Jeremy Corbyn was unable to attend the May NEC meeting as he was in Manchester for the events to commemorate the tragic Manchester Arena bombing. The NEC observed a minutes silence for the victims of the attack and sent our solidarity to the people of Manchester.
Deputy Leader’s Report
Tom Watson gave the Deputy Leader’s Report. He described May’s council elections as his recent top priority. Tom, Jeremy and members of the shadow cabinet have been campaigning around the country. Tom praised the positive spirit of unity showed by activists and councillors campaigning in the elections. New and longstanding members worked together for a Labour victory in the local elections and the next general election (whenever that will take place). Tom also praised the role trade unions played in mobilising voters, particularly in London.
Tom touched on recent events in parliament, including the betrayal of victims of phone hacking and data theft, plus the victory for the campaign against fixed-odds betting terminals. Tom Watson praised Diane Abbott’s response to the Windrush scandal. He talked about recent visits to Brussels to discuss Brexit, including its impact on food security and the UK’s creative industries.
Tom then took questions on a range of topics including antisemitism, parliamentary discipline, Brexit, immigration, the proposed Sainsbury’s-Asda merger, the parliamentary enquiry into sexual harassment, the Lewisham by-election, increasing diversity in national and local government, the local elections, engaging young members and the UCU pension’s dispute.
Local Election Results
Andrew Gwynne MP joined the NEC to discuss the local election results. Earlier this month, Labour won 41 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives 31 per cent and the Liberal Democrats gained 14 per cent. Labour won 2,353 of the 4,404 seats up for election. Of the 193 Labour gains, 98 came from the Conservatives and 40 came from UKIP. Labour gained Plymouth, Kirklees and Tower Hamlets, became the largest party in Trafford, won mayoral elections in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Sheffield and saw the highest number of councillors ever elected in London. Work is now shifting to prepare for the 2019 local elections to ensure councillors and local parties can meet any challenges that may lie ahead. This includes ensuring that selections are conducted as quickly as possible and resources are put in place early.
Katy Clark updated the NEC about work on Labour’s Democracy Review. The review has received over 5,000 submissions. There will be a series of national events in June – further information is available at labour.org.uk/about/democracy-review-2017. Phases 1 and 2 of the review looked at diversity and participation, local Labour parties and building a mass movement. Phase 3 will look at how Labour elects its leadership, how we make policy and how the party works.
Congratulations to Wendy and Ann
Former Unison president Wendy Nichols was elected vice-chair of the NEC. NEC members also congratulated Ann Black on her election as chair of the National Policy Forum.
International Report and European Labour Party Reports
The NEC received an updated about international elections, including disappointing results in Italy and Hungry and a historic victory for Labour’s sister party in Malaysia. The NEC discussed LGBT rights around the world, including in former Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Richard Corbett MEP updated the NEC on the Brexit negotiations, particularly the importance of preventing a hard border in Ireland. He also talked about the Posting of Workers Directive and the drive to achieve equal pay for workers in the same place, clamping down on exploitative employers and the under-cutting of local wages.
Improving how Labour responds to antisemitism complaints
An NEC working group has been reviewing how Labour responds to antisemitism complaints with a view to improving the process. Labour’s sexual harassment policies have recently been reviewed and vastly improved. Sexual harassment complaints are dealt with swiftly and anonymously by small, specially-trained panels (rather than the full disputes committee, which meets less frequently). The NEC is considering adopting a similar approach to antisemitism complaints.
The NEC agreed a statement confirming that trans women are eligible to take part in all-women shortlist selections. This has been the case for some time and talented trans women can and do stand for selection/election. Safeguards are in place to prevent this being abused and anyone guilty of trying to abuse this will face disciplinary action.
The NEC recognises this can be a sensitive and emotive issue and that there is a wider social debate about gender recognition and single-sex spaces. The Labour Party has not yet formulated a policy on this and invites members to engage in respectful, healthy debate on this issue. Members can also make submissions to the National Policy Forum at policyforum.labour.org.uk.
Jon Lansman and I recently attended a meeting about trans inclusion in AWS selections in Tottenham CLP. While people had different views, the tone debate was extremely respectful and constructive. It is important that members are able to engage in discussions on a whole range of potentially controversial issues and silencing debate is not healthy and does not serve our long-term interests. (It goes without saying that anyone who cross the line from healthy debate into unacceptable, personal abuse will be subject to Labour’s disciplinary procedures.)
There was an updated about Labour Live, a music and politics festival taking place in London on 16th June. Free transport is available for people from around the country wanting to attend this family event. Tickets are available at action.labour.org.uk/page/content/labour-live-main.
Goodbye to Julie Lawrence
The NEC said goodbye to Julie Lawrence, who has looked after the NEC for over 20 years. Julie has worked for nine general secretaries and has attended over 300 NEC meetings. We all wished Julie the very best for her future.