Ballot papers for the six constituency places will arrive soon, with on- line voting from Monday 14 July and the poll closing on Monday 18 August. All members who were paid up at 26 June 2014 are entitled to vote: if you haven't received anything by 21 July, you should apply for replacement papers before 11 August.
Thank you to the 220 constituencies who nominated me, and I hope you will consider giving me your individual support. If re-elected I will continue representing your views and reporting back from the NEC and the National Policy Forum, as I have done for 15 years. Accounts from July 2008 onwards are at
with earlier meetings at
Countdown to May 2015
For the next ten months nothing matters more than winning the general election. Thanks are owed to all candidates, particularly those in key marginals who are putting their lives into the campaign, and to everyone who knocks on doors, stuffs envelopes and delivers leaflets for Labour. Good wishes also for the Scottish referendum, which will affect everyone in all parts of the (currently) United Kingdom.
As well as first-class organisation, Labour needs policies which are both principled and popular. The Tories have set the unemployed against the working poor, public services against private business, unions against consumers, young against old, newcomers against longstanding residents, Britain against the rest of Europe. Labour must refuse to scapegoat claimants and foreigners, offer hope instead of endless austerity, and unite the country around a fair society and an economy which works for everyone.
The Road to the Manifesto
The National Policy Forum on 18/20 July will start to build a programme for government. Each NPF member could submit only six amendments to the final-stage documents, and I read through more than 1000 put forward by local parties before deciding. Some issues - the living wage, tribunal fees, zero-hours contracts, the NHS, Royal Mail, reversing NHS privatisation and taking the railways back into public ownership - attracted strong support. I didn't include them because I know the unions will put them on the agenda, and chose topics which might otherwise not be discussed. I ended up with:
1) Police and crime commissioners: I proposed abolishing the posts and restoring local democratic governance to the police service.
2) Tuition fees: some constituencies wanted fees scrapped altogether, some asked for a reduction from £9,000, and some proposed switching to a graduate tax. I included all these as options, along with concerns about the growing deficit in university funding.
3) Universal credit: there were surprisingly few amendments on social security, maybe because these are at the very end of the Work and Business paper. I've asked for a review covering not only the problems with computer systems but also the financial disincentives for the second earner in a couple, the effects of making payment to one member within a household, and the consequences for child support if parents separate. The review should establish whether UC is capable of being rescued or whether a Labour government will need to start from first principles.
4) Pensioners: I proposed that the winter fuel allowance should be added to total income and taxed at the appropriate rate, simpler and fairer than means-testing for the top 5%, and that all pension contributions should attract tax relief at the same basic rate. Also, now that people no longer have to buy an annuity on retirement, Labour should aim to ensure that pensioners do not run out of money and spend their final years in poverty.
5) Enhancing democracy: constituency suggestions for the Better Politics paper ranged widely, and I included as many as I could: moving elections from Thursdays to weekends; developing secure on-line voting; allowing people to register and vote at polling stations on election day; consulting on compulsory voting; considering proportional representation in local government; looking at job-sharing for councillors and for MPs; and allowing the six million British citizens who live outside the UK to retain their right to vote instead of losing it after 15 years. I support some more strongly than others, but they all reflect currents of party opinion, and all deserve discussion.
6) Trident: around 50 constituencies submitted amendments on this, with all but a handful completely opposed to replacement. Reasons included loss of relevance to security in the modern world, commitment to global nuclear disarmament, and huge costs at a time when money is tight. Instead, billions of pounds could be reallocated to public services, to better equipment for conventional armed forces, and to future growth industries such as renewable energy, with support for workers in the nuclear weapons programme whose jobs and skills might otherwise be lost.
The NPF works through face-to-face negotiations between proposers of amendments and shadow ministers. The aim is to reach consensus on wording which all participants can sign up to, and this is possible in many areas. It will be difficult with Trident, where opinion is so overwhelmingly on one side that I believe it should go forward for debate at annual conference, where local parties are directly represented. However this will only happen if the trade unions support constituencies' right to choose. It will be an interesting weekend.
I'd be grateful for comments on the above, and please let me know if there are other issues which you'd like me to follow up.
Finally, MPs/MEPs have already elected their NEC representatives for 2014/2016. Margaret Beckett was unopposed and Steve Rotheram was successful in the ballot but sadly Dennis Skinner lost his seat. He is succeeded by John Healey. From the time I joined the NEC in 2000 Dennis has provided a living link from Labour's past into the 21st century, and Tony Blair always listened to him with respect. His wisdom and experience will be missed and hopefully he will be back before too long.
NB More information about other centre-left grassroots alliance candidates is at
which includes a link to a two-page A4 flyer.
Ann Black, 88 Howard Street, Oxford OX4 3BE, 07956-637958, email@example.com