Peter Tatchell; a secular saint?

Tonight saw Channel 4 broadcast Peter Tatchell’s documentary, The Trouble With The Pope, which was a sober, consider documentary making a strong case as to why Joe Ratzinger isn’t someone who should be welcomed with open arms to the UK this week.  

Many were expecting a vociferous and angry attack, not only on Joe Ratzinger but also on Catholics, but Peter put forward his argument in a quiet, considered way, that let the viewer (those of sound mind at least) develop their own sense of anger towards Ratzinger and toward the Vatican.  He pointed to how Ratzinger had been a reformer and a liberal in his earlier years.  He also put forward what action he would like from the Vatican, rather than simply writing off the Catholic community he asked that the church become more liberal towards sexual inclination, stopped lying about condoms and Aids and gave over all evidence of abuse by priests to secular authorities in the relevant countries (and that’s every country the Vatican’s tendrils stretch across, such is the commonality of the abuse).  

Peter met people who through he was evil due to his homosexuality, who were causing poverty by spreading lies about contraception and he met victims of abuse, without ever losing his temper. I was of course, shouting at the screen.  

I think it’s time that we all paused for a moment and gave Peter a round of applause.  To many he may be seen as an uber-troller, forever getting in faces, getting angry, making uncomfortable scenes.  Sometimes his methods are distasteful, I personally don’t agree with outing (http://www.petertatchell.net/outing/defence.htm).  However, I haven’t had to suffer the horrors of a society that discriminates against me merely because of my sexual inclination.  

However, Peter has always been brave.  For instance, when he went to Moscow’s Gay Pride, knowing full well that not only would the Moscow police not protect him and his fellow marchers (including Richard Fairbrass, quite brilliantly), that they’d actively encourage violence from an ultra-violent skinhead and fascist community of gangs who don’t only rough people up, but frequently cause serious injury and death towards gays, immigrants and well, anyone they consider to be at the ‘fringes’ of society.  

Then there was when he went up against Nick Griffin. Again facing down his  

BNP: a nose for trouble

BNP: a nose for trouble

goons knowing that, even with the cameras there, the BNP have no compunction in using violence against anyone who stands against them as this journalist found out: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7027047.ece  

Tatchell after Mugabe's goons

Mugabe's batmen left Tatchell bloody, bruised and injured

Then there’s Mugabe who left Tatchell bloody, bruised and injured.  

Tatchell has even suffered more personal abuse closer to home, such as in his bid to become a Labour MP in Southwark in the 80s, in which he was victim of a nasty homophobic campaign by the Lib Dem darling himself, Simon Hughes (who has since issued one of the sincerest apologies in political history to be fair) – http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-349.html/ 
In tonight’s documentary Peter never spoke negatively about Catholicism, only about the hypocrisy and hatefulness of Joe Ratzinger and of the Vatican. Indeed, Peter’s non-violent protest, often in the face of genuine danger is the kind of thing one reads about the early christians doing.  Maybe catholics should think about that before they accuse him again of attacking their church.  For me, as an atheist* who believes in social justice and the equality of all, Peter Tatchell has a strong case  for being a secular saint.
*I’m actually agnostic but as there’s no evidence whatever of a God of any religion in every meaningful way I am an atheist

 

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A few words about Jerome

I hope nobody minds but I just wanted to share some thoughts about  a friend.  A few days ago I received the awful news that my friend Jerome had passed away, and I just wanted the world to know a few things about him.

I was deeply fond of Jerome and always had a brilliant time when he came over for one of our ‘boys nights’ which consisted of drinking, watching footy (he was of course a fellow Arsenal fan, like all the best), playing PS3 and putting the world to rights.

It’s not hyperbole to say that I had an incredible amount of respect and admiration for Jerome.  He had several brilliant qualities that I most like in others but that are also incredibly uncommon (I certainly can only aspire to them).

Jerome always had time to help people. This wasn’t just the odd bit of advice (but trust me, he was good for that), but he’d actually physically put his shoulder to the wheel when someone needed a hand.  He was incredibly knowledgeable about technology and about  TV and sound production, and he used this knowledge to help others. I’ve lost count of the number of people who had Jerome turn up at their house and help them fix stuff, install stuff, teach them to use software etc. If you needed a hand, he’d just rock up  and help.

In fact, many people will have been guests at the flat that Rory and I lived in on Kilburn High Road, and it was Jerome who helped us find that flat by introducing us to our brilliant former landlady Fran.  I don’t think I know of someone who he didn’t help.

The news that he’d passed on was genuinely devestating.  My heart goes out to Geri and to the others who were closest to him, I just wanted to say a few words to acknowledge the passing of a man I thought was awesome, and who, because of his kindess, a man I’m not ashamed to admit I genuinely looked up to.  I know that there are a large number of people who feel the same way.

I can’t believe he’s no longer with us.  There’ll be a gap in the fridge for champions league games that won’t go unnoticed and speculating about the finale of award winning Sci Fi spectaculars just won’t be the same without him.

So long Jerome x

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Libertarians; we didn’t start the fire

Last night I find myself in a discussion with some libertarians and anarchists.

They’re quite a funny old bunch and despite the many lessons of history, and the fact they’re communicating on a medium invented at CERN, which receives billions in tax-payers money they seem quite happy to organise themselves into groups and troll around the interweb despite the irony of doing so.

Some of them are just plain old selfish bastards who resent having to pay tax, and others seem to see the state as arbiters of oppression and violence who make war. To some extent I can sympathise with the latter, our party went way too far in removing some civil liberties, not least the innocent civilians who, regardless of whether or not the wars were right or wrong or legal or not, were needlessly killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The state still tells us a lot of what we can do, what we can put in our bodies, when we can do some things like go for a drink or food, and a whole host of other things that frankly have sod all to do with government be they central or local.

However, much as I want a very different state, I do want a state and the reasons why can best be demonstrated using what I call the ‘fire engine test’.

Let’s imagine there is no state, and you’ve built a house (yourself or maybe bartered some mushrooms found near your house to get someone else to build it for you), let’s imagine you aren’t in some violent dispute with a new neighbour who has just rocked up and built a house right next to yours but a little closer to the mushroom patch leaving you no recourse with planning (as it doesn’t exist) and therefore using the pitchfork you have which you bartered from the blacksmith (obviously heavy industry can’t really exist without money so we’d be taking some steps backward technologically) as a weapon to defend home.

Let’s even imagine that the national grid can indeed function on allotment veg and so can the phones.

So we’re assuming you’re having a peaceful life, you’ve learned to be self-sufficient, and your garden looks quite nice.

Now, sorry to point this out my old chum but your house is on fire. Fuck me,  it’s up in smoke but who cares, just build a new one and without planning requirements you can even put on that tasteful stone cladding this time. Oh hang on, your family is in the house, and you still like them.  This is the point for you to go into your home and find that flammable piece of paper with the Fire Busters phone number on it (no 999 after all) and give them a call (I know, hoping they had a phone system that would work with yours). You tell them where you live; no postcodes as there’s no state to organise that kind of pointless rubbish, but the mushroom patch is well known so they know how to get there. So we’re conceding a lot here but there are 3 questions I can’t answer:

– Without properly funded roads how do they get to you?

– If they arrive are we hoping they’ve brought enough water as there won’t be a mains supply? (Which is a double whammy as on the dirt tracks the extra weight of the water would probably result in the engine becoming bogged down)

– Then how are you going to pay them when they’ve put the fire out?

If anyone can answer these questions they win a prize which is the right to fuck off to some crappy little island somewhere whilst the rest of us get on with being sane. Obviously they’ll have to build their own boats as the island won’t have an airfield or a proper dock, but should they make it good luck to them. I’m going for a nice walk on a state-built path and I’m going to enjoy it.

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Filed under Civil Liberties, Libertarians, Nutters, The Wars

Missing In Inaction

Where the hell is the Labour Party?

In the last few days we have seen the following:

1) The Conservative / Libertarian Democrats pull apart our entire system of government finance irreversibly
2) The Con / Lib pact making their pledge to not put children in detention centres get closer to reality by not putting them in detention centres, IN THE UK, but instead sending them to ‘reintegration centres’
3) Our economic record that managed an unprecedented record of 11 years of GDP growth, near full employment and maintained the moral and economic high ground on how we managed to avoid a depression whilst the western economy looked set to go into full on depression being pulled apart by hacks, Tories and those bearded Libertarians without censure
4)  The Conservatives and their clammy-thighed yellow chums gerrymandering our system of government

So where’s the party? These people are changing things, important things, without even a whiff of opposition in the media or probably even in the hearts of many who make up the PLP. Not fighting now doesn’t only prevent us from power, but it means that people have less, people will end up on the streets, people will end up hungry, people will end up sick, people will end up dead.  So, all we can do is talk about activating activists and get some applause at a scones party by a nice group hosted by a nice group of future ac  (who someone have 2 votes if they’re also Labour members).

Our country is being savaged at the moment, but we’re too busy personifying magnolia to help the people who the Tories are really starting to get their teeth into (with their stump-nether-regioned bearded friends), and we’ll not only not be elected, but we’ll also hurt ‘real people’

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I Fought The Laws…

Obviously, it’s imperative for the good of all mankind that I give my opinion on David Laws so I’m going to.

He has to go.

David Laws is in a long-term relationship and renting a room from his partner, this is against the rules, it’s dishonest, and I consider this to be fraudulent even if the law doesn’t agree with me.

£40,000 isn’t a huge amount of money in the grander scheme of things, but helping your partner pay their mortgage at the tax payer’s expense whilst literally millions of Londoners can’t afford to get on the property ladder is not acceptable.

Keeping one’s relationship a secret is no reason for financial dishonesty, and as many have pointed out, if he were claiming benefits he’d now find himself on the wrong side of the law with a fine and a prison sentence: http://benefitfraud.blogspot.com/2010/02/slow-investigation-of-single-person.html .  In his statement, he says that he was motivated by his desire for privacy, not greed, but surely if this was the case he would have simply not claimed? He could certainly afford not to claim.

His position as one of the key protagonists in government cuts is completely untenable, he now has no credibility to ask the British public to tighten their belts, and this level of financial irregularity should mean that he’s never let near any kind of budget again, let alone the giant excel spreadsheet of the UK Government.

What’s worse though, is that this was an MP who campaigned vociferously on a ‘clean politics’ ticket, as part of a Liberal Democrat party that claimed it was ‘different’, was ‘clean’,  and would introduce a ‘new politics’.  Laws himself claimed to be whiter than white, criticized other MPs and then even went on to use the Yoevil Lib Dems’ website to boast about the fact that, unlike other MPs, he had not had to pay back any of his expenses: http://www.yeovil-libdems.org.uk/news/press/1305.htm – a boast he made knowing that it was dishonest, knowing that he was breaking the rules.

Laws has failed the test of honesty, of probity and of transparency, his theft of £40,000 to line his partner’s pockets means he has to go.  If Cameron and Clegg fail to take action this will be a double failure of ‘new politics’, and will quickly take the shine off this coalition.

This brings me on to the ConDems.  It’s been interesting to see how cosy the cheerleaders are for both parties. Tories hacks and bloggers have rushed to Laws’ aid, even having the audacity to brand those criticising Laws as homophobic (in the same week that Grayling was elevated to the Privvy Council and IDS appointed Stroud as an aide). 

It’s the behaviour of the Lib Dem activists that has disappointed me most.  The Liberals bandy words like ‘tribalism’ around on a regular basis, particularly at Labour supporters. Yet I’ve not seen a single Liberal Democrat admit that Laws has done anything wrong.  Their defences of Laws have included the following:

Laws wanted to protect his privacy
I can understand that Laws may not have wanted to reveal details of his relationship to the public, or to some family and friends, and though society has moved on in terms of sexual equality (props to Labour deserved), even I know people who have kept their sexuality from family members.  So I do sympathise. But if you want to keep your partnership private you should keep your partner off the accounts.  You do not help him generate asset wealth by having the tax payer contribute towards his mortgage.

Also, the issue of privacy is one that everyone entering politics must surely consider? One of the reasons that I pause before throwing myself into a high profile political life is because I value my privacy (and because I’m a dislikeable twat).

And then consider the privacy of a benefit claimant? There isn’t a tick box for ‘private’ under living status on any of the benefits forms as far as I know.  The only solution for the plebs that may want to maintain privacy is to simply not claim, which brings me onto…

Laws Had To Do This So He Didn’t Out Himself
I’m absolutely convinced that this is not the case.  Firstly, he could simply have not claimed, he can certainly afford to and this would be the only way out for someone on the breadline living on benefits.  However, there must have been another solution, but none of these solutions would have seen him lining his partner’s pockets with £40,000.

Laws Was Saving Tax Payers Money
This is total and utter bunkum.  Laws was renting a room in Kennington from his partner for £950pcm.  In a 5 minute search I identified entire flats with gardens that were available for less, some of them even look quite nice such as this one: http://www.findaproperty.com/displayprop.aspx?edid=00&salerent=1&pid=721086 . So if this is his ideas of ‘saving money’ then there’s absolutely no way he is competent to hold the purse strings of the nation.

This Wasn’t Laws’ Partner
Well this would insinuate that a homosexual relationship is not equal to a straight one and is frankly offensive.

Economic Stability Depends On It
This ‘get out of jail free’ card has to be nipped in the bud right now.  Economic stability depends on having credible trustworthy people heading up the treasury, Laws’ behaviour has proven that he is neither.  Besides, I thought Vince Cable was the saviour?

And the one that the Liberals are turning to most: Well What About Labour?
So David Laws defrauds the tax payer of tens of thousand of pounds and what do the Liberals do?  Have a moan about Labour MPs.  How does £40,000 stand up next to Jacquie Smith’s £8 that it was claimed was spent by her husband which the Liberals were delirious about?  But their rhetoric has even included attacking the MPs receiving Legal Aid as a response.

What Liberals fail to understand is that many supporters of both Labour and the Conservatives were horrified by the expenses scandal. I was unable to campaign for Labour on principle for MPs that hadn’t even broken the rules, but had claimed second homes allowance even though they were representing London constituencies, and have praised Libs such as Sarah Teather, who didn’t claim second homes, and who even used public transport.  Many of us called for MPs to be deselected and Ministers to stand down.  I have yet to see a single Liberal do this for what is a massive abuse of the system and a breaking of the law.

The lesson the Liberals are going to have to learn is that being in government means being accountable, which is something they’ve had no experience of whilst heckling both sides.  Enjoy that accountability whilst it lasts.

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Before we start, we need to stop

So now we find ourselves in opposition.  This is a chance for us to reflect, to refresh and adapt in order to not only win a full majority in the next election, but for us to use that majority to make Britain a better country, a fairer country which supports those in need and gives each and every one the chance to succeed, whatever success is to that person, regardless of gender, class, colour, sexual inclination or lifestyle choice.  We must create a meritocracy in the truest sense of the word, as this not only is the fairest way, but if you really believe in the market then it is the best way.

The defeat has hurt, but despite fears (or in the case of much of the media, hope) that we would be wiped out we have stayed in touch.  We have lost a vast number of seats but we still lie second in terms of seats and votes.  Indeed, in the Local Government elections we managed to make gains, it’s clear that despite the best efforts of the media, Ashcroft and in so many ways, ourselves, the Labour Party is still one that is supported by millions and trusted by millions more.

So we have a chance. As I say, not just a chance to get back into government, but a chance to make changes for the better when we are back in government.  However, in order for this to happen we need to take this opportunity to make changes to ourselves.  We need to understand what people love about our party, what they like about it, what their expectations are, but we also need to understand our mistakes, our errors, what we’ve done wrong.  I think it’s clear that in many ways we ended up more in the business of government than in the business of being Labour, and in many respects we have lost our way.

What did we get wrong?  Well below is a lengthy (yet still not exhaustive, cripes I can go on), badly written and poorly thought out rambling prose that outlines some of the things we need to consider:

The Campaign
My views on this are covered my views on the campaign in this blog: https://drummerboyblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/ourcampaig/

Civil Rights
I feel we lost sight of something that is a key pillar of the Labour movement, and this is that people are fundamentally good.  When Tony Blair came to office he promised to be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime, but not ‘tough on everyone in case they might carry out a crime’.  Labour is now viewed by many as the party of the police state and this is a very sorry state of affairs.  We must review our strategy and our policy in relation to civil liberties. Of course I.D. cards are now dead (and I would have gone to prison rather than carry one), but areas of policy around watching, snooping and tracking people, keeping and their behaviour and then keeping databases on them have to be completely rethought out and in my view, simply got rid of.

We need to go further than just not taking civil rights away, we need to become the party that actively promotes freedom of the individual. 

This has to start from childhood, every child’s freedom of religion, freedom to receive a fully rounded education and progressive sex education programme.  In the interests of liberty, our party (and therefore our next government) must spend much less time cosying up to religious interest groups and to stop making concessions to them when passing laws against discrimination and we need to push forward against the growing influence from conservatism.

There are many other areas of civil liberties, (take AJ’s rows with David Nutt) where Labour have been heavy handed and conservative, and a full debate on the freedoms and rights that we should have, and the responsibilities that will be expected in return is key, and the results of this debate should make up a Bill of Rights for British Citizens, though of course that means we must be citizens first which brings me onto…

Electoral & Constitutional Reform
Firstly, we didn’t do enough to promote what we’d achieved in government in this area.  The removal of Hereditary Peers, the setting up assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London were great moves.  I guess we couldn’t shout about our achievements as our programme of electoral reform had stalled.  We stopped short of introducing a fully elected second chamber and this was a complete failure which will damage us going forward, the ConDem coalition could steal a march on us here and that will leave an indelible mark in the opinions of the electorate and will allow both parties to deliver a strong key message in forthcoming elections.

So how do we make ourselves the party that is for Electoral and Constitutional Reform? Do we need to be that party? Is reform needed? I guess we need to see what this Government does, maybe they’ll get all the reforms through and we’ll need make no further changes, though I doubt it.  I don’t have the answers. My personal view is that Lower Chamber should not use PR, and should instead use AV in order to maintain a constituency link.  The second chamber should return members based on region and should use full PR, even if that gives us some distasteful results.  After all, Griffin’s not done brilliantly now he’s an ‘official politician’.  I see the second chamber also playing a role in representing interests and groups, a house of specialists if you will, and a house where communities that aren’t set out by constituency border can also seek representation (see the blog about reorganising Labour and apply that I guess).

Personally, I want to see us as a republic with an elected Head of State, I find the idea of being a subject offensive, and this isn’t aided by the particular family we find ourselves stuck with as a monarchy being entirely loathsome.  Sadly, I cannot see us being able to remove the Monarch completely, but we can introduce reforms.  Firstly, we can trim the role of the monarch to being entirely cosmetic.  We’ve seen the ludicrous turn of events where we had to ‘activate the Queen’ and it’s nonsense, if we want to be a democracy they must play no role whatever in government, ceremonial or not.  Therefore, if we must keep the monarch they should be stripped of all constitutional power, their estate must be stripped back (including property and civil list) and their role should be confined to one of being an international ambassador.

However, the bigger issue here is that we are still subjects.  We must become full citizens with a bill of citizens’ rights and responsibilities enshrined in law.  What this is to include is up for debate, but I’d be keen to hear what other people think it should include.

Foreign Policy & the Wars
Now mentioning the wars tend to bring about the kind of BBC Have Your Say nonsense that I hate most about the internet, and no doubt if anyone bothers reading this the comments section will be filled with the kind of clever word-plays and unsupported allegations that this debate always brings about. These are that Nu-Liar-Bore, Tony BLIAR and Gordon the MORON are war criminals.  They’re not war criminals.

However, regardless of this Labour did take the country into an unpopular war using shitty evidence and justifications.  I believe that had Blair not made claims about WMD and had been honest about why he believed the regime needed to be toppled the opposition to this war would have been less vociferous, but still strident nonetheless.  Personally, I’m not opposed to interventionist foreign policy in order to topple murderous dictatorships, but it’s difficult to do that in one country and then be chummy with another despot from the country next door.

We then didn’t help ourselves by either allowing torture or not properly dealing with accusations of torture in the name of the ‘War On Terror’ and then being ludicrously one-sided around issues in the region.

I’m not sure how we deal with this.  We need to draw a line under the war and that maybe admitting our mistakes and apologising for them.  Blair’s never going to do this, but without the chalice of office around his neck maybe Gordon may be able to point to mistakes and make suggestions on what could have been better. We may also have to accept that we may not be able to elect a leader who is associated with the war, which could make a former Foreign Secretary a bad choice, unless he’s prepared to walk the line of a potentially career ending mea culpa.

Going forward we certainly need to set out the criteria for our withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan, and in order to do this we have to understand what our objectives actually are. Is it stable democracy in both countries? If so (and I hope it is) then we could have troops stationed in both countries for some time.  Anything less will be a failure in my opinion.

However, this still leaves the question that we need to answer.  What do we want Britain to be in the larger world?  Do we need to let go of the myth that we are ‘Great’?  Do we need to be more isolationist, or more outward looking as a friend to countries all over the world?  Do we need to be closer to Europe or the USA, or (as I believe) become the bridge to Europe, not only for the USA but for many countries with which we enjoy close ties.

Pssst. As an aside, it seems clear to me that the USA is not really interested in Britain anymore (if it ever were), and I’d almost go so far to say that Obama has verged on being disrespectful – but maybe I’m still bitter because his present to Gordon was a Sex and The City box-set and a dog-eared Epcot Centre Guide Book.

Who we are in the world and our place in the international community are important points for debate, and I suggest we start with the question ‘what is it we want from international relations’?

Home & Immigration
As we explore who we want to be in the wider world, this surely means that we need to ask ourselves what we want Britain to be? What is it to be British? For me, I want Britain to be the most or one of the most liberal, most tolerant, most diverse, most caring whilst most pioneering societies in the world.

In order for this to happen we need to start shooting down some bollocks which is being preached unchallenged about immigration.  We do not need to tackle immigration; we need to tackle perceptions of immigration. Now I’m for open borders on principle and in terms of practicality. Firstly we need to accept the following and get the message out there in a meaningful way that our country is not full, our economy and services rely on immigration, our society is getting older and we will need immigration to service this fact and to make the required tax contributions needed to maintain it.

Now a lot of chat about immigration is bigoted, and a lot of it is self interested, and I hate the politics of self interest (which is why I cannot abide the Conservative party).  If there are working class ‘core Labour voters’ who think that immigration is an issue, then maybe they’re Labour because of self interest, just throwing it out there.  If they are, then they’re almost as loathable as a Tory.  Though breadline self-interest is considerably more understandable and defendable than the self-interest of the wealthy, who actively pursue policies to push the tax burden onto those that can least afford it, I still believe that empathy is one of the most admirable traits in a human whether they are rich or poor, and if you have empathy you can’t spout crap about ‘all them Eastern Europeans coming over here, where are they coming from’.

However, a lot of people do lack empathy, do put ‘them and theirs’ first and therefore do need persuading of the benefits of immigration.  A lot of the rhetoric that has come from the party lately has been about fighting or tackling immigration and it’s put the argument backwards (and frankly it pisses me off because it’s right wing nonsense).  We need to tackle this, we need to meet this head on and we need to make our argument, because the argument is there to be made (as anyone who has been following my Twitter feed will have seen me try to demonstrate).

Again though, as a party we need to investigate what our objectives are for British society.  In fact, this is our key question and if we don’t answer it, we’ll just be heading into another election with the winning of the election being our aim.

Personally, I think we need to set ourselves some goals.  I believe we need to strive further towards creating a true meritocracy. I believe we need to set ourselves the goal of having the highest standard of living and the highest minimum standard of living of any country in the world, bar none.

The Economy
Now I happen to believe that the city is a great asset for our economy and fully appreciate that the tax revenues generated will help us make a better Britain for everyone.  However, they’ve fucked us over.  Banks have to be made responsible for digging us out of the hole they dropped is in, they have to make sure that profits are not pushed as quickly as possible out of the companies and into their own pockets and they have to start acting with a bit social conscience.  Another day I’ll touch on the failure of the banking industry to communicate their role in society, but for now Labour need to understand their relationship with banking and with the markets and I believe they need to start by setting out a very clear new stance.  Government exists to serve the people and not the markets.  Whilst I accept the more than vital role that the markets play in the success of our economy, wealthy and influential organisations acting under the guise of ‘the markets’ must not have the right or the power to dictate to democratically elected governments through words or deeds, especially when we’ve just saved their arses .

Don’t get me wrong, people getting stupidly rich is totally acceptable, in fact I openly encourage it.  However, we need to reset our relationship with the markets, in fact I think internationally all governments do.  Therefore I believe Labour’s aim must be to ensure that Britain is not a slave to the markets, but has a more robust approach and seeks to work with the international community to make markets work for us.

We also need a more diverse range of successful revenue generating industries alongside banking and services.  We’re a well educated bunch with a history for leading the way in new technologies and new processes.  It’s not just about making stuff and building stuff in the industrial revolution, it’s also about new ways of organising.  We need to be the pioneering economy.  Our system of taxation and government support has to be geared to making Britain the leader in inventing, developing, delivering and then exporting new patents, new technologies and new processes.

Therefore economically I think, whilst ensuring that our goal for the highest general standard and highest minimum standard of living is our priority, having the economy which also delivers the highest number of self-made wealthy individuals should be top of our priority list.  We need to usher in a new age of entrepreneurial endeavour and success and we need to generate a buzz throughout our society based upon this.

The Environment
Well I believe this is intrinsically linked with the economy.  Again, we need to understand what our objectives are here.  There’s a lot of panic about how we confront the environmental crisis ahead of us (from people who aren’t too stupid to believe that there is one), but I sense an opportunity.  Whilst we’re ushering in a new age of entrepreneurial endeavour we must set our industries and inventors the goal of making Britain the greenest, most energy efficient and energy diverse society in the world whilst not compromising our way or standard of life (hey, I set the bar high), and then export the tech and skills that go with this to the world.

I also feel that a better, greener environment is not just about fighting global warming, it’s about creating greater energy independence for Britain, and therefore allowing us greater independence as a society combined with a reduced need to interfere internationally out of blind self-interest.

However, the greatest benefit will be a better standard of life, cleaner air and streets, hopefully fewer breathing & health problems combined with a skilled workforce generating cold hard cash.  Maybe I’m being idealistic and unrealistic here, but it’s something I’d love to see us pursue.

What now
Firstly, STOP. We need to stop with the initiatives, we need to stop the campaigning, we just need to stop, we need to think, and we need to plan.  And before we start planning, start policy making, start trying to win the next election, and hopefully start being a high quality opposition (for a short time) we have to answer a couple of fundamental questions, without answer to these an election victory will be an empty one, simply for the sake of winning an election.  For me these questions are ‘what is our place in the world’, but the biggest question that we must answer, and without knowing the answer we’ve lost our way is this, what is our objective for society?

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Filed under Activists, Campaign, Civil Liberties, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Election, Foreign Policy, Immigration, Labour, The Wars

Our campaign: we need to organise better in the future

Now I’ve got all that rage out the way it’s time to reflect and I have to say that, though we were badly beaten, I’m surprised that we did as well as we did with the campaign we had.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but from a communications point of view, our campaign was shit.  I work in communications and have supported Labour all my life, and I still don’t know what our key messages were. 

Our communications and marketing strategy must be much improved, not just for the next election, but now, in opposition.  We need to find the right individuals or organisations with the right creative vision to take the party forwards because another election with comms as bad as that will be a missed opportunity.

However, it’s not just the quality of our strategy, our campaign was also badly organised.  It’s 2010 but cold calling, door-stepping and leafleting was our campaign.  We have a massive pool of supporters, but getting them involved went no further than ‘can you hand out some leaflets’, or an e-mail from Peter Mandelson asking for a donation and asking us to tell friends to vote Labour.

I know we can’t match the funds of the Conservative Party but I’m sure we can match their resources.  We have to start by reorganising the structure of the Labour party, to allow everyone to get involved in ways that are exciting to them and useful to us.  The division of the party down constituency lines is important as to a certain extent, doorstepping does work, people need to see their candidates and the local community is important.  However, I think that we need to activate party members rather than recruit activists. If we’re honest, the rosette-wearing activist from any party is a massive turn-off to everyone (no offence), and that style of politics isn’t right for everyone.  As long as the party is organised in this way we’ll continue to have a relatively one dimensional relationship with the electorate.  I say we need more ambassadors, less activists.

We have to engage our members and remember that we cannot arrogantly rely on their support just because they’re already members. We must also remember that, if we do engage them effectively we can do so much more than simply rely on their support.  This means that we need to work not only on our external comms strategy, but we also need a properly planned internal comms strategy. 

I have to say, as a party, I’m not sure if we’re very well organised, as a party member I certainly feel that the party could do a much better job of communicating and interacting with me.  What do other party members think?

Also, communities no longer define themselves by location.  In the modern world, someone’s personal ‘village’ can contain people from all over the world , so organising our party by constituency, whilst representing our electoral system no longer represents our society.

Therefore, I’d like to propose a new additional layer of party organisation, I’d like the party to create groups for Labour members with similar trades or interests to meet both online and in person, to debate and to work together for Labour.  The number and type of groups is limitless really.  However, thinking about my career and interest, when I imagine what the Labour Advertising, Marketing & Media Group could do it’s quite exciting. 

These groups could meet and organise nationally, regionally and locally and would give members a chance to interact with each other and the party.  This would not only give Labour an inside track to the issues and concerns of people from within these industries (and therefore insight and policy ideas) but could also provide a resource of ideas, skills and labour for the campaigns.  It would mean that we could properly brief people in these groups so they could properly answer criticisms, deliver key messages and therefore become an army ambassadors.  Instead of a Business Secretary saying what Labour have done or would do for manufacturing we could have people within manufacturing doing this job within their own business and personal communities, and then giving high quality feedback to the party.  Modern marketing is about conversations rather than old fashioned experience of viewing or watching advertising after all.

Coming specifically on to LAMM Group (it’s got a name, in my head that means it’s real), imagine what this could have done in the election, to have a large number of passionate, intelligent, creative and ORGANISED individuals from advertising, digital, entertainment, maybe even the press, working together to assist in the campaign in ways that actually utilise their skills and about which they are excited?

 We can’t afford to buy media and we’re facing a right wing press, then surely we need to go back to our ideals.  Surely the Labour way is to work co-operatively, to see the best in our members, and to make sure that those with skills get to utilise them?  This way we’ll not only be overcoming the barriers that we face, but it would also be placing our ideals at the very core of how we organise, and how we communicate.

I haven’t thought this through as an idea completely yet so it’s a bit whooly, and I’ve also rather selfishly looked at it from the angle I best understand, so please let me know what you think. I’d be interested in hearing the following such as… What groups do you think we should create? Do groups like this already exist that need promoting? Should we even bother? Do we need to set them up ourselves? Does old fashioned activism work?

Drop a comment in down there and let me know!

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Filed under Activists, Labour