NEC chair Paddy Lillis. Here he is unhappily announcing Jeremy Corbyn’s retention of the Labour Party leadership, despite his NEC’s best efforts to prevent it [Image: BBC].
Yes, this is about the motion I wrote after Labour’s former NEC chair, Paddy Lillis, acted unconstitutionally in overruling the will of the party conference last year.
He refused to accept demands that a package of 15 changes, including the addition of unelected representative of Scottish and Welsh Labour to the NEC, should be considered individually.
This means that the additions – along with the other 14 changes – are not valid and party members should not consider themselves bound by them or any decision made as a result of them.
Steve Walker, who writes SKWAWKBOX, contacted me with the information he had received from the NEC member, and I said it would be better for him to write the article about it, as I am too closely involved.
I did ask the Brecon and Radnorshire CLP secretary if he could cast any light on the matter, and he told me the information he had received was that the motion had gone to the NEC for “noting”. He speculated that this could be the limit of any discussion as the motion asks the NEC to do something it cannot constitutionally do – overrule conference.
But then, Mr Lillis overruled conference too – something he could not constitutionally do, in order to get his changes passed.
So, in constitutional terms, if my CLP secretary is right, I think the NEC is on very thin ice indeed!
As for the motion… Time is moving on. It would probably be better to bring a new resolution to this year’s conference, calling for the nullification of the package of 15 changes, and for each measure to be re-considered individually; for those responsible for pushing through the package, against the will of conference, to be reprimanded and for an ad hoc, independent body, separate from the NEC, to be set up to consider whether these people should be removed from any positions of responsibility.
That sort of thing. We take our democracy seriously in the Labour Party nowadays.
Last October the Welsh CLP of Brecon and Radnorshire (B&R), approved a motion declaring the unlawful addition of two unelected members to the NEC during Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool.
In accordance with normal procedure, as soon as it was approved the B&R motion was sent forward by a member of the CLP’s executive for the NEC to discuss – and acknowledged by the General Secretary.
But the SKWAWKBOX has obtained emails between a north-west Labour member and a well-known member of the NEC, which culminates in the latter denying that the motion was ever received by the committee.
Either Mr McNicol appears not to have sent the motion forward to the NEC or he sent it to someone in the NEC and they didn’t give it to the rest of the organisation committee.
Another NEC member, in a separate discussion, commented that
“CLP motions never get to the NEC.”
If the latter NEC member’s claim is true – and the confirmed instance involving the Brecon motion tends to support that conclusion – then it is further evidence of the apparent disdain with which many at Labour HQ regard their members.
How unfortunate for the Conservative Party that “most influential Tory outside the Cabinet” Tim Montgomerie tweeted one minister’s disgust at the perception that unelected foreigner Lynton Crosby is running the party – and thus the government – on the same day the Tories were trying to get people riled up against the unelected foreigners they say are ruining human rights legislation.
Tom Pride, over at Pride’s Purge, had the juice: “Cameron is so desperate to win the next election he hired an Australian called Lynton Crosby to tell him how to do it.
“But now cabinet ministers are complaining that the unelected Australian is running the country instead of Cameron.
But Tom uncharacteristically missed the icing on this particular cake.
No, it isn’t the House of Lords (although that’s a perfectly good example of why the Tories are wrong, right there).
Today (Friday) is the day the Tories chose to launch their campaign to replace the Human Rights Act with a new ‘Bill of Rights’, dictated by them, which in fact takes rights away from you, rather than bestowing them.
Conservatives have described their campaign to remove power from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a characteristic way, as follows (this is from today’s Express): “Tory MPs … say voters are fed up with unelected foreign judges siding with illegal migrants, terror suspects and criminals.”
Whoever he is, Mr Montgomerie’s minister is right to complain about unelected Lynton Crosby.
At the start of a campaign against unelected foreigners, his presence shows up the Conservatives as a gaggle of hypocrites.
It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments.
While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people.
You will still be able to have your e-petition on the government’s website – if you win enough signatures to have it debated in Parliament – ignored by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.
The Liberal Democrats and Tories have even managed to rub salt into the wound by creating a register of all the corporate lackeys who will still be able to influence their policies – freelance lobbyists employed by large companies for the specific purpose of swaying government policy. Lobbyists who are company employees will not be listed as the government says their purposes for meeting MPs should be obvious.
This means the new law will do nothing to restrict the power of corporations to write government policy or prevent lobbying scandals such as those involving former Tory MP Patrick Mercer, along with Tories Peter Cruddas and Liam Fox.
The new law protects in-house corporate lobbying operations from official scrutiny, while preventing the public from enjoying the same privileges of access to the government. That is what your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have fought so assiduously to obtain, over the eight months or so that this legislation, “one of the worst… any government produce[d] in a very long time”, has spent being digested by Parliament.
In a Commons debate in September, Glenda Jackson MP warned that her constituents “know that the Bill… would prevent democratic voices from being heard”.
In response, Andrew Lansley – the Conservative who gave us the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, another incredibly poor piece of legislation – said; “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity… to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
@UKJCP immediately resurrected itself as @DeadParrotJCP and @Director_UKJCP. We’ll see how long they last.
Let us not forget, also, that the third part of this law cracks down on trade unions, enforcing strict rules on membership records to ensure, it seems, that it is possible to ‘blacklist’ any trade unionist who finds him- or herself seeking work.
With free speech flushed away, you may still resort to public protest – but the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has that covered.
ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.
Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.
ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.
The Home Office response? “We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.”
So there you have it. Take to the streets in peaceful protest and your police service will assault you with water cannons, with the blessing of your government.
There remains one option open to you – your vote. You could get rid of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at the next general election in 2015.
But that leads us to ask why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest.
Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?
We already know the unelected Conservative and Liberal Democrat government is using the predominantly right-wing media for this purpose. For example: George Osborne made a great deal of fuss earlier this week, alleging a huge resurgence in the British economy. With help from Tory mouthpiece the BBC, he was able to put out the headline figure that the economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013 – its strongest rate since 2007.
Osborne also claimed that Britain is doing better than all comparable economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and that the upturn is due to his imbecilic “expansionary fiscal contraction” policy, otherwise known as austerity.
All of these claims are false, or intended to create a false impression.
Firstly, his 1.9 per cent of growth started at a much lower level of output than would have been the case if Osborne had not imposed austerity on us all and stopped the 2010 recovery dead. GDP would now be 20 per cent higher than its current levels if not for this single act of stupidity from the stupidest Chancellor in British history.
Secondly: The US economy recovered from an eight per cent fall after 2008 to a five per cent rise above its previous peak by the third quarter of 2013. Germany is the only major European country to enjoy growth of two per cent or higher, after an initial recovery based on increased public expenditure – not austerity. Even France has nearly reached its pre-crisis peak. The UK remains two per cent below its previous economic peak.
Finally, Osborne did not even get to this miserable excuse for a recovery by imposing austerity. He quietly adopted a stimulus policy to avoid going back into recession. What do you think ‘Funding for Lending’ is? Or his mortgage guarantee scheme?
If George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, ACPO and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in Parliament had their way, you would not have access to any of these facts.
You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.
You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.
You would be tranquillised.
Would you vote against a government that tells you such wonderful things, even when your own circumstances might not reflect that story (real wages fell by seven per cent in the private sector and five per cent in the public sector between 2007-13)?
David Cameron is betting his career that you won’t.
The not-so-great dictator: It seems David Cameron’s government is now ignoring all attempts to hold it to account.
Ladies and gentlemen of the United Kingdom, your plight is worsening: The government now no longer pays any attention to the decisions of your Parliamentarians.
You’ll remember that a debate was held on Monday, in which MPs called for an inquiry into the effect of changes to the benefit system – introduced by the Conservative-led Coalition government – on the incidence of poverty in this country; the question was whether poverty was increasing as a result of the so-called reforms.
Parliament voted massively in favour of the inquiry (125 votes for; two against), as reported here.
We considered it a great victory at the time, and looked forward to the commissioning of the inquiry and its eventual report.
Now that dream is in tatters as Michael Meacher, the MP who brought the motion to Parliament, has reported that nothing is to happen and the government is ignoring the vote.
It seems he is blaming this partly on the media because “it wasn’t reported” – and he has a point; only 2,500 people have so far read the article on Vox Political, and that’s not nearly enough interest to worry David Cameron and his unelected cadre.
This turn of events raises serious questions about the role of Parliament in holding the government of the day to account, influencing legislation and taking effective initiative of its own.
Perhaps we should be glad that this has happened, because the illusion that we have any kind of democracy at all has been, finally, stripped away.
(On a personal note, this saddens me greatly as it confirms the belief of a very rude Twitter user who accosted me on that site earlier the week to inform me that democracy died many years ago, and I was deluded in trying to save it now. What a shame that such a person has been proved correct.)
Here are the facts, according to Mr Meacher – and they make bitter reading: “The chances of influencing … legislation are negligible because the government commands a whipped majority at every stage of a bill’s passage through the commons.
“Parliament can make its voice heard, but it can hardly change anything that the government has decided to do.
“The only rare exception is when there is a revolt on the government benches which is backed by the opposition, and even then when the government lost a vote on that basis last year on the EU budget, it still ostentatiously dismissed the vote as merely ‘advisory’.
“Nor, it seems from Monday’s vote, can parliament take any effective initiative of its own either.”
He said newly-instituted systems that followed the expenses scandal are already disappearing:
“The backbench business committee, which for the first time gives parliamentarians some control over what is debated in the house, is being sidelined and decisions on its motions ignored.
“The promised house business committee, which would share negotiations between government and parliament over the passage of all business put before the house, has been quietly dropped.
“Only the election of members of select committees by the house, not by the whips, has so far survived, but one cannot help wondering if that too will be taken back by the party establishments over time.”
This is, as Mr Meacher states, a major constitutional issue – especially as our current government was not elected by the people but created in a dirty backroom deal, and its actions have no democratic mandate at all; nobody voted for the programme of legislation that we have had forced – forced – upon us.
Did you vote for the privatisation of the National Health Service? I didn’t.
Did you vote for the privatisation of the Royal Mail? I didn’t.
Did you vote for the increase in student fees? I didn’t.
Did you vote to protect the bankers who caused the financial crisis from having to deliver compensation to us? I didn’t.
Did you vote to protect tax avoidance schemes? I didn’t.
There are many more examples I could list.
Mr Meacher suggests possible ways to reassert the authority of Parliament, but none of them will have any immediate effect – or possibly any effect at all.
He ends his piece by saying “the most effective way of making progress is greater awareness among the electorate of how Parliament actually performs, or fails to perform. If the public understood more transparently how the corrupting influence of patronage actually works, how the power system turns everything to its own advantage, and how the genuine objectives of democratic elections are so readily thwarted, a lot of these unedifying practices would have to be curbed.”
Considering Cameron’s attitude to the will of the people so far, this seems unlikely.
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