Conferences, EHRC plan, equalities and 2021 elections – Labour NEC report

Alice Perry

Various sub-committees of Labour’s national executive committee are meeting in the next few weeks. On January 14th, I attended meetings of the women’s committee and the equalities committee. I also attended the national policy forum’s justice and home affairs policy commission meeting.

The women’s committee noted that UNISON have elected Christina McAnea as their first female general secretary. UNISON represent over one million female members. The committee sent their congratulations to Christina.

Women’s conference

Women’s conference this year will take place online. This will be a democratic conference and will incorporate online voting technology. Women’s conference is piloting this technology, which could be used for annual Labour Party conference if necessary.

The cost of the conference for delegates was discussed. Options to reduce the cost are being considered and any changes will reflect the cost of running a democratic conference online. I also asked about opportunities for sponsorship and revenue generation for online conferences. It was good to hear about the work that is ongoing in this area.

Representatives from the women’s conference arrangements committee joined the meeting and discussed possible themes, topics and speakers for the conference. 

EHRC action plan

The equalities committee discussed the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) action plan. On December 17th last year, the Labour Party published its action plan for driving out antisemitism in the Labour Party in response to the EHRC report into antisemitism in the party published on October 29th.

The action plan demonstrates how the Labour Party will address all the recommendations made in the EHRC’s report and sets out a clear timetable for implementation. You can read the action plan on the Labour Party website. It was agreed that this will be a standard agenda item at all equalities committee meetings.

Challenging GRT discrimination

The equalities committee discussed work to tackle antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination within the Labour Party and public life. A working group will be established to move this important work forward, consulting with relevant community stakeholders. NEC members also noted the recent International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination. 

Future priorities for the equalities committee

In recent years, NEC agendas have been very reactive (not a surprise given the circumstances with successive general elections, referendums and leadership elections!). The NEC equalities committee discussed plans and priorities for 2021. Suggestions included work to address discrimination against disabled and deaf people, improving the culture within the party to make it more welcoming and inclusive, tackling Islamophobia, addressing sexual harassment (including complaints about historic abuse) and increasing diversity of political representation.

2021 elections

Next week’s organisational committee will include an update about plans for the 2021 elections. The Local Government Association is in regular contact with the government about possible plans to postpone the elections. While the government claims to have no current plans to delay the elections, there are contingency plans being developed to hold the elections in June, July or September, or they could be delayed until 2022. The uncertainty is understandably frustrating, but not surprising given the way the Tory government behaves.

Justice and home affairs

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP and David Lammy MP presented on recent justice and home affairs activities at their NPF policy commission meeting. The focus of this year’s policy consultation is devolution and Gordon Brown has agreed to lead a piece of work on this. Labour is currently near the beginning of the policy cycle, which will eventually produce the next general election manifesto.

Annual conference is planned for September, with contingencies for a hybrid or online conference should the pandemic make this necessary. We briefly discussed suggestions for online policy motion compositing meetings, which sound like they will be very challenging. There will also be benefits to an online conference, which will reduce costs for delegates and potentially make conference more accessible.

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