Johnson’s New Deal, Black Lives Matter and switching to STV for NEC

Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

Boris Johnson is expected to borrow the framing of Franklin D Roosevelt, as well as Gordon Brown’s New Labour jobs programme and the climate activists of today, when he announces a “New Deal” this morning. He will unveil a £5bn capital spending programme, which is designed to convince the public that the Tories want to “build back better”. But there is no new money here, and the projects – such as repairing a bridge in Sandwell – hardly compare to the Hoover Dam. It will also be overshadowed by a fresh lockdown in Leicester, where a coronavirus outbreak has led to community spread.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is having fierce internal debates. One is around the comments made by Keir Starmer on Black Lives Matter and its ‘defund the police’ demand. In some of his strongest ever on-the-record comments about anything, he slammed the call as “nonsense” and described BLM repeatedly as a “moment” rather than a movement. He gave the impression in doing so that the Labour leadership preferred to isolate the cause as only a flashpoint and keep the focus on what happened on US police brutality rather than wider injustices.

The remarks got a poor reception not only from the party’s left but across the spectrum, including the BAME Labour Network, Socialists of Colour, BAME Young Fabians and Jewish Labour Movement activists. Nobody expected the Labour leader to agree with the defunding demand, but there were concerns over his harsh tone and apparently dismissive attitude. Nigel Farage tweeted that he approved of the clip, which led to Unite’s Howard Beckett calling it a “dark day” for the party.

The other source of contention is a procedural issue: the decision to change voting system for Labour’s internal national executive committee (NEC) elections. The ruling body is being presented with two options at its meeting today: carry on as usual with first-past-the-post for the upcoming contests, or the leadership-favoured route of switching to the single transferable vote (STV) system. We have published arguments in favour of the proposal and arguments against it.

Four party members have threatened a legal challenge against the party if the NEC decides to adopt STV without first going to conference for approval. (Conference this year is, of course, cancelled.) They are backed by Labour left trade unions Unite, ASLEF, BFAWU and FBU, who all have seats on the NEC and will be making their views clearly today. You can find all the details of the row in our write-up, and we’ll be following the outcomes of the NEC meeting throughout the day.

LabourList has launched a fundraising campaign this week. If an extra 500 people – less than 1% of our morning email readership – gave just £5 a month, we could raise more than enough to hire another reporter. Read my editor’s letter here and visit our donate page here. Thank you so much to everyone who has already decided to contribute and to our new regular donors.

Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

More from LabourList