Labour’s national executive committee met on Monday, January 6th, to discuss the process for electing a new leader and deputy leader, as well as by-elections for vacant NEC places. Jennie Formby and Jeremy Corbyn gave brief reports but questions and discussions on the general election and future plans are being saved for the NEC away day at the end of January. NEC members asked that this meeting also discuss tackling antisemitism and any plans for organisational restructure. Continue reading
In early January the Labour national executive committee (NEC) will meet to discuss and agree the process for selection Labour’s Leader and Deputy Leader.
I joined the NEC in September 2014. Since then, we have already had two general elections, the EU referendum, the Scottish independence referendum, two leadership elections, a deputy leader ship election, two Scottish leadership elections and a welsh leadership referendum, as well as annual local government elections.
The process for electing a leader has varied. A new system was introduced under Ed Miliband giving votes to Registered and Affiliated supports. The idea behind this change was to give ordinary Labour voters a chance to have a say in who our leader should be.
Registered supporters made a huge impact on the outcome of both the 2015 and 2016 leadership elections. This impact was unexpected by some of the NEC members who drafted the original rules.
When the NEC agreed the fee of £3 in 2015, only around 10,000 people had signed-up to be a registered supporter. It was agreed that members of the NEC should be part of an NEC oversight panel to check all these supporters met Labour’s aims and values.
It’s fair to say we had no idea how many people would register and some of the logistical challenges this would bring. For example, all members and supporters need to be on the electoral roll. When tens of thousands of people started registering, it put a huge drain on staff resources. A low point for me was when someone successfully registered their per cat.
The oversight panels were controversial, with new members and supporters claiming they had been “purged”. The complaints made about the process in the press and on social media often differed to the reality. People would claim they were banned for something minor but once you dug into it there was often a more serious complaint behind their ban. Sadly some complaints did warrant looking into again and at the time there was no appeal process, which caused a lot of anger and frustration. There still does need to be a mechanism for ensuring people joining or registering support meet the eligibility requirements. It will be interesting to see what process is recommended for doing this for the 2020 leadership election.
Back in 2015 members and supporters of other political parties were bragging about how they had successfully signed up as registered supporters with the intention of subverting the process. Right-wing blogs were publishing guides online about how to do this. While it was easy to spot high profile case, it was hard to prevent this from taking place.
This was part of the rationale behind the increase of fees for registered supporters in 2016. We agreed that registered supporters should pay £25. This didn’t seem to deter genuine supporters from registering (almost twice as many people registered compared to the previous year). It also raised millions of pounds for future election campaigns.
Some felt the £25 fee for registered supporters was a bit steep. In the Scottish Leadership election the fee was reduced to £12. I would expect the fee for registered supporters in the 2020 leadership election to be somewhere in the range between £12 and £25.
It will be interesting to see if any of the leadership candidates will have a mass appeal beyond the current party membership to inspire tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) to join/sign-up to vote.
Registered supporters have made a big impact in recent elections but many have argued in favour of abolishing they altogether. Abolishing registered supporters would require a rule change at conference. The debate about registered supporters will continue within the party, but as we try to build as mass movement it is good to see new supporters get involved and previous supporters rejoin. (And Labour would certainly benefit with the membership and supporter fees as we prepare for crucial council elections next year!)
In a few weeks Labour will meet to agree the 2019 General Election Manifesto. The meeting that signs this off is called the Clause 5 meeting, taking its name from Clause 5 of the Labour Party rule book. So what is the Clause 5 meeting and how does it work? Continue reading
The NEC meeting before Labour Party Conference is an important (and long!) meeting, covering plans for conference and proposed rule changes, as well as the usual business.
Jeremy Corbyn gave the Leader Report and updated the NEC on the strategy for dealing with Brexit and the suspension of parliament. Jeremy has led constructive cross-party discussions of the opppsition parties to prevent a damaging no deal Brexit. Jeremy talked about the importance of getting no deal off the table, followed swiftly by a General Election.
Jeremy pointed out the government has been defeated 44 times since the election – a record number of defeats. If Johnson’s Queen’s Speech is defeated in October it will be clear that parliament has lost confidence in him.
Jeremy has been in touch with members around the country to ask their views on Brexit and Labour’s response. He stressed the importance of trying to unite the country, including leavers and remainers, based on our values of social justice. He also spoke about the amazon fire and the importance of a Green New Deal and a new green industrial revolution. With an election around the corner it is important for Labour to be a positive, united voice behind a transformative labour manifesto. We must win the election and not let Brexit devide us.
The international report included updates on the Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the situation in Kashmir, the scandal of Saudi arms sales, human rights abuses in India, China and Russia and the rise of the far-right in Brazil, causing growing inequality and environmental damage. The NEC and Jeremy talk about the importance of supporting democracy, human rights and free speech around the world.
Preparing for a General Election
The NEC discussed preparations for a likely General Election in November or December, the target seats strategy and the importance of community organising and mobilising members. There has been an increase in new members over the last few weeks. Labour Party Conference can be a showcase for Labour and our policies ahead of an election.
12,000 people submitted applications to be labour candidates in the remaining seats where parliamentary candidates have not yet been selected. Trigger ballots of sitting MPs are taking place and are resource heavy. The NEC asked for a timetable and process to be produced for the remaining selections so members can select their candidates as soon as possible. People talked about the importance of selecting candidates quickly in the seats of retiring MPs or Labour MPs who have defected to give labour the best possible chance of winning.
Conference Arrangements Committee Report
Motions to Conference come from over 50 subject area. In previous years eight areas were debated but this year for the first time 20 areas will be debated. This means that speaking times have been reduced for delegates so more delegates can have their say.
Standing candidates in Northern Ireland
The NEC agreed that Labour will not stand candidates in Northern Ireland. The current political situation with Brexit complicates things further and it would not be responsible for Labour to stand candidates in forthcoming elections.
Local government working group
The NEC passed the recommendation from the Local government working group. This included lots of positive measures to increase diversity in local government and support women and BAME Councillors into leadership positions. There will also be a pilot for members to directly elect council leaders.
There will be a new rule to allow labour group members to take part in meetings electronically to make it easier for people with caring responsibilities to stand to be Councillors and play an active role in Labour Group meetings while on maternity leave. This is based on a 2017 Fawcett society recommendation for council committee meetings. This is a welcome and important change. There is also a rule that Local Government Committees will need to be gender balanced, with gender balanced Executives.
LGCs and Labour Groups will work closely in partnership to agree their local manifestos. The working group reviewed lots of examples of good practice where this is already happening.
Longest meeting ever?
The meeting lasted nine and a half hours. NEC members are volunteers from around the UK. Many of us have full time jobs outside politics and caring commitments. While NEC members are extremely dedicated it was not possible for all of us to stay for the full nine and half hours. The NEC meets again on Friday, which gives us time to address urgent or unresolved business.
Jeremy Corbyn gave the Leader’s Report. Jeremy talked about the importance of campaigning against a no-deal Tory Brexit. Labour believes that the public should vote on any no deal/Tory Brexit and have the final say. Jeremy spoke about the importance of preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland. He also praised the work of Labour MPs in securing rights to abortions and gay marriage in Northern Ireland.
Labour will table a confidence vote in the government when the time is right to ensure a vote will have the greatest chance of success. The NEC is very aware an election could come at any time so we all need to be ready with candidates in place and active local campaigns.
“Two of our Councillors had their cars set on fire, totally burned out” one Councillor leader told the LGA Labour Group, as we discussed the rise in abuse faced by elected representatives.
Dramatic as it seems, everyone had a story from their patch. Threats of violence, rape threats, death threats, bricks through windows, stalking, sexual harassment, Councillors attacked at their ward surgeries and more. This kind of abuse can have a damaging impact on people’s mental and physical health and can also have a negative impact on people’s families and personal relationships. While it certainly isn’t the day to day experience for most of the UKs thousands of Councillors, it is a very worrying trend. Any instances of violence and intimidation are completely unacceptable and too many Councillors had experienced this first hand.
The March NEC meeting discussed a range of issues including elections, selections, improving processes and Brexit.
Increasing Diveristy in Local Government
March’s Organisational Committee agreed a range of measures to improve diversity at all levels in local government. Labour will undertake equality monitoring of Councillors and candidates standing for election. Labour will invest in training and will offer more programmes aimed at recruiting candidates, as well as leadership training like the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme and the new Bernie Grant Leadership Programme. BAME members are encouraged to apply for the Bernie Grant Programme at https://labour.org.uk/members/take-part/bernie-grant-leadership-programme/. Labour will also ensure existing Equalities rules, including those relating to selections, are enforced.
Councils and Labour Groups around the country are passing baby Leave motions. Thank you to Southampton, Sunderland, Islington, Lambeth, Blackpool, Corby, Calderdale, Lincoln, Gloucester, Stevenage, Newcastle, Bristol, Bridgend, Staffordshire, Erewash, North Warwickshire, Lewisham, Basildon, Haringey and Bolsover. More Councils are planning to introduce Baby Leave after May’s elections. You can encourage your local group to pass the LGA model motion at https://www.local.gov.uk/lga-labour/about-us/parental-leave-policy-councillors.
EPLP Leader Richard Corbett might have attended his last Labour NEC meeting if Britain leaves the EU before the next meeting in May. Richard presented a written report, which he joked was written 9 days ago so is completely out of date.
Jeremy Corbyn introduced the Brexit discussion, updating the NEC about his recent trip to Brussels. Jeremy condemned Theresa May’s failure to build consensus around her deal. Labour will continue to draft amendments and put forward our own vision for Brexit. Jeremy stressed the importance of preventing a chaotic no deal Brexit. The NEC is very aware that the government could collapse at any time resulting in a General Election. Labour would then need to move quickly to produce a manifesto that reflected Labour’s position on Brexit, incorporating last year’s conference motion.
I asked about candidate selections if European Parliamentary Elections take place late this year. NEC Officers will consider options and produce a plan.
Leader and Deputy Leader Reports
As well as a lengthy and thoughtful Brexit update, Jeremy gave his report covering items including countering the rise of the far-right across the world, the Christchurch terror attack, the local elections and the impact of reckless Tory austerity, as well as the importance of a Labour government to restore funding to valued public services.
Tom Watson gave a report covering recent activities, including work relating to his Shadow Cabinet brief, his meetings with JLM ahead of their vote on Labour affiliation, and the formation of the Future Britain Group in response to TIG. A lively Q&A followed.
Labour’s finances are healthy, with millions of pounds ring-fenced to fight a General Election should one take place.
Best of luck to everyone standing for election in May. The NEC asked for CLPs to be made aware of target seats so they can join campaigning. You can find local campaign events at https://events.labour.org.uk.