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

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An Englishman’s Home is… beyond his wildest dreams

For some reason, going back into the mists of time, the British people have an obsession with private home ownership, even though most of us should technically never be able to afford one without borrowing. In Continental Europe, people are far more satisfied to rent, either from private landlords or more ‘trustworthy’ institutions – maybe there is some correlation between these statistics and the lower levels of stress and dissatisfaction there compared to the UK.

Nevertheless, we are where we are, and there is no going back on the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1981 however much we might want to reverse it (indeed, many of us may actually agree with it, being as it was extremely popular with the low paid, who for the first time had a stake in their council homes and some sense of freedom, however delusional). What we have now is a housing crisis coming at the worst possible time, during a dire economic climate caused by sub-prime mortgages themselves.

Tensions over housing and its’ availability have an effect on many areas of life, including levels of antagonism towards immigrants, the environment, growth, inequality in our cities, personal debt, and of course the Daily Mail and Daily Express front pages. We need to deal with this timebomb if we are to stem a rise in far-right politics and avoid a lost generation of young people. However, worryingly this government is going about it completely the wrong way.

Not only has it made squatting illegal when there are more empty properties than there are homeless people in this country, but it has appallingly placed a cap on housing benefit, effectively pricing the poor out of our capital city and entire swathes of the country – those parts of the country which have job vacancies. The government is slashing the public sector and saddling young people who go to university with ever higher debt, meaning their chances of even being able to look forward to putting down a deposit are negligible.

What our housing market needs is a Keynesian-style investment in house building and construction; not only would this lower house prices for first-time buyers, but it would also ease tensions in the community and increase demand in the economy generally, leading to growth and the beginning of the end of the deficit that the ConDems love to remind us about so much. As a bonus, it would even lead to a return of Location Location Location to our TV screens. Gordon Brown’s plan before the proverbial shit hit the fan in 2007 was to build 3 million new homes – we need this sort of commitment now, coupled with a healthy proliferation of 1940s-inspired New Towns (hopefully better designed than the likes of Milton Keynes) and more social housing. Today’s announcement from Cameron and Clegg about guaranteeing 95% mortgages may look like a repetition of exactly what went wrong in the first place, but should not be dismissed entirely, as it is the taxpayer, not the banks, helping first-time buyers, and there is real potential for an increase in demand as a result.

However it goes nowhere near far enough. If we can’t get people to fall out of love with the owner-occupier dream, then we need to build, build, build, spending more money in the short term to get us out of the mess in the long term.

A great opportunity turned sour

student_demo_ap1

There’s always someone who takes it too far. I do it far too often, but less said about that the better. The march against the proposed raise in tuition fees to £9000 a year was very well planned and timed for, DC was out of the country in China so Cleggy was taking questions at PMQs instead meaning he would be ridiculed for his U-turn on tuition fees. As for the vast majority of those who went there it was a very successful event, peaceful and making a very good point (would explain further but I’m back home up north and consequently not there, so I wouldn’t know the details).

But, someone always has to spoil the moment, someone has go too far. It is one of the cruel realities of life and the protest today in London was no exception. It was estimated by the NUS that 30k-40k students converged on London today, but it is estimated that mere 1k people were involved in the incident at the Millbank Tower.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can very much sympathise with the idea of smashing CCHQ. This is in very much the same way any Tory might sympathise with the idea of smashing up Labour’s HQ. But, it is certainly something neither side would condone. What happened here today was that a small number have completely ruined what would’ve been a peaceful demonstration, with even one ‘save EMA’ campaigner on the news giving the example of meeting an OAP who was out there on the behalf of her Grandchildren.

Unfortunately, what everyone will remember and what the headline papers will be tomorrow, is the grotesque violence seen at the Millbank Tower. In fact, it was widely regard that those at Millbank Tower, were not students per say but rather a hijacking by various groups such as Anarchists, far-left Socialists and the oh-so subtle SWP.

We all know that one person who doesn’t know the limits. And today, they did it again.

Max

A big bumbling Tory, yes, completely lacking a heart, no

I’m sure you are all aware of the proposed housing benefit cap proposed under the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Labour officials were quick to criticise the policy as a ‘cleansing’ of the poor from the cities, much to the outrage of the Coalition. But, it seems we are not the only ones saying these borderline truths, London’s Mayor, Conservative Boris Johnson, today said he will not accept “Kosovo-style social cleansing” of the capital due to the cap in housing benefits.

Firstly, this is taking a step further than Labour did in its description, but it shows that those in charge of the actual cities will see the true mantra and devastation this will cause. London Councils estimates 82,000 families could be made homeless. 82,000 families(!), not people, families. And that’s not including, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and many more cities. Now credit where credit is due, (even though I do want Ken back as Mayor) I totally agree with Johnson on this issue. You know when these plans are heartless and a part of a ‘cleansing’ programme when even the the Tory’s own London Mayor opposes them.

London Calling

Soundbites from BULS members on leadership:

Ken Livingstone wants to push through money-making and environmental reforms that local councils across the country could benefit from.

I don`t live in London, so I don`t care as long as the mayor is Labour. (thanks Ben)

Oona King is a faux labour, über Blairite, war supporting opportunist. And being a Blairite IS a bad thing because he`s a war criminal and didn`t stay true to Labour`s values.

King is the Labour of the future, Ken is the past. Blair never lost an election, and you can`t get anywhere on ideology alone (see: the 1980s). Also let`s wait for the report to conclude on whether or not he`s a criminal.

Blair had a time and place, but now the public want a fresh, more ideological Labour. Go Ed Miliband!

Suzy

Philippa Stroud

Firstly I’d like to thank BULS for electing me to the post of director of social media. Otherwise I would never have joined Twitter and therefore never have been made aware of who Philippa Stroud is and what she stands for. 36 hours after the story broke on the front page of the Observer all other major papers (apart from the Telegraph which played it down) and even the BBC have maintained a deafening silence on the issue. Ken Livingstone raised the issue on the Daily Politics show and was hushed up by the presenters.

But it’s been trending #1 on Uk twitter for 24 hours, the facebook event “Lets help Philippa Stroud get better” has 62 members and the facebook group “If Cameron cares an ounce about LGBT people, he’ll sack Philippa Stroud” has 1,544 members and counting.

This is big news, and it’s simply not being reported by the Murdoch press. The silence of the BBC, to whom, according to Stonewall UK the LGBT community contribute £190 million annually in license fees on this issue is shameful.

So what has Philippa Stroud done?

Having stood as a Conservative PPC in Ladywood Birmingham in 2005 she is now standing for Sutton and Cheam in South London. In 1989 she founded the King’s Arms Project – a Christian night shelter offering counselling to drug addicts, alcoholics, and LGBT people. She believed homosexuality was caused by demons, and could be cured by prayer and exorcism.

There has been no statement of apology or explanation from the Conservative party or David Cameron, Philippa Stroud herself having issued a statement which leaves lots of questions unanswered: “I make no apology for being a committed Christian. However, it is categorically untrue that I believe homosexuality to be an illness and I am deeply offended that The Observer has suggested otherwise. I have spent 20 years working with disturbed people who society have turned their back on and are not often supported by state agencies; drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and the homeless that I and my charitable friends in the public sector have tried to help over the years. The idea that I am prejudiced against gay people is both false and insulting.

She refused to comment on whether she believes LGBT people can be cured by the power of prayer, and whether she includes them under her definition of “disturbed people” or the “mentally ill”. She may not be prejudiced against the LGBT community in that she would treat them the same as anyone else suffering from demon possession, but is clearly not pro-liberation.

As a member of the New Frontiers Church of which her husband is a minister she has also pledged to: “be subservient to the wishes of my husband in all things” and submit to “male servant leadership and joyful female submission” – a remarkable attitude for a prospective female MP. I wonder what her views on abortion, same-sex civil partnerships and LGBT adoption are?  And when it became OK for the state and religion to cross over in this manner?

For a full briefing of the recent LGBT gaffes committed by the Tories see http://issacgreaves.eu/attackoftheclones/

The public have a right to demand proper coverage, proper investigation and a proper apology or some heads on plates. Instead we have 768 google hits for Gillian Duffy , and only 9 for Philippa Stroud.

My only comfort is that she probably won’t get elected because the constituency in which she’s standing has a strong and popular Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow who is standing for re-election.

Suzy

Boris Johnson – London Mayor Extraordinaire

Boris Johnson is in front of the Transport select committee.  He is asked about the preparations he made for the predicted heavy snow that fell on  February 2nd of this year, before the morning it actually happened.  The snow caused severe disruptions to London’s public transport system and I summise said committee is investigating whether that could have been prevented, et al.  This clip makes me question him in a lot of ways, but you can decide for yourselves here.

I’ve also discovered a Dispatches episode that examines Boris’ term so far as London Mayor, as the anniversary of his first year in this office approaches.  I’ve not yet watched it, but it’ll probably be quite interesting.  Here it is.