Thursday, 3 November 2011

New Baby, New Blog

Hi followers - just to let you know that I have moved my blog over to wordpress and it can now be found at
Thank you so much for following this blog and I would be thrilled if you could follow the new one!
I am back on maternity leave now and so will have a lot more time to blog.
thanks again, Helen

Friday, 4 March 2011

Movement for Change

It does seem to be happening, people are starting to make their feelings clear to this coalition - they are taking their ideological objectives too far and they do not have a mandate to make such crude, drastic and frankly heartless changes to our society. The campaign to stop the sell off of the forests attracted over a half a million on line signatures, the new 'Save the NHS' petition is gathering momentum and trust for the government is at rock bottom.
What is the aim? Before long we will end up with a free market NHS where profit will be the priority over the health and well-being of all, a lost generation of youths with no jobs, prospects or ideas and those that do graduate leaving higher education with £30k worth of debt. On the plus side, erm..well - unemployment is rising, the economy is shrinking and we don't appear to have a foreign policy...

Its easy for a lefty to blame the rich and focus on those without a social conscience but it really does seem that the only people that are going to come through the next few years unscathed under this astonishing coalition are the very people that make up the cabinet- incredibly rich people who will never need to consider the cost of their mortgages, let alone the price of bread.

For those of us in the Labour Party our focus has to be to ensure we are working actively in the community, listening to peoples concerns and working with them and for them wherever possible. Policy is coming through so quickly and with so little debate it is hard to follow exactly what is happening and when- on a local level we need to be there for the fallout. Working together to ensure that communities stay strong and supportive and that our voices are heard. This is no time for navel gazing but a time for action.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Not posh enough for Labour?

I watched the Andrew Neil show, Posh and Posher, last night on BBC2 with interest. I thought it was an excellent programme, albeit a vehicle for Neil to push the grammar school system, but I did feel pretty low by the end of the show. I do have some political ambitions; the idea of helping to improve society the way that we live and function day to day does excite me and I am constantly trying to up skill myself to move in this direction. Some of the statistics mentioned last night left me feeling that maybe I am dreamer. I do have a degree, from an ex-polytechnic, and I do have a career; I am a Director at a FTSE 250 business and furthermore I have lived a life - I am 34, have a family and yet it seems that because I didn't go to Oxbridge, have family connections in the party or take an unpaid internship as a graduate (how do people afford to do that?!!) my chances of becoming an MP are very slim.
With the right energy this can definitely be fought against, my CLP, Tooting, is thriving with a real mix of people and I can imagine at least two members becoming MP's in the future. But we are in London and hence have access to numerous groups, societies and networking opportunities. At some point my family will relocate, probably to Bristol, and I do worry whether this will further impede my ambitions. Surely it shouldn't be so; the whole point of our democracy should be that everyone in society is represented and logic would dictate that in a modern Britain we don't need to be deferential to a political class to blindly state our case at Westminster.
To be fair to Ed Miliband he has talked about turning the tide on this and he seems to accept that the Labour Party is moving in a dangerous direction.  Perhaps his commitment to Movement for Change will help because of its programme of training community leaders, some of whom will surely harbour political ambitions? The recent Oldham bi-election did demonstrate that constituents do prefer local candidates and perhaps the Labour party needs to promote this further and end the practice of parachuting Westminster careerists into the safest seats in country? The success of local MP's such as Sadiq Khan and Dawn Primarolo in my two home cities shows that this is surely the way forward?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

So a week really is a long time!

So much to cover, and so much restraint to ensure this post doesn't become a novel. I originally wanted to blog about my day at the New Year Fabian Conference, and my thoughts on my first ever organised political conference. But I obviously want to share my thoughts on a rocky week in Westminster and the implications of the two big departures this week; Alan Johnson and Andy Coulson.

I am glad I went to the conference and enjoyed the day, I thought Ed Miliband's speech was good and the audience was definitely on his side. Everything he said made sense and he certainly does seem comfortable when admitting the previous government's mistakes and where they lost direction. I was drawn to his argument that the Labour party should be the natural voice of the people when it comes to issues like the closing of post offices and I do believe he hit the nail on the head when using this as an example of New Labour's love affair with the free market and how it went too far. This all tied in with Milibands nod to his brothers Movement for Change idea, which could and should be the key to reconnecting Labour with its traditional core vote. Working with and for the community, especially as the cuts take hold. However, there was still a lack of substance in terms of policy and direction; I hate to say it but it reminds me of the absence of policy and detail that characterised Cameron's time in opposition. Ed Miliband is clearly a good guy and has a fine set of ideals but with the current government on the rampage we need to one step ahead and on the attack, armed with credible alternatives.

After Ed's speech I attended a couple of workshops featuring speakers such as Chuka Ummuna (still a huge fan!), John Cruddas, John Denham and a very impressive Jessica Asato discussing AV. The AV session controversially didn't feature any speakers against the idea, which caused rather a lot of twitter-tattle....
My conclusion though having thought the day through was that the whole thing was rather a lot of middle class naval gazing. Lots of very young activists, which has to be a good thing in terms of energy, and lots of well spoken idealists but is this the best way to rebuild the progressive left and oppose such a arrogant, active and fearless government? My thoughts on this are still not fully formed, but my feeling is certainly there is more good to be done working with local community groups and knitting the Labour Party back into the fabric of society. Forget Cameron and Hilton's 'big society' the Labour Party needs to do all is can to champion and indeed protect the heroes of our good society.

I really like Alan Johnson and did appreciate his appointment as shadow chancellor as a great opportunity to battle against Osborne's policy in a clear, grounded way that would appeal to the electorate. No doubt there were technical errors, perhaps explained by the issues that have come to light, but it is a shame to see him leave front line politics and it will certainly be a loss to Labour given it's reliance on career politicians. However, I am honestly delighted to see Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor. I don't care that nobody likes him and he is despised by Tory voters (they are never going to vote for us anyway!), I just cannot wait to see him head to head with George Osborne, with his zeal, technical understanding and determination I have no doubt Balls will force the Tories into a corner and prove they cannot justify their motives for slashing cuts with no provision for economic growth. Hopefully he will also bury their argument that the entire deficit is due to Labours overspending and their convenient memory loss when it comes to the worldwide recession that threatened to turn to a depression.

A final point, I am glad Andy Coulson has gone...but I get the distinct feeling that the whole affair isn't over yet......

Friday, 7 January 2011

New Year...time to blog!

Its been almost three month since i last blogged and this is due to total lack of time now that I am back at work. However, the new year brings new energy and i am determined to use as much spare time as possible this year reading, writing and getting involved with politics and the Labour Party especially.
I am starting by attending the Fabian New Year Conference next Saturday, and then meeting the Fabian Women afterward. There are some impressive speakers lined up and I am especially keen to see Chuka Ummuna in action, he is definitely one to watch and came over really well on Panorama earlier this week. Sadiq will also be speaking so I am sure there will be some friendly Tooting faces at the event.
i have read the latest Fabian Review from cover to cover this week which was definitely food for thought.
Liam Byrne's warning that Labours policy review has to be an effective and ongoing conversation echoed Douglas Alexanders comments earlier this week that it is simply not enough for Labour to condemn the coalitions policies without offering a credible alternative and laying out their plan to rebuild both the economy and the peoples confidence. They should not underestimate a public that is suffering from the cuts but is also still bruised from the perceived arrogance of a Labour Party that is now largely acknowledged to have ignored the needs of their core voting group.
Focusing on policy; I was totally sold on the idea of charging VAT on private school fees having read Sunder Katwala's essay on the gap between private and state school spending per pupil. I found it astonishing that despite the previous government increasing per pupil spending by 4% year on year by the 2010 spending was only at private sector levels of 1997. Charging VAT on the 650,000 private school places would bring in revenues of almost £1.5bn; instantly alleviating the funding problem that is causing the 'pupil premium' to potentially be a regressive measure in some areas.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A short round up....

Returning to work is making it tricky to keep the blog as up to date as originally planned, but I am hoping that I can find more time as I settle into the new routine! It is a shame as there have been plenty of issues to discuss over the past few weeks....
The big one is of course child benefit and this is the policy that Ed Miliband decided to tackle during his first PMQ's opposite David Cameron today. My feelings on this are mixed; my own family are affected but we are in the very lucky minority where it is a 'nice to have' as opposed to something we rely on. However, I do feel that the plan was ill thought through and cannot understand why the government did not ensure the single parent families weren't affected or base the calculations on total household income. The crude statistics that tell us a family earning £83kpa will still receive the benefit tells me something is not right. Hearing Justine Greening justify the decision not to means test the benefit because it was 'too expensive' will have done very little to appease those who are now going to lose a key part of their income. The idea that a married person's tax break (c£150pa) would somehow ease the pressure seems laughable, especially after reading that this would cost £1.6bn to implement compared to the £1bn that will be saved by the child benefit cuts. On a slightly more emotional note, it does feel like the end of an era. The idea that family allowance, latterly child benefit was truly universal is somehow romantic and something that I have grown up with. Perhaps naively I did think it would always be there for my own family; as it was for my mothers' generation.

The other big news last week was the appointment of Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor. There was mixed reaction to the news; with some commentators suggesting it was a move to appease Blairites or more precisely Miliband, D supporters whilst others thought it was a brave move to ignore the pressure to appoint either Mr or Mrs Balls to the post, despite their clear depth of economic understanding. I believe though that Mr Johnson's appointment was a shrewd move. He is popular with voters, he has an experienced 'man of the people' approach, he is plain speaking and an excellent communicator. Compare this with George Osborne who is seen as an aristocratic, uncharismatic and privileged 'toff' and certainly has not charmed the general public since the election; despite public empathy to the idea of widespread cuts. Economic policy means more to the man on the street at the moment than it has done for a generation. We are far removed from the days where the budget was the only economic announcement that the general public listened to, we are hearing daily updates that affect our wallets and people are sitting up and taking notice. Who better to decipher, communicate and attack these decisionss in the common, press and on the television than Alan Johnson?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Welcome Ed!! Now where is your teamsheet?

Having just scanned my last blog we can see that I was wrong. David Miliband didn't win the Labour leadership election; his brother, Ed, whom I voted for is the new leader. In all honesty when the results were declared I really didn't mind which brother won the ballot, I was naturally delighted to see Ed win but there is a part of me that knows that David is the only finished article and the only statesman amongst the contenders.
My immediate thoughts also went to the inevitable 'Red-Ed' and 'Union backed Ed...' headlines in today's papers; and my fear that Labour will now be so far on the back foot with the press that the necessary job of winning over the public will be nigh on impossible. However, as Ed spoke yesterday and this morning to Andrew Marr, I felt that this is the right man to take Labour to the next election and that his eloquence, values and spirit will keep the movement growing and working hard across the country. I believe that the credit crunch and subsequent recession has changed Britain; not dramatically, but enough for the electorate to at least listen to new ideas, new faces and be prepared to do things differently. Our first stable (at least so far) coalition in decades is further proof of this - the unique political situation that the UK is in gives Miliband a mandate to offer some radicalism, and hopefully he will.
His greatest strength will be the team he has around him. Despite the best efforts of the media this leadership election was fought in good spirit; the candidates displayed the utmost respect for one another and Ed Miliband's first action as Labour leader was to pay tribute to that. None of the candidates did their career any harm by fighting this long, tiring and hard campaign, we witnessed their intellect, passion for the party and energy as they attended hustings across the country and numerous media appearances throughout the summer. All four contenders are expected to be offered jobs in the cabinet; although needless to say as I write on Sunday night every political commentator is musing over whether Miliband, D will take a position reporting to his younger brother.
So what will the shadow cabinet look like? It needs to be raring to go in order to tackle the fall out from the ConDem spending review on October 20th and Miliband will be desperate to harness the best talents of the party. Elections for the shadow cabinet take place this week and as well as the big guns other names in the hat include Maria Eagle, Stephen Twigg, Iain Wright and Mary Creagh.
Labour rules mean that Miliband must ensure there are at least 6 women in the shadow cabinet, and he has already stated his intention to work towards a 50/50 ratio of men to women. Having managed Ed's campaign and increased his media presence significantly in recent months, Sadiq Khan must be in line for a more senior post along with the defeated leadership contenders. My thoughts on how it should, and maybe could look? Well, okay then, for what it's worth..

Chancellor - Ed Balls. I know that there are concerns that his economic policy is too far away from Miliand's 'starting point' of Darling's four year deficit reduction plan but Balls has to be the natural for the job. He lived and breathed the Treasury for so many years under Gordon Brown and we all know he would have Osborne for breakfast, lunch and dinner on economic policy and understanding.

Foreign Sec- David Miliband. Clearly not Miliband the elders dream job but it would keep him at arms length from his brother, he knows the job and the people involved. He has a good reputation abroad and would keep his name on the international circuit.

Home Sec - Yvette Cooper. Making the Balls' and Miliband families Britain's most powerful political dynasties but she is a formidable force and her work in Work and Pensions would give her excellent grounding for such an important role as the cuts take hold. Her parliamentary style would overshadow the forgettable Teresa May and she would get straight to nub of the real costs to society of police cuts.

Health - Please, please Andy Burnham. He may want a promotion but he is so passionate, so articulate  and so right when it comes to health and the NHS that he absolutely must stay in this role. We need him to fight for the NHS.

Justice - Harriet Harman. Ever popular and passionate on so many subjects this would be a great job during the tough times ahead for the prison system and with crime likely to increase as unemployment goes up. Harriet will do brilliantly against the old stalwart Ken Clarke for some sensible and progressive debate.

Education - just not sure on this. Michael Gove, despite his terrible start in the role, is well liked and very articulate. Ed Balls terrier tactics certainly got the better of him but this role needs I think an experienced hand. Alan Johnson?

Defence - Douglas Alexander? Liam Byrne? A tricky job that requires experience, maturity and care. The last government's reputation amongst the armed forces lies in tatters - some serious repair work and a sensible brief.

Work & Pensions - this could be one for Sadiq Khan; likely to be an increasingly high profile role up against IDS. Sadiq's 'man of the people' style could suit this role, he understands what the cuts will mean to the man on the street.

So what do we have left? Equalities, Culture, International Aid,  Business, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Environment,  Local Government, Transport, Universities.....How about these names for the hat for these lower profile roles...Diane Abbot, Peter Hain, Caroline Flint, Huw irranca- Davies, Ben Bradshaw, Vernon Coaker, Hilary Benn, Fiona MacTaggert, Rosie Winterton, Pat McFadden and David Lammy

Wow, what a team we could be. My plea? Get together, work together, remember why you are there, why you are Labour and lets get on with it! As they say on twitter....#proudtobeLabour