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Last update to website:
28 May 2016

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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.

Syrian refugees

How you can help.

Labour In campaign in East of England

Hilary Benn launches Labour campaign in East of England.

Labour In

... to protect workers' jobs and workers' rights.

Conjuror Osborne gambles

Comments on the Chancellor's Autumn Statement.

John McDonnell

.... on the Chancellor's failed economic plan.

The NHS is disappearing

This time it's PAH, Harlow.

Labour Conference Report

Britain is stronger in Europe

Richard Howitt MEP addressed a constituency party meeting on the importance of voting to stay in Europe.

The NHS is disappearing

Problems at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Comedian George Osborne

The many contradictions in what he says.

Jeremy Corbyn's Conference speech

Stirring up divine discontent.

Richard Howitt MEP

will adddress constituency party members on 16 October

Our new leader

And a message to members and supporters from the constituency party chair.

The Red Rose Summer Party

Bernie Passingham dies

The unknown hero of equal pay.

The leadership and deputy leadership elections

Read or listen to all the candidates.

East Herts Rural Summer Party

Book your place now.

Cutting subsidies for onshore wind and solar makes no sense

A capitalist attacks the Government's irrational energy policy.

Stand up for Labour

In Hitchin on Friday, 31 July.

Broadcast leadership hustings

Also link to deputy leadership hustings.

Labour votes against secret courts

Labour MEPs opposed all the objectionable aspects of TTIP, the trade deal with the USA.

Tories to cut funding for Home Start

Budget misery for the poorest

The Institute of Fiscal Studies' report.

Conjuror Osborne

Comment on some aspects of the July 2015 budget.

Traffic chaos at Letchworth refuse site

Sign the petition to revert to seven-day opening.

Leadership election

Watch the Stevenage hustings.

Who should lead the Labour Party?

Timetable for elections for leader and deputy leader.

What went wrong on 7 May?

Votes for trade union members

Vote in the elections for leader and deputy leader.

Surge in new members

Leadership election

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

Vote remain on 23 JuneLabour is an internationalist party and believes strongly in reaching decisions by co-operation with others. 

Key dates are:
7 June (midnight) - last chance to register to vote. More information here.
8 June (5 pm) - last date to register for a proxy vote, other than in a medical emergency. More information here.
23 June - polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm.

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

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 election

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 2015

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)

Herts welcomes Syrian families

How you can help

The Hertfordshire County Labour Party at its last meeting asked for information about how to help Syrian refugees. Catherine Henderson (pictured), who is a member of our constituency Labour Party and is also a member of the Herts Welcomes Syrian Families (HWSF) group, has supplied the following information.

Catherine Henderson of HWSFCurrently District and Borough Councils all across Hertfordshire are preparing to receive refugees on the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme. HWSF was set up to campaign for this and to work with the councils to support families when they arrive. To find out more please go to the HWSF website or its Facebook page. You will find details of other local initiatives supporting refugees here too. These include collections for Calais and individuals volunteering in Greece.

Stevenage's Labour-controlled borough council will receive a small number of refugees in January and other district councils in Hertfordshire, including East Herts and North Herts District Councils, have agreed to accept refugees under the government scheme.

Meanwhile, almost 40 unaccompanied minors have made their way to Hertfordshire this year and are currently being cared for by the county. If you are interested in fostering, please visit or follow on Facebook or twitter @HCCFosterAdopt. Alternatively, you can call the recruitment line on 0800 917 0925.

It is currently not possible to take refugees into our own homes, though there is likely to be a sponsorship scheme allowing for this, which will be based on the Canadian scheme. If you would like to support a refugee in your own home, you could consider taking a destitute asylum seeker (see Still Human Still Here). If the Immigration Bill goes through there may be children as well as adults left destitute. Families in this situation may be tempted to ‘disappear’ to avoid having their children taken away by social services.

There is more information in the note that Catherine supplied - click here.

17 December 2015

Jobs, growth, influence, security

Hilary Benn speaking at StanstedJobs, growth, influence, security - these are the reasons that Hilary Benn gave for staying in Europe. Hilary Benn, Labour's shadow Foreign Secretary, was launching the East of England Labour In for Britain campaign at Stansted Airport this morning.

He also emphasised the principles behind a united Europe, set up after the Second World War to ensure that the major powers in Europe would never again fight each other, but would co-operate for the benefit of everyone.

Even though Labour did not think that the EU was by any means perfect, Labour's campaign was not dependant on a renegotiation of some provisions, but was based on those principles. The way to improve the EU was to play a full part, whilst arguing for those improvements.

He also argued strongly for 16 and 17-year-olds to be allowed to vote. The case, he said, was particularly strong for this referendum, because this was a vote about their future. "They will be running the country when I am a pile of dust," he said.

10 December 2015

Stronger In Europe

... and more secure

Labour In lunched by Alan Johnson MPOvershadowed by the media frenzy about Labour's views on Cameron's proposal to join in bombing in Syria, Alan Johnson MP launched the Labour In for Britain campaign in Birmingham on 1 December 2015.

This is the united Labour Party campaign based on the facts - the facts that show how much better off Britain is within the European Union. The launch had already been postponed because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, so it is unsurprising that Alan wrote yesterday in the Daily Mail about the security benefits we gain from close co-operation with our EU neighbours.

Speaking at the launch, Alan Johnson said: “From the European Arrest Warrant to cross-border data-sharing on terrorists, the speed of our response is vital and the lesson from Paris is clear: to tackle terrorism we must stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in  Europe. The security of Britain is inextricably linked to the deep co-operation that membership of the EU provides."

Richard Howitt, our MEP, highlighted many of the benefits of being in the EU when he spoke at a constituency party meeting in October (see report below).

Let's add a few more that we benefit from as individuals. We get compensation if our flights are delayed or cancelled within the EU. Credit and debit card transaction fees have been limited.
Mobile roaming charges have been slashed within the EU and will be abolished in 2017. We can work or retire in any member state.

Outside the EU, we could probably negotiate a deal to trade with Europe. If it is anything like the deals negotiated by Norway or Switzerland, we would be paying just about as much as we do now for the privilege and would have to accept the EU rules, including the free movement of people. So, we would still have EU immigrants. 

If we somehow managed to exclude the free movement of people, we would undoubtedly have to take back the 2 million UK nationals living in the other EU countries. Where would they live and work? Many, of course, are retired and currently get healthcare from, for example, the Spanish health service.

“When this vote comes," Alan said, "it will be a choice between staying in the European Union or leaving and Labour will defend the rights of working people, by campaigning to keep Britain in Europe."

2 December 2015

Conjuror Osborne takes a gamble

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement

First you see the tax credit cuts, now you don't. Labour's campaign for the iniquitous tax credit cuts to be withdrawn - a campaign supported by the more sensible of the Tory MPs - has succeeded.

But you will see them later. George Osborne John McDonnell, shadow Chancellorwas forced into a U-turn, but he is still going to end up in the same place, with the universal credit system cutting support instead by the end of this Parliament. Both the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have calculated that this will be so.

The IFS calculation shows that the bottom 50% of the population will lose far more than the the top half - and not in relative terms, but in the amount of cash. They are also slightly worse off after the Autumn Statement than they were before. The hardest hit are those in the second decile, many of them the "working poor".

His attempt to claim that his U-turn was the result of an improved economy must have been the most questionable claim, amongst many other questionable claims, that he made. Tax revenues have improved: ironically this is partly because we have lots of immigrants paying tax. He is gambling that this improved tax revenue will continue. But will they?

Of course, he is supported in his view by the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast. But this forecast is quite different from their forecast last July. So, clearly their July forecast was wrong. Or was it? He is gambling that this forecast is right when the form card for OBR forecasts is not good.

The truth is that George Osborne thought that he could get away with cutting state support for the vulnerable now, rather than closer to the next election, relying on the nasty message that benefit claimants are scroungers, but it did not work.

NHS, social services, housing and the police

There was some good news in the statement - or, at least, some improvement to a bad situation. Bringing forward some of the extra money promised to the NHS is important, rescuing the service when it seemed to be approaching collapse. However, some while ago the Chancellor decided that public health was not part of the protected health budget, so he is cutting support for smokers to quit, for example, thus increasing NHS costs.

The extra money for social care is also welcome and this should ease some of the pressures on hospitals through bed-blocking. However, richer areas will benefit more, because 2% on their council tax will raise more money, whereas it is probably the poorer areas where bed-blocking causes the most problems.

As for his housing programme, it is coming rather late. Since 2010 the best year for house building saw fewer houses built than the worst year under the last Labour government - and one of Labour's failings then was not to build enough houses.

Of course, he could not proceed with plans to cut police forces even further just after the Paris terrorist attacks.

George's plan is not working

George Osborne's economic plan is not working - and never has. As John McDonnell (pictured above), Labour's shadow Chancellor, said in his reply to the Autumn Statement, he missed his target of deficit reduction in the last Parliament by 50%, having told us that failing to eliminate the deficit by 2015 would turn us into a failing economy like Greece. 

Unfortunately, what is working is his plan to reduce the size of services provided by the state. As John McDonnell also pointed out, this is in contrast to allowing the German state to run our railways, the French state to run our electricity supplies and the Chinese state to build our nuclear power stations.

27 November 2015 (revised 28 November 2015)

Chancellor's plans
"in virtual chaos"

In his calm and quiet way, John McDonnell (pictured), Labour's shadow Chancellor, told Andrew Marr on television this morning that George Osborne's plans were in virtual John McDonnell, shadow Chancellorchaos. Osborne used to promise that he would have eliminated the deficit by now, but has only managed to reduce it by a half and our debt has grown in the last year to 1.5 trillion.

In fact, October's borrowing was 16% higher than a year ago, as John McDonnell points out, also today, writing in the Independent on Sunday.

In this article he outlines how he wants to work with businesses, scientists and trade unions to shape the future economy. One mechanism would be a National Prosperity Council, learning from how Finland set up such a body to recover after the collapse of its market in the Soviet Union. Another would be to increase the spending on research and development from 0.5% of GDP to 3% of GDP.

Apparently, George Osborne is preparing to reverse, at least partially, his crazy proposal to cut in-work tax benefits in advance of increasing pay, and this is to be welcomed. It does, however, further emphasise the Chancellor's incompetence.

The Tories like to say that they have an "economic plan that is working". This has never been true and Labour's mistake was not to hammer this home at the last general election. Maybe, people are beginning to realise this, since George Osborne's poll ratings have slipped to 25% favourable against 44% unfavourable.

22 November 2015

Hospital "becoming unviable clinically"

The NHS is disappearing before our eyesThe board of the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, Harlow, which serves some parts of this constituency, was told at their last meeting that the Trust "is not viable financially and is becoming unviable clinically", according to the HSJ (the Health Service Journal).

The chair of the Trust, Douglas Smallwood, told the meeting that this was recognised by the boards, funders and regulators, but that many of the causes were "beyond our control".

The Chief Executive, Phil Morley, said that the Trust had refused to agree to the target of seeing 95% of A&E patients within four hours, because this would "compromise patient and staff safety" in view of the "number of beds ... without substantive staff".

The Trust will close four beds on each ward progressively, because it cannot "consistently and safely" staff the number of beds being used.   The increasing cost of agency staff "to maintain a viable workforce" was one factor.

The Trust already has a deficit of 20.1m and may find it difficult to keep within their forecast deficit of 28.6m for the year.

This is another local example of how shortages of permanent staff gives rise to increasing use of agency staff. In turn, the shortage of agency staff means that the cost of using them increases.

The NHS is disappearing before your eyes.

See also below on Addenbrooke's Hospital.

30 October 2015

Report on Labour Conference

Cllr Lorna KercherCllr Lorna Kercher (pictured right) was this year's delegate to the Labour Conference. She was accompanied by Jean Andrews. She gave a comprehensive report to the constituency party meeting on 16 October 2015

Members can read this report by going to the members' page.

21 October 2015

Britain stronger in Europe

"Labour is pro-Europe. Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that we are not going to walk away," said Richard Howitt, our Labour MEP for the East of England, speaking to a meeting of the constituency party on 16 October 2015 in Letchworth Garden City. (He is pictured below with Clyde Millard, constituency party chair.)

Richard Howitt MEP speaking to a constituency party meeting Labour will run a distinct campaign to stay in Europe led by Alan Johnston and then work with other countries to improve the EU.

"If we come out of Europe, we shall regret it for generations," he said, in a passionate speech about the benefits of the EU. We are heavily dependent on trade with Europe and we are much more likely to get good trading terms with the rest of the world as part of a large trading group than on our own.

He told us that 84% in our East of England constituency's businesses want to remain in Europe.

Many workers' and other rights stem from European legislation, for example, pension rights for part-timers, consumer rights for us all throughout Europe, and clean air and clean water.

Nor should we underestimate the continuing importance of what was the original purpose - peace in Europe.

Nailing the Euro-myths

We needed to nail some of the myths about Europe. Eurosceptics like to say that we could strike deals like Norway and Switzerland, but they pay as much per head as we do to be allowed to trade with Europe. They have to abide by the same regulations, but have no say whatsoever in what those regulations are.

It is not true that "all our laws now come from Europe". An authoritative report from the House of Commons library showed that 14% of laws derived from Europe.

In answer to a question, he demolished the argument that the EU was undemocratic. Almost all decisions are subject to co-determination, by the European Parliament, who are directly elected, and by the Council of Ministers, who are elected by their respective nations. 

The Danish Parliament has gone further and mandates its ministers before they go to Brussels and has a report-back from them on their return. This does not happen in the UK, not because of EU rules, but because the government here does not want it.

Four out of five migrants in the UK are not from the EU. If we did send the EU migrants home, we shoulld have to take back the 2m UK citizens who live in Europe, many of them older people who have retired to Spain, where they are cared for by the Spanish health service if they fall sick.

Campaign now

Richard said that the referendum could be upon us soon, probably in 2016, and we needed to start campaign now. UKIP were setting up so-called debates - which were designed to get the answer that they wanted - and for which they were claiming EU money!

Asked what the other EU countries wanted in return for any concessions in David Cameron's negotiations, Richard said that they wanted the UK to shut up, and an end to the rude interventions of Nigel Farage, so that they could concentrate on real problems, like Greece, Syrian and the general refugee crisis!

17 October 2015

Don't mention the deficit

The NHS is disappearing before your eyesWe already know that Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, which serves part of our constituency, has been placed in special measures. In doing so, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) cited several reasons, but especially staff shortages, especially in critical care and midwifery.

We now also know that CQC reports that two-thirds of hospitals, mental health and ambulance services are either providing inadequate care or require improvement. They warn that the "efficiency savings" of 22bn that the NHS in England must make by 2020 will exacerbate the situation.

Already, hospitals are running up deficits of nearly 1bn in the first quarter of 2015/6, which makes the deficit of 2bn in the year, predicted by the HSJ (Health Service Journal) look optimistic. Addenbooke's alone predicts a deficit of 64m and it is believed that the Lister Hospital group will also be in deficit.

The report, published by Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) - the NHS is full of new quangos created by the Coalition government - was delayed by the government until after the Tory conference and in his speech Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, did not even mention the deficit being run by service providers.

Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary"Jeremy Hunt cannot keep ignoring these serious warnings about unsafe and understaffed hospitals. Under the Conservatives the NHS is going backwards and standards of care are getting worse," says Heidi Alexander (pictured), Labour's shadow Health Secretary.

Meanwhile, waiting lists grew by a record number in August, although they remained within the target of 18 weeks for 92% of patients, largely because of good performance in gynaecology,ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat. No other specialties met the target.

Hospitals are being squeezed on all sides. Monitor and TDA are pressing them to reduce spending, whilst CQC are criticising them for inadequate staffing levels. They have difficulty in recruiting nurses because pay has been restrained by the government and nurse training numbers were cut by the Coalition. 

Meanwhile, incredibly, the government does not allow hospitals to recruit outside the EU, because nursing is not classified as a "shortage occupation" (unlike ballet dancing!). Low pay, coupled with unwanted and ill-thought-out re-organization, means low morale amongst nurses and other staff, too.

Hospitals are also struggling to meet waiting time targets, whilst beds are being blocked by patients who cannot be released for lack of social care provided by councils, because council budgets have been cut drastically by the government.

If we were cynical - which, of course, we are not - we might almost think that government was engineering a situation where NHS providers appear to fail, as an excuse for making it even easier for the private sector to be called in. Whether the decline is planned or is due to incompetence, the NHS is truly disappearing before your eyes.

Note: the day after this was posted it was announced that the Home Secretary had suspended, albeit temporarily, the rules which banned the immigration of nurses from non-EU countries and which would have forced the deportation of non-EU nurses not earning over 35,000 pa after six years here.

15 October 2015 (note added 16 October)

Forward to the past

with comedian George Osborne

By restoring the business rate system to what it was in the 1980s and before, George Osborne can claim that he is making the "greatest devolution of power to local authorities in living memory". He can only do this because a previous Tory government took the power away!

And, with a straight face, he can do this whilst criticising Jeremy Corbyn's politics as taking us back to the 1980s. Incidentally, in contrast, elsewhere at the conference, it was proposed that councils should no longer be able to set their own procurement policies.

His pitch to the Tory conference was full of such contradictions. Comedian George OsborneThe return of the control of business rates to local authorities is a contradiction in itself of his "great Northern powerhouse" line, since it will be the authorities in the prosperous south who gain the most.

He is about to cut in-work tax credits, whilst claiming that his party is the party of working people. But his colleague, Jeremy Hunt, says that the cut is fine because it will make the British work as hard as the Chinese. On the other hand, apparently, the directors of companies do not need this sort of incentive, not even being able to afford a 50% marginal tax rate, in the Tories' view.

George Osborne also says that we cannot afford the tax credits, but also claims (even if the evidence does not bear out what he says), that nine out of ten workers will be better off, as a result of other measures that, by implication, we can afford. Unless that tenth worker is taking a very big hit indeed, both statements cannot be true.

He boasted also that he had protected NHS spending, but he did not mention the 200m cut in public health funding (see below). That is cuts in services like school nurses, stop-smoking programmes, mental health support and anti-obesity campaigns. At a stroke of the pen last June, George Osborne decided that public health did not count as NHS spending.

Meanwhile, NHS hospitals are forecasting a 2bn deficit at the end of the current year. By co-incidence, this is exactly the amount that smoking costs the NHS each year.

If it was not so serious, it would be funny.

7 October 2015

Stirring up divine discontent

Jeremy Corbyn, quoting Keir Hardie, called on the Labour Party "to stir up divine discontent with wrong".

Jeremy CorbynHis initial campaigns will readily unite the party behind opposing the cuts in tax credits, promoting the building of council and housing association houses and championing human rights, starting with an outcry against the beheading of a young man in Saudi Arabia for political campaigning, set for tomorrow.

The immediate campaign, he said, should be to get people on to the electoral register this autumn. By bringing forward the date for the completion of the process of individual registration to the next register, the government could be excluding 2m people from the register. In particular, this will be young people, especially students. 

He characterised this as gerrymandering, before the elections in 2016 and, crucially, in time for the Boundary Commission to start work on new boundaries, with these people not counting towards the set size for the smaller number of constituencies.

You can watch his speech here.

29 September 2015

Discuss Europe with
Richard Howitt

Richard Howitt MEPRichard Howitt, our indefatigable MEP, will be at an all-member constituency party meeting on the evening of Friday, 16 October 2015 at 7.30 pm. Put it in your diary.

Do you understand the danger of some provisions of TTIP - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? Do you know how much power the European Parliament has? What can the EU do about the immigration and the asylum crisis?

Richard will discuss the forthcoming referendum and will also answer your questions.

The meeting is on a Friday evening, because Richard normally spends other weekdays in Brussels or Strasbourg. The venue of the meeting is the North Herts District Council offices in Gernon Road, Letchworth Garden City SG6 3JF.

This meeting is open to all members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. Members from outside the constituency and new members not known to the constituency party officers should bring their membership cards with them.

Go to the Europe page for more about Richard.

15 September 2015 (revised 27 September 2015)

59.5% on the first round

Jeremy Corbyn is the new leader

Jeremy CorbynJeremy Corbyn has become the new leader of the Labour Party, winning on the first round. He had wide support amongst members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. He did not win just on the votes of registered and affiliated supporters: he had 49.5% of the votes of full members, well ahead of any other candidate.

Before the announcement of this result, Tom Watson had been elected as the deputy leader. This contest went to three rounds, but Tom Watson was in the lead by a considerable margin in all three rounds, just topping the required 50% in the third round, with Stella Creasy in second place with 26.4% of the third-round votes.

The detailed results are on the Labour website.

Clyde Millard's message to the constituency

Clyde Millard, CLP chairClyde Millard, chair of the North East Herts Constituency Labour Party had this to say: 

"After long Leadership and Deputy Leadership election contests Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson have been decisively elected. 

"With such a clear result it is important that the Party is united in its support for the Leadership so that we can take on this cruel Tory government. Though with four men and five women on the ballot papers for both posts the Party, in its collective wisdom, did not manage a gender balance! If you wish, you can see the results declared and Tom and Jeremy’s acceptance speeches here.

"One very encouraging aspect of recent months has been the huge increase in the number of Members, Registered and Affiliated Supporters and, on behalf of North East Herts CLP, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone. Our CLP meetings are open to all members and supporters, and are normally held on the last Wednesday of the month, whilst on Friday 16 October we have Richard Howitt, our excellent MEP, who will lead a discussion on European issues - details to follow."

12 September 2015 (revised 13 September 2015)

Too wet to woo

The East Herts Rural branch held its Red Rose Summer Party last Saturday in Buntingford. Thirty members enjoyed the first fine day Members dine indoorsfor a week. Fortunately, it was not too wet to woo - but this was the answer to one of the light-hearted quiz questions. What was the question?

They also enjoyed good company and fine food and, between them, raised 325 for branch funds.

The main decision was not who to vote for as leader, but whether to eat inside or outside and which of the delicious puddings to have first.

Members dine outdoorsA Labour poster signed by Andy Burnham was auctioned and may become valuable, especially if he is elected leader and then becomes prime minister. No one dared ask the winner if this possibility would affect her vote!

Raffle prizes were generously donated by many members and ran from Champagne to glossy books about Jamaica and India.

And the quiz question was: why do owls never mate when it is raining?

9 September 2015

Equal pay hero dies

A hero that most people have not heard of died last week at the age of 90.

Bernie Passingham was the Transport and General Workers' shop steward for the sewing machinists who went on Bernie Passinghamstrike in 1968 at Ford's Dagenham plant - the "Dagenham Girls" of the recent film, Made in Dagenham. The reason for their strike was that they had been classified as unskilled in a new pay structure, and they claimed that they were just as skilled as some men who had been classified as skilled.

Their three week strike brought the factory to a standstill. Barbara Castle's Diary - she was Secretary of State for Employment at the time - shows that her immediate concern was lost production, but she met the strikers and obtained a settlement. She thenbrought forward the Equal Pay Act, which became law in 1970.

Bernie had not hesitated in his support for the machinists, in spite of the "macho culture" which surrounded him in the 1960s. The dispute lingered on at Fords and was finally settled in 1984, when the machinists went on strike again. It was Bernie who insisted that the joint unions at Ford included equality in grading for women in their claim.

The picture shows Bernie accepting the Wainwright Trust's Breakthrough Award at a ceremony in 2006, on behalf of himself and the women who went on strike in 1968 and 1984.

19 August 2014

The leadership election begins

Ballot papers are due to start going out tomorrow (14 August) for the leadership and deputy leadership elections. The choice of leader - and deputy leader - is a very seriious matter, affecting not only the furture of the Labour Party, but the future of the country.

This constituency has chosen not to nominate (i.e. to recommend) particular candidates, but urges you to listen to all of them and to read what they propose. There are some suggestions about where to find information below.

the four leadership candidates

Some broadcast hustings are still available and you can wait until the Sky News hustings at 7 pm on 3 September before voting. More information below.

You can read the updates from the candidates for the leadership on the Labour Party's national website here, and for the deputy leadership here.

If you are looking for a reasonably unbiased comparison of the four leadership candidates' policies you could do worse than looking at the Independent or the Guardian.

13 August 2015

The Red Rose Summer Party

The East Herts Rural branch will be holding its usual summer Garden Party on Sunday, 6 September 2015 in Buntingford. Enjoy good food in good company - and help raise very necessary funds to fight the Tories.
Red Rose Summer Party in 2014

The picture shows members engrossed in political discussion and their children engrossed in Connect Four at last year's party.

If you are a member of this constituency, you can find details on the members' page. However, members from other constituencies and other Labour supporters are very welcome. If you are interested in coming, please email the East Herts Rural branch secretary, Claire Bell, for details.

14 August 2015

A capitalist lauds the socialist agenda on climate change

"The government is turning the English language inside out in an effort to dress up drastic cuts in spending on things we need as 'cold, hard economic sense'," writes Bruce Davis in the Independent on Sunday.

Cows under wind turbinesBruce Davis is one of the founders of the peer-to-peer lending group, Zopa, and calls himself "a capitalist with a conscience". He castigates Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, for abolishing the Green Deal and subsidies for onshore wind and solar farms.

These, along with gas, he says, are the cheapest forms of energy. Yet, the government continues to offer special deals for building nuclear power plants and to give subsidies for off-shore wind farms, which are the dearest.

He says that the "socialist" levy on energy bills has helped leverage billions of pounds of inward investment, long-term skilled jobs and financial support for (rural) communities who have seen their other local infrastructure spending slashed.

He gives the Government's account of the financial crisis short shrift: "The Government is busy rewriting the history of 2008, blaming over-spending on benefits for the collapse of Lehman Brothers ....... The socialist agenda of 2008 was the one that provided the rationale to bail out the remaining banks rather than let them fail. The markets failed and socialism dug them out of a very deep hole."

You can read his article here.

27 July 2015

Stand up for Labour - in Hitchin

Cheer yourself up with the comedians at Stand up for Labour - Friday 31 July 2015 from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm. The comedians will include Alistair Barrie and Christian Reilly, both Edinburgh previews. It will take place at Westmill Community Centre, Hitchin SG5 2PG.

For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

26 July 2015

The best hustings yet

Leadership candidates

Possibly the best hustings yet was the LBC radio broadcast. You can see a film of the candidates in the radio studio on YouTube. The film is in two parts. Click on part 1 and then part 2.

Further broadcast hustings for the leadership contest have been announced. Forthcoming broadcasts are:

Monday, 17 August, 7 pm: Channel 4 News.
Tuesday, 25 August, 8.30 pm: BBC Radio 5Live.
Thursday, 3 September, 7 pm, Sky News.

If you missed earlier broadcasts, you can still see:

the Sunday Politics Show of 19 July on BBC1 on iPlayer;
the Victoria Derbyshire Show of 13 July on BBC1 iPlayer;
the Stevenage hustings on YouTube.

You can also see the Stevenage deputy leadership hustings here.

The timetable for the elections and more information is in our previous article below.

18 July 2015 (amended  23 July 2015)

Labour votes against secret
trade tribunals

Confusion about the position of Labour MEPs

Richard Howitt and TTIP

The European Union is negotiating a trade deal with the USA - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Many have been lobbying their MEPs about this.

We need to be clear that the European Parliament cannot block the negotiations. It will, however, be able to ratify or reject the deal once the negotiations are complete, which may not be for several years yet. Because of this power, it can hope to influence the negotiations and this is what the Labour MEPs, along with MEPs from other countries, have been trying to do through a report to the Parliament on the negotiations.

Campaigners seem not to have fully understood this and they even blocked the email system of our Labour MEP, Richard Howitt, for a couple of days, by sending emails calling for him to vote for an amendment which he himself had put down! Richard issued a message to his constituents, which you can read here.

Labour supports a trade deal which would create growth and jobs in the UK, but opposes the inclusion of public services and measures which could result in a diminution of workers' rights and of environmental standards. Public services like the NHS - but not only the NHS - must be excluded and any future government must not be prevented from bringing privatised public services back into the public ownership.

Labour also opposes the inclusion of ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement), which is, in effect, a secret tribunal, where companies would be able to sue governments.

Labour MEPs voted for amendments on all these issues, but did not succeed in getting them all passed. All the Labour MEPs had pledged to oppose ISDS and, therefore, voted against the report, although they still support the idea of a trade deal.

14 July 2015

County Council plans to cut
Home Start funding

The Tories at County Hall assured the Labour Group last March that funding for Sure Start and Home Start was not under threat. Now, however, after the election, they have announcedLeon Reefe, Labour Group leader their intention not to fund the home-visiting service.

The on-line petition callling for them to put this service out to tender, i.e. to provide the funding for it, had garnered 2314 signatures before it closed in advance of the meeting to consider this on 21 July.

The Tories say that the work will be covered by health visitors - already under strength and under pressure - and by volunteers.

"The county funding for Home Start of 395k will be lost, but it is worse than this, because the service also receives 200k of NHS money through the Clinical Commissioning Group," says Leon Reefe, Labour Group leader on the County Council (pictured). "If there is no county money, this funding will be lost as well."

14 July 2015

More on budget misery

A clear exposition of how the burden of this budget falls heavily on the poorest in society comes from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies. Over the period up to 2020, the poorest will lose over 6.5% of their income and the richest will lose under 2%.

Worse than this, if you have the misfortune to be a little better off than the very poorest, i.e. in the second decile, you will lose almost 7.5% of your income. Compare this with the 9th decile - the very rich, rather than the obscenely rich - who actually gain slightly.

Histogram of the effect of the budget July 2015

You can read the IFS report on the budget here.

This comes hard on the heels of a report showing that, before the budget, the poorest fifth of the population - that is, the two lowest deciles mentioned above, paid 37.8% of their income in taxes, whereas the richest fifth paid only 34.8%. This report came from none other than the Office of National Statistics.

10 July 2015

Conjuror Osborne

The July budget

Don't let George Osborne's smoke and mirrors take you in. He has adopted the Labour policy on the minimum wage. He has not adopted the Labour policy of encouraging employers to pay the Living Wage. Instead, he sets out deliberately to confuse voters by passing off the minimum wage as the living wage.

George OsborneOf course, it is not right that profitable employers should be able to pay low wages and effectively be subsidised by the taxpayer through tax credits to their employees. Tax credits were introduced by Gordon Brown to make work pay and get people off benefits. They are related to needs and would automatically come down through the higher minimum wage, in cases where that is fair.

It is not fair to cut tax credits and pretend that this is offsetting the rise in the minimum wage. If it was merely offsetting the rise, it would be unnecessary to cut them. The fact is that many will lose up to twice as much as they gain. Others will find it better to stay on benefits.

Moreover, before the election the Tories promised not to cut tax credits. He will also defer the promised improvements for child-care, which were promised before the election to trump Labour's fully costed proposals. We are so used to broken Tory promises that we hardly notice them.

Also, don't be taken in by the ploy of threatening huge cuts in government spending and then withdrawing some of them in the budget, so that it does not seem to be as bad as you were expecting.

To achieve this, he has deferred eliminating the deficit for an extra year - a change in his "long-term plan" from only three months ago.

Don't forget that in 2010 he told us it would be a disaster not to eliminate the deficit by 2015. His plan to do this was a complete failure. On the most generous method of calculation, he cut it only by half.

To cut the other half he is taking such measures as restricting pay rises to 1% for public sector workers, although past restrictions have already reduced their standard of living considerably over the last five years.

The NHS is, he claims, "the government's priority" and he will fully fund the "Stevens plan" which requires 8bn more - but not until 2020. Meanwhile, the NHS must find 22bn in "savings", part of which will be below-inflation increases for nurses and other health workers.

One footnote: clean energy will become more expensive because renewable energy suppliers will have to pay the climate change levy. No, it does not make sense.

9 July so15

Refuse site closure causes traffic chaos in Letchworth

Sign the petition

Tory-controlled Hertfordshire County Council is now closing most of its refuse sites for two days each week. The Letchworth site in Blackhorse Road is closed on Tuesdays and Cllr Lorna KercherWednesdays.

This has increased usage so much on the other days that people are queuing for as much as two hours to dispose of their waste. This causes frustration and anger.

The queuing cars block the entrances to businesses along the road causing them inconvenience. In order to get to businesses, drivers have been overtaking the queuing traffic on the wrong side of the road, which causes problems when they meet cars leaving the waste site and which could be dangerous.

Lorna Kercher (above, right), the Labour councillor for Letchworth North West, has set up a petition to the council. You can sign the petition to call on the council to revert to seven-day opening for this site by clicking here. You must live, work or study in Hertfordshire to sign the petition.

29 June 2015

Who will you vote for?

The four leadership candidates in Stevenage

Don't make up your mind without hearing the candidates speak. On Monday, 13 July they will be on BBC2 at 9.15 in the morning. On 19 July they will be on Sunday Politics on BBC1. Details of other broadcasts are yet to be finalised. Details are on the Labour Party website.

Meanwhile, if you were not at the Stevenage hustings, you can watch a film of the meeting by clicking here.

The constituency party will discuss whether or not to make a supporting nomination at their next meeting on Wednesday, 29 July 2015. Members who are not in arrears and affiliated supporters may take part in this meeting. Details will be emailed to members and supporters and will be posted on the members-only page of this website.

28 June 2015
Pictures of the leadership candidates

The hustings period has begun and already there has been a hustings on BBC2 and in Stevenage.   Go to the Labour Party website by clicking here for more information about further broadcasts and hustings in other parts of the country.

The timetable is:

31 July 12 noon: Supporting nominations close.*
12 August 12 noon: Last date to enrol as a member, affiliated supporter or registered supporter.
14 August: Ballot papers despatched by post.
10 September 12 noon: Ballot closes.
12 September: Special conference to announce result.

* The constituency party will discuss whether to nominate one of the candidates at its meeting on 29 July.

There are weekly updates from the four candidates on the Labour Party website here.

There are also weekly reports from the deputy leadership candidates here.

There is more information here and here.

20 June 2015

What went wrong on 7 May?

Read what members think and contribute your own ideas. Ann Black, a constituency party representative on the Natiional Executive Committee, has summarised comments made to her. You can also contribute your own views. Go to the members-only page.

24 June 2015

Don't miss out on your vote

Leader and Deputy Leader elections

Unions Together logoMembers of affiliated trade unions who pay the political levy will no longer automatically get a ballot paper to vote for the new leader and deputy leader. They have to sign up individually as affiliated supporters of the Labour Party, although there is no charge.

Their local constituency Labour Party will also be notified, so that they can attend branch and all-member constituency meetings.

Signing up is easy. Go to the Unions Together website here.

19 June 2015

Surge in membership

The constituency membership secretary, David Bell, reported at the constituency party meeting a surge in membership since the election. It is clear that many people feel appalled by the result of the election and wish to do something about it. Reporting on the two month period, David Bell reported that there were 45 new members. This reflects the national trend.

"There are still more joining since then, " David says. "There have been four more new members in the four days since the meeting, and the number of registered and affiliated supporters is beginning to increase as well."

1 June 2015

Choosing a new leader

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the process of selecting a new leader, with wild talk about trade unions controlling the vote. This was not true under the old rules and is even less true under the new rules introduced by Ed Miliband.

First, candidates have to be nominated by at least 35 Labour MPs. After that, selection is by the vote of members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters, using the single transferable vote system. Each of these has one vote, so each vote has the same value.

Affiliated supporters are members of affiliated bodies, including trade unions who opt into the Labour Party. Far from dominating the vote, there are disappointingly few of them, but it may be that more will sign up before the vote is taken. Even so, only about 10% of eligible trade union members voted five years ago, so it is unlikely that even that number will sign up as affiliated members. Even if they do, this will definitely not be a trade union block vote: each member will make up his or her own mind, whether they are full or affiliated members.

Similarly, there are not many registered supporters. It does not cost anything to be a registered supporter, but they will have to pay a fee of 3 to vote in the election.

Nominations for leader close on 15 June and for deputy leader on 17 June. There will then be a series of hustings meetings, as well as programmes on the television.

The final date for signing up as a member or supporter is 12 August and ballots will be despatched on 14 August, with a deadline for their return of 10 September. The result will be announced at a special conference on 12 September.

1 June 2015

Site map

Labour's red rose
Hosted by Ltd., Units H, J, K, Gateway 1000, Whittle Way, Stevenage, Herts. SG1 2FP. 
Promoted by Les Baker, on behalf of Chris York, both of 45 Kneesworth Street, Royston, Herts SG8 5AB.