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Wednesday, 22 July 2015 15:28

National Executive Committee 21 July 2015

At the start of the meeting, Jennie Formby, Unite rep, welcomed Christine Shawcroft back to the NEC after it had been agreed that Christine had no charges to answer in relation to Tower Hamlets.

Leader’s report
Harriet Harman explained her thinking regarding opposition to the budget, especially that we should not allow the Tories to manipulate the situation so as to paint Labour into a corner, and that we have to be an effective opposition on key Labour issues. In relation to Syria, Harriet confirmed that the government has not put forward any proposition to the Labour frontbench. Press leaks have revealed that, contrary to previous undertakings in the House of Commons, UK pilots have been involved in bombing in Syria. Harriet drew attention to the fact that this coincided with the Tories trying to water down the Freedom of Information Act. Harriet stressed that Labour is opposed to this and she added that Jack Straw is acting in an individual capacity by participating in the review.

In response trade union reps stressed the need for Labour to strongly oppose the Tory attacks on the unions and the link to Labour. The fact that the Tory agenda is vindictively anti-Labour is revealed by the fact that opting in would have to be carried out by post and will not be able to be done online.

The trade union reps and others also expressed concerns about our frontbench moves to support reductions in the welfare cap. It was pointed out that this went against party policy and is divisive within the party. It was also stressed that Labour should oppose the perpetual freeze on public sector pay. The need to carefully spell out a popular anti-austerity vision was highlighted.

“Learning the Lessons” taskforce
Margaret Beckett, chair of the taskforce, gave an interim report. A large number of contributions are coming in and these are being analysed. Some 55,000 new members have joined the party since 7 May.

Local government report
Cllr Jim McMahon moved a written report. The LGA continues to provide support for councils through peer reviews and ‘change of control’ support for new leaders.

European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) Leader’s report
Glenis Willmott moved a written report and highlighted the suffering being endured by the Greek people and she stressed the urgent need to properly address Greece’s high and unsustainable level of debt. Labour MEPs voted to keep public services out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations and to ensure workers’ rights and environmental standards are protected. Labour MEPs are campaigning against abusive zero-hour contracts and pressing for more effective opposition in the European Parliament.

General Secretary’s report
Iain McNicol updated the NEC on the arrangements under way in the leadership and deputy leadership election. There are some 18,000 registered supporters so far. In response NEC members stressed the importance of candidates and their teams not criticising other candidates and not using the press to this effect.

Iain outlined the work being done to prepare for the forthcoming elections in Scotland and Wales, London mayor and other local mayors, police and crime commissioners, and local authorities. Iain stressed the importance of CLPs and local activists working to increase electoral registration; local councils also have a key role here.

NPF report
A short interim report was circulated. Ann Black pointed out that since the NPF elections are being run alongside the leadership ballot it is important that a full NPF is called before the end of the year so that the new members can get underway with their work.

Rule changes from CLPs for the 2015 conference
Some 12 rule changes were submitted by CLPs for the 2015 conference. Nine of these have now been ruled out of order by the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). These involved the following constituencies: Bridgend, Islington North, Peterborough, Reigate, Solihull, South West Devon, Vale of Clwyd, Stoke-on-Trent South, Derby North, Mid-Bedfordshire, Hyndburn, Croydon Central, Great Grimsby, Birmingham Ladywood, Swansea East, Croydon South, and Greenwich and Woolwich. The reason give by the CAC, in most cases, is that somehow many of the issues raised in these rule changes were covered by either the Refounding Labour review or the Collins Report.

Since the latter were within the last three years, the rule changes are caught by the ‘three year rule‘. But the ‘three year rule‘ states that a rule change is only out of order if within three years a decision has been made by conference on “the same or a similar primary objective“. Several NEC members pointed out that neitherRefounding Labour nor Collins specifically covered the matters raised in at least some of the ruled out rule changes. And certainly no decision by conference has been made on almost any of the ruled out rule changes. The correct procedure would be to table the rule changes and for the NEC to seek remit/oppose if it was felt that the reviews somehow had implications in relation to what the CLP was proposing.

It was agreed that the NEC’s concerns would be relayed to the CAC and that the CLPs that have been ruled out will be invited to make representations to the CAC prior to Conference. Several trade union reps stressed the importance of allowing conference to vote in parts on voluminous NPF documents rather than having to vote on a “take it or leave it” basis. This was the subject of a ruled out rule change from no less than seven CLPs. It was felt that the NEC needed to revisit this matter at some stage.

I also raised the issue of the Priorities Ballot on the Sunday of conference and the fact that the ‘spirit of the rules‘ is that four contemporary motions should be chosen by the trade unions and four separate ones by the CLPs. What happens in practice is that four are chosen by the unions, and because in the ballot the CLPs and the unions vote together, it is often the case that only one or two extra are chosen by the CLPs.

I proposed a ‘revolutionary’ way forward, namely, that the trade unions should choose their four contemporary motions on Sunday morning and that these four would then be removed from the CLP ballot which would take place in the afternoon. This way, the CLPs would have four separate contemporary motions and the ‘spirit of the rules’ would be upheld. It was clear that my ‘extreme’ proposal was too much for them to handle!

Iain McNicol pointed out that a rule change to give effect to my revolutionary proposal was on the agenda of the 2016 conference (from Bury North, Exeter and Blackpool North and Cleveleys CLPs). This will give conference an opportunity to resolve the matter. I pointed out that this will only be the case if the CAC does not rule out the rule change!

Membership and retention
A report was given of the ‘welcome’ events being organised for new members and also of the retention arrangements that are being developed. Our new members are younger, with an average age of 41, a third are under 30 years old and the most common age of a new member is 18. They are more likely to be women. A regional breakdown of membership will be presented to a future NEC. In relation to Registered Supporters the party contacts them to complete registration, at which point one in five are choosing to join as members. This was a very positive note on which to end the NEC.