Keir Starmer updated the national executive committee (NEC) about Labour’s work responding to the Covid-19 health and economic crisis. He talked about the concerning levels of infection across the world, with recent local spikes in the UK. He highlighted the risk of changing weather in the autumn, coupled with seasonal flu and NHS winter pressures, which bring new challenges and risk the virus becoming resurgent.
The Bank of England has predicted the worst recession for 300 years. Labour is pushing for real job protections on a sectoral basis. Keir talked about how the health and economic crisis exposes inequality. The Labour leader talked of the need for more resources, support and powers for local government.
Keir told the NEC that the economy was not functioning well before the pandemic, and that Labour must argue for a different economic settlement. People want to see a different country coming out of this and Labour needs to provide that vision and hope for the future.
Keir told the NEC that Labour has received a draft of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report, and that Labour is cooperating fully with the EHRC. The NEC will discuss the report when it is in the public domain.
Keir also updated the NEC about the settlement reached with former Labour Party staff interviewed in an episode of Panorama. He reminded the NEC that all leadership candidates made a commitment to settle this, and that it is the right thing to do both morally and financially. This settlement doesn’t interfere with the Forde inquiry or any disciplinary action.
The NEC asked questions on a range of issues; including the steel industry; the aviation sector; mass unemployment and the need to retain jobs and skills; a post-Brexit trade deal; food standards; devolution; Parliamentary Labour Party discipline; pay for care workers; human rights in China; local government support; the green recovery; vaccine confidence and tackling the anti-vaccination movement; and NEC governance and progressive taxation.
Deputy leader’s report
Angela Rayner talked about how the Covid-19 outbreak shows the importance of trade unions, and that the trade union movement is essential as we rebuild. She has worked with the TUC on the campaign to encourage people to join a trade union. She noted that over 200,000 people recently joined a trade union.
Angela updated that election campaigning activity has resumed – local parties can now leaflet and new virtual phonebanks will be introduced. Guidance will go out explaining how campaigning can be done safely. Angela also updated the NEC that CLP and branch meetings can restart – guidance has been sent to CLP secretaries.
She talked about her recent EDI work, including a number of projects and surveys, with work to improve equality data. She asked NEC members to encourage everyone to complete the equalities survey. She also gave another confidential update on the action taken as a result of the “leaked report”.
Labour membership continues to be stable at around 570,000 members. Resignations and membership lapses has been balanced by new members joining. David Evans committed to giving the NEC more detailed breakdowns of membership, including equality data and regional breakdowns.
Members of the NEC asked whether a summary of decisions made in NEC meetings could be published by the party. Previous NEC meetings also agreed that agendas of NEC meetings could be published.
Members of the NEC expressed frustration about leaking from NEC meetings. These leaks are often inaccurate and damaging. News steps will be taken to tackle this, including a new NEC code of conduct.
National policy forum
Usually NPF documents are prepared ahead of annual conference. Since conference has been cancelled, an interim report will be produced and next year’s conference will vote on the two years’ worth of policy documents. There will also be a virtual policy conference this Autumn. Members will be able to reference back the documents at the next Labour Party Conference.
NEC members asked for an update into the review of Labour’s policy-making process. The NPF hasn’t met in full for some time and many NPF reps have had to retire or stand down. NPF elections were rescheduled for next year, I asked if these were still scheduled to go ahead. I also asked when the next NPF meeting was likely to take place.
Staff gave an update about plans for a virtual conference. Steps will be taken to ensure this event is accessible, including the provision for sign language. The sessions will be interactive and engaging, with lots of opportunities for members to input views and discuss policy. Measures will be taken to support members who don’t have internet access.
The NEC reiterated its support for all women shortlists. They have been a blunt but effective tool to increase gender representation. The NEC support extending the legislation to include the introduction of all BAME shortlists. Obviously these measures are not enough and much more needs to be done to support more women, BAME, disabled, LGBT and working class candidates to stand for election.
Young Labour national committee elections
Election will take place this year for the Young Labour national committee. This is the first time these elections have taken place since the democracy review and the procedures have changed slightly. Information will be available on the Labour Party website.
General election review
The NEC agreed to the process for Labour’s general election review, which will consider internal data and the Labour Together review into the general election defeat. A special NEC meeting will be arranged to discuss this.
If you enjoy reading my NEC reports, you can ask your Labour group to nominate me in the NEC councillors section. Information about why I am re-standing for the NEC is available on my blog.