Labour’s NEC results have been announced today – expect the mainstream media and the right to read plenty into them. Much of it will be stuff that isn’t borne out by the facts – so here’s my take on what the results mean.
1) As you were. 5 of the 6 NEC members were re-elected, and the only change is that Luke Akehurst* is replaced by Peter Wheeler – another Progress/Labour First candidate. So the political balance of the NEC remains the same – CLPD 3 Progress/LF 2 Independent 1. There’s no “lurch” from party members – it’s steady as you go – the organisational/political balance remains the same.
2. The overstated demise of Ken. In part Ken Livingstone topping the ballot is due to his name recognition which far exceeds most of the shadow cabinet, nevermind fellow NEC candidates. Yet at the same time it also suggests that his unpopularity amongst Labour activists may have been overstated – certainly there’s a significant chunk of the party that is still hugely loyal to him.
3. You don’t need to be on a slate, but incumbency helps. Johanna Baxter was re-elected to the NEC as an independent, breaking the hold that slates have long held over the NEC. Last time she came 7th but joined the NEC after Oona King became a Baroness. This time she was elected first time – a huge achievement. However other independent candidates fared less well and there is clearly still a slate advantage. Johanna was successful because she’s an incumbent and was able to run for re-election on her record. Incumbency also helped 5 of the existing 6 members get re-elected, and the “new” member Peter Wheeler is an ex-NEC member himself. All had a record to stand on.
4. A disengaged electorate. Turnout was always likely to be lower than last time (which coincided with the leadership election). By my back of an envelope calculations turnout will have been between 25 and 30% (and we’ll be pressing the party to release an official turnout figure). Not great, although not as low as I feared. Considering the power the NEC has – especially in opposition – that’s a disappointingly low. In a party largely shorn of democracy, NEC elections are a chance to have a say. For whatever reason, not enough members knew enough or cared enough to vote. Further engagement with members from the NEC is obviously needed (some members are already better at this than others).
* – On a personal note – I’m sad to see Luke Akehurst is no longer on the NEC. We don’t always agree but he has a huge passion for the party and members – and has made a genuine attempt to engage through forums like this one.