National Executive Committee
This is a bumper edition, covering the NEC meeting on 20 September and the NEC meetings at annual conference on 24, 26 and 27 September 2016. As always, comments and questions are welcome.
National Executive Committee, Tuesday 20 September 2016
This meeting started at noon and finished at 8:30 pm. Jeremy Corbyn thanked party staff and NEC members for their support during a difficult time. Disunity was damaging, and abuse and anonymous briefings from all sides had to stop. He hoped that CLPs would welcome the thousands of new members, and that they would play an active role. If he was re-elected he wanted to bring the parliamentary Labour party (PLP) together as an effective opposition, and he was entitled to their support. He would be proposing radical democratisation, giving members a stronger voice, after conference. He stressed the need to be prepared for a possible early general election.
He also touched on the Workplace 2020 initiative, post office pensions, the House of Lords, responding to Brexit and grammar schools. He asked the NEC to endorse the recommendations in Shami Chakrabarti’s report on anti-semitism and other forms of racism, and an associated code of conduct. The NEC agreed subject to detailed consideration by the equalities committee, which had not met since March.
I raised the concerns of party staff, who were reading on a daily basis that they would be “cleared out” after Jeremy Corbyn’s expected win, with the fees from registered supporters used to pay them off. Others confirmed that NEC members, not staff, made decisions on the rules governing the leadership contest and on individual exclusions and suspensions. Jeremy Corbyn said that he was not into purges and all staff should be treated with respect. The “secret meeting” at Unite’s Esher Place, reported in The Times, was with senior members of his staff and solely concerned with improving the efficiency of his office.
MPs were upset by the “hit list” of “enemies”, which had led to an increase in online abuse. They pointed out that during Jeremy Corbyn’s long years on the backbenches no-one seriously proposed trying to deselect him for following his conscience. Others felt that some MPs had consistently undermined the leader and it was not surprising if local members expressed their views. Jeremy Corbyn was praised for his absolute rejection of all forms of abuse, and asked to make it clear that offenders did not act in his name.
Walking the Walk
This led on to Tom Watson’s code of conduct for social media, which was agreed by the NEC. It included the following pledge for all new and existing party members:
“I pledge to act within the spirit and the rules of the Labour party in my conduct both on and offline, with members and non-members, and I stand against all forms of abuse. I understand that if found to be in breach of the Labour party policy on online and offline abuse, I will be subject to the rules and procedures of the Labour party.”
The levels of misogyny, anti-semitism, racism, homophobia and obscenity had shocked all members of the NEC screening panels, and some had been personally attacked. Cleaning up the internet may have been over-ambitious, but we were following Jeremy Corbyn’s principles. There will have been some mistakes and some borderline decisions, but the reasons that members give for being excluded are not always the actual reasons, not all the claims of mistaken identity are true, and political views did not play any part. No-one was excluded for liking the Foo Fighters, and of the 3,963 members and supporters excluded, nearly 1,000 said they belonged to another party on their application. We now need to deal with appeals as fast as possible, and with remarks on social media a simple expression of regret may resolve the situation.
Our Party: Made By Members
The NEC agreed procedures for safeguarding children and young people, important now that we have more than 10,000 members under the age of 18. These will be circulated to CLPs in due course.
More contentious was Tom Watson’s paper on party reform, pulling together recommendations for rule changes and procedural guidance from the various groups. Members complained that this was only circulated the night before, though to be fair a three-hour meeting was scheduled for 6th September to go through all the details and then abruptly cancelled. Some members argued for postponing everything to the NEC awayday on 22nd November, but others who had spent many hours consulting and distilling views wanted rule changes agreed at this year’s conference rather than waiting till 2017. Eventually the NEC agreed to go through the paper, take forward the proposals that were supported and defer the others.
As convenor of the gender representation group I said that the key was attracting and involving more women at local level: fewer women than men join the party, participate in meetings, stand as party officers and candidates, and get selected and elected as councillors and MPs. Growing the base of the pyramid was necessary for all further progress. The only rule change would establish a national annual women’s conference with a formal input into the party’s decision-making structures. Everyone agreed with this, though discussion is needed on timing and accountability, combining the inclusive, welcoming atmosphere with some form of delegate structure for formal votes.
The NEC agreed the establishment of a bursary scheme to help working-class and low-income members seeking selection for parliament, with up to £100,000 available, and another £50,000 for disabled members. Consideration would be given to support for gay and ethnic minority members as the scheme developed. I drew attention to the huge financial demands on women candidates in the 2015 target seats after they were selected. Jennie Formby and James Asser would take this work forward.
A series of changes within local government also went through, including a rule that members of Labour groups must not support any proposal to set an illegal budget. Changes to guidance included interviewing sitting councillors at least every two terms. I queried the requirement for assessment panels to be chaired by someone from a different local authority area, and will pursue this with councillor representatives.
Regarding devolution, the Scottish and Welsh executives would be given more power in administering and selecting their candidates at every level, and rules for electing their leaders would be extended to their deputy leaders. The youth paper was held back until later in the year, but consultation showed that 85% of young members thought the Young Labour national committee should be elected by one member one vote.
The main outstanding recommendations concerned the composition of the NEC. Local government wanted another councillor and a police and crime commissioner or mayor, Scotland and Wales wanted to be represented by frontbench members, and two more trade union seats would be added to the current 12 plus treasurer, to “maintain the balance of stakeholders”. No mention of increasing the six constituency places despite individual membership rocketing from under 200,000 to 550,782 and counting.
Some proposed deferring all of these to November and looking then at the overall composition of the NEC. But Scotland was not prepared to wait. Kezia Dugdale, elected with her own mandate of 72% of Scottish members, argued passionately that they had been asking for this since Refounding Labour in 2011, and a voice on the party’s ruling body was essential to tackling nationalism. Others suggested that the real reason for adding Scottish and Welsh nominees immediately was that they would tip a finely-balanced NEC against the Left from the end of this year’s conference, and stand in the way of further democratisation, though of course these explanations are not mutually exclusive. The vote was 16-14 in favour. Jeremy Corbyn abstained, and I voted with the majority. Given Scottish Labour’s current situation I believed that the NEC should at least give it the best chance of revival.
Tom Watson’s paper then moved on to recent and contentious issues.
The first was whether the shadow cabinet should return to being elected, and two options were proposed: full election by MPs, in line with the recent vote in the PLP, or one-third elected by MPs, one-third appointed by the leader and one-third elected by a ballot of all individual members. I thought the second suggestion was unfeasible: most members do not know most MPs, so hustings with maybe 40 people would be needed, members would be deluged with emails from every candidate, posting half a million ballot packs would be expensive, and the process would take six weeks. It also excluded the unions, and I think this element has now gone away.
Otherwise there was much talk of unity, olive branches and the need to fill frontbench positions and take on the Tories, but little trust. There was a proposal to delete the current rule, giving freedom to slot in anything agreed later on, but this raised suspicions that the status quo would be overridden. After a long discussion the NEC voted on whether to set a deadline for negotiations and return to the issue on Saturday evening. This was lost 15-16. I voted against, because this has to be agreed between the leader and the PLP if it is to work. Though I am alarmed at hints that the impasse may persist until the November awayday.
The paper went on to look at changes to the method of electing the leader and deputy leader. Amending the rules to make clear that an incumbent is automatically on the ballot paper was sensible, and brought the rules into line with the court decision. Removing the category of registered supporters would be widely welcomed by members, but the NEC did not want to be bounced. Two further options, restoring an electoral college with separate sections for MPs/MEPs and/or trade unions, were not fully developed and not considered. It is a bad idea to keep changing a rule every time the results are deemed unsatisfactory.
On a local matter, trade unions and socialist societies currently have no voting rights at constituency AGMs unless they were affiliated at 31 December of the previous year. With many AGMs moving to the autumn this meant a very long wait. So the NEC agreed to put forward a rule change giving new affiliates full rights if they were accepted at least 60 days before the AGM.
Onwards to Liverpool
Harry Donaldson, Chair of the conference arrangements committee (CAC), reported that 499 CLPs were sending 812 delegates. There are far more delegates but the number of CLPs is much the same as previous years, so it looks like the richer ones are sending more delegates while others still cannot afford any. The NEC agreed with me on removing the ballot on priorities for the national policy forum. Last year we ditched this because the NPF hadn’t met and the party was occupied with a leadership contest, and neither of those had changed. I suggested that the policy commissions should concentrate on rapid reaction to whatever the Tory government does, and on working through the consequences of Brexit.
The NEC was then asked to oppose rule changes submitted by CLPs. These included an amendment from Sheffield Heeley which would give conference the right to refer back part of any document without rejecting the document as a whole. A proposal to support the amendment was lost 15-16. I voted for the amendment: it is 20 years since Partnership in Power promised that
“In the past, policy statements have been presented to conference on an all-or-nothing basis. Under the rolling programme, conference would for the first time be able to have separate votes on key sections and proposals in the policy statement.”
Rule changes submitted this year were included for noting, and would be debated next year. However several NEC members asked to bring forward an amendment from Ashfield CLP which would allow retired member sections of trade unions to affiliate to CLPs, of particular importance to the NUM. This was agreed, but followed by a request also to bring forward an amendment from the Jewish Labour Movement and six CLPs. I’d received representations regarding this and an alternative from Hastings & Rye CLP, but assumed that these would be considered in 2017.
The meeting was in its ninth hour and there were 21 further amendments, so I said that we should leave them all to next year as usual. Afterwards I was told that Jeremy had personally promised the JLM that their amendment would be discussed this year, so I can only suggest that the proposers take it up directly with Jeremy, who was at the meeting throughout.
In the closing half hour the NEC agreed a paper which streamlines membership rates. In future there will be three rates: standard and reduced, both index-linked as now, and an introductory rate, starting at £3 and set at 6.5% of the standard rate. This would apply to members aged 14-19, students, and armed forces members in their first year, and cover basic servicing costs. Members already on the £1 annual rate would stay on it until their circumstances change.
And finally I offered to present the report on the Brighton & Hove Labour Party, the subject of much correspondence and many complaints and questions, but the NEC just wanted to go home. I will look for the earliest opportunity to have it signed off.
National Executive Committee Meeting, Saturday 24 September 2016
The NEC congratulated Jeremy Corbyn on his overwhelming re-election as leader, and he said he was doing all he could to rebuild relationships across the party. He hoped that some MPs would return to the frontbench, and he was continuing talks on possible elections to the shadow cabinet.
He then asked the NEC to defer the addition of Scottish and Welsh leaders to the November away day, as part of his promised democratisation. Many of the arguments were the same as on Tuesday. On the one hand members said that they supported this in principle but it was just a matter of timing. Proposals agreed in November need not wait till 2017 as the party could always hold a special conference on rule changes. Some thought that the NEC decision lacked clarity, and we had not agreed the actual text of the amendment. On the other hand it was argued that the NEC made a clear decision, and there was little point in staying for more than eight hours if votes were repeatedly re-run, against our own standing orders. Kezia Dugdale pleaded with the NEC not to undermine her position. In the end there was no further vote, and the text for all the other rule changes was also approved.
Jeremy Corbyn also tabled the ten principles on which he had campaigned for the leadership and a motion on international trade. It was agreed to bring these to the next meeting on Monday morning and, subject to any amendments, put them before conference as statements in the name of the NEC.
This is a bumper edition, covering the NEC meeting on 20 September and the NEC meetings at annual conference on 24, 26 and 27 September 2016. As always, comments and... Read more
First, thank you for taking part in the NEC election, and I’m honoured to have been re-elected with more than 100,000 votes.
Congratulations also to Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Rhea Wolfson and Peter Willsman, and to Alice Perry and Nick Forbes, elected in the local government section, and appreciation to other candidates for their contribution. Full results are at the end. It is pleasing that for the first time ever, Scotland and Wales now have elected representatives in the constituency section.
What such a mandate means is open to interpretation. I know that some members voted according to whether I was supported by particular groupings or disowned by others, but also that many appreciate my personal record of accountability through 18 years on the national policy forum and 16 years on the NEC. I hope to continue to represent the widest possible membership through the polarised times ahead.
Voting information is going out now, by email and post, to members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters. The web page http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/leadership/info has a list of frequently-asked questions, and information on how to request ballot papers if these do not arrive soon.
As I’ve said consistently, I deeply regret the current leadership contest at a time when all our attention should be focused on the Tories. However it is now in progress, and as a member of the procedures committee, responsible for overseeing the election, I cannot endorse or campaign for any candidate. I can, however, urge everyone to vote, and then to accept the decision of party members and supporters as we cannot afford, financially or politically, to go through this every year.
The Rules of the Game
Since I last wrote in July I’ve had many messages about aspects of the election. The NEC meetings on 12th July 2016 and 19th July 2016 are covered in my reports at http://www.annblack.co.uk/nec-update-15-july-2016, http://www.annblack.co.uk/nec-meeting-19-july-2016. These correct much of the misreporting in the media and online, and explain my reasons for voting as I did, so new readers should start here. Since then most attention has focused on legal actions, and on the role of the procedures committee.
Below is a summary of developments.
On 12th July the NEC made a number of decisions regarding the election process. Two of these were challenged in court.
The first was that Jeremy Corbyn did not need nominations from 20% of MPs to be on the ballot.
The second was that only members who joined by 12th January 2016 were entitled to a vote.
On 19th July the NEC agreed not to reopen these decisions. Personally I voted to allow Jeremy Corbyn onto the ballot without fresh nominations, but lost an attempt to move the cutoff date from 12th January 2016 to 24th June 2016. Nevertheless I accepted the majority view, and do not consider it appropriate publicly to criticise decisions by the NEC of which I am a member.
The procedures committee was elected by the full NEC at the 12th July meeting, and has taken a consistent approach in upholding all decisions made by the full NEC. The party won both cases, the first in the initial hearing, the second on appeal. Had the first judgment gone against us the procedures committee would have appealed that also. Concerns about wasting members’ money on legal fees were therefore misplaced, though I believe that the financial considerations were secondary to the principles involved.
The outcome means that the NEC, not judges, has the authority to run the party’s affairs, and that principle should stand regardless of whether its members dislike a particular result. Though the procedures committee has delegated powers, there might have been a case for referring back to the full NEC had it reversed an NEC vote. I cannot see why this was necessary to continue defending an NEC position.
I also want to stress that all decisions by the procedures committee, and indeed the NEC, have been made throughout by its members, not by the general secretary. Throughout this process Iain McNicol and the party staff have respected NEC decisions and done their best to implement them. f there is criticism, it should be directed towards the 33 elected and appointed members.
On the question of new members’ rights: most people join the party because they support its aims and values, they want to meet like-minded people, to discuss policy, to support and to campaign for Labour representatives at every level of government. When choosing council and parliamentary candidates there is a six-month qualifying period to avoid large numbers being signed up just before a selection meeting solely to vote for an individual, with no other interest in party activity.
As I reported previously, most existing members told me that this should also apply to the leadership contest, and they overwhelmingly opposed giving registered supporters a vote for £3. And all those who joined because they were inspired by Jeremy Corbyn's campaign last year, and by his subsequent election, are of course able to vote.
But this debate would have been better conducted last October, and illustrates general concerns regarding party organisation which I have raised over the years.
First, the time to review whether changes to the process are needed is immediately after the previous election, not in the middle of the next one.
Second, rule changes are too often added piecemeal, without checking that the resultant whole covers all possible scenarios.
Third, the contents of the website should be regularly checked and updated.
If these simple practices had been followed we would have had clarity on whether an incumbent leader was automatically on the ballot and on what new members could expect, and much grief would have been avoided.
The procedures committee has also been trying to arrange more candidate debates, difficult because of perceptions of bias within the MSM (mainstream media). As last year, NEC panels are checking applications from, and complaints about, members and supporters. Jeremy Corbyn’s zero tolerance of all forms of racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and obscene abuse, endorsed by Shami Chakrabarti, provides welcome guidance.
First, thank you for taking part in the NEC election, and I’m honoured to have been re-elected with more than 100,000 votes. Congratulations also to Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe,... Read more
Thank you again for your continued support, it means a great deal. Also for all the messages, most of which are courteous whether they agree or disagree with me, unlike Twitter. I now have 1,000 mails and no hope of answering them individually, so below are some frequently raised issues and a report from the meeting on 19 July.
First, it is not true that papers covering the freeze date, the fee, the sign-up period for registered supporters and the suspension of most local meetings were sprung on the NEC on 12th July after some members had left. All papers were available half an hour before the start. Some of us read them, others didn’t. If more members had stayed we could at least have got a later cut-off date for voting in the leadership election.
Second, I referred to feedback before the meeting, and some people ask who I consulted. I have a list of some 8,000 addresses. They include all current and most former CLP secretaries, together with members who have written to me since I was elected to the NEC in 2000. Many forward on to their branches and constituencies. It is not a scientific sample – I have no access to individual membership records – but I have no reason to think that it is biased. More recently I’ve had many mailings on one side or the other, where I cannot tell whether they reflect the extent of feeling or the capacity to mount e-campaigns.
Third, sandwiches. The crates of sandwiches which the media saw being carried into the building were not for the NEC or the staff, but for a group of lawyers on a different floor. The NEC had coffee and biscuits.
Fourth, NEC elections. Members should have received email notification by Friday 15th July and hardcopy packs by Friday 22nd July. The deadline for voting is Friday 5th August. If nothing has arrived by Wednesday 27th July please call the membership team on 0345 092 2299. Everyone in membership at 24th June 2016 will be able to vote, and I urge you to do so, whatever your choice.
Fifth, I’ve had a number of questions relating to the above. I’m standing as part of the centre-left grassroots alliance, and as such I am committed to the democratically-elected leadership’s progressive policies. I have therefore voted for Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Peter Willsman, Darren Williams, Rhea Wolfson and myself. I deeply regret the current leadership contest at a time when all our attention should be focused on the Tories. However it has now been triggered, and as a member of the procedures committee, responsible for overseeing the election, I cannot endorse or campaign for any candidate.
Sixth, on a different topic some Labour MPs have claimed, again, that the 2015 conference supported renewing Trident. This is not true. Instead, delegates decided not to discuss nuclear weapons at all. So the position remains as agreed by the 2014 conference, which referred to past policy in support of Britain’s nuclear weapons and called for a wide-ranging debate on all aspects of defence going forward.
National Executive Committee, 19 July 2016
However Trident was not even mentioned when the NEC met the day after the parliamentary vote. We started by considering ways to honour Jo Cox through bursaries or other lasting memorials, and to recognise the bravery of Bernard Kenny who tried to intervene, and then moved on to the agenda.
The Chair reported receipt of several motions seeking to overturn decisions made by the NEC on 12th July and re-run much of the debate on procedures. He had ruled these out of order. Arrangements for the contest were already in train, and the NEC standing orders say that decisions cannot be rescinded within three months. This principle is included in model standing orders for local parties, and continually revisiting issues because some people choose to leave early or disagree with the outcome is a recipe for paralysis at every level. I therefore supported the Chair and proposed moving to next business. Sixteen members voted in favour, with 14, including Jeremy Corbyn, against. Meanwhile the party is defending the NEC decision to allow Jeremy Corbyn onto the ballot without nominations from MPs against a legal challenge from Michael Foster, and I hope that the NEC’s authority is upheld in this and in all other respects.
Some questioned whether the procedures committee exceeded its powers in explaining that affiliated supporters must have joined their organisation by 12th January 2016, the same as the cutoff date for party members. The NEC clearly did not intend that affiliates should be used to circumvent the process, and last year the unions focused entirely on asking existing members to affiliate to Labour. In any case the procedures committee has delegated powers, as it did last year. The shadow cabinet had apparently suggested new attempts at mediation after the failure of the Andy Burnham / Debbie Abrahams initiative, and while all of us wish desperately that we were not in this situation, we could not delay indefinitely.
Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to David Hopper, who died suddenly just days after the Durham Miners’ Gala. He was reaching out to trade union members at their conferences, and had attended the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, London Pride, the vigil for the victims in Orlando, the anniversary of the battle of the Somme, and an Eid reception. He spoke at dozens of rallies during the referendum campaign, and his so-called holiday was less than 24 hours in Exmouth between events. The results were complex, but particularly in areas of post-industrial decline the vote gave people a free hit to say No to anything that they didn’t like. Immediately after the Leave vote he contacted the party of European socialists. He stressed that Labour was not retreating into an island mentality and wished to continue working on employment and human rights, consumer protection and access to markets. He regretted the increase in hate crime, even in tolerant Islington. While he hoped to restore full gender equality within his shadow cabinet, that did require colleagues who were willing to serve. He welcomed the latest surge in party membership, bringing in expertise which should inform our policy-making, and increasing our campaigning strength on the ground.
Thank you again for your continued support, it means a great deal. Also for all the messages, most of which are courteous whether they agree or disagree with me,... Read more
Peter Willsman Reports from Labour’s July Executive
This was the scheduled NEC meeting for July (below I cover the Emergency NEC meeting of 12 July). The atmosphere at this meeting was much better than at last week’s Emergency NEC meeting. In part this was due to the fact that Jeremy was present for the whole NEC and contributed throughout the meeting. This, of course, was the practice of all leaders until the advent of New Labour. Not only did Tony Blair downgrade the role of the NEC but also he was never prepared to spend more than an hour at our meetings. Jeremy is restoring the custom that served the Party well for over ninety years. Jeremy clearly appreciates the major and governing role of the NEC. One very notable feature of this NEC meeting was that, as has been the case in the past, some NEC members participated in the NEC via phone (in one case from Brittany), but on this occasion the Chair allowed voting by phone. To my mind this is a helpful development because sometimes NEC members are unavoidably absent.
The first part of the NEC was taken up with paying respects to the comrades we have lost, especially Jo Cox. It was agreed that the General Secretary would consult with Jo’s family in order to agree on a permanent memorial so that Jo would never be forgotten. I suggested that Tom Watson’s proposal that bursaries for working class potential candidates for office could be named in her memory.
At the start of the meeting proper several NEC members wanted to raise the decisions in relation to leadership election procedure that were rushed through at the end of the Emergency NEC. It was pointed out by trade union reps that the newly appointed Procedures Committee had made further controversial decisions in relation to union participation. In response, the Chair pointed to the NEC Standing Orders which contain a 3 month rule. The Chair also confirmed Procedures Committee has delegated powers and that, in effect, its decisions are final.
Jon Trickett reported that the Shadow Cabinet continued to believe that a process of mediation should take place with a view to resorting unity in our Party. I pointed out that at the Emergency NEC we had agreed to mediation in principle and therefore this was a very good idea. The General Secretary undertook to explore this further.
Jeremy confirmed that discussions are underway to have a permanent memorial for Jo Cox in the House of Commons Chamber. He was also pressing for an award to be given to Bernard Kenny for his brave actions trying to defend Jo. Jeremy also reported that he is pressing the Commons authorities for much more sensitive and flexible arrangements regarding the employment MPs staff in such circumstances. Jeremy also reported the sad news that we have just lost David Hopper, a stalwart of the NUM and for many years the Party’s Auditor. Together with David, Jeremy had attended the largest ever Durham Miners’ Gala. Jeremy added that the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival was especially successful this year.
Jeremy then stressed (as he has done on many occasions) the importance of taking a strong line against any abuse within our Party, especially involving social media. Jeremy had invited Shami Chakrabarti to the NEC and the NEC was given an opportunity to discuss Shami’s report (see below).
Jeremy confirmed that he was seeking to have a 50% gender balance in the Shadow Cabinet and indeed in the whole Shadow team. Jeremy had also convened a ‘Women in Engineering’ reception. Among other events Jeremy had attended was the Pride parade in London and a vigil expressing solidarity with Orlando. Jeremy also represented the Party at the special ceremony at the Somme.
Jeremy then addressed the issue of the EU referendum. Despite the hostile press and media coverage, Jeremy emphasised that he did treat the referendum very seriously and had attended numerous meetings. Despite what the detractors put about, Jeremy did not have a week’s holiday. Rather, on Easter Monday, he went to Exmouth for one night, and then early next morning he and Laura travelled to Port Talbot to show solidarity with the steelworkers. In other words, the holiday was 19 hours at most. Jeremy confirmed that the Shadow Cabinet and the Party were developing an effective strategy for responding to the implications of the EU referendum result. Jeremy is also studying the arrangements that Norway has with the EU and has invited a delegation from Norway to give us more details and to answer intricate questions. Jeremy stressed in relation to the complaints of low wages, it was certainly not the migrant workers that were to blame, it was the employers that employed migrant workers that are to blame. The next Labour government will rectify this situation and remove the blight of low pay.
Jeremy stressed that we need to be in the EU to protect rights and to improve them. He said he was misreported and did not ask for the immediate triggering of Article 50. Jeremy also pointed out that he had disagreed with those Labour MPs who shared platforms with UKIP. Later in response to Jeremy’s report, I stressed that the EU referendum had been the most appalling campaign that I could remember. Both sides disseminated false information. By far the worst aspect of the whole saga was the terrible negative message it sent out to minority communities. In Oxford, I spent many hours reassuring friends in shops from the Sikh, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Kurdish communities and reaffirming to them that they play a vital role in our society and that they are appreciated. Finally, Jeremy highlighted the need for a continent-wide campaign against racism and the resurgence of the far-right.
Jeremy also took the NEC through the Party’s and his own response to Chilcot. This had been very revealing about the way the whole Iraq tragedy was handled by ministers and officials. There are a lot of lessons to be learned.
The Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry
Jeremy introduced Shami to the NEC and warmly thanked her for producing such an excellent report in such a short time. The Inquiry had addressed the accusations of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, other forms of racism, and also misogyny. Jeremy emphasised that our Party must always give the warmest welcome to members of all communities. Our Party now has over 500,000 members and three million affiliates. Membership is now at the highest level since the early post-war years. It shows that despite what the hostile press and media say many people are still very interested in being involved in politics.
Shami then spoke to her report and responded to comments from the members of the NEC. In her report, Shami had recommended that the Party’s Code of Conduct should be amended so as to comprehensively rule-out all forms of prejudice. Shami also made a large number of further recommendations, which can be viewed online. I particularly congratulated Shami on the last two recommendations: that the Party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff; also that no part of the Party should be subject to ‘special measures’ for more than 6 months without an NEC review of that decision. Further the NEC must provide a plan as to how the local Party is to improve its practice and return to full democratic rights. I pointed out that some Parties have been in ‘special measures’ for at least 20 years. I also queried Recommendation 10, which proposes that the power of interim suspension should be vest in the NCC and not the NEC. Having been on both committees, I am convinced that the NEC is the appropriate body. Jeremy added that he is also concerned at the long-term suspensions and welcomed Shami’s proposal. He confirmed that we need a harassment code in line with the codes that most trade unions enforce.
Deputy Leader’s Report
Tom Watson had unfortunately had to leave, meaning that we were deprived of Tom’s words of wisdom.
Much of this item had been covered under Jeremy’s report. Patrick Heneghan, our in-house psephologist, presented a detailed written report. This gave a breakdown of the voting on a regional and country basis, showing that Greater London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland had voted to Remain. The councils that voted the most heavily to Leave were Gravesham, followed by Middlesbrough, Nuneaton, Redcar, and Hyndburn. Social grades ABC1 voted 48% to Remain and 35% to Leave. Social grades C2DE voted 28% to Remain and 53% to Leave. Men voted 41% to Remain and 43% to Leave. Women voted 38% to Remain and 43% to Leave. (The unaccounted for percentages were people who did not vote.)
Early General Election Readiness
Jon Trickett, Iain McNicol, and key staff gave a detailed presentation. They outlined the preparation that is already well in-hand to cover any possible early general election. I asked a question about the Fixed Term Act, namely that if Theresa May wanted a general election two-thirds of the House of Commons would have to agree. This means that our Party has a veto. It was confirmed that this was the case. I responded that since this was the case, we need to judge the situation on its merits. The Tories may say that we are running away, but we may equally respond that we do not believe that the public’s time and money should be wasted so soon after the last general election. In other words, we should assess the situation and not simply do what the Tories want.
In the event of an early general election, the NEC were concerned about how the manifesto would be prepared, particularly given that we have not had a National Policy Forum meeting for nearly two years. A large number of new members were elected to the NPF and they must be beginning to wonder whether the NPF even exists. Without any policy from the NPF, what would be the basis of a manifesto? This question was not satisfactorily answered.
General Secretary’s Report
The General Secretary was very pleased to report that the massive increase in new members (together with their further generosity) has brought millions of pounds into our coffers.
The General Secretary also took the NEC through a first draft of the programme for annual Conference. It was agreed that the Women’s Conference would make a report to the main Conference. It was also agreed that the Leader’s speech would be on the last afternoon of Conference. Jeremy will focus his attack on the Tories and thus the delegates and visitors will leave in a fighting mood, ready to defeat the Tories. Ann Black pressed for much more flexibility this year in relation to Contemporary Motions, given that the NPF has not yet even met! The General Secretary took this point on board and will advise the CAC accordingly.
Iain also presented the Audited Accounts and a summary of this will be in the NEC Report. The General Secretary confirmed that the special conference to announce the result of the Leadership Election would also be linked to annual Conference. Final arrangements for this have not yet been agreed.
Peter Willsman Reports from Labour’s July Executive This was the scheduled NEC meeting for July (below I cover the Emergency NEC meeting of 12 July). The atmosphere at this meeting... Read more
NEC Update, 15 July 2016
First, I’d like to thank everyone for your personal support at a difficult time, it has kept me more or less sane. That and staying off Twitter and Facebook.
NEC Update, 15 July 2016 First, I’d like to thank everyone for your personal support at a difficult time, it has kept me more or less sane. That and staying... Read more
National Executive Committee, 17th May 2016
Jeremy Corbyn thanked everyone involved in the various elections. London had emphatically rejected the divisive and racist Tory campaign in choosing Sadiq Khan, and Bristol, the former capital of the slave trade, elected a descendant of slaves. Labour held two parliamentary by-election seats, kept control in Hastings, Crawley and Southampton despite media predictions of doom and gloom and continued as the largest party in Wales, where a majority of Labour assembly members are now women. However, Scotland would be a long haul back. Many hundreds of people had attended his rallies, and he urged local parties to develop a participatory culture and to mobilise the new members. He was reaching out beyond the base, speaking at a recent Progress event as well as at many trade union conferences. Later in the week he would launch the Workplace 2020 initiative and take part in John McDonnell’s conference on the economy.
David Cameron had performed yet another U-turn in dropping plans to force all schools to become academies, but the Queen’s speech would bring fresh attacks. Cuts in council grants were wrong in principle and wrong in that they hit poorest areas hardest. He thanked Labour peers for amending the trade union bill; now, only new recruits will have to opt in to political funds, still likely to lead to a slow decline in campaigning strength and Labour affiliation, but better than falling off an £8 million cliff.
He was making the case for Britain in Europe, encouraging young people to register and to vote, and convincing workers that Europe was essential to safeguarding their rights. Finally he had met Michele Bachelet, president of Chile, who thanked Labour for solidarity through the dark years of the Pinochet dictatorship.
NEC members spoke about Scotland. Labour had failed to dent the dismal SNP record, with fewer GPs, longer waiting lists, privatised ferry services, council cuts and policing in crisis, and must be unequivocal in supporting the United Kingdom. Jeremy Corbyn agreed that the SNP were a walking contradiction on workplace rights, as if wrapping themselves in national identity solved every problem. Others raised unfair treatment of carers who were not paid for travelling between appointments, and school support staff paid only during term-time. Jon Trickett was thanked for attributing blame for swingeing cuts to the Tory government, not local councils.
Within the local government association Labour was now only a hair’s-breadth behind the Tories, though there was concern that one of very few Asian woman councillors in Oldham had lost her seat. I passed on a member’s analysis of police and crime commissioner results which showed Labour 6% ahead of the Tories in England and Wales.
Be Positive or Keep Quiet
I also passed on appeals from members of all shades of opinion and all parts of the country that MPs and senior figures should start attacking the Tories and stop undermining their own leader and their own party. Most MPs work hard and keep their thoughts private, but candidates and activists who spend hours knocking on doors are thoroughly fed up with the grandstanding minority. Councillors and even grassroots members would be suspended if they showed such indiscipline, and if we do not make progress, then these people will be held responsible. Pete Willsman submitted a resolution on this theme, arguing that Labour can win if we all pull together. The NEC asked chief whip Rosie Winterton and Chair of the parliamentary party John Cryer to convey these sentiments, though I fear it may be water off a duck’s back.
On welcoming new members, I pointed out that local parties are run by volunteers, doing the best they can with limited resources. I am not convinced that holding meetings at midday or 5-6 p.m, as Jeremy Corbyn suggested, or moving from Friday nights so that shift workers can attend, as proposed by Tom Watson, will bring the masses flooding in, and it would be useful to share experiences and good practice. Constituency secretaries still cannot contact other secretaries, nor, for instance, can women’s officers communicate with other women’s officers. It also became clear that the surge in numbers is unevenly distributed, with little growth in Wales, Scotland and some English regions, and this deserves further examination. We have to build membership and activism in those areas which are key to regaining power.
Baroness Jan Royall reported on the Young Labour conference. She concluded that the election of the NEC youth representative was sound, despite complaints from both candidates about breaches of the code of conduct. She pointed out that no candidate in any internal election had ever been disqualified, and this reinforced my view that our codes are ultimately impotent. There is no penalty between a slap on the wrist after an advantage has already been gained and the nuclear option of excluding a candidate entirely. Though perhaps, like speed limits, simply having a code prevents more serious violations.
However, Young Labour is likely to align with the rest of the party and hold future elections through one-member-one-vote ballots. This would be included in the youth strand of the party reform project, which would also consider whether the current structure and age range of 14 to 27 is still appropriate. In addition the party must provide adequate safeguarding staff for residential events open to members under 18.
National Executive Committee, 17th May 2016 Jeremy Corbyn thanked everyone involved in the various elections. London had emphatically rejected the divisive and racist Tory campaign in choosing Sadiq Khan, and... Read more
National Executive Committee, 15 March 2016
Ann Black reports on Labour’s national executive committee meeting which took place this month.
This was a shorter meeting than January, only five-and-a-half hours. Glenis Willmott MEP opened with her European report;
Pleased that the government had finally applied for flood relief funds after Labour lobbying.
Talks with Turkey were aimed at alleviating the refugee crisis, and Labour MEPs would ensure that any money was used for humanitarian assistance.
Turkey’s possible accession to the EU was a long way off and would require real progress on human rights, and short-term visa arrangements would apply only within the Schengen area, not to Britain.
On the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) she promised that Labour would continue to oppose any deal which threatened public services, and to demand transparency in dispute settlement procedures.
She stressed that in the coming referendum Labour was backing Britain at the centre of a social Europe, not David Cameron’s very different concept.
Jeremy Corbyn was campaigning hard in the Scottish, Welsh, London, local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections. Labour had led the government defeat over Sunday trading, and he paid tribute to USDAW’s campaign. Copious leaks were helping to prepare for the budget debate: four-fifths of the cuts would disproportionately affect women, the poor would suffer most, and the £1.2 billion cut in personal independence payments for disabled people was disgraceful. He had met the party of European socialists, and praised Germany and Greece for their efforts to help people driven from their homes by wars and disasters. He hoped that new talks could bring peace to Syria, but the refugees were here, now, and needed support. He had given the Keir Hardie memorial lecture, and summer would bring the centenary of Harold Wilson’s birth and the great labour movement festivals of Tolpuddle and the Durham miners’ gala.
I asked for a strong, visible pro-European campaign, with MPs and the leadership working alongside Alan Johnson. Jeremy Corbyn recognised the value of a Europe based on unity, solidarity and internationalism and thought that Labour had a coherent message but refused, I believe rightly, to share a platform with David Cameron. The BMA had thanked him for supporting the junior doctors in their continuing dispute. He also responded to comments on;
the lower minimum wage for under-25s,
the select committee review of laws around prostitution,
the importance of engaging with people from all ethnic and religious groups,
the SNP’s false claims to be a party of the left,
international women’s day,
when he took the shadow cabinet to Dagenham. He welcomed the unprecedented numbers of new members and their knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm: if ground down by bureaucracy and bored by meetings they would leave, and we should all mobilise around radical policies on housing and workers’ rights. The NEC urged MPs, again, to stop squabbling as they were undermining hardworking candidates.
Jon Trickett MP said that Labour’s theme would be Standing Up Not Standing By, contrasting our strong principles against the Tories as the party of privilege. Most voters thought the Tories were handling the economy badly, and John McDonnell was starting to rebuild Labour’s economic credibility. Other messages would focus on housing, crime and policing, and the NHS. Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle city council and newly-elected leader of the local government association’s Labour group, highlighted the disproportionate impact of Tory cuts on Labour councils. Central government was also interfering with local decisions on investment, and disrupting good relationships with trade unions. He suggested looking to Labour councils to demonstrate economic competence in action.
Local government representatives again thanked Jon Trickett, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for their letter explaining that councils must set legal budgets. Nevertheless Labour councillors were doing all that they could to protect the most vulnerable. They were urged to support demonstrations which laid the blame at George Osborne’s door and to explain how a Labour government would have protected services.
Some were concerned about the impact of the Euro-referendum on council campaigns, but I supported Glenis Willmott in arguing that Europe cannot wait until 6 May. The best opportunity to collect voter intentions on Europe is while canvassing in the next six weeks. A quarter of all local parties were already doing so, and regional directors would be asked to encourage the others.
Tens of thousands of jobs were at stake, and leaving would be a catastrophic blow from which it could take a decade to recover.
Chancellor in Waiting
John McDonnell reported on the work of his economic advisory council. He was planning a national economic conference on 21 May, and would circulate the women’s budget group analysis. The strategy was twofold;
First, dismantle George Osborne, who was failing even on his own terms. He was selling the furniture at knock-down prices to pay the rent, and wasting £1.5 billion on competition between academies. This was not a long-term plan for the country, but a short-term plan for his own political ambitions.
Second, restore Labour’s credibility through fiscal rules which would reduce debt, balance spending and allow for long-term investment in skills and infrastructure, all overseen by an independent body. He supported zero-based budgeting to ensure that all money was spent wisely.
NEC members agreed that austerity was a political choice, not an economic necessity, and highlighted the potential of “green” jobs.
Rearranging the Deckchairs?
The NEC returned to its own terms of reference, and trade union representatives produced a list of changes which they had agreed privately with the general secretary. The only disagreement was whether the NEC should be defined as “the governing body of the party” as per the website, or “subject to party conference, the NEC is the administrative body responsible for the governance of the party” as the general secretary preferred. We ended up with a compromise, and when I get the minutes I will know what it is.
I was most interested in policy-making, where NEC functions now include “acting as the custodian of Labour party policy”. This is supplemented by “as far as is possible, new policy positions are only made following consultation with the appropriate policy commission and with leader’s office agreement” and “the joint policy committee (JPC) is responsible for the oversight of the national policy forum and policy commissions in producing a rolling programme for submission to party conference and its work will be reported to the full NEC at its meetings.” This leaves most of the NEC with less say in policy than when I was first elected 17 years ago, but at least we can empathise with ordinary members.
Angela Eagle’s review may pick this up, and contributions can be made at www.labour.org.uk/ourparty or sent to email@example.com. Policy commissions are up and running, and the national policy forum may meet in July. Other party reform groups are also meeting, though the elections and the referendum are higher priorities for many. I have passed on numerous requests to update the website.
Iain McNicol gave an update on Tory moves to bankrupt the Labour party through cuts to Short money, paid to opposition parties, and the trade union bill. Labour peers had worked tirelessly, building cross-party alliances in support of reasonable compromises. Membership continued to be strong, though the 2015 surge were now coming up to their first anniversary. This is when people decide whether to stay or leave, especially those who join with one-off payments, and every effort should be made to keep them.
I and other constituency representatives drew attention to the pressure on local parties. The NEC development fund, which holds a large chunk of membership subscriptions, attracted few bids by the February deadline, and many of those were from richer and better-organised applicants. There were no bids from the south-west or from Scotland. Part of the 2011 Refounding Labour deal was that election insurance, Contact Creator, the Euro-election levy and one conference delegate pass would be paid centrally for all constituencies. I have proposed adding NationBuilder and an allowance for conference accommodation to this list, and would be interested in views on how this fund should best be used.
Disturbing allegations have been made recently about behaviour within Oxford University Labour Club and around the election of the NEC youth representative. Baroness Jan Royall has been appointed to examine all of these, and I urge anyone with evidence to send it to her via Iain McNicol. The 11 regional representatives on the young Labour national committee were elected in online one-member-one-vote ballots with no complaints, though a turnout of just 3.5% shows that online voting is not a magic bullet.
Deputy leader Tom Watson had drafted a statement on safeguarding issues. For local parties the most common concerns will be over their young members canvassing or attending conferences, and there are now 10,000 aged between 14 and 18. Occasionally more serious issues of child sexual exploitation may come to their attention. Guidance will be circulated soon, outlining the party’s responsibilities.
Selections Past and Future
I have fed back critical comments on selection procedures for police and crime commissioner candidates. Looking forward, the boundary commission has now published its timetable for reducing 650 constituencies to 600. I am a member of the panel which will consider its recommendations, due in September 2016, and agree the party’s submissions. The panel will work in the collective interest of the whole party, and support Labour MPs through the process. Procedures for sitting MPs seeking to stand will be exactly as defined in the rulebook for the 2010/2015 cycle, with the dates rolled forward.
Ann Black joined the Labour Party in 1982. She is a former branch election organiser and constituency Chair, and is currently secretary of Oxford East CLP. She was elected to the National Policy Forum by West Midlands constituencies in 1997, and by South East constituencies in 1999. From 2000 she has served in the constituency section of the NEC, elected by individual party members, and acted as vice-chair for 2008/2009.Ann is also an active trade unionist, joining ASTMS in 1979, NALGO from 1982 and UNISON from 1993. She is service conditions secretary at Oxford Brookes University, where she works as a computer programmer. She is vice-chair of UNISON’s South East LabourLink, and a member of UNISON’s National LabourLink Committee.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous reports at www.annblack.co.uk
National Executive Committee, 15 March 2016 Ann Black reports on Labour’s national executive committee meeting which took place this month. This was a shorter meeting than January, only five-and-a-half hours. Glenis Willmott... Read more
This meeting ran for six-and-a-half hours.
Alan Johnson kicked off with a report on the pro-Europe Labour in for Britain campaign, with 23rd June the most likely referendum date. Compared to the Tories Labour is united, with all the shadow cabinet, 90% of MPs and a large majority of members in favour. The campaign pack focused on jobs and business, and the NEC asked for more on benefits such as consumer protection and for an overarching vision of peace, co-operation and security. Outside Europe Britain would be isolated, and with reduced status in the world.
Glenis Willmott MEP was congratulated for keeping attacks on employment rights off David Cameron’s agenda. On TTIP there would be a trade agreement with the US anyway and it was better to influence it from inside, and if we left the European Union France would no longer allow our border control staff onto their territory, and migrants would be waiting in Dover, not Calais.
Also on Europe, Glenis Willmott gave her usual report of missed opportunities by the Tories: failing to apply for European funding to help with flood relief and opposing a level playing-field for the steel industry, while Labour was promoting a clampdown on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion, supporting co-operation against terrorism, and backing better access to digital services for disabled people.
Policy-Making Revisited, Again
Angela Eagle introduced the latest review of the National Policy Forum (NPF), building on the successes of the last cycle. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign had called for members to have a stronger voice, and they would be consulted on how to realise this, reaching out to every part of the country. Digital technology would play a key role, but those without online access must not be excluded. Members could contribute a wealth of expertise, and this should be used to develop policies which would enthuse not only party activists but the wider electorate. The NPF would meet in summer 2016 for the first time since the election.
I reported reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s mass mailing before the Syria vote. Some members were happy because it was the first time anyone had asked what they thought, while others stressed the need for unbiased sampling, suggested including arguments for and against a position, and had concerns about reducing complex issues to yes / no answers. Nevertheless direct consultation clearly has a role. I also pointed out, again, that the joint policy committee will not have all its constituency representatives until the NPF meets. Discussion of revised terms of reference for the NEC was deferred to March, but draft proposals would give the NEC “oversight of the policy-making process”, a phrase which needs exploration. It was confirmed that only members could vote in determining policy, not the affiliated or £3 supporters.
Jeremy Corbyn gave a full account of recent activity, including;
- John McDonnell’s economic roadshow
- The floods
- Fending off cuts to tax credits and policing
- The shocking conditions in the refugee camps at Calais and Dunkirk
- Emily Thornberry’s Defence Review
- Tackling Chinese steel dumping
- Supporting Sadiq Khan in London
- Tory attacks on Labour funding
- The welcome reaffiliation of the Fire Brigades Union
- The need to mobilise all our new members for the May elections.
They were keen to get involved, and local parties should welcome and engage them. His office receives up to 100,000 emails and hundreds of typed or handwritten letters, and he reinforced something which I have often said: opening up to the world is good, but only if we have the capacity to respond.
NEC members raised;
- The crisis in social care
- Council budgets, where the letter from him and John McDonnell was helpful in making clear that the Tories were to blame for cuts
- Scrapping security of tenure for council tenants
- Energy policy and climate change
- Breaking up BT
- Attacks on further education.
Jeremy Corbyn said it was outrageous for David Cameron to lecture Muslim women on learning English when his government had closed so many English courses.
Members pleaded for party unity at every level. This was not assisted by the removal of Steve Rotheram, elected to the NEC to represent backbenchers and appointed as Jeremy Corbyn’s PPS (Parliamentary Private Secretary) in the autumn. MPs were cross that he had not stood down, and voted to replace him immediately. Technically they were correct, as PPSs are frontbenchers bound by collective responsibility, but they did not object to Anne Snelgrove representing backbenchers when she was PPS to Gordon Brown in 2009/2010. It did not help that the NEC were told that Steve had resigned when he hadn’t, nor that so-called moderates are gloating over their “victory” on social media.
This meeting ran for six-and-a-half hours. Alan Johnson kicked off with a report on the pro-Europe Labour in for Britain campaign, with 23rd June the most likely referendum date. Compared... Read more
Congratulations to Jim McMahon MP for his resounding victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. Jim increased Labour's share of the vote and the Tories were pushed into third place. The press had been reporting for weeks that Labour would only narrowly win. We proved them wrong and the result shows that the party is in a much stronger position electorally than many would have us believe.
I chaired the NEC shortlisting panel for the by-election and I am absolutely confident that Jim will be a huge asset to Labour in Parliament. Jim represented Local Government on the NEC and will now be replaced by Ann Lucas.
Members of Parliament had to make an extremely difficult decision as to whether to extend airstrikes to Syria. Jeremy gave MPs a free vote and I believe that this was the right decision as it was a matter of conscience in my view.
As an NEC member Jeremy also asked me for my views on military intervention. I am not sure that decisions of that nature fall within the NEC terms of reference and unlike MPs I did not have access to high level policy briefings. However, as I was asked I felt bound to give my view.
I told Jeremy that personally I was against the airstrikes. I felt that there was not a clear long term strategy for Syria beyond the airstrikes, that they were likely to lead to civilian loss of life and that I thought airstrikes would make our streets less safe rather than more safe, as well as leading to further radicalisation.
NEC Meeting 17th November 2015
Jeremy spoke about the Paris attacks and said he was shocked and appalled by them. He said that he would not tolerate a racist response and allow Muslims to be blamed for the attacks. He also noted that in the wake of the increased terrorist threat, the Tories were pushing through enormous police cuts.
Jeremy also talked about the refugee crisis and that allowing in 20,000 refugees over the course of four and a half years, when Germany had already let in 800,000, simply wasn't enough.
Jeremy also talked about the huge cuts that are being made to local government budgets. He made clear that Labour Councils could not make illegal budgets, however when making budgets they should indicate how much has been cut and the impact of that.
I raised two issues with Jeremy. The first was about setting up a code of conduct for members using social media in order to make clear that abusive insults from anywhere in the party would not be tolerated.
Jeremy said that he considered abuse of this nature to be wrong and appalling. He had been subjected himself to foul and abusive comments online. He said we should have discussion and debate but not call people names.
Since the meeting an email has been sent out by Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson that makes clear that personal insults have no place in politics or indeed our Party.
The second issue I raised was about what we are doing to counter the Tory attacks on workers rights. Jeremy stated that too often we oppose things without putting forward an alternative. Therefore he wants to put forward a positive rights agenda and has commissioned Ian Lavery MP to set up a working group.
Oldham By-election Congratulations to Jim McMahon MP for his resounding victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election. Jim increased Labour's share of the vote and the Tories were... Read more
The first meeting after conference is always a long session, planning for the challenges ahead. Overall objectives were to:
Develop Labour as a campaigning movement
Achieve real change
Build trust in communities
Win elections at all levels.
I am not convinced of the need for lots more committees, but would like to see the NEC regain direct responsibility for policy. Some believed that the National Policy Forum (NPF) promoted wider and deeper engagement for ordinary members, and was effective in engaging young people. However after eighteen years, and despite Angela Eagle’s heroic efforts, it is still a mystery to most members. It has also been undermined by secret shadow cabinet reviews and ad hoc frontbench announcements. The Joint Policy Committee (JPC), supposed to steer the NPF, does not work, and newer staff asked what it was. And while conference may never have been truly sovereign, its agendas used to show what members cared about most, and first-time delegates – as I was in 1995 – could negotiate directly with union leaders and MPs.
The first meeting after conference is always a long session, planning for the challenges ahead. Overall objectives were to: Develop Labour as a campaigning movement Achieve real change Build trust... Read more