Antisemitism, sexual harassment and the democracy review – Alice Perry’s latest NEC report

The following report covers July’s full NEC and sub-committee meetings.

Leader’s report

Jeremy Corbyn gave the leader’s report to the full NEC. Jeremy talked about Labour’s approach to Brexit and the work to hold the government to account. Labour’s priorities include protecting jobs, living standards, worker’s rights, consumer rights, the environment and future opportunities for young people. Labour opposed a hard border in Northern Ireland and wants to continue to have a strong relationship with Europe and be welcoming to European citizens. The MPs had to leave the full NEC meeting early for several key parliamentary votes.

Jeremy made the point that the government could collapse at any time and Labour would be ready to fight the next election whenever it takes place. Jon Trickett is leading work within the shadow cabinet on preparing policies for government, based on the popular 2017 manifesto. Jeremy also spoke about his recent activity campaigning around the country, attending trade union conferences and other key political events. He also spoke about recent moving trips to refugee camps and his international trips, where he emphasised the importance of fighting austerity, warning that when the left fails to challenge austerity it created a void, which can be filled by the far right.

Tackling sexual harassment

Work continues to improve how Labour responds to complaints about sexual harassment. This includes gathering feedback from people who have experienced the new process. The new process is a vast improvement on the previous system, but some women have been calling on Labour to go further and introduce independent reporting to remove the politics from complaints, as well as making information clearer and more widely available about how to make a complaint. Work also continues to make Labour as welcoming and inclusive as possible and to encourage and empower people to call out everyday sexism when it occurs.

Leadership programmes

The applications for the new cohort of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme will open in the autumn. Many new MPs and Councillors have been through the programme. Details of how to apply will be published on the Labour website. There is also going to be a similar programme launched for BAME members, the Bernie Grant Initiative. Further information will be available soon.

Disability report

The NEC Equalities Committee discussed how to better engage and support disabled members. Labour will begin to collect data on members who self-define as disabled. CLPs are able to make applications to the CLP Development Fund for resources to support disabled members. For further details people should contact their Regional Parties. CLPs will also be encouraged to make meetings and campaigning as accessible as possible. There is also an extensive section on engaging disabled members in the democracy review, which will be making recommendations to the NEC and conference in September.

Tackling antisemitism

Discussions took place at the July Organisation Committee and full NEC meeting on efforts to improve how Labour tackles antisemitism and wins back the trust of the Jewish community. These discussions have attracted extensive media coverage, which has not been entirely accurate, as is often the case with second and third hand accounts of NEC meetings.

Before the meetings I met with Barry Rawlings, leader of Barnet Labour group, to hear about Barnet Labour’s experience in the May election. The perception that Labour is failing to adequately deal with antisemitism complaints is deeply damaging on a number of levels and addressing this must be a priority for the NEC.

In December 2016 Labour adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The UK government and numerous local authorities also adopted this definition. I was proud to co-write and second my council’s motion adopting this definition, which was passed unanimously last year. The NEC was assured that Labour will continue to use this definition of antisemitism, as well as the Macpherson principle when considering disciplinary cases.

The NEC agreed new processes to improve the way antisemitism cases are dealt with, including ensuring all staff, NEC members and NCC members involved in hearing cases have undertaken antisemitism training (similar to the requirement for hearing sexual harassment cases). Cases will also be referred to the NCC more quickly and a special NEC meeting is scheduled for early September to address the backlog of outstanding cases.

The full NEC meeting recognised that a lot of work is needed to rebuild trust. It was agreed that work will continue, in consultation with representatives from Jewish Labour Movement and the Jewish community, on the new processes and procedures. These new processes and procedures, including the new code of conduct, will continue to be under review to ensure they are fit for purpose. The NEC will work with the Jewish community to develop and deliver antisemitism training and education programmes.

As a member of the NEC Disputes Committee I have seen some appalling cases of antisemitism, which are completely unacceptable and have no place in the Labour Party. If the new system is successful, those guilty of antisemitism will be dealt with more swiftly and effectively.

Parliamentary selections

Parliamentary selections have taken place in over 85 key marginal constituencies. In early July 37% of the successful candidates we male and 63% are female. 13% identify as disabled and 10% identify as BAME. The NEC discussed ways to improve BAME representation and work will continue to identify and support talented individuals to stand for local and national government. The democracy review also is considering introducing all BAME shortlists for selections.

Local government report

Nick Forbes gave the local government report, focusing on the funding crisis in adult social care and the failure of the government’s recent green paper to adequately address this. Nick also spoke about the £7.8bn funding gap in local government and the importance of challenging Tory austerity and maintaining funding for vital public services. I also spoke about the LGA Women’s Taskforce, which is working with Labour Women’s Network on a model template for Maternity, Paternity, Share Parent and Adoption Leave for councillors. This should be ready to be launched about Labour Party conference in September.

EPLP report

Richard Corbett MEP gave the EPLP report, updating the NEC on Brexit negotiations and discussions with colleagues in the European Parliament. Richard took questions on trade and tariffs. Richard pointed out that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would revert to WTO rules, which incur high tariffs and would also result in a hard boarder in Northern Ireland.

Richard also told the NEC that a square in Brussels is going to be named in memory of Jo Cox. Representatives from the Labour Party will be invited to attend the unveiling.

Democracy review

Katy Clark shared the initial democracy review report, which takes in over 10,000 submissions from across the party. NEC members are now invited to consult with their constituent groups and offer feedback by the end of August. The local government section takes in a lot of the recommendations from the LGA and ALC submissions. There is also a suggestion about exploring pilots for directly elected council leaders. The local government reps will work with other interested parties to discuss and explore the practicalities involved in running these pilots.

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