Branch Political Officers Report for Branch Committee Meeting 23rd February 2016
Local Elections Thursday 5th May 2016 is the date that has been set for the Local Elections, every seat is up for grabs, as previously reported the government has changed the boundaries.
With Peterborough being the biggest with 60 seats, I have spoken to both North West Cambs and Peterborough CLP’s and asked them to let me know what help they require. I am awaiting a reply from them both.
Police and Crime Commissioners Election (PCC)
Also on May 5th the country will be asked to select a PCC for their area, after months of campaigning Labour Party members have selected who will stand in each county, in the branch area we have 3 PCC’s
- Cambridgeshire Dave Baigent
- Norfolk Chris Jones
- Lincolnshire Lucinda Preston
I following the selection of Dave Baigent I contacted him as reported to the branch committee by email, I will be contacting Chris and Lucinda and asking what help they need from the branch.
Dave has sent me a copy of his first two flyers which he has asked if we can put them on the web site and social media (please see attached)
There will be the need for financial expenditure during these elections, I will pass any request for financial assistance to the finance committee.
Trade Union Bill
This week sees the government pressing ahead with its bid to tighten their grip on power, the anti-worker trade union bill will go back before the House of Lords, the bill has been ripped to shreds by everyone including the Financial Times which calls it a backward move, to the government’s own advisors who describe it as not fit for purpose.
Two weeks ago saw the TUC hold its Heart Union Week, which the CWU took part in, it ended with the CWU projecting an image onto the side of the Houses of Parliament.
I will continue to update the committee and membership as the bill progresses.
Peterborough Crown Office
The Post Office published a document several weeks ago which listed Crown Offices that were to be closed and franchised out, Peterborough was one of those on the list, although the members working in the office come under Eastern 4, I have this morning spent some time outside the office handing out leaflets to the public. (please see attached)
After much negotiation the Prime Minister has finally announced that the date for the British people to decide if they want to stay in Europe or leave, that date is Thursday 23rd June, produced below is a guide to the referendum, at the Labour Party are committed to staying in Europe, the CWU Nationally has not decided which way to go, it is my understanding that the NEC will be making a decision at its next meeting.
What is happening?
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union to be held on Thursday 23 June.
What is a referendum?
A referendum is basically a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part, normally giving a “Yes” or “No” answer to a question. Whichever side gets more than half of all votes cast is considered to have won.
What is the European Union?
The European Union – often known as the EU – is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries. It began after World War Two to foster economic co-operation, with the idea that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges.
What will the referendum question be?
The question is always crucial in any referendum. The Electoral Commission proposed the wording, which has been accepted by MPs: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union
Who will be able to vote?
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years. Members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible, unlike in a general election. Citizens from EU countries – apart from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus – will not get a vote.
How will you vote?
It will be a similar system to that during other elections. Firstly, if you have registered to vote, you’ll be sent a card telling you when voting takes place and where you should go to vote on 23 June. On that day, when you go to the polling station you will be given a piece of paper with the referendum question on it. You then go to a booth, which will have a pencil in it for your use. You then put a X in the box which reflects your choice and put the paper into a ballot box. Alternatively you will also be able to opt to vote by post
What are the main changes David Cameron has agreed?
Mr Cameron agreed a package of changes to the UK’s membership of the EU after two days of intensive talks with other member states’ leaders in Brussels in February. The agreement, which will take effect immediately if the UK votes to remain in the EU, includes changes to:
- Child benefit – Child benefit payments to migrant workers for children living overseas to be recalculated to reflect the cost of living in their home countries
- Migrant welfare payments – The UK can decide to limit in-work benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in the UK. This so-called “emergency brake” can be applied in the event of “exceptional” levels of migration, but must be released within seven years – without exception.
- Eurozone – Britain can keep the pound while being in Europe, and its business trade with the bloc, without fear of discrimination. Any British money spent on bailing out eurozone nations will be reimbursed.
- Protection for the City of London – Safeguards for Britain’s large financial services industry to prevent eurozone regulations being imposed on it
- Sovereignty – There is an explicit commitment that the UK will not be part of an “ever closer union” with other EU member states. This will be incorporated in an EU treaty change.
- ‘Red card’ for national parliaments – It will be easier for governments to band together to block unwanted legislation. If 55% of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation it may be rethought.
- Competitiveness – The settlement calls on all EU institutions and member states to “make all efforts to fully implement and strengthen the internal market” and to take “concrete steps towards better regulation”, including by cutting red tape.
- Some limits on free movement – Denying automatic free movement rights to nationals of a country outside the EU who marry an EU national, as part of measures to tackle “sham” marriages. There are also new powers to exclude people believed to be a security risk – even if they have no previous convictions.
How does that differ from what he wanted?
Mr Cameron had originally wanted a complete ban on migrants sending child benefit abroad but had to compromise after some eastern European states rejected that and also insisted that existing claimants should continue to receive the full payment.
On how long the UK would be able to have a four-year curb on in-work benefits for new arrivals, Mr Cameron had to give way on hopes of it being in place for 13 years, settling for seven instead.
On financial regulation, a clause was inserted “to ensure the level-playing field within the internal market”. This was in response to French fears that Britain was seeking special protection for the City of London that would have given it a competitive advantage.
Critics argue that the final deal falls well short of what Mr Cameron originally promised when he announced his plan for a referendum, particularly when it comes to returning powers from Brussels. It is not clear, for example, if the “red card” for national parliaments would ever be triggered in practice.
But most of the points in the draft agreement, with the exception of those mentioned above, have survived unchanged into the final deal.
Why is a referendum being held?
Britain had a referendum in 1975 shortly after it had joined the EU, or the Common Market as it was then called. The country voted to stay in then but there have been growing calls, from the public and politicians, for another vote because, they argue, the EU has changed a lot over the past 40 years, with many more countries joining and the organisation extending its control over more aspects of daily lives. David Cameron initially resisted these calls but in 2013 he changed his mind.
Who wants the UK to leave the EU?
The British public are fairly evenly split, according to the latest opinion polls. The UK Independence Party, which won the last European elections, and received nearly four million votes – 13% of those cast – in May’s general election, campaigns for Britain’s exit from the EU. About half of Conservative MPs, including five cabinet ministers, several Labour MPs and the DUP are also in favour of leaving.
Why do they want the UK to leave?
They believe Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to work. One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of “ever closer union” and any ultimate goal to create a “United States of Europe”.
Who wants the UK to stay in the EU?
David Cameron wants Britain to stay in the EU, now he has got some powers back from it. Sixteen on his cabinet also back staying in. The Conservative Party has pledged to be neutral in the campaign – but the Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems are all in favour of staying in. As mentioned above, according to polls, the public seems pretty evenly split on the issue.
Why do they want the UK to stay?
They believe Britain gets a big boost from EU membership – it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argue, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the bloc.
So would Britain be better in or out?
It depends which way you look at it – or what you believe is important. Leaving the EU would be a big step – arguably far more important than who wins the next general election – but would it set the nation free or condemn it to economic ruin? Here is a rundown of the arguments for and against.
What about businesses?
Big business – with a few exceptions – tends to be in favour of Britain staying in the EU because it makes it easier for them to move money, people and products around the world. BT chairman Sir Mike Rake, a recent CBI president, says there are “no credible alternatives” to staying in the EU. But others disagree, such as Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB, who says an EU exit would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals as our country “rather than being one of 28 nations”. Many small and medium-sized firms would welcome a cut in red tape and what they see as petty regulations. The British Chambers of Commerce says 55% of members back staying in a reformed EU.
Find out more:
Business for Britain wants big changes to the UK’s relations with the EU and says the UK should be prepared to vote to leave if the changes are not achieved
Business for New Europe is a coalition of business leaders who support the UK’s membership of the EU and “oppose withdrawal to the margins”.
What are the rules for campaigning?
The Electoral Commission is in charge of making sure it’s a fair contest. It will select a designated lead campaign for both the “leave” and “remain” sides. The official campaigns will get access to a grant of up to £600,000, an overall spending limit of £7m, campaign broadcasts, free mailshots and free access to meeting rooms. Other groups are free to run their own campaigns but they will be limited to a spend of £700,000 if they register with the Electoral Commission and will have to report the source of donations. If they don’t register with the Commission they will be limited to spending less than £10,000. The Electoral Commission has published a guide to the rules.
How much can the parties spend?
The spending limit for political parties depend on the percentage of the vote they received at the general election. The Conservatives have the highest spending limit – £7m – because they got the most votes at the general election. Labour is limited to £5.5m, UKIP £4m and the Lib Dems £3m. The SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and other parties that got less than 5% of votes cast in May will be limited to £700,000.
So who is going to be leading the rival sides in the campaign?
This has yet to be decided – but here are the main groups of either side of the argument.
Britain Stronger in Europe – the main cross-party group campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU, headed by former Marks and Spencer chairman Lord Rose. It is seen as certain to get the official Electoral Commission designation to head the Remain campaign.
Vote Leave campaign – A cross-party campaign that grew out of Business for Britain, headed by former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson. Key figures include former Conservative adviser Dominic Cummings and Matthew Elliott, who ran the successful No2AV campaign and has the backing of the five cabinet ministers and other Conservatives such as Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. It also has the backing of Labour Leave, which is headed by Labour donor John Mills.
Grassroots Out Movement – An umbrella group including the relatively new Grassroots Out group – founded by Conservative MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove and Labour MP Kate Hoey in January – and Leave.EU. Funded by UKIP donor Arron Banks and other business people, it has the backing of longstanding Eurosceptic groups, some Conservative MPs and UKIP, plus others such as the former Respect MP George Galloway.
The Electoral Commission is expected to make its decision on which group will head the Leave campaign within weeks of the referendum date being announced. It will judge each applicant’s merits on the basis of a range of criteria, such as level of cross-party support, campaign tactics and organisational capacity.
Branch Mobile Telephone
The branch committee took the decision last year to upgrade the mobile phones that some members of the branch have, it was also agreed to issue a phone to the Political Officer. With the onset of 5 months of campaigning I would like to request that the old branch chairs mobile 077854 60067 be made available to me to carry out my role.
Peterborough Trades Union Council PTUC
The Annual General Meeting of PTUC was held on Thursday 18th February 2016, I attended on behalf of the branch, I was re-elected as Vice President a position that I have held for several years.
I have attached the minutes form 2015 AGM and the Secretaries report to the 2016 meeting.
CWU Eastern Regional Political Committee
The committee met on Friday 19th February and the main topic of the meeting was the forthcoming Local and Police and Crime Commissioners Elections and the European Referendum.
Date of next meeting Friday 20th May 2016
Branch Political Officer