Last Wednesday I was telephoned by our local newspaper, Southwark News, and asked to comment on the news that former LibDem and Labour Councillor Dr Ola had rejoined the Labour Party and was ready to pose for photos with his letter from Tony Blair welcoming him.
A couple of phone calls later, but sadly after the newspaper had gone to print, I was delighted to be able to confirm that Dr Ola would NOT be joining the party. In fact his application for membership had been rejected after representations were made by the local Camberwell and Peckham party. Dr Ola should now have received a letter informing him that his application had been rejected.
Dr Ola had lost any chance of joining the Party after he stood against Labour candidates in the local elections this year - and may well have cost us a seat in Chaucer ward where we came within 8 votes of winning.
But Dr Ola's ill-judged homophobic comments before the local elections also raised a serious question mark over whether he could truly be a member of the modern Labour Party. Whatever one may think of Tony Blair's government, I believe that its radical policies on equalities will be seen as one of its truly lasting legacies - and Dr Ola's comments before the local elections were clearly incompatible with the government's approach.
So I'm pleased to report that Labour remains a consistent and progressive party. I do get concerned that with the rantings of some local bloggers, residents might think that politics is only about personality. It is not and should not be. It's about policy and how policy can change people's lives.
Yesterday I was really inspired by Tony Blair's speech to the Progress conference. His analysis of Labour's need to identify the priorities for the next decade and offer policy positions to deal with those priorities is fundamental. I still think that the main opposition parties struggle to deal with the fact that we are approaching 2007 and not fighting the same battles as 1997. The Tories under David Cameron are working to identify the issues - but seem bereft of any policy response which takes heed of the fact that modern politics should be underpinned by social justice. And I simply do not know where the LibDems are. There seems to be some thinking about progressive taxation but they certainly do not seem to have identifed their political priorities or what they hope to achieve in response to those priorities.
Security and migration; pensions; democratic reform and the fact that everything we do in Britain is affected by and has repurcussions for our near and distant neighbours are some of the real challenges we face. I'm looking forward to the debate within Labour on these and many other policy issues in the months ahead!