The organisational sub-committee and disputes sub-committee of Labour’s national executive committee met today. I also attended the LGA Labour group meeting, which unfortunately clashed with part of the disputes committee meeting.
Parliamentary Labour Party representative Shabana Mahmood MP was elected chair of the disputes committee. UNISON representative Wendy Nichols was elected chair of the organisational committee and Usdaw’s Michael Wheeler was elected vice-chair of the organisational committee.
Complaints and disciplinary hearings
The NEC disputes sub-panels have been regularly meeting and have heard over 300 cases. The majority of these cases have concerned complaints relating to people’s protected characteristics. As agreed as part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission action plan, regular statistics about complaints and disciplinary cases will be published on the Labour Party website.
The LGA Labour group also met today. The meeting discussed the 2021 elections and when they might take place. If the elections are postponed, councils will need as much notice as possible to accommodate changes. As things stand, numerous polling stations are currently being used as vaccination centres and Covid-19 testing centres. There are some very difficult, practical challenges that councils need to resolve in order for safe elections to be able to take place. Many councillors expressed serious concerns about the elections taking place in May as planned.
Another issue raised is that currently people are unable to register for postal votes online. Labour has been lobbying government to change this and make it much easier for people to register fully electronically. Any change to this won’t be made in time for elections in May.
Postponing the elections to July or September would also pose challenges to local government staff, who have been working extremely hard in challenging circumstances. An election in September would also disrupt the party conference season.
Due diligence for candidate selection
Labour’s EHRC action plan includes commitments to undertake addition due diligence for candidate selection. There have been damaging incidents in the past where candidates were selected, only to be removed due to previous unacceptable behaviour coming to light.
Candidates and elected representatives are held to a higher standard than party members. The NEC agreed that it is right and proper that the highest standards of probity are expected. Additional checks and balances will be made to relevant selection procedures, including local government selections.
General secretary David Evans updated the NEC about the status of the Forde Inquiry. This is an independent, impartial review. The report was due to be delivered last year but has received a high volume of submissions, which contributed to the delay. The report will be completed and delivered shortly.
Liverpool mayoral selection
The NEC agreed a process for selecting Labour’s candidate for mayor of Liverpool. The process has been accelerated to allow a candidate to be selected as quickly as possible.
Parliamentary boundary review
The NEC agreed proposals for an NEC boundary commission working group to oversee Labour’s response to the parliamentary boundary review and relevant organisational work relating to this. This working group will be a sub-committee of the NEC and any recommendations and proposals will need to come back to the full NEC for agreement.
Intimidation in public life
The NEC agreed that Labour could sign up to a joint statement on tackling intimidation in public life. This has been driven by cross-party parliamentary work and the Jo Cox Foundation. You can read more at Intimidation in Public Life: a joint approach to tackling intimidation on gov.uk. All political parties have agreed to sign up apart from the Conservative Party. I raised the issue of unacceptable levels of abuse aimed at councillors and council candidates. Ann Black also made important points about the need to change the culture within the Labour Party, as well as tackling wider abuse people face from the public.