|Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s emergency executive|
|Friday, 21 April 2017|
National Executive Committee 19 April 2017
Following Theresa May’s breaking of her word on Tuesday 18 April, the NEC swung into action and had a meeting on Wednesday 19 April. It was a very upbeat and business-like meeting. Everyone was totally focused. A lot of work has already been done – the staff are really up for it. Andy Kerr was in the chair.
Jeremy was very enthused and has already hit the campaign trail. He gave details of that day’s vote in the House of Commons, with MPs overwhelmingly voting for a General Election. (The election in Gorton will now take place on the same day as the General Election.) Jeremy stressed that most Labour voters would have never understood a vote by Labour to allow a Tory government to continue in office for another 3 years, carrying out vicious austerity policies. He emphasised the importance of getting our key messages across to the public. Jeremy pointed out that the Tories are already on the defensive – May is running scared of any TV debates.
Jeremy highlighted his original 10 pledges (see the Labour Party website) and also took the NEC through all of the policies that we have announced over the last two weeks. These have been very well received by the voters. Jeremy highlighted the fact that during the General Election campaign, the media are obliged to give Labour a fair hearing. This will of course not apply to the hostile press, but then they have always opposed Labour because their owners want to keep their hands on their power and money, and therefore totally support the Tories.
Jeremy then apologised for having to leave the NEC, but he was hitting the campaign trail in south London where he was attending a key Campaign Function. Having known Jeremy for some 42 years, I am well aware that campaigning and meeting the public is Jeremy’s strong suit. The Tories and their lickspittles in the press and media have a shock coming. No wonder May is fearful of confronting Jeremy in the television spotlight.
Jeremy was given a very warm send-off by many NEC members, who emphasised the positives. I stressed that the “experts” are often wrong and will be wrong again. As Rodney Bickerstaffe always used to say to me and Jeremy, an ‘ex’ is an unknown quantity and ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure. We have excellent and committed staff, the largest party in Western Europe, and an inspiring leader. We will humiliate the doom-mongers and naysayers.
Kezia Dugdale emphasised the total support for Jeremy in Scotland. Kezia added that we should have no truck with any talk of a ‘progressive alliance’ with the SNP. Not only does this damage our candidates in Scotland, and indeed also South of the Border, but it is too much of a stretch to label the former Tartan Tories as ‘progressive’- despite the image that Nicola assiduously tries to present.
Several trade union reps highlighted the very exciting policies that have been announced recently, particularly the £10 Real Living Wage, large scale council house building, and enhanced rights for part-time workers, e.g. school meal workers.
Jeremy thanked the NEC for their enthusiastic support and confirmed that he had already met with TULO officers to discuss many of the issues raised by the trade union reps. As he was going out of the door, Jeremy reminded us all that the final registration day is 22 May. We need to make sure that all of our supporters, especially the young, are registered to vote.
Consideration of documents from yesterday’s NEC Officers’ Meeting
Policy Work for the Manifesto
Steve Howell and Seumas Milne (from The Leaders Office) introduced a discussion on the development of the Manifesto. They took the NEC through each of Labour’s recent policy pledges. These policies have met with widespread support. It was noted that many small businesses had responded enthusiastically to the proposal that big corporations should be prevented from deliberately paying their debts to small companies as late as possible. Further major policy announcements are on the way in the next few days, especially key policies on the NHS and housing.
The officers outlined our core strategy for the economy, including increasing productivity, increasing investment with a National Investment Bank. As part of this, we will introduce enhanced rights for employees. We will focus on our positive policies, for the many rather than for the few. Nevertheless, we will highlight the extremist record of the Tory government – austerity, increased homelessness, cuts to benefits, falling wages, increased vulnerability of workers (e.g. zero-hour contracts), preparing for the full privatisation of the NHS, re-introducing grammar schools for the benefit of the well-off and to the detriment of those just about managing, behaving like a puppet for the trigger-happy Trump, and increasing complicity in the violation of human rights in order to benefit the sale of weapons of destruction. There will also be publicity focusing on May’s lack of leadership, not only has she broken several promises and commitments but she is running scared of debating with our Jeremy.
NEC members then made their own contributions and suggestions. I pointed out that the public are often more impressed by things in their daily life rather than leaflets. For example, under the Tories there is always a major increase in people sleeping in doorways – of course, one former Tory cabinet member callously described the homeless as “what you step over when you come out of the opera”. I pointed out that under Labour governments in the 1960s there were very few homeless, no pawn shops, and in the 1950s no betting shops either. People had proper jobs with a career structure – certainly not a zero-hours world. I also emphasised that a major reason for May running for cover is that a huge scandal is breaking out over the Tory’s dodgy election claims in 2015. May is well aware that this will massively damage the Tory party. Cath Speight added emphasis on my point by reminding everyone that the day after May announced the General Election it was revealed that no less than 30 Tory MPs are being investigated by the police.
It was pointed out that overall living standards are about to fall, and that this is a major factor in May’s decision to break her repeated promise. Finally, it was agreed that our campaign must have a consistent message, including a very clear Labour position in relation to the Brexit negotiations and the aftermath.
Drafting and agreeing the Manifesto
Finally, Simon Jackson, Senior Officer for Policy and Research, brought everything together by setting out full details of the timetable for the Manifesto process, together with giving more details for the arrangements of the Clause V meeting.
Some of us felt it would be appropriate to end the meeting with a rousing rendition of the Red Flag, but others said there wasn’t time because they had to join Jeremy on the campaign trail.