Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts of Manchester

Finally, I am back blogging again after a very-long hiatus. In that time, I got re-elected as a councilor for Merton Council in Pollards Hill with one of the highest swings to Labour in London at 13% and increased my majority from 250 to over 1600; become a Cabinet member in Merton with responsibility for culture and housing; saw the end of the Labour Government after 13 years along with the demise of Gordon Brown; along with the formation of a coalition government led by David Cameron and a Liberal Party under Nick Clegg that has sold its soul to become part of government.

I have spent most of the last week in Manchester for Labour Party Conference(my fifteenth), they're exhausting with many late nights, but I do find them very addictive. This was the first time I'd attended where the election of a new leader was to be announced. Last time we had a contested election was back in 1994, and I was a party member of barely a week (I am just about pre-Blairite). So despite my years spent in the party, this was my first contested leadership election.

It was a conference that looked to the future and not the past. The leadership of the party was finally resolved and I congratulate Ed Milliband on his success. Personally I supported David as I believed he was the best choice. However, while party members and the parliamentary party shared my view that David was the best choice, the trade unions and affiliates decided otherwise and as party with a very complex electoral college system, it meant Ed come out on top by the narrowest of margins. I hope that the party does moves towards a one member, one vote system in future elections and abolishes the archaic electoral college. I had five votes in the election, both as a member of the party, but also as a member of various affiliates, this really is ridiculous and change is long-overdue. I do support the Labour Party trade union link but believe it is time we reform how we elect our leader. That though is a debate for another time.

We should now move on and not have recriminations or have sour grapes about the result. Ed is the leader and as a loyal supporter of the party, I firmly believe we have to unite behind Ed. He is the new generation and I was impressed by his speech. As for 'Red Ed' it is really is a myth, the speech was very much centrist middle of the road, the content of which reflects most of my own views on politics. He is not in the pocket of trade unions like some in the media would like to portray

I am sad that David won't be serving under him, he has a lot to offer the party and his decision not to stand in the Shadow Cabinet is a major loss. I can understand why he has decided to go and the non-stop media obsession about David and Ed would clearly have continued. I feel awfully sorry for him and hopefully after some time away he will return to the fray as we need him back.

The next few months will bring difficult times. First on the horizon is the spending review will have a major impact across the public service as budgets are slashed by 25-40%. It will be challenging, and I know from being a Cabinet member in Merton it will mean taking some very difficult decisions, some of which will be very painful. We know savings have to be made, but as a party it is our duty to protect the vulnerable and help those in need. Some of the cuts have already impacted adversely on our poorest communities, and I have no doubt that the spending review will bring further pain. I also dread to think what other half-baked policy they will announce soon, they have had many in the first few months(abolishing PCT's, Audit Commission, Free Schools to name but a few) and no doubt more to come soon.

We also have to face the facts that we lost the election badly. Some changes will need to be made and its important that as a party we learn the lessons. We can get back in one-term, but we d need to look fundamentally at ourselves and reach out to communities that deserted us at the last election. I wish Ed Milliband the best of luck, he made a good start, now is the time to deliever and bring us again to the promised land.