What happened in the crunch manifesto meeting – Alice Perry’s latest NEC report

Alice Perry

The Labour Party general election manifesto is agreed at a special session, known as the Clause V meeting. This meeting is attended by representatives from across the labour movement including trade unions, local government, Scotland, Wales, the House of Commons, the European Parliament, the socialist societies and ordinary members.

This year’s event to agree the 2017 manifesto took place on Thursday. There was intense media interest, particularly as earlier drafts of the manifesto appeared to have been leaked to various news outlets. While this was certainly unusual, particularly as most of the Clause V meeting attendees were not shown the manifesto before 10am on the day of the meeting, it did mean that there was widespread discussion and debate about the content, and numerous polls have shown that Labour policy is very popular with the general public.

I arrived just after 10am so I would have as much time as possible to read the manifesto. Ideally it would have been good to have more than two hours to read and reflect on the document, especially as it is easy to get distracted. I hadn’t seen Ann Black for a few weeks and it was tempting to just drink tea and chat as things have been fairly eventful lately.

Each attendee was given a numbered paper copy of the manifesto, which was collected back at the end of the meeting. People were also asked to turn their phones off. The meeting was very good-natured and everything was agreed by consensus. The only vote that took place was called at the end, when the meeting unanimously agreed the amended manifesto.

It was agreed that the manifesto would be fully costed with no unfunded spending commitments. John McDonnell offered to circulate a briefing document to MPs with the cost of each policy and how each policy will be funded. Establishing economic competence was highlighted as a key priority.

The manifesto we were presented with was different to the various leaked documents. Glenis Willmott, who chaired the meeting, took us through each of the 12 sections. Attendees were invited to make comments, ask questions and suggest amendments. The meeting agreed a number of minor but important amendments.

As the NEC local government representatives, Nick Forbes and I suggested amendments that:

  • Labour will work to reverse Conservative cuts to council budgets and will restore the fair funding formula.
  • Labour will be guided by local opinion when determining whether to include directly elected mayors in future devolution deals.

We also asked for clarification about the role of local government in the proposed national care service for England.

I suggested amendments about reviewing the student loans system and the high interest rates students are forced to pay, taking international students out of the net migration figures, tackling female genital mutilation and reviewing the support available to women who have miscarriages.

Many of the policies in this manifesto had also been in the 2015 edition. This includes one of my favourite policies from 2015 about fan ownership of football clubs (the subject of my 2015 conference speech).

The 2017 manifesto demonstrates Labour’s commitment to ensuring the public get a fairer deal, lower prices and more accountable public services. These policies are popular with the public, as are our policies to protect the environment, decrease carbon emissions and develop energy co-operatives.

There is lots to like in the manifesto, including Labour’s proposal for a new minister for England, significant strategic infrastructure investment, protection for community asserts like pubs, post offices and sports clubs, an industrial strategy to deliver growth for the whole of the UK, a pledge to plant a million trees and protect bees. 

The manifesto is full of fantastic policies that could transforms Britain. If we want to see them enacted we need to win the general election. Ian Lavery and Andrew Gwynne talked about the need to elect as many Labour MPs as possible and the work needed to turn the polls around.

Labour has almost 500,000 members that we can mobilise. You can find details of local campaign events on the Labour Party website. See you on the #Labourdoorstep.

Alice Perry represents local government on Labour’s NEC.

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