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Archive for the ‘Labour Party’ Category

Tuesday
Jun 16,2009

The “Digital Britain” report, published today has an excellent section on “Digital Security and Safety”.  The report makes it clear that there will definitely be a national Cyber Security Strategy, something I have been calling for for some time, when it says:

 

“The UK’s National Security Strategy describes how ‘cyber security’ cuts across almost all the national security challenges that it identifies, and the need to address them in a coherent way. To this end, the Government is developing a Cyber Security Strategy to build a safe, secure and resilient cyber space for the UK, through both the beneficial exploitation of cyber space and the reduction of risks posed by those who seek to do the UK harm: the forthcoming Cyber Security Strategy will set out how the Government intends to approach this task.”

This is an extremely welcome development.  When Lord Stephen Carter made his statement introducing the report in the House of Lords this afternoon, I asked him when the Strategy might be issued and he said he hoped it would be ready by the end of July.

Saturday
Jun 13,2009

I have had a call from a journalist at the Sunday Times who is apparently writing a story for tomorrow about Sir Alan Sugar and his surprise elevation to the Peerage.  He wants to know what the reaction of the Labour Peers Group has been.

I haven’t spoken to him directly, but have left him a message saying:

“Many Labour Peers are looking forward to Alan Sugar joining them in the Government voting lobby late into the evening three times a week. They are, in particular, looking forward to seeing him support Government measures, like the Equalities Bill now going through Parliament, or those strengthening employment rights in the workforce.”

Wednesday
Jun 10,2009

When I arrived in Parliament today, a friend pressed into my hand an organisational diagram showing the Ministerial appointments in the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (it’s DaBiz!).  My noble friend, Lord Peter Mandelson, who is now First Secretary of State (ie Deputy Prime Minister in all but name), Lord President of the Council, and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, rules over a Department with ELEVEN Ministers – an unprecedented number – the size of many nineteenth century Cabinets. 

Of the eleven, a majority (six) are unelected and members of the House of Lords (and that excludes Sir (soon to be Lord??) Alan Sugar who is “an advisor” not a Minister (so why does he need a peerage?). 

More significantly, five of the Ministers are also holding posts in other Government Departments: Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Ministry of Defence; Department of Children, Schools and Families; Department of Communities and Local Government; and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. 

This gives the First Secretary of State what has been described to me as a “tentacular” reach into most of the rest of the Government. 

And, of course, as Lord President he presides over meetings of the Privy Council. 

Not bad for a former Lambeth Councillor. 

There is nothing that a few years as a member of a London Borough Council does not equip you to do …..

Sunday
Jun 7,2009

The European Election results are awful for Labour across the country so far.  However, I cannot help but notice that the results in London were still bad for Labour but not anything like as bad as those in Wales, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber.  So far, the fall in the share of the vote in London is the lowest recorded in any region.  London is, of course, different, but maybe there is something about the London Labour Party that is working better with the electorate ….

Friday
Jun 5,2009

I have recently got home to North London from speaking at a meeting of Lewisham East Labour Party.  The meeting was fixed months ago and at that time there was no indication that the political scene would be quite so volatile, so the topic I had originally been asked to speak on – “the outlook for the London Council elections in 2010” – was hardly relevant.  Instead, I talked about the events of the last few weeks, leading up to today’s reshuffle and the implications of the local election results emerging since last night.

The discussion was lively and the prevailing message was that the disunity amongst members of the Parliamentary Labour Party must not continue.  Party members were divided on what they wanted to happen next, but all were clear that the crisis around the Leadership must be resolved within days.

Some commentators are tonight, of course, saying that following the reshuffle the Leadership crisis is over.  I am not so sure.  The European election votes have yet to be counted and it will be critical what the mood is when MPs return to Westminster on Monday and, in particular, what happens at the meeting that evening of the Parliamentary Labour Party (at which Gordon Brown will be speaking).  I wouldn’t like to predict how the next 72 hours will play out, but what I am clear about is that – whatever else happens – Lewisham East Labour Party members are right: the lack of unity must not be allowed to go on beyond the next few days.

Friday
Jun 5,2009

Stuart Drummond, whose main claim to fame when he was first elected was that he dressed up in a monkey suit as mascot of the local football team, has been reelected comfortably as Mayor of Hartlepool for a third term.

When he was first elected, his election was portrayed as showing that the idea of directly-elected Mayors was a joke.  Certainly, his election was intended by local people as a protest against the main political parties.  However, they have since voted for him again twice, which rather suggests that he is getting something right.  His main challenger this time was also an independent – the boss of a local taxi firm.  The Labour candidate came third and the Conservative seventh after UKIP, the BNP and another independent.

Certainly, his re-election means that his original election can no longer be used as an argument that directly-elected Mayoral systems will automatically result in electors voting frivolously.

Thursday
Jun 4,2009

I have just received the following email:

“Please add your names by 10PM BST and forward to the address if you support the following.
 
 Dear Gordon,
Over the last 12 years in government, and before, you have made an enormous contribution to this country and to the Labour Party, and this is very widely acknowledged.
However we are writing now because we believe that in the current political situation, you can best serve the Labour Party and the country by stepping down as party leader and Prime Minister, and so allowing the party to choose a new leader to take us into the next general election.
Yours XXXX
 
Failure to do so will mean no seat is safe and a bigger Tory victory than would otherwise be the case. ”

It purports to be from Alistair Darling, but from a Googlemail address and it seems to have been sent indiscriminately to all Members of Parliament.

So I assume it’s a hoax …..

Thursday
Jun 4,2009

I have just been to vote in the European elections (peers can vote in local elections and elections for the European Parliament, but not for the UK Parliament).  It was quite busy.  I’ve certainly known that polling station much quieter at 9am on an election day.

Maybe the voter turnout is going to be rather higher than was being predicted.  I am not sure who that will benefit, but I suspect for once a higher turnout will not be much help to the Labour Party.  I am not sure that the beneficiaries will be the Conservatives either, but we will see.  The only Party represented outside the polling station were the Greens …….

Friday
May 29,2009

I have already commented on how the Obama administration takes the cyber threat seriously.  Now there is more evidence.  While it is not yet clear, what the substance will be in this latest announcement – it may be no more than recreating a role that existed under President Clinton – there is no doubt that President Obama is taking the whole issue much more seriously than the UK Government.

Given the abundent evidence of an increasing threat to the critical national infrastructure from cyber attacks – whether from teenage delinquent-type cyber-nerds, organised crime, foreign governments or terrorists – the respose in the UK has so far been extremely limited.  Yes, money was eventually found to support a national Police-E-Crime Unit based at New Scotland Yard, and yes, the Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure now at least acknowledges that the cyber-threat is an issue.  However, this falls a long way short of a coherent strategy to protect the UK’s interests.

Thursday
May 28,2009

The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Mayor Boris Johnson is in the Chair.

Before the discussion of the G20 protests and the Tamil demonstrations in Parliament Square could begin, however, John Biggs AM – in full Mr Grumpy mode, although.  he was smiling – set a high moral tone, noting that one of the Mayor’s flunkeys had brought him his morning latte (or whatever it was) and that he (John Biggs) was still humble enough to make his own tea.

As the meeting went on, however, the Authority got quite tangled up on consistency: were the police too “rough” with the G20 demonstrators but being too “lax” with the Tamils?  How do you police Parliament Square if people are determined to protest and want to be arrested to fuel the publicity for their protest?  Should the legislation governing the area round Parliament be changed (apparently representations from the Mayor’s Office have led to the protestors moving from the GLA-controlled part of the Square to the Westminster City Council-controlled part and taking down their catering tent)?  No conclusions were reached.  It will all be referred to the new MPA Civil Liberties Panel that is to be set up.

This new Civil Liberties Panel is going to be an interesting group.  The Panel was the idea of Uber-Vice Chair Kit Malthouse AM – no doubt it seemed like a jolly wheeze when it was first proposed (it would demonstrate the Conservative Party’s new-found enthusiasm for human rights and civil liberties and would be a convenient long-grass repository for difficult issues).  However, the Panel is acquiring greater prominence as the weeks go on.  There are now enormous expectations on what it will achieve and its agenda grows meeting by meeting. 

Yet, the terms of reference are only being approved at this meeting of the Authority and its membership (and even its size – the paper proposes a limit of six members) will not be confirmed until 25th June.  Critically who will chair it?  It is difficult to see Uber-Vice Chair Kit Malthouse being happy to cede ontrol of the Panel to a Labour, LibDem or Green politician and he doesn’t have much time for the Independent members.  However, would one of the Conservative members be acceptable to the rest of the Authority.  It looks increasingly likely that the Uber-Vice Chair may have to do it himself.