The national executive committee (NEC) meeting before Labour Party conference is an important – and long! – one, covering plans for conference and proposed rule changes, as well as the usual business.
Jeremy Corbyn gave the Leader Report and updated the NEC on the strategy for dealing with Brexit and the suspension of parliament. Jeremy has led constructive cross-party discussions of the opposition parties to prevent a damaging no deal Brexit. Jeremy talked about the importance of getting no deal off the table, followed swiftly by a general election.
Jeremy pointed out that the government has been defeated 44 times since the election – a record number of defeats. If Boris Johnson’s Queen’s Speech is defeated in October, it will be clear that parliament has lost confidence in him.
Jeremy has been in touch with members around the country to ask their views on Brexit and Labour’s response. He stressed the importance of trying to unite the country, including Leavers and Remainers, based on our values of social justice. He also spoke about the amazon fire and the importance of a Green New Deal and a new green industrial revolution. With an election around the corner, it is important for Labour to be a positive, united voice behind a transformative Labour manifesto. We must win the election and not let Brexit divide us.
The international report included updates on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the situation in Kashmir, the scandal of Saudi arms sales, human rights abuses in India, China and Russia and the rise of the far-right in Brazil, causing growing inequality and environmental damage. The NEC and Jeremy talked about the importance of supporting democracy, human rights and free speech around the world.
Preparing for a general election
The NEC discussed preparations for a likely general election in November or December, the target seats strategy and the importance of community organising and mobilising members. There has been an increase in new members over the last few weeks. Labour Party conference can be a showcase for Labour and our policies ahead of an election.
12,000 people submitted applications to be Labour candidates in the remaining seats where parliamentary candidates have not yet been selected. Trigger ballots of sitting MPs are taking place and are resource-heavy. The NEC asked for a timetable and process to be produced for the remaining selections so members can select their candidates as soon as possible. People talked about the importance of selecting candidates quickly in the seats of retiring MPs or Labour MPs who have defected, to give Labour the best possible chance of winning.
Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) report
Motions to conference come from over 50 subject areas. In previous years, eight areas were debated but this year – for the first time – 20 areas will be debated. This means that speaking times have been reduced for delegates so more delegates can have their say.
Standing candidates in Northern Ireland
The NEC agreed that Labour will not stand candidates in Northern Ireland. The current political situation with Brexit complicates things further, and it would not be responsible for Labour to stand candidates in forthcoming elections.
Local government working group
The NEC passed the recommendation from the local government working group. This included lots of positive measures to increase diversity in local government and support women and BAME councillors into leadership positions. There will also be a pilot for members to directly elect council leaders.
There will be a new rule to allow Labour group members to take part in meetings electronically, making it easier for people with caring responsibilities to stand to be councillors and play an active role in Labour group meetings while on maternity leave. This is based on a 2017 Fawcett Society recommendation for council committee meetings. This is a welcome and important change. There is also a rule that local government committees will need to be gender-balanced, with gender-balanced executives.
LGCs and Labour groups will work closely in partnership to agree their local manifestos. The working group reviewed lots of examples of good practice where this is already happening.
Longest meeting ever?
The meeting lasted nine and a half hours. NEC members are volunteers from around the UK. Many of us have full-time jobs outside politics and caring commitments. While NEC members are extremely dedicated, it was not possible for all of us to stay for the full nine and half hours. The NEC meets again on Friday, which gives us time to address urgent or unresolved business.