Sunday, 27 July 2008

Why do you do this to yourself?

Warning - for anoraks only!

I'm something a veteran of Labour's National Policy Forum, having not just been there for Warwick One (something akin in recent Labour mythology to Manchester Free Trade Hall, June '76 - although actually top spot probably goes to the Royal Festival Hall May 1997: "a new dawn has broken, has it not" and so on), but also at the previous finales at Exeter and Durham.

Have just got back from Warwick Two, which went far more smoothly than the previous NPFs, although there still weren't many members of the Party's staff who actually got any sleep on Friday or Saturday. Decisions are made, discussions had, and deals done well into the night - which means that staff then have to stay up until the early dawn producing yet another paper mountain of endorsed and undendorsed amendments.

For those unfamiliar with the NPF, it's composed of the following: 5 constituency reps elected from each region/ nation, plus 2 elected by regional conferences: so that's 77 ordinary party members (of which I used to be one, from 1998 till 2005). Trade unions have 30 places, and there are a few places for local government, the Co-op party, the socialist societies. There are, I think, 8 places for MPs, 3 for MEPs and a couple for peers. Labour's National Executive Committee are all members of the NPF, and then there are some Government places.

There's a rolling process (called 'Partnership in Power') over a couple of years, during which 6 policy documents are discussed by the party (and in year one, by outside interests too). At the end of the process NPF members get to submit amendments based on those discussions, and we all get together over a weekend to debate, decide and then vote on them. There were 4000+ amendments this time round. Obviously we can't get through all 4000 in the weekend, so the first step is for the Joint Policy Committee (basically consisting of some reps from each section of the NPF) gives its seal of approval to all the non-contentious wording.

Then there are discussions at the NPF itself on what's left, between the movers of the amendments and a Minister (or Ministers - my first one was on academies, which was grouped with several others on the same topic; we ended up with 20 of us in a room that would have comfortably held 8, with Jim Knight, Andrew Adonis and Ed Balls - who didn't even get a seat. Good discussion though). By Friday night a lot of amendments have been sorted, with 'consensus wording' agreed. But there are still a lot of outstanding issues; as Saturday goes on it's quite fun to sit back in the lounge bar and watch spads running back and forth, trying to find members and ministers so they can be locked into a non-smoke-filled room to hammer out a consensus.

Incidentally, the Sunday Times has a stupid speculative report today about Miliband Senior being seen - shock, horror! - talking to two trade union leaders in the bar. Well he did, but not for very long - and every single member of the Cabinet was at Warwick (except possibly Andy Burnham and Paul Murphy; I didn't see them). They almost certainly all spoke to trade union leaders too. That's what we do at such gatherings; talk to each other. And some people even have a drink too.

Anyway, that's part one of how the NPF works.... will do a separate post on what happens next, as this one is going on a bit...

6 comments:

thebristolblogger said...

While Warwick One may have resembled Manchester Free Trade Hall, June '76 to you lot, for the rest of us it was more akin to Chicago, Carnegie Hall, 1971.

(The resulting 4 record live LP of which was so abominably tasteless, boring and pointless, Lester Bangs once reviewed it purely by discussing the design of its label, the quality of its grooves and how much it weighed.)

So what's the betting Tom Harris has got it (with the bonus disc)?

Kerry said...

He almost certainly has.

I made a new friend in Warwick, a fellow vegan, from the East Midlands. Nice guy. He saw the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club; said they were great. So I asked him what the most recent album was he'd bought. Turns out he'd been in the uni bookshop earlier that day. Canned Heat, Best Of. That's not supposed to happen.

As for Warwick One, what so 'tasteless, boring and pointless' about this?

Fairness at work

* Four weeks paid holiday for all, exclusive of bank holidays.
* Legislation on corporate manslaughter in the next parliamentary term.
* Using Anti-Social Behaviour Orders to tackle violence and anti-social behaviour in and around front-line workplaces.
* Major rollout of childcare schemes including Sure Start & Extended Childcare Scheme for lone parents.
* Increased statutory redundancy pay.
* To work in Europe for the introduction of employment protection for temporary and agency workers.
* Protection for striking workers to be extended from 8 to 12 weeks.
New ‘Sectoral Forums’, for example in low wage industries to improve pay, skills, productivity and pensions.

Pensions

* Protection for pension funds in company transfers or mergers.
* Trade unions will gain the right to bargain on pensions.
* Training to be introduced for pension trustees, and members to make up 50% of trustees.
* Assistance for those who have already lost out on occupational pensions.
* An agreement to engage in effective dialogue over the future of public sector pensions.
* Legislation, if necessary, to move beyond the current voluntary system of occupational pensions.
* A commitment on pensions for same sex partners.

Public services

*The extension of two-tier workforce protection in local government across the public services.
* A review of all National Health Service cleaning contracts on a test of cleanliness and not just the cost.
* Consultation with all stakeholders to monitor PFI, including future financial implications.
* Steps to develop staff roles, e.g., health care assistants to receive paid training and possible registration.
* A commitment not to transfer out the vast majority of NHS employees.
* Agreement to tackle unequal pay in local government.
* Measures to promote healthy eating in schools and evaluate the possible extension of the free school meals programme.

Manufacturing

* Review and enhance investment funds for manufacturing support with a view to having the best support possible.
* Promote a public procurement which safeguards jobs and skills, encourages contracts to be given to UK firms for UK workers
within EU law, and support a review of EU procurement policy.
* The Bank of England to consider regional and employment information when setting interest rates.

* A strong skills agenda, including: the expansion of apprenticeships; rolling out Employer Training Pilots, supporting free training up to NVQ2; action in sectors under-performing on skills, including possible training levies
* Union Learning Representatives trebled to 22,000.
* Investment in Research and Development to rise to 2.5% of national income.
* Improve credit export facilities.
* Ensure Regional Development Agencies produce manufacturing strategies through working with employers and Trade Unions, and assist manufacturers to find new markets.

Other commitments

* The Royal Mail to stay in public hands, with telecom regulation to focus on service choice and reliability as well as network
competition.
* An immediate review of National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit to help lower paid workers get benefits.
* The New Deal to provide help to unemployed over 50’s.
* Action to tackle unethical labour agencies in the health sector.
* Further action to tackle domestic violence and support those at risk.
* Legal limits to stop rip-off interest rates for credit.
* Stronger company disclosure on social, ethical, and environmental issues.

The Bristol Blogger said...

While I'm not a big fan, Canned Heat are a different proposition to Chicago or any of the prog rockers.

They were an authentic 60s west coast act steeped in the counter culture - they played Woodstock for starters. They also knew a thing or two about the blues.

And most people who saw the Pistols at the 100 Club - or anywhere else for that matter - were basically hippies who'd got their hair cut sharpish anyway.

There are loads of connections and parallels to be made between 60s counter culture and punk that are way too boring and involved to get into here.

But Canned Heat and the Pistols are not a particularly surprising combination

Also, I think you'll find that best of all punk slogans: "Never trust a hippy" was a direct (and prescient) dig at Branson rather than all 60s counter culture.

Kerry said...

Right. So can I leave it to you to reply to Glenn Vowles on Genesis?

thebristolblogger said...

Where is it? (Vowlsie would just have to like Genesis wouldn't he?)

Kerry said...

It's on 'Knowing Me Knowing You'.