Keir Starmer spoke about the significance of the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and Labour’s response to the global movement addressing structural racism. Keir talked about the shadow cabinet reshuffle and welcomed the new national executive committee (NEC) members. He thanked the outgoing members for their work.
Keir thanked Labour members and supporters for all their hard work on May’s election. He talked about the mixed results. Keir noted that Labour achieved its joint best ever result in Wales and praised the leadership of Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour. He talked about Labour’s improving performance in Scotland and, while there is a lot still to do to rebuild, the progress is positive.
The Labour leader talked about how Joanne Anderson became the first ever Black women to be elected mayor of Liverpool City and how Tracy Brabin was elected as the first female metro mayor. Keir highlighted some of Labour’s positive mayoral elections and talked about the bitter disappointment of our result in Hartlepool and other parts of England.
Keir talked about the changes necessary to win back public trust and support. He spoke about the need to move to a longer-term vision for the UK, which challenges inequality and insecurity in our economy. Keir told the NEC that Labour needs to be much more outward-facing and less concerned with internal party issues. Keir talked about how Labour also need to be focused on the future and the challenges of the future, rather than focusing on the past. Keir noted that the general election may be sooner than we think and we should plan for it taking place in 2023.
Keir took questions on the election results, international free-trade deals, national identity, the Forde Inquiry, the Batley and Spen by-election, the shadow cabinet reshuffle, social care, climate change, Labour’s disciplinary process, the policy review, community wealth building, community organising, Israel-Palestine and campaign strategy.
Deputy leader’s report
Angela Rayner thanked everyone for everything they did across the labour movement to support the elections. Angela talked about the consolidation of the right-wing vote and how Labour responds to the long-term trends that have been presenting electoral challenges.
She talked about her new work setting out Labour’s vision for Britain post-Covid, and about her work with the trade unions to focus on the changing world of work. Angela talked about her priority that all workers should be entitled to fair pay, job security and dignity of work. She highlighted issues around ‘fire and rehire’, sick pay and insecure contracts and contrasted Labour’s Welsh government with the priorities of the Tory Party in England. Angela reminded the NEC that where we are in power, we are making a real difference, and we should talk about this more.
Angela made the point that it isn’t just about the policies we have, but our tone that matters; we need to speak with people rather than talking down to them. She described how Labour should set out our policy agenda to show people we are on their side.
The deputy Labour leader quoted Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova talking about how Black Lives Matter must be more than a slogan. She praised the work of Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy exposing structural racial equality. Angela told the NEC that a Labour government would implement the Lammy Review in full.
I thanked Angela for all her work as chair of the party, and particularly her tireless work to increase diversity in local government. This resulted in more diverse candidates standing to be mayors, councillors and police and crime commissioners. A lot of work often goes on behind the scenes to encourage people from under-represented groups to put themselves forward. While there is a lot more to do, we made important progress in May and wouldn’t have had some of our success stories without the hard work of Angela and others.
The NEC were presented with a summary of May’s election results. The Conservatives gained 14 councils with Labour losing eight. The Conservatives won 305 seats and the Greens won 74 seats, while Labour lost over 300. Labour won 11 of the 13 mayoral elections. We gained the West of England metro mayoralty and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoralty, where we came third in 2017. We won the new West Yorkshire metro mayor and held Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North Tyneside, Salford, Doncaster, Bristol and London. Andy Burnham won every ward in Greater Manchester.
The NEC considered what lessons can be learned from Wales, where we recorder our best ever result. The NEC noted the 16% swing from Labour to the Conservatives in Hartlepool, and the positive swing towards Labour in Airdrie and Shotts in Scotland. We considered the regional swings around the country and the impact of the consolidation of the right-wing vote, with previous UKIP and Brexit Party voters switching to the Conservatives.
I gave the local government report on behalf of Labour group leader on the Local Government Association Nick Forbes. Nick had to leave the meeting to address urgent issues surrounding the government’s imposition of new Covid restrictions on a number of local authorities. We noted the loss of many excellent local councils and council leaders, including inspirational leaders like Sean Fielding and Alan Rhodes. Nick noted that many of the places Labour lost council seats were places where we lost MPs in 2019. In contrast, we often performed well in areas where we used incumbency in other tiers.
Despite being in government for over a decade, and imposing devastating cuts on local government, the Conservatives successfully positioned themselves as the party for change. In future, Labour must offer a messaging of local hope and positive vision for shaping our communities. Nick also highlighted the threat of the Greens and how important our work on climate change and the environment is to help counter this.
Labour has around 490,000 members. It remains one of the biggest political parties in Europe.
I raised the Labour Women’s Network campaign to improve the way Labour deals with sexual harassment and related complaints. I asked the Labour Party to publish the recommendations of the 2018 report by Karon Monaghan QC. David Evans agreed to do this in principle.
A full, in-person Labour Party conference is planned for September. It will take place in Brighton. Assuming the public health restrictions continue to ease, in-person meetings can start again soon. Meetings should remain online until July 31st. It will be possible that in-person meetings can begin from August.
NEC members raised the demand to keep meetings accessible and allow members to continue to attend either online or by telephone. I highlighted the Labour Party rule that states: “All group members may have the opportunity of participating in meetings and voting remotely using electronic means of communication where appropriate.” Many members of local parties and/or Labour groups have appreciated the flexibility of being able to participate in meetings remotely. Remote meetings have made politics more accessible to many. It is important that this can continue post-pandemic.
New NEC member Anneliese Dodds gave an update on policy-making. She talked about how the pandemic has showed Labour values in action: solidarity, the value of trade unions and the importance of public service. Anneliese told the NEC that her policy review would work with the national policy forum (NPF), focusing on a smaller number of key strategic priority areas. Anneliese plans an interim report next spring/summer, preparing the work for a manifesto in 2023. The NPF will meet in July. NPF elections will take place in 2022.