Jeremy Corbyn updated the national executive committee (NEC) on his work in parliament, praising the PLP for working together to defeat the government on NHS pay and student fees. He talked about Brexit and the importance of transitional arrangements and maintaining strong relationships with European countries when we leave the EU. Jeremy condemned the terrible abuse female MPs like Luciana Berger and Diane Abbott have received. Jeremy made it clear this abuse has no place in public life.
Jeremy has had a very busy summer, visiting 50 marginal seats across the country, laying the foundations for a future electoral victory. Jeremy talked about a rally on the beach in Southport attended by 5,000 people. Labour’s vote has quadrupled in Southport in the last seven years. Jeremy said this was a good example of why Labour rejects so-called progressive alliances, and instead will fight to win every seat. Jeremy has enjoyed meeting members, speaking with the public and holding Q&As. Jeremy told the NEC that he didn’t want to talk at people, he wanted to really listen to their concerns.
Jeremy then took questions on a range of issues including human rights in Myanmar and Yemen, climate change, the hurricanes in North America and the Caribbean, the Birmingham bin strike, vice-chancellor salaries, public sector pay, austerity, Zika, Brexit, pay ratios and devolution.
Jeremy welcomed Alex Rowley, the acting leader of the Scottish Labour, to the NEC. Jeremy thanked Kezia Dugdale for all her hard work helping to turn around Labour in Scotland. Jeremy sent his thoughts and best wishes to Tessa Jowell after she was sadly diagnosed with brain cancer.
Deputy leader’s report
Tom Watson highlighted the Tories’ divisions on Brexit and contrasted this with the unity in the Labour Party. The chaotic Tory government could collapse at any time, whereas Labour are united and ready for an election, whenever it takes place. Tom updated the NEC on his recent campaigns and activity. He will be working with councillors and Harriett Harman to increase diversity in local government, including looking at strengthening maternity and paternity rights for councillors. Tom is campaigning to review gambling legislation, which has not been updated since 2005 before the growth in online gambling. He told the NEC that there are currently 435,000 gambling addicts in Britain and public services need more resources to respond to this growing crisis. Tom and his team are also campaigning to keep the arts accessible to people of all backgrounds.
While preparing for government and a general election is our top priority, the NEC backed Jeremy’s plan for a democracy review to take place over the next year. The review will look at a number of areas, such as increasing diversity of political representation, making politics more transparent and accessible, improving local and regional structures, harnessing the power of social media and making the Labour Party more engaging. This will be discussed further at the NEC meeting this Friday, with reports back at to each further meeting. It is hoped that people across the party will get involved and contribute to the review.
Conference rule changes
The NEC unanimously agreed to add three new constituency party reps to the NEC and one new trade union rep. The democracy review will consider representation of councillors within party structures. It will also consider whether the nine NEC places for constituency Labour Party members should move to regional elections. The NEC unanimously agreed to lower the nomination threshold for leadership elections to 10 per cent and also unanimously agreed a new rule change to tackle hate and prejudice. The changes will now go to conference for delegates to vote on.
Labour Party conference
Labour Conference 2017 will be the biggest ever, with more delegates attending than ever before. Many delegates will be attending conference for the first time. Labour want conference to be welcoming and engaging for everyone who attends. Many of the traditional platform speeches have been cut to make time for more debate and grassroots speakers. (I am happy to give up my NEC speech to make time for this.) The NEC did remind the conference arrangements committee of the importance of local government and that all parts of the party should be well represented in the conference speakers.
There will be so many delegates attending this year’s conference that ex-officio pass holders will be seated in the balcony. We were reassured that ex-officio pass holders would be able to make speeches and access the conference floor. The NPF policy commissions will also be holding workshops during conference, giving attendees the chance to contribute to policy-making and Labour’s next manifesto. Women’s Conference will also have policy making powers.
New candidate bursaries
The NEC agreed £150,000 for bursaries to support disabled candidates or candidates from working class or low-income backgrounds. The democracy review will consider ways to increase diversity at all levels of the party.
As part of the preparations for another snap General Election, the NEC discussed arrangements for parliamentary selections in 76 key marginal seats in England. Jeremy Corbyn is committed to achieving a 50-50 gender balanced parliament. With that in mind, the NEC agreed that 46 of the 76 seats will select using all women shortlists. Local parties will be informed of the outcome of the NEC decisions shortly so selections can get underway as soon as possible.
Labour has around 570,000 members and continues to be the largest political party in Europe. It is possible that Labour will experience another mini-membership surge during Labour Party conference.
Jeremy and other committee members paid tribute to beloved former NEC member Mary Turner, who passed away recently. Mary will be greatly missed. Jeremy talked about her work on child poverty and campaigning for free school meals. Jeremy and the NEC agreed that it is a fitting tribute to Mary that the next Labour government will ensure all school children receive free meals. There will be a memorial service for Mary in St Paul’s Cathedral in early 2018.
Alice Perry represents local government on Labour’s NEC.