Jeremy Corbyn’s NEC report included updates on Labour’s response to Brexit, opposing a second Independence Referendum in Scotland, reaction to the election of Donald Trump, the rise of fake news and how this is changing politics, post-liberalism, the women’s marches around the world, engaging people with politics, Melanie Onn and Keir Starmer’s private members bill protecting workers rights, investing in infrastructure to grow the economy and the cynicism and hypocrisy of the Liberal Democrats.
Labour’s response to Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn discussed the recent Supreme Court judgment, saying “The Government has today been forced by the Supreme Court to accept the sovereignty of Parliament. Labour respects the result of the referendum and the will of the British people and will not frustrate the process for invoking Article 50.
“However, Labour will seek to amend the Article 50 Bill to prevent the Conservatives using Brexit to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven off the coast of Europe. Labour is demanding a plan from the Government to ensure it is accountable to Parliament throughout the negotiations and a meaningful vote to ensure the final deal is given Parliamentary approval.”
Protecting the NHS
The NEC welcomed back Jon Ashworth, who gave an update about the NHS crisis in England and Scotland. He noted that this winter has seen the worst NHS crisis for 20 years. The NHS in England has run out of beds on 108 occasions and is regularly failing to meet the four hour A&E waiting time target. Tory and SNP government decisions have led to huge pressures on the NHS in England and Scotland, made worst by their cuts to social care. Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour have been working closely Jon and Jeremy to expose the SNP’s poor record on health.
Jon highlighted the enormous contributions workers from the EU make to the NHS and the care sector. Jon and Jeremy thanked the thousands of Labour members across the country who have taken part in NHS campaign action days. Last Saturday’s #CarefortheNHS day reached over 10 million people on Twitter.
The NEC were also reminded of comments made Stoke-on-Trent Central UKIP by-election candidate Paul Nuttall about his desire to privatise the NHS.
Ann Cryer, Chair of Labour’s National Policy Forum, gave an update on policy making. I have written a guide to how the NPF works and how members can get involved. Policy Commission meetings are taking place in January and February to agree first drafts of the policy documents that will eventually be put before Labour Party Conference in September. Labour members and voters will be asked to feed in to this process and take part in consultations. I will be Chairing meetings of the Home Affairs and Justice Policy Commission, which will look at issues like policing, community safety, prisons, domestic and gender based violence, historic justice campaigns, national security, immigration and constitutional matters. You can read more about the work of the NPF, and make policy submissions online at http://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/.
Progressive Alliances and electoral pacts
Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC confirmed opposition to so called “progressive alliances”, with Jeremy and others agreeing that parties like the SNP and the Liberal Democrats are not progressive. Labour will stand candidates in and contest all relevant elections.
The NEC discussed elections taking place in 2017, including local government elections in England, Scotland and Wales, parliamentary by-elections in Stoke and Copeland and a possible snap General Election. Nick Forbes and I have been meeting with Councillors and made the NEC aware of the issues we had been asked to raise. We also invited election co-ordinator Jon Trickett to meet with Councillors to discuss plans in more detail.
Local Government Report
Nick Forbes gave the local government report, which included a discussion on the social care crisis and the urgent need for the Tory government to provide Councils with adequate funding for vital services. Nick touched on the challenges Brexit posed to local government, fighting Tory austerity and unfair cuts to Council budgets and the importance of ensuring the blame is placed with the Tories and not hard pressed Labour Councillors. Nick also talked about Labour Council support for Living Wage campaigns – pointing out that the average pay ratio in local government is an impressive 11 to 1.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson will be attending the Labour Local Government Conference in February. Nick and I will both be attending and look forward to meeting-up with Councillors from around the UK.
The NEC received an update on election results and campaign activity in Austria, Italy and the USA, as well as work to promote LGBT rights in the Western Balkan countries. NEC Chair, and European Parliamentary Labour Party Leader, Glenis Willmott gave the EPLP Report. Her report included an update on Brexit, taking action on tax avoidance, opposition to European plans to open up railway contracts, action on air quality and zero hours contracts. The NEC is preparing for the possibility of European elections in 2019 (although it is also very possible that these elections will not take place following our departure from the EU).
Labour Party Membership
Labour has an impressive 540,000 members – a significant increase on this time last year. Membership peaked at just over 550,000 in July 2016. Membership figures will rise and fall at various points in the year.