Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) away day took place on November 24th. The morning was set aside for formal business, including the election of chair and vice-chair. The second half of the meeting focused on elections, membership engagement and effective governance. The NEC thanked outgoing members for their service and contributions and welcomed incoming members, and thanked the outgoing chair Andi Fox for her service.
Dame Margaret Beckett was elected chair of the Labour NEC. Margaret has had a remarkable political career. She has served as leader and deputy leader and has blazed a trail for women in politics. I was honoured to be elected vice-chair of the Labour NEC (big thank you to Tom Warnett from the GMB and Ann Black for proposing and seconding me). I look forward to working with Margaret and the other NEC officers to help rebuild the party, win back public trust and win back power for our communities.
Keir Starmer gave the leader’s report. Keir spoke about the importance of reconnecting and reengaging with voters. He stressed the importance of being outward-looking and focusing on winning elections. If we lose the next general election, we will have let down an entire generation. Keir spoke about Labour’s ongoing work to connect with voters and win across the UK.
Keir talked about the importance of unity, which is not about everyone agreeing with each other but about having a shared sense of purpose. Keir talked about the importance of constructive criticism and challenge. He told the NEC that it is healthy for people to put forward different views in a respectful and tolerant way.
Keir talked about the important 2021 elections. These elections will be a test of the Labour Party and we must rise to the challenge. Keir talked about how the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed structural inequality and how we can’t go back to the old ways of doing things as we rebuild the economy. He also stressed the importance of standing up for key workers and ensuring they get the pay they deserve.
Keir took questions on a range of topics including Brexit, nationalism, devolution, next year’s elections, local government funding, public sector pay and the Covid recovery.
Next year’s local elections are unprecedented in scale and complexity. In 2020, around 5,000 councillors are up for election. This is 30% of all English councillors. 40 police and crime commissioners are being elected in England and Wales. There are Scottish parliamentary elections, Welsh Senedd elections, seven metro mayors, five local authority mayors, the London mayoral and Assembly elections, as well as over 100 by-elections. Campaigning has been disrupted by the pandemic and our strategy needs to be adapted. The NEC then formed small discussion groups to consider key strategic and operational questions.
The safeguarding manager gave a report about the review and consultation of improving the protection and safeguarding of children who take part in activity with the Labour Party and Young Labour. This will include a paper review, survey, focus groups and an external consultation. The NEC welcomed the presentation on this important topic. Discussion included how this important safeguarding work will link to our existing policies around areas like social media, membership conduct, sexual harassment and bullying and harassment.
Labour annual report
David Evans moved the Labour Party annual report. The report is usually moved as part of the general secretary’s report to Labour Party conference. It has certainly been an eventful year. The report will be published shortly following the NEC agreeing it at the away day.
There will be a democratic online women’s conference next year in late June. The NEC discussed the delegate entitlement and process for electing delegates online. It is hoped that this online conference will be a one-off and we will return to the traditional format when it is safe to do so. Women’s conference will cost around £40 per person. Since it is online, CLPs will save money on travel and accommodation.
Staff gave an update about membership engagement. This included opportunities for new relationships, social organising and using new engagement tools. Phonebanking has been taking place across the country via Dialogue and new features of the Organise database are being explored. NEC members discussed how we can improve membership engagement, recruitment and retention. Labour currently has 540,000 members and our members have a key role in Labour’s future success.
Relevant CLP motions are shared with the NEC organisational committee. The NEC notes these motions. The NEC discussed the further information and feedback that will be shared in response to these motions in future. Motions on policy are sent to the relevant national policy forum (NPF) policy commission.
NEC code of conduct
The NEC must be held to the highest standards. A new code of conduct for members of the NEC was agreed. David Evans also gave a very welcome statement on last week’s high-profile disputes sub-panel. The decisions, discussions and outcome of this panel has been widely misrepresented. Media outlets have published contradictory, misleading and sometimes defamatory articles about the day’s proceedings. David’s clarification was very welcome.
Transparency and reporting
David Evans updated the NEC on plans to begin publishing summaries of key decisions made at NEC meetings. NEC members are able to report back from meetings. David talked about the importance of transparency in politics. (There is a difference between reporting back and leaking confidential information.) The NEC had a good discussion about culture and governance and improvements that can be made in the short, medium and long term.