Yesterday Labour published ‘21st Century Defence’, a consultation paper, to launch the Labour Party Shadow Defence Review.
Labour will review the threats the UK faces, assessing the Government’s defence policy against recent events and expert opinion and seeking to define a long term vision for UK defence policy.
We very much hope you will take the time to take a look and get involved in the review process, letting us know your thoughts and insights on the areas covered in this consultation paper.
The review consists of three parts, examining first the nature of the security landscape, then the principles which must guide our defence posture and then looking at the implications for force structures.
We are determined that the limited consultation that came to characterise the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review is not repeated.
Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, in remarks at the launch of the review, said:
“The Arab Spring is the tip of the iceberg of the change we are likely to experience over the next decade.
“Britain needs a defence policy which can keep up. It must be flexible and agile, with new and wide-ranging capabilities. It must prioritise coalition-building, be attuned to the threats and trends of the future and co-ordinate defence with development and diplomacy.
“The Government’s rushed review has been driven by savings not strategy. The Government did not match ends with means, precipitated strategic shrinkage by stealth and has left us with dangerous capability gaps.
“David Cameron has shown an ambivalence towards defence policy which lies in stark contrast to the commitment shown by previous leaders, including Tony Blair or even Margaret Thatcher.
“We need a new defence strategy consistent with financial circumstances but also with strategic context. Labour is committed to being fiscally responsible, true to our own progressive principles and bold on defence reform.”
On coalition-building, he is said:
“The US’s strategic reorientation makes their priorities more numerous at a time of more limited resource and the impact on how we work together must be considered. It’s untenable that the US President announces that this is a moment of transition and European nations act as if this is a period of status quo: European nations have to get serious. We must do more together to preserve our reach, and co-operation such as the UK-France agreement must become the norm not the exception.
“Time has come for a conversation on how European NATO nations co-ordinate spending reductions and changes to force structures. We need to explore how a ‘Coalition of Cuts’ can help us end the practice of fighting conflicts together but preparing for them individually”.
On bioterrorism he said:
“While the security environment of the 20th century was dominated by physics the 21st may see biology centre stage. Bioterrorism both exposes significant weaknesses in our security architecture and is a threat which could cause mass suffering”.
On Afghanistan he said:
“We have moved from a conditions-led to calendar driven approach and without a game plan for a long-term, representative political settlement the nation’s fragile fortunes could be reversed.
“Just because the Government don’t talk about this – the nation’s biggest defence priority – the challenge does not become any less pressing. The Government has to work at maintaining the consensus with the public.”
For further details and to get a copy of the consultation visit: http://labourfriendsoftheforces.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=fafc68394eae586edd8f3fc28&id=2ba18ff67c&e=9d61f1114f
Labour Shadow Defence Team
Thursday, 23 February 2012
Yesterday Labour published ‘21st Century Defence’, a consultation paper, to launch the Labour Party Shadow Defence Review.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Cambridge: 7pm Thursday 23 February
With Sadiq Khan MP, shadow secretary of state for justice; Graeme Cooke, IPPR; Sally Keeble, former MP, Northampton North; Cllr Tariq Sadiq – Cambridgshire Council Labour group leader (chair)
Slough: 7.30pm Thursday 15 March
With Caroline Flint MP, shadow energy and climate change secretary; John Woodcock MP, shadow transport secretary; Patrick Diamond, Policy Network; Fiona MacTaggart MP, Slough; Luke Akehurst, NEC (chair)
Rochester: 6.30pm Thursday 22 March
With Liam Byrne MP, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions; Anna Turley, editor, ProgLoc; Joanne Milligan (c) NEC candidate.
Exeter: 7pm Thursday 29 March
With John Denham MP, PPS to Ed Miliband MP; Steve Van Riel, political analyst; Steve Race, Young Fabians; Cllr Jude Robinson (c) Camborne North
Thursday, 16 February 2012
If you are a small group of Councillors, or have no Councillors at all, taking the Tories on can be a hard task.
As of last May Wycombe CLP has seven councillors on the District Council working in opposition to 39 Tories and to some extent 9 Lib Dems (incidentally some who have been active Labour Party members, but who thought the Lib Dem ticket was a safer bet). It’s fair to say we are small in number, but I think we punch way above our weight.
As leader of the group my aim is to target key areas where local Labour policy is strong and we are able to build effective campaigns which will spark constituents’ interest across the District, not just in the three wards Labour Councillors serve. Our main campaign has centred on housing.
In December 2011 Wycombe District Council transferred its 6000 council homes over to a brand new housing association in one of the final housing stock transfers before the self financing system is introduced. It was a complicated transfer, tenant led, but certainly driven by a Tory Council who no longer wanted to be a social landlord. As a group we organised into a team of lead councillors backed by a research team made up of interested and available local members. We passionately believed that the transfer should have benefited future tenants as well as current tenants and that above all it should have represented value for money for all of Wycombe’s residents.
Despite freedom of information requests, letters to Government Ministers and over 37 questions in the council chamber much of the information relating to the transfer was guarded closely by the Council, who refused access to key documents which detailed the financial and social implications of the transfer. At every stage we were able to share this lack of transparency with the public through press releases, statements and via the membership. Like many areas of the South East, Wycombe District is traditionally ‘blue’ and it was important to attack the issue on a number of levels including showing the failings of the business case. I still cannot see how the Tories think that selling off our Council homes for less than £1,600 each represents value for money!
The Labour Group was never going to win the vote, however we certainly won the argument and raised the Labour Party’s profile locally, particularly with those who have never supported the Party.
Now the transfer has completed we are still focussed on ensuring that tenants and residents get everything they were promised. If the Tory Council fails to deliver we will be there to point it out!
We also continue to campaign on other key housing issues such as homelessness (hugely helped by Reading CLP), void properties, rogue landlords and next on our list are affordable homes. In 2008 the Buckinghamshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment Report stated that the net annual need for affordable housing for the district was 425 dwellings. Over the last three years the council has been way off target achieving an average of 200 per year. As a Group we are aware of many local people in their 20’s and 30’s unable to rent or buy in the area as well as businesses choosing to locate elsewhere in the Thames valley due to the lack of affordable homes for their staff.
We’ve set out our vision for housing across the District in a CLP housing policy which is forming the policy basis of many campaigns to come.
Councillor Victoria Groulef is leader of the Labour Group on Wycombe District Council. Wycombe Labour Group received a campaign award at last weekend's Labour South East annual conference.
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
This week Jordan Newell, chairman of Colchester Labour Party and a former parliamentary candidate announced he is seeking the Labour nomination to be the party's candidate for the essex Police & Crime Commissioner. In this interview, he explains why he put hsi name forward.
1. How important are the new police and crime commissioner posts to voters in the south of England?
Voters in the South of England, like the rest of the UK, will be voting for a system of police governance that will usher in the biggest single reform of the police service for a generation.
However, it is important that all voters are aware of election, the role of the commissioner and the work they will be doing for their communities. As with any election, it’s important that people engage and take part. The issues for debate at these elections affect everyone, regardless of age, sex, socio-economic status, race – rising crime affects us all, low police morale affects us all and cuts to frontline services affects us all. That is why I will campaign hard in this election, whether I am the candidate or not.
2. When is the election?
England and Wales goes to the polls on Thursday 15th November 2012. They start work one week later.
3. Why are you standing?
I am proud that when the last Labour Government left office in 2010, we had 17,000 more police officers on our streets; that recorded crime had fallen by 43% during our time in office and that the fear of being a victim of crime was at a 30 year low.
Today, that legacy is under threat. We are loosing 9 out of every 10 police officers on the front line as the Government’s drastic and disastrous cuts to policing budgets take hold, sending crime soaring and morale plummeting.
I have personal experience as a victim of violent crime; I have friends and family who have been the victims of other crimes. While tackling these and supporting victims, it is important that we also engage in communities to improve reassurance and confidence for the many people who fear of being a victim of crime.
Essex needs a commissioner who is focused both protecting the public and protecting the Police. I know the people. I know the police. I know the problems faced by both. I want to use that knowledge to solve those problems and that is why I seek to serve.
4. What are your policies?
My campaign is based on three key principles – Reassurance, Reduction and Responsibility.
Reassurance - a vision based on promoting safer communities and reducing crime and disorder across the county. Commissioners must act to support local communities, at all times, to break the cycle of fear of crime; to support and address victims concerns; to be proactive in tackling crime and to help and support the Police and boast morale on the frontline.
Reduction – Working with the Police, the community, local government and statutory agencies, my campaign aims to reduce the increasing crime figures that are threatening Labour’s legacy on crime. It is a widely acknowledged fact that crime rises during a recession and the recent British Crime Survey showed that overall crime, across the spectrum of offences, had risen by 4% over the last 12 months. The Conservative Government’s policy of 20% cuts to the Police is completely the wrong approach to policing in a period of economic difficultly. During the global financial crisis in 2009, the Labour Government showed that effective police together with tough Government action and partnership working helped to stave off an increase in crime.
Responsibility - One of the Commissioners’ key functions is scrutiny and accountability. The power to hold the Chief Constable and senior offices to account is a key one. Replacing police authorities with directly-elected commissioners will make forces more accountable to the public they serve, and while Labour did not support the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioner, it is important that the process is made to work in order to ensure the good governance of the police.
5. Who are you up against?
So far, only two independent candidates have declared. I am not aware of any other Labour candidates, or candidates from the other parties.
6. Will you take the Southern Front quick-fire quiz?
Beatles or Stones? – I’d say the Beatles
Sherlock or Dr Who – Sherlock, but is that the Film or TV series?! The films have been amazing.
Chinese or Curry? – I have my local Chinese takeaway on speed dial!
Madonna or Lady Gaga? – The toughest questions! Can I choose both?
Ed or David? Which David? Cameron, Miliband or Steele? It would be a Miliband everytime.
North or South? – The South is where my roots are.
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Time for a new look at new towns
Useful analysis of Labour’s 2010 defeat will include consideration of the party’s performance in English towns. According to Blair Freebairn, town seats make up over half of all constituencies, but comprise three quarters of those that changed hands. The swing away from Labour – to the Conservatives and to the Liberal Democrats, was highest in these seats.
As Freebairn speculates, “If David Cameron can hang onto his new conquests amongst the towns of Central and Southern England, and combine that with turning just a few of those Northern towns and suburban near-misses into wins then he will have his majority. Labour’s task is even simpler, win back those English towns”.
Of more interest perhaps, are the English new towns. Until Thatcher, these seats didn’t swing; they were reliably Labour. Stan Newens had an 11,000 majority in Harlow; Shirley Williams held Stevenage even when the Conservatives were in Number 10; ‘Captain’ Bob Maxwell won Buckingham (although at the time the very Labour Milton Keynes was part of the constituency).
Even when New Labour won these seats in 1997, most were never comfortably Labour beyond that first term. Welwyn, Peterborough, Hemel Hempstead – these were among the first seats the Conservatives regained. In 1987 Welwyn was the seat Labour needed to win to gain a majority – having won it in 1997 we are now over 17,000 votes behind. Only Basildon looked convincingly Labour and even that huge majority was overturned in 2010, despite a popular and effective local MP in Angela Smith.
If Labour could lock these 15 or so seats down at most elections, just as we seem to have done in the Scottish new towns, then the pressure to make gains in the swing market towns would be diminished.
Now is the time for a new look at the new towns.
Friday, 3 February 2012
Yet our current weakness in Redhill, and on the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council as a whole, should be a surprise, if only because it was not the case until very recently. Indeed, in 1996 Labour had 16 councillors and controlled the council, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, for three years. Since 2000, however, the party’s fortunes have deteriorated dramatically and in 2011 we lost our last remaining council seat.
The Redhill East and West wards were the foundation of Labour’s former local strength. Between 1970 and 2000, these marginal Labour-Tory seats consistently returned a full slate of Labour councillors due to the campaigning efforts of our local activists. This success was translated into victories in Redhill in Surrey County Council elections, with our last Redhill county representative only losing their seat in 2006.
As elsewhere in the country, the collapse of the party in local government in our part of Surrey owed a lot to the unpopularity of the last Labour government. It is also, however, the result of other long-term problems that are a concern to all political parties. Membership has declined, the activist base shrunk, the few new members that have joined are inactive. Young members in particular are reluctant to participate. Our local party now comprises only a dozen or so active members, most of whom have served the party their entire adult lives. Some of whom, for the want of a new generation to assume the mantle, would like to spend a little more time enjoying their retirement than running a local party.
As a result, we struggle to find enough candidates to contest every seat, and campaigning is restricted to two or three target wards only. As a consequence the Redhill East ward has not been properly canvassed in seven years and the Green party has moved in to fill the gap. The first Green councillor was elected in 2010 and another was elected last year.
Redhill is a town like most others. It has pockets of real poverty (it is the poorest town in the borough) and unemployment is comparatively high. It is also home to urban, educated, broadsheet-reading, middle-class professionals, first-time home buyers and an increasingly young and mobile workforce. In short, Redhill is populated by exactly the types of people Labour will need to win back nationally if we are to return to power. But our problem is not a lack of potential support but a lack of manpower.
This is why Progress’ Third Place First campaign to ensure that there are no no-go areas for Labour is so important. The less presence the party has in our local communities, the harder it will be for the party in Westminster to rebuild electoral support. The support of Progress for candidates in seemingly no-hope areas can also energise and enthuse the jaded memberships of small CLPs in unfashionable blue-rinse constituencies, where every election is an uphill struggle. I for one am delighted that Progress have offered me their support in my bid to see Labour regain a foothold in the Redhill East ward by planning a campaigning day on 24 March 24.
In the future I hope the party can find better ways to organise across constituency and county lines so we can best mobilise our activist base to fight campaigns and win elections across all regions and councils in the UK where strength on the ground is thin. First things first, however: I sincerely hope those of you that have taken the time to read this article will join Progress and myself on 24 March to help campaign for Labour in Redhill.
This article was first published on Progress Online. Sign up now to come along and campaign for Rhys and turn Redhill red again
Rhys Williams is Labour candidate for Redhill East and a member of Progress
Thursday, 2 February 2012
John Mann’s Progress article “Time for Labour to get real”, in which he states that “It is about time we got real about the world around us” is typically blunt. It’s also straight forward common sense; and, it would seem, heresy.
“Tabloid candy” says one critic. A “kick in the teeth” for the poor, says another. “Shame on you” screams a third. Oh, and let’s not forget that old canard: a “Blairite” conspiracy (despite the fact that Ed Miliband has stated publicly that Labour supports a cap).
Now being in favour of a cap but still managing to vote against it in Parliament isn’t helpful, but it at least starts from the right place: a recognition that, as Mario Dunn has put it (in the comments section attached to the original post), many people “feel a burning injustice…when they see those around them live better lives but do nothing to earn the income they get”.
When 72% of the public support the cap, we need to ask ourselves why we think they’re all wrong and why we’re the ones who are right. Critics of the cap seem only concerned to place us and themselves in the shoes of those who will be affected by this. Yes, a cap will require some benefit claimants to move if they are unable to secure cheaper privately rented accommodation in central London. But, for years this has been the reality for thousands in work, forced to move to cheaper places to live because they couldn’t afford to buy or rent the bigger accommodation they needed in the area. Their children moved to new schools; they took on longer journey times to work; and they found themselves further away from established social and familial networks. Unlike George Osborne, we need to mean it when we say that “we are all in this together”.
And we shouldn’t dismiss these people as affluent surburbanites, undeserving of nor needing our support; many of them earn on or around (and often less than) the £26,000 level at which the cap has been set.
Liam Byrne is on the record as supporting a regional benefit cap, although he won’t be pressed into setting out what the levels would be, preferring instead to push this out to an independent commission. That helps him sidestep media questioning such as this about what these levels will be (and whether in London it will be higher than the Government’s £26,000 cap); but it allows our opponents to present our support for a cap as shallow and lukewarm. If Labour MPs are to vote in parliament against the cap, then we really do need to be able to say what we think the level should be.
While Mann is right to highlight the long term problem of a London-centric focus to policy making in the party (in and out of Government), he’s off the mark on the issue of private sector housing in the capital. For too long the higher costs of living in London and the south east have been ignored by successive government. It continues to puzzle me why Labour isn’t talking more about building council homes – the only logical response if we want to support a cap in London, minimise the impact in communities and avoid our capital becoming like Paris.
Being “on the side of hard working families” needs to be more than just a sound bite or rhetorical flourish to be deployed in attacks on Coalition policies. It means standing up for fairness for all taxpayers. If Labour isn’t able to demonstrate to these voters that “we get it”, that we understand why they think it is unfair for families out of work to take home more than families in work, then as John Mann concludes, “we have got our approach dangerously wrong”.
Stuart King is Editor of Southern Front