Labour’s ruling body agrees to cancel conference due to Covid-19

Sienna Rodgers

Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) decided at its latest meeting today to cancel party conference in September as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to take place in Liverpool, Labour conference will now likely be replaced by some kind of virtual policy event – but the details have not yet been determined.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Our priority is the safety of members, staff and visitors to our events and the need to protect the public’s health.

“In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we have therefore decided to postpone this year’s annual and women’s conferences.”

The decisions over whether to hold regular NEC elections this summer and whether to adopt a single transferable vote (STV) system have been deferred.

Arguments in favour of a switch from first-past-the-post to STV were heard this afternoon, but the proposal was pulled from the relevant paper just before the meeting.

Labour’s NEC will make a ruling on the timing of the contests at a meeting in June. It has been argued that the voting system should also be included on the agenda then.

The committee had a heated debate over the membership of the panel that will draw up the longlist and shortlist of candidates for the Labour general secretary job.

As previously reported by LabourList, new NEC member Carol Sewell was added to the panel in a win for Keir Starmer and the right of the party.

But, according to LabourList sources, it emerged today that Sewell had not been asked whether she was available – and she informed them that she could not join the panel.

It was proposed that other members with the same politics as Sewell – Gurinder Singh Josan, Mark Ferguson and Shabana Mahmood – join the panel.

But the NEC chair Andi Fox ruled this out of order on the basis that the panel had already been decided, which caused a fierce row over Zoom.

NEC youth representative Lara McNeill tweeted: “Members badgered the chair, declared that she was wrong repeatedly and even asked to get legal advice on a simple ruling on maintaining a previous decision.”

It was ultimately decided that parliamentary party representative Shabana Mahmood would replace Sewell as a member of the panel, which is otherwise made up of NEC officers.

Applications for the general secretary post closed at midnight on May 18th, and the party received 17. It is understood that the Labour leadership has decided to favour David Evans.

Keir Starmer also told Labour’s NEC that he has invited Nick Forbes, the leader of the Local Government Association Labour group, to attend shadow cabinet meetings.

The aim is “to feedback the experience of councils and local authorities directly into the shadow cabinet and the policy-making process”, Alice Perry wrote in her latest NEC report.

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