Barely has the last election passed and Labour lowers the tone of debate.

With financial meltdown looming and their membership nose diving it would ordinarily seem uncharitable to intrude on the private grief of the labour leadership election with criticism of their local activists. However, something – perhaps desperation, perhaps inexperience – is affecting local labour party judgement. This is evident in their choice of candidates – dropping the somewhat harder hitting Councillor George in favour of Judith McMahon – the same McMahon who was rightly booted out of Kursaal at the last election after an ineffectual stint on council and poorly organised campaign.

In St Luke’s meanwhile they’ve put in Kursaal resident Anne Jones whose interest and knowledge of the ward is so great that her ‘Labour Rose’ news leaflet failed to mention a single local issue.

Now obviously I’ve no knowledge of the politics or policies that lead to these people being chosen and normally I’d never even comment on this sort of issue. However, only a few months on from the last election it’s clear that it’s smears, not substance, that Labour intend to campaign on. Take for example the ‘Labour Rose’ news leaflet alluded to above and the way in which Southend Labour solicits donations by claiming “not to be funded by property developers or tax exiles”. Can there be any purpose to this other than to imply that local conservatives are funded by such people? Is such a shallow and transparent technique really how they hope to raise money from hard-pressed taxpayers in St Luke’s? They know full well that locally conservatives are funded very transparently, and receive no direct funding from Ashcroft etc. Nationally, while I dare say no party is perfect, Labour is certainly in no position to be throwing stones.

So why are they so happy to try and lower the public’s opinion of politicians? Either they are extremely amateur and content to treat the public as fools, or they are so dismayed by their prospects they have given up trying to be a real political party and are just hoping to blacken the reputation of others out of spite. Perhaps this is why so many of their best candidates have seemingly disappeared from the political scene.

The real pity of this is, however, that to be an effectual administration you need an effectual opposition and Labour are the only party that can fulfil this role. The LibDems blow with the local wind and the ragbag collection of Independents cannot form a joint policy let alone offer joined up opposition. So we need a responsible Labour party that holds us to account based upon policy not whim and political expediency.

6 responses to “Barely has the last election passed and Labour lowers the tone of debate.

  1. It is best to be charitable and philosphical about the perverse
    course of human affairs, often magnified in large organisations.
    While we can never know how things will turn out some sort of
    justice is usually done in the end.

  2. Dear Anna, you appear quite content to accede the notion of lowering the public’s opinion of all politicians since the whole tone of your post is steeped in negative criticism, which would be acceptable if it were accurate. Arguments are only worth having based on evidence.

    First, Labour membership is not falling, but rising, both nationally and across Southend . Over 30,000 people have joined Labour nationally since May (and over 40 of those were in Rochford & Southend East by the start of July). I doubt many of these were Conservative voters (mostly Labour and Lib Dems shocked at a Coalition Government that is using the excuse of public finance deficit to destroy the state in a way that not even Thatcher dared to do), but the cuts will affect many traditional working and middle class Tories in a way they never imagined.

    Second, you are happy in this instance to comment on Labour selection processes, despite in your own words “having no knowledge of the politics or policies.” There was a fair process, which does involve all-women shortlists (which I accept you may disagree with).

    Third, I note your personal criticism of Anne Jones, whom you label a “Kursaal resident”. Since you’ve raised the point about people’s origins, I am sure you will be happy to describe yourself as “Little Barling resident, Anna Waite” in your forthcoming election literature to the people of St Luke’s.

    Fourth, you are wrong on assuming that Labour is desperate in its selection procedures. I spoke to many people in Kursaal who have been helped by Judy. I feel sorry that any personal vote for her was negated by traditional Labour voters switching to Lib Dems or Independent Party. You will soon see what being in government does to your councillors at election time.

    Fourth, your assumption about our implication on party funding is absolutely correct. We uncovered regular registered substantial donations by Southend based property developers, Regis, to the Conservative Party. It is for you to rebut the presumption that none of that money ever saw its way from Tory Central Office to local activities and that it is in no way linked to Regis’ development projects in the town. It is difficult to prove a negative, though I should like to see you try.

    Finally, the Labour Party hasn’t given up on policy – far from it. We lost the election, so instead of an approach of a gradual reduction in spending as the economy grows after the banking crisis, we face unprecedented slashing of public finances that risk recovery for the ideological claptrap of the “Big Society” ie volunteers can do the government’s work for nothing. We are in opposition now so it is our responsibility to oppose effectively – as you allude to. Our values of fairness and equality for all, not just for those who have resources or ability, will be crucial in developing the policies that will help make Britain a better place to live in once again.
    Yours, Kevin

    • Kevin,

      Lord Prescott differs over your declining membership.

      Is he wrong – which while not surprising, would be rather worrying given Labour made him deputy prime minister – or are you being less than open?

      All women shortlists are categorically unfair since they exclude 50% of the population. I am sorry to see your party indulging in such unnecessary and sexist behaviour in our town. Clearly Anne Jones is not the best candidate for the ward – merely the best women. I am proud that I wasn’t given my position on the basis of discriminatory policies.

      It is not where she lives that concerns me – if you read my blog I passed no comment on her being from Kursaal other than noting it – it is the fact that she seems to have had no local input into the leaflet Labour put out and is a known Kursaal activist.

      The anecdotes of a few residents doesn’t address the fact that Judith McMahon was ineffectual on Council, and ran a rather odd campaign. I think her selection does indicate some sort of desperation on Labours part or perhaps is the result of all women lists providing 2nd rate candidates.

      Your fourth comment is particularly concerning. You are either being dishonest (or at least less than open) with voters or have thought very little about the implications you make. Regis may fund the national party, as I am sure many other firms fund the national Labour party. However your leaflet refers specifically to Southend. If you want to assert that local parties receive funding from these people either directly via some supposed access to central funds or indirectly then is it not true that local Labour is funded by a billionaire tax exile – Lord Paul?

      Do you as a candidate or the local party really receive no benefit in kind or fact from the national Labour party? If you do by your reasoning then the letter sent out is a lie, Labour in Southend is funded by a billionaire tax exile.

      It’s not difficult to prove a negative, it’s actually impossible – which you seem to know – so stop such a silly attempt to shift the burden of proof. It is entirely for you to prove any evidence of wrongdoing, Which you cannot do as none exists. I would expect a more logical approach from someone who seeks to lecture me on the importance of evidence in argument.


  3. Dear Anna,

    I can’t say I’m surprised that you’re still not holding your punches! Although I disagree with much what of you stand for and the rather abrasive style in which you attack opponents, I do respect the fact that you give a full response. It is, however, completely wrong.

    On Labour’s membership, yes it was in decline and John Prescott’s position is correct in that current figures are still much lower than the most recent modern peak in 1997, but it it is now rising rather rapidly, thanks mostly to the gradual realisation of what Tory ideology in practice will mean.

    It does not obviously follow to say that someone is not the best candidate because she was selected by an all-women short-list. Where this has been used, it has led to more women applying, meaning that excellent candidates will get through. Until we get something close to parity in having female and male representatives, it is the most effective instrument available. Fewer than 1 in 5 Tory MPs are women. Does that mean women make bad Tory MPs, or is there something more systemic going on?

    As to Anne Jones’ residence, your explanation confirms the point about your raising it in the first place. Politicians rarely “note” without making a point and you have been no exception. So I expect you to take no offence in being noted as a resident of Little Barling.

    Once again you speculate without evidence in the way you attack Judy McMahon. What you call anecdotal is my first-hand evidence, having worked with Judy for over three years. She also lost by a handful of votes in a much higher turn-out election. Calling someone “second-rate” in those circumstances is rather harsh.

    Finally your attack on me – ie that I am either being dishonest or thoughtless. First, the Labour leaflets rightly state who is not funding them. The local Labour party in Southend currently gets no direct funding from the national party or the trade unions. Some national literature has come from trade unions and it is clear on the face of it that it has, as it rightly should be.

    As for implications, what is the point of registering donors of substantial sums if there is not to be an inference that something is being given for return? That is not the same as saying that it is actually done for that reason. The receiving party (in this case the Conservatives, more specifically the Southend ones) should expect such an inference, and if the truth is that there has not been (nor will be) any influence by Regis in local decision making then it should expressly say so, but any decision in favour of Regis should be rightly be cast in doubt.

    I hope you don’t take this response as a lecture too, rather as a set of arguments from a very different position to yours.


  4. Kevin
    I’m sorry if I seem abrasive to you, but when you kick off the new electoral cycle by trying to imply some sort of corruption on my and my associates’ part I rather take exception to it.
    As regards Southend Labours funding I am surprised that no benefit, even if indirect, passes to you or your constituency from central funds contributed to by Lord Paul. At any rate you are a member of the Labour party and thus would be liable to any pressure that were to be exerted upon you; the argument that ‘Southend Labour’ is somehow any more or less associated with the antics of the national party than ours is risible. Your arguments are at best reliant upon a technical and semantic construction of words designed to leave an impression in the readers mind that if made directly would be unsupportable.
    Whether you care to admit it or not you know full well there is no corruption, if you had any evidence to the opposite you’d be parading it openly rather than hiding behind innuendo. If you want to resort to cheap smears fine, but don’t complain when your tactics are identified for what they are and people respond accordingly.
    One quick point by the way – people donate money to the conservative party, I would hope, out of a sort of sense of public service, because they believe in and share our values, not because of any expectation of special reward. Do you believe things are different for Labour?
    Regarding membership, at the time my post was made the most recent information that I had seen was the statement by Prescott. If new information has come out since then I shall bear it in mind regarding future posts. I am surprised that the party treasurer speaking in August was unaware of, or chose not to mention, a membership surge that had been taking place since May. Is it absolutely certain the figures for the increased membership have been given net, and don’t just conveniently state the number of new members while forgetting members who have left? Either way we are at best debating a question of timescale.
    I’m a little embarrassed for you that despite having stood for election for R&SE in the last couple of general elections you don’t know the names of the places you seek to represent! Where I live is hardly a secret and I dare say it’s been played to death. My experience has very much been that residents want someone who is going to champion them and do so effectively, which I try my best to do and hope that I succeed.
    If Judith and Anne were the best choices of candidate for their respective ward then there would be no need for all women short lists they would be selected above the other male candidates. I will no doubt blog further on this topic in the future since it is wrong and shows serious moral and philosophical deficiencies in those who support it. That Labour are producing female candidates who have not earned their candidature from a position of equality but due to party preference and privilege is appalling and as a result they are inevitably unable to honestly look other women in the eye as candidates, being chosen not fairly but in sexist elections.

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