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Wednesday, 20 May 2015 10:19

National Executive Committee, 19 May 2015

The central focus of today’s meeting of Labour’s executive was how to explain Labour’s defeat. The outcome was the creation of a taskforce to analyse the reasons for the result in order to learn the lessons.

Harriet Harman opened the meeting with her report which covered:

  1. fighting the Tories: an effective shadow cabinet front bench has been put together, Harriet reported. The parliamentary battle starts with the queen’s speech and will not be deflected by the leadership elections.
  2. analysing the general election result: we need to listen and learn from the experiences of candidates, activists, members and supporters. Harriet circulated a paper which proposed establishing a task force that will engage with all these participants in the campaign, thoroughly analyse the data and make recommendations for future campaigning. The task force will especially seek responses on why people think Labour lost, what issues were raised on the doorstep, what campaign themes worked and what didn’t, how effective were our opponents and what would bring greater success next time. The taskforce will report back to the national executive ( NEC) and to the new leadership team.
  3. leadership election: Harriet recognised that this will involve a rigorous debate which is welcome, but will take place within a framework of unity and stability, and all candidates should fight the Tories in parliament as well as campaigning within the party.

Trade union representatives then drew attention to the impending attacks on trade union rights. They stressed the need for a robust response from the front bench. And the defence of the human rights act was also highlighted, which might be a divisive issue amongst the Tories.

In welcoming the taskforce proposal, the importance of analysing results in Wales and Scotland was emphasised. The local government representatives (and myself) argued the need for also examining the council elections which have, up to now, been largely ignored – although staff argued that they largely mirrored the general election pattern. A full report will be circulated.

Many speakers drew attention to the false mantras that the Tories and their press allies constantly trotted out over five years. A key lesson is that these mantras have to be continuously challenged. Ann Black reported that she has already received several hundred comments from members which will be passed on to the taskforce. Harriet confirmed that the membership of the taskforce will represent all party sections and nations, will be gender balanced and include BAME representation.

Local Government

The local government representatives reported on Tory proposals in relation to Greater Manchester and the integration of the NHS into these proposals. I stressed that the implications of these radical and potentially risky changes need to be thoroughly scrutinised, which was acknowledged.

Trade union members drew attention to the need for councils to draw on best practice and consult widely about how best to confront the cuts of some 40% in central government funding.

European parliament

Glenys Willmot’s report welcomed the European commission’s new migration strategy but called for stronger action to rescue migrants drowning, tackle people smugglers, and provide pathways to legal, managed migration. She also reported that Tory and UKIP MEPs had voted against an EU crack-down on tax dodging.

General Secretary’s report

  1. Scottish leadership election: Iain is trying to dovetail the Scottish and UK leadership election procedures, which he’ll report on to party officers.
  2. UK leadership election: the timetable, codes of conduct and other arrangements have been put in place. Trade union members pointed out that the implementation group established to agree transitional arrangements for reforming the Party union link based on the Collins report had not yet completed its task. Consequently some practical issues affecting affiliated members have not yet been finalised and the procedures committee established last week will consider these concerns.
  3. Staffing and finance: steps are being taken to have an effective staff structure for the next five years – this will deal with the situation of the sudden departure of most of the party’s senior management at the election. In my view this problem demonstrates the serious disadvantages of integrating the party’s management with the leader’s office with some senior managers funded by Short money and subject to fixed term contracts.
  4. London Mayoral selection: the long-listing and short-listing process will be undertaken by three NEC members (Ellie Reeves, Andy Kerr of the CWU and Keith Vaz) together with three London regional board members.

Keith Birch of Unison reported  that the equality committee (which he chairs) is examining procedures for all-women shortlists (AWS) in the next cycle.  Several people (including me) argued for greater transparency in choosing which constituencies have AWS, perhaps randomising the selection. There was general acceptance that a fairer system is needed to lessen the hostility that sometimes arises when the process is not seen as just.

A trade union member suggested that there be involvement by NEC members in the appointment of very senior staff. Iain responded that, in accordance with recent custom and practice, this was entirely a matter for him. I pointed out that this hadn’t been the case prior to New Labour.

All executive members were impressed with the psephological presentation by Executive Director for Elections Patrick Heneghan. His analysis of trends amongst various demographic groups will be reported in due course.