Labour members win sweeping new rights in crunch national executive meeting

19th September, 2017 4:49 pm

Labour’s ruling body approved a raft of sweeping changes to party structures today, including a compromise deal on the “McDonnell amendment” to make it easier for leadership candidates to win a place on the ballot paper.

The reforms, which increase the power of members and give them a bigger say on the national executive committee (NEC), were immediately seen as a victory for Jeremy Corbyn as he aims to reshape the party.

LabourList understands the key reforms approved were:

  • a compromise on the so-called McDonnell amendment in which the threshold for leadership nominations is cut from 15 per cent to 10 per cent of MPs and MEPs.
  • the expansion of the 35-strong NEC with three new seats for members and one for trade unions.
  • tougher disciplinary measures to tackle instances of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination within the party following a proposal by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

Officials were also due to take a decision on an increase in the number of Commons seats in which the candidates will be picked from all-women shortlists but no update had emerged by 5pm.

Katy Clark, the former MP who is now Corbyn’s political secretary, is expected to carry out a review into “party democracy” which will consider further reforms to leadership elections, the selection of parliamentary candidates and decisions on policymaking.

The NEC’s move to lower the bar for leadership nominations was greeted with enthusiasm by supporters of Corbyn. The 100-1 outsider only made it on to the ballot paper with minutes to spare in 2015 when he was “lent” nominations by MPs who did not support him but wanted to broaden the debate.

Today the director of Progress, the Blairite grouping in Labour – which had opposed any weakening of MPs’ right to veto leadership candidates – criticised the changes as a “power grab”.

“Today Labour new establishment bounced the NEC in private session into a series of reforms that amount to a factional power grab and more roles for members in London and the south-east,” said Richard Angell.

“It is a missed opportunity to not give members in every corner of the country a voice by regionalising the NEC.

“In a bizarre turn of events Corbyn’s political secretary will be leading a review into party structures rather than working out how to beat the Tories and run the country. It is a warped set of priorities when a general election could take place at any point.”
After the meeting a Labour spokesperson said: “Labour will conduct a democracy review to increase participation at all levels of the party so that Labour is strengthened as an outward facing, campaigning, mass party active in every community…

“The NEC also unanimously backed tough new rules on antisemitism, racism homophobia and all other forms of prejudice.”

Corbyn’s spokesman was upbeat over the changes.

“Jeremy welcomes the decision of the NEC to back expansion of democracy and participation in the party. Labour’s membership has nearly tripled in the last two years – and the enormous benefits of that were felt at the general election. Our members have the talent, energy and skills to win elections so that we can transform our country for the many not the few,” he said.

“Jeremy is delighted that the NEC backed plans to tackle discrimination in the party. As the party of equality, there can be no place in Labour for prejudice. Jeremy thanks all those involved with drafting this motion, including the Jewish Labour Movement and Shami Chakrabarti.”

The changes are due to be ratified at Labour Party conference in Brighton next week but this is considered to be close to a formality.

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