Further shenanigans in the conference hall during today’s health debate. Dave Prentis, with around 20 seconds to go to complete his speech, had his mike switched off by the chair, MEP Gary Titley. This seemed more than a little unfair as delegates sympathetic to the NEC position (to remit the Unison motion) had had courteous reminders that their allocated time was coming to an end, unlike Prentis. Protests ensued from all over the hall, from unions and CLPs. Jack Dromey got up to make a point of order, protesting at this “disgraceful” treatment. The problem was, what Prentis was saying was going down so well with delegates, their applause was cutting into the time available for his speech. Shortly afterwards, Jeremy Beecham assumed the chair, because Titley had to get on a rather sudden flight to Brussels.
We’ve heard plenty of claims that there is no thirst amongst conference delegates or visitors for a debate about the leadership question. Well, I’ve just come from one of the most packed fringe meetings I’ve ever attended. Over 250 people squeezed themselves into the UNISON marquee to hear Derek Simpson, Billy Hayes, Tony Woodley and Dave Prentis urge the party to organise an election process with hustings where all candidates can set out their stalls.
It’s great that these Labour members are making these demands, but sad that they should have to do so. Almost without exception, each one warned against a beauty or personality contest. I couldn’t agree more.
[The Guardian, 27 September 2006]
The debate over Labour’s new direction must go beyond the Brownite right and the Blairite far-right.
As Gordon Brown moves this week further to the right, arm in arm with Tony Blair – on foreign policy especially – it is increasingly clear that the Labour party and the public deserve an open contest for the leadership, between candidates representing all the main wings of the party – not just the Brownite right and the Blairite far-right. They want a debate on policies, not a parade of personalities.
The NEC meeting yesterday morning was interesting for two reasons – first a door blocking demo by “loyal party members” demanding the NEC support Tony Blair in the interests of unity. Rather than manhandling them out of the way and interrogating them under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, they were allowed to generally mill about as long as they wanted. It’s good to see that the party machine has learnt from last year’s mistakes and is so tolerant of such actions. I’m sure the rules will be applied equally to all such protests.
A mixture of internet access and technical problems meant that the blog has not been updated as promptly as intended, so apologies to anyone who has been waiting for a comment to be published or a new entry to be posted. Glad to say, the problems have now been sorted out and new entries will appear as quickly as I can put them up – including one from Sunday. They’ll be posted in the order they were written, for the sake of chronological clarity.
It’s only Sunday night and the fringe is buzzing merrily away. This may be day one of the conference but I’ve spoken at several fringe meetings already. Tonight’s was a first for me – the Make Votes Count rally alongside Patricia Hewitt, Charles Clarke and John Denham. I’m a later convert than some to the need for electoral reform and the introduction of proportional representation, but FPTP produces results out of all proportion to the views of the electorate. It is intellectually unsustainable and does not give the winner of a general election a mandate that is acceptable for any political party.
I have just heard, from what I regard as an unimpeachable source that Gordon Brown has told junior ministers that if they do not vote for him in the forthcoming leadership contest, they’ll be out.
I must say, the machine politics doesn’t surprise me. But clearly Gordon is more worried about his vote than we thought!
It’s all very well for Tony Blair at this stage, within sight of his departure, suddenly breaking the habit of a lifetime and announcing a consensual, inclusive review of the whole range of party policy before he goes
But it’s a bit rich to have a conversion to this new style of policy making at the end when for 12 years we have had policy settled exclusively in Labour HQ or No. 10 and election manifestos handed down from on high without so much as a flicker of Party consultation. Still, there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth …
It’s real brass neck for Gordon Brown to say he wants no debate on policies and only a token leadership election. If we’re not permitted to ask questions and discuss policies now, what would it be like if he ever did become PM? Attempting to shut down debate at this stage is not good news.
Good to hear that Tony Blair is now saying the leadership, in all this ruckus, should be thinking about the Party and the public. So that means, I take it, an early leadership election so as not to scupper Labour’s chances in the Scottish, Welsh and local elections. It means the innovative idea, does it, of actually discussing what the direction of policy should be under the new government?- not shutting down all debate on policy before it’s even begun, as Gordon Brown wants, leaving him (he hopes) with a free hand. And it means, I assume, having candidates representing all the main wings of the Party, not just the Brownite Right and the Blairite far Right, but the Centre-Left, which has been disenfranchised for a decade or more.
So, it’s good the PM is now on side, or have I missed something?
Whilst the world’s attention is locked on the Israel-Hizbullah war, more far-reaching and potentially dangerous threats to global security are growing dramatically, though almost unnoticed. Last month the US Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, let the cat out of the bag: “At least at the present time and for the foreseeable future, we’re going to see oil demand exceeding supply” – a potentially explosive development that the world has never faced before.