Saturday, June 06, 2009

Labour members lose confidence in Brown

Channel 4 News has performed a survey via YouGov on Labour members' views of Gordon Brown. The key question is this:
How long do you think Gordon should stay as Labour leader?
He should step down immediately 21
He should stay for the time being but step down before the next general election 26
He should lead Labour into the next general election 46
Don’t know 7
So they want him to go 47% to 46%. At least some sections of the Labour party have retained a degree of judgement.

Basildon District - Essex County Council election results detail

The large Conservative vote share District-wide disguises just how close some of the individual results were:

Party Name Seats Elected % of votes
Political party colour Conservative 9 44%
Political party colour Labour 0 16%
Political party colour Liberal Democrat 0 14%
Political party colour British National Party 0 14%
Political party colour UK Independence Party 0 11%
Political party colour English Democrats 0 1%

Friday, June 05, 2009

Conservative victory in Basildon District

Fantastic day for the Conservatives in Basildon District. We won every Essex County Council seat in the District, taking four from Labour and holding 5 of our own, one against a serious challenge from the Liberal Democrats. Labour lost all of their Councillors, including their Group Leader on the County Council. They achieved just 16% of the vote District-wide, which is appalling for them. Overall in Essex they did equally badly, keeping just 1 seat. The Liberal Democrats become the official opposition at County.

All of the results are here.

By the way, the last time that we took every seat in Basildon District was in 1992, the same year that the old Basildon seat's Conservative victory heralded John Major's victory. If you want a historical parallel that is.

++ Sky News is tipping Basildon MP Angela Smith to be promoted in Gordon Brown's reshuffle ++

Thursday, June 04, 2009

James Purnell's letter

Dear Gordon,

We both love the Labour Party. I have worked for it for twenty years and you for far longer. We know we owe it everything and it owes us nothing.

I owe it to our Party to say what I believe no matter how hard that may be. I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more, not less likely.

That would be disastrous for our country. This moment calls for stronger regulation, an active state, better public services, an open democracy. It calls for a Government that measures itself by how it treats the poorest in society. Those are our values, not David Cameron's.

We therefore owe it to our country to give it a real choice. We need to show that we are prepared to fight to be a credible Government and have the courage to offer an alternative future.

I am therefore calling on you to stand aside to give our Party a fighting chance of winning. As such I am resigning from Government.

The Party was here long before us, and we want it to be here long after we have gone. We must do the right thing by it.

I am not seeking the leadership, nor acting with anyone else. My actions are my own considered view, nothing more. If the consensus is that you should continue, then I will support the government loyally from the backbenches. But I do believe that this question now needs to be put.

Thank you for giving me the privilege of serving.


Rt Hon James Purnell MP

I cannot disagree with his analysis as far as it goes. It would have been better if he had mentioned something about the economic crisis that so many of our people are grappling with or the increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan, because those are the real problems. A bad Prime Minister is serious enough, but at this time the impact on our country is magnified many times. That it also damages the Labour party is neither here nor there.

What we need is Gordon Brown gone, and an election.

Voting so far

Based on an hour sitting on a polling station - turnout higher than normal for a European and County election and Conservative support holding up very well. No sign of the Labour party either, which was surprising since they are defending the County seat.

Vote Conservative

Today is polling day for the European and County Council elections here in Basildon District.

For the European elections a vote for the Conservatives is a vote to impede the Federalists in the European parliament and to strengthen the case for a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. That referendum was promised by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who reneged as soon as it seemed opportune. A Conservative government would either have a referendum, or if the treaty had been fully ratified find another way to get us out of it. Labour and the Liberal Democrats think that turning the EU into a de facto state is a marvellous idea, but they don't want you to have a say on the matter. As for the various other contenders, they don't have a coherent platform, just a hope that they can hoover up enough protest votes. Worst of the lot is UKIP, who used their platform from the last European elections to achieve precisely nothing, while two of their MEPs were removed for corruption. Then you have the BNP, who want a fascist revolution but have discovered that wearing suits is better than going around in paramilitary uniforms and shouting. European elections certainly bring out a diversity of political opinion, but that doesn't mean that the elections are unimportant. An MEP is for four years, not just for an election day protest.

For the County elections, we currently have an excellent Essex County Council administration under the very able leadership of Lord Hanningfield. He has given us a low Council Tax, efficient services, and innovative ideas to help our people through the recession. I am constantly struck by the ability and professionalism of the County officers I deal with and this cannot but be a reflection of the political leadership of the County. For this election we would be best served by an increased Conservative majority at County Hall, particularly at the expense of the Labour Party. Here in Basildon District we are cursed with Labour do-nothing County Councillors who are not adept at working for their Divisions. Consequently, these can lose out to areas where the County Councillor is harder working. I hope that we can remove some of those chair-warmers today.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Timetable for Gordon Brown's demise

The Guardian has published a detailed timetable for the removal of Gordon Brown. That this even exists is extraordinary, but once you get past that you can understand why. One of the reasons for Gordon Brown's survival to this point is the apparent lack of a practical process for his removal. So, if you were attempting to do Brown it you need to deal with that issue. Hence the 'Knifing a Labour Prime Minister for Dummies' guide.

It goes like this:

4 June: Local and European election polling day.

5 June: Results from local elections; pressure mounts on Brown.

7 June: European election results expose the full scale of the electoral defeat suffered by Brown.

9 June: The prime minister is forced from office.

10 June: Labour's ruling national executive committee would meet and a new timetable would be announced.

The rebels have told the Guardian they think, and some senior trade union officials have even suggested to them, that the trade union involvement could be cut out altogether.

The advice of the three officials has assured the rebels that their shortened schedule would be "waterproofed" against legal challenge by the prime minister.

11 June: The parliamentary Labour party would meet and nominate their chosen new leader on the Thursday

12 June: Nominations for leader close.

16 June: Leadership ballot papers are distributed.

29 June: Selection of the new leader at a special conference held by the Labour party

2 July: Brown would formally resign and the new prime minister would be installed.

8 July: First prime minister's questions for the new leader

21 July Parliament breaks for the summer recess.

Brown's incomprehension at PMQs

Just finished watching Prime Minister's Questions. David Cameron asked a series of questions about resigning ministers and pointed out that lack of direction of the government. Gordon Brown countered by accusing the Conservatives of not having any policies, and Cameron's comeback was that if we are so bad then why don't you call an election. It was Brown's fixation with policy that was interesting, however. He acted as if matters of leadership and vision were irrelevant to a government and that all is required is that the policy is sound. Of course this is nonsense. Great policy is, well, great but if you cannot command confidence in it then it will never be effectively delivered. People have to get behind even the best plans, and that means they have to have some belief in a government that proposes them. The question is does Brown believe that policy can stand on its own, without the tedious business of actually connecting with people as well or was he just taking that line to get himself out of the hole the government is in? Unfortunately, past experience leads you to option 1, that Brown believes that his brilliant plans can speak for themselves. You would have thought that with Labour knocking 20 in the polls he might have realised the problems with that view.

Nick Clegg actually had the best line in PMQs, 'Labour is finished'. So much for talk of a Lib-Lab pact.

Gordon Brown and morality

Gordon Brown told Andrew Marr on Sunday that the MPs expenses scandal had offended his 'Presbyterian conscience'. It is an odd turn of phrase and suggests that Gordon Brown is quite impressed with his upbringing. Apparently he was taught that lying and stealing are bad, whereas the implication is that the rest of us were not really given that steer. So, he thinks that he exists on a higher moral plane than the rest of us, which may go some way to explaining his unshakable faith in himself. It doesn't explain why his 'Presbyterian conscience' has allowed lies an smears to emenate from no.10 against anyone that the Brown cabal regard as a threat. Or does Brown's superior morality put him above such petty considerations? I have seen that before in politics, people who are so convinced of the rightness of their cause that they can justify all sorts of despicable behaviour. It is interesting that Tom Watson, one of Brown's chief operators, annouonced his resignation yesterday. Watson was one of the architects of Tony Blair's removal and has a very bad reputation as a political thug. He is also a very good example of the disconnect between Gordon Brown's words and deeds. A man with a conscience would not have employed a someone like Tom Watson in a million years.

Government collapse

Three ministers resign two days before a major election, seemingly careless of the damage that must do to Labour's electoral chances. Gordon Brown's government is clearly in crisis, with senior figures leaving regardless of the political consequences, or more likely with a very clear idea of the political consequences. Gordon Brown's game plan for recovering from what are going to be appalling election results on the 4th was a bold reshuffle. What the resigning ministers have done is curtail that strategy by taking the decisions out of the Prime Minister's hands. Gordon Brown cannot act decisively by clearing out the dead wood, if the dead wood has already resigned. One thing about Gordon Brown though, he is resilient. He is the sort of chap that clings on regardless of the consequences to his party or the country, and he clearly does not possess the sort of confidante who could tell him that the game is up. So, unless several more Cabinet Members decide to walk it is still far from certain that Gordon is doomed.

Monday, June 01, 2009

John Baron MP: FOI reveals extent of Government’s conflict of interest over Barn Hall

MP questions Government’s decision given 85% kickback

An FOI request tabled by John Baron MP has revealed that the Government is entitled to 85% of the increased value of the land at Barn Hall following the granting of planning permission. John has written to Hazel Blears demanding that she now re-considers her decision to grant permission given this conflict of interest.

John said:
The whole community was against development – residents, Councillors and MP. The Planning Inspectorate agreed with us. Yet the Government rode roughshod over local democracy and granted permission. The Secretary of State’s decision made little sense at the time, but our FOI showing an 85% kickback now perhaps explains it.

In light of this conflict of interest, I’ve written to Hazel Blears asking her to revisit her decision, otherwise I will ask the Council to re-consider its legal options.
Peter Boynes of the Wickford North Green Action Group said:
I’m horrified to learn of the extent to which the Government will benefit from granting planning permission. 85% of the difference between what the land was sold for and what it is now worth with the planning permission granted is truly enormous – a matter which has never been made public, not even during the public enquiry.

I really do not know what the public is entitled to feel about both the extent of local democracy and the impartiality of planning decisions in this country.

For those who have forgotten this follows Basildon Council's refusal of a planning application, which was supported by a planning inspector, but overruled by the Secretary of State for no good reason that anyone could discern. Well, now we know.