The Labour Party NEC held its annual away day to discuss future strategy, aims and objectives.
Labour Party Membership
Labour Party membership is now at over 370,000. There has been a huge increase in membership since May’s elections. The new members are more gender balanced and younger than the party’s existing membership base. New members have been surveyed about their interests and reasons for joining, which includes wanting to contribute to policy making, meeting MPs and the Shadow Cabinet, wanting to make a positive difference nationally and locally, helping Labour win elections and meeting like-minded people. New member events have been taking place around the country, with thought being put into how we can better use new and existing members’ different skills and talents, and how we can better engage and support members. Labour wants communication with members to be two-way and are looking at ways to use social media and new technology to facilitate discussions. The success of sourcing questions for PMQs from members was noted. The NEC discussed some of the challenges the dramatic increase in membership has brought, including the additional resources needed to support Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and our volunteer CLP Officers. More training and support will be made available to CLPs and members.
A key priority for the party is ensuring Labour’s policy making process is as inclusive as possible. We also discussed how improving digital and online engagement could allow members to engage more in meaningful policy discussions. Current, short-term policy priorities for the Leader’s Office and Shadow Cabinet are changes to tax credits, the British steel industry, responding to the Comprehensive Spending Review and a review of strategic defence and security. A number of policy reviews were announced at Labour Party Conference in September, including defence and security, the economy, housing and home ownership, mental health and access to arts. Labour is at the very early stages of long-term policy development for our 2020 manifesto. Policies for Labour’s 2020 manifesto should be forward looking and relevant to Britain as it will be in 2020 and beyond.
The Labour Party is now debt free (excluding mortgages). This in itself is fantastic news. Unfortunately if the Trade Union Bill passes this will have very serious financial implications for the Labour Party. The Trade Union Bill is totally disgraceful for many, many reasons, including the way it seeks to silence and bankrupt the government’s political opponents. The NEC discussed future fundraising strategies and recognised the excellent work of the party’s digital team in raising millions of pounds from online, micro-donations. The surge in membership also helps the Labour Party’s finances. I highlighted the amount of money Labour Councillors contribute to the party and the importance of communicating to Councillors how this money is spent and the transformative, difference it makes.
The NEC discussed forthcoming elections. We have important elections in 2016 in Scotland and Wales, as well as important English Council elections and Mayoral elections in London, Bristol, Liverpool and elsewhere. We also have elections for Police and Crime Commissioners in a number of regions. The NEC discussed some of the challenges of next year’s elections, including the threat of UKIP. We also discussed differing our campaigning, using community organising alongside traditional voter ID and making better use of technology.
Selecting our candidates for new regional Mayors
A paper will be brought to the Organisational Committee in the early New Year with details of the processes for selecting candidates for the new directly, elected Mayors. The NEC would like to get this process underway as early as possible. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any comments or questions about this.
Police and Crime Commissioners
I was part of an NEC panel that interviewed the incumbent Police and Crime Commissioners intending to re-stand. Labour’s 2015 manifesto included a pledge to abolish Police and Crime Commissioners (which is why this process has been delayed). Labour’s existing Police and Crime Commissioners have been playing an important role in delivering Labour values in difficult circumstances, protecting our communities and the opposing the disgraceful and damaging Tory Police cuts. Applications are open to stand as a Police and Crime Commissioner in a number of regions in England and Wales – further information is available at http://www.labour.org.uk/pages/pcc-elections.
The NEC reflected on the horrific atrocities in Paris and the wider implications for foreign and domestic policy, including the future of the Schengen Agreement and military action in Syria. The NEC discussed the EU Referendum and supporting Labour’s Remain Campaign. The NEC also discussed the future of the British Steel Industry and the hard work done together by Trade Unions, MEPs, MPs, Councillors and local communities to expose the disgraceful response from the Tory government and to hold the Conservative Party to account for their total failures to protect thousands of jobs.
I gave the Local Government report, which included an update on the various devolution deals and how local government is working with the front bench to oppose the Government’s incredibly damaging Housing Bill, as well as supporting Lisa Nandy’s work in the run-up to the Climate Change Talks in Paris. Throughout the UK Labour Councils are tackling climate change in a variety of innovative ways and are playing a significant role in lowering the UK’s carbon emissions. Council are also working with John McDonald to oppose cuts to local government funding ahead of the Government’s Comprehensive spending review. Senior Council Leaders and John McDonald have issued a joint statement highlighting the damage these cuts will do to our communities. The NEC reiterated its support for Councillors in their forthcoming budget setting processes and recognised the importance of setting balanced budgets, and that despite the cuts to our funding, Labour Councils still make a massive, positive difference to our communities. Tom Watson and other members of the NEC praised Labour Councillors and recognised the important role our 7,000 Councillors in leading Labour’s fightback.
Jeremy Corbyn’s report to the NEC included updates on the terrorist atrocities in Paris, Europe’s refugee crisis, Labour’s campaign against Tory police cuts, the Steel industry crisis, raising international human rights with China and India, the Climate Change Talks in Paris and supporting local Councillors and fighting Tory cuts to Council budgets. Jeremy Corbyn talked about how he spends half the week in Parliament and half the week campaign around the UK, making several recent trips to Scotland ahead of next year’s elections. There followed a wide-ranging and lively discussion on a number of issues including tackling bullying and cyber bullying of party members and the importance of treating everyone with respect, regional bus networks, union general secretary elections, foreign policy and recent decision by the Tory government to withhold the Shrewsbury 24 Trial papers from public scrutiny until 2021.
Deputy Leader’s Report
The NEC agreed Tom Watson’s paper on transforming party campaigning, communications and engagement through digital technology, and party reform. Party reform covers a number of important areas, including reforming local and national party structures, improving equality and diversity of representation, reviewing the National Policy Forum and policy making, devolution to Scotland, Wales and the English regions, providing greater support for Councillors and reviewing party organisation and community organising. Each area has a lead member from the NEC – I was honoured to be asked to be the lead member for devolution to the English regions and (along with the fantastic Jim McMahon) supporting local Councillors. I also look forward to working with NEC colleagues to support all the other priority areas.
This review is a really exciting opportunity and has the potential to provide Labour with our route back to national government. It is fantastic that supporting Councillors (and indeed all these other areas) have been made key priorities for the Labour Party. Please get in touch if you have any ideas, views or feedback on any of the paper’s priority areas.
Lessons Learned Taskforce
The Taskforce, chaired by Margaret Beckett, set-up to examine the lessons we can learn from May’s election defeat has completed its report. The report is now with Jeremy Corbyn’s Office and will be shared with the NEC at a future meeting. Thank you very much to everyone who sent me their feedback. I was glad to see so much of the feedback from Councillors incorporated into the report. I personally hope this report is made public so everyone can reflect on its findings.
The Fabian Society are working with Unison on a series of research reports on how the Labour Party can become more like the country it seeks to represent – focusing on women, LGBT, BAME, disabled and working class people holding elected positions in the Party locally and nationally. If you have time please complete this survey about your own experiences, which will help inform the research https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/fabianrepresentation.
Help Jim McMahon win in Oldham
As you are probably aware, LGA Labour Group and Oldham Council Leader Jim McMahon is Labour’s candidate in the parliamentary by-election in Oldham West and Royton on Thursday 3 December. Jim has done an amazing job standing up for local government on the LGA and NEC. He will also do an amazing job standing up for the people of Oldham. If you would like to help out in Oldham, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or drop into the campaign office at 227 Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham, OL9 6JR. The office is open from 9.30am – 7pm.
If you have any questions please get in touch. You can follow me on twitter at @AlicePerryUK. You can sign-up to receive regular emails and updates and read previous NEC reports on my blog at https://aliceperry.wordpress.com/nec/.