My Letter to Wellingborough CLP Contact, Kevin Watts

Dear Kevin,

I have just had the most unpleasant experience with the Labour Party HQ that I have ever encountered. I was ringing to complain about my suspension and have it overturned as well as complain that my letter of appeal, for which their own automated system promised me a reply within a week, has not yet been answered.

Firstly, I was on hold for five minutes before someone even picked up the phone only to  immediately pass me to a different department. I was on hold for another ten minutes (obviously someone hoped I would give up an go away). When somebody finally picked up the phone all they would tell me was that I have been suspended for abusive conduct on Twitter, and with a paltry excuse of going to get further details I was again placed on hold for another five minutes after which the line was cut off.

I am utterly disgusted with this Kafkaesque treatment! How can I defend myself when I have no idea of what it is I am accused? How long will the investigation take? What form will it take and who will carry it out? None of this information has yet been imparted so I am still faced with the prospect of persons unknown trawling through years of tweets trying to find something to pin on me. Even trying to have my complaint and challenge acknowledged, let alone dealt with is impossible, yet the party remains happy to take my money in fees. I have attached yet another copy of the vague travesty of justice which seems to promote the idea that an allegation of a possibility merits punishment without evidence for your reference. (Letter of suspension.)

For years, I have been an advocate of strict anti-bullying policies on social media, and I certainly do not use it to abuse people, yet a great deal is of abuse is fired at me. Under the Data Protection Act, I have a right to know what information they hold on me, how long they have held it, what it has been used for and what they plan to do with it. I know for a fact, that I have never once given them my Twitter details. Do they even have the right Anna Johnstone? There are plenty of us. If you could look into this matter and pass it on to the campaign team for Jeremy, so they know how badly his supporters are being treated and Owen Smith cannot get away with rigging the vote, it would be appreciated.


Anna Johnstone

(The number for the Labour Party is 0345 092 2299)

New Leadership.

Ed Milliband has won the Labour Leadership campaign, and become the 18th leader of the Labour Party, with 175,519 votes.

”I am nobody’s man, I am my own man. I am very clear about that,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

How does it Work?

  1. The voting power was divided equally between MPs and MEPs, affiliated organisations (trade unions), and other party members.
  2. If no candidate holds more than 50% of the votes by the end of the first round of voting, the candidate with the fewest votes is removed and their second preference votes are divided among the remaining candidates.
  3. This process is continued until a candidate has achieved the required number of votes and has the potential to result in a head to head contest between just two candidates.

His lead was only very narrowly ahead of his brother, David, who achieved 147,220 votes, but regardless of this, Ed is the man who will lead our party into the next general election and take the party back to its roots by reconnecting with previous supporters.  On top of the overall result Ed also won the biggest number of affiliate/union first preference votes (35%).  However, it will take much more than winning the leadership to return the party to government.  The party must first re-earn the trust of those people it let down so badly during its term.  I do think that the Brown/Blair feud is an irrelevance now that the party has been forced to wake up to the fact that the petty internal squabbles were in part to blame for their defeat in May.  Admitting that the party must acknowledge its mistakes is at least a step in the right direction; the next will be to identifying how those mistakes were made in order to avoid a repeat of the same.

“The razor-thin margin leaves the new leader with an immediate problem: he has to unite a party that split almost arithmetically down the middle.” Jonathan Freedland to The Guardian – Comment is Free.

The support from the unions is by no means all that won him the election.  He won by showing his support of the people who the party was set up in the interest of; working people.  The previous Labour party lost touch and ended up displaying their embarrassment over the Party’s union links and origins.  It shows the party has not entirely lost touch with its centre left ideals and I am very much looking forward to the his leadership speech on Tuesday.  As my readers know, I also supported Ed Milliband and it is a pleasure to finally have some good news to post.

“He won by focusing on the issues working people care about – stopping the onslaught on public services, fighting for a living wage, standing up for manufacturing, offering a fair deal at work. His acknowledgement of the calamity of the Iraq war is also vital if Labour is to regain people’s trust.” – Len McCluskey to The Guardian – Comment is Free.

I trust that Ed’s commitment is to our interests and us as our representative in Parliament rather than the other way around as it so sadly became during the years of Blair and Brown.  His vision has every chance of redeeming the party’s reputation of fairness and equality.  The nickname of “Red Ed” was unfairly dished up during the leadership campaign but he has rebutted this with a promise not to merely object to every spending cut on principle, and become a responsible opposition leader while we recover from ‘the deficit’.


Why I am backing Ed Milliband in the Labour Leadership Election.

Firstly he opposed the Iraq war (for the right reasons) unlike his brother who voted for the invasion that has now lasted for nearly 10 years.   While liberal intervention has its place, the war began for the sole reason that Saddam Hussein was believed to be in possession of weapons of mass destruction -the wrong reasons- and NOT for humanitarian aid.  Hans Blix had asked for more time to find these weapons that have still not been located. The basis turned out to be incorrect and caused a massive loss of trust from Labour supporters; both those who supported the war and from those who opposed the war from the offset (I am one of the latter and campaigned with the Socialist Workers’ Party, of which I am a former member, in protests etc).

He managed to secure an agreement in Copenhagen with regard to climate change control and ways to reduce carbon emissions.  He has also been public in his defence of climate-change research after the revelation that the finding that the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 was a mistake.

“I think science is improved when criticised and improved when opened up. What I think is profoundly irresponsible is to suggest that one fact that was wrong about a glacier undermines the overall picture on climate change.” – Ed Milliband to the BBC

He has promised to maintain public services and give more autonomy within local government, offering more female representation within the those councils.  The promise to fight the coalition’s plans to rig the constituency boundaries to suit their own ends. Ed plans to improve crime prevention and call a halt on the excessive stop-and-search measures and ID cards. Why does the government need to know who we are and where we are other than to maintain efficient tax records? Ed prioritises values over alliances. This is not to undermine the value of loyalty but sometimes dissent is a good thing when it comes to criticising ‘unpopular’ new ideas. Allowing women and black people the vote and equal rights were also unpopular new ideas at one time.

The campaign for a Living Wage of more than £7 per hour is the heart of Ed’s campaign to become leader of the labour Party. I have had some opposition to this myself but I do have 5 good reasons for being in favour of this campaign.  Over 450 councillors are in favour of this campaign

“Research for our campaign by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that companies paying below the Living Wage effectively cost the taxpayer between £5.9bn and £6.3bn a year — because low-paid employees can top up their income with tax credits and benefits, while the Treasury also receives less in tax revenue from those on low pay.”

  1. Higher wages will mean that those on income support will no longer require the income support benefits.
  2. In turn less will be paid out to those who will then be in otherwise financially solvent circumstances.
  3. The new ‘higher’ earners will also pay more tax and therefore contribute more tax to pay for the services we all use and rely on.  They will also have more income to spend on necessities.
  4. The public purse should not be used to subsidise the meagre wages paid by unscrupulous employers who would happily pay their employees even less than minimum wage if they could get away with it to look after their bottom lines while they award their executives massive bonuses.
  5. There is not only a financial efficacy in granting those in work the dignity of being able to provide for their families without government assistance but a strong moral reason too; to fiscally and psychologically empower the work force.  The attitude that if employees don’t like the wages the job pays, they should get another job neither inspires the conscientious self-motivation that the Conservatives insist it does (in the face of the physical evidence to the contrary), or any loyalty to the employer.  What it does is allow employers to undervalue their work force.  As far as I am concerned, either keeping people who are already on minimum wage also dependant on the state or even retracting that assistance, is an insidious form of slavery which is frankly unforgivable.

“…57% of children living in poverty do so despite having at least one member of their household in work. Endemic low pay and working poverty continue to blight the lives of millions of ordinary working people across Britain.”

He is in favour of maintaining the 5op tax rate for those who earn more than £150,000 a year indefinitely whereas his brother is in favour of reducing it at some point.  The directors’ organisation are in opposition to this as they claim this will mean high earners will move abroad and that the higher rate may tempt large corporations to move to countries where tax rates are lower.  (The minimum wage was also opposed on the grounds that it would supposedly increase unemployment rates rather than protect the pay levels of low-skilled workers). Commitment to the High Pay Commission to regulate and the halt to abuses in executive pay is tied in with the living wage in order to narrow the unfair, vastly excessive and arbitrary gap between the highest and lowest paid within large corporations.

On tuition fees, Ed is in favour of scrapping them in favour of a graduate tax.

“As fees rise further, less well-off as well as part-time students will be even less likely to apply to more expensive universities and so damage their opportunities.” Ed Milliband to The Guardian on Comment is Free.

A graduate tax would be paid back as a deduction from their pay over 20 years as a percentage in-line with their ability to pay. The emergency budget will result in the stagnation of our universities and will ultimately produce further rises in fees as fewer students can afford to fill those places left after the coalition cut 10,000 earlier this year. Further education will again become a commodity of which only the rich and privileged can afford, thus forcing out culture back into the dark ages.  We, as a society, cannot afford to allow education to become a market. A rise in fees will stunt the prospects of those less well off and will result in some universities charging more to the further detriment of their opportunities.   The funds collected by a rise in tuition fees will not be used to fund universities but to plug the gaps in essential public services caused by the coalition’s savage cuts.  The current system (including grants) ties students to the income of their parents while in all other aspects they are considered independent adults.

He is correct in his approach of reforming the party away from New Labour and refuting Tony Blair’s claim that the fatal move was to veer from New Labour’s politics even slightly.  I feel that it was actually the inflexible reluctance to fully move away and act in response to changing circumstances that led to the electorate becoming disenchanted with the party.  Ed is correct in admitting the mistakes of party New Labour that began so well by pouring the funding and resources back into education and the NHS that the previous Conservative government had cut back on, and setting up the National Minimum Wage, but ended up defending banker’s bonuses after tax funding had been used to bail out failing banks that had lent irresponsibly; rather than paying back the money which had been loaned to them (much to my disgust); ignoring party members and showing visible embarrassment of their trade union links.

My Other preferences for Labour Leader

  1. David Milliband
  2. Ed Balls
  3. Diane Abbott
  4. Andy Burnham

Other posts (in no particular order).

Labour Party Treasurer

  1. Diana Holland

National Executive Committee

  1. Johanna Baxter
  2. Ann Black
  3. Oona King
  4. Susan Press
  5. Christine Shawcroft
  6. Julian Ware-Lane

NPF Representatives

  1. Russell Cartwright
  2. Katie Curtis
  3. Jenny Holland
  4. Tariq Sadiq

NPF Youth Representatives

  1. Sam Goodby

Join Labour by September 8th and have your say in the Labour leadership election.


What next for the UK parliament joint committee on human rights?

What next for the UK parliament joint committee on human rights? | Colin Murray | Law |

The Human Rights Act 1998.

There are certain rights and freedoms that are central to our nation’s identity as a free and democratic society.  The protection of those rights is paramount to the preservation of our status and reputation. Our freedom and rights have been long fought for so they must be protected and improved upon. This is essential if we are to avoid a regression and what was must never forget is that with individual rights, comes personal responsibility.

“That kind of thinking is behind the statement that rights and responsibilities go together. The whole system of respecting rights works best when people recognise that and act responsibly towards others and the wider community.”

The European Convention of Human Rights is a binding agreement.  The UK, as one of its builders, has sought to comply with it for over fifty years.  Both civil and political rights have been outlined and explained but what is odd is that the ECHR has not always been a part of UK law.  Use of the convention in any respect meant a costly and time-consuming hearing in the European Court of Human Rights.  The Human Rights Act came into force Under the Labour Party in October 2000 and has made the ECHR enforceable in British courts.  It gives a clear and unbiased description of basic rights and works alongside the ECHR to respect the rights of both individuals and the collective community.  What we must me clear on is that the rights of the individual do not supersede nor are undermined by the rights of the wider society. An individual who uses their individual right of expression to promote violence or hatred toward another person or group should expect to be prevented from doing so as they are violating that person’s right to feel safe. The expression of a particular group’s personal views and ethos in public must be balanced against an individual right to privacy.  One cannot expect the victim of a violent crime to be subject to questioning from the perpetrator.  These rules have been laid down for a reason and that is to protect those who for whatever reason, have been injured or discriminated against.  What is sad is that we have had to make laws at all when consideration, courtesy, common sense and ordinary decency should have made them redundant by now.

“The Human Rights Act is a major shift in the way our political and legal system works. Before the Act, our law did not spell out in so many words that public authorities and courts had to respect ECHR rights; and the courts would only look at the ECHR in exceptional cases, for example if UK legislation was unclear.”

In the interest of the wider community, combating crime and the promotion of healthy living habits are both sensible goals but at what cost? Those we point the finger of blame for their self-made misfortunes are also forfeiting their claim to personal responsibility as adults e.g suing tobacco companies when they get cancer, fast food chains when they get fat, or the local council or their employer when they are injured while doing something that is just plain bloody stupid.  If common sense is not enough to tell you NOT to do something then it’s your own silly fault. There are instances when something has been done to us deliberately and maliciously.  In those cases outside parties to go out of our way ‘not to judge’. Well sod that for a game of soldiers!  If some workshy lay about has the energy to rob some poor old lady at knife point in her own home (rather than go and look for work), what more should they expect than a phone call and basic food and water?  If a woman is raped, the defence  solicitor will ask what she was wearing, if she was drinking and look into her past.  When we are victims of theft in our  homes the first thing people ask is how they got in as.  Why has that got any baring on the matter in hand? In these cases the rights of the victim and wider community certainly take precedence over those of the perpetrator.  The act of human rights is what should make sure that happens.

“The Human Rights Act ensures that these important ideas, and the supporting judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, are fully available to our courts. It also ensures that Parliament has to reflect carefully, in considering proposed legislation, on the difficult question of where the balance lies between the individual’s rights and the needs of the wider community.”

There seems also to be a popular trend among an increasing proportion of the UK public who are more than ready to shout about their rights being violated but unwilling – if not unable- to see where their perceived right to act or behave in a certain manner impinges on the rights of others.  Those refuse to see that they have a personal responsibility of consideration to others are wilfully abdicating from their role as responsible citizens.  For example, blasting music so loudly that none of you neighbours can get away from it. Our children have a right not to be forced to partake in a daily act of specifically Christian worship or indoctrinated by visitors to the school.  To expect a child of five or six to choose a religious position before they are armed with the facts is as ridiculous as expecting them to align themselves with specific a political ethos.   How many of us would sign a contact of employment without reading it?

The New Committee.

The committee was set up in the wake of the Human Rights Act 1998 coming into force and was intended to fulfil the role of parliamentary watchdog to oversee the compatibility of legislation and government acts within human rights norms. It aimed also to monitor steps taken by government to conform to judicial decisions highlighting breaches of human rights by the United Kingdom.

“What is wrong is the way that political leaders of all persuasions rush to judgment on human rights legislation. The Human Rights Act, like “Health & Safety” before it, is the scapegoat for unpopular decisions. It’s an easy target for politicians, having become an esoteric tool of the legal profession. Whether it’s giving hamburgers to roof protesters, failing to publish photos of escaped murderers, or any other urban myth, the Human Rights Act is at the root of it all.” – Labour’s Andrew Dismore (former Committee Chairman)

The committee’s chairman, Labour’s Andrew Dismore, lost his Hendon seat by a mere 103 votes.  Under Dismore’s leadership, the committee made it their work to closely scrutinise the Labour government and be openly critical when they felt that they were failing to comply with Human rights requirements.  Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat, also lost his seat by the very narrow margin of 176 votes. He was known for his positive stance on embryo research, his support for the right to seek abortion and for being in favour of permitting euthanasia.  He was often subjected to vitriolic diatribes from the right-wing nationalistic tabloid (gutter) press who dubbed him with the unsavoury nickname of ‘Dr Death’.

Conservative peer Lord Bowness and Labour peers Lord Dubs and Lord Morris of Handsworth have returned to the joint reconstituted committee. The committee also receives powerful reinforcement in the form of Lord Lester of Herne Hill, a Liberal Democrat peer and respected public lawyer who spearheaded the campaign to introduce a Bill of Rights into UK law which culminated in the Human Rights Act of 1998.  The House of Commons is yet to appoint six new positions before the next meeting.  One can only hope that the committee continue and improve on it’s record in defence of human rights.

“unfortunate that the UK’s generally good record on implementation is undermined to a considerable extent by the very lengthy delays in implementation in those cases where the political will to make the necessary changes is lacking. In our view, whatever the challenges thrown up by ajudgment of the European Court of Human Rights, a delay of five years or more in implementing such a judgment can never be acceptable.”

Sharia law? Sham law!

The demand for the abolition of sharia courts in Britain, as elsewhere, is not an attack on people’s right to religion; it is a defence of human rights in general, especially since the imposition of sharia courts is a demand of Islamism to restrict citizens’ rights. They are demanding the right and authority to suppress the rights of others! The only way to protect the rights of everybody is to have a single and SECULAR justice system.

To safeguard our rights there must be one law for all and no religious courts” – The Guardian

Sharia councils are dangerous and harmful to community cohesion since their brand of ‘mediation’ differs little from arbitration and councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions.  These councils call themselves courts an imams are appointed as judges with NO control over their appointments and no independent monitoring mechanism. People often  have neither access to legal advice nor representation. The proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements and there is no right to appeal.

“There is also danger to those at risk of domestic violence. In one study, four out of 10 women attending Sharia courts were party to civil injunctions against their husbands.” – The Guardian

Under sharia’s civil code, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s and man can divorce his wife by repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications, some of which are difficult to prove.  Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age regardless of the circumstances of the divorce; women who remarry lose custody of their children even before then and sons inherit twice the share of daughters.  Under British law, the child’s best interest is the court’s paramount consideration. How can anyone who has benefited from the rights and freedoms enjoyed in a liberal and non-theocratic society even contemplate the implementation of such a flagrantly imbalanced shift in the laws of this country -that Sharia law requires- with anything less than abject horror? There is no formal requirement for any legal training or recognised qualification, so I wonder; from where are they granted their authority?  Sharia law is solely focused on the subjugation of women and has no place in a civilised society.

Not all who attend sharia courts do so voluntarily and unfair decisions can’t be challenged.  Women are often pressured by their families into going to these courts and adhering to unfair decisions and may lack knowledge of their rights under British law and refusal to settle a dispute in a sharia court could lead to threats, intimidation or isolation. As long as sharia courts are allowed to make rulings on family law, women will be pressured into accepting decisions which are prejudicial.


5 Ways You Can Help Ed Miliband for Labour Leader.

Ed Miliband for Labour Leader

“I am standing for leader because when you believe in something, you should stand up and fight for it.”
Ed Miliband, Leeds, June 2010

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