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.



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.

The pains of my inner Scot

If you’re confused by the title of this blog, my last name is Ramsay, the same as famous Scot, Gordon Ramsay. But anyway to say that the Labour result in Scotland was nothing less than disastrous is completely misplaced. It’s not the fact that we did badly that bothers me personally, it’s rather the fact that around 9 months ago Labour was well placed to re-establish themselves as the largest party in Holyrood.

This is primarily the fault of Ian Gray and without a doubt, he will have to go as leader by the end of the week. But, we must not leave out the Scottish and National Labour party. We were complacent, I know I certainly was, everyone assumed we would easily win back Edinburgh, but we didn’t count on the effectiveness of Salmond’s SNP campaign which did strike a progressive and positive tone. This is in stark contrast to Scottish Labour’s negativity.

If there’s one thing we can learn from Scotland, negative, attacking politics doesn’t work. The only time Labour succeeds electorally (1945, 1964 and 1997 nationally and 1999 in Scotland and Wales) so this is something we will need to replicate nation-wide.


Elections – A Glass Half Empty View

First of all, congratulations to Brigid Jones, the new Councillor for Selly Oak.

It’s been a fascinating night (if a bit slow), and there is still the jaw-dropping news that Britain has rejected the Alternative Vote system amongst an abysmal turnout yet to come, however what is really intriguing is where Labour did not do so well, rather than where it made gains.

Once North Wales has decided it can be bothered to start counting, Labour looks set to make gains in Wales, possibly securing a working majority, while in the local elections in England the Lib Dems have suffered their worst result since the party’s formation – all of these could have been easily predicted 24 hours ago. However, in Scotland, you could be forgiven for thinking Labour is in government and has just announced swingeing cuts or banned tartan by the disappointing result and the triumph of Alex Salmond’s SNP, who have capitalised on their narrow success in 2007. Scotland has traditionally been a Labour country, however this result demonstrates a new confidence and is evidence of maturity among the Scottish electorate – they clearly differentiate between Westminster polls and those to Hollyrood. Although it is premature to say Scotland is on the road to fully endorsing indepedence – as Labour leader Ian Gray learned, Scottish voters have more pressing issues on their minds – it does demonstrate a worrying trend towards ever-further detachment from the rest of the UK, with a completely different political culture with different trends. That  pizza-slice analogy Andrew Marr spoke of is becoming more realistic every year.

Meanwhile, what is also worrying is how the Conservatives are getting away with blue murder in the local elections. Their vote has held up, possibly because Tory voters tend to turnout in higher numbers in local polls, possibly because of local issues, but almost certainly because Cameron has cleverly allowed Nick Clegg to become a scapegoat for the Con-Dems’ worst policies. Labour needs to wake up from this, admit we are only at the very start of a long long road to Downing Street, and attack the Tories, instead of reminding everyone about Clegg’s betrayal of the left – the voters don’t need to be reminded of this.

It’s been a good night on balance, but there are some worrying signs in these results (never mind the depressing conservatism and apathy over AV), and there now needs to be a change of strategy at Labour HQ.