Labour leader Ed Miliband denied accusations he supported “bullies” or was a “coward” after an attack by disgruntled party members on a visit to the North-East.
Mr Miliband gave a speech and took questions from the public on a visit to Redcar, a town which the party hopes to take from the Liberal Democrats in May’s General Election.
He offered a vision of better jobs, fairer employment rights and more power and money for the region – but the event was overshadowed by a protest from former party loyalists.
The demonstration outside Redcar and Cleveland College, where the Labour leader was speaking, was led by former long-standing Labour leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, George Dunning, who brandished a banner saying ‘Does Miliband Support Bullies?’.
Cllr Dunning, a trade-unionist and former steelworker, and ten other councillors were deselected by the party earlier this year.
The councillors went on to resign from the Labour Party saying they had been “bullied.”
Cllr Dunning’s former deputy leader, Sheelagh Clarke, went further, branding Mr Miliband “a coward.”
“He called Cameron a coward because the Prime Minister won’t take part in the TV debates. But he can’t find a quick minute to talk to eight, nine or ten of us ordinary people. How can he be leader of our country if he can’t talk to a few ordinary people? It is cowardly.”
Mr Miliband said he was offering “a big plan” for the region which included increasing the minimum wage, more apprenticeships for youngsters, an end to ‘zero hours’ contracts and more high quality jobs. A key area where the economy could be boosted and high paid jobs created was green energy, he said, which with some Government investment and encouragement could be a major asset to the North-East.
Earlier, Mr Miliband welcomed the improved employment figures, with 45,000 new jobs created in the region since Labour lost power in 2010, but said many were “low paid, insecure and not good enough.”
But in much of his question and answer session with about 200 members of the public he focused on what he would do for young people, including guaranteeing apprenticeships for 18-year-olds and lowering university tuition fees.
Asked about the decline in Durham Tees Valley Airport he promised a future Labour Government would “look at the whole issue of regional airports.”
One Teesside woman spoke movingly of having to leave work for eight months to look after her severely ill, 11-year-old daughter with various authorities declining to offer support, while another talked of having to look after four grandchildren and having to give up her home.
Mr Miliband received his biggest round of applause after publicly thanking the women for their “incredibly important work” and said it was an issue the party was already looking at.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Mar 2015
Four North-East Labour MPs have urged Ed Miliband to swing to the Left and rip up his “tragic” commitment to further deep spending cuts.
Grahame Morris (Easington), Ian Mearns (Gateshead), Dave Anderson (Blaydon) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) are among 16 rebels issuing the challenge to their leader.
Their alternative election manifesto demands:
* A £30bn investment package – an “alternative way out of endless austerity” – funded either by higher borrowing, the state-owned banks, or a levy on the super-rich.
The MPs call on Mr Miliband to exploit 0.5 per cent interest rates, arguing it would cost just £150m a year to finance the package – which they say would create more than a million jobs, within three years.
Instead, they say: “All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20.”
* Rail nationalisation, by taking train operating franchises back into public ownership when they expire.
The MPs reject Labour’s plan to allow not-for-profit firms to bid for franchises, condemning it as timid and “wholly unnecessary”.
They claim privatisation costs £1.2bn a year, adding: “Over 80 per cent of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.”
* Stronger trade union and employment rights, with a return to collective bargaining “as a check against excessive corporate power”.
The alternative manifesto blames the disappearance of union-negotiated agreements for a sharp fall in the share of national income going to salaries and wages – from 65 per cent in 1980, to 53 per cent in 2012.
And it says: “We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.”
The move laid bare how Mr Miliband will struggle to carry his party to make the deep spending cuts planned, even if he wins a small majority in May.
The left-wing group of MPs are keen to take advantage of the rise of the anti-austerity Green Party and of the SNP to push Labour in a more radical direction.
Meanwhile, Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has made repeated threats to establish a new workers’ party if Labour loses after offering a “pale shade of austerity”.
Last year, Mr McCluskey urged the likes of Mr Morris, Mr Mearns and Mr Lavery to “put the brakes” on Ed Miliband if he tries to take Labour to the right
> Even further to the right, I think he means…
It followed the trio’s criticism of Labour support for an overall welfare cap and vote against compulsory unpaid work experience.
Source – Northern Echo, 26 Jan 2015
Labour leader Ed Miliband has announced plans to scrap the House of Lords as it currently exists and replace it with an elected “Senate” – with members representing the regions of England as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Every region will be guaranteed a fair share of representation in the new senate, Mr Miliband said.
A paper by researchers in the House of Lords itself warned that the North East was under-represented.
The study, published earlier this year, found there were 21 peers whose main place of residence was the North East, compared with 152 who lived in London, 114 who lived in the South East and 63 who lived in the South West.
House of Lords reform has been a difficult issue for both Labour and the Conservative Party since the majority of hereditary peers were removed in 1999. There has been widespread agreement that further changes are needed, but little agreement on what those changes should be.
Under Mr Miliband’s plan, senators will represent large regions and nations to ensure they to not step on the toes of MPs, who will continue to represent constituencies.
A Labour government would hold a constitutional convention to debate precisely what powers the new senate should have and how senators should be elected.
However, proposals published today suggest some form of proportional representation would be used.
The convention will also consider whether there should be rules to ensure potential senators can only stand for election in a region they have lived or worked in for a number of years.
Labour says the proposals complement plans announced yesterday to devolve power to regions, including a proposed English Regional Cabinet Committee which would be chaired by the Prime Minister, and attended by the relevant Secretaries of State and leaders from the major English cities and county regions.
A Labour government would also introduce new laws to ensure councils can seize control of bus services without fear of a legal challenge, giving them a role setting fares and timetable similar to the one played by the Greater London Authority in the capital.
And Labour would also pass an English Devolution Act, enshrining in law new powers for local councils and combined authorities to manage funding for transport and housing, further education and support for employers, as well as giving them a formal role in commissioning health and social care.
Speaking at Labour’s North-West Regional Conference in Blackpool on Saturday, Mr Miliband said:
“I am announcing plans to give the regions and nations greater power and a stronger voice in Westminster too.
“When people say that they are turned off from politics and that it doesn’t represent them, we have to do something about it.”
“London is our capital and one of the world’s great cities but it cannot be right London has more members of the House of Lords than the East Midlands, West Midlands, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber added together.
“We will make the second chamber of Parliament truly a Senate of the Regions and Nations of our whole country.”
Tories are pushing their own plans to devolve power, with Chancellor George Osborne urging regions to create powerful mayors.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 Nov 2014
Union leaders are right to axe funds for Labour MPs who will not back them, a North East MP has said.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, chair of the trade union group of Labour MPs, has said party leader Ed Miliband needs to realise the importance of having unions put the views of ordinary people into the party.
Labour’s left-wing powerbase in the North East has increasingly sided with the unions since Mr Miliband announced last year his intention to reform links with the party paymasters.
Now Wansbeck MP Mr Lavery has said Unite is right to stop paying out to MPs who will not back it.
Unite is paying out £3,000 a time to Labour MPs who backed the unions when party leader Mr Miliband proposed axing historic links.
That includes £3,000 for Easington’s Grahame Morris, who penned an article warning that “Miliband’s plans for the party’s affiliated trade union members are fraught with danger.”
They also handed funds to Blaydon MP Dave Anderson. The former union chairman said in the run-up to Mr Miliband’s union showdown that the party was busying itself with “navel-gazing” and had ended up “facing a period of review and a costly, time-consuming conference” instead of campaigning for votes.
Another £3,000 went to Gateshead MP Ian Mearns.
The MP was among those who refused to follow Labour party orders when he spoke out against the party’s plans to back the Tory cap on welfare payments.
Mr Lavery – “In recent times some members of parliament have sought to distance themselves from the trade unions and their members.
“They are very much entitled to do so. However, the unions are quite entitled to react by withdrawing constituency finance.
“I think it is basic, why would a union wish to expend its members’ money supporting MPs who don’t support them. It would be quite a ludicrous situation.”
Mr Lavery was building on his speech at Unite’s annual conference in Liverpool, where he said: “A lot of these MPs believe it was the Labour Party that introduced the trade unions rather than the fact that it was ordinary working people in trade unions that formed the Labour Party.
“At the beginning of the 1900s there were huge problems with the health service — we didn’t have the NHS. There were huge problems with wages, terms and conditions, with poverty, with child poverty.
“That’s why the Labour Party was formed — to give a voice to ordinary people in Parliament. That’s what the party leader should remember.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 July 2014
Ed Miliband is facing a damaging revolt by North-East Labour MPs who believe his economic rescue plans for the region are feeble and doomed to fail.
Senior MPs argue a ‘growth review’ – led by Lord Adonis, the former transport secretary – will repeat the Coalition’s blunders and fail to deliver the power and money badly needed.
They are urging Mr Miliband to bring back a slimmed-down development agency and, crucially, install a powerful figure in Government to “drive forward” key North-East revival projects.
But they also fear their pleas are being ignored by the Labour leader’s top team – condemned as a “Corpus Christi Oxbridge crowd” by Nick Brown, the former ‘Minister for the North-East’.
Mr Brown, the Newcastle East MP, said: “It will end up with the councils simply asking for money for specific projects – and that’s the worst possible position to be in.
“What’s needed is a development agency that can identify specific projects and drive them forward, working with a figure in the government with specific responsibility for that.”
Mr Brown said his concerns were shared by the majority of North-East Labour MPs, but added: “I’m not convinced our message is being listened to at the top level of the party.”
The criticism was echoed by Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, who said: “The Adonis review lacks vision and ambition.
“The problem is that it is all about structures, when we need direct action and a minister at a senior level. We can’t expect councillors to pick it up, when their budgets are being squeezed as well.”
The revolt follows Mr Miliband’s acceptance, in April, of Lord Adonis’ draft growth report, with a final set of proposals due to follow next month.
The blueprint adopts the Coalition’s strategy of devolution to ‘combined’ authorities – such as the one covering Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland – and poorly-funded local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).
The pill was sweetened by a pledge to devolve twice as much cash – £4bn a year – as well as extra responsibilities for welfare, apprentices and housebuilding, but not over inward investment.
Mr Brown said the key weakness was that the structure lacked a focus on economic development, as well as an ability to ensure key projects go ahead.
Recently, the outgoing head of the North-East LEP warned it had just six core staff yet it had responsibility for six, mainly £100m-plus projects.
Similarly, the Tees Valley LEP has warned it may have to abandon economic growth initiatives, because funds are not available.
Mr Brown said: “The means has become the ends. We have got the structures, but it is not delivering for the region – and nor is it likely to.
“If Labour simply picks up from where we are with the existing structures, we will continue to see the poor outcomes for our region that we currently see.”
He said he was not arguing for reviving the One North-East development agency, but a smaller body, chaired by a minister, “so the civil service takes it seriously”.
Mr Miliband has promised to bring back regional ministers – axed by David Cameron in 2010 – after MPs and councils protested they had nowhere to go, to raise crucial issues.
However, Mr Miliband’s office rejected the criticism, insisting there were significant differences with the Coalition’s approach.
A spokesman said: “The key difference is that Andrew Adonis is looking at devolving significant cash and economic powers. This would mean people don’t have to beg ministers for cash – as they have to now.”
Source – Northern Echo, 17 June 2014