Sunday, March 01, 2009

Progress Labour 2.0 conference – will 2.0 help us win in 2010?

On Thursday evening I was at an important grass roots union and residents meeting in the Isle of Dogs being held in a tenant’s hall.

Yesterday I was back on the Island but this time at the glass and crystal globe of the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf. Lots of light in the heart of Gotham City (joke). Of course, now that so many of the local businesses are publicly owned I should have felt very much at home.

This conference was organised by Progress and they had 8 sessions with some 26 panel members. That was a lot of information and opinions to take in 11am-5.45pm. I will just highlight some of the things I found interesting.

The opening address was by RH Douglas Alexander MP (who is also the Labour Party campaign coordinator for the General Election). Partly in response to a question that I put to him (which I think he misunderstood - it’s probably me) he suggested that the global Banking crisis last September is an Obama type issue which has changed the world and that it is traditional Labour values of “fairness...solidarity and collectivism” and the “strength of common endeavour” that is the future - this crisis is our “Hope” and “Change” theme (my interpretation).

Joe Rospars, the foundering partner of Blue State Digital was the next speaker and he is of course better known to everyone present simply as God, aka Barack Obama’s New Media Director. He played one of the many inspiring “making the hairs on the edge of your neck stand up” videos. What fantastic stuff. The 13 million supporters, 200,000 local organisers and $500 million dollars raised from 3 million contributors by the New Media Obama machine is an awesome achievement. The decentralisation of the campaign and its “bottom up” nature was key to its success. But as Douglas said with some venom, during question time, the central Obama campaign organisers where not just holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” together each night. They were leading and controlling as well as organising. We should not forget this.

Professor Andrew Chadwick reminded us that yesterday was the 109th anniversary of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) and how the Party started off as a broad church and is still one nowadays. “Pragmatism, co-operation and solidarity”.

Ben Brandzel reminded us that “democracy is not a spectator sport”.

Gavin Shuker that the “narrative” is all important. Complying data without any use is itself useless.

Jag Singh (I finally met Jag for the first time in real life) who despite being unwell spoke amusingly but without bitterness about how as a Hilary Clinton election advisor he had lost his White House cubicle (by 0.5 %!).

Stella Creasy – PCC for Walthamstow has an email list of 2000 names gathered during campaign events which her CLP (usually Stella I suspect) sends out a weekly newsletter. . .......Blimey.

I had a sort of “row” during the last session with panel member James Crabtree (senior Editor, Prospect). He had quite gleefully (in my view) during his presentation predicted that the Labour Party would lose the next election and that they should use the opportunity of defeat to build the Party in order to win in future. I challenged him on this view since I could remember when I joined the Party just before the General election in 1979 I came across people who predicted that the Party would lose and tried to argue that this was a good thing. That opposition would enable the Party to regroup and win next time. This resulted in all these people losing their jobs (Shotton steel workers) and the Tories being in charge for 18 years not one or two terms. James said that he had never said that it was a good thing that Labour will lose the next election. I think he did. To be clear I think we still have a very good chance of winning at the next election. It is not helped by selfish and ignorant defeatist statements.

My big issue is as a Labour Party and Labour movement activist who happens to be a “blogger”. I want to help the Party and if possible help it to win. While I enjoy blogging, is it a useful practical political tool or campaigning weapon? Perhaps not and it is just an enjoyable avenue for activists and theorists to sound off and infuriate internal and external opponents. Or can we actually do stuff of political value to our Party?

What about setting up a central and regional distribution list of labour supporting bloggers who can be sent information and post upon (if they choose to) key issues. What about organising those Labour Party members who blog or post and who would rally to support the Party when it is being “beaten up” on national media blogs and web sites?

Or is there anything else we can do?

At the end of the conference I had a brief chat with Derek Draper (Labour List - right of photo) who I can report in my brief experience as being an extremely polite, constructive and courteous comrade.

Check out these posts on this meeting by panel members Nick Anstead, Andrew Chadwick, Tim Montgomerie (ConservativeHome)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts John, I hope you enjoyed the day! I think it would be a really good idea if HQ had a central list of Labour bloggers who they sent specific messages to now and then, particularly as times are tough. I've blogged on Progress by the way about women and blogging...

Anonymous said...

"Is there anything else we can do?" How about some honesty in facing up to the appalling mess the country is in - and acknowledging the part Labour has played in this? On a lighter note I was amused to read about the boss of the unite Union spending nights in the Astoria Waldorf paid for by his members..another great socialist example..or John "I forgot to pay my council tax, shagger Prescott bleating about bankers pensions when he is secvure on 68K a year..what a joke.

John Gray said...

Hi Jessica
Yes, it was a good conference and I hope that something constructive for the Party does come out of it. Thanks for organising it. I like your article – I must get around to signing up to twitter as well!

Hi Anon
I don’t think that anyone underestimates “The State we’re in” and Labour has acknowledged it has made mistakes. But (a big but) it has been the failure of the free market which has brought this mess about. I’m not sure what JP’s pension is but it would appear it’s 10 times less than Fred got for nearly bankrupting the RBS. I wonder what all the other CEO’s got for their failures?

Anonymous said...

What about Brown's failure to regulate them in more than ten years as Chancellor - and who recommended all these bankers for knighthood?...and why did Myners approve Sir Fred's pension? Labour - its always someone else fault. Its the fault of Thatcher twenty years ago? Not Brown?
Good to see Michael Martin taking his wife and so many foreign trips - one evry four months. That's good value then. Nothing like setting an example to us Plebs.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

You're forming at the mouth as usual. Can't you work up a political argument for a change? Or is that just too difficult? I would have loved to see your response to more regulation in the past.

Face it - Your politics and economics have failed and our time has come.

Anonymous said...

Who was responsible for regulating these banks for the last ten years?
Who set up the FSA?
Who knighted these bankers?
Who approved the pension pot of Fred?
Who brought Lloyds bank to its Knees and wiped out the shareholders?

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
The banks were supposed to self regulate – the invisible hand will make sure everything will be alright on the night.

Better international regulation is needed but the City and Wall Street will always be able to out fox the regulators. Since they can pay their advisors far more than civil service rates. It is the lack of ownership responsibilities that is the key problem.

It was free market Bankers not the government who wiped out the banks and never forget this.

Anonymous said...

Brown was asleep at the wheel for ten years as Chancellor and despite his protestations the electorate have worked this out. This accounts for his appallingly low popularity rating and the low showing of Labour in the polls. It was actually under Gordon Brown that the FSA was established and he gave it the statutory objective of maintaining confidence in the financial system. It Brown who specifically expanded its scope in October 1994 to also regulate the mortagage market.. did you get that? Under Brown he gave it the responsibility for regulating the mortgage market. The FSA has a Board, all of whom were appointed by the Treasury - who was running the Treasury? the FSA's implementation of capital requirements for banks has been lax relative to some other countries. For example, it has been reported that Australia's Commonwealth Bank is measured as having 7.6% Tier 1 capital under the rules of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, but this would be measured as 10.1%if the bank was under the jurisdiction of the FSA. Brown was responsible for loosening the reins. Brown was at the head of this mess. He was incompetent as Chancellor.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
You really shouldn’t go on about things you don’t understand. Blaming Brown for the international banking crisis is like blaming Anthony Barber for the Yom Kippur war and the resulting OPEC driven economic problems. Yes, with hindsight things should have been done differently but the really interesting stuff has yet to come. Will he save the world or not? – that is what he will be judged upon by history. While the “do nothing” Tories world has collapsed and they do not have a clue what to do.