Friday, 22 March 2013

National Policy Forum London regional representatives’ report – March 2013

  1. The start of 2013 has been extremely positive for Labour in London. Lib Dem support across the capital has collapsed, with large swings against them and in Labour’s favour in by-elections, even in Lib Dem strongholds.
  2. The Tories in London are now clearly becoming increasingly unpopular. Boris Johnson was recently booed at People’s Question Time when he tried to defend Government policy on the NHS and the cuts to and downgrading of Lewisham Hospital.
  3. It is important that recent policy announcements by the leadership, particularly on immigration issues, should be properly considered in the light of the priorities and views of London voters. This issue has been recently discussed in depth by the Regional Board.
London Labour Party Biennial Conference
  1. The Biennial Conference on 16 February was well attended as ever, and with more time allocated for debates than previously. Iain McNicol addressed the Conference for the first time as General Secretary, emphasising the importance of London to the Party. The new Shadow Minister for London Sadiq Khan pledged that we would win back parliamentary seats lost in London in 2010, and highlighted that the next general election would be one firmly about living standards.
  2. There were also excellent workshops on topics including on becoming a Councillor, trade union and Labour Party liaison, community organising and our campaigning priorities for 2014, as well as an impressive variety of well attended fringes including meetings organised by Labour MEPs, CLPD, CWU and Fabian Women.
  3. Topics prioritised for the main debates were Housing, the NHS and London’s Economy, and emergency motions were accepted and passed on a number of topics including cuts to hospitals in London, fire stations closures and the Mayor’s policies on free schools.
  4. It was agreed that the Regional Board would consider further a remitted motion on the potential reduction of trade union representation caused by the move from Local Government Committees to Local Campaign Forums. Following a question to the CAC Chair, the issue of an updated London Rulebook was also referred to the Regional Board.
Policy Challenge Papers and ‘Your Britain’
  1. There has been much activity on the national policy front, with the current round of consultation on Challenge Papers closing on 28 February. The overall policy review process led by Jon Cruddas is also continuing on a number of key themes grouped under the headings; New Economy, New Society, New Politics. It has been confirmed that Shadow Cabinet work will feed through the National Policy Forum and Policy Commissions in the same way as other submissions received, although we will be keeping a close eye on how this works in practice and working with Alon Or-Bach on the Joint Policy Committee to raise concerns if it does not appear to be happening.
  2. Labour’s new policy website ‘Your Britain’ is proving popular, and there have been many submissions made using the website in the run-up to the Challenge Paper deadline. The next stage of the process will be for more detailed policy papers to be prepared for consideration by the National Policy Forum in the summer.
  3. On 1 March, London NPF reps organised a policy meeting at Labour Party HQ to focus on three Policy Review / Challenge Paper topics; housing, health and social care and protecting workers. Lucy helped to facilitate the session on health with Sam doing the same in the group looking at vulnerable workers. All three sessions saw a high level of debate and discussion with many concrete policy suggestions being made. Future workshops are now being planned.
Britain’s Global Role Policy Commission
  1. Recent discussions at the Global Role Policy Commission have focused on submissions on the Challenge Paper on Britain’s Role in a post 2015 development vision. The discussion has included consideration of how best to engage with party and public especially in key seats on what we saying on development and why if we believe in social justice and growth at home we have to be active in supporting it everywhere.
  2. The second policy commission paper focusing on the post 2015 international development agenda we shortly be published for further consultation and reflects the extensive discussion over the first paper. It includes commitments to increase the focus on the need for Decent Work and employment creation globally as a key tool in the fight against poverty as well as committing to further consideration of how better to integrate goals on environmental sustainability into the poverty alleviation agenda.
  3. It has also agreed that whilst the topic of international development will continue to be a major area of work for the Commission, other meetings will be scheduled to address issues raised in submissions to the Commission, including sessions on future threats to include consideration of Trident, human rights and party policy on Europe.
Health and Care Policy Commission
  1. This Commission has been considering further the submissions to the Challenge Paper on integrating health and social care, including how to undo the damage being done by the Coalition Government. Several Commission reps have emphasised the importance of a systematic reversal of privatisation. Funding of social care remains a central aspect for debate, including whether and to what extent individuals should contribute to their social care costs, other than through general taxation.
  2. From a London perspective, it was stressed that any new systems of democratic accountability should incorporate adequate strategic pan-London co-ordination of key issues, including public health concerns.
  3. The Commission also discussed our approach on campaigning against the proposed new regulations opening up the NHS further to private sector contracts. Andy Burnham acknowledged that London, together with some other metropolitan areas, had been hardest hit by planned cuts to NHS services. A London regional event organised by the Shadow Health Team is being planned for April.
Visits and meetings
  1. Since last year we have spoken at and attended a number of GC and other meetings around London, including Edmonton CLP, Islington North CLP, Labour CND and a Socialist Health Association meeting. We remain keen to visit as many CLPs and affiliated organisations as possible do discuss policy issues and how you can have your say.
London campaigning
18.  In the last few months, the efforts of many local parties and affiliates have been concentrated on fighting cuts to London’s public services. There are important by-elections coming up in Islington and in Havering, where the BNP are standing and the EDL have been trying to prevent groups like Hope Not Hate from campaigning on the doorstep.

Sam Gurney and Lucy Anderson
London Regional CLPs and affiliates representatives
Twitter: @npflucy and @GurneySam

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