Peter Willsman reports from Labour's May 2018 Executive Print E-mail
Friday, 25 May 2018 07:25

NEC Meeting May 22nd 2018

This was, of course, Jennie Formby's first NEC as General Secretary. Jennie was her usual dynamic and enthusiastic self. Jeremy was unable to attend the NEC as he was at the special Memorial ceremony in Manchester commemorating the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena tragedy.

Chair's Introduction

Andy Kerr welcomed us to the meeting and listed those who were in attendance via phone and who would be permitted to vote in the Vice-Chair election.

Election of NEC Vice-Chair

Wendy Nichols was elected Vice-Chair

Deputy Leaders Report

Tom quickly took us through the results of the local elections and said they were generally encouraging and reinforced the developing pattern seen at the general election.

Tom also highlighted the major campaigns waged by the PLP in the House of Commons, in particular, our campaign on the Windrush scandal and the huge effort made over Leveson 2.

In response, I complimented the leadership for concentrating on Windrush and pressing for the publication of Government documents, for example, those setting out Theresa May's "hostile environment" policy. However, I pointed out that in the actual vote, the Conservatives had a 3-line whip and won by 316 to 221 votes. I noted that the latter figure reflected very badly on the PLP and reminded Tom that in the 1970's several working-class MPs were brought into the House on stretchers to do their duty. In reply, Tom said he was not privy to the thinking of the Whip's Office but wanted to place on record the very effective way that Diane Abbott had led the campaign on the Windrush disgrace.

Democracy Review Update

Katy Clark presented a written paper. To date, there have been 2725 submissions on Phase 1 of the Review and 2379 on Phase 2. Phase 3 continues until June 29th.

National consultations have been arranged as follows:

On issues which affect disabled members on Saturday, 9 June at Canalside, Birmingham

On LGBT+ issues on Sunday, 10 June at Canalside, Birmingham

On BAME structure on Saturday, 30 June at the Queens Hotel, Leeds

On women's structure and organisations on Sunday, 1 July at the Queens Hotel, Leeds

In response, I reported that several party members have raised the issue of the creation of the post of a Labour Party Ombudsperson. Members feel that there needs to be an independent arbiter, particularly in very contentious cases, and where a member or members feel that they have not been treated in a fair and just manner. An Ombudsperson would give the whole Party confidence and reassurance. Katy replied that quite a few submissions had raised this issue and that it needs specific consultation at a future stage.

Darren Williams reported on the setting up of the Welsh Democracy Review. This will cover leadership and deputy leadership elections; the role and structure of the Welsh Executive Committee; Assembly Member selections; Welsh MP selections; Local Govt and Local Campaign Forums; the Welsh conference; general organisation and campaigning.

International Report

The Labour Party presented lessons from the 2017 General Election at the International Progressive Campaign Forum that took place in Brussels. 25 different countries were represented at the forum and discussions focused on all aspects of campaigning from field organising to digital and social media campaigning.

Keir Starmer was invited to the PES (Party of European Socialists) Minister's pre-meeting to present and answer questions on Labour's Brexit policy. Ministers from 9 countries were present.

EPLP Leader's Report

Richard Corbett MEP presented a detailed, written report. This gave details of the latest stage of the Brexit negotiations. Richard pointed out that the Irish border issue would be partly solved if the UK Govt were to adopt Labour's position of remaining in the EU's Customs Union. Richard also highlighted that the Govt's position fails to protect the workplace, consumer and environmental rights and standards that UK citizens currently enjoy. Some EU countries are beginning to fear that the Tory Govt will trigger a race to the bottom.

Richard was pleased to report on the compromise agreement that has been drawn up in relation to the Revision of the Posted Workers Directive. In June, the European Parliament will vote on new rules that will help stop the practice of unscrupulous employers bringing in workers from other EU countries and undercutting local wages. The proposed changes would introduce equal pay for equal work in the same location for those workers posted in other countries. It will mean posted workers will receive the same pay as local workers and there is also a responsibility on temporary work agencies to give these workers the same terms and conditions as local workers.

NPF Chair's Report

Andy Kerr congratulated Ann Black on her election as NPF Chair.

Ann presented a lengthy, written report giving updates on each of the Policy Commissions.

The National Policy Forum consultation was launched on 19th March. Within hours, nearly 20,000 visits to the website had been made. As of 14th May, over 40,000 had visited the website.

A number of CLP's have hosted their own policy discussions, using a specially created consultation pack for CLP secretaries.

The Policy Development Team will be running further online content, including webinars, blogs and news stories to promote the Consultation over the coming weeks.

Women's Conference 2018

Ann Black presented a written report of the arrangements for the 2018 Conference. CLP's and affiliated organisations will be able to submit motions to Women's Conference and the Conference itself will be able to send 1 motion forward to the Party's Annual Conference agenda. (Motions to be submitted by Friday, 29th June). The motions will be grouped by topic and a Priorities Ballot conducted amongst delegates prior to the Women's Conference. 4 topics will be debated in total, 2 chosen by the CLP's and 2 chosen by the affiliates.

Women's Conference 2018 will be constituted as follows:

* 1 delegate appointed by each CLP

* Delegates appointed by affiliated organisations on the basis of 1 delegate per 10,000 members or part thereof. Up to a maximum of 25 delegates per affiliate.

* 2 delegates from the Association of Labour Councillors

* 2 delegates appointed by Young Labour

Rachel Garnham proposed that there should be a joint meeting of the Women's Sub-Ctte of the NEC and the Women's Conference Arrangements Ctte (WCAC) to discuss the 2019 Women's Conference. Ann took this on board.

I pointed out that the ex-officio members of the Women's Conference should include the WCAC. Ann gave an assurance that this would be the case.

Lewisham East By-Election

The NEC's dynamic 3 women panel had carried out a rigorous selection process which had resulted in four very able women BAME members being shortlisted. Claudia Webbe paid tribute to Janet Daby, the successful candidate, chosen as PPC by a convincing majority. Claudia stressed that Janet is not only an excellent candidate but will also be an excellent MP. It was noted that in 2017 we achieved our best ever result in Lewisham East with 67.9% of the vote. Labour holds all of the council seats in the constituency.

Local Elections 2018: Analysis of Results

The Chair and General Secretary paid tribute to the tremendous contribution of our full-time and part-time staff and our candidates and party workers throughout the country.

Andrew Gwynne, together with senior officers from our Head Office election team, presented a detailed breakdown of the results. Labour took 41.3% of the votes, the Tories 31.9%, and the Lib Dems 13.9%. The projected national shares of the vote show Labour and Tories level pegging on 35%.

Labour won 2353 of the 4404 councillors elected, with 193 gains and 122 losses - net gain 71 seats. Of these, 50 net gains were in London. Of Labour's 193 gains, 98 were from the Tories and 40 from UKIP.

Andrew pointed out that we needed to do a lot more research into the motivations of the UKIP voters. He pointed out that while in many places the Tories had disproportionately gained UKIP votes, there were some areas where Labour had disproportionately gained the UKIP vote.

It was noted that in 2019, a greater proportion of council seats will be up for election. The last time these were held was in 2015 which was a high point for the Tories. The 2019 local elections therefore bode well for Labour.

Local Government Report

Nick Forbes gave further details of the local elections and paid tribute to the long serving councillors and council leaders who had stood down.

Nick reported that our Local Govt team will be running webinars over the summer including a webinar specifically aimed at new councillors and also one aimed at specific role holders in Labour Groups. The team have also been working to develop a Local Govt section on the party website. This will include a public-facing section showcasing Labour in local govt and a councillor-only hub comprising all the support and materials that the party has for our councillors.

During the subsequent discussion on Nick's report I raised an issue that has been put to me by several councillors. Namely, that in the past there was an independent Standards Board which ruled on matters concerning probity issues relating to councillors. More recently, these powers have been delegated to Council Monitoring Officers who are usually council employees. I pointed out that there is fundamental flaw here in that you have employees making decisions about the probity of those who send them their pay cheques. Nick, not surprisingly, could see the weakness of these arrangements and will report back on which action, if any, the Labour Party is in a position to take.

General Secretary's Report

* Update on the Current Elections for the 9 CLP Seats on the NEC

Jennie gave details of the arrangements for the ballot in the summer which she proposed to be carried out wholly by email except to those members not on email. This proposal was met with vigorous opposition particularly from those of us with CLP seats. It was pointed out that in the exceptional circumstances when this method was tried once in the past, it resulted in a much lower turnout. As we know, emails go to junk, not all members take their emails seriously and it is a backwards step for democracy. I pointed out that having a document through the post was maybe more expensive but we must be prepared to pay more for a more effective democratic procedure. Democracy always costs money. After a rather fraught debate, Jennie accepted a compromise. Namely, that every member on email will be asked if they want a hard copy of the ballot in the post or simply deal with it by email. The Chair made it clear that the default option, ie a failure by the member to reply to the email, will automatically mean that they will be sent the ballot paper in the post. Jennie added that the option to vote by email will be hyped up and given 5 star treatment.

* Report of NEC Working Group on Anti-Semitism

Jennie introduced a very detailed provisional confidential report setting out a series of very important recommendations covering the whole disciplinary process. There was a discussion and a further report from the working party will be produced.

I made several general points, namely that racism, misogyny and anti-semitism have been endemic in society for thousands of years. A search of the social media of 500,000 members of the Church of England, Rotary Club, Tories, Liberals et al will uncover examples of all of these prejudices but there is absolutely no evidence that any of these prejudices are more prevalent in the 500,000 members of the Labour Party than anywhere else. In fact, I believe that it is the contrary. But, the Labour Party and Jeremy are being targeted. It has been reported that, for example, between 18th March and 9th April the Guardian published 20 news stories, 8 commentary pieces, and 2 editorials directly or implicitly critical of Labour's and Jeremy's stances on anti-semitism. Of course, any investigation or analysis of the strength, or sources, of the evidence was minimal. We must therefore not allow ourselves to be backed into a corner. There are 2 key points to bear in mind. The idea that our political enemies can be appeased by us bowing to their demands is a misjudgement. As is the idea, that the Augean stables can be cleansed of prejudices that have been endemic in society for thousands of years.

* NEC Statement on All-Women Shortlists, Women's Officers and Minimum Quotas for Women

A comprehensive formal statement of the Labour Party's existing policy and procedures on these matters was presented to the NEC to ensure that the NEC is fully briefed on our existing policy. It was pointed out that much of this policy was agreed by annual conference in 2008.

Postscript

1. Public spending has fallen from 45.1% of GDP in 2009-10 to less than 39% last year. It has done the overwhelming majority of the heavy lifting in reducing the budget deficit. There has never been anything like it. The OBR has records going back to the mid-1950's and there is no period as long as this in which the trend for real public spending has been down. The public spending feast of the 2000s, under Labour, gave way to the famine of the 2010s - David Smith, Sunday Times, April 29 2018

2. Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies also calls it a period "completely unprecedented in the scale of the reductions imposed" - Sunday Times, April 29 2018

3. The UK has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth of all western nations. From 2003 to 2005, the most deprived 20% of the UK's population had a sevenfold lower income than the least deprived 20%, while the gap in Sweden was only four times - Guardian, May 4 2018