Friday, September 03, 2010

Camden Labour Leadership Hustings

There was a very strong turnout in Camden Town Hall tonight to hear a joint Labour Leadership and London Mayoral hustings. I was only able to stay for the leadership bit but thought it was rather interesting.

Almost the first thing that happened was the mere mention of Oona King provoked a stirring boo from the crowd as she'd pulled out at the last minute, something that a fellow attendee told me "She'd been making a habit of round London."

That doesn't seem very wise as, with a room full of Labour members, losing a dozen votes at a stroke (if you discount all the Ken supporters) is just a bit silly and arrogant.

We then heard that Andy Burnham had pulled out at last minute too which left just Diane Abbott as the only candidate present. The other pretenders to the throne were represented by substitutes of varying quality. David Miliband pulled in Charlie Faulkner, which I think counts as a big hitter and taking the hustings seriously, but the other candidates had more modest substitutes.

Ed Miliband even had a spokesperson who said *three times* that he'd already voted Diane 1 Ed 2. My partner thought this was a tactic and about winning second preferences, personally I thought it was just a poor, poor choice of advocate.

Anyway, as to content it was all a bit of a disappointment. Abbott was strong on name checking all the bugbears of the left: ID cards, the war, ten pence tax, detention of children, bankers are evil, housing et al. As she said in her closing statement "On all those big issues I called them right and every other candidate got them wrong."

Faulkner/David Miliband essentially put up a defence of the Labour government's record and made a clear pitch as the continuity candidate. Balls' speaker was very strong on the economy and robust in her advocacy of more investment, not less, as well as surprisingly supporting the Robin Hood Tax.

It was left to Diane though to say that Labour "should not roll over and die in the face of Tory assaults" and accept the idea that cuts are inevitable, nor that *these* cuts are inevitable. She said "we will not cut our way out of the recession, we have to grow our way out of it." I agree.

Compare that to Faulkner who said a) he opposed all the Tory cuts he'd heard about b) cuts were inevitable and c) if only it was Labour doing the cutting! Both morally reprehensible *and* logically inconsistent, good work Charlie.

The excitement of the evening came with a sharp question on youth justice and the failure of the criminal justice system when it came to young people. "Andy" and Diane made good cases for economic and social justice reducing crime although it was only Diane who got a round of applause for her very clear "Prison - does - not - work".

Again Faulkner defended the record of the government and was duly rewarded by a slanging match from the floor. Frankly it was good to see some passion and good to see a room full of Labour members uncomfortable with Labour's record.

All in all it was clearly Diane's (and Ken's) audience, and not just because she was the only candidate present, but because the audience liked what she had to say. When she finished with a rousing speech about whether she "looked like a Labour leader" I can't have been the only person to have been surprised at the vociferous applause she received.

Sadly she's hardly got any MPs backing her so she can't win, after all what would a leadership contest be if it wasn't stacked massively against individual members having a proper say? I'll give her this though - she was much stronger than I'd expected and I would not be surprised if she did well in the membership part of the ballot.

If you want to know what happened in the Mayoral half check out Richard Osley's tweeting.


Anonymous said...

> She said "we will not cut our way out
> of the recession, we have to grow our
> way out of it." I agree.

Given that Osborne claims a growth stategy, it looks like everyone's agreeing with the tories.

Seriously, are there any left-wingers remaining in the UK that don't roll over and accept monetarist economics? How about nationalise our way out of it, and tear to pieces the lousy system that uses devices like "recession" to take wealth away from the poor?

Jim Jepps said...

Well I think she's probably more a Keynesian to be honest. Which is why she was arguing for investment in (nationalised) public services.

greensen said...

Jim - are you thinking about joining the labour party?

Jim Jepps said...

Greensen: as lovely as some Labour people are I think I'd have problems joining a pro-war, pro-privatisation party that has no respect for civil liberties.

Labour is, however, an important part of this country's political life and I'd like to see it move left and begin to take environmental concerns seriously.

Greensen said...

I joined despite the above. But i respect your reasons for not joining.

My own mother recently said she's proud she's never been a member (despite voting labour at every election i suspect) because "they" always manage to do something awful at the moment she considers it.

For me the fact she uses the word "they" encapsulates what is wrong with labour and has been wrong for a few decades at least. "they" = blair and mandelson and campbell and adonis and the trade union elite before...The labour party must once again become "we".

That's why i joined. Not old labour, not new labour, not next labour but We Labour :)

modernity said...

Hang on, how many members have the LP lost over the past 13+ years?

I make it nearly 250,000.

At the 1997 peak they were about 405,000.

2007 figures suggest a total of 176,891, that's excluding for a year on year decline until 2010.

It seems to have picked up, maybe by 25,000, if you believe the tales of old socialists re-joining.

But either way, it ain't healthy, given 1) a decade plus of New Labourism 2) the internal structures which vastly restrict dissent from the members 3) the inability of NL to repeal the anti-TU laws 4) years of NL attacks on the working classes etc etc

Not looking good....

greensen said...

What's not looking good?

As i said, i joined not because of the labour record in government. I joined because of what i want and believe labour has the capacity to become.

There are a host of more concrete reasons i had for joining but i guess this isnt the place to run through them all :)

Jim Jepps said...

You can if you like greensen

greensen said...

Mainly personal factors. May come across a bit hammy.
My sister was diagnosed with a condition that means she will lose her sight over the next few years. In fact, she is in the process of training with her future guide dog as we speak.
I moved to a vast housing estate in sheffield. Unemployment was rife. There were no jobs. Drugs, low-level crime and "anti-social" behaviour were part of every day life.
The financial crisis hit. I graduated and couldnt find a job.
My great grandmother (life-long labour member and activist) died.
How are all the above linked to me joining the labour party? For the first time in my life i felt a sense of urgency. Became fed up with attending far left meetings and discussing what trotsky said in 1924 about substitionism.
I sincerely believe the labour party has the capacity to renew and build an alternative to what went before and what we have now. I want change in my lifetime and that is why i joined.

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks for that.

I can't say I've ever been to a Green Party meeting where Trotsky's views have been explored *in depth*, as they tend to be very practical, but I know what you're saying.

Simon13 said...

Jim, I wonder if you could get someone like Derek Wall to do a guest post on zero-growth economics, or if not a post a guest load of links. The reason I suggest this is that I'm finding it a little puzzling that you're a green who wants to grow the economy, but not being an economist myself I can't really argue with you about it. Just on a very basic level, with my limited understanding, the phrase 'you can't have infinate growth on a planet on finite resources' seems pretty bang on, and however little I would know what to actually do if I was put in charge of the economy, I can't get my head round the possibility of environmental sustainability with infiate economic growth. Unless you're saying you would grow out of this recession and then change the economy after that, which I would have some sympathy for.

Greensen: I see what you mean, but Labour's structure is totally un-democratic, which means it can't become the alternative you want it to be.

Jim Jepps said...

Well, I don't think 'growth' is a particularly specific or useful concept. Building nuclear bombs and wave power units both show up as growth but one helps us move to a low carbon economy and the other moves us toward annihilation.

The crucial factor, I think, is what's growing. Do we build a sustainable, low carbon economy on a failed growth casino economy?

When the party went to the election talking about one million green jobs it was talking about growth - so I don't think I'm so out of kilter with the party line as you suggest.

Specifically it was talking about a particular *kind* of growth, and I think that's the important point where I would disagree with social democrats like Abbott who talk about growth but never seem too bothered about the idea of 'good growth' and 'bad'.

Barkingside 21 said...

All things that grow, die!

BUT, as any gardener will tell you, sometimes you can cut a plant back to get stronger and more resilient growth in the future. But even that doesn't last forever - the seeds then take over.

Even Green jobs won't last forever. Once the work is done it's done, period.

Derek Wall said...

Derek Wall said...

Natalie Bennett said...

I addressed this very issue of growth now versus a sustainable no-growth economy in the future in an article in the Camden New Journal:

In short, as NEF says, you don't get to a sustainable economy through a failed growth economy - you have to get things back on an even keel and ensure that everyone is confident they'll have the basics of life (which means substantially addressing inequality).

Anonymous said...

Useful links to understanding the "growth" issues thanks.
At recent demo organised by trades council in Sheffield (To show disapproval of Cons, and Clegg who was in Town Hall) was very disappointed that out of 15 or so speakers, only the Green Party speakr said that we cant keep on "growing" its not sustainable, and attempted to address the issues. "Green issues" did not seem to be anywhere for any of the other speakers. Speakers included a newly elected Labour MP,who I had previously had had a lot of time for.He was dissappointingly tribal, and stuck to point scoring over the Con-Dems, no attempt to consider the state of the planetand the need to develop different economics.
Sorry greensen you really are doomed to disapointment yourself if you stick with them!

Anonymous said...

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