The NEC congratulated new Leader Jeremy Corbyn and welcomed him to the NEC. Jeremy Corbyn spoke about his policy and campaigning priorities. He welcomed the dramatic growth in party membership and interest in engaging in politics. He emphasised that he wanted to run positive campaigns focused on policy substance (as opposed to negative personality politics). He talked about the role social media could plan in political campaigning and engagement. He talked about the importance of being inclusive and how this is reflected in his shadow cabinet appointments. He highlighted housing and mental health as important policy areas. He also talked about the Constitutional Convention that Jon Trickett will convene that will look at Lords Reform and devolution in England, Scotland and Wales. The November NEC will consider plans to make policy making and campaigning as engaging and inclusive as possible. Jeremy Corbyn has also committed to spending at least two days a week campaigning around the UK.
Deputy Leader’s report
The NEC congratulated new Deputy Leader Tom Watson and welcomed him to the NEC. Tom Watson talked about the important role Trade Unions and Councillors will play in Labour’s route back to power. He talked about the importance of community organising and digital campaigning. He talked about the need to increase diversity in political representation. We look forward to working with Tom Watson on encouraging and support a diverse range of people to stand to be Councillors and working to increase political representation amongst women, BAME communities and other traditionally under-represented groups.
Fighting Tory cuts to local government funding
The NEC were unanimous in condemning the disgraceful and reckless Tory cuts to Council funding. Jeremy Corbyn highlighted the unfair nature of this cuts, which disproportionately affect areas with higher levels of social deprivation. The NEC praised the work of our Labour Councillors and noted the important work we do in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We look forward to campaigning for fair funding for local government with the new Leadership team and colleagues from the trade unions and across the Labour movement. We made the point that councils fought hard to secure a different narrative on cuts ahead of the General Election and that we are the last line of defence against Tory cuts. It was important therefore that MPs support local their councils.
Local Government Report
We reported on important issues including devolution, the adult social care funding crisis and the refugee crisis (the latter is the topic for the Association of Labour Councillors motion to Labour Party Conference). We raised the problems faced by councillors on low incomes who are more adversely affected by the ALC Levy on allowances. We agreed the principle of the contribution but requested a review of the structure of Levies in regards to its impact on Councillors who receive income related benefits. We also sought clarity on whether the attendance at Political Cabinet by the Leader of the LGA Labour Group would be maintained. This was an important step forward by Ed Miliband. We will follow-up this request and report back.
Fighting attacks on democracy: opposing the Trade Union Bill and changes to Individual Voter Registration
The Trade Union Bill attacks the heart of UK democracy. Along with the right to vote, the right to withhold labour is a fundamental human right. Strong civil society needs strong trade unions. Labour Councillors throughout the country oppose the Trade Union Bill. Unite have a model motion for Councillors opposing the Trade Union Bill. There is also a GMB on a motion opposing changes to the way Councils collect union subscriptions (known as Check-off).
The second shameful attack on democracy is government changes to Individual Electoral Registration, which have resulted in millions of people falling off the electoral register. Tom Watson has identified this as a key priority and will be leading on this with Gloria De Piero. Labour Councillors can play an important role in ensuring as many eligible voters as possible are registered to vote. We must all do everything we can to register voters by 1 December, in time to be included in the Government’s planned boundary review. There will be training sessions on IER at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton and other similar sessions will take place throughout the UK. Labour Party materials and resources to support this are also available online.
National Policy Forum
The NEC praised Angela Eagle for her excellent work Chairing the National Policy Forum. Jeremy Corbyn has asked her to continue in this important role. The NEC will hold further discussions later this year on how more members can become involved in our policy making process. The NEC will also consider how to fit national policy making into five year fix-term parliaments.
The European Parliamentary Labour Party report covered the fantastic work our MEPs have been doing, including on campaigning to strengthen workers’ rights and responding to Europe’s refugee crisis. The NEC discussed the EU Referendum, which is likely to take place between April and September next year. The date of the referendum has not yet been decided but it is unlikely to take place on the same day as any local government elections.
Local Government events at Labour Party Conference
Local government will be at the heart of our electoral fightback. There a variety of local government focused events at this year’s Labour Party Conference in Brighton. The Local Government Association Labour Group has a useful online guide to some of these events, including the Local Government Reception with Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson on Sunday 27 September from 8.30pm to 10.30pm.
Labour’s Election Taskforce
In her capacity as the local government representative on the Lessons Learned Taskforce, Cllr Alice Perry has been gathering feedback from Labour councillors about their views and experience. The Taskforce meets for the last time in October to finalise the report to Jeremy Corbyn. The experience and feedback of Labour Councillors is a vital part of understanding what went wrong for Labour nationally in the General Election and the lessons we need to learn for the future. If you haven’t already done so, please get in touch with your views.
Police and Crime Commissioner Elections
If Labour had won the General Election, we would have scrapped Police and Crime Commissioners and used the money to fund a national network of women’s refuges. A plan for selecting candidates to stand as Police and Crime Commissioners will be brought to the NEC Organisational Committee meeting in October and quickly implemented ahead of next year’s elections.
Labour Party Membership
Over 164,000 people have joined the Labour Party since May’s elections. The total number of Labour Party members is now over 358,000. It is exciting to be part of the fastest growing political party in Western Europe. We look forward to campaigning with our new and existing members in the forthcoming local elections as we build towards victory in 2020. People can join online at https://join.labour.org.uk/ and be part of the fightback!