as a part-timer, albiet a very well connected part-timer. We at the Daily suspect that if she weren’t a member of the most famous disfunctional family in the country, an obscure horsey person would never have won.