Ed Balls, technology, and empowering people

Today at work, the children took a well deserved mini-trip to the local police station to have photo’s taken, meet the dogs, try on the handcuffs and see the day-to-day activities of their bobbies first hand.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t go as there were two adults already accompanying the trip, and, as a matter of circumstance, the mini-bus couldn’t fit me on due to lack of seats.

Fine, I thought, instead I shall go back into the classroom and have a quick look at Liberal Conspiracy, see what they have to offer today.

Sunny Hundal had written a piece promulgating his disappointment of New Labour’s disavowal of its centre-left roots, noting that despite not having anywhere else to turn, leftwingers should put their weight behind the party rather than leave it up to the Tories to fill the gaps (I admit that I’ve simplified his main arguments).

I largely agreed with the article. Though I would have changed two things about it.

Firstly, the problem is that some other options have cropped up for Labour leftwingers, some may well remember Lord Ashdown’s boasts that there were defections to his party around the time of the last local/European elections. Not to mention the Greens and smaller parties.

What a worrying prospect it is when one of our leading opinionists mentions; “That anger [of the expenses scandal] has now concentrated on the shattered Brown administration, whose manifest failings could destroy Labour’s chances of winning another election – maybe forever, if the Liberal Democrats and Greens take over what remains of the centre-left.”

The second thing I’d change is to do with when Sunny mentions; “So at this stage it makes more sense for Labour sympathisers to gear up for the General Election in 5-6 years time and figure out what are the big arguments the party needs to make and the coalitions it needs to build.” I say why wait until then. I see the realistic purpose of his mentioning this time period, but, the Labour party has the innovation to prove itself worthwhile of a progressive ticket, this is just obfuscated by blind obedience (to the Labour right) and kop-out rebellion (often, I should add, not always!).

Sunny, rather ambigiously, ends his entry with the question (not yet answered in the comment space below) “how can technology play a part in that in [influencing the Labour administration’s appeals to its centre-left homebase?]”

Well in thinking about possible ways technology can play a part in a progressive Labour party, I was thinking about what direction Ed Balls had pointed to in his recently published White Paper, with his proposal of;

“Setting up social networking websites for all schools to allow mothers and fathers to share “advice and information”. A series of trials for individual schools will be launched in September under a deal with the parenting websites Netmums and Dad Talk.”

An effective means of cyber-communication could mean more power for teacher-parent learning facilitation, and bring about new interactivity to the classroom, exactly how the Labour party have intended, with their ideas on empowering people in the public services.

Technology is a useful tool for communication, and could be the key to bringing about change in the public sector, and democracy itself.

So, in response to Sunny’s concluding question in his entry today, the Labour party, and Ed Balls especially, are already there.


Best case scenario; that red light go green on the road to Socialism

Remaining consistent with calls for reform, such as Ed Miliband’s concern that Parliament “looks to many people like a 19th-century institution“, Jack Straw has set the ball rolling for a cross-party talk on constitutional reform, one in which David Cameron has been kind enough to agree to, setting his views on reform in today’s Guardian.

Those reforms, in brief (thanks to an article posted on Liberal Conspiracy) are;

• Limit the power of the prime minister by giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections.

• End the “pliant” role of parliament by giving MPs free votes during the consideration of bills at committee stage. MPs would also be handed the crucial power of deciding the timetable of bills.

• Boost the power of backbench MPs – and limit the powers of the executive – by allowing MPs to choose the chairs and members of Commons select committees.

• Open up the legislative process to outsiders by sending out text alerts on the progress of parliamentary bills and by posting proceedings on YouTube.

• Curb the power of the executive by limiting the use of the royal prerogative which allows the prime minister, in the name of the monarch, to make major decisions. Gordon Brown is making sweeping changes in this area in the constitutional renewal bill, but Cameron says he would go further.

• Publish the expenses claims of all public servants earning more than £150,000.

• Strengthen local government by giving councils the power of “competence”. This would allow councils to reverse Whitehall decisions to close popular services, such as a local post office or a railway station, by giving them the power to raise money to keep them open.

The LC article goes on to comment on how Cameron continues his party’s opposition to proportional representation. This sets a precedent for Alan Johnson to push for a referendum on electoral reform and his support of Alternative Vote Plus.

Certainly proportionality, representation and equality are issues that could well return voters back to the Labour Party, and away from the fringe parties – whose presence is only, as this European election will prove, to provide a protest.

Roy Hattersley has been speaking today at Hay Festival about;

“There are many other basic ideas that socialists have to apply, with some care, to the modern world – among them the relationship between freedom and equality and the extension of genuine democracy.

Support for those principles is stronger than support for the Labour party itself. Far more people support socialist objectives than vote Labour. Many Liberals want a sustained assault on inequality. So do many Greens. Thousands of voters who feel no allegiance to any political party, and are antagonised by the unavoidable expediencies that accompany party politics, support all or part of the egalitarian agenda. The best, and perhaps only, way to secure a sustained period of progressive government is to mobilise all those forces in a radical alliance.”

And how true this is.

More influence in reform by Alan Johnson could at least margin the view by voters that Labour care little about the reform agenda, at best it could ask some serious questions again about the responsibility Labour has to return to socialism. For socialism is not simply a political referent, but a committed agenda for representation, and its high time questions like these are asked.

Moreover, it is hardly surprising that David Cameron, amid talks on radical reform, is not shifting on the question of electoral equality.

The right are ill-qualified for the fight against the xenophobes

It has emerged that 27% of voters plan to ‘send westminster a message’ by voting for a fringe party, the Guardian reports today (drawn from a poll of 1,010 adults between 20-21 May).

Though it seems the BNP vote will only garner 1%, some 4% less than the last European elections in 2004 (though as I’ve said before, and the article reiterated, voting intentions are not always so reliable for the xenophobic BNP). Ukip are down from 16% in 2004 to 10% on the voting intentions (perhaps their vote has been affected by the expenses scandals after all).

Two runners hoping to capitalise in on anti-Labour sentiment, have today been involved in in-party dispute’s over public perception. David Cameron of the T0ries, in the last 48 hours, has had to give two tellings off to MP’s for “unnacceptable comments”. Not racist comments, or slurs, but hubristic, nob-headed comments.

The Guardian‘s report notes;

“David Cameron today rebuked the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries after she accused the Telegraph of coming close to a “McCarthyite witch-hunt” with its disclosures of MPs’ expenses claims.

The Conservative leader also made it clear that party grandee Anthony Steen would have the whip withdrawn “so fast his feet won’t touch the ground” if he continued making “unacceptable comments”.

Yesterday, Steen claimed he was the victim of “jealousy” among his Devon constituents, who he said were envious of his large house.

“I gave him a very clear instruction after that interview – one more squeak like that and he will have the whip taken away from him so fast his feet won’t touch the ground,” Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “It was a completely unacceptable interview,”

(see also Liberal Conspiracy‘s version of the events)

The second party which has (also!) had yet another setback in its false guise of moderate modification is the BNP.

The Mirror informed that;

“A BNP candidate could be deselected for posting offensive comments online.

Eddy O’Sullivan, the party’s Salford organiser, wrote on his Facebook profile: “W**s go home,” adding, “They are nice people, ‘oh yeah,’ but can they not be nice people in the f***ing Congo or… bongo land or whatever?”

Mr O’Sullivan, 49, standing with party leader Nick Griffin in the European election for the North West region, said: “It was supposed to be a private conversation. I also may have had a drink at the time. I don’t believe those comments are racist.”

Clive Jefferson, BNP North West organiser, said if the allegations were proved Mr O’Sullivan would be suspended.

Deputy party leader Simon Darby said: “We will take disciplinary action if we find he has posted the comments.”

Now that really is rich coming from Simon Darby, who was photographed by Searchlight recently being greeted with fascist salutes by Roberto Fiore’s Forza Nuova party in Italy. One would choose their friends more wisely (advice extended to Cameron after mvoing his party to non-attached in Europe along with the likes of Le Pen and the Polish Law and Justice party).

These things are clearly embarrassing for the two parties mentioned here, for they show a presence of an image they would really rather keep quiet. For the Tories, I really believe that David Cameron really believes he is the new modern times Tory, when in actual fact, and despite their elections slogan, they are more of the same. The BNP, however, are desparately trying to seem way more with the times than they actually are (and unsuccessfully). It can be seen quite clearly from the recent amendments made to their manifesto, constantly redefining their ideas of what it is to be British, and their language and conduct entries. Change the voter’s mind, and dupe them later.

To really get under the skin of the BNP in the coming weeks, then months, and years to come, critics must do more to understand their warped appeals to moderation.

Which is why it should not be left down to some comic Tories who have started casually calling the BNP a far-left party – which also tainted some of Tim Montgomerie’s good work. See also Daniel Hannan’s recent blog entry and Harry Phibb’s unbelievable trite, with absurdities like this;

“What Conservatives can add to this critique is something that the left can never admit: Nazism and communism are ideological twins. The BNP is in fact an extreme leftwing outfit. It wishes individual liberty to be sacrificed to state control. It seeks the overthrow of capitalism, and rages against profit and speculators. It wishes to institute a siege economy with protectionism and the nationalisation of foreign-owned companies. In this it is being consistent to its founding inspiration. Hitler nationalised the banks and insurance companies, the economy was rigidly centrally planned, there was an extensive programme of public works, independent schools were banned.

How does he, then, define the far-right – and presumably in whatever way he does define it, he must be in it if everyone right of the Tories are socialist by default. These articles, in spite of their aims, are ample evidence that many respected commentators are ill-qualified to tackle a dangerous element rearing its ugly head in our democracy.

But unsurprisingly none of these party failures have restored any faith in Labour (due to their own party failures). Which is why I was suprised to read this;

“The Labour Party continues to enjoy a healthy lead at the polls according to the European Parliament election forecast even if its share of the vote has dropped over the past two weeks.”

But unfortunately, this article is taken from Times of Malta. At home some of our most respected commentators are still insisting on a Labour Party shake-up to end all shake-ups. Polly Toynbee rejects this flimsy word “reshuffle” for the heavier handed “mass exile“. And although it is well established that the European/ Local Elections are set to look pretty miserable for Labour, there some clean hands in that party (see here for the note on Chris Mullin, and here for Shiraz Socialist’s report on the Labour Party worth fighting for) and the general elections do not have to be half as miserable.

And on an optimistic note, all is not lost on British humanity, for our next generation are already showing a hint of rebellion in Loughton, Essex, where local school children have revolted and instigated a school walk out on account of newly installed CCTV cameras in classrooms. Bite the Flower!

Newsquest and the BNP adverts

Since writing about the adverts which have appeared on the Basildon Echo website it has been documented about by blogging superhero Sunny Hundal here. It seems that quite a number of newspapers owned by Newsquest (the company that owns the Echo) have had similar adverts printed.

Jon Slattery has copied up a reply by Newsquest editorial director, Martin McNeill, to a complaint about The Echo in Essex carrying online BNP ads:
“Thanks for your email regarding BNP advertising. We are accepting paid-for advertising from any political parties or candidates standing in the current elections. I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the BNP, but it would be undemocratic and against the principle of free speech to refuse to accept any party’s advertising provided it falls within our guidelines.

“The Echo has consistently opposed the BNP in our Comment column and will continue to do so. As editor, I have twice been taken to court, unsuccessfully, by a BNP activist who did not like my editorial stance. I also regularly receive BNP hate mail. Despite this, I feel I must defend the right of all parties to take out paid-for advertising in support of their election candidates.

Best wishes, Martin McNeill Editorial Director Newsquest Essex.”

For some this is a question of freedom of speech, but it seems more logistical than this. Just look at this from Lancaster Unity;

“Newspapers should serve the whole community, not the extreme racist and right wing minority BNP. These adverts will cause offense to the diverse majority in any community. Who can trust their local newspaper to impartially bring them news, when they are so closely identified with an extremist political party?”

A flirtation with NO2EU

I went off on one on a Liberal Conspiracy post, about the European elections and the left. I explained a slight flirtation I have with a concept used by the left wing eurosceptic party NO2EU, that of social dumping. I admitted that;

“even as a Labour supporter myself, I, too, feel a political allegiance to some of NO2EU’s policies. Not least there engagement with this underused concept of social dumping – the utilisation of cheap immigrant work, a notion kept alive by anti-racists on the back foot involved in a horrid conversation with a racist. Such a conversation might appear something like this;

racist : but, you know, these immos come in, don’t they, and take our jobs

anti-racist caught on the back foot and looking for ways of communicating with this twat without using words like ‘gross domestic product’ or ‘its the capitalists!!’ : what!! Oh come on mate, don’t be harsh, most immigrants do the jobs natives don’t want to do

This is the reality, and I don’t support it, on the basis that it extends the BIG LIE to nationals of poorer nations, that UK is a country of middle earners and you could do it too. The Lisbon Treaty is the megaphone for this BIG LIE, and promotes social dumping. Its the logic of the pro-big business EU that cheap labour is exported and utilised in post-industrial nations. And NO2EU have been bold enough to try and tackle it. The big three don’t tackle it nor the progressive case against the EU, and fringe parties to the contrary of Lisbon Treaty supporters tend to be on the far-right. Opposing the Lisbon Treaty should definitely not be limited to protectionist economics. And anyone who claim NO2EU are UKIP with beards and sandals or nationalist, are denying the EU fair criticism from those who are, in my opinion, the only ones qualified to do so: the left.

I bid you goodnight.”

I figured it was as long as one of my normal blog posts, and all that effort, it should live on my blog too. Fair’s fair!!