· Manifesto Meeting with Ed Miliband (25th Feb) Three NEC members (Ann Black, Peter Kenyon and Peter Willsman) representing the CLP section of the NEC, together with a handful of NPF members representing the CLP section of the NPF, held a two hour meeting with Ed Miliband and staff to discuss issues for the General Election Manifesto. The NEC members insisted that that Labour’s response to the recession should be investment for growth not reductions in services and jobs that would only worsen the economic situation. This should be combined with a commitment to progressive taxation eg. reform of council tax. It was argued by most of those present that, for example, the Party’s policy of universal free school meals would send a powerful message that we are serious about tackling poverty and malnutrition. It would also clearly separate us from the Tories and reinforce our core vote. In response Ed confirmed that he full agreed with the general thrust of what was being said.
A range of specific policies were pressed by the NEC members, among them were the following (with Ed’s response in each case).
Tobin Tax – this is government policy and it is being pursued at an international level.
A massive increase in house building, especially social housing – this is accepted, but there are budget constraints.
A People’s bank based on the Post Office – This is being worked on.
Require multinational companies to account by country – Discussions are taking place at an international level.
East Coast Mainline to remain public – Discussions are taking place with the unions.
Reinforce the hunting ban – Ed was sympathetic.
Consider converting good selective schools to 6th Form colleges – Ed needed to think about this one!
Leasehold reform – Ed will see if the concept of commonhold can be further developed.
Saving money by cancelling Trident and ID cards – Ed sidestepped these by saying that nuclear disarmament will be pressed at a forthcoming international conference and that the introduction of ID cards will cost relatively little for several years.
· Report of the 23rd March NEC
Questions to Gordon Brown
Gordon stressed that in contrast to the Tories Labour must clearly be seen as on the side of the majority and not the few – “We are the People’s Party, we always have been and always will be”. This means giving the public a clear choice. We stand for investment, fairness and public services. The Tories would give handouts to the rich, would decimate services and deepen the recession. These are exactly the same policies that the Tories pursued under Thatcher. In response to questions Gordon reaffirmed the commitment to concessionary fares and to an expansion of house building, especially social housing. He also distanced himself from the Tory-controlled local government employers, who are refusing any pay rise. Several NEC members were critical of ministers who had made anti unions comments about the BA dispute. Gordon responded that behind the scenes he had been trying his best to assist the negotiations.
“Cabs for hire”
Nick Brown, Chief Whip, gave a report of the disciplinary action he and the General Secretary had taken against those MPs who had disgraced both themselves and the Party by offering to sell their Parliamentary influence. This action was unanimously endorsed.
Late Parliamentary selections
A report was given of the recent decisions of the NEC’s Special Selections Panel. Attention was
drawn to the adverse publicity resulting from the Panel’s actins in relation to the shortlisting in Stalybridge and Hyde CLP. It was agreed that more transparent procedures should be followed in future [unfortunately since the March NEC there has been the shortlisting in Stoke Central CLP, where the Panel’s actions are completely indefensible. This will be raised at the next NEC].
East Lothian CLP
In January this CLP had carried a resolution requesting permission from the NEC, in accordance with the Party’s Rule Book, to re-open the reselection process for its sitting MP, on the grounds that there were ‘changed circumstances’. This request was agreed by a special meeting of the NEC in early March. The CLP then held an all-members meeting at which it was resolved by a large majority that the sitting MP “shall not be the Labour Party candidate at the next General Election”. The MP then appealed to the NEC. The NEC did not uphold the appeal and the CLP was given permission to select a new candidate.
· Manifesto meeting with Ed Miliband (7 April)
Ed called a meeting solely with NEC members representing the CLP Section and Ann Black, Peter Kenyon, Christine Shawcroft and Peter Willsman attended. The main thrust of the Manifesto was to protect and reinforce the economic recovery, but also to address the main issues facing us in the next decade.
The NEC members stressed the importance of clearly distinguishing our policies from the Tories, through emphasizing our values and principles in practice eg by tackling poverty, progressive taxation, ensuring the bankers pay and building much more social housing. Labour must not be cautious. The Tories will promise the earth and Labour needs to be bold. The key will be winning back former Labour voters and getting our vote out. Ed did not demur.
· Clause V Manifesto Meeting (8th April)
This was the formal Manifesto approval meeting as laid down in the Rule Book. It was chaired by Gordon Brown and included the NEC, Cabinet, Union leaders, representatives fro the PLP and NPF – altogether some 70 comrades. The meeting lasted over 2 hours. All ten chapters were moved, debated and finalised – on every chapter Gordon called everyone who indicated.
In opening the meeting Gordon said this was one of the most radical Manifestos our Party has presented. He picked out three themes – securing the recovery, building even better public services and reinvigorating politics. Several TU speakers pressed the issue of universal free school meals and Peter Willsman pointed out that this is a symbolic issue that separates us from the Tories. Ed balls undertook to redraft this section. Willsman also asked for recognition to be given to the role and contribution of the Co-op Movement and Co-op Party and Ed Miliband took this on board. Willsman also pressed on the Tobin Tax and Alistair Darling reported on the considerable progress that has been made in the last few weeks. Willsman also pressed that our commitment to giving football club supporters trusts a right to own a share of their club should be given much greater prominence. He also argued that there should be more attention given to the issue of tackling tax avoidance by multinationals, which particularly disadvantages third world countries. Willsman also felt that capital gains should be taxed at the same marginal rates as income tax.
Following the publication of the Manifesto there will be further specific departmental policies announced during the campaign. These will address several of the issues raised in the prior discussions with Ed Miliband.
Peter Willsman is a CLP rep, on the NEC. He is always available for advice and assistance phone 020 8854 7326.