Labour’s national executive committee met via Zoom today. The NEC thanked outgoing general secretary Jennie Formby for her service.
Keir Starmer talked about his work holding the government to account during the Covid-19 pandemic. He talked about Labour’s work challenging the government on a range of key issues, including selective use of statistics, the furlough and self-employment scheme and lack of personal protective equipment for key workers. Keir talked about 40% of Covid deaths being in care homes, where the crisis has been absolutely shocking. Keir talked about how Labour is pressing the government hard on safety in the work place, transport and schools. Labour is doing a wide consultation with trade union and local government to ensure the experiences of the pandemic across the UK are reflected and raised.
Keir has been holding virtual meetings around the country with local communities. These have included a number of open meetings with local people, including current and former Labour voters, to listen and rebuild trust. The first meetings took place in Bury and Tees valley.
The NEC then asked questions on a range of issues, including: uniting party, Kashmir, the urgent need for financial support for local government, Covid-19, deaths in care homes, support for renters, reopening schools, surveillance testing and contact tracing, the impact of the pandemic on mental health, party discipline, safety of bus workers and other transport workers, the impact of Covid on BAME communities, funding for TFL, the economy, the importance of resisting future austerity and digital inclusion.
Deputy leader’s report
Angela Rayner talked about the community organising pilots and the national plan for activity during the pandemic. She thanked Jennie Formby, as well as Jon Lansman, who is standing down as chair of Momentum. She described it as an “end of an era” and thanked them both. Angela talked about the importance of solidarity with workers and the importance of standing up for workers’ rights, as well as what can be achieved when we unite together as a party.
Angela also addressed some of the issues raised in the leaked report. She discussed measures to improve culture within the party, tackling racism, sexism or other prejudice. She gave an update on some of the disciplinary action taken as a result of the leaked report. Angela stressed the importance of ending factionalism and uniting party.
Local democracy during the pandemic
The NEC discussed how we can continue to function as a political party during the pandemic. So much of our activity is based around meeting face-to-face and speaking to each other and the public.
Most of the metro-mayors, PCCs, London Assembly selections are complete or almost complete. There are many council selections that need to take place. We discussed ways these selection meetings can take place electronically via video conferencing.
I asked about arrangements for Labour groups to meet and hold their AGMs with secret ballots. The Labour Party has recently issued guidance on AGMs and will provide further information soon. Labour groups are encouraged to continue business and hold AGMs.
We discussed arrangements for this year’s NEC elections. The decision about how these elections will take place has been deferred to later in the year. I spoke in favour of the single transferable vote (STV) system for NEC elections (and other relevant internal elections).
The NEC also discussed arrangements for regional conferences. A number of regional conferences where due to take place this spring but were delayed. The current situation makes it challenging to reschedule them so they have been delayed until 2021.
National Policy Forum
The NPF has begun holding policy consultations. Members will be able to engage online. The vacant NEC policy commission chairs were filled. More information about the NPF and how it works is available on thePolicy Forum website.
Labour Party 2020 conference
The NEC regretfully has had to cancel annual conference. A policy conference can take place online instead. This is a shame but necessary. Hopefully life will be back to normal in 2021.
Local government report
Nick Forbes gave the local government report, updating the NEC on local government’s Covid-19 response. He highlighted the importance of government providing the funding they promised to help councils in their vital work tackling the novel coronavirus. Keir has invited Nick to attend shadow cabinet, enabling need to feedback the experience of councils and local authorities directly into the shadow cabinet and the policy-making process. Nick spoke about the preparations for the important 2021 local elections and thanked Angela Rayner for her work supporting councillors and committing to meeting us regularly.
The NEC thanked key workers for their amazing work responding to the crisis and for everything they do – day in, day out.