Jeremy Corbyn gave his Leader’s Report to the NEC. Jeremy noted that he has been meeting with each of the Shadow teams and has been encouraging them to foster a spirit of collaborative, cross-departmental working. He spends Mondays to Wednesday in parliament, spends a day in his constituency and then spends the rest of the week campaigning. He continues to visit Scotland several times each month, and recently spent time in Yorkshire and Cumbria visiting areas affected by flooding. Jeremy also visited migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk. Topics for NEC questions and discussions included aggressive tax avoidance and evasion, cuts to the emergency services, the continued scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry, the Trade Union bill, the housing crisis and the crisis in the British steel industry. NEC colleagues joined me in thanking Jeremy for his statement support Councillors in their budget setting processes. I talked about the important of highlighting both the damaging and reckless Tory cuts to local government budgets, and the massive positive difference Labour Councillors and Labour Councils continue to make despite these cuts.
Deputy Leader’s Report
Tom Watson highlighted the work he has been doing shadowing the Cabinet Office, including efforts to repeal the “gagging bill”, highlighting issues around reform of exit payments to public sector workers and issues of civil contingences in the light of cuts to public and emergency services. Tom has also been campaigning around the country and will be attending a number of forthcoming conferences, including the Local Government Conference in February, where he is the keynote speaker. Tom reported on the progress of the Party Reform and Digital working groups. The January meeting focused on improving gender representation within the party. The February meeting will focus on support for Councillors (a strand I am co-Chairing). Tom has appointed Jim McMahon to be his PPS. This is great news and means that Jim will be working closely with me on party reform areas like support for Councillors and devolution. I am looking forward to continuing to work with Jim and Tom to make sure Labour Councillors get the respect we deserve.
Scottish Leader’s Report
Kezia Dugdale’s report to the NEC was very well received. She talked about the work rebuilding the party in Scotland and preparing for May’s elections. She highlighted the SNP government’s poor record on health, education and justice. She also spoke of her commitment to Scottish Labour’s continued membership of the UK Labour Party. She talked about the need for the national party to give more autonomy to the Scottish Labour, an issue that is being considered by the devolution strand of the Party Reform working group.
Angela Eagle presented an excellent paper on her work to reform Labour’s policy making process. Labour is committed to an “inclusive, open and democratic process” where all stakeholders across the labour movement can have a strong voice and can be involving in “deep and meaningful policy debate”. The review will look at how we can make best use of limited resources, including making better use of advances in digital and new technology. Labour plans to launch its own Youtube Channel and produce regular podcasts. There will be a National Policy Forum meeting in the Summer and work on the Policy Commissions will begin in February. Angela Eagle is also leading on the Party Reform Working Group’s Policy strand.
Alan Johnson spoke to the NEC about the forthcoming EU Referendum. The Labour Party officially supports the UK remaining part of the European Union. Major Trade Unions like Unite, GMB USDAW and CWU also support this position. The Labour Party will have a distinct campaign highlighting the benefits of EU membership through the voices of ordinary working people. The campaign will emphasise the Labour traditions and values of solidarity and internationalism making the positive case for a reformed, social Europe. The likely referendum date is late June 2016. A question about the EU Referendum has been added to Contact Creator. Councillors can show support for the campaign by signing up to the Labour Movement for Europe Councillors campaign.
Labour MEPs have urged the government to apply for EU funding to help communities affected by recent floods. Our MEPs have also pressing the government to do more to protect the UK steel industry. Our MEPs continue their work raising issues around the ISDS elements of TTIP. The NEC noted that even in the UK left the EU, the UK would be very likely to enter into a Trade Agreement with the USA but would be in a weaker position to negotiate terms.
I gave the Local Government report, which included an update on how local government continues to work with the front bench and the Lords to oppose the Government’s incredibly damaging Housing Bill. 126 Councils are holding elections in May, with thousands of Councillors up for election. These elections are extremely important and contesting them is a key priority for the party. Councillors are also working with the Shadow Cabinet to oppose Tory cuts to local government (as highlighted by John McDonnell’s joint statement with senior Council Leaders) and Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Trickett and John McDonnell’s statement supporting Councils set legal budgets.) It bears repeating that despite these massive cuts, Labour in local government continues to deliver for our communities and show the positive difference voting Labour makes.
Elections for a new LGA Labour Group Leader
Elections are underway for a new Local Government Association Labour Group Leader. The two candidates are Sharon Taylor, Leader of Stevenage and Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle. The result will be announced at the Labour Local Government Conference in February. The conference will also include sessions on Party Reform where will be collection Councillor feedback on how we can improve diversity, campaigning and support for Councillors, as well as how our structures and processes should change in response to the devolution agenda.
Selecting our Mayoral candidates
The Organisational Committee agreed the time table for selecting candidates for the new directly elected regional Mayors. Nominations will open later this year with voting taking place over the summer. The exact process for selection is still being discussed. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any comments or questions about this.
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 NEC thanked Margaret and her team for all their hard work and discussed the report, including the lessons we can learn for the future. Issues for the NEC to consider include how and when we hold selections for parliamentary candidates, and how we support our candidates, who make enormous sacrifices in terms of their personal and professional lives. The NEC agreed that the Beckett Report should be the beginning, rather than the end, of this process of reflection.
Bullying and Harassment
The NEC is reviewing current bullying and harassment policies to ensure they meet the needs of the party in 2016. This includes plans to agree a new policy to deal with sexual harassment as well as examining how we deal with issues like cyber bullying.
If you have any questions please get in touch. We deferred discussions about the NEC terms of reference. 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/.