Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Chinese for Labour Campaigning and Fundraising

Yesterday evening I was honoured to be Thanet Labour Group’s representative at Chinese for Labour’s slightly belated Chinese New Year celebration. Compered by the inimitable Simon Fanshawe, who kindly posed mid quip to catch his best side in the photo shown. Simon kept the evening flowing, but also took the opportunity to celebrate Labour’s achievement on lesbian and gay rights. Pointing out several people present with civil partnerships, he said this had only happened because over three terms of Labour government there had been a confidence and commitment to equal rights for everybody in our community. David Cameron of course opposed gay rights. He now supports them. Has he genuinely changed his mind, or is he just expressing a view that he thinks will win him more votes?

Home Secretary, Alan Johnson highlighted David Cameron’s commitment to tax credits for married couples, not for those living together. He asked where the £4.9 billion this commitment will cost is coming from. No explanation from the Conservatives. Like their commitment to cut inheritance tax for millionaires they are promising money to people, without any explanation of where the money will come from. I would like to see Conservative candidates having to declare whether they personally would benefit from the inheritance tax cut. Declaring interests is a fundamental principle of British democracy. My understanding is that Laura Sandys in South Thanet and Charlie Elphicke in Dover and Deal, and their families would benefit by hundreds of thousands of pounds if this proposal they strongly support ever went through. Leaving ordinary working people paying to subsidise this millionaire’s glee club, we’re all in this together? Pass the sickbag.

Sonny Leong Chair of Chinese for Labour warned people to understand that if they woke up with a Conservative government there would be no morning after pill to put things right. He called upon the Labour Party to secure greater representation of Chinese people. This was endorsed by Keith Vaz who praised Lord Gulam Noon for his work in ensuring better representation of Black and Ethnic Minority people in public life. I have rarely seen so many government figures at a dinner, with International Development Minister Gareth Thomas, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw and many other Parliamentarians present.

As Alan Johnson said in his speech, that’s because this dinner is one of the highlights of the year. Host restaurant the Phoenix Palace in Marylebone has the best Chinese food I have ever tasted, and a range of dishes which puts many other restaurants to shame. So there is never any problem in attracting speakers for cuisine of the highest quality.
Ed Miliband has to be one of the sexiest people in politics from the comments from the diners with many women and men shouting out their lust for his looks! Ed emphasised that the more Conservatives came under scrutiny the more their poll ratings fell. He called for more publicity for Conservative proposals as they were helping Labour narrow the opinion poll gap every day. The key distinction for him was that Labour took an optimistic view of the future, where a 1930s style Depression emanating from America had been avoided. He contrasted this with a Conservative outlook based on talking Britain down.
When the Conservatives compare Britain to Greece they scare off potential investors and call upon them to put their money and our jobs elsewhere in the world. A personal observation here. David Cameron thinks Ed Miliband is a second class citizen. Ed’s brother David is married with children. Ed and his partner have a child, but are unmarried. In David Cameron’s Conservative world David should have more money through tax breaks than Ed why?
David Cameron does not understand that everybody I know has a couple in their family who have a long term commitment but are unmarried. David Cameron believes they are second class citizens. In my own extended family there is a couple who have been together longer than the other married couples of their generation. They have children and have been committed to each other for many years. They are saving to have the kind of wedding they would like, not just a quick visit to the registry office. Should they now just get married for a tax break, or shoyuld they be able to plan towards their dream wedding without being penalised.
The Conservatives do not understand modern British society.
Two examples from the speakers to illustrate this. Sonny Leong talked about the Conservative mindset that resulted in top Tory Lord Norman Tebbit assaulting a child because they had a different culture to his.
Alan Johnson explained that you had to have a contemptuous and utterly out of touch view of the world to believe 54% of 15-17 year olds had children rather than the correct figure of 5.4%. However, that's what dozens of Conservative Parliamentarians and officials thought was modern British society. They do not go to where ordinary people live and look down upon ordinary working people as an underclass.
My thanks to Mee Ling Ng and her hard working team of organisers for a superb evening. Congratulations on the thousands of pounds raised for Labour's General Election campaign against the Conservatives tens of millions of pounds.


  1. How wonderfully you slide in the digs and half truths in such a post, Mark, linking national, local, emotional and ethnic positions with practised ease and a tone of high moral disdain.

    It would be even better if the statistics backed up your case. For many years now, the statistics on marriage break up and the impact, and recovery, of children from such events have shown that where marriage is present, the liklihood of a split is reduced; the impact on the children is less pronounced and damaging.

    A little church going, and I know you do, would remind you that marriage has always been chiefly about order and stability for children as much as anything else, and it is the most successful building block of stability in most societies. It is not perfect, far from it, but reforms which encourage civil partnerships complement rather than undermine marriage as you portray.

    Much of the gay and lesbian scene has for many years been 'body led', and a marriage style of commitment has been and will be important to all couples wanting to demonstrate their fidelity and commitment, in the same way that marriage does, and provides the most stable platform for interaction with the outside world.

    And before you go off on one, please be aware as a parent, I am this year arranging both a marriage, and a civil partnership for different sons with different lifestyles, and am proud that both wish to be committed to stable and loving long term relationships as adults.

    It is not necessarily wrong of government to underscore their support for the most stable family relationships, indeed it is probably a sensible preventative measure in many ways.

    I am glad you enjoyed your evening. It is a pity that your joy seems so infected with a really rather nasty streak in personal bile, though sadly that seems to reflect the tone of the evening if your reporting is accurate. When backed against a wall it would appear the Labour Party is the nasty party of this generation - now there's a thought for you Mark!

  2. Chris
    The statistics on marriage are unhelpful because increasingly propensity to get married relates to income as my post illustrated, and statistics show this. So where you cite marriage as the key factor, a correlation at the same time is that income also makes a difference on whether relationships last.

    As so often in Thanet/Kent politics your personal values are at variance to your party's. The record of Kent Tories on Section 28 was hardcore and disgraceful and has not been repudiated by many of your colleagues. Your silence on this is regrettable and weakens your statements on this no matter how progressive your personal values are.

    I acknowledge that on this subject TDC Leader Sandy Ezekiel has take a positive lead and have written accordigly.

    The nastiness Chris is that at a time when we are all facing difficult economic decisions, the Conservative Party is advocating wealth redistribution through the change in inheritance law from the poorest to the wealthiest. If you see attacking that as every government minister did last night as nasty, then it says far more about you and your party.

    Perhaps you can explain why this is Tory Party policy when all sides acknowledge financial pressures.

    Norman Tebbit's conduct is disgraceful, you should accept that not criticse my criticism of it.

  3. Mark can you explain why tax credits are paid to people earning such high amounts. I am not sure of the figures but I believe it to be around 50 thousand pounds is the upper limit. I accept that Tax Credits are good but someone with an income that large surely should not be getting them.

  4. Tax Credits are means tested, and allocated according to a series of strands involving work, children, and the costs of family life. It is, as the furore over recent years has shown, a pretty complex system, involving periodic reassessments, back dated declarations and endless lists of what circumstances and change you should declare. I believe the upper limit is for a joint income of £50,000 - if that is wrong I am sure someone will correct me - which blocks any entry to the system. There are other break points - free prescriptions and dental treatment is blocked at joint income of £15,000, which seems rather low by comparison.

    Don, dont be put off by the figure of £50,000 as a cut off,the benefit one may draw from an income of £49,000 is likely to be very small, and cases few and far between in my experience.

    That is not to say the system is not open to abuse. I am aware of one situation where following redundancy, the money was put in to create a business, paying the directors ( man and wife) a tax effective £7,000 a year each. The family income is topped up by WFTC, and they will presumably stop claiming before they sell the business for a lump sum. And its all perfectly legal and advised by some resettlement courses preparing workers for redundancy.

    Was the old system any better? Family credit as it was called used to use tables to estimate what you needed to live, and then give you half the difference between your income and that sum - which seems even more illogical.

    To be fair, if overpayment has been made it is generally recovered through the tax credit system, although there are still disputes dating back 3 years when the system calculations were awry and debts were pursued, and often dropped when it was realised the claimants were not the main fault.

    If you are still awake Don I hope that helps.

  5. Presumably, Mark, now you will have to declare a prejudicial interest if the 'Chinese Gateway' comes up before Council again?

  6. Conservative fundraisers must be different Ken, I paid for my ticket and donated through the raffle.