Monday, September 17, 2012

News and action No 5

The views expressed in this email and blog are those of the individuals whose name is attached to the posting. They do not represent a collective position of the WLG or the Labour Party.
Dear Comrade
This is the fifth of our (just about) weekly email bulletins, which are also posted on our blog; thanks for the comments on the first four. Darren has produced a short discussion paper re-affirming our political principles and setting priorities for the coming months and this is the main part of the discussion section this week. Comments made by members at last Saturday’s meeting are also in the section, together with a piece from Len. Members are asked to contribute to this debate leading up to the AGM.
Don’t forget, if you have any information and you think it is the sort of thing that would fit the ethos of the blog and email, send it to us to circulate and post; if you wish to comment please feel free to do so on the blog; and if you are a WLG member, please submit posts. Just to make the point, the piece on Llansamlet should have referred to Jenny Rathbone MP for Cardiff Central and not Jenny Randerson!
Report of the Welsh Labour Grassroots meeting 8.09.2102
WLG met on Saturday (8 September) in Newport Centre, with comrades present from Cardiff, Swansea and Newport itself. John Griffiths, AM for Newport East and Environment Minister in the Welsh Government, kicked off the meeting with a lively and wide-ranging assessment of recent developments at the Assembly and some of the challenges facing Welsh Labour in the near future. He said that the argument over devolution itself had been settled and the question was now about the kind of policies that Wales’ government could deliver. Welsh Labour was, of course, in a difficult situation because of the cuts imposed by the Westminster coalition, which meant it had to find ways of achieving its aims with depleted resources. Its lack of an overall majority also made it frequently necessary to seek an accommodation with either Plaid or the Lib Dems. The Assembly’s newly-won capacity to pass its own legislation was also a challenge; John had recently been to Edinburgh to learn from the Scottish experience. Labour’s aspirations for Wales combined economic recovery with progress in education – where there had been notable successes but also some setbacks - and in health, where it was seeking to address long-standing inequalities. Overall, the aim was a fairer, more equal Wales and a general improvement in people’s quality of life.

John answered questions on Wales’ capacity in public service management; the question of tax-raising powers; the challenge from Plaid under its new leader; the possibility of coalition; the influence of the Scottish independence question; Carwyn’s faux pas over Trident; the media’s misrepresentation of the Welsh government’s record; and the need for greater collaboration in local government. He took a positive view of the potential for further expansion of the Assembly’s powers, argued that the best way to deal with the Plaid challenge was to strengthen Labour’s commitment to a socialist platform and felt that the media’s neglect of the devolved government’s record might be offset, to a degree, by the readiness of Ed Miliband and Owen Smith to acknowledge the achievements of the Welsh model.

Darren circulated, and commented on, a short discussion paper that sought to reaffirm WLG’s political principles and set out some priorities for the coming months (this follows in the discussion section below, together with some other contributions). The idea was to stimulate some discussion and thereby better inform the decisions that would need to be made at the AGM.

A discussion followed, with some initial responses to the paper. Further comments from comrades, either on the blog, or by responding to this email, are encouraged.

WLG AGM and other forthcoming events
The WLG annual general meeting will be taking place at the Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Saturday, 27th October.  The theme will be ‘austerity and public services’ and the speakers will include Mark Drakeford AM. In the afternoon, we will be having a joint session with the Socialist Educational Association, addressed by Cllr. Julia Magill, Cardiff Council cabinet member for education.
Other events:
Cardiff, Friday, 21st September (International Peace Day): UNA (Cardiff & Dist) public meeting: Stephen Thomas (Chair, CND Cymru) on ‘Preparing for Peace: Prospects for the Wales Peace Institute’. 7.00pm at the Temple of Peace, King Edward VII Avenue, Cathays Park. Free entry - all welcome.
On Thursday, 4th October, the PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, will be giving the S.O. Davies Memorial Lecture, organised by Merthyr Tydfil Trades Council, at 7.00 pm at Canolfan Soar, Pontmorlais, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8UB (300 yards from bus and rail stations). There will also be refreshments, live music and a photographic display. Tickets are £2 from Margaret Davies, tel: 07989 791179.
Cardiff, Monday, 8th October: UNA/Amnesty International public meeting: Yolanda Foster (Amnesty South Asia Desk) on Human Rights in Sri Lanka’. 7.00pm, Temple of Peace, Edward VII Avenue, Cathays Park. Free entry – all welcome.
London Saturday 20th October must be in every member’s diary to get themselves, family, friends, brothers, sisters, comrades up to London for the TUC ‘A Future That Works’ demonstration. Everyone who wishes to see an end to this Tory government should attend and False Economy has details of transport here. Here also is a link to the Coalition of Resistance leaflets and posters supporting the demonstration.
Left Week – Len Arthur
Ed Miliband gave an important speech at the Stock Exchange a week ago, where he rightly attacked the pathetic weakness of the Tories’ ‘growth’ policies and in addition, made significant references to the failed economic consensus paradigms that have influenced policy since the Second World War. ‘Predistribution’ was the word he developed in the speech, which caught the eye of the press. His argument, basically, is that redistribution of wealth through the tax system is not sufficient, so policy attention has also to give weight to higher real wages which, in turn, are a key element to raise effective demand in the economy.
As in our first discussion piece, this moves some way toward the issues raised by radical Keynesians such as Stewart Lansley. However, Ed Miliband placed this emphasis in the context of a continuing tight public spending budget, so shifting the emphasis away from the role of the state in redistribution. He also referred to ideas of human capital, such as raising skill levels, as methods of achieving real wage growth - not improving the collective bargaining strength of trade unions through, for example, removing the legal restriction on taking industrial action. Yet again, Ed Miliband appears to open one ‘left’ door, only to close another.
TUC Congress is not usually these days noted for history making, but last week’s may have accomplished just that. A key decision was made to explore the practicalities of supporting a general strike in connection with the discussion about the 20 October demonstration. Work will now start exploring this possibility, meaningfully opening the door for socialists to take the argument about how this is a critical part of ending this unelected Tory government, to all trade union members. In a little noted article in the New Statesman – not yet available on the web - the new general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady argues that the current priority of UK trade unions is ‘seeking to boost the scope of collective bargaining’. This may not sound significant; it is, however, as, if it is seriously meant, it marks a real break with the ‘service only’ view of trade unions, amounting to a step toward organising and mobilising industrial action.
Left Roundup
Michael Roberts sustains his devastating critique of the limitations of printing money as an economic policy here. Bradley Manning’s trial continues and the press continue to blank it, which has led to protests in the US. Bradley’s connection to Wales should be a reason for the Welsh Government to support him: can we do more as WLG to press for this? Left Foot Forward has produced a pamphlet arguing that inequality should be a serious issue for the next Labour Government. A close-up view of what austerity means on a Greek island is provided here and Noam Chomsky argues that Israel and the US are the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East here.
Labour Party
Here is the UK Labour Party website with all the recent Party statements and a special one on recruiting new members.
Here are two links with draft left motions for the 2012 national conference - here from LRC and here from Left Futures. If any of you are successful in getting these through your branch or constituency please could you let us know so we can report on progress through this email and the blog.
Here is the Welsh Labour website, which still needs keeping up to date; all constituencies have recently had a circular from Carl Sargeant about the importance of the Police Commissioners elections. We are all urged to Contact Welsh Labour on or by contacting our local constituency party secretary to find out how we can help.

All the best
Darren Williams WLG Secretary
Len Arthur WLG Assistant Secretary

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