This report covers the NEC meetings on 12 and 19 July. An enormous amount has already been written about last week’s emergency NEC meeting. (I recommend reading Ann Black’s NEC report, which accurately cover the meeting on 12 July.)
Ambiguity about the rules
As everyone knows, there was unhelpful ambiguity regarding the rules determining whether an incumbent Labour Leader would atomically be able to stand in a leadership election or whether they would need the nominations of MPs and MEPs. It is worth pointing out that the NEC were not voting on whether or not to block Jeremy Corbyn, or whether they supported his leadership. I made the point that while I expected the NEC to vote to include him automatically, if we didn’t, it was likely that he would receive the necessary number of nominations in order to allow him to stand. I felt that the drama around the meeting was unnecessary and unhelpful. It was a tense and difficult day for everyone (and much of this would have been avoided if the rules have been written more clearly in the first place).
Bullying, threats and intimidation
The NEC uses secret ballots for its most important decisions, such as voting on who should be General Secretary of the Labour Party. In local government we regularly use secret ballots for our AGMs and other significant internal votes. Secret ballots help guard against the politics of patronage. During the debate on whether to use secret ballots on 12 July, a number of people, including me, raised concerns about bullying, threats and intimidation, both within the Labour Party and the country as a whole.
I have written about the existential threat posed by these growing cases of intimidation, abuse and vitriol – if we want to be taken seriously as a political party we must take action to end this now.
I am pleased to have had several positive conversations with other NEC members, including Jeremy Corbyn, about how we can deal with this problem. The sad fact is some MPs, Councillors and activists have had to call the police about numerous deeply troubling incidents, which left people fearing for their personal safety. Dealing with this must be a priority for us. The recommendations by Shami Chakrarbti on 19th July should also help address this. I look forward to working with everyone on the NEC to make sure the Labour Party is a welcoming place, where people can debate and discuss different views in a constructive, open environment. I will report back on how this work progresses.
Keeping things in perspective
A media frenzy followed the meeting on 12 July. Some reports of our confidential meeting were surprisingly accurate, while others were complete fabrications. While I won’t address all of these stories, I feel the need to address the accusation about Owen Jones intimidating NEC members. I exchanged a friendly series of text messages with Owen during the meeting. I found his text messages to be helpful, kind and not remotely intimidated. We all received many texts, emails and telephone calls prior to the meeting on 12 July from people with a variety of opinions. People across the party were concerned for the future and had views they wanted to discuss. I welcomed this. This is not the kind of intimidating behaviour I was referring to earlier. It goes without saying that there is a big difference between healthy, passionate debate, and throwing a brick through someone’s window, or threatening to rape them, because you don’t agree with their point of view.
Leadership election process
A lot has been written about this already. I hope it is helpful to point out the following: Continue reading