2020 opened with a full NEC meeting on Monday 6th January, convened to set out the arrangements and timetable for the Leadership and Deputy Leadership elections. This was our first meeting since the General Election, and an opportunity to briefly consider the results, and to place on record our thanks for the commitment shown by Jeremy Corbyn, in the face of unacceptable personal attacks throughout the campaign. All NEC members reported high levels of member involvement in the GE campaign, and it was noted that there had been a significant rise in membership since the General Election was called. A more detailed political discussion was scheduled for the NEC AwayDay on 28th January. Thanks were also recorded to the General Secretary and all staff, both centrally and regionally.
The timetable for the Leadership election was agreed and is now well underway. It was agreed to run the by-elections for two CLP NEC member places alongside the Leader and Deputy Leader elections, following Claudia Webbe (Leicester East) and Navendu Mishra (Stockport) being elected as MPs.
A new BAME reserved seat has also been created on the NEC, following an Annual Conference decision, and nominations are now open for this seat too. The Party is seeking to improve the data collected for each member, which will be essential if we are committed to improving the representation and participation of all members of the party. BAME members wishing to vote in the NEC reserved seat election, must register by 14th February to do so. (The equalities survey can be found here). CLP NEC reps have repeatedly raised concerns that BAME members will be disenfranchised due to poor data collection.
Nomination meetings and hustings are around the country. Concerns were raised by CLP reps about accessibility of these meetings. We also objected to the high cost and short window for the registered supporters’ scheme. The NEC Procedures committee is meeting regularly to address any concerns raised by members or candidates, and the elections will be overseen by Civica Election Services (formerly the ERS). The results will be announced in London on Saturday 4th April. The Scottish Labour Party is also running a Deputy Leadership election simultaneously, which will declare on 3rd April.
An NEC reserved seat for a Disabled Members rep has also been agreed, and the election for this will run over the summer, at the same time as the other elections prior to annual Party conference.
Following Annual conference in Brighton, Andi Fox TSSA has taken up Chair, with Ian Murray FBU as Vice Chair. Joining the NEC are: Mark Ferguson UNISON, Kathy Abu-Bakir GMB, Tom Warnett GMB (replacing Sarah Owen GMB, successfully elected as MP for Luton North)
Jim Kennedy, UNITE, long serving member of the NEC, stood down in January 2020, and members have conveyed their appreciation for the significant commitment given over the years.
Meetings have also been held in January of the NEC Disputes Committee, the NEC Organisation Committee, and the NEC Equalities Committee.
Over the last few months NEC CLP reps have been contacted by CLP officers on a wide range of matters, including: frustration with the delays in candidate selections; lack of local member involvement in the rapid shortlisting processes for Parliamentary candidates; inadequate provisions to allow for full and equal participation of all members in selection processes; concerns over delays in the individual complaints procedure; the absence of a date for the 2020 UK Labour Women’s annual conference; timing and processes for selections for elections in 2020; and the CLP Secretaries Facebook group has highlighted pressure on CLP officers and increases in bullying and harassment in the running of local parties. On this latter point, the General Secretary agreed to meet with representatives of the CLP Secretaries group on 30th January, and a report will be given to the NEC in due course.
We have reiterated the importance of creating a culture in the Party which respects the work carried out on a voluntary basis by so many members, and an environment in which differences can be debated without fear of harassment. With around 580,000 members, this is a welcome challenge, on which we must all work together.
Recognising that all meetings and most workstreams had been suspended when the General Election was called, and that staff were covering other duties, there was only limited progress made on backlogs of work within each NEC Committee this month. The revised disciplinary procedure agreed at Annual conference requires monitoring and evaluation, and NEC CLP reps will be seeking further reports.
The NEC meeting scheduled for 28th January included an Away Day agenda.
The meeting opened with obituaries and a moment of reflection, for former MPs Frank Dobson and David Lambie.
The Leader’s Report included: update on Labour’s key points of opposition and intervention on the EU Withdrawal Bill, with particular reference to the Dubbs amendment on child refugees, a summary of international statements given in the House of Commons and in response to the rising tension in the Middle East; climate change, and importance of COP 26 to be held in Glasgow November 2020; forthcoming local government and mayoral elections and campaign commitments; the popularity of the policies outlined in the 2019 manifesto; the enthusiasm amongst young people, borne out by the polling data now available; the absolute dominance of Brexit in the public discourse between June 2019 -December 2019; need for further discussion on our response to constitutional and federal structures questions; and the severity of the personal attacks on the Leader and family throughout the GE campaign, and Jeremy acknowledged with thanks the thousands of supportive and concerned messages that he had received.
Later in the meeting, informative and detailed reports from staff on demographic and polling data, Community organising, finance and political strategy, and regional and national reports, allowed NEC members time for a brief discussion on the situation post General Election. It was noted that a full survey of candidates and election agents was being undertaken, and a proposal would be brought to the next NEC for a one day extended meeting of the NEC with stakeholders. Additional demographic data is being collected, and a regional breakdown of current Party membership has been requested, along with equality monitoring report from the new PLP and of candidates.
Richard Corbett gave the last report from the European Parliamentary Labour Party, and the NEC thanked Richard and all his parliamentary colleagues and staff for their commitment. The meeting reasserted the Party’s commitment to maintaining links with the PES (Party of European Socialists) and with the council of Europe, maintaining our internationalist outlook.
A comprehensive International Report included Labour’s response to: Iran and the escalating tensions following the USA’s actions; the unrest in India following the Modi’s Government’s actions on Citizenship; pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong; and to the deaths following military action against peaceful protests in Chile. A summary of election results in a number of European countries was provided, and it was noted that over 200 international guests had attended the Party’s annual Conference in Brighton in 2019.
Whilst the 2019 Annual Conference agreed a number of the Rule Changes arising from the 2018 Democracy Review, including on local government and equality branches, there are still other recommendations to be addressed. These will be picked up during the year ahead. NEC CLP reps are keen to see early publication of the revised Rulebook and guidance issued to Regional offices and to CLP Secretaries, in plenty of time for AGMs and for new structures to take shape.
One of the more contentious issues has been getting a date set for the 2020 Annual Women’s Conference. Following the large, successful, Women’s Conference in February 2019, NEC reps from both the CLP and the trade union sections have been pressing for dates for 2020. Unfortunately nothing was agreed prior to the General Election being called, and the only option presented to the NEC on 28th January was for the delegate based, policy making, Women’s Conference to be held in Liverpool immediately prior to Labour Party Annual conference, starting on either the Friday or the Saturday. The decision was made therefore, that Annual Conference runs Sunday 20th – Wednesday 23rd September, the Women’s Conference will be held on Saturday 19th September in Liverpool. The NEC agreed that in future the Annual Women’s Conference be held in the spring, and dates are to be advised as soon as possible for 2021 and 2022.
CLP NEC reps are also pressing on the need for an early discussion about the future for the National Policy Forum and the review of the policy making process, as agreed in the 2018 Democracy Review.
The Away Day also considered the terms of reference for the NEC and CLP reps raised points about accountability and governance. It was agreed agendas and minutes of the NEC would be published to members, and there was support for measures to enable members to be more accountable. A proposal that Organisation Committee should consider nominations to the House of Lords was defeated.
The next meetings of the NEC Organisation Committee, and the Disputes Committee, will be on Tuesday 10th March, the NEC Equalities Committee on the 17th March, and the full NEC meeting is scheduled for 24th March.