Some important announcements

Due to current health complications, I’m suspending this blog until further notice.

Since last week I have had severe abdominal pain and the trouble is worse than first thought. Today, I will most probably be referred to one of the local hospitals for extended treatment.

I hope to restart the blog as soon as I am fully recovered.

I would also like to pass on my sincere condolences to David and Samantha Cameron for the loss of their son. I can think of nothing more distressing than the loss of a child, therefore I shall divert thoughts and prayers to them at this sad time – and hope that many of my colleagues will too.

Thank you for your continued support and time,

Rosie Hucklesby.

PMQs report 04/02/2009

Once again, the economy is high on the agenda – however, this week sees a turn in focus – particularly with regard to the recent strikes. The opposition was seizing (as I expected) on Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” slogan, stating that it had encarouged protectionist sentiment in the workforce. This was directly linked by Mr. Cameron to Brown’s response concerning the US House of Representatives decision to pass what he termed “buy America” legislation that has allowed for American protectionism. Mr Cameron accused Mr Brown of being “guilty” as to promoting protectionism with his statement. The front bench consensus within the party is that protectionism is not the way forward. When a statement like that is made after the declaration to which to opposition allude, it will obviously be seized upon for what may rightly or wrongly bolster the opposition on all sides of the House. I am delighted that Mr Brown’s first response was not to quote “do nothing” but to ask if anyone in the house says they do not want British workers to get the skills they need to compete in the job market.

Whilst that is not directly protectionist, linking it to that original “British jobs” statement was ill-thought out. I can completely understand however why it was said – the Labour Party are facing a large threat to the original voter base from the British National Party. This is seen very much in the strikes over the weekend, as the far-right Solidarity trade union attempted to hijack Unite for their own opportunist gain. Mr Cameron would do well to remember that trying to balance moderate leftism and seeing of the BNP challenge are not easy things to do! He ended his questions by stating that the Prime Minister refuses to admit mistakes – well, this is not exactly anything new. Typical opposition bench rhetoric stated since time immortal. Mr Brown retorted with a claim that Mr Cameron had “talked down” the British economy and ought to be ashamed, cue howling and shouting in the chamber.

Other issues/questions raised today included:

  • Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg stated that large firms are using loopholes to avoid paying £14bn in taxes. Interesting to see that once again he has raised the tax-dodging issue. Mr Brown stated that the government would clamp down on the problem, but quipped that if Mr Clegg wanted to crack down on “fat cats” he could start with Michael Brown, convicted fraudster currently on the run from the authorities and the Lib Dems biggest donor.

  • Labour MP Jim Cunningham asks about the possibility of more local authority mortgages. Mr Brown responds by saying that he is encarouging local authorities with those powers to do so.

  • Lib Dem MP Andrew George states that schemes to ensure supermarkets pay suppliers in the developing world more quickly should be fast tracked. The PM says he is working on it.

  • Labour MP David Clelland criticises the Conservatives’ attitude to rural buses. The PM agrees.
  • Veteran Conservative MP Sir Patrick Cormack asks the three parties to meet to find a “common ground” on the economy (I might add that this is the first sensible statement I have heard in the Commons today). Mr Brown states that he is willing to work with the other parties, but points to their inconsistencies.

So ends another PMQs. The Prime Minister is a dirty job, not highly rewarding but everyone in Westminster wants to do it.

Reports from the LYL Social

Whilst I have often attended Labour functions in the past as part of my work for the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich CLP, I had never recieved an invite to a social on this scale. It was to be the first directly Labour-affiliated London event I had been to, in fact. Since the beginning of the year I have made it a high priority to attend events such as the Fabian Conference and Progressive London, as well as many of the others that are upcoming in later months. However, this social was especially important as I wanted to at least make myself somewhat known in LYL.

Tonight was also important for a recently-converted friend of mine, as this would be the first Labour event he’d ever been to. The excitement for us was extensive as there would be two MPs that I highly regard speaking – Dawn Butler and Jon Cruddas. Cruddas in particular had written an excellent article only a few days ago about the recent strikes in the Guardian. Dawn Butler, who I had seen speak at the Fabian Conference was representing the Labour Youth Society. I was aware of Butler’s extensive work in re-energising the Labour youth base – most notably by bringing down the cost of membership for those under 27 to £1. She has also worked extensively with the youth in Brent South.

After arriving (slightly late) to the social, there was still enough time to grab a glass of House Of Commons wine (obviously, champagne was clearly avoided!).

20 minutes later we were stood for the speeches. Dawn Butler was the first to speak started with a fantastic joke: “A Tory and a Lib Dem stand on the edge of a cliff. Who do you push down first? The Tory. Business before pleasure”. Cue much laughter from the room! She addressed the issue of youth in the Labour Party and the wider political sphere, before introducing us to prospective councillors and prospective party candidates, highlighting the campaigning work that London Young Labour take on. After proudly declaring herself a socialist (to many cheers) she handed over to Jon Cruddas.

Cruddas spoke fairly briefly, but highlighted the issues of the financial crisis, neo-liberalism and the current stikes, elaborating on his recent article in the Guardian. It was a damn good speech too – but then, Cruddas is a man who has spoken for the centre-left of the party. He criticised the response of the government in labelling the strikes as protectionist and xenophobic, whilst failing to address the problem. One of the most important points of his speech however was the notion that we shouldn’t be celebrating the fall of neo-liberalism and not provide for those who will obviously suffer as a result of the recession.

I am in agreement – it as perfectly fine to celebrate the descrediting of the New Right Thatcherism that has so dominated political thinking since 1979. However, celebrating it’s fall in such a spiteful way (which has been the methods employed by people such as Polly Toynbee) is no help to those who will suffer in the long term. After his speech, I along with my friend spoke to Jon about this, stating that the democratic left is now re-energised and should focus on offering solutions rather than taking revenge on an unregulated free market. That is not to say that we should allow the situation to carry on whilst shifting a large fiscal stimulus! We need to see the situation as an oppertunity to change the core values of society, much like the post-war consensus did.

The speeches finished, Bruce and I had one last drink and left at 9pm. In all honesty, I did enjoy myself tonight. Another social? Oh yes please.