Scottish Executive Committee Report Oct 2012

The October meeting of the Scottish Executive Committee was an additional meeting, but there was no shortage of issues for debate.

Johann Lamont’s leader’s report formed the basis for most discussion. She rightly focused on what had been a bad period for the SNP, arguing that trust in Alex Salmond had been undermined by his actions. Dumping the NATO policy was the championing of expediency over principle, followed by the Trump film and finally the EU legal advice debacle. Catherine Stihler took a bow for her part in that. MEP’s don’t normally get much attention in the party and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the deselection process kicking off.

There was a broad welcome for the establishment of the Devolution Commission, even if it has taken some time to get started. Johann’s emphasis was on looking at where power best lies to achieve a purpose. It was important to develop a positive vision of what a Labour Scotland would look like. Amen to that!

That led on to her ‘something for nothing’ speech. She argued that we had to shift the debate and the SNP could not be allowed to get away with kidding on that all was fine. She highlighted NHS finances, college cuts, school materials and others as examples of how our public services are being starved of resources. There was a long discussion around this with some comrades critical of the tactics and others the principle. The language, timing, follow up and no mention of taxation were common criticisms. Others defended particular universal services and others the principle. Of course there has been no change in policy on these issues, that’s for the policy process, and there was a broad consensus on the need to focus on how to take the debate forward.

Other reports were a bit limited after this debate. Margaret Curran could report on some bad weeks for the Tories as well, following plebgate et al. There was a discussion around Bills of importance to Scotland including energy and pensions. Catherine Stihler reported on the EU procurement review, an important part of promoting the living wage in Scotland.

Implementation of the Review of Labour in Scotland plan was largely put off until the November away day. Still some big issues to resolve here, including candidate selection procedures.

 

Scottish Executive Committee Report Sep 2012

The September SEC was a fairly quiet affair. Sadly, still no substantive progress on the Devolution Commission which is now scheduled for October. Several members expressed concern over the delay and the damage not having a coherent devolution proposition will do to the no campaign. While the yes campaign may be floundering, Labour needs to have its positive message clearly mapped out on extended devolution.

At Westminster the ConDem reshuffle was clearly a shift to the right, demonstrating Cameron’s weak position in his own party. Labour had been focussing on the Enterprise Bill and the attack on employment rights. Interestingly, SNP MPs have been quiet on this point. Maybe Indy Scotland won’t quite be the socialist nirvana some are seeking to portray! Thanks to Labour a wide range of organisations are now talking about jobs and growth rather than supporting austerity.

The Holyrood focus was on the legislative programme. The Procurement Bill in particular gets weaker at every iteration, particularly on social issues and the living wage. Members identified a strong centralising theme in the policy and legislation of the Scottish Government. More on this in Dave Watson’s blog.

This theme was taken up in local government reports particularly over care integration. The Labour group is taking a strong line in defence of local democracy. Quango appointees are not equal to democratically elected councillors. As we move into the budget cycle even greater concerns over the effect further cuts will have on jobs and services. Housing benefit cuts and the broader welfare cuts were also a concern in questions.

Europe reports highlighted the Scottish Government’s avoidance of FoI requests on their legal advice regarding EU accession. They are appealing their own Commissioner’s decision, on the narrowest of points, that they had to confirm the existence of such advice. More wasted scarce taxpayer pounds. This simply confirms the SNP’s very poor record on freedom of information. There are some positives with Barossa now talking about social policy, an agenda that was being lost in the EU’s version of austerity. Progress on procurement issues remains slow and likely to be drawn out for some time.

On matters internal, there was an update on the Review of labour in Scotland action plan. CLP reorganisations were progressing and there was progress in identifying the new communications and research base in Edinburgh. A Best Practice award scheme was agreed along with outline CLP development plans. The review will be considered in more detail at the November awayday.

Arrangements for Scottish delegates attending UK Labour Conference at the end of this month were agreed and these will be publicised, including the Scottish reception.

Finally, the SEC agreed to write to the Glasgow City Labour Group urging them to support the STUC’s request for access to George Square for the October 20 march and rally. Members recognising the historic role of George Square as a place of protest. It is important that Scottish Labour is seen to be active at the event.

 

New CLPs based on Scottish Parliament area – party guidance

Members will be invited to meetings over the next couple of months to consider how their new CLP, based on Scottish Parliament constituencies, will be organised. The Scottish Executive Committee has agreed guidance for the new CLPs.  Strengthening our local parties – CLP Reorganisation Guidance. (pdf)

The guidance is fairly straightforward, but some key points include:

  • While the guidance recommends an all member CLP model, the rules (Appendix 1) still provide for the branch delegate model for those CLPs who are strong enough to maintain it. As at present, this does not preclude all member meetings.
  • The guidance is very clear that CLPs can organise on the basis of branches (Page 11), contrary to popular myth that this reorganisation does away with party branches.
  • Trade unions and other affiliated organisations will continue to affiliate and send delegates on their branch basis. The delegates from affiliated organisations will elect up to 5 members of the Executive Committee.
  • While the Executive Committee takes a larger role in the day to day management of the CLP, it is still accountable to the CLP meeting or GC.
  • The Local Campaign Committees that replace Local Government Committees have a degree of flexibility as set out in the guidance (p29). If you believe your current structures work well, they can largely be replicated within the scope of this guidance.

LabourList on the crisis of working class representation

Working class candidates need genuine access to the political system – encouragement is not enough

There is a crisis of working class representation in Parliament. While there is no shortage of talented working class people the route to parliament is crowded by sharp elbowed middle class folk. There needs to be serious and drastic action to address this situation – we need shortlists that aim to address the lack of working class representation within the Labour Party in parliament. This would go some way to solving one of the root causes of the problem: ordinary people seeing politics as a completely different world, a world they can never access.

Who can blame people for thinking this? Take the most recent PMQs for example. It felt like watching “Oxford Union Plus”. David Cameron was flanked by Nick Clegg and Andrew Mitchell while Ed Miliband was flanked by Ed Balls and Harriet Harman. All – except Miliband – attended expensive fee-paying secondary schools and all – with the exception of Harman – are Oxbridge graduates. This is only a small example the difference between ordinary people and the political class but the broader numbers underline the disparity. Of the 2010 intake of MPs over a third went to fee paying schools, 91% are university graduates and a third went to Oxbridge. To put this in context only 25% of the UK adult population has a degree.

It is heartening that there are attempts within the party to address this problem: the programme, led by Jon Trickett, to identify working class candidates; the Labour Diversity Fund will help candidates without the means to fight expensive campaigns; the Future Candidates Programme will provide training and support to those wishing to become involved in campaigning and politics. As important as these programmes are they do not go far enough. There is more absent from the picture than training and support. People need to believe that a career in politics is actually a viable option for them.  It is a problem that reflects one of the reasons for poor state school representation at Oxbridge. It is not that state school pupils are not talented enough to get into Oxbridge – they are. Most do not see it as a possibility so they do not apply.

This is why shortlists which focus on increasing working class representation could be very effective. They would open a road into the political world that is currently blocked by a traffic jam of special advisers, parliamentary researchers, think tank types and lobbyists. Shortlists may be a brutal solution but the situation is dire and the success of all-woman shortlists in improving the gender balance of MPs shows they work. There would be some obvious challenges in bringing about the introduction of such shortlists. In particular, setting eligibility criteria would be difficult and controversial. However, these problems can be overcome and shortlists made a reality if there is a will to do so.

Shortlists are far from an ideal solution but given the entrenched nature of the problem a solution that works, even if imperfect, is needed. Shortlists would be a corrective to Labour Party selection processes that have consistently failed to widen participation and to reflect the country the party claims to represent. Such shortlists would show working class people that parliamentary selection is not the preserve of the middle class and that parliament is not a talking shop for the fortunate.  They would also be good for the Labour Party itself. The pool of talent the party currently draws from for parliamentary candidates is too narrow. Growing the diversity of people, views and backgrounds available can only strengthen the party’s connection with the people it aims to represent.

 

from LabourList 23 July 2012

LabourList on business candidates

Party to seek more candidates from the business community – whether they are members or not

At Labour’s first annual business reception – which we told you about yesterday– the party will unveil a plan to gain more councillors and MPs from the business community, through the future candidates programme. So far the programme has been mainly aimed at getting more working class and other under-represented groups into elected office – but that has now been expanded. According to the party:

“A special stream of the party’s Future Candidates Programme will be launched for applicants with business backgrounds. This will involve matching applicants with a mentor who is a senior Labour representative, for example an MP.

 

This will complement the representatives of business already in Labour’s ranks in Parliament and elsewhere. Every member of Labour’s shadow Business, Innovation and Skills team in the House of Commons has worked in business or run their own firm.

Potential applicants do not need to be Labour Party members to apply, but they should share Labour values and be willing to join if selected to take part in the programme. “

Whilst Labour does lack business experience in the PLP, that last sentence might be a cause of concern for some members. Joining a party to become a candidate isn’t necessarily the best way to get the best MPs and councillors…

Related posts:

  1. A business party must be a better party
  2. Becoming the Party of business
  3. Dear leadership candidates: The party comes first
  4. After Ian Gibson, do party members still count?
  5. Labour to hold first “annual business reception”

 

from LabourList 17 July 2012