Labour’s best local election result since 1995 and the Tories’ worst since 1996, yeah, we’ll take that

Labour leader Ed Miliband with Labour Group leader Sir Albert Bore

Ed Miliband in Birmingham yesterday with Birmingham Council Labour Group leader, Sir Albert Bore

That’s right, throughout Friday Labour saw it’s best performance in a local election since 1995 (all in proportion to how many Council elections were up for grabs as last year we gained more but far more were up for grabs). And similarly the Tories saw their worst local election result since 1996 and the Lib Dems now have dropped down below 3,000 councillors for the first time in the party’s existence.

This was a result that exceeded everyone’s expectations on all fronts. With most Tories attempting to spin the result to say we needed around 450 councillor gains to be seen as a success, we only smashed that with 823! When everyone expected Scottish Labour to lose Glasgow City Council we not only fought off a SNP challenge but took control of the council at the expense of the Lib Dems and Tories. When everyone said Labour would only win a slight majority in our very own Birmingham City Council, we smashed all expectations by gaining 20 councillors and winning a 34 seat majority. When it was expected Welsh Labour would fail in taking Cardiff City Council, we defied all predictions by gaining 33 councillors and winning a majority of 17! And we’re very proud of very nearly almost gaining control of the Greater London Assembly, falling short by 1 Assembly member.

This election wasn’t without its disappointments though. BULS’s very own Honourary life Member, Dennis Minnis, was unsuccessful in taking Edgbaston. And biggest of all, huge disappointment at Ken’s defeat. We are all glad Ken did defy most  (but not all, sadly) odds by not letting Boris have a shoe-in election by pushing the margin on the second round to a close 3%. Many Tories see Boris as the next leader and Prime Minister in waiting. “Wiff-waff” may well have edged it in London, don’t expect the country to do the same.

Of course, the results did see successes close to our hearts in BULS. Obviously there was turning Birmingham City Council red, but BULS saw former student of the University of Birmingham, Karen McCarthy, join former BULS Secretary, Brigid Jones, as a Councillor for Selly Oak. Quinton ward, where Grandee Nash played a large hand in, was also successful in electing Caroline Bradley.

All in all, while this was a brilliant result for Labour nationally we have to remember this has happened to opposition parties in the past. Hague, Howard and Kinnock all saw similar successes at mid-term local elections in their time in opposition. This was a much needed boost, not a prelude for the general election. Though it is safe to say, that the media, politicians and the wider public can no longer claim Miliband has no chance at 2015. There’s still a hell of a lot of work to be done, but we now know that we still do have a shot at 2015.

Max

Fourth by-election on the trot

That’s right, four by-election victories on the trot. Yes, all these were in Labour held seats, but it’s important how every single one has seen a significant swing towards Labour each time. The results were as follows:

Labour – 12,639 (54.42% up by 10.79%)

Conservative – 6,436 (27.71% down by 6.32%)

Liberal Democrats – 1,364 (5.87 down by 7.87%)

UKIP – 1,276 (5.49& up by 3.45%)

This has seen a 8.6% swing from Tory to Labour, when compared to the last general election which saw a mere 4.8% swing from Labour to Tory. Yes, the turnout was very low, but what do you expect at this time of year?

Either way, great result!

Max

David Miliband

I’ve just got back from the double David Miliband event, and just wanted to write a report.

I thought the crowd during the first part (In Conversation with David Miliband – in the great hall) was fairly tough, there were questions about Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Guantanemo Bay. One of the best questions was “What would you say to David Eastwood about the Browne Review?” and David replied in a very diplomatic manner, ending with the comment that he didn’t think it was “all Professor Eastwood’s fault”. I for one hope that Eastwood noticed the resentment in the room and the general jibes against tuition fees and millionaires.

The second part (The Living Wage Launch with David Miliband) was more relaxed and entertaining. Luke asked a great question about solidarity with potential allies and recognising the real enemy. David replied “kicking Lib Dems is pleasure, kicking Tories is business. Politics is business”. He also highlighted the work of his “Movement for Change”, responding to comments that it seemed similar to the Big Society by stating that society is our turf, we have always been known as socialists not statists, and the Tories are only developing policies to promote society because they are terrified of being known as the “there is no such thing as society” party. I’m sure many of us can see through their Big Society strategy to a purely Thatcherite idealism, and recognise that grass roots activity and community organisation always has been and will remain a Labour policy area.

In conclusion, congratulations to the BULS members who helped to organise the talks, and I hope those who missed out come to the upcoming great events!

Suzy

Clegg is Not For Turning

Yesterday Nick Clegg made a speech to the Liberal Democrat conference which was steadfast and robust in defence of the coalition’s economic policy, despite the depressing evidence this week that the economy isn’t changing course either from its current trajectory of nowhere. He promised there would be no turning back on the cuts and auterity, however many jobs are lost and however many people struggle to make ends meet thanks to the VAT rise and inflation.

Does this sound familar? It should. For although it is right that things never completely run in parallel, it is indeed the case that history may never repeat itself, but it rhymes. It was around this stage in the political and economic cycle – at a party conference – that Margaret Thatcher made the infamous ‘Lady’s not for turning’ speech. Then the UK witnessed riots on the streets, rampant unemployment, a royal wedding, a foreign intervention and a belligerent government hell-bent on destroying the fabric of our society. I barely exaggerate. Even shoulder pads are making something of a comeback in 2011.

However, maybe now is more like 1931, with a prolonged slump looming, a currency mechanism collapsing at the same time as the US economy, a rise in far right extremism and little help for the poor and jobless.We seem to be heading for continued gloom because of the Con Dems’ obsession with cutting the deficit too far and too fast, stifling growth and productivity and making the situation worse for all of us. Although they have won welcome concessions from the Tories on some issues, on the fundamentals Nick Clegg needs to wake up and pull out of this marriage of convenience for the sake of his party in future but also for the country. Just as in 1981 and 1931, ordinary people feel that overall Britain is going in the wrong direction or is in the doldrums – the only thing that would change that elusive yet crucial feeling of a lack of confidence is investment on Keynesian terms to jump-start the economy, a fall in VAT and a slower trimming of the excess we built up saving the banks from collapse. Unfortunately though it seems the Cleggy’s not for turning.

9/11 Ten Years On, Coalition Politics and Blood Donation

9/11 – A Warning from Recent History

For someone of the age of the current crop of Labour Students, it is particularly difficult to believe that it is ten years tomorrow since the lives of millions were changed forever on September 11th, 2001. Most of us were still in primary school at the time, and it is perhaps apt that our generation – one that was constantly told we were growing up too fast – had our innocence of the world around us robbed so suddenly on that bright Tuesday morning. Hearing and seeing the images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center still transfixes all of us, and as much as we might want to look away having seen enough, we can’t quite bring ourselves to stop watching.

However it is our generation – the 9/11 generation – who will be the politicians and headline-makers of the coming years, and if anything good can come of the last decade, it is surely the lesson  that those in power have a responsibility not to overreact when faced with such onslaughts. Our party’s most successful leader (in electoral terms) no doubt had good intentions, but made the grave error of marching the troops gung-ho into an unplanned and illegal war, probably creating a whole new generation of terrorists in the process, while at home him and those around him were complicit in eroding many of the freedoms we were meant to be protecting, including detention without charge and freedom from torture. If the horror of terrorism reaches us again, we must pause and assess the causes before acting. The same rule should apply for other crises, like the riots this summer.

Backbench Tories Have Nothing To Worry About

Today is the final day of the Plaid Cymru autumn conference in Llandudno, north Wales. The outgoing leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, made his final conference speech yesterday after an electoral drubbing for the nationalist party in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP have been successful, he argued that coalition government in Cardiff Bay (of which Plaid was the junior party) meant Plaid’s achievements in government were smothered by Labour, and that the party was punished by voters for not claiming credit for them.

Aside from the fact that Plaid achieved very little in government in a time of economic turmoil other than a referendum with poor turnout which managed to bore even political anoraks, their experience in coalition should serve as a lesson to Westminster politics. This week Tory backbenchers, angry over law and order, Europe and abortion, moaned that the Lib Dem ‘tail’ was wagging the Tory ‘dog’ and that Nick Clegg was being given too many concessions by the Prime Minister. However come the election in 2015, the Tories will have nothing to worry about, as the voters are likely to give them sole credit for any successes – particularly if the economy picks up (not a given considering Osborne’s slash-and-burn approach) – and they will certainly not be looking to make some sort of permanent alliance with the Lib Dems, contrary to what some commentators are predicting. The coalition dog will probably have his tail docked when the voters are next given a choice.

About Bloody Time

This week the ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood for life in Britain was finally overturned (although you’d be forgiven for not noticing the leap forward because the BBC thought Strictly Come Dancing was more important on the news bulletins that night). This is a triumph that equality campaigners have been working tirelessly for for years, and at last gay men will be able to save lives and help tackle the urgent need for more donors. No more will the official policy imply that gay men cannot be trusted to practice safe sex and ‘probably have HIV’.

Although the ban was only replaced with a one-year time lag since a donor’s last encounter, it is still progress, and puts us more in line with the situation in similar countries.

15 and counting

Just a quick blog before bed (the morning will feature the Republican Presidential Nomination race) and I’d like to thank Planetpmc for pointing out the 15 major U-turns the Tory-led government has had to make in the past year. Enjoy:

1.  NHS Direct ‘not being scrapped’ – http://bit.ly/lAdTjv

2.  Government confirms re-think on school sport funding – http://bit.ly/mtyFFH

3.  Downing Street rejects child milk scheme cut suggestion – http://bbc.in/k1NoGE

4.  Sale of forests in England scrapped – http://bbc.in/jCmqmT

5.  Plans to grant anonymity to rape case defendants scrapped – http://bit.ly/ketJd1

6.  Government backtracks on Bookstart – http://bit.ly/j1AvuP

7.  Housing benefit cap to be postponed until January 2012 – http://bit.ly/iIrrD1

8.  Government admits defeat on immigration target – http://bit.ly/lU5nHV

9.  Military covenant to be enshrined in law after months of criticism – http://bit.ly/mQKfUC

10. UK coastguard station closure plans ‘scaled back’ – http://bbc.in/lE0VHs

11. Government ‘abandons’ plans for weekly rubbish collection – http://bit.ly/mveDsv

12. Cameron tears up Ken Clarke’s “soft” sentencing policies – http://bit.ly/iFGA0a

13. David Cameron denies ‘humiliating U-turn’ on NHS – http://tgr.ph/kryKEU

14. Treasury backtracks on Danny Alexander’s pension reform plan – http://bit.ly/lVocDX

15. Ken Clarke forced to abandon 50% sentence cuts for guilty pleas – http://bit.ly/iz4qZA