Less than 24 hours after learning of my election to Labour’s National Executive Committee I was in London for the NEC’s Equalities Committee, Disputes Panel and Organisation Committee. One week later I attended my first full NEC. Some observations are below; key action points are:
1. Please make sure your branch or CLP timetables a discussion on the Democracy Review and submits your ideas to meet the deadlines, so that there is plenty of member input.
See https://labour.org.uk/about/democracy-review-2017/ for details.
2. The policy-making cycle has begun again and policy commissions are inviting submissions.
Please submit any policy-related resolutions passed at your CLP meetings through the policy forum web portal at https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/.
Early observations from the NEC
1. Jeremy Corbyn, in his leader’s report, demonstrated his breadth of knowledge, commitment and leadership across a huge range of issues. While focussing on key priorities of ending austerity and defending public services, he stressed the ongoing work to be ‘election-ready’.
2. Every one of the constituency representatives spoke up to defend grassroots members.
interests and the communities that Labour seeks to represent. It was a privilege to sit alongside CLP reps old and new supporting Jeremy in addressing some of the issues facing our Party – the exclusion of so many members, the representation and involvement of our diverse communities at every level, and how we can listen to and support local members and communities in their struggles for democracy and public ownership.
3. The vast majority of the NEC appears committed to working constructively together for an inclusive Party, to supporting Jeremy in taking the fight to the Tories and to winning elections at every level.
1. Carillion and outsourcing
Jon Trickett, Jeremy and many members of the NEC, particularly those representing trade unions directly affected, spoke powerfully of the impact of Carillion’s collapse, the warnings that had not been heeded and the need to work together to defend jobs and services and to ensure a complete change of policy towards outsourcing from day one of a Labour government.
Shortly after this discussion, we reached the local government report, where the issue of the Haringey Development Vehicle was raised. In light of the extraordinary circumstances, the lessons from Carillion, and the provision in the rulebook, the NEC agreed a position that would make its view clear. Despite the right-wing press hysteria it is clear that it would have been irresponsible not to act on the concerns expressed at the meeting and it would be ridiculous to suggest this unprecedented situation would somehow mean the NEC ‘stepping in’ every time there is a decision in local government it disagrees with.
2. NHS crisis
Jon Ashworth updated the NEC on the devastating impact of underfunding in the NHS and the work Labour has been doing to expose the level of crisis and the impact of privatisation and call for extra resources. Jeremy also spoke about the lead he was taking on the issue and the need to ‘campaign like we’ve never campaigned before’. Trade union representatives spoke about the impact of cuts and privatisation on NHS workers and on patients.
3. Democracy Review
Katy Clark updated the NEC on the ongoing work of the panel and the excellent level of engagement the Review is getting from members. It is clear that there are huge opportunities to make the Party more inclusive, representative and active at all levels. Although only an interim report, some proposals will be taken forward in advance of full recommendations, for example around training and monitoring. I asked about the possibility of a national event for women to discuss possible reforms to women’s representation, organisation and conference, and this event will be pencilled in for the summer.
1. Brexit: Both Jeremy and Richard Corbett MEP, representing the EPLP, updated the meeting on matters relating to the negotiations, the damaging mess created by the Tories, and the work being done in the UK and European parliament. Jeremy has been meeting colleagues across Europe and we can expect a fuller update at future meetings.
2. Women’s conference: I raised the need for a more diverse, democratic women’s conference at both Equalities Committee and the full NEC (although this was last but one item of a seven-hour meeting so not ideal for a fulsome discussion). There will be progress on policy-making this year with a proper process for voting and prioritising a motion to go forward to the 2018 annual conference. There will also be standalone women’s conferences in Spring.
2019 and 2020 which is brilliant progress and I hope we will be able to look at submissions from the Democracy Review to see what women members want from these conferences. There also needs to be greater liaison with and inclusion of the Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee elected by the 2017 Women’s conference.
3. Selections in marginal seats: Concern was raised about the lack of BAME candidates selected. Further action was agreed to address this under-representation.
4. Newham: Several CLP reps unsuccessfully called for an open selection in the Newham Mayoral selection because of the abuse of rules in a previous trigger ballot that have led to a new trigger ballot being called.
5. Exclusion of members: The volume of excluded members and the slowness of the process followed is alarming. Many NEC members raised concerns and it was possible to make some changes, but it seems to me that the whole process is designed to keep people out of involvement rather than welcoming them in.
6. Regional Director appointments: it was pointed out that elected representatives, and in particular the Chair and Vice Chair of the NEC, should be involved in recruitment processes.
7. Equalities Committee: Bizarrely, a decision had been made that Equalities Committee was becoming too big, so despite the fact that Jon, Yasmine and I had all put our names forward, only Yasmine and Jon appeared on the list. Thanks to Peter Willsman for taking issue with this exclusion and to Ann Black for proposing I was added to the list, which was agreed.