Jeremy Corbyn gave the leader’s report. Jeremy talked about the importance of campaigning against a no-deal Tory Brexit. Labour believes that the public should vote on any no deal/Tory Brexit and have the final say. Jeremy spoke about the importance of preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland. He also praised the work of Labour MPs in securing rights to abortions and gay marriage in Northern Ireland.
Labour will table a confidence vote in the government when the time is right, to ensure a vote will have the greatest chance of success. The NEC is very aware that an election could come at any time so we all need to be ready with candidates in place and active local campaigns.
Jeremy spoke about the recent local government launch with Andrew Gwynne and John McDonnell about the benefits of insourcing and bringing services back in-house. Insourcing can provide better value and improve services for our residents. Jeremy talked about the importance of local government driving the agenda of a future Labour government to deliver community wealth, industrial investment and employment opportunities.
Jeremy talked about the damage done by austerity, which has impacted local government more than any other sector. The shadow cabinet are reflecting on how a Labour government can rebuild capacity in local government and restore adequate funding to valued local services.
Jeremy talked about a recent launch with Young Labour about raising the minimum wage for young people to give it parity with the national minimum wage. It is scandalous that young people are paid less for the same work.
Jeremy talked about the D-Day commemorations and the importance of peace. He spoke about Labour’s commitment to the armed forces and recent meetings with veterans to discuss improving access to health and housing services.
Jeremy talked about the climate change emergency and Labour’s ongoing commitment to campaigning on this. He also talked about social care and Labour’s vision for a national care service.
Selecting parliamentary candidates
The NEC discussed progress made selecting a diverse range of candidates to contest the next general election. It was agreed that much more needs to be done to select more BAME candidates to ensure our MPs reflect the diversity of the UK. It is hoped that the Bernie Grant leadership training programme will help address this. It is clear that there are lots of excellent BAME candidates willing to stand but this isn’t necessarily translating into candidates becoming selected to become MPs or other elected representatives.
It was noted that 46% of the Parliamentary Labour Party are female, which is positive. Labour is aiming for a gender balanced parliament at the next cycle. The NEC discussed ways to increase female representation in local and national government, and whether there are any lessons we can learn to increase the number of other traditionally under-represented groups.
The organisational sub-committee agreed a process for reselecting current MPs. It was decided that MPs who are pregnant or on maternity leave will not go through a reselection process until at least a year after they return from maternity leave. If a general election takes place before that, they will be automatically reselected. If an MP is suspended when a general election takes place, they will be ineligible to stand as a Labour candidate.
The NEC discussed tacking antisemitism and the EHRC investigation. The NEC endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to reform our procedures to allow fast-track expulsions in the most serious cases.
This proposal will be further developed so that the NEC can finalise the details of a rule change that is fair and legally robust, ahead of conference. Changes to the party’s rules must be agreed at annual conference, the party’s sovereign, democratic decision making body.
Labour will cooperate fully with the EHRC investigation. The party has asked for any recommendations as the investigation progresses. Birkbeck College will offer antisemitism training to members on behalf of the Labour Party. It was agreed that Labour should be a welcoming, inclusive place for all members.
I contributed to a motion about how Labour deals with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other hate speech relate to protected characteristics. While the motion was withdrawn, it helped contribute to a welcome and timely debate.
The recent membership figures were shared with the NEC. Labour had 518,000 members at the end of 2018. The 2019 figures will be published in due course. Membership has stayed broadly stable and Labour continues to be one of the largest political parties in Europe. (Someone recently joked that more people vote for Labour’s conference arrangement committee reps than voted for Boris Johnson to become leader of the Conservatives and thus Prime Minister).
National Policy Forum
Policy consultations are ongoing. There have been webinars for CLP policy representatives and Labour would like local parties to hold policy forums and debates. The NEC discussed the policy making process and the systems for feeding back to members and local parties. There are also improvements to NPF Policy Commission meetings in the pipeline, including using video conferencing to improve meeting participation.
Work is ongoing to produce a manifesto for a snap general election, building on the policies in the 2017 manifesto. More information about Labour’s policy making is available at policyforum.labour.org.uk.