An indulgence we can ill afford

  

So on the day Corbyn’s satisfaction rating overtook Cameron, 60% of people are dissatisfied with Osborne as Chancellor and we start to draw level with the Tories in the polls, up pops John Woodcock rallying Labour MPs against Corbyn.

People like Woodcock are deliberately short-selling Labour ahead of crucial elections exactly six weeks today – two by-elections, elections in England, Wales, Scotland, London Mayoral and Assembly and for Police and Crime Commissioners.

And then there’s the little matter of the European Referendum in June. I’ve been helping to man our market stall in Newark because Labour has a crucial role to play in helping decide the result.

It’s clear these Bitterites deliberately want to drive Labour down in the polls and public support in a vain attempt to oust Corbyn.

Tonight candidates are texting and DMing me to say how much they fear Woodcock’s actions will harm their elections.

These aren’t hardcore Corbynistas. They’re people some would describe as ‘moderates.’

Woodcock says in his article: “We can’t go on like this.” And on that point I agree.

Because these tactics won’t work. It makes us look divisive in the eyes of the public and good candidates – who really want Labour to do well in May – see their electoral chances sabotaged.

Not by Corbyn. 

But by the reckless indulgence of people like Woodcock.

This is an indulgence we can ill afford.

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Remembering Tosin

  
I’ve only just heard of Tosin Olusoga’s passing.

Whilst I can’t claim to have had the pleasure of knowing him as well as his friends and family, I just wanted to share my memory of him.
I was standing as the Labour candidate for Gainsborough at the last election. I noticed on our membership list that we had a 17 year-old member at De Aston. 

I finally met him and it turned out that he was going to stand for Labour too – in his school mock election.  I gave him some tips – I suggested a pledge card – but I don’t think he needed it. 
Tosin was a humble and warm person who I hear was loved by teachers and fellow pupils alike.So much so that come Mock Election Day in a staunchly Tory, he did much better than me! He won years 12 and 13, drew year 11 and only lost out from winning out overall by 33 votes!

The last time I saw him, was at De Aston to speak to the Sixth Form days before our elections.

At the end, I made a beeline to him. He was surrounded by his campaign team so I used my selfie stick to capture the moment.

I understand he interned at the House of Commons was studying politics at the UEA.

I have no doubt that his passion for social justice and helping others would have led him to stand for election again. And I bet next time he would have won.

I was hoping to see Tosin when I spoke at De Aston’s speech and awards day last year but he couldn’t make it.

But the words I read out that day could sum up Toisin and his short life.

President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

In his 19 years, it seems Tosin was not a person to dwell in that grey twilight.

He was keen to live his life in a vivid and vibrant manner.

The challenge to all of us who met Tosin, is to paint the story of our lives in the same brilliant colours he would have gone on to do himself.

Rest In Peace Tosin.

  

The Great Hull Train Robbery

  

First impressions count.

When I grew up in Hull in the 80s it was always with a profound sense of embarrassment that my hometown was known as Lada City.

That was because the first thing you’d see as you stepped out of Paragon Station was a line of Hackney Carriage taxis.

But unlike our more affluent London cousin, they weren’t quaint Black Cabs.

No – they were all Lada Rivas. Richardsons Taxis – that had the Hackney Carriage license confession for the station and beyond – had chosen the cheapest taxi they could. Both economically and stylistically.

Thankfully those days have gone. 

The physical and cultural regeneration of Hull has been remarkable. 

The Ladas have been replaced by black cabs – well, mini vans.

We now have The Deep – the world’s first Submarium – a community-owned KC Stadium and a burgeoning renewables industry.

And winning status as 2017 UK City of Culture, could be hugely transformative in the wider perceptions of Hull.

That’s crucially important because the city has taken many reputational and physical knocks over the years. 

The legendary James Goodrick, who I worked alongside as a cub reporter on a local press agency, made his name reporting the monumental bombing raids by the Luftwaffe in WW2.

Hull could never be mentioned in his BBC reports so he referred to us as a ‘North East Coastal Town.’

But 70 years on, it’s not bombs that are damaging Hull. It’s Sir Brian Souter’s Stagecoach.

Stagecoach owns Virgin West Coast, Virgin East Coast and East Midlands Trains. He even runs Hull’s buses.

But since winning the East Coast franchise earlier this year – after a successful and profitable spell in public ownership – the Hull to London service (known for almost 49 years as the Hull Executive) has become the Cinderella service.

As I type this, I speed to the capital on the 0700. The same train will at 17.19 take businessmen and women and tourists on the return leg.

The Hull Executive is one of the famous four trains that ply the East Coast; the others being the Northern Lights, the Highland Chieftain and the Flying Scotsman.

But bar the wonderful staff on board, the Hull Executive is the worst train on the network.

Firstly, it’s an old swing door train. I remember as a teenager seeing some of the letters my father received as Shadow Transport Minister about the swing door carriages.

Several families lost loved ones as the doors for no reason opened at high speed. 

They were eventually replaced with an automatic locking system. But I still feel uncomfortable when I see one.

  The dreaded swing door 

The second issue is the locomotive. It’s branded proudly as East Midlands Trains. 

  The 0700 Virgin East Midlands Coast Hull Executive to King’s Cross. Very cross!

So as you stroll down the platform on your first visit to Hull you’re instantly confused that you might have got the wrong train. Or maybe Hull is in the East Midlands?

It’s a terrible branding issue and reflects poorly not only on Stagecoach but on Hull itself in the run up to it becoming 2017 City of Culture.

Thirdly – and this is the biggest issue for many commuters – it’s the carriages.

Whilst I like nostalgia I don’t want to travel on it everyday to London and back.

The carriages date back to 1978 and the seats are at such an angle that you can’t sit up. You effectively have to lie back as if on a sun lounger.

 Work or sit back? It’s one or the other!

This makes it difficult for your back if you choose to work.

And if you do decide to be productive, make sure your laptop is charged.

Why?

Because Virgin East Coast made the conscious decision to give the Hull train service no sockets in standard.
 Wot – no sockets?

So if – like me this morning – you’ve failed to fully charge your computer – you face three hours of lost, work time.

You can of course upgrade to get sockets but what a lousy message. Travel in first class on Virgin East Coast and get free electricity!

What’s even worse, is that we had better carriages before privatisation!

When it was East Coast Trains, the Hull Executive had more modern carriages with electricity sockets in standard. 

This was the East Coast 0700 Hull Executive.

  

But when Virgin East Coast (effectively 95% owned by Stagecoach) took over the route they took the carriages away, moved them down south and replaced them with ones built in 1978! They even took the locomotive and replaced it with an East Midlands locomotive.

It was literally a Great Train Robbery.

In just over a year’s time, Hull will welcome the world to our city to enjoy the best cultural highlights the UK has to offer.
But if the world choses to take the direct 1719 from London King’s Cross they’re going to get a bad impression before they reach Hornsey let alone Hull!

They’ll be traveling on rolling stock that’s one year short of is 40th birthday!

So pull your finger out Stagecoach and Souter. Hull deserves much better than this.

The fleet of Lada taxis may have been consigned to history. 

But your determination to take us Back to the Future every day is nothing short of reputational vandalism.

So change the stock, rebrand the locomotive and gives us back our plugs!

Jez He Did

  
I’m disappointed Andy Burnham wasn’t elected as leader today.

Not only for Andy but for the many brilliant volunteers who worked so hard for him.

I’m proud to have backed him in 2010 and today; from being on the end of a phone for a chat or speaking for him at meetings.

But words can’t describe seeing Jeremy Corbyn elected overwhelmingly as leader.

I was in the audience in 1994 to see Blair win and again in 2010 when Ed become leader.

But those election conferences were as nothing to today.

John and I got in early to get a seat. We found some unreserved chairs four rows from the front. Little did we know this area was actually for Corbynistas!

They were very sweet but what struck me was how young, keen and animated they were.

It was also nice to meet Corbyn’s Comms Supremo Carmel Brown (the woman with the red hair who’s led Jeremy from Islington to the Leader’s Office).

But when the result came through my jaw dropped. We thought we could peg Jeremy back to 42% and maybe get through on 2nd preferences.

But to see Jeremy win it outright with 59.5% of the vote was astounding. Even Blair in 1994 could only manage 57%.

 

I gave Jeremy my second preference (like he needed it!).

And I couldn’t disagree with a word in his acceptance speech. 

He spoke with an authority and passion which showed why he’d packed out halls across the country.

As we left the result, hundreds of Corbyn supporters waited outside to hear him speak. 

Never in my life have I seen young people wearing shirts bedecked with the name and image of a politician in his 60s. I doubt I will see it again!

Yes, it’s going to be different and maybe the change Jeremy is promising won’t suit some. 

I personally felt sad to see several Shadow Cabinet members resign en masse. 

I understand why they don’t want to be seen as hypocrites but maybe it would have better to wait until next week.

But I think Jeremy will actually prove to be quite a conciliatory and consensual leader.

He has pretty much singlehandedly trebled the size of the party.

Labour is now three times as big as the Tories, five times larger than the SNP and ten times the size of the Lib Dems.

That’s a phenomonal achievement. And that’s all down to Jeremy.

The potential to turn those 550,000 members and supporters into a campaining movement is huge. 

Making it happen needs to be a priority for Corbyn and his brilliant new Deputy Watson. 

And I’m never going to tire of hearing people refer to them as Tom and Jerry!

So to those who predict doom and gloom under a Corbyn leadership, let’s give him a chance.

He’s the most democratically elected leader we’ve ever had and the party has spoken. 

Actually, it has roared.

So now let’s turn the fire back on the Tories and stand up for the people who desperately need an effective opposition.

An opposition to the Government.

NOT ourselves.

Update.

Ian Mearns MP has revealed that since the election announcement, more than 10,000 people have become members.

That’s 24 people EVERY minute. 

Eating pizza and raising a pint. How I’ll remember 7/7

bus

Life changed for many after 7/7. For the families of the victims and the injured of Britain’s worst mainland terrorist atrocity, today’s 10th anniversary is a time to reflect and remember.

But for the seven million other Londoners, it’s also a day that changed our lives forever.

It was the impetus for thousands, myself included, to start biking to work.

This morning as I cycled from King’s Cross past the camera crews from around the world assembled to cover the anniversary, I was involved in a cycle pile up.

I managed to swerve it, but one man lay injured and shocked on the main road. It was just near Upper Woburn Place, where the Number 30 bus exploded.

The urban peloton came to his aid and I helped him to safety. He was bruised and shocked but was fine. I told him to get an antiseptic wipe, gave him a manly pat on the shoulder and went on my way.

I’ll always remember July 7 2005. I was working at a PR consultancy in Clerkenwell. The agency was on a high. We’d just landed a contract with the ECB to promote the Ashes against the Aussies.

The ECB had decided to do a roadshow around the test match cities to show the matches in nearby parks. They called it Cricket in the Park and we were charged with raising publicity for it.

It was the time of awareness raising wristbands and Live 8. So I came up with the idea for a yellow and green band that read Make Australia History. I ordered 10,000 from China to distribute at the events and we had plans to get celebrities to wear them.

We also had an eight foot cricket bat that we were taking around the country for people to sign, including Prime Minister Tony Blair.

We’d even arranged for Tony to play cricket in Downing Street with a couple of England players. He probably would have worn my wristband too. Weeks later, the players were relieving themselves in his garden!

But everything changed on July 7. The management had gone for an away day and I and a couple of others were left in charge of the office.

It’s then we heard on rolling news that there’d been a power surge on the London Underground. No-one was unduly concerned, other than to think if friends might have been caught in delayed tubes.

Then a bus exploded and panic set in.

It was a young office and the dawning realization we were in the middle of terrorist incident that locked down a city, was too much for some. Many girls were in tears as they tried and failed to get in touch with friends and loved ones.

The mobile phone networks were constantly crashing with the overload of calls. It was like New Years Eve x 10!

So we called the staff together. I can’t remember my exact words other than to say we were safe here and that I promised we’d get through it.

The advice from the police was not to leave the office unless it was an emergency. That meant no-one could get out to lunch.

So I eventually managed to ring the nearest pizza take away. I reckoned that if they were nearby, they’d be more receptive to deliver. They were in the same position as us and they’d appreciate the business.

Thankfully my hunch was right. So I ordered 20 pizzas and 20 bottles of soft drink. It took a couple of trips, but we all ate and nerves were settled. We even turned it into party and cranked the music up too!

As home time approached, we had to make a decision on whether to let the staff go home. The guidance was that it was safe but the buses and London Underground ground to a halt.

And so we all walked home together.

I remember it so vividly. The streets were so still as people flocked out of offices and shops and made their way home. There was no panic, no annoyance. Just tens of thousands of people showing their defiance to the world by heading home with a quiet dignity.

This was a time before social networks so I arranged to meet friends at a pub in central London via email. After the half-hour walk, I met my friend Tony Hannon and other pals for pint. Everyone else had their story to tell. But I’ll always remember that everyone was so calm, so stoic.

A Canadian film crew collared us and spoke to Tony. Hours later he got a call from a relative in North America to say she’d just seen him on the network bulletin!

Following 7/7, Downing St rightly felt it would be inappropriate to play cricket in Downing Street, especially when they’d arranged a meeting with Muslim community representatives for our time slot. We ended up sneaking the eight foot cricket bat into Downing Street in a black bag and TB signed it. It looked like we were carrying a weapon of mass destruction!

The wristband may not have gone viral – it was quietly dropped after 7/7 – but England still Made Australia History and the Cricket in the Park events were a great success.

But I’ll always remember July 7th. A day when people coped with an extraordinary event by being ordinary.

Today I’ll eat pizza at my desk and raise a pint in the same pub to remember those who died.

And mark a time when all stood and walked home together.

On 7/7 we didn’t make terrorism history.

But we showed why it will never defeat us.

IMG_2321

Tom or Stella? We need a Drenge-Gedge mash-up!

TomdjStella-Creasy-with-Andy-Burnham

The University of Nottingham is hardly the Iowa caucuses. But Labour’s leadership and deputy leadership elections are the closest we’ll get to the ‘glamour’ of US politics.

I’ll declare now that I’m an Andy Burnham supporter. I’ve known him for several years and believe he’s what Labour needs now. Someone who can pick up a bruised and battered party, move us back to the centre ground of British politics and get a hearing from lost Labour voters and Tory switchers.

Whilst Andy and Yvette both got a good reception, the 500 plus members in the room clearly have a lot of respect for Jeremy Corbyn. They know we wouldn’t stand a chance with him as leader but he is the soul of the party. He’s not the messiah or a very naughty boy. He’s John the Baptist, a not-for-prophet.

My feeling is that Jezza will surprise many on first preferences and beat Liz Kendall into third place.

Labour supporters are also fiercely loyal to people they trust and believe in fair play. Tributes to Ed were warmly applauded, whilst criticism of other candidates frowned upon.

When one of the leadership challengers in the room criticised others by name, there was a disapproving mumble in the audience. The person sat next to me said: “Why did they do that? There’s no need for it. Be positive!”

But for me the Leadership hustings was the entrée for the main course – the Deputy Leadership debate.

As a former PCC candidate (you may remember me from such campaigns as David Prescott – a Fresh Start for Gainsborough) I was really keen to hear where the DL candidates stood on the role.

I submitted a question not expecting it to be called but Mary Riddell then called me to stand up and read it out “as someone with a connection to a former Deputy Leader.”

I said the task of getting back into power was so huge, would the candidates commit to doing the job full-time and without a portfolio in opposition.

John had always argued for the post to be turned into a full-time campaign role. When he was finally elected as Deputy Leader in 1994, that’s exactly what he did. The membership doubled and Labour built a feared election-winning machine that delivered two landslides and three successive wins.

But in 1997 we only needed to win 55 seats to get a majority. In 2020 we have to gain 94 – only 51 less than the 97 landslide. Standing in at the Dispatch Box and record appearances on Question Time won’t be enough.

The first to answer was Caroline Flint, who made a silly point that JP took a ‘large department’ when Labour won. The fact I was talking about the role in opposition failed to stop her. Caroline clearly does see it as a route to Deputy Prime Minister.

Whilst I have a lot of time for both Angela Eagle and Ben Bradshaw (especially Ben in the south) for me, it’s down to Tom and Stella.

Both have strengths and weaknesses. You can’t doubt Watson’s campaign prowess, party experience and guts for taking on Murdoch on phone hacking. But an all-male Blair/Brown minister ticket isn’t ideal. But Burnham might have solved that problem by saying he’d make a woman shadow first secretary of state (a shadow DPM in all but name.)

Tom’s also promising to lead a digital revolution – from digital Labour Party branches for those who can’t make it to that drafty committee room on a Tuesday night to making it easier to input voted ID from the doorstep.

For Stella, her passion and experience of driving successful campaigns against payday lenders is beyond compare. Every time I hear her, I want to knock some doors! But would she be wasted running Labour’s electoral machine when she’d be better developing those emotive campaigns and motivating members?

I’m glad I campaigned to get Stella on the ballot because she deserves to be there. She’s earned the shot and on the strength of the Nottingham hustings, she’s going down well with members.

I particularly loved her response to a mental health campaigner about wanting to introduce her online to a similar activist in Birmingham so they could campaign together. For Stella, connectivity is the key.

But the task we face is so unprecedented, I don’t think one Deputy Leader can do it solely by themselves. We need extra capacity and experience.

Tom has fought ten election campaigns and countless by-elections. It would be madness not to utilise his knowledge and expertise. 

He’s the closest we have to a Deputy Prescott for the 21st Century – a true Cyber Warrior.

So why should we have to make a choice between Watson and Creasy?

I want a Drenge-Gedge mash-up – an indie-music driven, election winning, machine/movement.

Watson or Creasy? Can’t we have Watsy?

I’ll be voting Tom Watson for Deputy Leader because no one knows how the party works better than him and his plan puts digital engagement at the very heart of Labour’s renewal.

It’s an engine room job so let’s put him in control of the machine.

But I’d like to see Stella build the movement – drafting the campaigns, improving our relationships with members, supporters and potential switchers.

My dream team is Tom as Deputy Leader with Stella as Deputy Chair, the role Watson had under Miliband.

They’d both have clear roles that play to their strengths and complement each other.

I’m backing Tom to be a brilliant Deputy Leader. 

But I’m still InterStella.

So let’s have both.

Why Keziah didn’t vote Labour

Dear Liz, Andy, Yvette and Jeremy,

It’s exactly one month to the day that I stood in the West Lindsey Leisure Centre to hear my result in the 2015 General Election.

Whilst I was hardly expecting a landslide in a safe Tory seat, I had hoped that Labour would make some in roads.

The local party had been moribund for some time, I was only selected in December so I thought I’d give it a good go.

I promised a ‘Fresh Start’ for Gainsborough, to help small businesses, defend the NHS, sort out a social housing repair backlog, cut tuition fees and scrap the bedroom tax.

I even managed to get Network Rail to rethink removing a crossing that would have stopped the disabled and families with buggies using the local station.

I thought it was a good mixture of local and national policies.

I did a video, using Facebook’s tools to specifically target just the 17,000 people on the social network site. It was watched by more than 10,000 of them!

We also did our fair share of those five million conversations on the doorsteps and in the sixth forms.

I took way too many campaign selfies!



I’d even pop round and personally hammer in my boards!


  
And to an extent we did well on Election Day.

We went from third to second, increased Labour’s vote by more than 36% and I managed to get the only swing from Tory to Labour in Lincolnshire (1.15% for those of you who like stats!)

We also managed to get three great council candidates elected.

Of course I still got stuffed, Sir Edward Leigh’s majority increased by nearly 5,000 to 15,000 and the 2010 Lib Dem vote (they went from second to fourth) seemed to split equally to UKIP, Labour and the Tories.

And although I was happy to get 10,500 votes (up from 7,701) a little bit of me was still a bit surprised we didn’t get more, especially in the town of Gainsborough.

Two of its wards are in the top 10% of the most deprived wards in England. I fact a recent study found the boys born there today can only expect to live healthily for 52 years.

This morning, I received this email from a woman called Keziah which went some way to answering my question.

I print it in full here in the hope that you see what she has to say and hopefully provide an answer.

Dear David,

A month ago you stood as a candidate in my constituency of Gainsborough.

I didn’t vote for you.

Why would you be interested in this? Because I should have voted Labour. I am from a background that would traditionally vote Labour.

Working-class, left-wing, of a generation that grew up under the Tories and understood how destructive that was.

Like much of the country, I woke up on the 8th of May disbelieving, angry and scared. But I didn’t vote for my Labour candidate. Why not?

My concerns about the current government (and the previous one, in coalition with the Lib-Dems) were about their callous treatment of the ordinary people of Britain, and their blatant disregard for human life.

Coupled with this has been a rhetorical and media campaign designed to dehumanise and demonise vast swathes of society – amongst whom benefit claimants and migrants. And a bunch of lies about the economic situation.

I read the Labour party manifesto. Did it challenge the lies? The myth of the deficit and that the only way to clear it would be to make cuts – to the NHS, to the welfare state, to the ordinary services of the people of Britain? No it did not.

I see that Labour is still failing to challenge these lies, lies which are disproved repeatedly by top economists. Instead it is jumping on the Tory bandwagon and talking about benefit ‘scroungers’ and the like. Why?

I’m concerned, in the aftermath of the election, as Labour licks its wounds and candidates consider why they didn’t get votes, that you may have been listening too much to the right-wing media campaigns, the ones that say you lost because you were too left-wing. That’s not true. You lost because you were too far to the right.

With your meek and watery acceptance of Tory lies and rhetoric you lost your left-wing voters. But you didn’t gain the right-wingers, who will always prefer Tory. In one group of which I am a member, a poll showed that 96% of people thought that Labour are too right-wing.

Voters don’t trust you because you don’t challenge the Tory propaganda. Why is this? Do you think that we have spaghetti for brains and believe all that stuff? Or are you actually morally on a par with the Tories? Neither of those stances will get you votes.

I would urge you and your fellow Labour party members to take this into account, as you regroup and choose your leader.

This is what lost you votes which, when I was growing up, would have safely belonged to Labour.

You’re not an effective opposition because you’re not opposing. Please do see this email as constructive feedback – yes, there is some criticism, but only because I’m seriously concerned that the Labour party has been out of touch with the electorate.

With very best wishes,

Keziah