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Last update to website:
21 April 2017

New on members' page 

Canvassing plans for the period 21 April to 29 April.

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General election on 8 May

Doug Swanney's personal statement

Watch the video.

Hertfordshire headteachers spell out the effect of cuts

Doug Swanney campaigning against cuts in school funding.

Playgrounds to be shut  down in North Herts

Anne Holland's campaign.

Comment on the Tories' omnishambles budget

Labour's 10 promises for Hertfordshire

A promise a day sends the Tories away.

International Women's Day

Tory proposals for County budget

Cllr Judi Billing's scathing verdict.

BBC Any Questions?

John McDonnell was one of the panellists when the programme was broadcast from Buntingford.

Sara Hyde on Prison Reform

Talk and discussion on ways that Labour could improve the prison system.

The Lister and QE II with a growing deficit

Canvassing in Letchworth

Labour new year dinner

East Herts Rural Branch dinner on 16 February 2017.

First canvass of 2017 in Letchworth North

NHS Campaign Day

We were out in force on Labour's second national campaign day.

Hospitals on red alert

The hospitals that we all use, in Stevenage, Cambridge and Harlow have all been on red alert.

Labour's NHS Campaign Day

Hospitals in our area are barely coping. Help us do something about it by campaigning on 21 January.

Two speakers in February

Jess Phillips MP is speaking at an all member meeting on 3 February and Sara Hyde on 22 February 2017.
Jess Phillips' meeting cancelled.

Sherma Batson MBE DL

Sherma, who died on 8 January, was a well liked and respected county and borough councillor.

Canvassing training

Details are on the members' page.

Jeremy Corbyn's New Year message

Together, let's make Britain better in 2017.

Labour new year dinner

East Herts Rural Branch dinner on 16 February 2017. 

The NHS Campaign Day

Campaigning to save the NHS in Letchworth.

The Autumn Statement

Philip Hammond wakes up, but is still in bed.

Alex Mayer takes over as our MEP

Privatised primary care support services

Capita was "inadequately prepared" when they won the contract.

Labour win

Martin Stears-Handscomb holds Hitchin Oughton seat for Labour.

Royston curry night

Jeremy Corbyn on the USA election

Richard Howitt's last day

The Labour Party throughout the East of England and beyond is sad that Richard is leaving the European Parliament.

Labour's ten pledges

Ten pledges for a better Britain.

Tories adopt Labour policy

Philip Hammond forced to abandon defict reduction target.

East Herts by-election

Puckeridge ward.

Bringing back secondary modern schools

Labour calls on the county council to continue to promote comprehensive education.

Boundary changes

How they affect North East Hertfordshire.

Red Rose Party in Standon

Successful fund-raising event by East Herts Rural branch.

By-election in Puckeridge

on 15 September 2016.

Leadership election

Timetable, eligibility to vote and campaign information.

Suspension of meetings

By-election in Royston
Palace ward

On 4 August 2016.

Richard Howitt MEP

A message to all his constituents.

Win in 2020

The added importance of a Labour government, now that we are leaving the EU.

Britain better off in the EU

Jeremy Corbyn's strong, positive message.

Peace in Europe

The core purpose of the European Union.

Not fit for purpose

The HSJ demonstrates one of the significant problems arising fom the Tory re-organization of the NHS.

Peter Wood at 100

celebrates with family and Labour friends.

Jeremy Corbyn at Labour In for Britain Rally

Jeremy set out the EU's positive effect on the people of UK at a rally in Bristol.

In memory of Les Baker

Good results in North Herts

Labour wins an extra seat on North Herts District Council.

PCC election results

40% in the second round for Labour.

Tories' police cuts in Hertfordshire

Vote for Kerry Pollard as Police and Crime Commissioner.

Vote Leave's deceitful leaflet

Disgraceful on three counts.

Stevenage's green council houses

Report on a Co-operative Party meeting to promote greener housing in North Herts.

A budget of failure

Comment on the 2016 budget.

Doorstep EU

Richard Corbett's smartphone app gives you the facts.

Affordable housing

Kerry Pollard on Labour housing policy.

The Labour In campaign

Jeremy Corbyn in Brussels.

East Herts Rural branch dinner

The NHS is disappearing ...

but not the deficit.

County Council elections

Leon Reefe's one seat challenge.

Osborne's plan isn't working

John McDonnell says that George Osborne is getting his excuses in before there are more failures.

The trade union bill

A government attack on workers' rights and on the Labour Party.

There are earlier news items here
Click here for archived news items

Jreremy Corbyn's ten pledges

For more information on these pledges - click here

Labour's manifesto for the County Council elections on 4 May 2017 is on the election page.

Are you registered to vote?

If you are not registered, it is too late for the county council elections, but you can register for the General Election up to 22 May 2017. More information on this and on postal and proxy votes here.

Labour will stand up for the people of Britain

Jeremy Corbyn"Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, deliverd falling standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS," Jeremy Corbyn said, in response to the Prime Minister's announcement of a general election on 8 June 2017.

"In the last couple of weeks," he said, "Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain."

Labour's ten pledges are above, with more detail here. As a reminder, the policies that Jeremy refers to as having just been announced are:

Added on 18 April:

18 April 2017 (amended 19 April)

You need Doug Swanney
in Letchworth North

Doug Swanney and link to videoDoug Swanney is the Labour candidate for the County Council division of Letchworth North. Boundary changes mean that this division is similar to the Letchworth NW division, currently held for Labour by Lorna Kercher, but not exactly the same.

You are in Letchworth North if you live in the district wards of Letchworth Wilbury, Letchworth Grange or that part of Letchworth East which is north of the railway line.

To hear Doug's personal statement, click here. There is more about Doug on the election page.

11 April 2017

Schools appeal for parents' help

Hertfordshire headteachers are so alarmed by the reductions in secondary school funding that they have taken the unprecedented step of writing to parents sharing their problems and appealing for help.

The North East Hertfordshire Labour Party is demanding an urgent increase in funding to protect our children's education and to reverse the 35% to 45% funding per pupil that our headteachers report.

Doug Swanney outside Fearnhill School"The Conservative Council continue to make these cuts to our schools, without questioning or challenging those in Westminister," says Doug Swanney (pictured), who is the Labour candidate for Letchworth North in the forthcoming County Council elections on 4 May. "These cuts have gone too far - a decent education isn't 'jam today'; it's a basic service, for which we all pay taxes and which children deserve," he adds.

Fearnhill School in Letchworth Garden City is one of the schools that have written to parents, setting out the school's problems and asking them to lobby their MP and to ministers, as well as to their county councillors. Ms Ellis, the headteacher, says that the school is "facing a vastly reduced capacity to ensure that all children's needs are met". She sets out the increases in local government and teachers' pension costs, National Insurance employer contributions, four years of teachers' pay increases at 1% p.a., and the staff training costs arising from ther government's changes to GCSE and A-level courses.

"We have now faced several years of budget reductions," writes Ms Ellis. "The Government would have you believe otherwise – they say school funding is protected. The Government tells us that there is more money in the education system than ever before, which there is, for the simple reason that there are more children in the system. The truth for our schools is that we are receiving the same amount per pupil for an 11-16 year-old as we have done for a number of years – the so called ‘flat cash settlement’, whilst the costs of running our schools has been rising year on year. Our funding for post 16 students has been reduced in real terms for a number of years."

"Failure to invest in our children is devastating for them and also for the future of the the United Kingdom" says David Bell, our parliamentary spokesperson. "Our Tory county council meekly goes along with this. We must shake them out of their complacency on 4 May."

9 April 2017

Don't lose your playgrounds

Anne Holland campaigns for playgrounds to stay openAnne Holland, the Labour candidate for the County Council division of Baldock and Letchworth East, is campaigning to get the District Council to change its mind about closing our children's playgrounds throughout the district.

Anne knows what she is talking about. She is a retired primary school teacher, who has lived in Baldock for over 20 years, and is well aware of the important role that play has in the development of children.

The elections are on 4 May 2017 for all the divisions throughout Hertfordshire. Go to the election page for more information about Anne and to read her election address. There is also more information on the other Labour candidates in North East Hertfordshire..

22 March 2017

Don't mention the deficit

The Chancellor certainly took this advice in presenting his budget to Parliament. You have to read the small print to know that he does not expect to see the deficit eliminated until well after this Parliament - maybe around 2025.

The reason, of course, is that the Tories have failed miserably in their aim - you might say it was their flagship aim - in eliminating the deficit.

They used to say that Britain would become a "basket case", like Greece, if it was not eliminated by 2015. On a generous interpretation of their promise, they failed by 50% to achieve this. So, they put the target back to 2018/19. Now we know clearly that this will not be achieved either. The deficit is actually predictedd to rise next year. What more do the Tories have to do to lose their reputation for financial competence?

We should remember that the last time we had a budget surplus was 1998 to 2001 - for four years under a Labour government. Attlee's Labour government reached a surplus only a couple of years after the Second World War and their surplus peaked at 6.3% in 1950. It peaked again under Harold Wilson at a record 7.6%. Deficits were the norm under Margaret Thatcher and John Major apart from three years in 1998/90 and rocketed to 5.7% in 1994.

Doug Swanney and some of his team

Doug Swanney, candidate for Letchworth North (second from left), canvassing yesterday on Labour's national campaign day on the budget

Most people have been suffering from the Tories' austerity measures since 2010. It would perhaps have been more tolerable if they had worked. In fact, the measures themselves held back recovery.

The fact is that Labour is the government of economic competence and we need to persuade the British voters that this is a fact.

The self-employed National Insurance contribution "omnishambles" also shows a lack of competence. Whilst there is an element of truth in the Chancellor's argument about unfairness, this needs tackling in an overall review of contributions and benefits. The biggest unfairness is that high earners pay a smaller proportion of their income than those further down the line. This was corrected for the employers' contributions, but not the employees'.

As for money for selective free schools, perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the Prime Minister - for it would seem to be the Prime Minister who is driving this policy - is willing to ignore all the evidence that selection favours a few at the expense of the many. No longer does the country need a small élite to manage large manual work-forces, but rather a well-educated work-force to take up the jobs that are now being created.

12 March 2017

A promise a day

Labour's 10 promises for the county elections

The government has cut council budgets severely. Nevertheless, by making different choices from the Tories, Labour can provide much better services for you - as long as you vote for the Labour candidate on 4 May 2017.Leon Reefe, leader of the County Labour Group

We are one of the most prosperous counties in the country. Our country is the sixth biggest economy in the world. We could have first class services, but the Tories want to "shrink the state".

Speaking at the County Council meeting on next year's budget, Leon Reefe, leader of the Labour Group (pictured), said: "The sign reading Hertfordshire is the County of Opportunity is now in danger of reading The County of the Bare Minimum."

Starting on 4 March, we published a promise a day to send the Tories away. These ten promises constitute the Labour manifesto for Hertfordshire.

The full manifesto is mow on the election page.
15 March 2017

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. Below we are building up Labour's 10 promises for Hertfordshire. It is worth noting that the majority of Labour's county councillors are women. At present, due to the sad death of Sherma Batson, we currently have only 14 councillors. Of thoses 14 councillors, 10 are women.

Similarly, the constituency party has six executive officers, of whom four are women.

8 March 2017

It's not what they say, it's what they do

Tory County budget proposals

Cllr Judi BillingThe Tories claimed that their budget for the County in 2017/8 was to help elderly and vulnerable people. "It was nothing of the kind!" says Cllr Judi Billing, deputy leader of the Labour Group.

Elderly people need social care, but the council has implemented the government's cuts without protest.

Elderly people need public transport. Again, this is being cut to the bone.

All of us need to feel safe at night with street lights on. We now have the technology to turn lights on in the locations where they are needed. Labour would do this.

The council is now the lead authority for flood prevention, but is doing nothing about it. Elderly and vulnerable people will suffer most.

We need better mental health services, especially for vulnerable young people.

We certainly do not need a council that pursues costly court cases against parents over special educational needs. Labour would set up a sensible mediation service to reach agreement in such disputes.

"Everyone needs a County Council that will go into battle for them in order to achieve these things," Judi says. "But this Tory Council is too complacent to confront its own government about the disastrous cuts to public expenditure. 

"They shrug their shoulders," she adds, "whilst Labour looks for creative solutions to help people."

We desperately need a Labour Council to be elected in May.

26 February 2017

John McDonnell in Buntingford

John McDonnell, shadow ChancellorJohn McDonnell, Labour's shadow Chancellor, was on the panel of BBC Any Questions? at Edwinstree School in Buntingford yesterday evening.

A group of Labour Party members, mainly from the local branch, were invited to join the audience, although unfortunately none of us was selected to ask a question.

Afterwards, in spite of having had a very busy 24 hours and being in great need of sleep, John was kind enough to talk to us. He is shown above with Doug Swanney, the Labour candidate for the key seat of Letchworth North.

John McDonnell and local Labour membersHe was the only panel member to join his supporters after the meeting. The other panel members were Lord Lamont, Arron Banks (who has donated large sums to UKIP) and Ayesha Hazarika, who is a stand-up comedian and who has previously worked for Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman.

You can listen to Any Questions? at 2.10 pm today on Radio 4, on BBC iPlayer Radio and you can also download the podcast if you want to hear us clapping and sometimes groaning - or, indeed, if you want to hear the discussion.

25 February 2017

Prisons in crisis

Why do we put people in prison? This is the question Sara Hyde opened with at a meeting of Party members in Letchworth yesterday evening. The answers ranged over the whole spectrum from rehabilitation to punishment, which made Sara's point very clearly Sara Hydethat we have no consensus on this. Nevertheless, the Labour view would be to put a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation.

Sara Hyde has been a counsellor in prisons and currently works with women on their release from custody, as well a serving on a Ministry of Justice Board that recommends magistrates for appointment. She made the point that it is often "habilitation", since they have never in their lives fitted into society.

She emphasised the importance of the context in which the prisoners became involved in crime. For example, nearly one-third of female prisoners were brought up in the care system. Half of female prisoners attempt suicide, an indication of the high level of mental health problems. There is a high level of drug and alcohol abuse, and a high level of illiteracy.

They need help in prison from experienced prison officers, and help after they leave prison. Yet, the number of prison officers has been cut from 25,000 to 18,000, and much experience was lost in this exercise. New prisons have been contracted out to companies like G4S and the improvement in building design have been regarded solely as a way of cutting costs, rather than improving the outcomes.

It is not too fanciful to attribute prison riots to this cut in staff. Deaths in custody now run at their highest level ever and suicides run at two per week. Deaths from natural causes have also risen and the lack of staff can exacerbate this, when prison officers are not there when a prisoner collapses or are not available to accompany the to hospital for treatment.

There was a glimmer of hope, because the Tory chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill, has recognised that there is indeed a crisis and Liz Truss, the Secretary of State, has indicated a plan to increase the number of prison officers.

There was a lively discussion afterwards about ways of reducing the prison population, the employment of ex-prisoners and restorative justice amongst other topics.

23 February 2017

Our hospitals in deficit

The NHS is disappeaaring before your eyesAs the financial year-end approaches, we can expect our local hospitals to be reporting yet again that they are in deficit.

In 2015/6, the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, the QE II in Welwyn Garden City and Mount Vernon, reported an overspend of well over £16 million. 

Rumour has it that this year its overspend will be much more, at around £28 million.

Meanwhile, the government expects all hospitals to make "cost improvements" year-on-year - that means cuts - in spite of the aging population which puts greater demands on them. Will they allow such deficits to continue?

We can count ourselves lucky that, in 2015/6, the Trust managed to meet the 18-week waiting time standards, unlike most of England and Wales, and improve its mortality rate. Nevertheless, it failed to maintain the A&E standard (95% of patients within four hours) and the 62-day standard for cancer patients (time to first treatment).

So, next year, with a mounting deficit hanging over the Trust and the requirement for further "cost improvements", we can expect cuts.

The Tories are pursuing their policy of reducing "the size of the state" and apparently are not concerned if this impacts on our health. Yet, this policy is not even succeeding in reducing the government deficit.

Our NHS is slowly, but definitely, disappearing before our eyes. It is difficult not to conclude that this is the government's intention.

18 February 2017

Promote the Labour Party

in Letchworth on 25/26 February.

Labour has 15 county councillors in Hertfordshire. We must retain all those seats on 4 May and add some more. This is what we can do to save social care, which in turn helps to save the NHS, from the depradations of this government and its obsession with "making the state smaller".

There will be three canvassing sessions:

Saturday, 25 February: 11 am to 1 pm
Saturday, 25 February: 2 pm to 4 pm
Sunday, 26 February: 11 am to 1 pm

The meeting place is on the members' page here. If you are not a member in this constituency, please email the constituency party secretary.

17 February 2017

Curry for Britain

The East Herts Rural branch dinner was held on 16 February 2017 at the Viceroy Indian Restaurant in Buntingford.

Members at the dinner

David Evans engaged in the key task of selling raffle tickets

In welcoming branch members, as well as members from elsewhere in the constituency and from the neighbouring Hertford and Ware branch,David Bell, the East Herts Rural branch chair, said that he was deeply worried about the future of the country.

"Everything that has been achieved in my lifetime, since the Second World War, has been or is being dismantled," he said. He attributed the peace in Europe in that period to the European Union and he singled out the ongoing destruction of the NHS, on which we spend less than the European average, and the cuts to social services.

"What can we do?" he asked and his answer was: "Promote, promote and promote again the Party that we love." He added that right now we had to elect Labour county councillors, in particular, Doug Swanney, our excellent candidate for Letchworth North - a county division which we already held on slightly different boundaries - and also promote the Party in Baldock and Letchworth East, which we had held when its boundaries were considerably different.

He asked for support in promoting the Labour Party in Letchworth on 25 and 26 February. Details in the preceding item.

17 February 2017

Canvassing and canvassing training

Canvassing trainingWe joined forces with comrades in Hitchin and Harpenden Labour Party to run a canvassing training session in Letchworth Garden City on 28 January 2017. The picture above shows Cllr Judi Billing, deputy leader of the County Labour Group, talking to some of those taking part. The other tutors were Deborah Segalini (Hitchin & Harpenden CLP) and the Letchworth and Baldock branch's canvassing co-ordinator, Cei Whitehouse.

canvassing with Alex Mayer MEPAfter the very successful training session, the trainees were joined by some more experienced canvassers for the first canvass of 2017, as part of our county council election campaign. Our candidate for Letchworth North, Doug Swanney, was one of the canvass team.

County council elections take place on Thursday, 4 May 2017.

We were delighted to be joined for the canvass by our Labour MEP for the East of England, Alex Mayer, who recently replaced Richard Howitt in this role.

Alex is third from the left (wearing a red scarf). Doug Swanney is next to her, wearing a red rosette.

30 January 2017

Care for the NHS

Campaigners in Letchworth

Donald Trump has signed an executive order to begin the process of dismantling "Obamacare" in the United States. Meanwhile, Theresa May is continuing the process of dismantling the NHS by stealth. 

Tories have cut £4.6 billion from social care budgets. They cannot really be surprised that this means that hospitals cannot discharge patients. The minimal increases to the NHS budget mean that it is not keeping pace with the needs of an aging population. They cannot really be surprised that this means that waiting times in A&E and waiting lists for operations have soared.

Soon, they will tell us that we cannot afford the NHS and we shall have to have insurance for a private system. Yet, we currently pay out less for the NHS than the EU average. And we pay out very much less than the USA does on medical care. Somehow they can afford it!

That's why we were out in order to bring to people's attention what is happening to our NHS. The picture shows the campaign team, with county council candidate Doug Swanney (fourth from right) and North Herts district councillor for Wilbury Deepak Sangha (holding poster, left).

Labour created the NHS. Only Labour can get it back for you.

21 January 2017

Our hospitals on Red Alert

The MHS is disappearing before your eyesIn the first week of January, all our local hospitals were on "red alert", as were four out of ten other hospitals throughout England.This means that there are major pressures compromising patient flow and further urgent actions are required.

East and North Herts Trust (Lister, QE II and Mount Vernon) was on red alert for five days in the week, Addenbrooke's for six days and the Princess Alexandra, Harlow for three days. At least, none was on "black alert", which indicates that they were unable to cope, but four hospitals around the country were.

Yet, the government believes that it can cure the problem by forcing GPs to open at weekends, by altering junior hospital doctors' contracts and changing the targets for seeing patients in A&E departments. Apparently, the government believes that it has nothing to do with the fact that the we spend a lower proportion of our wealth on health than the European average and much less than the USA.

Or does it really believe that? The fact is it wants you to believe that a publicly funded health service is not viable. The only question is: how bad does it have to get before we are offered a privatised insurance scheme where those who pay more will get a better service?

Do something about it

If you want to save the NHS, come out with us in Letchworth North next Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 10.30 am as part of Labour's national NHS campaign day. Most people do not realise that the NHS is disappearing before their eyes. We must open their eyes before it is too late.

Go to the members' page for information on where to meet. If you are not a member in this constituency, email for information.

15 January 2017

Listening, discussing and acting

Political debate in North East Hertfordshire

During the last year, our members have enjoyed having debates, addressing political issues important to us, at both branch and constituency level. We have discussed many issues including the national housing crisis, so-called Austerity and Brexit. Sometimes discussions have been impassioned, but have brought great focus on the values we all share.

Discussion has led to action – such as collecting donations to the local Food Bank, pounding the streets on our NHS Day of Action and campaigning for the by-election win in Hitchin Oughton. Members have been willing and able to find uniting consensus and work together.

This year, at  constituency level, we intend to stick more closely to our aim of holding monthly meetings which alternate political discussion with management committee meetings.   Sometimes, however, this is knocked off course by pressing business or by the need to find suitable dates for speakers.

We are pleased we have two impressive speakers to start 2017. We hope all members and affiliated supporters will join us to hear them speak, ask questions and share ideas for any local action.

Jess Phillips MPJess Phillips: Women in the Labour Party
Friday, 3 February 2017 - 7.30pm – 9pm


Jess is very sorry but she has to attend a funeral

"You have to be a remarkable woman to get to the top … average men get there all the time."
An outspoken feminist, Jess Phillips is MP for Birmingham Yardley, as well as Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Women’s Group and winner of Parliamentarian of the Year.

Sara HydeSara Hyde: Prison Reform - Imagining Positive Outcomes for Offenders and Society
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 – 7.30pm – 9pm

“The prisons crisis shows how austerity has ripped the soul out of Britain... we could make our country a safer place to live rather than just holding people in cages.”
Sara Hyde is a leading left-wing thinker on women and the criminal justice system; she has worked in prisons for six years, sits on a Ministry of Justice board appointing magistrates and, passionate about grassroots social change, is an active member of the Labour Party.

Both meetings are open only to Labour Party members and affiliated supporters. Members should bring their membership cards with them. Go to the members' page for more details. Members from other constituencies who wish to come should email

10 January 2017

Sherma Batson

Sherma Batson MBE DLIt is with great sadness that we report the death of Sherma Batson, who will be known to many Labour members in this constituency and throughout Hertfordshire. She died yesterday whilst away on a "jazz weekend" in Blackpool, at the age of 59.

Sherma was a Stevenage Borough Councillor and a Hertfordshire County Councillor and was a member of the Police and Crime Panel for Hertfordshire. She was also a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.

She was Labour's first candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner and many members canvassed with her during that campaign. In the second round, she had 40% of the vote. The picture shows her speaking at the East Herts Rural branch's Red Rose Party during that campaign.

She had been Mayor of Stevenage and was a member of the Police Authority, which oversaw the Hertfordshire Constabulary before the advent of Police and Crime Commissioners. She received an MBE for her service to local government and the community in 2008.

Our sympathy goes to her husband Howard Rooke, to her mother Yvonne and to her daughter and grandson, as well as her many friends.

9 January 2017

Never canvassed?

It is not as difficult as you think

We are not seeking doorstep conversions. The main aim of canvassing is to identify supporters, so that we can try to ensure that they vote on election day. Also, the mere fact that a Labour member has knocked on the door or rung up helps to get Labour supporters out to vote.

We are starting the year with a canvassing training session on Saturday, 28 January 2017 in Letchworth, followed by some real canvassing supported by experienced canvassers. If you have never canvassed or have not done so recently, this is for you.

This is a joint initiative with the Hitchin & Harpenden Constituency Labour Party and is open to all members in the two constituencies.

Details are on the members' page.

7 January 2017

Together, let's make Britain
better in 2017

Jeremy Corbyn's New Year message

Jeremy Corbyn"Decisions made in Westminster are making people's lives harder," Jeremy Corbyn said in his New Year message. He went on to say that the elderly were not getting the care they deserved, people were waiting longer in A&E because the NHS and social care is at breaking point, and homeless families were being priced out of the housing market.

"This Christmas 120,000 children didn't have a home to call their own," he said.

"We now have the chance to do things differently. To build an economy that invests and works for everyone.... We are the party that listens to you and makes Britain better. Let's do that, together, in 2017."

Listen to his message here.

1 January 2017

Care for the NHS

Labour's National Campaign Day

Our members were out campaigning

Members campaigning with Doug Swanney (second from left), County Council candidate for Letchworth North

Members from every branch in the constituency were out this morning to campaign with our newly selected candidate for the County Council division of Letchworth North, Doug Swanney. Just some of them are pictured above.

The NHS really is disappearing gradually in front of our eyes.The NHS is disappearing before your eyes That this is government policy was confirmed when Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement failed to even mention the financial crisis in the NHS.

We also learn that Margaret Thatcher had plans to privatise the NHS, but was thwarted by Tories who supported it. Unfortunately, the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition did not thwart David Cameron's plans to bring this about.

"The clever thing about this plan," says David Bell, our Parliamentary Spokesperson, "is that it is being done gradually, bit by bit, so that people in general are not noticing any major change. Indeed, I believe that the government has been rather disappointed that fewer contracts have gone to private providers than they expected.

"Partly this is because NHS units have re-organized themselves to be able to win contracts. Unfortunately, this has meant that these units begin to behave a bit like private companies, with money rather than patient care driving their decisions. And, of course, they spend NHS money on preparing their bids rather than on doing their real job."

Meanwhile, we learn that not a single one of the main hospital specialties can now meet the target of admitting 92% of patients needing surgery within 18 weeks. As a result, the waiting list in England is now 3.7 million and over a 1,000 have now been waiting a year or longer. The last Labour government worked hard to bring long waiting lists under control, but now all this is all being destroyed.

Another current issue is reported below.

26 November 2016

Hammond wakes up to fiscal reality

... but is still in bed

This is the Institute for Public Policy Research's verdict on the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. Of necessity, he has abandoned George Osborne's target of a budget surplus by the end of this Parliament - just as George Osborne previously abandoned his target of eliminating the deficit by the end of the last Parliament.

John McDonnellAs shadow chancellor, John McDonnell (pictured) said: "The Autumn Statement underlines the abject failure of the Tories' economic policy."

Public sector debt will actually increase over the next two years and the subsequent improvement will just about restore it to what it is now - that is 80% of GDP. Bear in mind that Labour had it down to 30.9% in 2001.

Alongside this, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects inflation to rise, so that the growth in real wages will just about cease next year and only return to the present meagre rate of growth by 2020. Unemployment will rise too, and remain higher than it is now until 2020.

The Chancellor managed to give the impression that this deterioration was due to Brexit, but the OBR says that this is only partly correct. They say that less than half is due to Brexit - though even that is £59 bn. Around £26 bn is due to public finances being weaker than expeccted last March.

However, another £26 bn is borrowing to invest. At last the Tories are adopting the Labour policy of borrowing to invest, as a way of achieving growth in the longer term. But they are not abandoning austerity. The cuts to income tax credits, designed by Labour to make work pay, will go ahead, although he has very slightly softened the impact. He will, however, go ahead with raising the income tax threshold, which benefits the "squeezed middle", but is taking no measures to prevent this disproportionately benefiting the very rich.

His investment in housing, especially for so-called affordable homes, is particularly needed. However, he will trial the "right to buy" for housing association tenants, thus reducing the current stock of social housing.

As for need for investment in our struggling health and social care systems, he did not even mention it.

24 November 2016

Alex Mayer confirmed
as our MEP

Alex Mayer MEPFollowing the resignation of Richard Howitt as MEP for the East of England (see below), Alex Mayer, who was second on the Labour list at the last European Parliamentary Election, has been confirmed as his replacement. 

She is the only Labour MEP in the East of England and will continue as an MEP until we leave the European Union. On the government's intended timetable, this will be until around April 2019.

Alex spoke at the East Herts Rural branch dinner earlier in the year (see below) and is known to many of us for her zeal in campaigning for the Labour Party.

We shall post contact details for her office on the Europe page when they have been confirmed.

18 November 2016

Privatised NHS service fails

The NHS is disappearing before your eyesCapita won the contract to provide primary care support services in England earlier this year. Now even the Tory health minister, Nicola Blackwood, admits that they were "inadequately prepared" for the task. She told the House of Commons that she had made it clear to Capita that she expects them "to consider compensation as an option".

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that patients "have been put at risk", although the minister denies that any actual harm to patients has been caused.

Labour MP, Geoffrey Robinson, who initiated a debate in Parliament about this, said that the government was "taken in" by "the lure of apparent savings and the prospect of cutting 40% from a £1 bn bill for primary care services". The services include the management of medical records and of payments to GP practices, as well as some basic services like providing prescription pads.

Geoffrey Robinson added: "And they contracted the work out to Capita, of all people."

13 November 2016

Labour win in Hitchin

Martin Stears-HandscombWe need some good news and here it is. In the by-election yesterday for the North Herts District Council, Martin Stears-Handscomb retained the seat for Labour in Hitchin Oughton.

He had 258 votes compared with 200 votes for a local independent candidate and 150 for the Tories, with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens following on behind.

Hitchin Oughton is in our neighbouring constituency. Martin is a former councillor and an active member of our constituency party. However, he used to live in Hitchin.

11 November 2016

Have a curry for the
Labour Party

Come and have a curry with the Royston and District Labour Party. The branch's curry evening is at the Ashiana Spice Curry House (opposite the Jolly Postie), Baldock Road, Royston at 7.30 pm for 8 pm on Tuesday, 6 December 2016.

The cost is £20 per head for a two-course meal. There is no need to pay in advance, but you must reserve your places with the branch secretary. There will be a licensed bar and, of course, a raffle.

Open to all members and their members and friends.

11 November 2016

The presidential election in
the USA

Jeremy CorbynCommenting on today's American election, Jeremy Corbyn said: "Many in Britain and elsewhere will be understandably shocked by Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, the rhetoric around it and what the election result means for the rest of the world, as well as America.

"Trump’s election is an unmistakable rejection of a political establishment and an economic system that simply isn’t working for most people. It is one that has delivered escalating inequality and stagnating or falling living standards for the majority, both in the US and Britain

"This is a rejection of a failed economic consensus and a governing elite that has been seen not to have listened. And the public anger that has propelled Donald Trump to office has been reflected in political upheavals across the world.

"But some of Trump’s answers to the big questions facing America, and the divisive rhetoric around them, are clearly wrong.

"I have no doubt, however, that the decency and common sense of the American people will prevail, and we send our solidarity to a nation of migrants, innovators and democrats.

"After this latest global wake up call, the need for a real alternative to a failed economic and political system could not be clearer.

"That alternative must be based on working together, social justice and economic renewal, rather than sowing fear and division. And the solutions we offer have to improve the lives of everyone, not pit one group of people against another.

"Americans have made their choice. The urgent necessity is now for us all to work across continents to tackle our common global challenges: to secure peace, take action on climate change and deliver economic prosperity and justice."

9 November 2016

Richard Howitt leaves
European Parliament

Richard Howitt and Alex MeyerLast Thursday, Richard Howitt, the Labour MEP for the East of England, left the European Parliament, after 22 years as an MEP. His farewell speech closed to an ovation from his fellow members.

Under the rules, the next on the Labour list at the last election normally takes over from an MEP who is resigning and, in this case, will serve until the UK leaves the European Union - on the assumption that this occurs before the next European Parliamentary elections in June 2019.

So, he will be succeeded by Alex Meyer. However, it requires the EU to ask the government and the government to check with the Electoral Commission and then confirm to the European Parliament that she is the legitimate successor. We do not know where the hold-up is in this convoluted system, but it is outrageous that we are left without a Labour MEP. It is even more outrageous that Richard's staff will lose their jobs because Alex cannot take them over from him.

Richard is pictured canvassing with Alex Meyer at the last European Parliamentary election.

We shall miss Richard not only as our MEP but also as one of the keenest promoters of the Labour Party in the East of England.

30 October 2016 (amended 13 November 2016)

The ten pledges

Jeremy Corbyn has set out ten pledges to the British people. Our parliamentary spokesperson, David Bell, says: "Although the Tories and much of the press, characterise Jeremy as dangerously left-wing, these are sensible pledges that all the Labour Party can get behind. Indeed, most of the electorate would get behind them, if the media ever give them the chance to know what they are."Jeremy Corbyn

In fact, they are:

Full employment and an economy that works for all

This includes investing £500 billion in infrastructure, a policy so "dangerously left-wing" that the Tories are edging towards adopting it, albeit announcing separate amounts for different projects.

A secure homes guarantee

This includes a million new homes in five years, compared with the Tories' inadequate one-quarter of a million. Crucially, Labour proposes that one half of these will be council houses, partly achieved by lifting the ban on borrowing by councils to invest in houses.

Security at work

The Tories have been gradually eroding employee and trade union rights, except where EU rules prevented them from doing so. They have excluded employees from seeking a remedy for illegal work practices by introducing exorbitant industrial tribunal fees.

Secure our NHS and social care

Opinion surveys show that the vast majority of the electorate want a publicly provided Health Service.

A national education service, open to all

This includes providing universal child care services and lifetime opportunities for education. This pledge was written before the Tories made their counter-productive proposal to restore secondary modern schools - a policy now being vigorously opposed by Labour.

Action to secure our environment

Many would see tackling climate change as the most important pledge of all. Yet, the Tories have abolished the Department for Climate Change.

Put the public back into our economy and services

This includes expanding the bus network and the very popular policy of bringing back the railways into public ownership - and that means British public ownership, not German or French public ownership which is what is allowed at present.

Cut income and wealth inequality

The gap between the very wealthy and the rest has grown enormously and is now seen by many of the electorate as totally obscene.

Action to secure an equal society

A consequence - even if unintended - of the Brexit vote has been a growth in intolerance. Returning the country to prosperity which is shared by ordinary citizens, alongside strict enforcement of existing protections, will do much to counter this. Against this background, Theresa May's desire to withdraw from the British-drafted European Charter of Human Rights is especially bizarre.

Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy

This sounds very like what Robin Cook was trying to achieve as Labour's Foreign Secretary before his untimely death.

The full text of these pledges can be read here.

5 October 2016

Making a virtue of necessity

Tories to adopt Labour economic policies

So, the new Tory chancellor, Philip Hammond, is abandoning his predecessor's target for deficit reduction and is portraying it as a step which he needs to take to deal with the effect of the Brexit vote.

The fact is that he had no choice but to abandon the target, because there was absolutely no chance of hitting it. His predecessor's deficit reduction plans were already in disarray even before the Brexit vote.

In 2010, George Osborne aimed to eliminate John McDonnell, shadow chancellorthe deficit by 2015. Indeed, he claimed that the Labour plan to halve it by that date would result in dire consequences for the UK. In spite of the devastating result of cuts on most UK citizens, especially the most vulnerable, he only managed to reduce the deficit by one-third.

So, he reset his target for 2019, with a surplus by 2020. However, when he was sacked by Theresa May, he had made no further progress towards this new target. Debt has, in fact, increased.

Still, there are encouraging signs. It seems that Philip Hammond is considering adopting the sensible Labour policy of investing for growth. Already, the Tories have announced that they will build houses, not only to provide much needed homes, but also to stimulate the economy. It is predicted that he will announce investment in infrastructure projects, like road and rail schemes, in his autumn statement.

This orthodox Keynesian policy used to be regarded as dangerously left-wing by the Tories. Although they killed off the incipient growth achieved by Labour chancellor, Alastair Darling in 2009, and have since wasted more than six years on a policy that was bound to fail, Labour can welcome the adoption of what they have advocated all along.

John McDonnell (pictured), Labour's shadow chancellor, comments: "The Chancellor should apologise today for the failed Tory approach that has meant he has had to abandon the failed economic agenda of the last six years, an approach which has seen them dragging their heels on tax avoidance, an increase in child poverty, and house-building falling to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s."

The Tory change of heart is welcome, but is certainly too late. Let us hope that it is not too little as well.

4 October 2016 (amended 6 October 2016)

Puckeridge by-election

The result of the Puckeridge by-election today was a win for the Conservative candidate, confirming that once again the Conservatives hold all the seats on East Herts District Council.

David Bell, the Labour and Co-operative candidate, was fourth, behind both the UKIP and the Liberal Democrat candidate. The votes were: C - 179; UKIP - 79; LD - 75; Lab & Co-op - 46; Green - 38. Turnout was 19.4%. 

15 September 2016

Tories plan to bring back secondary modern schools

Labour calls for the county council to resist

Labour has called on Tory-controlled Hertfordshire County Council to confirm that they will resist any pressure to abandon the county's long-held support for comprehensive education.

Judi BillingThe prime minister struggled to justify her plan to return to widespread selection in our education system during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. She calls it "bringing back grammar schools", but selection inevitably means that most children will go to secondary modern schools, or their equivalent.

Writing today in the local press, Judi Billing, deputy leader of the county council's Labour Group and their education spokesperson, points out that the government has no electoral mandate for this; that the evidence is that grammar schools do not improve educational standards; and that those relegated to secondary modern schools do much worse.

She calls on the Tory council leader, Robert Gordon, and the education portfolio holder, David Williams, to make it clear that they will resist any suggestion of a return to a selective system.

Hertfordshire was an early adopter of the comprehensive system and, under Tory and Labour-led administrations, has given strong support to it.

Private schools are anticipating a boost in demand, suggested Nick Cohen, writing in last Sunday's Observer, because prosperous parents will put their children into private education if they fail the 11+, so that the secondary moderns will lose a swathe of well-motivated and well-supported children, as well as those whom the 11+ test picks out as the most intelligent.

"In 1980, I and my family wanted to move out of London and we chose Hertfordshire specifically because of its good comprehensive schools," says David Bell, our constituency's parliamentary spokesperson.

"Earlier, in the 1960s," he adds, "my wife and I campaigned in London against the 11+ examination, which in our borough condemned 90% of children to being labelled failures at age 11. The Tory government is taking us back to the past in education, health and social care, welfare, and so much else.  Almost everything that has been achieved by the UK in my lifetime is being destroyed."

15 September 2016

Boundary changes - initial proposals

Back in 2010, the Tories proposed to change constituency boundaries and reduce the number of MPs by 50. However, the Liberal Democrats refused to allow this change by the Coalition government.

The Tories said that the change was to reduce the cost of Parliament. It clearly was not, because they have created enough peers since then, to use up all or most of the potential savings.

It would also even up the number of electors in each constituency. On the face of it, that sounds reasonable. However, the distribution of Conservative and Labour voters is different. Labour voters tend to be concentrated in urban areas and, if you dilute each urban area with some of the surrounding rural areas, you reduce the chance of Labour holding the seat.

Elsewhere, Labour voters are more thinly spread, even though there are quite a lot of them. For example, in the last Police and Crime Commissioner election, conducted on the single transferable vote system, 40% of Hertfordshire's voters would have preferred Labour to win. Yet in Hertfordshire we do not have a single Labour MP. The 40% have no voice. Far from making each vote count, the reduction in the number of MPs comes close to ensuring perpetual Tory rule.

Without Liberal Democrat constraint, the government is now going ahead with the change. Furthermore, they have now introduced a new problem. Individual registration of voters was rushed in ahead of its original timetable and had the effect of reducing the total electorate, but the Boundary Commission was told to measure the size of electorates on this reduced register of voters, even though two million more people registered subsequently for the EU referendum.

Initial proposals

The Boundary Commission has the task of implementing the government's change, working within the rules laid down for them, which include using district council wards as the "building blocks" for constituencies. Their initial proposal for North East Hertfordshire is:

Retain the core of the constituency - Letchworth Garden City, Baldock and Royston.

Transfer the Walkern ward back to Stevenage and also transfer Watton-at-Stone to Stevenage (which incidentally makes Stevenage harder for Labour to win).

Transfer Hertford Rural North and Hertford Rural South to Welwyn-Hatfield.

Add three wards (The Mordens, Bassingbourn and Melbourn) from South Cambridgeshire to North East Hertfordshire.

The Labour Party will now be considering these, and all the other, proposals and making their submission to the consultation.

13 September 2016

Red Rose Summer Party

Red Rose Summer Party 2016The Red Rose Summer Party was a great success. There was very little sun, but no rain, so that at least those equipped with pullovers or cardigans could eat in the garden.

The party is one of the East Herts Rural branch's two main fund raising events and this year was held in Standon on Sunday, 4 September 2016. As well as providing the chance for old and new members to meet each other and to talk, it raised, after expenses, over £200 for branch funds. Many thanks to all those who came, contributed raffle prizes and cooked the food.

See you all again at the New Year dinner!

5 September 2016

Puckeridge By-election

On 15 September 2016 there will be a by-election for the Puckeridge ward of the East Herts District Council. This arises from the resignation of Cllr James Cartwright. James David Bell earlier this yearwas elected as a Conservative but resigned the Conservative whip some time ago and had been sitting as an independent when he resigned.

The Labour and Co-operative Party candidate for this seat is David Bell (pictured). The whole council was elected for four years in 2015 and Labour's manfesto for this four year period can be read here.

We shall not be publishing an election address, but David stood for Puckeridge in 2015 and his election address distributed to every household before that election can be read here.

"Virtually nothing has changed since 2015," David says, "which in itself speaks volumes about our council, composed entirely of Tory councillors. The only real advance has been progress on the Neighbourhood Development Plan, but that is down to the hard work of a group of local residents, not to the council."

Currently, there is no opposition at all on the District Council. This is a very unhealthy position, whatever party is in power. There is no one to challenge proposals from the ruling party, nor to ensure that decisions are made transparently, in the council chamber, rather than in a closed party meeting.

Promoted by David Bell on his own behalf, at Town Farm House, Mill End, Standon SG11 1LP.

Voting, postal and proxy votes

If you live in Puckeridge, you should already have received your poll card. You do not need this to vote, but if you have not received one you may wish to check whether you are on the electoral register by ringing the District Council on 01279 655261. The deadline for new registrations is 30 August 2016.

Postal vote ballot forms will be issued around 5 September 2016. New applications for a postal vote must be received by the District Council by 5 pm on 31 August 2016. New applications for a proxy vote must be received by 5 pm on 7 September 2016, although applications in the case of a medical emergency can be made up to 5 pm on 15 September.

30 August 2016

Leadership Election

Jeremy CorbynOwen Smith

Campaign information

There is information about the candidates and their websites on the Labour Party website here.

Details of leadership debates are also on the Labour Party website here and you can watch these debates live there. These include a BBC debate on Wednesday 17 August (to be held in Nottingham).

At present, the closest debate to us is in London on 1 September.

Election timetable

18 to 21 July    Nomination period: challengers to the leader need to be nominated by 20% or more of Labour MPs and MEPs.

22 July            Hustings period begins.

22 August        Ballots begin to be despatched in the fortnight beginning on this date. You will be able to vote online or by post (but obviously not both!). The election will be conducted by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

14 September    Last date to request the re-issue of ballot papers, e.g. if yours has not arrived in the post.

21 September    Ballot closes at noon.

24 September    Special conference in Liverpool to announce the result.

Eligibility to vote

Members are required to have six months' membership, i.e. they must have been members on 12 January 2016. They must also be fully paid up on 8 August 2016 (noon).

Affiliated supporters must also have six months' membership of their union, socialist society or other affiliated organisation, i.e. have been a member on 12 January 2016. Existing affiliated supporters will be able to vote as long as they continue to be eligible. New affiliated supporters can be recruited from their affiliated organisation/socialist society up to 8 August.

It is now too late to register as a registered supporter.

15 July 2016 (revised 31 July 2016)

Branch and Constituency Party
meetings suspended

The National Executive Committee of the Labour Party last night suspended all meetings during the leadership election, except in very limited circumstances. Therefore, the constituency party AGM will be postponed, as will branch meetings. (It is possible that Royston branch will hold a meeting about the by-election campaign.)

13 July 2016 (amended 15 July 2016

Royston Town Council

Amy Bourke-WaiteThe by-election caused by the sad death of our constituency party secretary, Les Baker, will take place on 4 August 2016.

The candidate that Labour intends to nominate is Amy Bourke-Waite (pictured).

If you are going to be away on polling day, remember to get a postal or proxy vote. Closing dates to apply are 20 July and 27 July respectively.

If you are going to be abroad, it is unwise to rely on a postal vote: we suggest that you apply for a proxy vote. If you have a postal vote and will be on holiday in the UK, remember that you will have to amend the address to which the postal vote should be sent (and, of course, change it back afterwards). You apply to North Herts District Council (not the Town Council). Click here for information.

1 July 2016

A message to his constituents
from Richard Howitt MEP

Richard Howit, our Labour MEP, issued the following statement earlier this afternoon (he is pictured at his last visit to our constituency party, before the referendum).

The EU Referendum has produced a 'leave' vote in most of my constituency and of the country.

Richard Howitt at the CLPPolitics are based on the principle of consent and we have to accept that the popular will is for Britain to leave the European Union. As an elected representative and on behalf of the Labour Party, I respect the result and must commit to its outcome.

I am proud of the way Labour fought the Referendum campaign. United as a party, I believe we told the truth and regret the outcome.

I do not believe Britain's independence or democracy was ever jeopardised.

I am concerned that the economic consequences of leaving the EU will prove to be fact, not fear.

In Westminster, Labour must and will give the greatest priority to defending jobs and services for working people, from the shocks which will follow.

I worry about the divisive nature of the debate and for the continuing loss of tolerance, respect and openness in our democracy.

It is not how I choose to practise my own politics. It is why I wanted our country to continue to have an open and inclusive politics in relation to our neighbours in Europe.

I was elected on public trust to serve the interests of my constituents in the East of England and to represent our country.

I pledge to continue to uphold those responsibilities for as long as I remain as your Member of the European Parliament. Labour will play our own part to seek to heal the divisions created during the referendum campaign.

In Europe, Labour must play our own role in the negotiations to secure the best future relationships for our country.

It has been an immense privilege to serve you and I am deeply proud of the work I have always sought to undertake to the very best of my efforts - both in the region and in the European  Parliament.

I greatly value the support and friendship I have been given from Labour colleagues, members and supporters across the East of England and from very many organisations  and individuals across the wider electorate.

30 June 2016

Labour win 2020Win in 2020

(or before?)

The British people have decided and we all have to accept that.

Although many of the EU directives on workers' rights were preceded by - even based on - UK legislation, that was legislation by Labour governments. We know that Tories, like Priti Patel, want to abolish "about half" of these protections.

Without the protection of the EU, it is highly likely that the Tory government will chip away at these rights, no doubt saying that this "red tape" hinders business. They have already begun on diminishing trade union rights where these were not protected by the EU.

Coupled with the austerity agenda of our government, this means that it will be the weakest who suffer. George Osborne signalled before the vote that he would use a vote to leave to impose greater austerity and thus shrink the protections that we enjoy from the state.

That makes it all the more important that Labour wins the next general election. We can only do this if we unite in the knowledge that we must win and that we start the campaign now.

We may not have until 2020 to win over the electorate.

Footnote: North Herts District voted to remain by a margin of 8.75%, but East Herts voted to leave, albeit by a margin of 0.73%. Turnouts were 78.2% and 80.3% respectively.

There is a message from the constituency party chair on the members' page.
Alex Meyer's comments are on the Europe page. Alex was second on the Labour list at the last Euro-election.

24 June 2016 (added to 26 June 2016)

Jeremy Corbyn with his shadow cabinet colleagues

Britain is better off in the EU -
Jeremy Corbyn

A strong, positive message went to all Labour Party members from the Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after his meeting with the Shadow Cabinet on 14 June. He said:

Today I joined the Shadow Cabinet to share a single, simple message.

Britain is better off in the EU.

This is a vote for many of the things we stand for: for jobs, for rights at work and for our NHS.

That is why the Labour movement stands together in its support for a vote to Remain next Thursday."

Go to the Europe page for more information about your choice. There are also reports below here, here, here and here.

16 June 2016

The EU peace dividend

In a last attempt to get a Remain vote on Thursday, our parliamentary spokesperson, David Bell, has sent this letter to the local newspapers, most of which publish on the morning of the vote:

Could I make a very personal plea to all those who read this before they vote in the Referendum?

David Bell My father fought in the First World War and I lived as a child through the Second. Therefore, I am acutely conscious that the beginnings of the EU are rooted in the desire to end wars between the European powers. The EU has succeeded in doing this. War between EU countries now appears to be unthinkable and that is because of the EU. We have also been protected by NATO, but its role has been to protect its members from external threats.

By bringing more countries into the EU – a policy that has been supported by the UK – this “peace dividend” is further extended.

For the last 70 years, I have lived without having to fight to protect my country and without an enemy attacking my country. I do not think that this has ever happened to previous generations. The EU has achieved this by making us dependent on each other and also by ensuring that the countries of Europe are democracies, within a Union which has reformed itself from a body run jointly by governments to a body where we, the voters of Europe, share control.

The success of our trade with Europe is, for me, a bonus – not the main issue. Nevertheless, we depend on the EU to take around 45% of our exports and we buy slightly more of our imports from the EU as a whole, even though no single EU country except Ireland exports more than 10% of their goods to us.

I want all this to continue for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So, I am in despair at the thought that we may leave the EU and lose our voice in this important organisation.

"Last month I celebrated a rather significant birthday with all of my family," says David, "- three daughters, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. This really brought home to me the benefit  that the EU peace dividend has brought to me and my family - and how important it is that we do not abandon the EU now."

20 June 2016

Clinical Commissioning Groups
are “not fit for purpose”

Just because there is a referendum campaign, it does not mean that the NHS is not continuing to disappear before your eyes.

NHS disappearing logoClinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were supposed to be the bedrock on which the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government built its reform of the NHS. You will remember that the major justification was that the people who knew what was needed were GPs.

Now, writing in the HSJ (the Health Service Journal), Alastair McLellan, its editor, says that many CCGs, bodies which were created at great expense four years ago, are not fit for purpose in the eyes of those responsible for their stewardship. “The chaotic nature of the reforms”, he says, resulted in "endless workarounds". The latest of these is Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).

“Finding good quality chairs, accountable officers and finance directors has become more and more challenging”, he writes. “What limited influence CCGs had on hospitals has virtually disappeared.”

Instead, STPs will provide a national framework, which is set to bypass the annual contracting round (run by CCGs).

The role of CCGs will become administrators of nationally agreed budgets for primary care. “But many CCGs are not strong,” writes Alastair McLellan. He believes that they will have to form groups, co-operating with each other and sharing services, as many already have. Failing CCGs should, he believes, have their function handed over to a neighbouring CCG.

It is ironic that the Coalition government set up these small units to “run” the NHS, just after the Labour government had merged Primary Care Trusts (who were the commissioning bodies at that time), because experience had shown them that larger units were needed for greater effectiveness.

16 June 2016

Peter Wood at 100 explains
why he will vote Remain

Peter Wood at his birthday party

We send our congratulations to Peter Wood, who was 100 yesterday.

Typically, when asked how the last 100 years had been, Peter Wood preferred to look forward and explain why it was important to vote to remain in the EU and to work in co-operation with the other countries of Europe.

Peter Wood, from our neighbouring constituency of Hertford and Stortford, only recently gave up being treasurer of the H&S 100 Club, from which our constituency also benefits, and not long before that he was treasurer of his constituency party. The picture shows him at his birthday party, with some of his family. His wife, Shirley, also a stalwart of the Labour and Co-operative parties, is standing behind him. He celebrated with his family and local friends, many from the Labour party.

1 June 2016

Vote leave in 2020

- for the Tory government to leave office

"When Labour comes into government," Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday, "we will work with our allies to reform the European Union to improve workers' rights. That is the exact opposite of what the Leave campaign wants. They said that by leaving the EU they could 'halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation'.

Jeremy Corbyn

"What are these burdens?

The right to four weeks paid holiday, plus public holidays
The right to equal pay between men and women
The right to decent standards of health and safety at work
Rights to maternity and paternity leave
Protection for people working for agencies
And comprehensive protection from discrimination at work.

"They need to come clean and say what they would scrap."

Jeremy was speaking at the Labour In for Britain rally in Bristol, where Marvin Rees became the Labour Mayor at the May election and where Labour took control of the council. Marvin is of mixed heritage and is now mayor of a city which prospered as a result of the slave trade.

He went on to talk of the EU's importance for combatting climate change, cleaning up our beaches and waterways and tackling air pollution - all matters on which the Tories cannot be relied to act. The UK is currrently in breach of the law on air pollution.

"So vote to remain," he said, " for the vision of Europe that unites, not divides."

20 May 2016

Les Baker

Les Baker at a Labour garden partyIt is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Les Baker, secretary and former chair of the constituency Labour Party. Although unable to attend meetings recently, he was still advising the local party and took part in some executive committee meetings held at his house.

Les was a Royston town councillor and a former mayor of Royston. He had also been a North Herts district councillor and was secretary of the North Herts local campaign forum. He was the election agent and campaign manager for us at the last general election, and had been one or the other at previous general elections.

After his retirement from being editor of the Royston Crow, he was much in demand, notably by the Eastern Region, for his help and advice on dealing with the local media.

He will be greatly missed in the constituency party and in the Royston and District branch. It is hard to imagine the local party without his presence and wise advice.

We extend our sympathy to his wife, Christine.

Funeral arrangements

Les Baker's funeral will be on Thursday 26 May. The cremation will be at the Cambridge City Crematorium (Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0JJ) at 11.15 am. There will then be a memorial service at St John the Baptist Church, Royston SG8 9LG at 2 pm, followed by a reception in Royston Town Hall SG8 7DA. Those who wish to mark Les's life are welcome to attend any, or all, of these events.

Les asked for donations to be made to ACT (Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust) for the thoracic unit or to the TREAT (Treatment Room Equipment Appeal Team) fund of the Barley GP practice.

Gordon Brown introduced Gift Aid which increases your donation by 25%. Let's make use of it. You can download an ACT gift aid form here. TREAT is not registered as a charity and donations to this fund are therefore not eligible for gift aid.

Cheques should be sent to Newlings of Royston, Fish Hill, Royston SG8 9LB, attaching a Gift Aid form if the gift is to ACT. Mark the form "Thoracic Unit".

8 May 2016 (added to on 19 May)

Labour wins an extra seat
on North Herts Council

We held all three of the Labour seats that were up for election in North East Hertfordshire. In our neighbouring constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden, Labour held two seats and gained one.

So, Ian Mantle remains the councillor for Letchworth East, Clare Billing remains the councillor for Letchworth Grange, and Deepak Sangha for Letchworth Wilbury. Ian Mantle had a majority of 158 over the Conservative candidate; Clare had a majority of 31 over the Conservative; and Deepak had a majority of 13, also over the Conservative. The "hold" in Grange is particularly pleasing, because Labour lost one seat there a year ago.

Cllr Ian MantleCllr Clare BillingCllr Deepak Sangha

Councillors Ian Mantle, Clare Billing and Deepak Sangha

In Hitchin, Labour held two seats and in Hitchin Walsworth Elizabeth Dennis took a seat from the Conservative Ray Shakespeare-Smith, who had been the Chairman of the Council. This gives Labour 12 seats on the North Herts District Council.

You can read the full results of the North Herts District Council
election on the district council's website.

Clare Billing and some of her team
Clare Billing, Labour candidate for Letchworth Grange, with some of her committee room team after the polls closed

Canvass team out in Wilbury

Canvassing for Deepak Sangha (centre at back), Labour candidate for Letchworth Wilbury
6 May 2016

Police and Crime Commissioner electionT

The Conservative candidate, David Lloyd, was re-elected as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, but the Labour candidate, Kerry Pollard, took the contest to a second round, after the Liberal Democrat and UKIP candidates were eliminated.

Kerry had 27% of the vote in the first round, against 42% for David Lloyd. In the second round, Kerry had just over 40% of the vote against David Lloyd's vote of just under 60%.

It is encouraging to note that, in Stevenage, Kerry had a lead over David Lloyd of 1,639 votes. David Lloyd led the field in all the other council areas, except Watford, where the Liberal Democrat had a marginal lead over Kerry of 113 votes.

7 May 2016

236 fewer police officers

Since 2010 the Tories have reduced out police force by 236 officers. Admittedly, the Tory Police and Crime Commissioner (PPC) did not have control over the government's reduction in funding.

Nevertheless, he decided this year to reduce the charge in our council tax for policing, over which he does have control. Funny that he decided to do this just before the PCC election, isn't it?

30 April 2016

A deceitful leaflet from
the Vote Leave campaign

Labour In logoJust before they were designated as the official campaign group for leaving the EU, Vote Leave sent out a disgraceful leaflet called The UK and the European Union: the Facts. It is disgraceful on three counts.

First and foremost, it is clearly designed to deceive the reader into thinking that it is an unbiased statement of the facts. Only if you have very good eyesight will you find, on the fourth page, that it is published by the Vote Leave campaign.

Second, some facts are presented in an incomplete or convoluted way to exaggerate their significance. For example, the leaflet is correct that 250,000 people came to the UK from the EU last year (an unusually high number), but it takes no account of the 85,000 EU immigrants who left.

It says that the “the UK’s official EU budget” is about £350m a week. It is expressed in this odd way to make the reader think that we pay that amount. But we do not. The gross amount is about £250m and the net amount is around £162m.

Third, sometimes the so-called facts are just wrong. Officials do not decide how we spend EU money. All EU decisions are taken democratically. Officials merely apply those decisions.

It is also not true that the EU decides whether prisoners have a right to vote. This ruling came from the European Court of Human Rights, which is not part of the EU and which the UK took the lead in setting up immediately after the second world war.

David Bell, our parliamentary spokesperson, had a letter on the Vote Leave campaign's persistence in using incorrect cost figures published in the Independent on 18 April 2016 (reproduced below).

Text of letter in Independent

18 April 2016

Green council houses in

Stevenage's Labour and Co-operative Council showed just what could be done when they built eight council houses to very high environmental standards.

Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage CouncilThe houses have excellent insulation, roofs tilted southwards with photovoltaic roof tiles, rainwater harvesting to flush WCs, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery and many other advanced green features.

Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Council, (pictured left) explained that Stevenage had needed additional external funding to build these houses because of the cost of materials for such homes. Sadly, the Tory government had abandoned earlier ambitions to build energy efficient houses and, because as a result demand was small, these materials remained expensive.

She was speaking at a meeting organized by the North Herts branch of the Co-operative Party in Hitchin. The meeting was jointly chaired by Martin Stears-Handscomb and Elizabeth Dennis, both Labour and Co-operative candidates for the North Herts District Council at the forthcoming elections on 5 May (Letchworth SE and Hitchin Walsworth respectively) and both keen to make North Herts housing environmentally friendly.

Other speakers at the meeting talked about the success of the co-operative MaidEnergy in installing solar panels on a community building and a school and of a similar scheme - Community Energy Birmingham.

A fuller report on the meeting can be read here. There is more on the Stevenage houses here.

14 April 2016

A budget built on failure

and a recovery built on sand

Once again, George Osborne has failed. Growth forecast down for 2016, 2017 and 2018. And this is compared with his forecast made only four months ago. Debt rises to 83.7% of GDP in 2015/16, and forecasts are revised upwards for subsequent years. He has missed his own debt reduction target.standing up, not standing by

He also has breached his own "welfare cap" target and the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts breaches in the subsequent years also.

Remember, too, that in 2010 he told us that the deficit would be eliminated by 2015. Indeed, he told us that we would end up as a basket case, like Greece, if we did not accept his austerity measures to achieve this. In the event he missed his target by a whopping 50%. How does he get away with it?

This truly is, as Jeremy Corbyn said, "a budget built on failure".

Yet, it will all come right in time for 2019/20, just in time for the general election. His third target of a budget surplus by 2020 will be met, he predicts. He says that we shall have a surplus of £10.1bn that year. But, as Ben Chu has shown in the Independent, this is achieved largely by "creative accounting".

Capital spending is cut dramatically in 2019/20, solely to achieve his target: it bounces back again the next year. £6.3bn comes from the retiming of corporation tax receipts and £1.2bn by clamping down on personal tax avoidance - a measure of "very high uncertainty" in the OBR's words.

"A recovery built on sand," as Jeremy Corby said in his budget response.

18 March 2016

EU facts at your fingertips

Image of the app on a phone

Have you ever listened to someone's tirade against the EU, known that it was wrong, but been unable to remember the facts to argue against it? Your problem is solved.Richard Corbett MEP

You can have the facts - literally at your fingertips, on your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Richard Corbett, the Labour MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside (pictured), has devised an app, which gives up-to-date refutations of recently published attacks on the EU, explodes those persistent Euro-myths and gives some facts about the EU and each region in the country.

No canvasser can afford to be without it. Just go to the appropriate app store and search for "Doorstep EU".

13 March 2016

Unaffordable "affordable housing"

Kerry Pollard at the constituency party meeting

Kerry Pollard at Letchworth meetingKerry Pollard is chair of the Labour Housing Group and had agreed to share with us his passion for providing houses for all who need them before he was selected as the candidate for Hertfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

He castigated the Tory government for having no strategic plan to get the houses built that people need. Affordability had now been redefined as 80% of the market rate, but that was not affordable for most of those without a house. It now needed to be 50%, especially in areas of high house prices such as ours.

It was impossible to get the homes that we need through commercial developers. We must restore the drive to build council or housing association houses. "100,000 new homes add 1% to GDP," he said. "Councils need to be allowed to borrow to build and delays in the planning system have to be tackled." 

The government also has to overcome the shortage of skilled construction workers and the shortage of bricks, which we are now having to import from Holland.

He advocated the use of modern methods of construction, such as those developed by the Building Research Establishment in Watford. These houses can be built in six days. Similar houses are being built in other countries, notably Germany.

"If the political will was there, we could build the houses we needed quickly. This was the only way to deal with house price inflation, but the government was just tinkering at the edges, with small, ineffective or even counter-productive measures such as help with deposits, which merely allow builders to charge even more."

A lively discussion follwed his talk. He also spoke briefly about the Police and Crime Commissioner election. Go to the Elections page for more on this. Go to the Members' page to read the latest report on the Police and Crime Panel. 

25 February 2016

23 June

After Cameron's sideshow

Labour In logoWe have a date for the momentous decision by the people of the United Kingdom, affecting our citizens for generations to come.

With or without Cameron's sideshow, Labour's position is principled. It is not about short term gains or narrow political self-interest. Labour is an internationalist party. "By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone" is a major tenet of the Party. This does not just apply within the country, but also internationally.

Speaking in Brussels after David Cameron's sideshow, Jeremy Corbyn said:"We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming referendum, regardless of David Cameron’s tinkering, because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers. Labour believes the EU is a vital framework for European trade and cooperation in the 21st century, and that a vote to remain in Europe is in the best interests of our people.”

Changes are needed in the EU, but these are achieved by being active and influential in the Union.

Normally voters get very little information about the EU through the media. A lot of what they do get is untrue or at least misleading. Now, suddenly they will get a surfeit of information. We have four months to ensure they get good information, but are not turned off by the campaign.

"We (must) not referee a debate which is between the Tories, but wage our own Labour campaign," Jeremy Corbyn said.

21 February 2016

Labour In

Alex Mayer at the East Herts Rural dinner

Alex Mayer at the EHR dinner

The New Year dinner of the East Herts Rural branch was held last Saturday, 13 February 2016. Branch members were joined by visitors from Letchworth and from other constituency Labour Parties: Hertford & Stortford, Stevenage, Broxbourne and Enfield.

Alex Mayer, herself from neighbouring South Cambridgeshire Labour Party, spoke about the forthcoming referendum on Europe, about the importance of winning the campaign to remain in the Union and about how to do this. She appealed to all members to get out on the doorstep to maximise the "In" vote.

Alex Mayer is pictured (centre) with some of the other guests.

This annual dinner is one of the ways in which the branch ensures that it has sufficient funds to fight elections. It raised £215 for branch funds.

15 February 2016

Tories succeed ...

in destroying public services and selling off the NHS

George Osborne has consistently failed to hit his target for deficit reduction. On the other hand, he has been pretty succesful in destroying public services. The NHS is disappearing This is surely his real aim and he is being frighteningly successful.

The government also plan to sell off the NHS to private companies. They introduced legislation to do this as soon as they came into power in 2010, even though David Cameron had promised not to re-organise the NHS.

Initially, they were not very successful, as figures published in today's Independent show. However, they achieved succcess in 2014/5 when they sold off about £3.5 billions-worth, bringing the total to £5.5 billion since 2010.Heidi Alexander A frighteningly "successful" year.

As Heidi Alexander, Labour's shadow Health Secretary (pictured) said today: "The fact that one quarter of the public are now dissatisfied with the NHS shows just how far it has declined on this Government's watch. Hospitals are in financial crisis, there are severe staff shortages, and patients are finding it harder to see their GP."

Unlike the deficit, the NHS is truly disappearing before our eyes.

9 February 2016

The one-seat challenge

Leon Reefe, Labour Group leaderLeon Reefe, leader of the Labour Group on Hertfordshire County Council, is challenging constituency Labour Parties to add one seat to those already held by Labour in each district of Hertfordshire.

He was at our constituency party meeting on 27 January 2016, together with the deputy leader, Judi Billing, who is also a North Herts District councillor.

Currently, there is only one Labour county councillor in our constituency: Lorna Kercher represents Letchworth North West, which roughly consists of Grange and Wilbury wards.

The county council elections will be on 4 May 2017. The campaign should begin on 6 May this year, the day after this year's elections, he said.

There is a fuller report on this meeting, for constituency party members, on the members' page.

29 January 2016

Osborne's economic plan
isn't working

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is getting his excuses in before he is forced, once again, to reduce his financial targets. Two days ago, he warned us about a "cocktail of threats" brewing in the world economy.

John McDonnell, shadow ChancellorWriting yesterday on the Guardian website, John McDonnell (pictured right), Labour's shadow chancellor, said that all these points had been made by Labour before the Autumn Statement and before the summer budget, but Osborne had ignored them.

"He’s spent a fair few years now talking up how clever he has been," writes John McDonnell, "and how good everything is going to be. This was a result of his 'long-term economic plan'. But there’s never been a 'long-term economic plan'. Just the short-term politics of austerity. The result is Osborne serving up a rather unpleasant domestic cocktail of his own making."

The Chancellor claims Britain is now living within its means, but our borrowing rose to record levels. We are borrowing more from abroad than any other developed country.

He talked about a "march of the makers", but manufacturing exports have slumped and manufacturing output is still lower than before the financial crash.

He talked of "rebalancing the economy", but Britain is now even m ore dependent on the service industry than it was. Since 2010, employment in London rose by 12%, compared with 0.3% in the rest of the country.

John calls on us to remember that when George Osborne arrived in office in 2010, "he promised that 2015 was the year that government borrowing would hit zero". Instead, borrowing is running at £67bn for the financial year to date - above even his revised target.

"We need real investment in science, skills and infrastructure, made for the long-term across the country," writes John. "Without
this, George Osborne offers warnings but no solutions to a domestic cocktail that he made (himself) that will leave the rest of us with the hangover."

Read the full artcle here.

9 January 2016

Government to legislate
to stifle opposition

Jeremy Corbyn MPLabour will repeal the trade union bill when we are elected in 2020. Jeremy Corbyn (pictured left) confirmed this last Monday and added: “We will extend people’s rights in the workplace and give employees a real voice in the organisations they work for.”

At the last meeting of the constituency party before Christmas, Vaughan West explained that the bill, now in the House of Lords, was an attack on the rights of workers through its restrictions on trade unions and that it was also an attack on the Labour Party through its changes to trade union political funds. Vaughan (pictured below) is the constituency party’s trade union liaison officer and an official of the GMB union.

Attack on workers' rights

Vaughan West of the GMBThe government plans to reduce the effectiveness  of unions through these measures:

Attack on the Labour Party

The measure designed to hamper the Labour Party is the change relating to political funds. Margaret Thatcher made it necessary for unions to have a political fund to finance activities outside trade disputes. These funds are financed by an addition to union membership fees and are subject to an opt-out by individual members. The fund has to be authorised by a ballot of members every ten years. In the case of the GMB, £3 per head, which amounts to £8m per year, is used to give regular support to the Labour Party. Special grants are also made, e.g. for election campaigns. The opt-out for members will be altered to an opt-in, almost certainly resulting in a reduction of the size of funds.

“Coupled with the cut in ‘Short money’ (state payments to assist opposition parties), this is a clear attack on the funding of the Labour Party,” said Vaughan. “There is, of course, no proposal to require share-holders in companies to have any formal vote about the making of donations to political parties and this is a major source of funding for the Tories.”

30 December 2015 (amended 31 December 2015)

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