Is Corbyn’s Labour already cutting the mustard with local voters?

Tommy Gray- Labour's biggest by-election winner in Chorley with a 12.7 per cent wing

Tommy Gray- Labour’s biggest by-election winner in Chorley with a 12.7 per cent wing

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

One interest I found I share with Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage is that both us every week check the Twitterfeed of @britainelects – which provides details of every local council by-election in Britain.

Our exchange at the book launch of Lord Ashcroft’s Call Me Dave unauthorised biography revealed that both of us have a healthy scepticism of opinion polls but a mutual interest in seeing how real voters are turning out to vote in by elections across the country.

Corbyn’s mauling in the mainstream media coupled with distrust among the Parliamentary party one might expect no one in their right mind to vote Labour and for evidence in advance of the Oldham Parliamentary by-election that he is already in trouble.

In fact the reverse is true which might explain why the same mainstream media has been rather quiet about it. Three by-elections in totally different seats have seen huge swings to Labour. I write about this in Tribune magazine this week.

They are Euxton North ward in Chorley, Lancashire; South Camberwell in London  and Banbury in Oxfordshire..

In Chorley the party recorded a 12.7 per cent swing –taking the seat with 57.3 per cent share of the vote and winning with 697 votes. The big loser was UKIP whose share of the vote dropped by 12.4 per cent – getting just 76 votes. The Tories were second and saw their vote drop by 0.3 per cent with 443 votes.

In South Camberwell, in the London Borough of Southwark, Labour recorded a 9 per cent swing – winning with 1,244 votes – and taking a 57.9 per cent share of the vote. The party’s nearest rival, the Greens, saw a 1.3 per cent drop and the Tories were down 1.4 per cent. Only the Lib Dems, who were third, recorded a small increase of 2.3 per cent but polled just 200 votes.

In Banbury, Oxfordshire, saw Labour take a seat from the Conservatives on a 5.9 per cent swing –taking 45 per cent of the vote in the Grimsby and Castle ward in the town. The Tory vote fell by 7 per cent and the Lib Dem vote fell by 1.5 per cent. UKIP’s share of the vote did rise 5.6 per cent – but the party only got 150 votes. Labour polled 781.

The results are not mainly good  for UKIP whose plan to oust Labour as the party of the Opposition in the North is plainly not working as their council candidates are taking a mauling in some seats and making no progress in others.The Tories are very resilient. their vote is going up from a low base in Scotland and they have made four gains  this autumn – three from the Liberal Democrats and one from Labour. They also put in a credible performance in Barrow where they gained 23 per cent in a traditional Labour seat  almost ousting the UKIP opposition candidate. And Labour are still falling back in Scotland.

The one bad result for Labour in England has been Bury where the Tories took a seat from then with a swing approaching 14 per cent – but other parties also lost votes.

The Lib Dems seem to be reviving in rural areas – running the Tories close in one seat and taking a Sussex seat – but they are still declining in urban areas. They can boast one landslide result in Torbay when their former MP Adrian Sanders held a seat on a 39 per cent swing. But the same night they lost their third seat to the Tories in Aberdeen.

All this suggests that there is still a lot to play for – but Labour which had a huge rise in membership following Corbyn’s victory is more than holding its own and getting some spectacular swings.

The Tory narrative put forward by Cameron and Osborne is also still hitting a nerve – otherwise they would not be gaining seats. All this makes  the December 3 by-election in Oldham the more interesting.

Stormin’ Corbyn a hit in Korea (No Mail-on-Line not North Korea but the capitalist South)

Jeremy Corbyn - a hit in Korea

Jeremy Corbyn – a hit in Korea

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

While the British media has been uniformly hostile to Jeremy Corbyn – his victory has led to some completely different  coverage abroad.

One TV station “News Tapa”   – a nonprofit online investigative reporting organisation  in South Korea – decided to devote  a half hour programme to what they called the Corbyn Syndrome- for viewers in their country.

The  TV station –  unusual because it is crowd funded by over 35,000 people using a principle also used for byline.com for individuals decided that Corbyn was an interesting phenomenon precisely because he was an example of  a popular rebellion in a mainstream party challenging conventional politics.

According to the broadcasters it hit a nerve in South Korea because politics is seen as remote, dominated by big business and career politicians and not exactly squeaky keen. Sounds familiar? They were also fascinated how a backbencher representing a working class constituency could suddenly capture the minds of so many people and propel themselves to the leadership of a major party.

As Seon-Ju Choi, the London co-ordinator for the programme’s production said :”In S. Korea, the conservative party has been in power for many years now since our president Noh who committed suicide.  In a way, it has been very depressing all the public funds have been radically cut, and many people are struggling due to lack of public service and many of privatisation, etc.  We would love to feature the amazing and exciting story about Jeremy Corbyn’s story, how the left-wing politician has received overwhelming support from the public, and became a leader of Labour Party.”

It The film is in Korean but there are enough British people interviewed – including me- for people to follow most of it.

For those interested the link is here http://newstapa.org/29509 .

It makes interesting viewing.

Bath Knight: redundant fitters launch own UK company after their bosses go bust

A demonstration of the new Easy Bath product set up by redundant staff Pic Credit:www.easy-bath.co.uk

A demonstration of the new Easy Bath product set up by redundant staff
Pic Credit:www.easy-bath.co.uk

Disabled people who bought Bath Knight products and have been left with useless warranties have been offered a lifeline by the firm’s former fitters.

Nine of them who are also owed thousands of pounds by the bankruptcy of Bath Knight in Stoke on Trent have set up their own company to sell a new updated product and to service people who own Bath Knight aids but cannot get them repaired.

This should be good news for disabled people who have contacted me to say what can they do when their supplied equipment malfunctions or needs servicing. Some have been very desperate as it is the only way they can have a bath.

In addition, the fitters have found a new UK manufacturer in Leeds to make a new product which they can supply and fit at a much cheaper price than the old Bath Knight model.

Bicky Thandi, the fitter who is organising the new company,Easy-Bath said: ” We were worried about all those elderly  disabled people who were left with no service and no guarantee because the firm had gone bust owing us money as well. We got nothing from Care Knight when they went bankrupt owing us money so we thought that lets get together and form our own business.So we have set up a free phone line for inquiries and a fixed sum for repairs and servicing. We have also found a manufacturer in Leeds who can produce a new version of the Bath Knight.”

The  free phone number is 0800 0029182.   

The Website address is http://www.easy-bath.co.uk/ .

Prices he has quoted are: for a fixed price of £150.00 including parts and labour for a repair,  and a fitting for for £250.00.

In the meantime I am looking at exactly how Bath Knight, owned by Care Knight, went bust and why weeks after it collapsed owing over £428,000 to staff and suppliers it has suddenly been resurrected in Stoke in Trent as Bath-Lift with most of the same directors.
The  new company – according to people who have  been contacting me – has been demanding money from people who had not fully paid off their equipment – to be paid to the new firm.
I am rather surprised about this given the firm went into receivership and it is normally the receiver who chases up unpaid money so it can be redistributed to staff and suppliers it owed cash.
Any information will be gratefully received and you can use the contact me section of this website and be assured that it will be treated in confidence.

How the golden oldies and the disenchanted young combined to give Stormin’ Corbyn victory

Jeremy Corbyn: Now leader. Pic credit: Labour List

Jeremy Corbyn: Now leader. Pic credit: Labour List

CROSS POSTED FROM BYLINE.COM

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory to become Labour leader has come as a shock to the Westminster bubble and the political Establishment.

Those who followed opinion polls and betting odds thought he might win but did not think it would be such an overwhelming victory.

I suspect – from a growing number of anecdotal chats – that his victory is partly due to an unique revolt that spanned two generations and came together in a perfect storm to overthrow the political Establishment.

My generation –  who are around the same age as Jeremy Corbyn – suddenly decided they were fed up to the back teeth of the Labour Party apologizing for its existence and assuming post Blair there is only one way to run a society.

We feel uneasy at the rapidly widening gulf between the rich and the poor, do not like to see public services denigrated, do see the value of a trade union, and don’t like the nasty politics that treat refugees as opportunists trying to get a slice of the good life.

We also yearn for proper debates about major issues – like should we renew Trident and what is the future of the NHS and the welfare state, how serious is climate change etc. At the moment this is never discussed because of a sickening consensus that only way to solve anything is to get the rich to make even more money and bow to the international gods of global capitalism.

I know a number of people who looked at the Labour candidates and thought with the exception of Corbyn they sounded remarkably the same. So like the grandfathers and grandmothers we now are – the swinging sixties generation- decided they wanted a change.They voted for a new grandfather of the nation.

Young people who have talked to came to a remarkably similar conclusion. The politically aware tell me they found conventional party politics “ boring” with politicians too scared or too worried to say little more than political platitudes. They liked Corbyn because he said what he thought and cut through the crap. They wanted someone to lead rather than just follow.

They wanted someone who was going to challenge the status quo and was not part of the “posh boys” network. And further more they expect him – rather like the people who,like to like Nigel Farage,- to make mistakes.so may not be put off by a campaign denigrating him.Indeed such a campaign could be counter productive.

So far the reaction from the Tories has been hysterical with some like Michael Gove even claiming that Britain’s national security is now at risk with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm.

Really? I look forward to the first person to market a T shirt saying “I am a national security risk” and for David Cameron to order his or her arrest for wearing it.

Sunk: Bath Knight the company that aids the disabled

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

Disabled people who have purchased equipment that enables people with mobility problems to have a daily bath have been left in the lurch by the collapse of the company that makes the aids

Without virtually any coverage Care Knight, owners of Bath Knight, the Stoke on Trent manufacturing company of expensive  bath aids, has gone bust over the summer. The company made an aid which gently lowered people into the bath on a band and gently raises them out of the bath.

The problem facing people is that the company both installs and maintains the machinery to do this – and now it is in administration, Its staff have been sacked and there appears to be nobody available to service aids that cost over £2000 to buy.

We purchased one – as my wife is recovering from a stroke and needs help to have a bath- and thankfully had some repairs done just before the company went bust. I wrote about my experiences when they installed the Bath Knight here. But others have not been lucky – I have been contacted by someone whose Bath Knight no longer works and they are in great difficulties getting something done.

The saga of the collapse of Bath Knight is revealed in a series of documents filed at Companies House. From these documents it looks as though the owners of the family firm. the Greenwoods,. tried to save the company by entering a voluntary arrangement with a  national firm of business recovery and insolvency specialists, Begbies Traynor .

The main owner, Mrs Annette Elvina Greenwood, took out a £30,000 floating charge on May 5 – an unusual arrangement which allows a company to borrow money on any assets the company may have to cover debts. The loan was charged to Care Knight Group a company that has not been affected by the collapse of Care Knight. Mrs Greenwood, her husband and her daughter are directors of both companies.

But on July 3 Care Knight Ltd called in the receivers. According to the report filed by Begbies Traynor the company went bust owing £428,247.to creditors. this included £310,973 to trade creditors, £100,000 to redundant employees, and £76,047 to the Inland Revenue.

The company also owed £255,625 was owed to its parent company Care Knight Group.

The trigger was a demand for a substantial sum in back rent from the landlords of its premises in Stoke on Trent which were closed and locked up until the administrators were able to get access.

What is not clear is what will happen to the disabled people relying on Bath Knight for repairs and servicing. Those who have paid for equipment through a credit card but not received it could claim on their credit card but the rest seem to have been abandoned.

It is no good contacting the company’s old headquarters Paladin House as it is now closed. The parent company has ,moved to Unit 73, Bedford Street, Stoke on Trent ST1 4PZ but I am told is uncontactable. However if you follow this link  at the new Companies House free access website and look up officers you will find the home address of the directors who are still directors of the parent company. I suggest anybody worried should write to Mrs Greenwood there and ask what she is going to do about their plight.

Since I put up this blog i have been contacted by The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) who point out that the firm concerned was not a member of the BHTA.  People buying goods and services from BHTA member companies are protected by a Code of Practice approved and overseen by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).  This Code is rigorously enforced and it gives consumers considerable protection and access to a complaints and dispute resolution process.  Anyone buying goods and services for disabled people (generally known as “assistive technology”) should be advised to buy from companies who are members of the BHTA and are therefore governed by the Code of Practice.

I find this latest disclosure all the more concerning since Care Knight left the organisation when a new code of practice designed to protect disabled people from bad service was introduced. That is not good news.

Why Labour’s patronising grandees have driven people to vote for Stormin’ Corbyn

Labolur's three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell  Pic Credit: wherebuttheuk.com

Labolur’s three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell
Pic Credit: wherebuttheuk.com

CROSS POSTED FROM BYLINE.COM WHERE MY SCOOPS ON WESTMINSTER AND WHITEHALL WILL REGULARLY APPEAR 

Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson,Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Tony Blair and now David Blunkett have all joined in bashing Jeremy Corbyn because he is the front runner in Labour’s leadership election and they are desperate to stop him.

Anyone but Corbyn is Campbell’s cry. Peter Mandelson has been up to his old tricks using back channels to try and get the election cancelled. The only person who has been wise enough to keep quiet is Ed Miliband who is leaving it to the members.

Yet what are these grandee’s credentials today for saying that Corbyn is unfit to lead Labour while the others would be fine.

Alastair Campbell’s reputation for plain dealing took a hit over the Iraq ” dodgy dossier” and is now a freelance journalist, a lobbyist and earns some of his money from dodgy Central European dictatorships like Kazakhstan.

Peter Mandelson has enjoyed a reputation for the ” dark arts” of politics and now is a strategic lobbyist with strong connections to Russian oligarchs who sympathise with Putin. We don’t even know the rest of his client list.

Gordon Brown is nowadays concentrating on education in Africa and stood down at the last election.

David Miliband is living in the United States doing good work in trying to provide humanitarian relief  to Syria.

Tony Blair is concentrating his entire life in making money from any country that will pay him large sums of cash – it is described in detail in  Blair Inc, my new book with Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan.

David Blunkett  along with Gordon Brown appears to have been the least avaricious but spends a lot of his time as an after dinner speaker.

None of them can say they are really in touch with the present mood of  Labour Party members, and some of them, notably Blair and Mandelson, have more in common with the wealthy global elite than a traditional Labour Party supporter.

And Labour Party activists long treated as foot soldiers and not given their head over policy formation by these grandees are revolting.  Ever since Blair reduced their power at party conferences they have had a diminishing say along with the unions.

The main charges from the grandees is that Corbyn will be hated by the  press and that he could never win an election.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

But whoever leads the Labour Party will be monstered by the right wing press. Expect a simple nasty sexist campaign against Yvette Cooper saying ” vote Cooper get Balls” implying that the Ed Balls – just because he is married to her – will be inside Downing Street directing matters.

If it is Andy Burnham it will be that he is in the hands of the unions. If it Liz Kendall it will all be about inexperience etc

So people have remained unimpressed that by NOT voting for Corbyn they will escape the media’s wrath.

The election itself is five years away and Labour has a long time to redefine policy. Also with Corbyn’s promise of elections to the Shadow Cabinet –  Labour will be more diverse than just one faction.

What is quite clear that people want someone who will stand up for the party and launch a distinctive programme. They will not want a pale shadow of the present Conservative government- they can get a proper version already.

Yvette Cooper’s campaign has been disappointing. Instead of promoting women it has attacked men. Andy Burnham’s started well but seems to have gone all over the place. And Liz Kendall has not made the impact one might have expected.

This left Corbyn who no one expected to take off – striding into the lead. There seems to be a hunger out of there for a radical shift of direction. On September 12 we will know whether it has happened.

Revealed: The Treasury mandarin who said losing £1bn for the taxpayer was value for money

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

CROSS POSTED FROM  BYLINE.COM WHERE SOME OF MY WHITEHALL AND WESTMINSTER SCOOPS WILL NOW APPEAR FIRST AS PART OF A NEW CROWDFUNDING DEAL TO WIDEN THE SCOPE OF THIS BLOG

There has been enormous outrage about the £1bn loss to the taxpayer caused by the sale of the first tranche of Royal Bank of Scotland shares. An article in The Guardian on August 4 reported not only expected criticism from Labour but concern from a banking analyst that the share price of RBS was too low to justify the sale.

What was only briefly mentioned was that the second most powerful mandarin in the Treasury had also given the go ahead. You might expect him to bow and scrape to the Chancellor but actually he has more powers than you might think and he needn’t have followed his instructions.

If an accounting officer believes that a government minister is about to make a decision that will lead to a big loss to the taxpayer he can refuse to approve the action.

These actions are not taken lightly – one of the most recent examples being the refusal by Richard Heaton (soon to become Permanent Secretary at MoJ) who requested one, on value for money grounds, on 26 June over extra funding for the Kids company charity. He was overruled by ministers who have now seen to have made a big mistake as recent coverage reveals.

John Kingman could have done the same thing. He would face being overruled by George Osborne but it would have caused a furore and triggered an eventual Whitehall investigation.

John Kingman Letter Instead as this letter above shows he has positively embraced the sale.

“ I am satisfied that a sale at this time would offer good value for money for the taxpayer and meets all other requirements in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money,” he wrote to George Osborne.

Really?  Now John Kingman is one of the cleverest mandarins in Whitehall. He hates holidays, lives in Leicester Square and one former colleague describes him in these words: “His arrogance is only marginally ahead of his considerable intelligence, whereas with most ambitious men of his ilk the gap is rather larger.” A profile in 2009 by political editor George Parker in the Financial Times says it all.

He writes “If he can achieve the goal of unwinding the taxpayer’s stake ( in RBS) at a profit, his route to the top of the civil service is clear, even if some question whether he has the patience to manage such a huge, traditional organisation. “

Well at the moment he hasn’t – he has acquiesced in a £1 billion tax loss. And I am not the only one who has noticed this.

The National Audit Office, Parliament’s financial watchdog, which reports on state asset sales, confirmed to me “We are watching the situation”.

They will have to make a report on this. This will lead him to have to appear before the House of Commons public accounts committee to justify why he approved what was done.

No doubt the government would like Parliament to take its time – perhaps not report until the entire sale is over – but that won’t be until 2020.

I say the huge loss to the taxpayer should not go unchallenged for years. Bring it on now!