27 Jun 2007

LGBT Labour members first preference was Cruddas for Deputy

LGBT Labour is an affiliated society of the Labour party, meaning its members can vote along with members of trade unions and other societies. Their votes count for a third of the total. MPs and MEPs and members of constituency Labour parties make up the other two thirds of the electoral college.

The turnout amongst LGBT Labour members was 59.6%.

The first preference votes cast were as follows:
Jon Cruddas 22.2% (came third)
Harriet Harman 18.8% (won)
Hazel Blears 17.9% (came sixth)
Alan Johnson 15.3% (came second)
Hilary Benn 14.5% (came fourth)
Peter Hain 11.1% (came fifth)

Full article in Pink News.

Full text of Davies resignation letter to Cameron

I have been a member of the Conservative Party for over 30 years, and have served for 20 years in the Parliamentary Party, in a variety of backbench and front bench roles.This has usually been a great pleasure, and always a great privilege. It is therefore with much sadness that I write you this letter. But you are entitled to know the truth.Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything.It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.For the first 19 years of my time in the House, in common I imagine with the great majority of my colleagues, it never occurred to me to leave the party, whatever its current vicissitudes.Ties of familiarity, of friendship, and above all of commitment to constituency supporters are for all of us very strong and incredibly difficult to break.But they cannot be the basis for living a lie - for continuing in an organisation when one no longer has respect for its leadership or understanding of its aims.I have come to that appreciation slowly and painfully and as a result of many things, some of which are set out below.The first horrible realisation that I might not be able to continue came last year. My initial reaction was to suppress it.You had come to office as leader of the party committed to break a solemn agreement we had with the European People's Party to sit with them in the EPP-ED Group during the currency of this European Parliament.For seven months you vacillated, and during that time we had several conversations.It was quite clear to me that you had no qualms in principle about tearing up this agreement, and that it was only the balance of prevailing political pressures which led you ultimately to stop short of doing so (though since then you have hardly acted in good faith in continuing with the agreement, for example you never attend the EPP-ED Summits claiming that you are "too busy" - even though half a dozen or more Prime Ministers are always present.)Of course I knew that you had put yourself in a position such that if you did not leave the EPP-ED Group you would be breaking other promises you had given to colleagues, and on which many of them had counted in voting for you at the leadership election.But that I fear only made the position worse. The trouble with trying to face both ways is that you are likely to lose everybody's confidence.Aside from the rather significant issues of principle involved, you have of course paid a practical price for your easy promises.You are the first leader of the Conservative Party who (for different reasons) will not be received either by the President of the United States, or by the Chancellor of Germany (up to, and very much including, Iain Duncan Smith every one of your predecessors was most welcome both in the White House and in all the chancelleries of Europe).It is fair to say that you have so far made a shambles of your foreign policy, and that would be a great handicap to you - and, more seriously, to the country - if you ever came to power.I have never done business with people who deliberately break contracts, and I knew last year that if you left the EPP-ED Group I could no longer remain in a party under your leadership.In fact you held back and I tried to put this ugly incident out of my mind and carry on.But the last year has been a series of shocks and disappointments. You have displayed to the full both the vacuity and the cynicism of your favourite slogan 'change to win'.One day in January, I think a Wednesday or Thursday, you and George Osborne discovered that Gordon Brown was to make a speech on the environment the following Monday.You wished to pre-empt him. So without any consultation with anyone - experts, think tanks, the industry, even the Shadow Cabinet - you announced an airline or flight tax which as you have subsequently heard from me in a long paper (which has never been refuted) and I am sure from many others, is certainly defective and contradictory - and in my view complete nonsense.The PR pressures had overridden any considerations of economic rationality or national interest, or even what would have been to others normal businesslike prudence.Equally it seems that your hasty rejection of nuclear energy as a 'last resort' was also driven by your PR imperatives rather than by other considerations. Many colleagues hope that that will be the subject of your next u-turn.You regularly (I think on a pre-arranged PR grid or timetable) make apparent policy statements which are then revealed to have no intended content at all. They appear to be made merely to strike a pose, to contribute to an image.You thus sometimes treat important subjects with the utmost frivolity. Examples are 'inequality' (the 'Polly Toynbee' moment - again you had a paper from me!), marriage and the tax system (even your own Party Chairman was unable to explain on the BBC what you really meant) and, most recently, mass consultation of the public on policy decisions. (In view of your complete failure to consult with anyone, within the Party or outside it, on many of the matters I have touched on, or on many others, the latter was perhaps intended as a joke).Of course I could go on - up to three weeks ago when you were prepared to stoop to putting forward a resolution on Iraq (demanding an inquiry while our military involvement continues) which it was admitted at a Party meeting the following Monday (by George Osborne in your presence) was motivated by party political considerations. That was a particularly bad moment.Believe it or not I have no personal animus against you. You have always been perfectly courteous in our dealings. You are intelligent and charming.As you know, however, I never supported you for the leadership of the Party - even when, after my preferred candidate Ken Clarke had been defeated in the first round, it was blindingly obvious that you were going to win.Nor, for the same reasons, have I ever sought office in your shadow administration.
Although you have many positive qualities you have three, superficiality, unreliability and an apparent lack of any clear convictions, which in my view ought to exclude you from the position of national leadership to which you aspire and which it is the presumed purpose of the Conservative Party to achieve.Believing that as I do, I clearly cannot honestly remain in the Party. I do not intend to leave public life. On the contrary I am looking forward to joining another party with which I have found increasingly I am naturally in agreement and which has just acquired a leader I have always greatly admired, who I believe is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which I fully share.Because my constituents, to whose interests of course I remain devoted, are entitled to know the full background, I am releasing this letter to the press."

Which party has he gone to and from and when? He seems to have got his timing wrong!

Changing sides? Quentin Davies, Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford defects to Labour

Quentin Davies has defected from the Tories to join Labour. His letter of resignation is blogged elsewhere. In it he says that he is looking forward to joinging a party which has just acquired a leader which he has always greatly admired, whom he believes is entirely straightforward, and who has a towering record, and a clear vision for the future of our country which he fully shares. Whereas in a speech by Davies two years prior to his defection he described Gordon Brown as "extraordinarily incompetent", "imprudent", "extraordinarily naïve" and said in conclusion "I trust and believe that something nasty will happen to the Chancellor in electoral terms before too long. He will have no one but himself to blame."

Does Davies see something in the New Labour Leader Woodshed that has made him change his viewsand or our policies really becoming that alligned with the Tories to make someone with opinions and a voting record like Davies defect? He has stong anti-gay views and voted against the right of gay and unmarried couples to adopt. He also voted strongly in favour of the Iraq War but on a slightly positive note moderately against the introduction of foundation hospitals. That may have been just to oppose the Government and not due to any strongly held beliefs though.

Tory peer Tebbit said: "This defection will raise the average standard of members on the Conservative side and lower it on the Labour side." Shadow industry secretary Alan Duncan said Mr Davies was "not socially liberal" and against "a changed Conservative Party" and added: "basically he's quite grand and old fashioned, and I'm surprised that he finds that the Labour Party will offer him a happy home for those attitudes." But former Conservative MP Lord Temple Morris, who defected to Labour in 1998, said Mr Davies's decision showed "guts".

25 Jun 2007

A taste of what's in store?

Only just anointed and Gordon Brown has announced that he is to reduce the power of the unions on Labour Party Conference floor. See BBC News Report for more details. His new deputy Harriet Harman did not get any union nominations. And now she denies having said that the Government should apologise for Iraq during the Newsnight hustings.

This raises concerns already. Before the Deputy Leadership results were out, there was Gordon offering Peter Hain's job to a Liberal Democrat and then he has already given Hazel's job to Harriet.

So what does Mr Brown have up his sleeve? The next week should be very interesting as he appoints to the cabinet. Let's hope that he makes some sensible choices particularly where the runner ups are concerned.

See here for an interesting analysis of the deputy leadership election results which I found as a link from Jons Union Blog.

Pink News reported that LGBT Labour welcomed Brown and Harman however, a PinkNews.co.uk poll of gay Labour party members found that Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain was the first choice of 25% of gay party members. Party chair Hazel Blears took 19% of first preferences, followed by 16% for backbench candidate Jon Cruddas. Harriet Harman polled 15%, Alan Johnson 14% and Hilary Benn 11%. See here for full article.

13 Jun 2007

Breast is Best

The Single Equality Bill has quenched the thirst of the lactivist campaign for the right to breastfeed in public. The proposals have been the subject of many women's and health campaigns over recent years and is long overdue. It has been legal in Scotland since 2005 and there has not been uprising. Lets face it breast is best.

UNISON supports the right of women to breastfeed in public and the workplace and is part of the breastfeeding coalition. See their manifesto for details of their campaign.

I wonder if more people were aware that 4000 babies die each day from unsafe bottle feeding that we would have had to campaign so hard for the basic human right to breastfeed in public. And maybe more people would boycott Nestle products.

See BBC News Report for more details.

10 Jun 2007

Labour Contenders - policy by policy

See what their views are here on Iraq,Taxation,Labour's Future, Deputy Leader Role, Health and Education. UNISON's preferred candidate Alan Johnson when speaking about Deputy Leader role also wants to be Deputy Prime Minister whilst remaining Education Secretary. He does say that the party should listen to unions like UNISON more. Well after receiving a supporing nomination, he is not going to say differently. He didn't mention CWU though. Whereas Peter Hain, UNISON's second preference, has maintained throughout his campaign the importance of having links with the unions and he wants to concentrate on the job in hand that of Deputy Leader and being the 'umbilical cord between party members and the cabinet'. Thats why he has my first vote.

The contenders have also been quizzed on their LGBT policies by LGBT Labour (The Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights). Poor Harriet does not appear to mention transgender rights at all but I think this is down to the fact that at the same time they were being quizzed by Stonewall specifically on LGB issues and she got confused. Hazel, Hilary and Peter come across as the more committed. Peter still gets my pink vote and you can read elsewhere on this blog to find out why.

9 Jun 2007

DUP 'are opposed to gay adoption'

The DUP will continue to oppose any proposal to change the law to allow unmarried and gay couples to adopt children, Jeffrey Donaldson has said despite earlier this week, Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr dismissing a bid to overturn the current law banning adoption by unmarried couples.

The Department of Health is considering proposals to change the law to enable unmarried and gay couples to adopt. Speaking on Inside Politics, Mr Donaldson said the DUP would oppose it. He said "It remains my view that a married relationship is the best relationship for adoption. The DUP will vigorously oppose any move in Northern Ireland to introduce gay adoption. We do not believe it is right that a child should be placed into a gay relationship."

Read more on the current position of adoption in Northern Ireland in this article from the Belfast Telegraph

7 Jun 2007

Why Trade Unionists should vote for Peter Hain as Deputy Leader

This is an extract from RECONNECT TO WIN produced by Peter Hain

Peter says;

“The Labour Party was born out of the trade union movement, and our link with the unions and our shared values provide a vital connection to millions of working people. For me, the union link is non-negotiable.”

Retaining the role of unions at the heart of the Labour Party. Keeping the 50 percent union share of votes on policy issues at annual conference, unlike other declared deputy leadership candidates who have publicly proposed reducing the union vote. Implementing the terms of the Warwick agreement, and building on it as a blueprint for future partnership, reaffirming our commitment to proper protection for pension funds and doing much more to protect the rights of temporary and agency workers. Building on the 2.5 million extra jobs created since Labour took office by prioritising economic stability, and protecting workers by working closely with unions. Continuing investment in public services and a programme of improvement underpinned by Labour values. Ensuring that the vital new employment rights we have enacted are a reality in every workplace in Britain – establishing a new Employment Rights’ Commission with tough new powers and proper resources to enforce the rights that workers already have and to investigate breaches e.g.. giving unions the legal power to bring collective action against a workplace where there is a failure to pay the minimum wage, rather than placing the responsibility on an individual. Ensuring new laws on corporate manslaughter are toughly enforced, and reviewing the role of private equity funds in company takeovers. Allowing unions to free up resources for campaigning by removing the costly, ritual and unnecessary mandatory ballots to renew union political funds, and replacing it with a trigger ballot of say 5 per cent of the membership if there was dissatisfaction with an established fund. Introducing the choice of individual secret ballots in either workplaces or homes in elections for union Executives and General Secretaries to encourage turnout. Reconnecting the leadership of the party in government with MPs, members, and trade unions. Ensuring we reach out to those people Labour has lost touch with, helping to rebuild that crucial progressive coalition, which won us two landslide victories, but which we lost last time. Real renewal, which builds upon the best of our achievements, but offers a radical vision for the future, which can bring voters back to Labour. Narrowing the inequality gap by meeting our commitments on child poverty, offering more help for low-paid workers, boosting skills levels, tackling the gender pay gap, and pushing for greater corporate social responsibility. Pushing more power down to individuals and local communities by strengthening local government and accountable neighbourhood democracy, and completing the process of democratic renewal. Placing a new ‘Redgreen’ politics at the heart of government, to both tackle climate change and ensure that the responsibility of meeting it is fairly shared. Pursing a progressive foreign policy with strengthened and reformed international institutions, further action to make poverty history, an enhanced role in Europe, and promoting democracy and human rights worldwide. Real partnership with trade unions based on proper dialogue and negotiation, not government by bouncing policies.


A unifier, who brings people together as he demonstrated in negotiating the dramatic breakthrough in Northern Ireland, and who can reconnect the government with Labour’s grassroots.

A principled campaigner with values and vision will help win back the 4 million voters lost by Labour since 1997.

Commitment to the party and trade unions which enables himto reach out to all parts of the party andmovement to bind them back together.

A straight talker with the skills to communicate tomembers and the country.

A teamplayer, but who is independently-minded and will stand up for socialist values.

A minister with ten years of extensive government and Cabinet experience.

A lifelong record of campaigning from his anti apartheid and anti-racist activism, to his tireless work for Labour candidates and trade unionists, there’s nobody better to inspire party members about the power of politics.

Why Peter is the best person for the job
“I want a strong partnership between our Labour government and the trade unions, with problems resolved by dialogue and respect. The role of the Deputy Leader is vital to achieving this.”

Taken from literature promoted by Phil Woolas MP, on behalf of Peter Hain MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Why LGBT Labour supporters should vote Peter Hain for Deputy Leader

He imposed the Sexual Orientation Regulations on Northern Ireland despite strong opposition.

He is responsible for ensuring that the Civil Partnerships Bill made it onto the legislative agenda.

When he negotiated the European Constitution as the government representative he argued for much more extensive protections for people on grounds of sexuality.

He is keen to point out that when the issue of exemptions for Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies came before Cabinet, he was having none of it.

He supports specific legislation similar to incitement to racial hatred and against incitement to religious hatred to cover sexual orientation. He believes that that we have to make sure there are no hate crimes against any groups in Britain, whether that is on grounds of faith or sexuality, race or any other grounds.

In respect of homophobic bullying he believes that we have got to go beyond equality legislation – we have got to involve teachers and parents and school governors in a proper process of dialogue about this problem.

In Europe, he believes that countries, in joining the EU, have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans discrimination of any kind, including homophobia. It is important that the EU takes on the agenda in ensuring that homophobia is tackled just as it has been tackling racism or discrimination on the grounds of gender.

For the full interview with Peter Hain laying out his stall for LGBT rights in Pink News

6 Jun 2007

Beyond the Barriers

UNISON has taken part in a major new poster campaign called “Beyond the Barriers” to promote disabled people’s rights.

Along with the Disability Rights Commission and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UNISON’s Policy Development and Campaigns Committee was the third partner in the series of 6 posters.

The posters portray some of the major social policy issues; employment, transport education, health, leisure and the important right to organise as disabled trade unionists.

Two of the posters include UNISON Disabled members talking about their past experiences of discrimination and their expectations for the future.

UNISON branches are being encouraged to get their employers to display sets of the posters as a statement of their commitment to promoting the Disability Equality Duty which came into force in 2006. The posters are also now being produced in postcard format.

Copies can be ordered and downloaded form the DRC

5 Jun 2007

Christian Groups legally challenge Sexual Orientation Regulations

Churches went to the High Court in Belfast on 4th June 2007 to argue that the Sexual Orientation Regulations restrict their human rights. If they are successful, the regulations that protect gay rights could be declared unlawful. The case, which has been brought by The Christian Institute along with other Christian groups, is scheduled to last three days. Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: "I believe these regulations discriminate against Christians on the basis of their religious beliefs on sexual ethics. "They were introduced under direct-rule powers by Peter Hain without proper consultation. "We have the support of both sides of the religious community in Northern Ireland. People are particularly concerned about the regulations' impact on schools." He added: "We hope our legal action will be successful and that these regulations will be declared unlawful."
The sexual orientation regulations (SORs) prevent the LGBT community from being discriminated against by people who provide goods and services. For example, it is now illegal in Northern Ireland for a doctor to turn away a gay patient, or for a hotel to refuse a bed to a same-sex couple. If the regulations in Northern Ireland are found to be unlawful, it could have consequences for the similar British regulations. However, a recent YouGov poll commissioned by Stonewall found that 85% of Britons support the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations.

Meanwhile the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has voted to adopt a new policy on homosexuals at its general assembly. Whilst it does not change the church's theological stance - that homosexuality is wrong - the recommednations of a report urges more understanding for gay parishioners in pastoral care. The church's congregations are encouraged to create an environment of love, acceptance, patience and forgiveness and develop a space where sexuality can be discussed.

Reverend Bobby Liddle, convenor of the group which drew up the guidelines, said that the church was a conservative one, but that it wanted to show its concern for people struggling with their sexuality. On Monday, the church's new moderator, Dr John Finlay, however, implied it would be difficult for sexually active gays to remain within the Presbyterian fold. Dr Finlay 61, minister of Harryville Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, took over the role for the next 12 months in succession to David Clarke. He is reported as saying "If someone was an overtly practising homosexual, and our church condemns that as contrary to scripture, that would be difficult as far as church discipline is concerned,". The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has about 300,000 members in over 560 congregations and is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.

Winterton Bill Defeated

Ann Winterton's bill was defeated this afternoon showing a strong rejection of a US style abortion battle. Abortion Rights, the national pro-choice campaign welcomed the strong defeat of the bill to restrict access to abortion. The Ten Minute Rule Bill ‘Termination of pregnancy (counselling and miscellaneous provisions) was defeated by 182 votes against to 107 for.

For more info see Abortion Rights.

Peter Hain gets backing of GMB

The deputy leadership challenge hots up on the union front as the GMB today urged their members to vote for Peter Hain, who himself is a GMB member. Peter now has the support from the majority of the unions. CWU also have withdrawn their support for Alan Johnson following a successful motion carried at their conference in Bournemouth. Although UNISON are officially supporting Alan Johnson, their second preferred candidate is Peter Hain which suggests that UNISON members are divided on who would make a better deputy leader.

For more details see todays BBC political news.