On reading the qualifications and experience of other candidates for national executive committee constituency Labour party positions, I note that my background is different from most. Although a lifelong Labour supporter and a member since the 1970s – even a National and Local Government Officers’ Association trade union steward in the ’80s and ’90s – I have never been one to go on marches, demonstrations or be a visible campaigner like so many others. I do not apologise for that – like many people, I was busy with career and family and just getting on with life.
My socialist principles, however, developed from a young age. As one of five children in a working-class family, I benefited from the NHS and the welfare state, from the availability of council housing, decent, well paid, unionised jobs for my parents, good local schools, and free further education.
Of course, things have changed, and I don’t expect I need to remind anyone reading this about the impact of austerity on ‘ordinary’ people. Wherever your politics lie on the spectrum as a Labour supporter, I do not believe any of us agree with working people – or indeed anyone – needing food banks to feed themselves and their families, or the levels of homelessness caused by welfare ‘reform’ and the lack of affordable housing, the crisis in the NHS and social care sector, or the increase in serious crime and reoffending. I could go on but we know that these are all political choices, made by people with no concept of the effects of their actions on the working class.
I stood as Labour candidate for Berwick-upon-Tweed at the last election because I believed we were the only party that could successfully address the most pressing issues, at home and abroad. The events of December 12th indicated that the voting public did not share my beliefs, which truly hurt. But we have no time to feel sorry for ourselves – we have up to five years to renew and reinvigorate our movement and this time we must not fail. That is the only choice we have. Beginning with the way the party is organised and governs itself, by changing how the NEC and the party is structured and operates.
As a volunteer local party officer for more than two years, I have worked to mitigate the effects on my members of fragmented IT systems, lack of guidance, poorly thought-through procedural instructions and timetables from the NEC, and a complaints process that is not fit for purpose. I have personally engaged with many colleagues and senior officials to try to address the basic issue of communicating with members and ensuring that they can participate in internal party democracy and other activities. Officials acknowledge and appear willing to tackle the problems – but there is a clear lack of capacity, and a systematic, organised approach to implementing the changes required to fix these issues.
The fact that I received 32 CLP nominations as an ‘independent’ candidate demonstrates support for my capabilities, what I stand for, and my understanding of what can be done to improve party processes. I have gained the trust of many colleagues in CLPs all over the UK who have seen my organisational skills in action, and who appreciate the diligence and persistence I apply to every task I undertake. My colleagues also know and support me for not standing as an NEC CLP rep for any reason other than to make a positive change.
My aims are to ensure Labour members who have a justifiable complaint get a quick and effective resolution that they are satisfied with; to offer support to CLP officers who struggle with NEC directives; to eradicate the culture of bullying found in many local parties and which deters members from becoming active; to help members that have been disenfranchised by out of date democratic processes and rules which prevent inclusive practices like remote access to meetings and online or postal votes for internal elections; and to ensure that every member understands the role of the NEC and has a direct and active link to their governing body via their CLP representatives.
It is time for the party to welcome a fresh approach – one that trusts in the grassroots and is not afraid to harness the vast experience of its members, all as desperate as I am for a Labour government. Play your part in this period of renewal by electing me, a different type of NEC rep, bringing professional organisation and management skills to the table – but never forgetting my working class roots, or my socialist ideals of support for one another, cooperation, solidarity and unity of purpose, for the betterment of everyone. Thank you!