andrewgodsell

Tales from an author

Archive for the tag “Labour Party”

#WorldBookDay 2017

On World Book Day I thought I would post something that looks back to the start of my attempt to be writer – 30 years ago – and other things happening in the late 1980s.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsessive-Compulsive-Asperger-Andrew-Godsell/dp/1326877984/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488462109&sr=1-5&keywords=andrew+godsell

800px-westminster_palace-colour 

With bold ambition, I began writing A History of the Conservative Party on September 30 1985. As a member of the Labour Party, it seemed natural to plunge into literature with a critical history of the Conservatives, despite being aged only 20, and lacking any experience of writing for publication. I drew inspiration from Antonio Gramsci and Aneurin Bevan, two great Socialist politicians. Gramsci was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship in Italy. After his arrest, Gramsci wrote to Tatiana, sister of his wife, Julia Schucht: “I am obsessed by the idea that I ought to do something for ever. I want, following a fixed plan, to devote myself intensively and systematically to some subject that will absorb me and give a focus to my inner life”. This led to Gramsci writing the Prison Notebooks (between 1929 and 1935), which rank among the most profound political writings. Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, by which a ruling class asserts and reinforces its position, along with his advocacy of ways that the working class can counter this, have been a massive influence on Socialist thinking and action.

Bevan’s Why Not Trust the Tories? was published in 1944, when victory for Britain, and her allies, in the Second World War was in sight. He drew parallels between the contemporary situation and the position after the First World War, when a Conservative and Liberal coalition government proceeded to condemn the hopes of a nation to the scrapheap. Writing about Tory procrastination over development of the welfare state, Bevan suggested the approach was “Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today”. Several years later, I realised Bevan had borrowed this curious idea from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There. The White Queen offered Alice work as a maid, for “Twopence a week, and jam every other day”, going on to say “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today”. A Labour government took power in 1945, with a landslide election victory, and delivered the welfare state. The defining achievement of Labour was the National Health Service, with Bevan, a Marxist agitator, being the architect. The Conservatives responded with vehement opposition, voted against establishment of the NHS in Parliament, and have continued to undermine its principles.

My book, which would be published in 1989, demonstrated that the Conservative Party has merely acted as the representative of the ruling class, following reactionary, and anti-democratic, policies while displaying an incoherent political outlook. Amidst lots of adverse comment, the narrative had a single hero, with Disraeli being a man of imagination, who brought drama, and comedy, to politics. An unusually enlightened Conservative, Disraeli (albeit reluctantly, and out of opportunism) gave the vote to urban working class men (but not women) in 1867. I showed how wishful thinking by the Conservatives had credited him with developing the idea of “One Nation”. One of the many villains of the book was Margaret Thatcher, who approached the NHS, and other Labour achievements, with the rationality of the Queen of Hearts.

The book opened with the formation of the Conservative Party in 1830, and ended with the 1987 General Election – which meant the final part of the book covered events that unfolded as I wrote. Thatcher’s government discarded mone­tarism during the Autumn of 1985, realising it had failed, but maintained the general plan. Although there had been some economic improvement, mass unemployment was only gradually reduced. At the beginning of 1986, two Cabinet Ministers, Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan, resigned amidst a dispute over the ownership of the Westland helicop­ter company. Thatcher’s position appeared threatened by revelations about her role, but she survived the crisis. Work on the book about the Conservatives did not go as well as hoped, and I took a break, starting in February 1986.

I retained enthusiasm for writing and, within a few months, the 1986 World Cup finals prompted a decision to write a history of the competition. England made a poor start to the tournament, held in Mexico, before enjoying successive 3-0 victories against Poland – with a hat trick from Gary Lineker – and Paraguay). In the Quarter Finals, England lost 2-1 against Argentina, with Diego Maradona grabbing two goals within a few minutes, early in the second half. The first effort should have been disallowed for handball (the infamous “Hand of God”), but Maradona’s second goal was a brilliant solo effort. There was a late onslaught from England, in which Lineker scored, but it was too little, too late. Argentina went on to win the World Cup, beating West Germany 3-2 in the Final.

I began work on The World Cup on August 18, the day after returning from a visit to Portugal. I spent a week at Estoril, and took regular walks to the neighbouring town, Cascais. One lunchtime I enjoyed a variant on fish and chips, with the main part of the meal being fried swordfish. Having left the restaurant, I was chased down the road by a waiter. I thought that he thought that I had not paid the bill, but he was actually checking I was sure about the (slightly larger than usual) scale of the tip left in appreciation. In November I bought Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live / 1975-85, a five LP box set. One of the inner sleeves featured a photograph taken at a concert by Bruce, and the band, at Wembley in 1985, and I appeared in this picture, stood in the crowd – a wonderful link to a hero. The real highlight of this collection was the first release of Springsteen’s version of Because the Night, taken from a 1980 concert. Bruce’s rendition replaced Patti Smith’s performance of the song as my favourite record. During the latter part of 1986, I produced a mass of notes, and statistical material, for The World Cup. In the early months of the following year, I wrote the narrative section of the book, completing the process in May 1987.

As a Labour Party activist, I was involved in a General Election campaign for the first time in 1987, hoping we would prevent a repeat of the Conservative landslide of four years earlier. The outcome would subsequently be reported in the final passage of A History of the Conservative Party, which in turn is re-cycled as the remainder of the current paragraph. Thatcher called a General Election for June 11, and issued a Conservative manifesto entitled The Next Moves Forward. In the Foreword, Thatcher made the curious claim that her government was fulfilling the “One Nation” ideal. Thatcher led a poor campaign but, with the opposition weak, the Conservatives won 375 seats, Labour 229, the Alliance 22, and the others 24. The Conservatives retained power with a majority of 100 seats. Reconstruction of the govern­ment included the sacking of John Biffen, who had been Leader of the House of Commons. Biffen responded by saying that Thatcher’s government was Stalinist. As Thatcher entered her third term in office, the thinking of the Conservative Party was characteristically incoherent.

I went to Wembley, in August, for a match that marked the centenary of the Football League. A Football League selection beat a Rest of the World team 3-0, with two goals from Bryan Robson, and one from Norman Whiteside. I was thrilled to see Diego Maradona and Michel Platini play for the Rest of the World, combining magically in midfield. Pele was introduced to the teams prior to the match, as guest of honour. A few days later, I began a holiday at Funchal, on the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira. For Sunday lunch – far away from England – I ate up-market fish and chips, sat outdoors at a restaurant, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. A lovely meal could have been improved with a thematic cherry cake.

Back in England’s green and pleasant land, I attended the fourth day of the match that marked the bicentenary of the Marylebone Cricket Club, with an MCC team playing the Rest of the World. I returned to Lord’s the next day, only for play to be rained off. I will admit to being a bit pedantic sometimes (or more than sometimes). I once noticed that the 1986 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack incorrectly stated that Michael Mates, the first MP to score a century for the Lords and Commons team, represented Petersfield. In 1988 I corresponded with Graeme Wright, the editor of Wisden, and Mates, suggesting a note be put in the Errata section of a future Wisden, as Mates was MP for East Hampshire. Wisden and Mates each attributed the error to the other, but declined the idea of a correction. Mates gave his views in a scrawled handwritten letter. Wright stated electoral constituencies could be confusing, adding “a sound grounding in the works of Lewis Carroll would seem essential were one to take them seriously”.

My diary entry of Sunday October 18 1987 began with a promising event in my writing career, and moved on to the awful effects of the British hurricane:

Much has happened since my last entry – including the lights going out! On Thursday I was pleased to receive a letter from Collins Willow which suggests that they are interested in The World Cup, and wrote the reply that they asked for (giving biographical and bibliographical details). This seems to be a major breakthrough and I am excited about it. On Thursday night I went to bed only to be kept awake by a tremendous storm for literally hours.

On Friday I discovered the details of the storm. It had in fact been a hurricane. It has caused widespread damage throughout south east England. I saw some of the local damage, in our back garden, and in a short trip with dad in the car, followed by a walk back. We were without power from the early hours of Friday until Saturday breakfast time. I spent Friday evening alone by candlelight, having gone round the shops in the afternoon to get some candles. That afternoon I posted my letter to Collins Willow. I had always thought of hurricanes as something that occur in other countries, but not here. It appears that the last one to hit Britain with such force was way back in 1703. The damage done, and the loss of life, have been terrible. We lost power again shortly before I began this entry, and have yet to receive it back.

Collins Willow were part of William Collins, one of Britain’s largest publishers. Across a period of several months, leading into Spring of the following year, I had dialogue with Michael Doggart, an editor at Collins, who came close to offering to publish the book, before eventually deciding against this. The World Cup was rejected by a steady stream of publishers, although quite a few considered signing me up for their team.

After a break of two years, I returned to writing A History of the Conservative Party, in March 1988. I decided to leave Dresdner Bank, having worked there for more than four years, and have a spell in which temporary work would overlap with concerted effort to get a writing career underway. On my final day at the bank, May 13, I invited colleagues to join me for a drink-up at a pub. In an echo of my twenty first birthday celebration, I was visited by a stripagram lady. By leaving the bank, I exchanged a secure job for an uncertain future, but felt excited by the possibility of becoming a writer. When Benjamin Disraeli persuaded the Conservatives to take a gamble by passing the second Reform Act, in 1867, Lord Derby, Prime Minister and Party Leader, described the action as “a leap in the dark”. I was following the example of Disraeli, taking a personal leap.

In June I made my third visit to Yugoslavia, spending a week at Bol, a village on the island of Brac, in Croatia, accompanied by Phil, a friend I worked with at Dresdner. Brac was quiet, but picturesque, particularly the Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) beach near Bol, this being a promontory that emerges from a pine wood. At the hotel, Phil and I sampled a local drink, mishmash, composed of red wine sat on top of orange juice, with the two components kept separate in the glass. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band toured Britain in the Summer, and I saw two concerts, the first at Villa Park, in Birmingham, and the second at Wembley Stadium. Both shows featured Because the Night. The Wembley concert lasted three hours and 35 minutes, as Bruce sang 33 songs – including 10 encores, in response to loud, and lengthy, calls from the crowd for more songs.

A couple of months after leaving Dresdner, I resumed the role of something in the City. At intervals over the next two years, I worked on an agency basis for a long list of banks. These were London and Continental Bankers (British), Rabobank (Dutch), Sanwa Bank (Japanese), Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italian), Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (Japanese), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (you guessed), SDS Bank (which was Danish), Norddeutsche Landesbank (based in West Germany), Tokai Bank (Japanese), and Arab Banking Corporation (based in Bahrain, but jointly owned by the states of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Libya). I said it was a long list.

Dorothy Collings died of cancer on September 13 1988. Dorothy was a wonderful woman, who was to be sadly missed by her family, just as Ernest, her husband, had been. Following granny’s death, we learned that Ernest had been illegitimate, but con­cealed this. The revelation prompted resumption of work on my family history, put on hold a decade earlier. Helped by membership of the Society of Genealogists, I was able to discover a great deal of information over the next few years, taking my known ancestry back to the 1700s. Later progress, to earlier dates, will be outlined subsequently in this book (well it makes sense to me).

I visited France in October 1988, spending a long weekend in Paris with Phil. We visited historic sites, and I went to places of personal interest. At Montparnasse cemetery, I found the grave of Alexander Alekhine, a Russian who became a citizen of France. Alekhine was world chess champion from 1927 to 1935, and then 1937 until his death in 1946. I also followed in the footsteps of George Orwell, along the Rue du Pot de Fer, where he lived while writing his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (published in 1933). In December, the Clapham Junction train disaster caused the deaths of 35 people. I was very lucky not to be involved in the crash, as I regularly travelled to work on one of the trains that collided, but did not use it that particular day.

I attended an Amnesty International concert, at Wembley, in September 1988. The headline performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band followed impressive sets by Youssou N’Dour, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Sting. I became a member of Amnesty International, supporting the battle for human rights throughout the world. I also joined the Chile Solidarity Campaign, which participated in the struggle for the resto­ration of democracy in Chile. The country had ceased to be a democracy on September 11 1973, when Salvador Allende’s government, which was transforming Chile into a Socialist society, was overthrown by a military coup, and replaced by a Fascist dictatorship. The achievements of Chile’s Socialist government provided a great deal of inspiration for the British left, and Allende was one of my political heroes. At this time I voted in a Labour Party Leadership contest, supporting Tony Benn, as he was a com­mitted Socialist intent on a clear programme of radical reform in Britain, but Neil Kinnock won. During the Spring of 1989, I attended the annual general meeting of Chile Solidarity, chaired by Judith Hart, a Labour MP dedicated to Socialist causes. I also stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Hampshire County Council Election.

In May 1989 a publishing company offered to publish The World Cup. This was followed by a cruel change of fortune, as a few days later the company mysteriously changed their mind. Refusing to be beaten, on the day I learned of the rejection, I set to work on producing an expanded version of the book. During June, I saw England beat Poland 3-0 in a World Cup match. Prior to this I had seen England draw 0-0 with Sweden, and beat Albania 5-0, in their 1990 World Cup qualifying campaign. In the space of a few days, either side of England’s match against Poland, I saw concerts by Elvis Costello and Lou Reed. Elvis Costello performed a solo acoustic set at the Royal Albert Hall, in which the highlight was an amazing Alison. Lou Reed’s show at the London Palladium (a venue that looks better on television than it really is) started with his playing most of the songs from the recently-released New York album, one of the peaks in a long career. This was followed by earlier material, including Rock and Roll plus Sweet Jane, from the Velvet Underground days, and Walk on the Wild Side. The back cover of the New York album had a note from Reed, advising “It’s meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs!) listening, as though it were a book or a movie”. Lou Reed, who died in 2013, was a great role model, with the gift of self-parody (too often under-rated).

There was a rapid return to the electoral front, in a Hart District Council By-Election. On polling day, the Labour candidate was midway through a holiday, at Playa de las Americas in Tenerife. Phil and I climbed the peak of Mount Teide, besides spending long nights in the bars and discos of our town. Here is a diary account, written on June 16, of helter skelter events:

As the polls were closing in Britain last night, Phil and I were off for what proved to be a remarkable night. The first stop was a pub called the Waikiki. After the Waikiki we went to a couple of other places. At one of these I got talking to a soldier. He told me about being shot twice by the IRA. I decided not to get into an argument about Ireland. The early hours of this morning saw our daily visit to the Crow’s Nest. At this venue I found myself dancing at one point with about eight girls. It seemed fun at first, but events took an unfortunate turn. These girls literally ripped my shirt off, and refused to return the torn remnants. It was the shirt I got in exchange for my spare Bruce Springsteen ticket, at Birmingham last year. I did not wear the shirt much, but I am annoyed at having lost it. The girls tried to take my jeans off. I managed to restrain them. I then left the disco. I waited outside to see if Phil would follow. When he did not I walked back to the apartment alone. The man at the reception reluctantly gave me our key, complaining that I should have been wearing a shirt.

Phil soon returned and we exchanged stories. He said that while I was being attacked he was snogging with a girl he had met. Her friend wanted to meet me when Phil said it was I who had been attacked, but I was by now gone. Phil also bumped into the soldier we had met earlier. Phil managed to knock the soldier’s pint of lager all over the pool table. Besides buying a replacement drink, Phil had to pay the barman the cost of damaging the pool table. The good news of the night is that Phil arranged to meet the two girls he was with. We are due to meet them at the same venue at midnight tonight. Walking home from the Crow’s Nest last night I felt demoralised, but Phil’s story brightened me up. Today we have been able to look back on last night as quite funny. It was certainly different.

Immediately after the holiday, I arranged publication of The World Cup with Nimrod Press, based at Alton, in Hampshire. I was delighted with my bouncebackability. Is that a real word? If not, it should be. I soon completed re-writing the book, which was scheduled to appear in the Autumn. Continuing research included trips to the headquarters of the Football Association, in London, having arranged access to the library with its custodian, David Barber. On one visit, as I sat in the reception of the Football Association, admiring a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy, Graham Kelly, the Chief Executive, walked through, casting a disapproving look at the casually-dressed young man, who had somehow been admitted to the plush building. I corresponded with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), based in Switzerland, and received positive letters from Guido Tognoni, head of public relations. In the light of points I made, FIFA corrected errors in the official World Cup statistics. My efforts were also recognised by a freebie from FIFA, as I received a set of postcards, combining reproductions of publicity posters for each World Cup tournament, and match statistics.

 

 

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The Labour Plotters and the Appalling Treatment of a Mentally Ill Man

It is day 21 of my suspension from the Labour Party. I am one of thousands of supporters of Jeremy Corbyn suspended by a right wing clique at party HQ, who are continuing the work of the PLP plotters trying to bring down a leader overwhelmingly elected a year ago. The treatment of myself, and thousands of other loyal Labour Party members, by cynical careerists is sickening.

Here is an email I sent to the party today.

Hello

I write to complain about the appalling way I have been treated by the Labour Party, from which I have now been suspended for 21 days without evidence. I have been a loyal party member for 32 years, but am now alienated by arbitrary suspension, and this is severely affecting my already precarious mental health.

I have today spoken at length on the telephone with Jack from Compliance. I began by explaining that, further to several previous emails (see below for some of these) and telephone calls, I wished answers to a series of points. This is a summary of what happened today.

1 I said I spoke to Compliance 5 days ago, at which point I was told that my challenge to the supposed evidence – Retweeting messages I did not Retweet – would be looked at soon, and the suspension lifted if they agreed with me. When I asked for an update, Jack said “it is impossible to give a timescale for this process”.

2 As I have Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, long-term mental health conditions, I feel I should be entitled to expect reasonable adjustments, in accordance with the Equality Act, in the way that the Labour Party deals with my appeal against suspension. This view is supported by the Equality Advisory Support Service, with whom I have discussed the situation. Jack said he was unable to comment, but had noted my point, and would pass it to somebody dealing with my appeal.

3 I have not received a response to my email of August 27, asking about a subject access request in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1988. It is an offence under the Act for an organisation such as the Labour Party to process a person’s data in a way which causes distress. I therefore intended to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Jack said he was unable to comment, but had noted my point, and would pass it to somebody dealing with my appeal.

4 I had previously been told by Compliance that suspension appeals would not be heard until after the leadership election. This was not true, as Ronnie Draper was given a personal hearing on September 9, and his suspension was lifted that day. As I had been suspended a day before Ronnie Draper, and immediately launched an appeal, it was reasonable to expect that I should have been given an appeal hearing by now. Jack said this was not the case, but he needed to get advice from a colleague. Jack then said “nobody in Compliance will be able to speak on individual cases, including Mr Draper’s case”.

5 Pamela Fitzgerald had her suspension lifted on September 9, without needing an appeal hearing. I suggested this could be followed by my suspension being lifted without the need for a hearing. Jack said he would not comment on this.

6 I noticed on Twitter yesterday that one member of the party remains suspended but have been told they can vote in the leadership election. First Jack said this was not true. I pressed, saying that there had been quite a bit of material about this on Twitter, including some of the correspondence between the member and the party. I felt this set a precedent for other suspended members, including myself, being allowed to vote. Jack said “there is no such thing as a precedent”, which I remarked did not sound factually correct. Jack said he needed to get advice from a colleague. Then Jack said that, regardless of the truth or otherwise of the particular situation I had mentioned, he could not comment.

In summary, I felt that in view of my loyal party membership, the lack of evidence for the suspension, the number of times I had contacted the party about the matter, and my mental health, it was reasonable to expect a guarantee that the matter would be resolved in the next few days, a timescale that would enable me to vote in the leadership election.

Jack now said “Just because you have phoned and spoken to me, you cannot jump the queue.”  I reminded Jack of the points I had just made, and pointed out it was unreasonable for him to make his suggestion.

Jack said he had spoken to me at length, but Compliance did not have time to look at my case at the moment. I said that it would save time on future phone calls and emails if somebody in Compliance would spend a few minutes looking at the supposed evidence, and lift the suspension. Jack said he could not guarantee any progress with my appeal ahead of the leadership ballot closing.

By this point I was getting so anxious that I told Jack I was having trouble getting the words out.

Jack said he understood and sympathised with my position, but “my hands are tied, and I can only tell you what I have already said, because that is what I have been told to do”.

I asked Jack if he could pass the call to somebody else, who had the authority to do something more specific, given the circumstance I had outlined. Jack said he had been told not to pass the call on, and that he now had to terminate the call. Jack then became the third person from Compliance to put the phone down on me.

I again ask, please can somebody deal with this promptly and fairly?

Thank you

Andrew Godsell

 

 

Why NOT Trust the CONservatives?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Trust-Conservatives-Andrew-Godsell/dp/1326209159/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473680557&sr=1-6

Sadly almost all of my political energy in recent weeks has been used fighting against suspension from the Labour Party. Among the many annoying aspects of the situation, it is taking me away from one of the things I do best, namely attack the Conservative Party. To partly redress the balance, thought I would post the final chapter of my critical history of the Conservatives, a book published last year. So here are my thoughts on a decade of Dodgy Dave as leader of the Nasty Party.

 We Are All in This Together 2005-2015

The Labour Party defeated the Conservatives in a third successive General Election on May 5 2005, obtaining a majority of 66. Labour won 356 seats, the Conservatives 198, the Liberal Democrats 62, and the others 30. The day after the Election, Michael Howard announced his decision to stand down as Conservative Leader. Following a review of the rules for Leadership elections, which did not lead to any changes, a contest began in October. Two ballots led to David Cameron and David Davis advancing, while Liam Fox and Kenneth Clarke were eliminated. The vote among party members saw Cameron defeat Davis by 68 per cent to 32 per cent. Cameron – educated at Eton and caught smoking cannabis there – had only been an MP since 2001. He struggled to establish a strong image as Leader of the Conservatives, being criticised by many for his relative inexperience, and faced difficulty uniting the party. A veneer of socially-conscious Conservatism alienated the right, despite Cameron’s clear Eurosceptism.

Tony Blair stepped down as Prime Minister in 2007, and was replaced by Gordon Brown, the new Labour Leader, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer for the 10 years of Blair’s premiership. At the same time John Prescott ceased to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, but Harriet Harman, who replaced him in that role, was not accorded the additional position of Deputy Prime Minister by Brown. The premiership of Brown was undermined by the onset of an international banking crisis in 2007, which developed into a global recession, and the biggest crisis of capitalism since the depression of the 1930s. With the Labour government struggling to deal with a budget crisis, as vast amounts of public money were used to rescue private sector banks, Cameron and the Conservatives gained ground. In June 2009 the Conservatives won the European Union election, with 25 seats, while UKIP took 13 seats, Labour 13, the Liberal Democrats 11, and the others 10. The Conservatives now resumed their link with the Ulster Unionists, running a joint campaign in the Northern Ireland section of this election.

Public confidence in the British political system was severely reduced by the scandal of MPs making excessive, and often illegal, claims for expenses. A campaign by the Daily Telegraph, during 2009, highlighted failings by both Conservative and Labour MPs. After requests under the Freedom of Information Act had been blocked, due to lengthy resistance by MPs, the Telegraph leaked information. The newspaper largely used the expenses detail against the Labour Party, and in favour of the Conservatives. Being outside the public sector, the Daily Telegraph was exempt from Freedom of Information, and did not have to disclose how much, and to whom, it paid for the leaked detail. It subsequently transpired that the Telegraph bought the information for £150,000 from John Wick, a supporter of the Conservative Party, with former links to the security services. The deal was agreed by Will Lewis, the editor of the Telegraph, who moved the following year to News International.

The electoral pact between the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists led to an embarrassing rejection, as Sylvia, Lady Hermon, the only sitting Ulster Unionist MP, resigned from the party in March 2010. The reluctant Unionist alliance failed to win any seats at the subsequent General Election, and the pact was soon discontinued. That General Election, held on May 6 2010, led to a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives having 307 seats, Labour 258, the Liberal Democrats 57, and the others 28. The Conservative Party had failed to win a majority for a fourth successive General Election, which represented their worst sequence of results since the six successive defeats between 1847 and 1868. After several days of negotiations between parties, Gordon Brown and the Labour government departed from office, being replaced by a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition. David Cameron became the Prime Minister, while Nick Clegg was his Deputy – a Con-Dem double act. Cameron, aged 43, was the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool, a Tory who took office in 1812.

The government quickly set about massive public spending cuts, with the Conservatives using a budget deficit as an excuse to attack public services. Cameron and the government told people “we are all in this together”, but the continuing problems of recession, aggravated by austerity, had a disproportionate impact on people with lower incomes, while the Conservatives rewarded rich people with massive tax cuts. The policy was overseen by George Osborne, a complacent Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had inherited a multi-million pound fortune. Unemployment increased to almost 2,700,000 by the end of 2011 – the highest figure since 1994.

A messy compromise between the Conservatives, who opposed electoral reform, and the Liberal Democrats, who had long been in favour of some reform, led to a referendum on the generally unsatisfactory Alternative Vote, in May 2011. The electorate rejected AV by 68 per cent to 32 per cent, a result which damaged the cause of electoral reform. Later that year the Coalition carried legislation to set a fixed term of five years for Parliament – unless there was a vote of no confidence in the government, or a majority vote of two thirds of MPs in favour of an early election. It appeared that the main motive was a wish by the Coalition government to bind the two parties making up the alliance, with a law that would force them to remain together, in power, for five years.

The Coalition government’s policies had an adverse effect on both the National Health Service and Sure Start. The Health and Adult Social Care Act 2012 led to major reorganisation of the National Health Service, with the Conservatives undermining the service through fragmentation and privatisation. Dozens of the Conservative MPs who voted for the legislation benefitted financially, through links to private health companies, which won contracts as parts of the NHS were sold off. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 unfairly disadvantaged many benefit claimants, particularly with the introduction of an under-occupancy penalty, generally known as the Bedroom Tax. Major cuts to Legal Aid were also imposed. In the light of these events, the Conservatives were regularly reminded of the “nasty party” tag by the Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband, who replaced Gordon Brown in 2010.

The Conservative Party, along with their friends in UKIP, whipped up hysteria about immigration, undermining Britain’s multi-cultural society. Internal argument among Conservatives over Britain’s role in the European Union continued to influence the party leadership. At the start of 2013, David Cameron announced that a referendum on British membership of the EU would be held if the Conservatives won the next General Election. The death of Margaret Thatcher, in April 2013, led to widespread re-assessment of her legacy. While Conservatives lauded Thatcher as a saviour of Britain, many people saw that Thatcher had encouraged a form of capitalism that was in crisis, sold off important public assets, and divided the nation. A lasting effect of Thatcher’s policies was a drop in the level of support for the Conservatives, who only gained a majority in one out of the five General Elections between 1992 and 2010. In the Summer of 2013, the Coalition government’s plan for armed intervention in the civil war in Syria was defeated in a vote by the House of Commons, as the Labour Party led the argument against this course. Cameron, who misjudged the situation, had to pledge that the government accepted the will of Parliament.

In May 2014 the Conservatives were reduced to third place in the European Union election, with 19 seats. UKIP won the election with 24 seats ahead of Labour, who took 20 seats. The Liberal Democrats were left with a single MEP, while the other parties won 9 seats. After a protracted and damaging trial, Andy Coulson, formerly director of communications for David Cameron, was convicted of previously organising phone-hacking at the News of the World – part of the News International group – and sent to prison in July 2014. Cameron’s judgment in appointing Coulson, who had already been under suspicion, was questioned. July brought another scandal, with credible allegations that Conservative MPs were active in a paedophile ring, during the Thatcher administration, prompting Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to announce an inquiry into historic allegations of child abuse. The chair of the enquiry, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, had to step down a few days after her appointment, due to public pressure, as her brother, Michael Havers, had been Attorney General in the Thatcher government.  Following this May blundered again, appointing Dame Fiona Woolf, who also resigned as chair, due to her friendship with Leon Brittan, who was accused of suppressing a dossier about paedophile MPs in 1984, when he was Home Secretary.

    An independence referendum was held in Scotland, on the initiative of the Scottish National Party administration. In the weeks leading up to polling in September 2014, the Conservatives were worried that the outcome would be a vote for independence. With the Tories and Liberal Democrats unpopular in Scotland, the government was reduced to leaving much of the detailed campaigning against independence to the Labour Party, with Gordon Brown taking centre-stage. The referendum rejected independence, at this point, by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The government committed British forces to take part in air strikes against the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq, having received backing from the House of Commons in September. Meanwhile British military activity in Afghanistan reached an end, 13 years after this action, led by the USA, was started under Tony Blair’s government.

During the Autumn two sitting Conservative MPs, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, defected to UKIP, and were returned to Parliament for the latter party at By-Elections. Nigel Farage, the reckless UKIP Leader, fanned fruitless speculation about other MPs defecting from the Conservative Party – which he had once been a member of. Many people were concerned about the openly racist, xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic comments regularly made by prominent members of UKIP. Besides a cynical approach to Europe, UKIP had an extreme outlook, bordering on Fascism. In 2006 Cameron said “UKIP is sort of a bunch of fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”. After ruling out a Conservative pact with UKIP across several years, Cameron changed his mind in Autumn 2014. There was growing support among members of the Conservative Party and UKIP for the idea that, in the event of another hung Parliament, the right wing parties should work together. In late 2014, and the early part of 2015, Liberal Democrat members of the government, anticipating the forthcoming General Election, sought to distance themselves from the Conservatives. There was clear evidence that the Coalition was failing to deal effectively with the budget deficit, and national debt. The Coalition reorganisation of the NHS had left it in crisis, and the Labour Party’s rescue plan was growing in popularity.

After 13 years out of power, as Labour won three successive General Elections, the Conservatives sought to re-create Thatcherism. Cameron was portrayed by supporters as a modern Conservative, in touch with ordinary people. The reality of Cameron’s premiership was continuation of old themes, which had motivated the Conservative Party since its foundation in 1830. For nearly two centuries, the Conservative Party has been run by the wealthy and powerful, with the party focussed on keeping those people wealthy and powerful. The rich benefitted in a limited recovery from capitalist crisis after 2010 but, for most people, Britain was a poorer place, both morally and financially, under the Conservatives.

Labour HQ say suspensions not being investigated until AFTER leadership ballot

Today has brought official confirmation from the Labour Party of the scenario many people feared. Having prevented thousands of Corbyn supporters from voting in the leadership election, with draconian suspensions, the anti-Corbyn clique at headquarters are blocking members from an appeal process that could allow their votes to be reinstated. This is a travesty of party democracy, and an insult to thousands of loyal Labour people.

I finally received an email from the compliance department at Labour headquarters today, but this merely repeated the vague suspension letter.

I replied as follows:

Hello

I do not feel that your email really deals with the issues that I have raised in a series of five emails sent to the Labour Party, between August 25 and August 31, contesting my suspension. I presume you have the emails on record, but can re-send them if required.

To summarise my position:

1 As a loyal member of the Labour Party for 32 years, I am aggrieved that I have been suspended, on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations about comments on Twitter. Suspending me on this basis is contrary to natural justice. I have been found guilty without trial.

2 The suspension letter mentions an investigation, but does not give a timescale for this, and I have not been contacted by regional office. I seek an assurance that a decision on my suspension will be made in time for me to vote in the leadership election, assuming that the suspension is lifted.

3 I had a telephone conversation with the compliance department on August 30, having been told, in line with NEC guidance, that they would provide me with the evidence on which I had been suspended. Compliance said the evidence would be emailed to me, but I have not received it.

4 I have Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, long-term mental health conditions, and feel I should be entitled to expect reasonable adjustments, in accordance with the Equality Act, in the way that the Labour Party deals with my appeal against suspension. The suspension is adding to my anxiety. I feel that the Labour Party’s delay in dealing with the appeal is disadvantaging myself as a disabled person. I have been deprived of my vote in the current leadership election, thereby infringing on my right to take part in the democratic political processes in Britain.

I am copying this email to X, who was part of the NEC panel looking at possible suspensions, and argued against the suspension of myself.

This is the tenth day of my suspension, I renew the request for fair treatment, along with a prompt and detailed response to the points I have raised.

Thank you

Andrew Godsell


The compliance department responded:

Dear Andrew,

Thanks for getting in touch.

As I said in my email below, the investigating officer will be in touch in due course but this will not be before the conclusion of the leadership election. The is due to the extra work the election creates for staff, meaning we do not have the resources to complete investigations in this timescale. Unfortunately I am unable to give you an exact date as to when you will be contacted.

If you have requested the evidence that your suspension is based on, this will be sent to you in 5 working days from the date you requested it.

We will of course make reasonable adjustments for disabilities, I would advise you to let the investigating officer know when they contact you of any reasonable adjustments you require and why will do their best to accommodate these.

All the best,

Can anyone “guarantee the integrity” of the Labour leadership ballot?  

 

More than a week after thousands of Corbyn supporters were suspended from the Labour Party on spurious pretexts, there is sadly no evidence that the clique at party HQ are interested in an appeals process.

For me this is day 9 of the suspension. I have sent 5 emails to the party HQ, none of which has received a reply. I have also had a telephone conversation, which led to a vague assurance that the evidence on which I am suspended would be sent in a few days.

Countless other people are reporting the same stalling of their appeals. I am not aware of anybody who has been told a timescale for their appeal to be heard.

I continue to work with other suspended members to battle against this. We are building momentum, and it is sign of the interest in the campaign that this series of Blog posts have been viewed over 11,000 times in the last few days.

Seeking a new angle, I telephoned Electoral Reform Services today, and followed up with an email detailing our discussion – set out below:

Thank you for the information you provided in our telephone conversation today. As I said, I understand your position that Electoral Reform Services are limited in what you as an organisation are able to do in respect of the Labour Party leadership ballot, but wished to register my concerns in writing.

Would it be fair to paraphrase you in stating that the role of ERS is to issue ballots to people the Labour Party has advised you are entitled to vote, count the votes, and report the outcome to Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party, who is the returning officer for the leadership election?

Below are the series of emails I have sent to the Labour Party appealing against the suspension of membership, which has led to my leadership ballot vote being removed. I have not received a reply to these emails. I do not have any indication of the timescale in which my suspension will be investigated. I therefore fear that there will not be time for my vote to be reinstated before the final ballot reissues take place on September 14, a week prior to the ballot closing on September 21.

I mentioned media reports that a group of people at Labour Party headquarters are seeking to disadvantage Jeremy Corbyn, by looking for evidence upon which to suspend party members planning to vote for him. You confirmed that ERS are aware of these reports.

My Labour Party membership number is xxxxxxx. Are you able to advise whether the Labour Party initially advised you that I was due a ballot paper? If so, at what point were you told that my vote had been removed?

Your website states:

Electoral Reform Services is the UK’s leading independent supplier of ballot and election services

Our expertise is recognised worldwide and our status as an independent scrutineer of voting is authorised by the UK Parliament.

Our election and voter registration services are also used by most of the UK’s local authorities.

Each year we help thousands of organisations hold their own ballot, election, vote, survey or referendum. Some have fewer than a hundred voters; others have more than a million; but all choose Electoral Reform Services to guarantee the integrity and independence of their ballot process.

In view of the way in which the Labour Party has arranged the ballot, I believe that the ability of ERS to “guarantee the integrity” of the current leadership ballot cannot be certain.

Please could I have an email response to the points I have raised here.

Thank you

Andrew Godsell

 

Labour Suspension Telephone Call

Yesterday I felt a positive, having obtained detail of the Labour suspension appeal process. Today has brought a bizarre and frustrating development, as I telephoned party HQ. The email I sent after the call will form a large part of this post.

On a brighter note, many people are sharing links to this series of Blog posts on Twitter and Facebook.

My Blog posts have been viewed 6,400 times in just 5 days.

One lady has kindly told John McDonnell on Twitter that “Andrew Godsell has been working tirelessly to get suspension appeal info”.

So that is where I am on day 7 of the suspension – more to follow, but here is the email.

 

Hello

Further to emails below I have today telephoned, and spoken to X in the compliance department.

I said I had been suspended from the Labour Party, and been advised that if I telephoned I would be told the reason for the suspension.

X said the reason is on the suspension letter.

I said the letter only mentioned allegations about comments on Twitter, and I understood, from guidance sent to NEC members, that if I telephoned I would be told the exact detail of which comments had led to the suspension.

X said this would be emailed to me, probably two days from now.

I said I was frustrated that after several emails and telephone calls in recent days I was still not being given the opportunity to look at the exact detail, believing this could be sent as soon as I called. I asked if there was a manager, or anybody else I could speak to, to get the detail today.

X said there was not anybody else there who would tell me anything different to what she had said, and there was not a manager available.

I said I was not happy with that, after 32 years of loyal party membership, during which I had stood as a Labour candidate for local council elections several times, I had been suspended due to allegations about Twitter comments. I had phoned as I had been advised to do, and was now met with more delay.

X said she would check with a colleague.

A moment later, X said she had spoken to a manager, who said the detail would be emailed to me in three or four days.

I asked X why the timescale had moved from 2 days to 3 or 4 days, and how she had been told this by a manager when there was not a manager there.

I again asked to speak to a manager, but X now returned to telling me there was not a manager there. X added she had been told not to pass the call to a manager.

I asked for the name of the person who advised X that I could not speak to a manager.

X said she would not tell me the name of that person, and would not take the call any further, whereupon she put the phone down.

All of this leaves me feeling increasingly frustrated and upset. I suffer from Asperger Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and the unjustified actions of the Labour Party in suspending me are currently making my condition worse. I have been unable to focus on anything apart from battling against suspension for several days. I have been contacted by other Labour Party members with mental health conditions, who share my anxiety on this issue. I am also aware that complaints about misuse of data by the party have been submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

I am copying this email to Y, a member of the National Executive Committee.

Please can I have a prompt reply from somebody advising how this will be resolved.

Thank you

 

Suspended from the Labour Party Day 4

We have built a mass movement Labour Party, with around 600,000 members, ready to defeat the Tories, but a small group of people at the headquarters are suspending people, removing their vote in the leadership election, causing a lot of resentment and demoralisation.

Back again, with another update.

On Twitter I have described this as Day 4 of suspension by the Labour NEC from the Big Brother House.

There has been much Tweeting today, sharing ideas and support with other people fighting the Labour Party purge. Things are being planned with other purged supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

My initial Blog post about suspension has been viewed over a thousand times in 48 hours.

Following on from the appeal against suspension, I have sent another email to the General Secretary of the Labour Party today – as follows:

Mr McNicol 

Further to my email below, I wish to make a subject access request in accordance with section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1988 

Please can you advise the process for my obtaining copies of all the searchable material the Labour Party holds on myself. 

I am particularly interested in finding out the specific detail of the allegations that led to my suspension, the person/s who made allegations, and the process whereby they were considered before you suspended me from the Labour Party.

Thank you

I shall return soon, hopefully with more progress.

 

 

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