Jeremy Corbyn discussed his work to make politics more engaging. He welcomed the increase in Labour Party membership and talked about the positive difference new members could make, particularly in parts of the country where Labour has not traditionally been active. He thanked Labour Party staff for their continued hard work. He spoke about the importance of uniting the party after the leadership election. He thanked NEC members for their work on party reform and welcomed discussions about shadow cabinet elections. He also touched on a range of topics including Orgreave, tackling anti-Semitism, Workplace 2020, economic development, Brexit, Post Office closures and justice for blacklisted workers. He took questions on Government education policy, grammar schools, tackling bullying and harassment, recent TV documentaries, 2017 elections, gender based violence in the UK and internationally, devolution, preparing for a snap general election, Lords reform and Labour’s constitutional convention. The NEC endorsed Jeremy’s comments on support for staff. The NEC also agreed that after the leadership election people must put aside their differences and unite to form a credible and effective opposition.
Deputy leader’s report
Tom Watson’s report covered a range of areas. He introduced a new safeguarding policy for young members, agreed a social media code of conduct to tackle online abuse, talked about the significant improvements Labour is making to digital campaigning, training new community organisers and Party reform.
The NEC agreed a number of key rule changes and new guidance notes to be put to Labour Party conference this weekend.
New powers for women’s conference
The NEC agreed to establish a formal policy-making women’s conference. Important campaigns on issues like the minimum wage, the living wage, fairer pensions, affordable childcare and protecting the NHS have been supported and driven by women in the Labour movement at women’s conference. The exact details have yet to be finalised but this commitment was welcomed by everyone as an important step forward.
Support for councillors
It was very positive that the NEC supported my local government party reform paper, with recommendations to make our processes and procedures fairer and more transparent, increase diversity and better support councillors. Thank you to the thousands of councillors over the past year who contributed to the consultation and final report.
New changes to guidance include:
- Family members should not sit on assessment team interview panels for their own spouses or relatives.
- All assessment team interview panels should be chaired by somebody from a different local authority area.
- Sitting councillors should face an assessment interview at least every two terms.
- Shortlisting meetings will decide whether to automatically shortlist sitting councillors individually in multi-member wards.
- Labour group leaders may be elected for a four year term with a right of recall triggered by two-thirds of the Labour group if the council has adopted a four year “strong leader” model.
- Labour group leaders will be entitled to party membership lists for the area they represent.
- Increase training and support for under-represented groups in local government.
- Work to phase-out all male-member wards.
- Young Labour groups may be constituted along local or combined authority boundaries.
- Consider further representation on NPF for councillors and ALC elected representatives.
- Annual report to the ALC from the party general secretary on the use of the levy.
New rule changes we agreed included:
- Combined authority mayors and PCCs to be accountable to CLPs, Labour groups and affiliates with regular reports to those units and to regional conferences.
- Combined authority mayors and PCCs to uphold Labour’s commitment to diversity and under-representation in any appointments they make.
- Councils and Labour group executives should reflect the wider community and gender balance of the executive should reflect the group as a whole.
- Members of the Labour Group shall not support any proposal to set an illegal budget.
We also asked for two additional places for local government representatives on the NEC. Decisions about expanding or reforming NEC membership has been deferred to a future meeting. I will keep pressing the case for more NEC places for councillors.
Devolution: Scotland and Wales
The NEC agreed to devolve significant new powers to the Labour Party in Scotland and Wales. This includes:
- The Scottish and Welsh Labour Party each to be directly represented with voting rights on the NEC by a frontbench member of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.
- The leaders of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Party to attend Clause V meetings.
- Scottish and Welsh Executives to administer the procedures and selection of Westminster parliamentary candidates in Scotland and Wales.
- Scottish and Welsh Executives to manage and administer selection of candidates for devolved institutions and local government in Scotland and Wales.
- Scottish and Welsh Executive to set procedural rules for the election of the leader and deputy leader of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Party.
Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, attended the meeting to make the case for these changes in person. (The leaders of the Scottish and Welsh Labour Parties are currently ex-officio members of the NEC already – the new changes grant them full voting rights.) The NEC often discusses how to rebuild the party in Scotland. It makes sense to fully involve the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in these discussions.
Financial Support for working class candidates
The NEC agreed a new bursary scheme to support members seeking selection to Parliament from working class and low income backgrounds. We will also continue to develop of range of training and support programmes to encourage more working class, BAME, female, disabled and LGBT candidates to stand for elected office at all levels of the Labour Party. As part of this Labour will be launching the Jo Cox Leadership Programme to train women for leadership roles within the Labour Party. This will be a fitting tribute to Jo’s memory. More will be announced on this at Labour Party Conference.
Shadow cabinet elections
The PLP put forward a motion on bringing back elections to the shadow cabinet. As part of the Collins Review, Ed Miliband introduced a new rule banning Shadow Cabinet elections. The NEC discussed a variety of ways forward. The consensus was that the leader, deputy leader, chief whip and chair of the PLP should continue discussions to find a unifying way forward. I suggested a compromise of deleting the rule that forbids shadow cabinet elections and leaving the rule book silent so elections can be introduced if there is a consensus agreement that they should be introduced, but equally that they are not imposed on the leader if they do not want to use them. The NEC agreed that the most important thing was for Labour to have a strong, effective shadow cabinet that can hold the government to account and present Labour’s alternative vision for Britain.
Local government report
My report touched on a range of issues including LGA and ALC events at Labour Party Conference, preparation for the 2017 elections, supporting and working with our metro mayor candidates and how councillors can work constructively with local government trade unions on areas like use of agency workers, facility time and in-sourcing. Earlier this month I attended a meeting hosted by Nick Forbes, leader of the Labour group on the LGA, and Andy Burnham to discuss the positive difference Labour councillors make to our communities and how we can work together to deliver for local people. I look forward to campaigning for our fantastic mayoral candidates in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, the West Midlands and elsewhere.
General secretary’s report
Iain McNicol gave the GS report. We now have over 550,000 members – an amazing achievement that presents Labour with fantastic opportunities. Ann Black very sensibly suggested that CLPs be given more resources to manage the administration of larger local parties. Iain also reported that finances are in the best shape for decades. We have paid off all our election debts and now also paid off all our mortgage debts.
Labour is in the process of co-ordinating our response to the first stage of the parliamentary boundary review. I am a member of the NEC boundaries steering committee and will report back on our meeting in October. It is outrageous that the boundaries are being draw-up on the old election register, which ignores almost two million new registered voters.
Disciplinary issues and membership appeals
We discussed the administration for the leadership election, including issues relating to disciplinary cases. A number of concerns have been raised by members and should be properly examined and addressed, with recommendations for improving the process in future. A full discussion will take place at the next relevant subcommittee meeting. Please do keep passing your feedback to NEC members. The NEC once again thanked staff for all their hard work administering the leadership election. Both 2015 and 2016 have been busy years with the general election, referendum campaigns and leadership elections. I hope everyone finally gets a well-earned break in the summer of 2017!
Please get in touch if you have any questions. You can read my NEC reports from previous meetings at https://aliceperry.wordpress.com/nec/ and sign-up to my mailing list. A big thank you to everyone who re-elected me to the NEC this summer. It is an honour to represent local government!
Alice Perry represents local government on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC).