Friday, December 28, 2012

Draft model motion for Welsh Labour conference 2013

Below is a model contemporary motion for Welsh Labour conference, which calls on the Welsh party leadership to take a lead in building opposition to the UK government's attacks on working people and the poor. The idea behind the motion is that the damage being done by Con-Dem policies is such that we cannot afford to wait for a possible Labour victory in 2015. Given that a recent poll shows that a majority of voters want an early general election, our party has a real opportunity to take the fight to the Tories and their Lib-Dem hangers-on - demanding that they either change course or face the people - and to ensure that Labour administrations do everything they can to deflect or mitigate the cuts. If we can get this motion onto the conference a genda, we can start a real debate about a response to Tory austerity that goes beyond gritting our teeth and hoping for the best.

The Welsh party conference is due to take place in Llandudno from 22nd to 24th March 2013 and the deadline for receipt of contemporary motions by Welsh Labour is 12.00 noon on 8th February, so this motion will need to go through January branch and GC (or affiliate) meetings. Please try to have this motion (or some version of it) discussed and adopted by your local party - and please let us know how you get on.
Draft model contemporary motion for Welsh Labour conference 2013

Conference notes that

·        Wales’ economy and public services have been put under intolerable pressure by the UK government’s  spending cuts, which have slashed the  Welsh Government budget cut by £2 billion in real terms over three years;

·        Wales was the only part of the UK to have seen no growth in median wages in 2011/12, and was left with the lowest median wage in Britain;

·        The anti-poverty coalition, ‘Cuts Watch Cymru’, has estimated that one in four people in Wales will be adversely affected by welfare ‘reforms’, a threat now exacerbated by the announcement of a real-terms benefit cut in the Chancellor’s December 2012 autumn statement;

·        The devolution to Wales, with insufficient funding, of responsibility for a replacement for Council Tax Benefit highlights the danger of the Welsh Government and Welsh councils being left to wield the Con-Dems’ axe. 

Conference acknowledges that, while the Welsh Labour Government has little power to soften the blow being inflicted on the Welsh people, due to its financial dependence on Westminster, it can and should give political leadership to the campaign against the Con-Dem cuts, reiterating the arguments made convincingly by the TUC and others that the cuts are a political choice, not an economic necessity, and should be replaced by a policy of investment to stimulate sustainable growth and job creation, as well as robust crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance  by the rich.

Conference therefore believes that the Welsh Labour leadership should do everything it can to co-ordinate the efforts of Welsh Labour councils, affiliated trade unions and local parties to defend the people of Wales and, specifically, that it should:

·        maintain the clear position that no privatisation/outsourcing or compulsory redundancies should be carried out by Welsh Labour councils or by the Welsh Government, and that major changes to service provision or staffing should be introduced only by agreement with recognised unions, under the established employee relations arrangements;

·        encourage Welsh Labour councils to pursue other options – such as borrowing, spending their reserves and/or raising council tax – rather than cut vital services;

·        seek to ensure that all Labour councils implement the Living Wage, in line with Welsh Labour policy, both for core staff and for any contractors who may be engaged;

·        organise a special conference, as soon as practicable, to co-ordinate the party's response to austerity; and

·        support industrial action by trade unions against any aspect of the UK government’s austerity agenda, as well as community campaigns to defend local services, and work with the Wales TUC to deliver the latter’s conference commitment to organise an anti-cuts demonstration in Wales at the earliest opportunity, with full Labour support.


Monday, December 10, 2012

National Policy Forum - update for WLP members end of year 2012


for Welsh Labour party members 

End of year report 2012

Annabelle Harle, Darren Williams, Nick Davies and Donna Hutton (Welsh CLP delegates to the NPF)

This bulletin gives an update on our activities as representatives of Welsh Labour members on the National Policy Forum (NPF), the party’s principal policy-making body, since our re-election in the summer, along with significant recent developments like the launch of
Agenda 2015 and the ‘Your Britain’ policy hub ( We are available to discuss any of these issues with party members in Wales and welcome invitations to speak at party meetings.

Welsh party members re-elect sitting policy reps

We are grateful to Welsh Labour members for the vote of confidence they gave us in the elections to the constituency section of the NPF that were held in the summer. Wales has four CLP reps, plus one additional youth rep, on the Forum, in common with every UK region. This was the second time that the election has been conducted by an all-member ballot and three of us who were first elected in 2010 (Annabelle, Nick and Darren) all won a second term, standing once again on the Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) slate, alongside Donna Hutton, taking over from Gail Giles, who is now a cabinet member on Newport City Council. Donna is well-known to many Welsh Labour members as a Welsh Executive rep for North Wales, a full-time Unison official and a former parliamentary candidate. The four of us overcame competition from five other candidates (four of them backed by ‘Progress’, the self-styled ‘New Labour pressure group’). The youth place was secured, unopposed, by first-time candidate, Pearleen Sangha from Swansea West.

We see the result as an endorsement of the platform set out clearly in our individual election statements and in our joint literature, namely:

 that the party nationally should make a decisive break with the market-driven policies it adopted during the ‘New Labour’ period – and, in so doing, it should look to the positive experience of Welsh Labour’s record in devolved areas like health and education;

 that Labour’s policy development and decision-making should become more open and accountable – and we aim to practise what we preach in this respect, by circulating detailed reports of our activities on the NPF and making ourselves available to give verbal reports.

We have also worked closely with Mark Whitcutt, who was re-elected unopposed at Welsh Labour conference in February, as one of the two ‘regional’ NPF reps who are delegated by conference to represent the whole Welsh party (his fellow regional rep is now Diane Green of Unite, taking over from Stella Matthews).

PF Birmingham meeting – June 2012
The weekend of 16/17 June saw a two-day session of the NPF at Aston University in Birmingham – the third and last meeting of the 2010-12 term, coming (rather oddly) after the ballot had closed for the 2012-14 term but before the results were declared. It was the first meeting for a year (notwithstanding a couple of telephone conferences). Annabelle, Darren and Mark went along, as did Stella, attending her final meeting before her term ended. In an important sense, however, it was more like the first meeting of a ‘new’ NPF than the last of the old Forum, since the body is ‘under new management’. Peter Hain has been replaced by Angela Eagle as NPF chair, while Jon Cruddas is now leading the policy review, taking over from Liam Byrne. (Harriet Harman described Cruddas and Eagle as ‘resolutely rooted in the party’ and added that if Labour had listened more to the party when in government, ‘we would have done things differently’.) There were indications that we were going to see a more transparent and inclusive approach to policy-making, and this has been borne out, to some extent.

When most of us attended our first NPF meeting in November 2010, Ed Miliband had recently been elected leader and there was a lot of emphasis on the need for the party to learn from recent mistakes – both in relation to its substantive policies and to the process of policy formation, known as ‘Partnership into Power’ (PiP). When NPF members highlighted problems with PiP, such as the lack of feedback given to party units on their submissions and the lack of a clearly-defined role for most NPF members in policy-making, assurances were given that these issues would be addressed. Yet, despite a further meeting six months later and two telephone conferences, at which the same complaints were made, there was little evidence of any progress until the change of NPF leadership. One immediate tangible improvement at the June meeting was that the main discussion papers were circulated in good time and NPF members were even given online access to the submissions received in response to the previous set of consultation papers (although not sufficiently far in advance of the meeting as to allow reps time to read the hundreds of pages of text). Spreading the meeting over two days allowed a change of plan on the second day, making reps feel that progress was indeed being made, and afforded us more opportunity for discussion with reps from other regions.


The meeting included policy workshops on each of the party’s six key policy areas, additional European-themed workshops organised by an organisation called the Foundation for European Progressive Studies

(which, it seems, had provided much of the funding for the weekend) and four major plenary sessions. Of the latter, one focused on Ed Miliband’s keynote speech, one was on Europe while the other two dealt with the progress of the party’s policy review and reform of the ‘Partnership into Power’ process.

Ed Miliband’s speech

Ed began by thanking everyone who had contributed to Labour’s success in the local elections, before turning to the political picture. Among the points made were:

 the public economy and private economy are mutually dependent and should not be divided

 the Leveson revelations were a symbol of what was wrong with politics - the Murdoch empire should be broken up

 Austerity isn’t working at home or abroad - the Tories are standing up for the wrong people, governing with the wrong ideas.

 Reward should be related to effort - we can’t continue to have bosses paid 100 or 1000 times what their lowest-paid employee gets.

 We must be seen in the future as the first generation to ‘get’ climate change, not the last generation

not to get it.

 We have to raise people’s expectations about politics, and show that we’re not ‘all the same’.

 We don’t stand for the rich and powerful but for ordinary people. We have to look like the country we seek to represent – we can’t rest until 50% of MPs are women and we have addressed the lack of working-class representation.

 It’s not enough to deliver competent government; we have to offer a vision of a different kind of society, based on responsibility, solidarity and community – the values of the British people, which are not reflected by this government.

In the subsequent plenary, Annabelle asked Ed to be aware of the potential implications for Welsh Labour of heavy UK Labour involvement in the "Better Together" campaign in the Scottish independence referendum campaign. He made it clear that he recognised the sensitivities involved.

Policy workshops

There were initial policy workshops on the Saturday – one for each of the six policy areas covered by a commission. The discussion in each of these sessions was based on a short document summarising the main issues that the party needs to consider in drawing up its manifesto. In a novel development (and one that had not been possible at previous one-day meetings), two specific items within each policy-area that seemed, on the first day, worthy of detailed further discussion were given a stand-alone session the following day.

Of the initial workshops, we were able to cover the following:

 the Health workshop with Andy Burnham: the key themes here were the need to start from a ‘whole person’ approach to health and social care and to develop a system fit for the 21st century, not the twentieth, recognising that a changing reality was putting the system to the test and exposing the cracks between health, social care and mental health services. Darren pointed out that healthcare was much more integrated in Wales than in England, due to Welsh Labour’s rejection of the internal market.

 the Education & skills workshop with Stephen Twigg and Sharon Hodgson, which touched on a wide spectrum of educational issues from childcare to schooling to further education. Concerns were expressed about the present government’s cuts in Surestart and its loan system which jeopardises the future of adult education. When the discussion turned to special educational needs, Mark highlighted the Welsh approach, including the shift to additional learning needs, the integration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Welsh government policy and the all-Wales autism strategy. Annabelle added that Wales was following its own path on education, had a sound comprehensive system and had retained the EMA. Stephen Twigg said that England should have followed the Welsh approach on 14-19 education.

 the ‘Britain in the World’ workshop, which was attended by a number of shadow foreign and defence ministers. Points were raised on aid to developing countries, the Millennium Development Goals, the European Union and Iran’s nuclear programme (the latter two raised by Darren). But the main discussion was on the issue of Trident replacement, which was strongly opposed, for a variety of reasons, by most of those who contributed to the discussion - including Annabelle - but doggedly championed by John Spellar, impervious to opposition.

 the Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Communities workshop with Chris Bryant and David Hanson, which did not excite as much concern about anti-social behaviour as its discussion paper anticipated. Mention was made of the police commissioner elections and of alcohol-related crime. Annabelle raised alcohol as a health issue as well as a crime-related one, costing the country a great deal of money, and called for measures to discourage excess drinking, citing the success of anti-smoking moves. She also asked for attention to the plight of asylum seekers, who are not allowed to work. There was concern that the relaxation of employment law, allowing "no-fault" sackings, could become a racist charter.

The specific items chosen to be covered in more depth were:

 Britain in the World: Making the Case for Europe; & 21

st Century Defence Capabilities;

 Crime, Justice, Citizenship & Equalities: Anti-Social Behaviour; & Police & Crime Commissioners

 Education & Skills: Schools More Accountable to their Local Communities; & Routes from School to Work

 Health: An Integrated Approach to Care; and Future Funding of Social Care

 Prosperity & Work: Regional Industrial Strategy; & Employment Rights

 Sustainable Communities: Sustainability & Accessibility of Transport; and Housing in the Private & Social Rented Sectors.

Of these, we covered:

 21

st Century Defence Capabilities, which was almost exclusively about Trident – this had been identified by many reps as a key issue of the weekend; they attended in strength and delivered an even more emphatic rejection of renewal than the previous day. The chair of the session, Ellie Reeves, acknowledged the opposition to Trident but said that this was not necessarily representative of opinion in the party as a whole and that there had to be a wider debate.

 Schools More Accountable to their Communities: there was some recognition that the last Labour government had bent the stick too far, in English education policy, towards empowering schools – especially Academies – to manage their own affairs, at the expense of overall democratic accountability and that this had enabled the Con-Dems to give schools even greater freedom. Stephen Twigg seemed to want to restore some of the political responsibility


that used to rest with LEAs in England (and still does in Wales) but without being seen to undermine ‘parental choice’. Annabelle argued that LEAs are the best way to plan, ensure consistency, pool services, etc. and talked about Cardiff comprehensive schools that enable every child to fulfil their potential and celebrate every talent.

European-themed workshops

‘Jobs Growth in Europe’ was a discussion of the Eurozone crisis and its likely outcome by a panel consisting of an academic, a shadow Treasury minister, a Dutch MP and a business lobbyist, chaired by the economist and Labour peer, Stewart Wood. The panellists provided useful insights into the unfolding drama but they seemed to share a somewhat top-down, technocratic approach to the crisis, based on the assumption that the preservation of the Euro, and economic stability generally, were more important than social justice.

In ‘How can the Left win again?’, Douglas Alexander, Peter Kellner, a leading official of the Australian Labor Party, and a Swedish MP discussed how social-democratic parties can present an electoral platform true to their fundamental values while also appealing to voters. Alexander observed that centre-left parties’ period of relative success beginning in the late 1990s had come to an end after the economic crash and also acknowledged that Labour had, in the past, wrongly presented globalisation and European integration as unalloyed good things. Again, this was a fascinating discussion, and the international aspect very welcome, but there were few concrete suggestions as to the way forward.

Plenary sessions

Prior to the plenary session on PiP Reform, NPF reps had already received two documents on improving the policy process: an ‘official’ one (presumably written by the Joint Policy Committee – the ‘executive’ of the NPF) and one from the Trade Union & Labour Party Liaison Organisation (TULO), the umbrella body for affiliated unions. The official paper included welcome commitments to make policy-making ‘

more transparent, accountable and responsive’, with ‘shorter consultation documents produced each year, focussing on top political priorities – including options and choices where appropriate – with new guidance on how to get involved’. The proposals as to how reform would be delivered were, however, rather hazy or tentative (e.g. ‘consideration’ would be given to allowing NPF members not elected to Policy Commissions to attend their meetings, while an ‘online policy forum to host debate’ would be an ‘aspiration’, ‘pending available resources’.) The TULO paper was a bit more concrete, its main thrust being the need for year-on-year continuity of the policy papers, which could not be amended other than by party units or affiliates, who would send their amendments directly to the relevant Policy Commissions, with the latter putting these to the full NPF if they could not agree. TULO also wanted greater clarity and consistency about putting alternative (majority & minority) positions to party conference.

In the plenary session, Angela Eagle invited suggestions as to how the process could be improved. The following comments were among those that seemed to command broad support, and which she appeared to take on board (although it was unclear how far she was making a definite executive decision to adopt certain proposals, and how far she was simply acknowledging those that fitted broadly with the vague commitments in the paper mentioned above):

 that all NPF members should be on policy commissions

 that there should be greater reflection of the experience of Wales and Scotland (Annabelle & Mark)

 that alternative policy positions should be put to conference (based on the TULO submission)

 that the party needs to be in better position to engage our allies in discussion

 that the NPF needs a separate web platform (as promised by Peter Hain)

 that NPF members need to have access to the submissions to the policy process made by individuals, party units/affiliates and other organisations

 that each policy commission should publish a newsletter giving an update on its work (every six months or so, it was suggested)

 that ordinary party members need to believe that they can propose policy and have it adopted.

In the plenary session on the Policy Review, Jon Cruddas set out his thoughts about the general approach that he felt the party should be taking. He described the present political situation as a historical turning-point, which represents a major opportunity for Labour, if we are ‘up for it’. He pointed out that on previous occasions when the party had lost power (1931, 1951 and 1979) it had gone on to tear itself apart, whereas, fortunately, that hadn’t happened in 2010. Labour now needed to do what it had succeeded in doing on those occasions when it had won big electoral victories in the past (1945, 1964, 1997) and successfully contested the ‘national story’. We should be saying that the Tories are simply managing decline, whereas Labour is about rebuilding. Cruddas admitted that there had been problems with the ‘PiP’ process in the past but was keen to learn from NPF reps’ views and experiences as to how the review should move forward. In the session that followed, a large number of disparate points were raised, to which Cruddas responded with evident interest and enthusiasm. He also said that 29 policy groups had been established to examine policy in detail, each led by shadow cabinet member. It was unclear, however, how their work would be synchronised with that of the NPF itself. In the weeks following the Birmingham meeting, this point was underscored by significant policy announcements – by Stephen Twigg and Jim Murphy on ‘military schools’ and by Ed Miliband on banking reform – that had not even been discussed by the NPF.


There was a definite feeling, among those present in Birmingham, that the post-2010 NPF was at last getting down to business, after the ‘false starts’ represented by the earlier meetings and telephone conferences. Angela Eagle’s down-to-earth and businesslike chairing and approachability was a breath of fresh air, while Jon Cruddas’ approach combined intellectual seriousness with a sensitivity towards electoral considerations. The introduction, on the second day, of more focussed discussions on particular issues was a very welcome initiative, as was the more concrete discussion than hitherto about reforming the PiP process. All three of the present writers who attended the meeting also highlighted the need for policy papers to reflect developments in Wales and Scotland if this is to be more than just an ‘English’ Policy Forum – and this point seemed to be embraced by both Eagle and Cruddas.

Within a few days of the Birmingham meeting, Angela Eagle had emailed party members with a brief summary of the event, including links to the text of Ed Miliband’s speech, the policy papers and the contact details for their local NPF reps. At about the same time, she emailed her congratulations to those of us who had been re-elected to the NPF, providing useful links and saying that the recent meeting had been ‘just the start’ of ‘the process of reinvigorating the way we make policy’. She added that ‘I know more than anyone how frustrating the Party’s policy making process has been in recent years, which is why I’m so committed to changing it. Ed and I will be setting out more detail of how we propose to take this forward in the next few months. That means we need to involve our members, trade unions and affiliates in shaping the policy process.’

Changes to PiP agreed at party conference

In September/October, the party conference agreed a package of reforms to the PiP process that had been presented by the NEC. The main elements of this are:

 A new online ‘Policy Hub’ where party members and the public can read papers, make submissions, suggest amendments, etc.;

 A more structured process, with a clear timetable, and NPF members having the opportunity to make decisions on the content of policy papers at annual Forum meetings – even involving voting (a rarity at present);

 A reorganisation and expansion of the policy commissions, with a greater focus on economic issues, reflecting the changed political landscape following the financial crisis;

 An opportunity for annual conference to choose some of the key topics that the NPF will consider in any given year, by means of a Priorities Ballot at Conference;

 Better feedback for Party members who get involved, with an online audit trail for submissions and amendments.

This package involves less of a role for party conference than that proposed in the TULO paper and, in fact, a rule change motion from Bridgend CLP, which would have given conference the right to amend NPF documents, was ruled out of order on somewhat questionable grounds.

Agenda 2015
and Your Britain

The name of the new policy process is

Agenda 2015 (‘PiP’ having been dropped, after 15 years). The new ‘policy hub’ website was launched on 22 November and is open to everybody. Annabelle was able to go to a preview meeting at party HQ the previous week, where the head of Policy Development demonstrated how the website works. The site is called Your Britain ( and, although there is a link to it from the party website, it is a standalone site accessible to everybody, not just to Labour members or registered supporters. It is clearly intended to tie in with the ‘One Nation’ concept set out in Ed Miliband’s conference speech.

Your Britain
will be the home for the manifesto for the next Westminster general election, which will be developed under the rubric of Agenda 2015. It will be, to continue to use the jargon, a portal for submissions and a campaigning and engagement tool, and the plan is that it will be led by the NPF. On the site, one can read policy documents, make submissions, comment on other people’s submissions and vote (only Labour party members will be able to vote). There will be information and updates on the website too and a forum for NPF reps, which will not be open to the public.

The hope is that, with anyone able to use the website, there will be community engagement, as well as submissions from NPF reps and party units and, importantly, from affiliates (the unions and socialist societies), as well as external organisations. NPF members are expected to inform and enthuse other party members about the process and act as champions for the site.

There are currently ten ‘Challenge Papers’ on the website. These are concise documents on each of the priority areas chosen at conference and are intended to stimulate debate, on the basis of which a policy paper will be published in the spring, setting out options for the party to consider. They are out for consultation until
28 February 2013. The ten Challenge Papers, and the new policy commissions responsible in each case, are as follows: Stability and Prosperity Policy Commission
A British Investment Bank: making it a reality

Stability and Prosperity Policy Commission

Tax avoidance: tax havens

Work and Business Policy Commission

Protecting workers: including the role of agency workers, the living wage, and Gangmaster Licensing Authority

Work and Business Policy Commission

Vocational education, apprenticeships and the role of job guarantees in tackling youth unemployment.

Living Standards and Sustainability Policy Commission

Our buses and railways: giving communities more of a say

Education and Children Policy Commission

Childcare: what matters to parents and children?

Stronger, Safer Communities Policy Commission

The housing crisis: house building and a private rented sector that works for Britain’s families

Health and Care Policy Commission

21st Century NHS and social care: delivering integration

Better Politics Policy Commission

Young people and politics: making a fresh start

Britain's Global Role Policy Commission

Britain's role in a post-2015 development vision

Friday, December 7, 2012

News & action No 11

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 Comrades
[I hesitate to say ‘this week’s blog’ as there has been a gap of a couple of weeks whilst we enjoyed the presence of our daughter’s family from NZ. Strictly speaking though, this is now the blog – No 11 - that belongs to this week! – Len]
Since the last blog we have experienced a number of ‘turns of the screw’: the attack on Gaza, the proposed Israeli West Bank settlement as a response to the UN vote on Palestine; the Tories continuing to do the bidding of the rich media barons in their response to Leveson and everyone avoiding the question of media ownership domination; and finally the Autumn budget statement where the Tories hit the poor and trade unions and announced faux initiatives to be lapped up by their rich friends and the right wing press. And yet, reason enough not to be pessimistic if you are an internationalist, as fightbacks continue around the world in a historical period where it is increasingly clear ‘their fight is our fight’ wherever it takes place.
In our own way as WLG we have been talking and thinking through how relate to these events and, in particular, how to respond the political and economic consequences in Wales. Following on from the excellent AGM on 27 October – reported in the last blog - the WLG meeting in Swansea on Saturday 1 December broadened the discussion. Mark Seddon laid the ground for a general debate, which is followed through in this week’s discussion section, and members raised key issues derived from their experiences covering the growing housing crisis; how Labour councillors could resist the cuts; and serious questioning of the Welsh Government’s intentions over education and health. We will take these concerns to the Welsh Labour policy forum on the 8 December and we are in the process of preparing a draft motion for the Welsh Labour conference early next year. When finalised, we can use it to launch debates in branches and constituencies around Wales.
Our next WLG meeting will concentrate on how Labour councillors can fight the cuts and will take place in Cardiff on 26 January. Councillors and all members and supporters who are interested are most welcome.
Forthcoming events
Saturday, 8 December: UK Uncut! Direct action for tax justice, 12.00 noon at the Aneurin Bevan statute, Queen Street, Cardiff
Saturday, 15 December: Socialist Educational Association Cymru festive coffee morning (with refreshments) at 17 Gileston Road, CF11 9JS (off Cathedral Road), followed by a working lunch to discuss two important issues in Welsh education: (1) The proposal to keep GCSEs in Wales; and (2) The proposal to do away with LEAs and replace them with a smaller number of schoolboards.
Saturday, 26 January 2013 WLG day school on ‘Councils and the cuts’, 11.00 am-4.00 pm at the Welsh Institute of Sport,  Cardiff. Further details to follow soon.
Left WeekLen Arthur
With such big events happening over the last 10 days or so, it is difficult to not plaster this bit with urls. So this week I’m concentrating on what are some of the best left budget responses. Next week I’ll try to pull together references to help us make sense of what is going on in Wales.
As ever, if you don’t mind a dense read, Michael Roberts is excellent in his budget analysis, placing what is going on within the context of the workings of capitalism. The New Economics Foundation provides a good follow up read. Acres have been written on the detail and the parliamentary political context but some of the more insightful have been in the New Statesman; the Independent; and of course the LRC’s response. Left Futures has a good analysis by Michael Meacher covering the murky, sham reality of Osborne’s statement on tax avoidance and on the same issue; the NEF has started to produce a series of videos on tax havens. An article in The Guardian on the ONS household survey ends with this: ‘An analysis by ONS reveals just how much real spending has fallen once inflation is taken into account. The figures reveal that real spending by households is running at 11% lower in real terms than at its peak in 2004 – 05. Adjusted for inflation, families spent £481 a week in 2011 compared to £541 in 2004 – 05. Current spending levels are now only at the level they were in 1996 – 97’. I.e the working class pays the cost! Under the cover of the budget statement, the Tories thought they could slip through the end of Remploy. I’m tempted to swear.
One or two other pieces I couldn’t resist from the Guardian about Leveson and the response from Liberty and this French statement from a leading member of the Socialist Party who has decided to leave the Party – same tensions, different country.
Labour Party
The UK Labour Party website is here and by the time you read this the election results will be out.
The Welsh Labour website is here.
Next week, concentrating on making sense of Welsh Labour and the Welsh Government, this section will be much expanded and will also cover an early report from the Welsh policy forum on Saturday.
All the best
Len Arthur WLG Assistant Secretary
Darren Williams WLG Secretary

Bridging the gap (1) – Len Arthur

Bridging the gap (1) – Len Arthur
In a recent discussion blog Darren Williams analysed the limits of Welsh Labourism, suggesting a number of forms of political action that could be initiated to start to move beyond these confines. This discussion piece will come at the same problem, drawing upon our earlier discussion relating to the possible ways of understanding the current crisis of capitalism, and how the power of capital can be confronted. Climate change can also be seen as being inextricably connected to these two contextual issues, consequently this discussion relates to and draws upon the experience of the green movement.
Darren’s blog drew upon issues raised by Mark Drakeford’s contribution to our WLG AGM. This current piece has been inspired by the recent contributions of two other Marks (must be an age thing!): Serwotka at a recent Cardiff TUC meeting and Seddon at our last WLG meeting in Swansea. Mark Serwotka made three points. First, he emphasised just how serious and ideologically driven were the Tories’ attacks on welfare, the public sector and trade unions. Second, he argued that the Labour Party should be taking a longer term economic view, being prepared to propose fundamental structural change on how the economy works, consequently leading the attack on the basics of neo-liberalism, not looking for a weak compromise. Third, he argued that the trade union leadership was central to challenging the neo-liberal consensus, but they themselves were in a crisis and were behind the pace. This was his big picture, and he then proceeded to describe the gap between the present state of the movement and what needs to be done. He was in no way pessimistic and provided an example of how the PCS was aiming to mobilise around pay and conditions - now that other unions had neutralised the pensions issue - but also described how the PCS had to retreat on pensions as a consequence, and how mobilising had to start again from a low base.
Mark Seddon argued that despite the worst and most obvious crisis of capitalism for decades, politics were not automatically coming to the left. In fact, it was possible that  a populist drift to the right was taking place, as seen in the rise of UKIP. Like  Serwotka,  Seddon argued that there is a crisis of leadership that was really a crisis of confidence, resulting from the defeats of the trade unions in the 1980s, consequently no real opposition was being offered to the scorched earth policies of the Tories. He described their version of neo-liberalism as ‘market Leninism’ and argued that the Labour Party needed a big idea to challenge this consensus, based upon a massive jobs and investment programme developed with the support of the trade unions and the public sector and, secondly, to ensure that addressing inequality was central to all activities. Working toward this vision would provide the basis of taking power back in the Labour Party as would linking with affiliated unions, such as Unite, to support a recruitment drive. He then specifically outlined an alternative policy agenda, such as a commitment to full employment; a financial transaction tax; relating to the global economy by arguing for a different social and democratic EU; and supporting workers and consumer cooperatives.
Both contributions aimed high, at the essential need to confront neo-liberalism and the power of capitalism; both ackowledged that there is a gap between where we are, and having the power to achieve this alternative vision; what can nevertheless be done, if we have theconfidence and consciousness to go forward with a commitment to  action, informed by a clear political narrative; and both had some practical suggestions, as did Darren in his blog. Interestingly, a version of the same issue ignited a recent debate on the Labour Briefing Facebook group which has had 92 contributions. And in the Guardian last Friday, Anna Karpf discussed how she tries to avoid ‘tuning out’ when dealing with a similar gap in relation to the issues of climate change. All these contributions reveal a narrative that needs addressing: both capital and climate change stand exposed like never before; frustration and anger exists and is growing, and in Lenin’s terms, the flammable material is there, along with the possibility of a spark that could set it off: and yet the struggle could be in retreat in the UK.
The problem is fundamentally one of scale between the size of the challenge and our consciousness and confidence in our ability to do anything about it. As Anna Karpf suggests, the gap can  seem so daunting, that each comment or exposure just makes people feel more impotent and powerless. Every time we expose the disastrous consequences of the Tories, capitalism, climate change and neo-liberalism in this situation it can have the unintentional consequences of increasing the size of the ‘gap’ : we can become seen as prophets of doom instead of beacons of hope. What can be done?
A classic reformist approach to this problem is to reduce the scale of the challenge. First, as in management babble, emphasise the positive and neutralise the negative, such as the ‘dented shield’ argument: we may have to stop all the arts funding but at least we saved many social workers’ jobs. Second, as argued at a recent WLG meeting by Mark Drakeford, is a form of managing down expectations along the lines that it may be unfortunate, but we have to be realistic and accept that we live in times of austerity. It could be argued that ‘with you in good times and bad’ and now ‘one nation Labour’ is an example of this approach. Third, is the Fabian reformist argument, that it is not possible radically to change or confront power in our society, so let us concentrate on small but hopefully incremental gains – well, at least they might last until the next Tory government blows them away. Fourth, there is the Blairite Progress position: what is wrong with neo-liberalism, we should embrace it so that at least it will be Labour version. There are other variants but the picture is clear: reduce the scale of the problem to action that fits the budget and the realistic social democrat possibilities.
In the first two blog discussion pieces we covered the economic thinking that may support these reformist approaches – basically a ‘muddling through’ or traditional Keynesian perspective. The pieces then went on to explore the overlaps between some Marxist and radical Keynesian approaches and finally, the Marxist approaches that are rooted in the structural contradictions of how capitalism works and the problems of the falling rate of profit. If the latter two approaches are those that you personally find convincing and now need tackling, then the scale of the current ‘gap’ problem remains and cannot be minimised by reformist measures. So, if that is where you are, what can be done to bridge the gap?
People personally faced with the direct consequences of the Tory neo-liberal policies, and not knowing how to fight back, will tend to retreat into individual solutions if at all possible, or perhaps escapism or even just pulling their blankets over their heads. In fact, this is nothing new, as this is the usual daily reaction of most people when faced with adversity. Even when it does not seem possible to retreat any further, retreat still happens. Anyone involved in TU organising will know that individual and collective possibilities always vie for attention. The main task of a TU organiser however, is to continue to provide a collective answer to issues or grievances experienced by members. The task is made much easier if successes can be pointed to as examples of what can be achieved. It is at this level of local scale discourse, sometimes one to one, on which a collective fightback is built but it requires hard, consistent work. The danger is that the populist right can fill the vacuum, if the political leadership minimises the problems and the answers seem complicated; with easy solutions, that scapegoat others and arguments about leaving it to the strongman, the extreme right can easily come to the fore.
The collective approach based upon unity and solidarity in action and, in conjunction with politics, provides a way of rebuilding confidence and consciousness and answering the ‘what can be done’ question. So now you’ve got this far - and are probably  thoroughly depressed! - you’ll just have to suggest your own answers as part of the discussion and I’ll add my bit next week!