Dave Cole has tagged me in the ‘what were you doing when you heard about…’ meme. Here we go…
Princess Diana’s death - 31st August 1997
Just back from Summer holidays following news that Associated Newspapers had agreed to settle my libel action against them for falsely accusing me of being 'racist and anti-semitic'. Final settlement and a fulsome apology in the Evening Standard was delayed as Diana, Princess of Wales' solicitor was Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya, who was defending Associated Newspapers in the case.
Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation - 22nd November 1990
On a Piccadilly line train headed for Heathrow and a flight to Berlin for a Reuters Marketing conference. As the train surfaced at Baron's Court a jubilant motorman announced the resignation over the tube intercom. I managed to restrain myself, scanned the carriage, thought better about punching the air, but failed to suppress a smile. A similar announcement was made by the pilot on the BA flight as it taxied from the terminal, passengers in this instance were less restrained - a cheer went up.
Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
I was in a courtesy meeting with Peter Hunt, then general secretary of the Cooperative Party, in my capacity as the director of Job Ownership.
England’s World Cup Semi Final against Germany - 4 July 1990
No idea. It was a period of my life when I seemed to spend more time flying and in hotels abroad than with my family, let alone in front of a television watching football.
President Kennedy’s Assassination - 22 November 1963 In the Sixth Form study at the Royal Wolverhampton School where I was a Foundation Pupil when a boy called Allen burst in to tell us the news. A memorial service was held in the school chapel some days later. Kennedy was the man whom we had listened to on Voice of America well after lights-out in our dormitory during the Cuban missile crisis just over a year earlier on 22/23 (our time) October 1962 and wondered if we were about to be fried.
No sooner has George Osborne's absurd boast about the Conservatives being the party of fairness become chip paper than Martin Narey set out how Labour can achieve its child poverty target in the same journal.
It's worth reading the piece from beginning to end in the middle is this:
....for all Osborne's rhetoric, for all the impressive policy announcements
from Michael Gove and Nick Herbert, despite David Cameron's spirited
leadership, there remains a crucial difference between the two main
parties. The Conservatives aspire to ending child poverty. If they want
genuinely to be considered the party of the poor they need to drop the
meaningless "aspire" now and assert their commitment.
continues to commit. In James Purnell's words, the eradication of child
poverty is "a social, economic and moral imperative". But for all those
words, the determination to halve child poverty by 2010 seems destined
to fall short.
Memo to Alistair Darling before today's paper suffers the same fate as yesterday's: It will take
an increase of less than one-half of a percent in public expenditure or
reallocating resources more equitably to succeed.
Basking vicariously in the joys of Britain's continuing Olympic successes, as I hope we all are, the role of Lottery funding is being extolled by media commentators. Sir John Major is being granted plaudits for his prescience in setting up the scheme to create a new funding stream for sport and the arts. Interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme earlier he explained how as Chief Secretary to the Treasury he learned that national budgets for both were never going to survive in a public expenditure squeeze.
Too true, that's because the greedy Tories will never use progressive taxation to fund the public realm, preferring gambling instead. I wonder if the current Chief Secretary to the Treasury will clock that one as the 'fairness' agenda is developed through the latest public expenditure round and the Autumn Statement.
Isn't it time we in the Labour Party were able to lock in sports and the arts into mainstream public expenditure just as we have done for health and education? Better still isn't it time for an honest debate with the electorate about the current NI and income tax system and fairness? That would flush the Tories out and wipe that smugness off their faces.
'Deep hole' analyses of the current state of the Labour Party beg the question of how to get fit to win the next election. Continuing my quest via healthy living and exercise, I wonder if our esteemed Leader has rethought member mobilisation as the new Pilates?
Pilates called his method Contrology, because he believed his method uses the mind to control the muscles. The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine. In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles.
Key lesson, of course, is that Contrology is the opposite of Command and Control - mobilising collective backbone is the challenge between now and Annual Conference 2008.
Healthy living and regular exercise are in. Indeed we have been been regaled with stories of our esteemed Leader's own efforts while on holiday. Reinvigorated to face the challenges of multi-tasking - governing the nation and leading a mainstream political Party - what's there to workout? How to win the next election, of course. Doh!
Well, there's the checkover first. How many voters in one's own constituency, that's Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath, say they are Labour voters? When were they last asked? How many members have we got to go and find out today? How many members are we likely to have to canvass in a year's time?
Next step line up the PLP in the gym and ask the same questions.
Time for a warm-up. Step forward Labour MPs in marginal seats. After Glasgow East that might as well be everyone.
First exercise: up the contact rate. Any volunteers? The invitation provokes much muttering from the backbenches - volunteers, membership, morale?
What was that aside at the back.....policies appealing to long-suffering voters, a rousing speech to conference and a government re-shuffle....what more do you want?
Following my attack on policy freelancers from the Blairite ex-ministerial brigade. I have belatedly caught up with the Compassite-TU policy freelancers demanding a windfall tax. What were they doing at Warwick, one might ask. So I did. My sources were scathing. TU delegates to Warwick simply sat on their hands as mildly radical proposals that made it on to the agenda were mowed down by the vast majority of National Policy Forum representatives.
Even a modest suggestion that a third of the governors of academy schools should be parents was shot down. A hand or seven from the brothers and sisters would have at least enabled a debate and vote at conference. But No 10 had made clear if the TUs wanted to see any of their policy suggestions agreed, then the price was no concessions to the left of Ghengis Khan. So a windfall tax proposal at the NPF attracted a derisory number of votes - less than you can count on the fingers of two hands. And those in favour did not include either Dave Prentis or Tony Woodley (listed among the co-signatories of the windfall tax letter in yesterday's Guardian). If you want to see what was agreed at Warwick in 2004 check out this list here.
I am of course exaggerating a little. There were one or two so-called surprises reported in defiance of the Leadership. A wholly-elected second chamber, and more council housing - well, not really - those ideas have received NPF support before. The spin-meisters were just offering up morsals to pretend demonstrate members were having a say.
The really big policy issues remain undebated as command and control management continues to be the order of the Labour Party, and our standing in the polls remains less than encouraging.
Time to elect NPF representatives by one-member one-vote in all sections CLPs and TUs in particular just like for the Leadership.
Is this a fair description, actionable under trades description legislation, or one of the things you have to put up with as a member of the Labour Party, first under Tony Blair and now under Gordon Brown?
Reports of further destabilising of Britain's ruling Labour Party by ex-ministers dreaming up alternative policies to fill the 'vacuum' suggest that the Whips need to be dragged back from holiday to instil some discipline. The Party has a well-established procedure for debating and agreeing policy. If ex-ministers have any fresh ideas they should be instructed to follow due process like the rest of Labour's dwindling membership.