Report from October’s NEC equalities, disputes and organisational committee meetings: Improving diversity of political representation
The equalities committee and organisational committee discussed various proposals to increase diversity of elected representatives. This including discussions on extending the use of all-women shortlists in local government selections to help Labour councillors reach a 50-50 gender balance.
Jeremy Corbyn voiced his support for gender balance in both national and local government. It is not currently possible to use AWS for metro mayor selections as this isn’t included in the current legislation but Labour will continue to campaign to amend and strengthen this legislation and look at other methods of encouraging more woman, BAME, disabled, working class, LBGT and disabled candidates to stand for elections. With this in mind Labour has launched the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme to help train women for senior political roles and a bursary scheme to encourage more working class candidates.
Metro mayor selections
Elections for metro mayors will take place across the country in May 2017. Negotiations continue in various regions to agree new devolution deals. Possible combined authorities due to elect metro mayors include Solent, Norfolk and Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, West of England, Sheffield city region, Greater Lincolnshire combined authority and Tees Valley.
The NEC agreed the timetable and process for these elections. Applications for candidates opened on 19 October and closes on 2 November. In line with the NEC work on gender representation and increasing diversity, the selections panels want to give consideration to the widest range of possible applications. We strongly encourage qualified candidates to apply, particularly if they are female or from under-represented groups.
Having run metro mayor selections for the first time this summer, we have adjusted the process based on feedback from members in the north west and west midlands. Thank you to everyone who passed on their feedback. I proposed an amendment to allow council Labour groups to make supporting nominations, which the NEC agreed to trial. We increased the spending limits slightly to allow candidates to send mailings to members, while still keeping these limits lower than contests like the London mayoral election in the hope that this will allow a more diverse range of people to contest the selections. We also change the process for nominations so that CLPs and affiliates can either nominate one or two people. If they nominate two people, at least one must be female.
Maternity and paternity leave for councillors
In the equalities committee I raised the topic of maternity and paternity leave for councillors. Councillors are not paid employees so do not have the same rights as workers, but a number of councils have formal or informal arrangements to allow councillors to take parental leave. I am collecting and sharing council policies – you can view the policies from Islington, Camden and Manchester on my blog. Please do send me your council’s policy – I am working with the LGA and leader’s office to share best practice.
Boundary review update
Nick Brown, the new chief whip, provided an update on the boundary review in his role as chair of the steering group. He and the NEC thanked Rosie Winterton for all her hard work on this. The NEC steering group is in the process of agreeing proposals following regional consultations. We agreed that Labour’s strategic ambition during the boundary review process should be to maximise the number of winnable seats available on the kind of national swing required for Labour to form a government.
I have written a Boundary Review FAQs which goes into more details.
National policy forum elections
Elections to Labour’s NPF were due to take place next year. The NPF hasn’t actually had a chance to meet yet so, with that in mind, we agreed to push next year’s internal elections back until 2018.
Leadership election, suspensions, investigations and appeals
The disputes committee had a lengthy discussion about the process for administering the leadership election. This included discussions around the suspension of members and registered supporters, resolving ongoing issues and improving the process for next time (which we obviously hope won’t be for a long time!) A paper with recommendations will be brought to the next relevant meeting.
Tackling anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia and other forms of abuse
The NEC equalities committee discussed the Chakrabarti Report and the recent home affairs select committee report. All three committees discussed ways to tackle abuse and prejudice, which has no place in the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his opposition to all forms of anti-Semitism. The NEC acknowledged the importance of building trust with members of the Jewish community. It was agreed that the Jewish Labour Movement would be invited to send a representative to join the NEC Equalities Committee. The Labour Party will take tough action on anyone found guilty of anti-Semitic, racist, sexist or homophobic abuse.
Alice Perry represents local government on Labour’s NEC.