Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s July 2017 executive Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 July 2017 06:48

National Executive Committee 18 July 2017

There was a very positive and constructive attitude all around the table. Everyone was fully aware that Labour had had a bigger increase in our vote share since 1945. Also everyone was fully aware that Jeremy was the key to our success. As of course were all of our members and staff. The doom-mongers and naysayers had been swept from the field. What also made the meeting very special was the presence of our two dynamic election coordinators, Ian Lavery MP and Andrew Gwynne MP. The phrase ‘dynamic duo’ was coined with these two in mind. Ian gives powerful and uplifting speeches of which Henry V would have been proud (albeit Henry was not of the cream of working class stock, like our Ian). In Oxford, we would call Andrew a bit of an egg-head, given the assiduous analytical rigour with which he approaches every problem. In the meeting, both Ian and Andrew gave us an insight into the effectiveness of our campaign and paid tribute to the quality of the staff throughout the country. Jeremy of course shared all these views, and he is already focusing on the next stage. This is a message for all of us. In Oxford on the 9th June, we all received an email setting out the four canvassing sessions for the following week.

Leader’s Report

Jeremy paid tribute to everyone in the party who contributed to our humiliation of the establishment. Several senior officers had prepared very detailed reports of the General Election and Jeremy didn’t want to steal their thunder. The basic point Jeremy wanted to make was that our party had totally changed the terms of the debate. Our manifesto and campaign had destroyed the case for neo-liberalism and austerity that dates from the dark days of Thatcher. It had exposed the depths of the inequality and injustice under a Tory-led government. It had also revealed the enthusiasm for democratic socialist policies, especially amongst the youth and BAME communities. Jeremy emphasised that it was the political establishment that had given up on the youth, rather than the other way around – as is portrayed in the hostile press.

Jeremy focussed on the response of our party and himself to the atrocities in Manchester, London Bridge, and Finsbury Park. The party suspended campaigning and Jeremy had spent time at each of these sites, sharing the grief of the local people. Jeremy said that it is important to record that at all three places members from all diverse communities were there. For example, in Finsbury Park the local mosque invited all communities to a gathering at the mosque. It was uplifting to be able to report that all communities responded.

Jeremy then turned to the terrible tragedy of Grenfell tower, what David Lammy describes as “corporate manslaughter”. Jeremy’s report of this tragic incident was complemented by Nick Forbes, on behalf of Labour councils. Nick highlighted the extent to which the response of a Labour council would be in total contrast to the disgrace of the Tories in Kensington and Chelsea. Jeremy is pressing for the broadening of the inquiry team looking into the tragedy. He wants a more diverse panel, involving local people including firefighters. Perhaps, similar to the panel-type arrangements used in the 1999 MacPherson Inquiry. Jeremy added that he is pressing for a two-stage inquiry, with an urgent section on how and why the horror spread so quickly. And a second inquiry focussing on the wider issues surrounding the tragedy, particularly the neglect of social housing.

Finally, Jeremy took the NEC through the party’s negotiation position in relation to the Brexit imbroglio. Jeremy especially emphasised the defence of workers’ rights, environmental protections, and consumer rights.

Deputy Leader’s Report

Tommy was not able to attend the meeting, so we were deprived of his words of wisdom.

General Election Campaign Report and Analysis

Ian and Andrew gave us many insights into the ebbs and flows of the campaign. Of course, in the final two weeks the flows were almost all in our direction. Andrew emphasised that we now need to use Parliament in an effective and sophisticated way, to keep the Tories constantly under pressure. He added that we need selections in the key marginal as early as possible and that we must all get out on the doorstep. Jeremy is visiting all of the Tory marginals, to motivate our supporters and to keep the Tories under pressure. Jeremy, Andrew, and Ian emphasised that we must expose the toxicity of the Tories.

Ian and Andrew’s presentation was complemented by Iain McNicol, General Secretary, who outlined the very comradely and effective way in which the leaders’ office interrelated with the rest of the staff. Then we were treated to a detailed analysis by several of our very able senior officers. These presentations highlighted the extent of the grassroots campaigning, with 3 million VID contacts and £5 million raised in small donations. We also made considerable use of social media, with 7.8 million views on Snapchat in the week before polling day.

It was emphasised that two-party politics, as experienced between 1945 and the late 70s, has returned. A complete list of all the results was presented. Bristol West holds pride of place, with the largest swing to Labour. There are clearly issues to address in the East Midlands – at the very bottom of the list, with an almost 9% swing to the Tories, was Ashfield.

Many NEC members contributed their observations and recommendations arising out of their personal experience of the campaign. I supported others in arguing that the SNP have passed their peak. I pointed out that canny Scots are not called canny for nothing. When they had the oil money, they may have toyed with the idea of independence. Now that has gone, but they are still benefiting from the Barnett Formula. There is no way that they would want the English to have the last laugh.

Of course, I could not resist pointing out that from an early stage I had argued that if we get Corbyn-mania, anything could happen. Indeed, I told JC a week before the election day, that we were heading for a landslide in Oxford (which of course we got).

Local and Mayoral Elections 2017

A detailed breakdown of these elections were provided to the NEC. These showed we faced a challenging situation, with us receiving 27% of the vote share nationally. The NEC congratulated the former NEC member, Steve Rotherham, for his overwhelming victory in Liverpool, and similar congratulations were extended to Andy Burnham. Our amazing result in the West of England was also highlighted. The final totals were Tories: 51.6%, Labour: 48.4%. So much for the nonsense that is talked that the West of England is Liberal and not Labour.

Local Government Report

Nick and Alice gave a detailed report. As I have said, Nick covered the Grenfell tragedy in detail. Nick also highlighted the successful Local Government Association conference. Also the results of the ALC Executive elections were noted. It was highlighted and agreed that as well as equal gender representation, more attention must be paid to BAME representation.

EPLP Leader’s Report

Glenis reported that the EPLP had welcomed two new members to their team, Wajid Khan and John Howarth, who replaced MEPs who had now become MPs. Glenis spent considerable time outlining the implications of the Brexit negotiations. For example, the EU-Japan trade deal shows how the UK must secure the fullest possible access post-Brexit. Nor must Britain turn its back on EU anti-tax avoidance measures after Brexit. Glenis highlighted that the latest Tory offer to EU nationals is both too late and too vague. Finally, Glenis confirmed that she will be standing down as leader of the EPLP and as an MEP in October. This information disappointed many of us because Glenis has played an outstanding role in Brussels and elsewhere. The NEC gave Glenis their appreciation and it was emphasised that Glenis will be very hard to replace.

International Report

Our senior international officer gave a report of the work our party is undertaking. Jeremy highlighted the action we are taking in Parliament in relation to human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen. It was agreed that we should develop our links with our sister party, the Yemeni Socialist Party. Jeremy also reported that the issue of human rights in Turkey is also being pursued in Parliament. Trade union reps raised the effects of the embargo against Qatar – particularly that the non-Qatari workers in Qatar are increasingly vulnerable.

Ann Black (NEC link person to Labour International) gave a short report of the work of our Labour International Branch. It has had a significant increase in membership.

General Secretary’s Report

· Iain and our senior policy officer detailed the work that had been undertaken in the lead up to the Clause V meeting. Every effort had been made to involve all of our NPF members. I added that the Clause V meeting was especially noteworthy. A large number of amendments had been made, which had considerably increased the attraction of manifesto.

· A report was given of the steps being taken to restart the policy discussion process throughout the party, involving consultation documents from the various Policy Commissions. Ann Black and I pressed for a full NPF to be booked for a weekend in the early Autumn. This was agreed.

· Jeremy emphasised that we need to enhance the representation and consultation culture throughout our party.

· Iain presented detailed papers covering Westminster selections, events at Annual Conference, and the party’s finance strategy (including the 2016 audited accounts and a report from the Business Board). Many NEC members made proposals for improving the Westminster selections process and most of these were taken on board. An updated paper will be brought to the September meeting. As stressed by Andrew earlier, every effort will be made to get the Parliamentary selections under way in the Tory marginal.

· Constitutional Amendments from CLPs and Affiliates (including those at the 2017 Annual Conference and those for the 2018 Annual Conference).
The NEC considered a detailed 23-page paper. I am pleased to be able to report that the number of rule changes submitted before the 7th July deadline was from some 80-odd CLPs. This is the most rule changes from CLPs for 35 years. Attention was given to those rule changes that will be on the agenda in Brighton. The NEC was asked to make recommendations for each of these rule changes. A very valid point was made by one of the trade union reps, namely that it is perhaps not such a good idea to make piecemeal changes to the Rule Book, rather the NEC should have its own review of rule change proposals. This idea was discussed in detail and it was suggested that perhaps a review of the whole Collins proposals should be undertaken. It was agreed that a detailed remit for such a review would be brought to the NEC meeting. The whole paper was then referred to the September meeting.

· National Youth Policy Conference 14th/15th October.
A paper was presented which outlined that the delegates to this youth policy conference must be under the age 27 at the beginning of the conference, with the sole exception of serving members of the Young Labour National Committee. All delegations must be gender balanced. There are 303 delegate seats to allocate. There were various proposals for how the seats allocated to the young members’ section should be chosen. For example, ballot of all young members within regions and nations, or alternatively first-come-first-served. It was felt that this issue needed further consideration and also further discussion within the Young Labour National Committee. In view of the shortness of time it was agreed that the NEC officers would make the necessary decisions.

· Other matters:
I raised the issue of the OMOV ballot for the two places on the CAC, which is currently underway. I pointed out that the OMOV ballot book does not show how many nominations each candidate has received from CLPs. This is contrary to the practice of all previous OMOV elections. Iain undertook to urgently sort this issue.

Postscript

The CLPD website has lots of useful information for CLPs, especially the Guide for New Members.

Post-Postscript

From the following letter in The Guardian, there does seem to have been one rule for Lucy, and no law for Tony.

“In 2005, after having been an active member of the Labour Party for 25 years – 12 years as a Labour councillor in Haringey – I was expelled. My crime? – I had a letter published in The Guardian, just before the 2005 General Election, urging Labour members to vote tactically. I urged supporters to visit a Labour-supporting website… I did not – as Tony Blair has just done – urge members to vote Lib Dem or Tory.” Lucy Craig, The Guardian 26th April 2017.