Now -read the book!

Here is a link to my memoirs which, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can purchase online at
Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Sticking with the Labour Party

 I’m not quite up to serious demonstrating at the moment (though I hope that regular exercise will help me better to combat the fatigue caused by my cancer medication so that I can get back out there more).

Therefore, just as I missed the March for Moulsecoomb last Saturday so I would have missed today’s Palestine solidarity march in London - though as it turned out I wouldn’t have been able to attend even if I had been fit - as I was attending (online) the Annual General Meeting of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

My comrades did me the honour of re-electing me (unopposed) as Chair of the CLP, a position which I have held since the reconstitution of the CLP four years ago. These have been an eventful four years.

As to myself personally, in these four years I stood down from my trade union positions, was diagnosed with cancer, nearly died of sepsis, retired from my employment with the London Borough of Lambeth and then discovered that my cancer had spread - but have also been as happy as I have been in my adult life.

As to politics, the Labour Party has had at least as eventful a four years as I have. At a national level, in 2017 we fought a General Election we didn’t ask for and came closer to victory than anyone believed possible (in spite of what we now know was the deliberate undermining of our campaign by some within our own ranks). 

Two years later, whether as the fruits of Brexit or because of unprecedented media hostility (or - if you prefer - because the same leadership who had led us so close to victory in 2017 had become toxic by 2019) we were slaughtered in the (last ever) European elections and lost badly in a General Election, leading to a change in leadership.

Locally, these four years saw us re-establishing a Local Campaign Forum, and selecting a slate of candidates for local elections in 2019 in which we did not make the advances for which we had hoped, but from which Labour formed an administration which - with support from the then Green opposition we made some headway in implementing a radical manifesto written by Labour Party members, before we lost the administration last summer.

As a socialist who has been a member of our Party since 1980 I have been through a lot of different times. These, now, are times in which some socialists find ourselves leading CLPs, others may be leading branches within CLPs where a majority take a different view, and still others may find themselves in a minority within both their branch and CLP.

The Labour Party remains the right place for socialists to be and to focus at least part of our political activity, along with trade union organising and other progressive campaigns.

We need to campaign for a Labour Government (under any Leader) because the worst day under a Labour Government is better than the best day under a Tory Government - but socialists cannot just sit and wait for a change of Government, we need to work to make the Labour Party the campaigning organisation it ought to be.

Every socialist who is a Labour Party member can do something - for example by bringing a motion to your branch meeting calling for action, not only by the Party as an organisation but by Party members as activists in our local communities. 

That action could be around support for a decent pay rise for public sector workers, or opposition to the arms trade, support for anti-racist campaigning, opposition to authoritarian legislation in the UK or solidarity with oppressed people around the world - the key is to advocate, and practice, activism in order to draw around the Party those who want to struggle for a better world.

This is the next step on a long, hard road forward. Many of us will not see the destination - but what we need is a vibrant, radical civil society, with the Labour Party at its heart, if we are to win power (rather than just office).

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A bold progressive move by the Labour Group in Brighton and Hove

I was very pleased, earlier this evening, to receive the following news in an email to Labour Party members in Brighton and Hove from the Labour Group on the Council;

“Tonight, the Brighton & Hove Labour Group of Councillors have elected Councillor Carmen Appich and Councillor John Allcock as their new co-leaders.

Councillors Appich and Allcock will be job-sharing the roles of Labour Group Leader and Leader of the Opposition on Brighton & Hove City Council and will work together as a united team to provide scrutiny and constructive opposition in the best interests of the city.

Between Councillor Appich and Allcock, Labour’s new co-leadership team boasts a wealth of experience in the civil service, local government, and the voluntary and community sector in policy areas such as finance, children’s services, health, equalities and culture, and together they will prove a robust and talented team to stand up for local residents.

Councillor Appich and Councillor Allcock are looking to continue and build on the work of outgoing Leader, Councillor Nancy Platts. In her time leading the Labour Group and the Council, Councillor Platts steered Brighton & Hove through the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, oversaw the building of more council and affordable homes, and set up the city’s first ever climate assembly.”

The decision to elect two co-leaders is a bold and pragmatic move by the Labour Group which can be the beginning of turning the Party’s political fortunes in the City around - it is also strictly in accordance with Labour Party Rules.

Since this is pretty much a niche blog for people with an arguably unhealthy level of interest in the goings on within the Labour movement - and since I was once called “Rule Book Rogers” in a footnote to a decision of the Certification Officer I thought it might be of interest to anyone who has made it this far through this blog post to explain why Labour Party Rules absolutely and unequivocally permit the progressive and rational approach of job-sharing the position of Labour Group Leader.

Chapter 17 of the Rule Book sets out Model Procedural Rules, Clause I (the only clause in that chapter) sets out Model Standing Orders for Party Units.

Clause I Part 1 states that; “these model procedural rules are designed to provide a framework for well-ordered Party meetings. Party units will want to adopt local standing orders to reflect their specific method of operation; however, local arrangements must not conflict with the provisions of these model rules which have the full authority of the NEC and form part of the rule book.”

Paragraph O.iv of Part 2 reads as follows;

“The conditions under which job shares are allowed are as follows: 

  1. A job can be shared by a maximum of two members. 
  2. Those members must be specifically nominated as a job share, by whatever system of nomination is being used by that Party unit. 
  3. Chair cannot be a job share, nor can Treasurer, due to the statutory responsibilities of these roles. 
  4. Any members sharing a role will only have the equivalent of one vote between them either as: 1. One vote each, where only one member will be attending any meeting at any given time; or 2. 0.5 votes each, where both members will be in attendance; or 3. Both members agree to nominate one of them as the voting member. 
  5. Where a man and a woman are job sharing, the woman would not count towards the minimum quota for women, unless a woman is part of another job share. 
  6. For positions requiring access to data, a personal data form must be signed and returned by each job sharer.”

(See page 85 of the Rule Book at

Clause X, part 1 of Chapter One of the Rule Book deals with the scope of the rules and states that; "The general provisions of these rules shall apply to all units of the Party and the model rules and standing orders appended to these constitutional rules shall apply to:... ...F. local government Labour groups" (see p10 of the Rule Book)

Therefore the Rule Book is quite clear that the Labour Group is a unit of the Party to which the relevant rule applies and that the position of Labour Group Leader (although not Labour Group Chair or Treasurer) may be job shared as set out above. Labour Groups do not need anyone’s permission to make the sort of democratic decision which was made this evening in Brighton and Hove.

A united Labour Group, in partnership with a united Labour Party, can now move forward with the essential campaigns which we need to be waging - starting with support for the March for Moulsecoomb on Saturday.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Integrity, Authority, Unity - and sacking other people...

For just one of my seven terms as an elected member of the UNISON National Executive Council I served alongside a young UNISON Branch Secretary from the North West Region, Angela Rayner.

She was a supporter of the UNISON leadership on most occasions, whereas I tended to be a critic (not to say an irritant). We sometimes therefore found ourselves on different sides in various votes but I never doubted her commitment to the trade union - and if, as it turned out, she harboured (or was encouraged to harbour) Parliamentary ambitions, she was hardly alone in this among the leadership’s supporters on the NEC.

I was never completely convinced by Angela Rayner as a Corbyn supporter (any more than I was by the UNISON Centre generally), but she deserves credit for standing up to serve in his Shadow Cabinet when so many resigned in 2016 and it was this loyalty to our Party (ahead of loyalty to the majority faction of the PLP) which gained her the experience which made her a credible candidate for Deputy Leader last year.

Unlike most senior Labour Parliamentarians these days, Angela Rayner came up through the ranks of our trade union movement and today’s over-hasty dismissal of her as Chair of the Party is a slap in the face not just to one working class woman but to the working class movement generally - and to UNISON in particular. If UNISON’s new General Secretary has nothing to say about this then she will have set a most unfortunate tone for the future.

To see someone who rose to the leadership promising “Integrity, Authority and Unity” move within twenty four hours from accepting full responsibility for the Party’s generally (but not universally) poor election results to sacking other people (starting with the elected Deputy whom he has no power to remove from that role) is a truly startling display of the absence of all three of the originally advertised qualities.

Where Labour performed well in Thursday’s elections (in Wales, Manchester, Sefton, Preston, Worthing etc.) it did so by rooting itself in communities and articulating a clear defence of those communities against the Tory Government - it is the absence of such a vision from the top of the Party that needs to be remedied and no amount of reshuffling ambitious nonentities in the Palace of Westminster can do that.

I can, at least, see how I ought to conduct myself in the aftermath of disappointing by-election results in Brighton. I should say that, as Chair of the Local Campaign Forum, I take full responsibility and then I should phone round other people suggesting that they resign their positions…

Friday, May 07, 2021

Not a good day for Labour

I see that I haven’t blogged here for several weeks, partly because I have been engaged in another project, but also because some of the other time which I had was taken up (in the earlier part of my blog-free period) with the selection of two excellent socialist candidates to stand for the Labour Party in by-elections in Brighton.

Unfortunately - on a day in which election results across England appear generally to have been poor for our Party - neither of our candidates was successful.  In Hollingdean and Stanmer, Leila Erin-Jenkins, who would have been an excellent local Councillor, lost out on (what I estimate on the back of an envelope to have been) a 5.5% swing to the Greens (whose rise in this constituency has only really been interrupted by the unpopularity of the Green administration on the Council between 2011 and 2015). 

Although the Tories held on to Patcham (with their candidate who was formerly a Labour Councillor until she was deselected in the run up to the 2019 elections) the Greens again made significant gains with a roughly 9.5% swing from the Tories, pushing our brilliant local candidate Bruno De Oliveira into third place with 18% of the vote.

There is no dressing up such results - and the Party locally as much as the Party nationally  has to understand and respond effectively to very disappointing results. Our candidates are certainly not responsible for these results - in each ward voters would without doubt be better represented had they elected the Labour candidate. This was a defeat for the Party rather than for individuals.

There are some practical things which the Party could have done better (for example, had we been in a position to select our candidates earlier and started campaigning sooner). The perception of a divided Party, which has plagued us locally quite as much as it has nationally continues to do us harm also - but elections are fought between political parties, not by individual parties in isolation and what I think is clear (in Brighton Pavilion at least) is that the “Green surge” of which I wrote two years ago had not yet abated.

Locally, the Green Party continue to have forward momentum which perhaps can only be lost if the Green led administration on the Council manage to lose it again. The challenge for those of us who believe that progressive politics has to be grounded in the workers’ movement if it is going to lead to sustainable social change is to find a way forward which unites social democrats and socialists and connects with the voters.

This is not just a challenge which we face in Brighton. It is a challenge we face nationally and which is faced by our sister parties across Europe where (with the exception of Portugal and Spain) social democratic parties are being eclipsed in a process known by the name of its most noteworthy victim - Pasokification. The political ground on which social democrats could once stand - to deliver some amelioration of the conditions of existence of the majority within the framework of the social and economic status quo - has been shrinking since the economic collapse of 2008, but the roots of decline on the left go back further.

In General Elections in this country, Labour’s share of the vote fell in each election after 1997, falling from 43.2% to 29% by 2010. Only under Ed Miliband was this decline stalled, with a vote share of 30.4% in 2015 before - in 2017 (against weak Tory opposition) we reached a vote share of 40% in 2017 (under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn) falling back to 32% in 2019, when our equivocal position on Brexit led to us losing support both to parties with a clear “leave” position and to parties with a clear “remain” position. 

What stands out in the history of Labour’s share of the vote in General Elections this century is the “blip” of 2017 when Labour’s radical socialist manifesto came as close as is possible - in a country with our traditions and our electoral system - to the “Iberian model” of a social democratic party working with forces politically to its left. In the UK this model can only be applied if Labour charts a clearly socialist course, but the shocking impact of the defeat of 2019 on our Party stands in the way of that approach for the time being - and perhaps for some time to come.

There are clearly different perspectives within the Labour Party about what we should do next and where we go. If we can have a comradely debate based upon an assessment of evidence then we may be able to find a way forward. If we see further bitter division, and the use of administrative measures (such as suspensions, removal of access to Party resources and withdrawal of the whip) to try to resolve political differences, then we will see no progress.

It is a good job I always keep some “optimism of the will” handy because today is a good day for “pessimism of the intellect”.