The Labour NEC met on 20th March. The main item of business was to elect a new general secretary. There were also updates about the 2018 local elections and the usual reports and agenda items.
Thanking Iain McNicol
Jeremy Corbyn and the NEC sincerely thanked Iain McNicol for his work, friendship and service to the Labour Party. Everyone also thanked the outgoing members of staff. NEC members shared their warm memories of working together over the years. Jeremy made the point that we never really say goodbye to former members of staff as they remain important and active members of the Labour family and we will continue to work together for our shared values and goals.
Iain reflected on his time as general secretary, an eventful period that included two general elections, two referendums, two Labour leadership elections and many important local elections. Key achievements included paying off all of Labour’s historic debt and the rapid growth in membership. Iain and the outgoing members of staff received a standing ovation from the NEC and the very best wishes for the future.
Jeremy Corbyn gave his leader’s report covering a range of issues. These included Labour’s response to the spring statement, the NHS crisis, the funding crisis in social care, schools and councils, and the importance of ending austerity and restoring adequate levels of funding to local government.
Jeremy talked about using the local elections to highlight the damage done by Tory austerity and Labour’s own positive alternative vision for our communities. He also mentioned Labour’s support for UCU and university staff fighting for decent pensions. Jeremy has been campaigning across the country and is also keen for NEC meetings to take place outside London. The next meeting outside London is scheduled to take place in Wales, with the NEC could meeting members of the Welsh executive committee (WEC) and representative from the Welsh government.
National Policy Forum update
The NEC agreed the timetable to the election of chair of the NPF. Nominations and open and all current NPF members will be sent ballot papers to vote for the new NPF Chair. The recent NPF meeting in Leeds was described as “well attended and lively”.
NPF members discussed policies for the next general election manifesto with special plenaries on Brexit and the NHS. There was also an interesting session on party democracy and how our policy making process could be improved and made more inclusive. I have suggested live-streaming parts of our policy commission meetings. For example, members may be interested in the shadow cabinet policy updates at the start of meetings. If others agree, we could possibly pilot this at justice and home affairs policy commission meetings.
Responding to complaints
The NEC discussed improving the process for responding to complaints of antisemitism. A working group was established to consider this and will report to the next NEC disputes meeting in July. Huge improvements have been made to how Labour responds to complaints of sexual harassment. These complaints are handled swiftly, are fully anonymous and dealt with by small panels of NEC members who have undergone specialist training. The NEC discussed the importance of dealing with all complaints as quickly as possible and having a process that is transparent and fair.
Staff gave an update about GDPR compliance. Labour will be fully compliant with the new legislation. There will be a national training programme for members, volunteers and relevant data controllers to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and the changes coming into effect in May.
Labour has around 530,000 members. Our members have an important role to play in the forthcoming elections. Information about your nearest campaign event is available at events.labour.org.uk.
Forthcoming elections are taking place in all London boroughs and 34 metropolitan councils. There are 4 directly elected mayoral elections taking place, including in Watford and Sheffield. Around 2,300 Labour held seats are up for election.
We are looking to make gains to take control of councils and build up our base in key marginal parliamentary seats. Labour is monitoring the pilot areas that are requiring polling cards and ID from people in order for them to vote. Concerns have been raised that this could lead to confusion and “American-style voter suppression”.
General secretary election
The NEC elected the new general secretary. The candidates were Jennie Formby and Christine Blower. I had a very positive discussion with Jennie about a range of things. This included improving how we respond to complaints of sexual harassment, antisemitism and other abuse, increasing diversity of political representation at all levels, increasing resources for local government and council elections, how we share best practice across local government, how we can work together across the Labour movement and how Labour could better support councillors. I voted for Jennie and look forward to working with her on these and other important issues.