The annual NEC away day took place on 27 November. This meeting considers the party’s aims, values and priorities for the year ahead.
General secretary’s report
Jennie Formby gave the general secretary’s report. She spoke about preparations for a snap general election and work building campaigns in the various key target seats across the country.
She talked about the Local Government Review, which Nick Forbes and I will be a part of as the NEC local government reps. This review will consider the relationship between Labour groups, LCFs and CLPs and how to engage people with the work of councils. The Review will also consider ways to increase diversity in local government and the plan to phase out all-male council wards as quickly as possible.
Jennie spoke about the party’s fundraising activities and plans to grow participation. She spoke about moving away from large, expensive gala dinners to more inclusive fundraising events.
Jennie also talked about plans to centralises and streamline Labour’s complaints procedure. Handling complaints centrally in a consistent, professional manner will free up CLP and Regional Office time to focus on campaigning.
Labour has around 530,000 members. Membership has been stable since the huge increase in members a few years ago.
Police and Crime Commissioner elections
While Labour has planned to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners if we had won the 2015 general election, they are established. Our Labour Police and Crime Commissioners have done excellent work standing up for and protecting their communities. The NEC will agree the process for our PCC selections in the New Year.
Jeremy Corbyn gave the leader’s report. He spoke about Brexit and the current Tory party chaos. He joked that Brexit Secretary has become a ceremonial role, and confirmed that Labour will vote against the government deal when it goes to parliament on 11 December. He has been setting out Labour’s own vision for Brexit. Jeremy described all options as being on the table and noted that it would be unwise to call a confidence vote unless the opposition was confident of having the votes to win – due to the fixed term parliament act, you can only call a confidence vote once a year.
Jeremy talked about the impact of poverty and inequality in many people’s decision to vote to leave the EU. Labour must now unite both Leave and Remain voters behind a Labour government that will deliver for the many, not the few.
Jeremy’s report was followed with a discussion on the challenge of public boredom of Brexit, the chances of an early election, ensuring food and agricultural workers are protected (they are not currently included in May’s Brexit deal) and the rise of the far right across Europe and the West.
NEC terms of reference
Each year the NEC reviews its terms of reference at the away day. This included a debate about how to improve the policy making process, which will be considered as part of the ongoing Democracy Review work. There was also a discussion about staffing, NEC officer roles, the use of the NEC’s delegated powers and other similar topics. The NEC agreed that there should be more transparency and accountability about how delegated powers are used.
The new Director of Community Organising gave a presentation about their work. Labour has hired over 40 new organisers across the country. A high proportion of these new staff are BAME (the gender balance wasn’t mentioned but I will ask). These organisers will be working across the top 100 parliamentary marginal seats, both offensive and defensive. They will also work to support local government elections and will work closely with Councillors, trade unions and CLPs. They will work to engage voters and recruit new members and supporters. They will also work to rebuild trust in communities where support for Labour has declined in recent years.
Shadow Cabinet report
John McDonnell gave a report about the work preparing for government should Labour will the next general election. John spoke about the crisis of funding in schools, the NHS and local government. He spoke about the work to prepare a Labour budget and is looking at PFIs and options for public ownership. He talked about the important role the co-operative sector has to play and how Labour will invest to save money over the longer term.
National Policy Forum and the policy-making process
Andrew Fisher gave a presentation about policy making over the next 12 months. The eight policy commissions will look at the following topics:
- The National Education Service
- Democratic Public Ownership
- A sustainable food policy
- Rebuilding the NHS
- Local economic development
- Building an effective criminal justice system
- Rebuilding a social security system
There was consensus that Labour’s policy making process could be improved and made more engaging and inclusive. In the meantime, CLPs will receive consultation documents so members and local parties can have their say.