Keir Starmer didn’t only win the Labour leadership election last weekend. He also stands to benefit from the results of the national executive committee by-elections, which were won by three candidates standing on the Corbynsceptic joint Progress/Labour First slate. The two local party representative seats and one BAME rep place were secured by Johanna Baxter, who has been an NEC member before, Gurinder Singh Josan, chair of Sikhs for Labour, and UNISON’s Carol Sewell.
In addition to getting his own NEC seat, as does the new deputy leader Angela Rayner, Starmer is able to appoint three frontbench representatives. Gone are Rebecca Long-Bailey (although she is still in the shadow cabinet), Jon Trickett and Diane Abbott. They were replaced on the ruling body earlier this week by new transport lead Jim McMahon, digital, culture, media and sport spokesperson Jo Stevens and work and pensions chief Jonathan Reynolds.
Why have those three been picked? Clearly, they are considered trustworthy and highly capable by Starmer. It is also worth noting that both McMahon and Reynolds have experience on the NEC. They will need less time to find their feet, which will be helpful to Starmer who has plans for serious party reform.
McMahon was leader of Oldham Council before entering parliament, and the Labour leader of the Local Government Association. Sitting alongside Alice Perry (who is still in place), he was elected to the NEC as a local government rep in 2014. He backed Liz Kendall for leader the next year, and is seen as an ally of Labour’s right.
Reynolds is also thought of as being on the right of the party. Years before being elected as an MP, he represented young party members on the NEC between 2003 and 2005. This position is currently held by the Labour left’s Lara McNeill.
Jo Stevens has never been an NEC member, but she is well-regarded by Starmer – it was rumoured that the Cardiff MP was going to get the Shadow Foreign Secretary job, which eventually went to Lisa Nandy. She has gone to DCMS instead, but the new leader reckons this lawyer will be an asset on the ruling body.
Is there now a Starmerite majority on the NEC? Members of the committee themselves say the balance is very close and will depend on the issue at hand. There is still significant reluctance when it comes to an independent complaints system, for instance, which is why Starmer could be looking to two experienced members and a lawyer to help make the case for the move. The new leader’s control of the party may not be total, but his situation has certainly improved beyond expectations over the last week.