Peter Willsman reports from Labour’s Executive - NEC Meeting September 18th 2018 Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 September 2018 17:16

The NEC was quiet and pretty uneventful. I stirred things up a bit by reading out what our Deputy Leader had said on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Namely – “We have hired a new general secretary….She has been in post for three or four months. If I come here again at Christmas and she has not dealt with it, then you may be asking me why she is still in post”. I pressed Tom to apologise but he did not respond. Jennie interjected to say that Tom and her had had a discussion.

 

Leaders Report

Jeremy took us through the protracted saga of the Brexit negotiations (Alice Perry had brought her new born baby, Rosemary, to the NEC. At this point Rosemary fell asleep!). There had been very little progress with the gridlocked Brexit negotiations over the summer. Labour has reconfirmed that it will vote against any form of Brexit that does not meet its six tests and Jeremy paid tribute to Keir Starmer and his team for all the hard work they had undertaken.

Jeremy took the NEC through all of the very serious international issues, in particular, the horrendous situations in the Yemen and in Syria. Jeremy also highlighted the very serious implications of Trump’s Tariff War. It was the very high level of tariffs after the First World War that played a significant part in the Great Depression. Trump is therefore threatening the very foundations of international trade.

Jeremy and the whole NEC congratulated Diane Abbott on the statement she had issued denouncing the “hostile environment” for those who moved to our country to make their homes. Diane has made key commitments to remove the unfair restrictions on those from abroad when Labour is in office.

Finally, Jeremy outlined key events since the last NEC in his very intensive programme of campaigning. Our party is giving particular focus to campaigning in Scotland. Jeremy also highlighted key parts of England and Wales where we are also concentrating our efforts.

Local Government Report

Cllr Nick Forbes introduced his written report. In particular, Nick drew attention to the horrendous effect of the severe reductions in local government funding. He added that now that Tory authorities such as Northamptonshire, Somerset and Surrey are in deep trouble the Tory Govt. are at last giving the scandal some attention. Nick stressed that our Party must have a co-ordinated campaign involving the leadership, NEC, PLP and local councillors to highlight the horrendous effects and consequences of austerity.

The ALC will be hosting a comprehensive package of training and events for Labour councillors at Annual Conference. Training includes sessions on effective messaging, opposition and our “Be a Councillor” event that we host jointly with the LGA Labour Group.

European Parliamentary Labour Party Report

Richard Corbett, EPLP leader, complemented Jeremy’s summary of the Brexit saga. An agreement at the October meeting of the European Council is unlikely. There is talk of an extraordinary meeting in November solely to finalise the Brexit plans. But much remains to be negotiated, clarified and legislated. Richard reported on the reintegration of workers saying that Labour MEPs voted in favour of a report calling on EU countries to bring in new laws that will ensure workers who suffer from chronic health issues and disabilities are adequately protected whilst in employment, and have the necessary tools to successfully reintegrate back into the workplace.

International Report

Jo Greening, our International Officer, took us through her written report saying that we are expecting around 200 international visitors at Annual Conference and we will have a designated international lounge at conference. During Conference, we will be hosting a delegation from Africa and from the Western Balkans. The Labour Party was represented at the International Progressive Campaign in Montreal which was focused on how social democrats can combat the rise of right wing populism and “fake news”.

General Secretary’s Report

Jennie reported on several items that are private and confidential, eg our Finance Strategy update and specific points concerning the possible Boundary Review.

Jennie also presented the Amendment that the PLP are proposing to their own Standing Orders – covering the IHRA. This Amendment was approved by the NEC. Jennie added that she is actively trying to undertake consultation with Jewish Organisations and Groups.

Jennie also gave the NEC an update on the progress of selections of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates – in September 2017 the NEC had authorised selections to begin in the 76 most marginal opposition-held seats in England. Also, of course, 3 Labour MPs have resigned from the PLP. After discussion the NEC authorised that selections in these seats be commenced. Jennie reported that Sheffield Hallam have made representations that their seat should be assigned an All Women Shortlist. The NEC therefore agreed the following: Sheffield Hallam CLP All Woman Shortlist; Barrow and Furness CLP Open Selection; Birkenhead CLP Open Selection.

Report by National Policy Forum (NPF) Chair

Ann Black introduced her written report. The policy commissions all met or held telephone conferences in July to draft their annual reports of activity and update the consultation documents to reflect what had been heard through the consultation. The NPF report was sent to annual conference delegates by email at the beginning of the month and is available to view online at https://members.labour.org.uk/national-policy-forum

Report by Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) Chair

Harry Donaldson (or Uncle Harry as I call him) gave the NEC his usual very authoritative report. Harry reported there are currently 12500 people registered to attend Annual Conference and we anticipate around 13000 attendees this year. Of these, 1300 are voting delegates. 1300 members have registered to attend National Women’s Conference which is taking place on Saturday 22nd September. 183 Contemporary motions divided into 17 subject headings were ruled in order. They will go forward to the priorities ballot on Sunday and the top 8 subjects (4 CLP + 4 Affiliated organisations) will go forward to compositing meetings.

The CAC has agreed to promote an official Conference charity that supports the host city. In this, the first year, The Mayors Hope Fund has been selected as the charity. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/labourpartyconference18. There are 500 fringe events confirmed across many venues around the city. The Labour Conference App went live in August, it contains information about the venues, exhibition stands and fringe events as well as the conference timetable. Visit www.labour.org.uk/conferenceapp. Alternatively, all the above information is available online at www.labourconference.org

Annual Conference Business

Merit Awards – As I always say each year, for some 100 years the Special Merit Award winner was always allowed to say a few words to Conference. This was stopped when Tony Blair took over. I commented that I am sure our Jeremy will not be so restrictive. I also asked that a check be made of the stalls/elaborate stalls are thoroughly checked to ensure that there are no obvious dangers for elderly people to stumble over. Only a couple of years ago, an elderly woman delegate tripped over a ridiculous obstacle and spent 4 days in hospital.

Democracy Review Proposals

The Charter of Members Rights

A new and detailed Clause setting out a wide range of rights will be put to Conference as a NEC Rule Change.

Proposals to Reform Our Structures and Procedures In Relation to our Local Govt Representation

There was a rock solid proposal to replace the total joke, known as Local Campaign Forums, by Local Government Committees (LGC’s) (which existed for some 80 years and which gave the trade unions a very significant role). Cllr Nick Forbes (representing Labour Cllrs), a very thoughtful and principled member of the NEC, of course supported the Democracy Review proposal re LGC’s. But a significant majority of the NEC refused to countenance any change at this conference. The matter was deferred to the 2019 Conference at the earliest.

The Democracy Review contained several other proposals to increase democracy in the local govt area. These were not even given the time of day and went straight into the long grass.

CLP and Branch Structures

Rule changes will be submitted to Conference eg covering the procedures for a transfer from a General Committee to an All Members Meeting structure; procedures for Women’s branches, BAME branches, Disabled members branches, and LGBT+ branches; and for the election of the relevant CLP officers by the self-defining members of these groups, to the extent allowed by law; also concerning procedures covering job shares.

Regional Executive Committees

Regional boards etc will revert to their long-standing name of Regional Executive Committees. Also, Standing Orders for Regional Conferences will be put to Conference. The NEC will also make recommendations for codifying rules and procedures for selections, standing orders, accountability and relationship to the Party for regional government in England and directly elected mayors on a basis broadly mirroring the rules and procedures for local government.

Youth Representation; Disabled Members Representation and BAME Representation

Proposals for developing democratic structures in these 3 areas will be put to Conference.

Scotland and Wales Representation on NEC

One Scottish Labour Party member and one Welsh Labour Party member to be elected according to the rules laid down by the Scottish and Welsh Conferences respectively.

Policy Making

The Democracy Review proposed that the NEC should begin an immediate review of the Party’s policy-making processes and these could be incorporated into the Rule Book subject to approval by the 2019 Conference. This was defeated by a significant majority – the trade unions seem to prefer to reform the NPF rather than to abolish it. The NEC Chair confirmed that the NEC will still have a Review of policy making but there will be no specific time limits on this.

To Increase the Size of the CAC To Achieve Parity of Seats Between CLPs and Unions

Until 1981 the CAC had 5 seats – all taken by the trade unions voting as a block. In 1981 the CLPs were given their own separate seat and this was won by yours truly. Later the CLPs were given another seat so now, the trade unions take 5 seats, and the CLPs have the awesome twosome of Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes representing them. The Democracy Review made the very fair and sensible proposal that the CLPs should have 5 seats so that on the CAC there would be parity between the political wing (CLPs) and the industrial wing (trade unions). In Conference itself, there is of course, parity of voting power between the CLPs and trade unions. This fair and sensible proposal was defeated by a significant majority.

The Democracy Review also proposed that a seat for a disabled member be added to the CAC. This was agreed.

Annual Conference Motions

It was agreed that the ridiculous restriction of “Contemporary” be removed from all Annual Conference motions in future. It was also agreed that the Priorities Ballot be changed from 4 subjects to 10 subjects from the unions and 10 from CLPs. Also, trade unions with over 100,000 members will be able to submit 2 motions to conference.

Annual Conference – Other Proposed Changes

The following excellent proposals from the Democracy Review were put together into one omnibus vote: that a CLP/union can submit both a motion and a rule change in any one year; that the 3 year rule for rule changes be abolished; that the ridiculous 1 year delay for CLP/TU rule changes also be abolished. Unfortunately, the single vote on all of these was tied and therefore not carried.

Procedures for Leadership Elections

Decisions on this were postponed to the Saturday NEC

Reform of Disciplinary Procedures

A range of significant improvements will be put forward at conference

In relation to the NCC the Democracy Review proposed that it be increased from 11 members to 25. This was accepted unanimously. The Democracy Review also made the very fair and sensible proposal that the CLP members should have a larger share of the new seats so that on the NCC there would be parity of seats between our political and industrial wings. This fair and sensible proposal was overwhelmingly rejected with only a very small number of us putting our hands up in support of the Democracy Review’s proposal.

Constitutional Amendments – from CLPs submitted in spring 2017

The NEC had no time for these and they will be looked at for the very first time by the NEC at our meeting a few hours before the 2018 Conference starts.

Postscript

Assertions Need Evidence

As readers will know from my recent NEC reports (see http://www.grassrootslabour.net/ for the reports) I am very concerned that lots of negative assertions about our Party are being bandied about in the press and media. A classic example was in the Sunday Times of 9th September. An elected member of the Party’s NCC made very damaging criticisms of our Party saying thousands of anti-semitism complaints have been received by the party and they will take months, if not years to resolve because the party’s ruling national executive committee is so “politically fractious and divided”. “Quite frankly, we’re just having to take decisions on arseholes…nasty people who just behave in intolerable ways to each other…..Many of the people who attended the discussion have been the victims of anti-semitism within the party, some of whom have had their complaints handled atrociously. I won’t stay silent while the party’s disciplinary processes remain corrupted”

I do not accept that many of these assertions are accurate and I would ask the comrade to produce some evidence. Otherwise, he is open to the criticism of bringing the Party into disrepute, whilst at the same time sitting on our most senior disciplinary body.

Labour Looks After The Many – The Facts Speak For Themselves

The Resolution Foundation in its audit report of 2017-18 found that “Child poverty fell from 3 million in 1998-99 to around 1.6 million in 2010-11”. Since 2010 child poverty has been rising twice as fast since as official figures show. “The proportion of children in poverty has actually grown by 21% between 2011 and 2016”. (Guardian July 24th 2018)

 

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Addition/clarification to Peter Willsman's NEC Report

Having had discussions with various parties, the following 3 points can be added to my report:

1) The selection decisions were deferred to Saturday's meeting as delegates wanted a paper arguing which should be open and which AWS which we didn't fully have.

2) On local government, it was agreed we would undertake a review of all issue relating to local government with a view to making specific recommendations on all the points raised in the Democracy Review to conference 2019.

3) It was agreed to have a full review of policy making processes with a view to report to conference 2019.