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Labour Rules referring to Gender Balance

The Labour Party lays out its commitment to ensuring equal representation of women in positions of power within the party, which is codified and applied to all levels of the party within Chapter 15, Model Procedural Rules, Clause 1, O iii. of the current Labour Party Rule book, which states:

This Party unit accepts the principle of minimum quotas for women at all levels of representation within the Party and shall take steps to ensure that 50 per cent of any delegation shall be women and, where only one delegate is appointed, a woman shall hold the position at least every other year.

In my experience, this commitment encounters a surprising level of resistance from ordinary party members (particularly when you’re enforcing that equality at the disadvantage of an existing member).

To save everyone else the trouble, I’ve gone through and extracted (to the best of my ability) all of the rules that refer to the party’s commitment to gender equality, they are:

Chapter 7, Rules for CLPs

  • Clause VIII, Officers, 2
    “The Executive Officers of this CLP shall be; chair, vice-chair, vice-chair/ membership, secretary, treasurer, women’s officer. At least three of these officers shall be women. This CLP may, with the approval of the NEC add other Executive Officer posts drawn from amongst its Coordinator roles subject to the gender quota being amended appropriately.”
    see page 30 (print) or page 33 (pdf)
  • Clause XI, The General Meeting, 4
    “It shall be the duty of the General Meeting of this CLP to ensure that at least 50 per cent of their delegates to other Party bodies (where delegate entitlement is more than one) shall be women.”
    see page 31 (print) or page 34 (pdf)

Chapter 8, Rules for Branches

  • Clause IV, Officers and Executive Committee, 1
    “The officers of this branch shall be chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer. At least two of the officers shall be women. This branch shall appoint two auditors and other functional officers as required.”
    see page 34 (print) or page 37 (pdf)
  • Clause VII, Miscellaneous, 1
    “The general provisions of the constitution and rules of the Party shall apply to this branch.”
    see page 34 (print) or page 37 (pdf)

Chapter 12, Rules for Labour Party Local Campaign Forums

  • Clause V. Officers and Executive Committee, 3
    “The officers shall consist of a chair, vice-chair, and secretary. At least one of the officers shall be a woman.”
    see page 44 (print) or page 47 (pdf)

Chapter 13, Rules for local government Labour groups on principal authorities

  • Clause V, Group Officers, 1
    “The Labour group shall appoint group officers at the annual meeting in accordance with the group standing orders, and in a manner that ensures equality of opportunity and encourages underrepresented groups to come forward. As a minimum, the gender balance of the officer group will reflect the gender balance of the Labour group as a whole. Any deviation from this will require consent from your RD(GS).”
    see page 49 (print) or page 52 (pdf)
  • Clause VI, Group Executive, 1
    “Where the Labour group chooses to appoint a group executive, the group shall do so at its annual meeting in accordance with the group standing orders, and in a manner that ensures equality of opportunity and encourages under-represented people to come forward. As a minimum, the gender balance of the Labour group executive will reflect the gender balance of the Labour group as a whole. Any deviation from this without explicit consent of the RD(GS) may lead to disciplinary action.”
    see page 49 (print) or page 52 (pdf)

Chapter 15, Model Procedural Rules

  • Clause 1, O iii.
    “This Party unit accepts the principle of minimum quotas for women at all levels of representation within the Party and shall take steps to ensure that 50 per cent of any delegation shall be women and, where only one delegate is appointed, a woman shall hold the position at least every other year.”
    see page 58 (print) or page 61 (pdf)

Closing VAT Tax Havens

Finally we see some action from the coalition on the issue of tax havens, albeit a small step in the right direction.

The hint by Lord Sassoon at proposals to be brought forward in the upcoming budget to change or even better to possibly remove the VAT exemptions currently enjoyed by the Channel Islands is to be welcomed.

Lord Lucas‘s observation that the amount avoided is likely to be higher than the Treasury’s estimated loss of £130 million pounds a year is almost certainly true; as you’d know if you’d ever bought a DVD from Amazon or Play.com.

I can only hope that this is the first 0f many rationalisations of the tax system with the aim being to remove our archaic tax havens special status entirely.

For more information read the register.co.uk here.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

The Greatest Tax Heist in History

So the pro-corporation, anti-society coalition government is proposing changing the tax code to give corporations the largest single tax break in British, perhaps global history.

The basics are fairly simple. At present corporations domiciled here pay UK Corporation Tax on profits earned offshore at the difference between the Corporation Tax of the offshore location and the Corporation Tax in the UK.

So for a simple real world example lets say that a UK based corporation earns £100 m in Ireland.

The Respective Corporation Tax Rates:

Ireland: 12.5 %

UK: 23%

Difference: 10.5%

Amount of Tax Paid:

Ireland: £12.5 million

UK: £10.5 million

Total Tax Paid: £23 million

This is an intrinsically fair system both jurisdiction gets the Corporation Tax rate it sets; if the rate was higher in the foreign jurisdiction then no tax would be due here in the UK.

The UK corporation can also offset the costs of the foreign offices, etc, against the tax due to be paid here. So in effect the foreign income is treated exactly like income earned here in the UK. All seems fair right?

So what are the Proposed Changes?

They’re radical so make sure you’re sitting down. Basically our coalition government is proposing that UK corporations no longer have to pay any tax on income earned abroad.

So in this example we’d go from earning £10.5 million to a big fat zero.

In fact it’s worse than that. They’re still allowing the corporation to offset the cost of their foreign earnings against the tax they pay here on their UK earnings. So we will actually lose money.

How I ask is this in our interest? A few corporations might stay in the UK?

Is it done anywhere else in the world? Not even in Republican States in the US.

So what are they telling us?

It’s a small tax change.

The Treasury estimates it will only cost £100 m a year in lost revenues.

But I ask will it end there?

As a business owner myself I deeply doubt it.

For further discussion on this see this excellent segment from Newsnight a couple of weeks ago featuring Richard Brooks, Richard Murphy and Chrystia Freeland.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

What happens to Diplomats when a regime falls?

As Libyan diplomats across the world have resigned in protests of the blatant attacks by Gaddafi on his own people we have seen some ambassadors refuse to step down and back the regime, in particular I’m thinking of the head of the UN mission Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, what happens to these diplomats diplomatic protection if the regime itself falls?

Surely they are complicit in the crimes against humanity being committed against their own people by their administration. So if the regime falls would it be possible for them to be arrested and held with a view to charging them for that complicity?

I’m interested in anyone’s thoughts on the topic in the comments below.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

A bit of Truth on the 50p Tax Receipts

I’m usually quite a fan of Fraser Nelson, but his blog posting for the Spectator today is simply misleading and an example of the kind of sloppy journalism that editors are meant to be employed to prevent happening (see here).

It was written in response to the following tweet by John Rentoul (see here):

Where is @frasernels when you need him? The 50p income tax rate has brought in a ton of money; he said it would probably reduce revenue.

Fraser begins his argument by chiding John Rentoul and stating:

Were John self-employed, he’d know that the tax paid last month was in respect of the 2009-10 tax year – when the top rate of tax was 40p.

The argument that he then makes is basically advanced on this premise. Unfortunately this premise is quite simply not true and if he’d looked at his own return he’d of known that.

The payments made on 31st January by millions of people filing Self Assessment Tax Returns include the first of two payments on account relating to the current tax year 2010-2011, so do include the 50p in the £ tax rate.

Now this can be bit confusing, so maybe instead of intentionally misleading his readers rather than admitting he might of been wrong, maybe Fraser just got a bit confused. So this is how it works:

1. The tax year runs from 06 April to 05 April each year, currently 06 April 2010 to 05 April 2011.

2. You file your return by the 31st January after the year has ended, so your 2010-2011 return would be filed by 31 January 2012 at the latest.

Now you might assume you just pay all of your tax liability for that financial year, which is generally true if you’ve only been filing returns for one year, but if you’ve not, that’s not true. What happens is:

1. When you filed your return on 31 January 2011 for the year 2009-2010 the HM Customs & Revenue estimates, based on that return, your future income for the financial year you are presently in (2010-2011).

2. It breaks this payment down into two equal amounts the first of which you pay immediately on 31 January 2011, the second of which you pay by 31 July 2011.

3. Your payment on 31 January 2012 will include the difference between these Payments on Account and your actual tax liability determined by your return, plus the newly determined first Payment on Account for the current financial year (2011-2012).

If you want to read more (perhaps you’re tired and would like something to send you to sleep or your intentionally masochistic) you can do so here on the HMRC’s website.

Perhaps in the future the Spectator or Fraser himself could do some basic fact checking or research into the topic concerned before mouthing off.

* This post has been updated to make the following corrections:

  1. The term ‘self-employed people’ has been changed to ‘people filing Self Assessment Tax Returns’ after commentator BigC correctly pointed out that not only self-employed people file SA Tax Returns.
  2. References to the ‘Inland Revenue’ have been changed to ‘HM Customs & Revenue’ or ‘HMRC’ as commentator BigC pointed out the Inland Revenue and HM Customs merged in 2005 into a single entity.
  3. I’ve updated the link to the HMRC to point to the most recent document discussing Payments on Account, which I discovered whilst researching my reply to BigC.
I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

Police Tactics Need to Change

The student protests in London last night demonstrate the final and complete failure of police tactics. Policing in Britain has always been policing by consent but the tactic of kettling and the use of mounted police against protesters that are largely unarmed, excepting occasional flares, does nothing but provoke the kinds of violence we have seen where protesters trapped and under attack defend themselves.

There remains a clear bias in the reporting by the conventional media, who are quick to tell us how many police have been injured in the violence and slow to tell us how many protesters were injured or how many normal people who happened to be caught up in the protests due to the police’s tactics of kettling were injured. This is simply not right.

What has begun to change is that through services like twitter we are able to get live feedback of what is happening on the streets. Yesterday by following a few protester accounts @UCLOccupation and the hashtag #demo2010 I was able to get a real picture of what was happening on the streets and it differed greatly from BBC24’s live reporting and the statements of the police.

It was clear from the live comments of the protesters that they felt they were prevented from taking the route as agreed in advance with the police by the police themselves. It is hardly surprising then that they headed for Parliament Square the traditional venue for protest and it is clear from the deployment of police that they expected, maybe even wanted, protesters in this containable location.

It is also completely unsurprising that there was violence given that the police confronted unarmed protesters with riot gear and more disturbingly mounted police. I surely can’t of been the only person watching the live coverage who was shocked by mounted police charging protesters, much earlier than the point at which the press seems to be reporting a change of mood in the crowd.

It is also clear that as the Duchess of Cornwall becomes the image of the violence that this attack itself could of been avoided. Police might claim that the route was clear minutes before, but twitter’s live feed doesn’t lie as it reported much earlier that protesters forcibly evicted from Trafalgar Square were heading towards Oxford Street and reforming there:

New Protest Forming on Oxford Street

What is clear to me is that that the violence seen yesterday was created by the aggressive, uncompromising approach of the police in dealing with the protest. There are literally hundreds of tweets, all public, which told the police exactly what was going on in the crowd, exactly how the mood was changing and from the police? Silence.

Engagement with the protesters should not be at the end of a baton nor under the feet of a charging horse nor in the forcible detention of hundreds of protesters for hours on end, many of whom were young teenagers who now will have a negative view of the police making it more likely that future protests will end in violence.

It is clear from listening to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on the Radio 4 Today Program this morning, where he described the Royal Protection Officers as showing great restraint in not shooting protesters (something that really has to be heard to be believed) that he is not the man to lead any investigation into the protests nor is he likely to effect any change.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

Oh for a Government of Principle

Where have all the principled politicians gone? I’m starting to suspect that they’ve largely died off and that perhaps the present hegemony of the inter-war and post-war generation (I roughly have those born from around 1930 to 1960 in my sights here), which has controlled our political system for my entire life, never had any principles; other than perhaps that they are always right:  forget the lessons of the past, forget the critics and of course forget the people (this one being a personal gift of Tony Blair).

If you haven’t already guessed, like most people I’m upset about the proposed cuts our delightful coalition government has decided to force upon our country (assuming that is they can pass such measures through the Commons, never mind the Lords and of course that the coalition doesn’t collapse after the Spending Review). In particular, it’s the wholesale, unashamed attack on the principle of universality, be it in benefits or in the education system all under the guise of essential savings that need to be made to cut “the deficit”.

As a historian, by education (BA (Hons) History, UCL, 2002), I’m very familiar with the old distinction that the Victorians drew between the “Respectable” and the “Non-Respectable Poor” that enabled gentile Victorian society to turn a blind eye to the burgeoning squalor that had grown-up in England’s towns and cities and pat themselves on the back for the meager and insufficient support they provided to the “Respectable Poor”, whilst largely letting the “Non-Respectable Poor” rot in the circumstances they found themselves.

It took the better part of a century for the British political establishment to transition from the laissez-faire model that had dominated the nineteenth century and justified those Victorian attitudes towards the poor to the more progressive, interventionist model that is now considered the cornerstone of the British and European political systems. This transition was pioneered by men of principle (Booth, Rowntree) and the legislative cornerstone for the model was laid by the Liberal Party following their election in 1906 and re-election in 1910 (twice: Jan & Dec).

It is perhaps hard for people to appreciate the depth of the poverty endured by most of Britain’s population in the century preceding this landmark legislation passed by this government (though you can get a vivid picture of it by picking up any of Dickens works) or of the stigma that was attached to having to petition the parish for assistance under the old Poor laws that they replaced, however, the very fact that these reforms have effectively removed poisonous terms like “the Respectable Poor” from our collective memory is a testament to their success.

And it is my firm opinion that these changes have become so intrinsically established in the British mindset due to the underlying principle of universality that would come, by the time of the post-war reforms, to unify them and that they stand and fall on the basis of their universality, because without this universal element your access to these benefits be it education or health care or simply the right to have a roof over your head becomes about one thing and one thing alone: the amount of money at your disposal.

Thatcher laid what I consider to be the first blow against the principle of universality in 1970 when she earned the moniker: “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” for her removal of the entitlement to free school milk for children over seven years old. Though it is worth noting that in her autobiography she had this to say with regard to this reform:

“I learned a valuable lesson. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”

And it seems that despite her sage observation, albeit from a self-serving political angle rather than a principled realisation of the wrong she had wrought, it is a lesson that goes ignored by the present coalition government.

Which brings me to the current raft of coalition reforms, which have been announced on an almost daily basis since the party conference season and threaten almost every aspect of the daily lives of everyday people up and down the country. More importantly they seem to disproportionately disadvantage the most vulnerable in our society, as well hitting  as women and children in particular. (I wonder if anyone else has noticed the underlying misogynistic streak in these reforms?)

I was moved to write this post by a conversation I had with my step-brother’s mother last Friday, concerning the proposed reforms to Child Benefit, which as I am sure you will know propose the introduction of what is effectively a means testing system based on the tax code of a the parents. Accepting the clearly ridiculous position of a family unit where if a single income exceeds £44,000 a child would not be entitled to the benefit, but if both incomes were £1 less that this they would (or combined £87,998) the child would be entitled, she broadly supported the change.

And this is where we parted company because though in our conversation I indicated a that I might support the measure if it was against the actual higher rate of tax (technically it’s rather stupidly called the “Additional Rate“) of 50% on earnings above £150,000 per year rather than the middle rate of tax on reflection I simply can’t support the measure at all because to do so is effectively the thin end of a very dangerous wedge that threatens to fundamentally undermine the principle of universality inherent in this benefit, a benefit that effectively equalises all children.

And it is this principle that the government should be seeking to support not destroy because it has the fundamental effect of enabling mothers of all financial backgrounds to relate to each other as mothers, rather than to look at their financial differences. Once we start to means test and thereby limit this type of benefit how long will it be before those who no longer receive Child Benefit begin to question whether others slightly less well off than them should receive it and from there it is a very slippery slope.

And once you start to think in this manner it quickly becomes apparent how many of the reforms proposed by this government in the name of “essential cost cutting” are simply thinly disguised attacks on the principles of the universality that fundamental underpins of our social settlement and of the truly dangerous return this might herald to the days of the “Respectable” and “Non-Respectable Poor”. The Liberals of 1906 who so bravely implemented the first of these fundamental changes to our settlement are more than likely turning in their graves.

And before I sign off I ask you to reflect upon this: if it is so essential to cut these costs now, why wait until 2013-14 to enact the changes? Now where is the logic in that?

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

Small Considered Investment, Not Grand Follies

Over the weekend I managed to get myself engaged in a small disagreement about a proposed redevelopment of the local seaside town Redcar with Steven Goldswain, Joe Anderson and by extension put myself somewhat in the middle of an argument they are having with the local Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales.

A Little Background

For those of you who are not locals, Redcar is a once proud Seaside resort that is now in a slow, steady decline; despite it having one of the best beaches in the North East, a beach that stretches some 12 miles, all the way to my current home in Salburn-by-the-Sea. Over the past decade that my father has lived in Saltburn and I have been a regular visitor, then resident, we have watched its decline with dismay.

The sandy beaches of Redcar.

Acting like a feudal overlord the local council, Redcar & Cleveland, has made decisions time and time again for the town without real consideration and regard for the residents, public opinion or the long term impacts of these decisions. All of them have been grand in scope, few, if any, have succeeded and those that have, have actually hastened the town’s decline (see here).

The latest of these grand follies is the so-called “vertical” pier:

Redcar Vertical Pier
A view of the

which is intended to replace the two piers original piers:

Coatham Pier was problem struck from day one and after a devastating boat strike in 1891 the pier itself was abandoned and replaced at the Pier head by a glass house for concerts, which in 1928 became the New Pavillion Theatre and in the 1960s was converted in the locally popular Regents Cinema.

Redcar Pier
The Original Redcar Pier

Redcar Pier fared much better, though was not without problems suffering boat strikes in the 1880s and 90s, it survived WW2 despite being weakened by a mine explosion and being sectioned. In the 1970s and 80s it suffered for a lack of maintenance after storm damage and was pulled down in 1981.

So now the very same council that demolished the pier now wants to undo the harm it did to Redcar nearly thirty years ago, for want of spending £155,000 then by spending upwards of £30m now or even as much as £50 million by the construction of this newly proposed “vertical” pier.

This was the same council that also pulled down Saltburn’s famous Ha’penny bridge for want of the cost of the maintenance:

Demolition of Penny Bridge
Saltburn's famous Ha'penny bridge being demolished.

And Now…

It seems to me that the “vertical” pier itself is a grand, egotistical statement by the Council that I believe is a reaction to the shaming humiliation the Council experienced at the hands of local protesters who fought them all the way to the Supreme Court of England to stop earlier plans to renovate Redcar by selling off part of the town’s seafront to Persimmion Homes for a controversial development. (See here).

And from the tone of Steven Goldswain’s tweets it seems that the council is having somewhat of a struggle putting together the funding for their folly and Mr. Goldswain has launched (or is promoting a site and a facebook fan page) that is petitioning the local MP Ian Swales to ask Mr. Cameron for the money to complete their folly. It was the content of this website that provoked my ire. And this is why:

The site starts by saying:

Whilst Ian Swales’ Liberal Democrats claim they want Redcar to have a pier, they are unwilling to find the money to build one.

and goes on to say:

This group has done some independent research of its own. The Lib Dems have been misleading people on the cost of a ‘traditional pier’. Cllr Chris Abbott claims a pier would only cost £3.1 million; yet, in reality, a pier with facilities comparable to those of the proposed ‘Vertical Pier’ would cost an amount close to £50,000,000. Weston-super-Mare’s replacement pier, recently built, cost over £51,000,000. Perhaps the figure of £3.1 million cited by the Lib Dems is little more than a political ploy?

“We can’t afford a pier unless MP Swales can get £50,000,000 for Redcar from his government”, said deputy council leader Sheelagh Clarke.

Thought they say they’ve done “independent” research of their own, they don’t provide any of this “independent” research on the site, instead prefering to rely on their own assertions and a statement from the deputy council leader; nor do they permit comments on the site or on the facebook fan page wall, both of which I found suspicious. So what of their claims?

The dismissal of of Cllr Chris Abbot’s assertion that a new traditional pier would only cost £3.1 million to build, this actually seems reasonable if you’re a local and recall that the Saltburn Pier was entirely dismantled and restored in 2000 at a cost of £1.2 million  (see here). They go on to justify this assertion by comparing the new “vertical” pier to the rebuilt Western-Super-Mare Pier, which they say costs some £51 millions to restore.

At this point they justify their assertion by saying that the “vertical” pier will have “facilities comparable” to that of Western-Super-Mare, though I didn’t see any details of a theme park being planned for the “vertical” pier, which cost £8-9 millions at Western-Super-Mare, within the council’s press release. The Guardian also reported the cost of the rebuild as £30 millions (see here), not £51 millions, and they had to deal with restoring a grade II listed pier.

There does indeed seem to be a lot of political smoke going about, however, it seems to be coming from this group and the Labour cabinet member; perhaps still smarting from the last election result where Mr. Swales was swept into power in one of the most significant swings in recent years against Labour in a traditional stronghold.

So what would I do?

Well I think if we have to have a pier, why can’t local residents have a traditional or rather a true pier (by definition) back? Personally I can say that it’d look quite handsome from my balcony’s sea view of Redcar, even though it might provide some competition for Saltburn. Even if it cost £3.1 millions, or even £5 millions, which I doubt, that’s a tenth of the cost of this project.

A birds eye view of the original Redcar pier.

Some of the money saved from the original budget could then be spent on improving the cohesion of Redcar overall by tying the town and the high street back into the sea front, something perhaps akin to the re-development proposed by local architects DKS during the competition. The council could also actively work with owners of derelict and closed properties along the front to help bring them back to life through generous loans and grants.

What I think Redcar needs is a helping hand, over a long period of time that would help businesses to get themselves back on their feet and make the seafront an attractive place to visit again. Such small, considered investments would not only be affordable but they would be infinitely more likely to succeed than a grand folly to this council’s arrogance.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.

CPS Charge 4 Police Officers with Assault

In a move that may bring hope to the Tomlinson family the Crown Prosecution Service has charged four police officers with assault over the December 2003 arrest of Mr. Babar Ahmad, an IT support analyst, in Tooting, South West London.

It is particularly shocking, however, that it took seven years from the date of the assault for the CPS to make this decision, though it did involve at least one reversal of a previous decision not to prosecute. Also the police officers remained on active duty throughout.

How is it right to have for either Mr. Ahmad or the police officers accused that this process took so long to be resolved? It doesn’t seem fair on either the alleged victim or the accused and demonstrates the problems at the heart of our justice system.

It also speaks to how long the problems with the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group, the same group from which the officer that assaulted Ian Tomlinson came from, maybe it is time that the Met abolish this group.

I write here in a strictly private capacity, my views do not represent those of my day job at Tees Valley Arts or my role as a CLP Secretary, and I'll try not to bring too much across from my freelance work. What you read and what you see here is what you get.