Labour Party National Executive Committee report: May 2018
Rachel Garnham, constituency representative
The main item of business at May’s National Executive Committee was an analysis of Labour’s local election performance and lessons learned, led by Andrew Gwynne MP, one of Labour’s Campaign Co-ordinators.
Because of the local elections there was no Equalities Committee, Disputes Panel or Organisation Committee in this cycle of meetings.
Urgent actions for members coming out of the meetings are:
a) to get organised to elect delegates to annual conference and women’s conference by 22 June and to submit motions for women’s conference by 29 June.
b) to make submissions on policy by 24 June to the National Policy Forum for input into the reports to be discussed at annual conference. Details at policy.labour.org.uk. Please note there is also a linked consultation on what Labour’s National Education Service should look like: see https://labour.org.uk/issues/2018-policy-consultation/national-education-service-roadshow/ for details. Please do get involved!
c) to make sure you get your submissions in for the final deadline (29 June) in the democracy review (on key issues such as stopping an MP veto on candidates nominated for Labour leader; and enabling annual conference to debate motions and rule changes without false restrictions.) BAME and women members may also wish to attend The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic consultation in Leeds on Saturday 30 June and The Women’s consultation event in Leeds on Sunday 1 July.
Vice-Chair election: There were two candidates, Wendy Nicholls of Unison and Andi Fox of TSSA, with Wendy elected by 18 votes to 17. I was very pleased to vote for Andi along with six other CLP representatives as the candidate most clearly committed to Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive leadership of the Party, which is what I think Party members want to see represented in the Officers group.
Deputy Leader’s Report: Jeremy was in Manchester for the anniversary of the Arena bombing so there was no leader’s report. Tom Watson covered a range of issues, noting the progress made in the local elections and the important role played by newer members working closely with more established members, and by the trade unions. He spoke about the important work Labour has been doing in parliament, including on Leveson and on gambling, demonstrating that changes can be made from opposition. Peter Willsman and others raised the issue of Windrush and the ‘hostile environment’. Lara McNeill raised the issue of some Labour MPs running down the Labour Party even in the run up to the local elections. There was high praise from several members, including Tom Watson in his response, for the role Diane Abbott MP had played in pushing the situation faced by the Windrush generation.
Democracy Review: Katy Clark updated the meeting. The team are doing everything possible to maximise engagement and Katy asked NEC members to do the same, including encouraging members to attend the special consultation events organised. Thousands of submissions have been received and they are expecting lots more before 29 June. Darren reported that the Welsh Labour Party had agreed an equivalent review.
EPLP Leader’s Report: Richard Corbett gave a comprehensive update, including on Brexit and there was some discussion about Labour’s work in exposing the government’s weaknesses.
Women’s conference: A paper was presented outlining plans for women’s conference. It claimed ‘The women’s conference subcommittee and the WCAC [Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee] have come to an agreement as to how Women’s Conference 2018 will operate.’ This is not quite accurate – the women’s conference subcommittee of the NEC had met once for an hour with no record of decisions circulated and the two bodies have not had any joint meetings. Grassroots CLP representatives on the WCAC have had to work extremely hard to have their voices heard and have had some success in ensuring that this year’s women’s conference will be able to prioritise, composite and vote on motions submitted, that motions will not be constrained by ‘contemporary’ criteria and that women’s conference will be entitled to select a resolution to present to annual conference. There is more work to do to ensure that the 2019 Women’s Conference on 23-24 February in Telford is more democratic and inclusive and I proposed a joint meeting of the NEC Women’s Conference Sub-committee and the WCAC to discuss how this could be achieved, which was agreed.
Local elections: The NEC received a comprehensive analysis of the local election results with plenty of opportunities for discussion and suggestions. Andrew Gwynne MP reported that the results were a positive consolidation of last year’s general election results and saw Labour winning seats in places where we never have in recent history. He pointed out that it is always difficult to make gains from a high starting point, and yet that is what Labour did. There is of course still work to do, but this was good progress and lessons would be taken forward in time for very important local elections in 2019. There was some discussion about balancing the management of expectations with the best way of inspiring members and voters. I pointed out what great progress had been made since last year’s local elections, and that local elections were much more difficult for Labour’s positive anti-austerity message, when local government had been hit so hard by government cuts and the younger electorate were even less likely to vote. I suggested that it was important to support CLPs in ensuring that new members are encouraged to get involved and work constructively alongside more experienced members. The shocking racist campaign against Labour in Derby was highlighted. Others pointed out that it is helpful when Labour groups work constructively with trade unions.
General secretary’s report: Jennie presented a comprehensive report of the work she has been doing since taking office, including on membership and finances. The meeting asked for the timetable proposed for the NEC ballot to be looked at again to enable anyone who has not specifically opted into an electronic ballot to receive a postal ballot in order that there is maximum engagement with the elections. Lara McNeill asked for an update on the potential data breach relating to Labour Students; and Darren Williams asked for a request to the previous General Secretary to investigate the selection in Filton and Bradley Stoke to be followed up.
Anti-Semitism: The meeting received a report from a working group relating in particular to the disciplinary process. There was an extensive discussion about different elements of the report. I pointed out that it was important that we meet the high standards of accountability and transparency that members expect from Labour’s governing body and suggested some amendments to the proposed new process that I felt would provide important assurances of due process. The proposals will come back to a future meeting.
Trans inclusion: The meeting unanimously agreed a statement on all women shortlists, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women which reaffirmed existing arrangements that the Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. Similarly, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women in the Labour Party are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. We noted that anyone attempting to breach Labour Party rules and subvert the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women will be dealt with via our established safeguards, selection procedures and disciplinary measures. I have received a lot of correspondence on this issue, but I do not agree that the inclusion of self-identifying trans women in our women’s structures undermines our very important and much needed structures for women’s self-organisation and I am committed to building an inclusive Labour Party and women’s movement.
Any other business: Claudia Webbe paid tribute to Christine Shawcroft who had stood down from the NEC since the last meeting, highlighting the important and dedicated role Christine has played representing members’ interests for many years on the NEC.