Labour’s national executive committee met for an almost recording-breaking nine hours and 16 minutes on July 20th. We began the meeting at midday on one of the hottest days of the year. The agenda was packed with important business and it is possible that the September NEC meeting will have an even fuller agenda. This is because the September NEC meeting takes place before Labour Party conference and discusses rule changes and motions. During conference in the past, NEC meetings have been scheduled for 6am each morning – lucky us!
Some NEC members pointed out that such long meetings are challenging for people with accessibility needs, medical conditions and caring responsibilities. It was very unfortunate timing that the meeting on July 20th also coincided with some NEC members Eid celebrations. I joined NEC members in asking, if possible, could NEC meetings avoid clashing with major religious celebrations? As someone who has taken a newborn baby to hours and hours of NEC meetings (and there is still a stain on the Southside carpet from when she was very sick all over me during one of these meetings), I would welcome attempts to shorten the length of NEC meetings.
One recent suggestion was to have written (rather than oral) reports from the leader and deputy leader and asking NEC members to submit their questions in advance. This could probably cut an hour or two from the meeting running time and could be worth trying in future. The reality may just be that NEC meetings are very, very long. It could help if they started earlier in the day. At least being at home meant we could eat.
At lot has already been written about this meeting (including before the meeting even took place), but I will summarise some key points below.
David Hanson presented his report into Liverpool, with recommendations for improvement. His recommendations have the support of Liverpool Labour group and new mayor Joanne Anderson. The NEC unanimously endorsed the report, which contains good practice that can be rolled out across local government. The NEC thanked David Hanson, Roy Kennedy and Judith Blake for their hard work on this report, which was delivered on time and on budget.
The Forde Inquiry will also be concluded soon. Everyone is frustrated by the delays and the time this report is taking. It will be positive when the report is finally published and we can all move forward from this very sad chapter in Labour history.
David Evans discussed Organise to Win. Everyone was very disappointing that staff found out the details of possible organisational restructures through leaks. This is obviously unacceptable. Labour Party staff work extremely hard over long hours. They deserve better.
The NEC discussed party finances. Savings will need to be made this year, but to put things in context, the Labour Party continues to be debt-free and with a solid financial plan. Diana Holland as treasurer has always been very clear about the importance of balancing the budget and avoiding any debt. On a more positive note, the fundraising strategy is going well and donations are increasing. This includes a notable turnaround in Scotland.
Membership is around 460,000. This is down a little from the last meeting, but is higher than before the last leadership election. The NEC was reminded that membership rises with major events like leadership elections and general elections. Every membership figure I have reported includes members in arrears. When I first joined the NEC, Labour had less than 200,000 members, so it is impressive how membership has stayed so high for so long. Engaging and retaining members is a priority.
Independent complaints process
The NEC agreed the plans for the new independent complaints process. This will hopefully be a step towards regaining trust in our complaints processes. I asked about the current issue with members accused of serious offences, such as sexual harassment, resigning their membership shortly before their NCC (national constitutional committee) hearing. This unfortunately happens far too frequently and denies victims justice. Labour are looking into what could be done to address this. This includes naming people who choose to resign their membership in this way.
Before the meeting, there was a lot of interest around plans to proscribe a small number of organisations that enable antisemitism and/or do not fit with Labour’s aims and values. I unfortunately missed some of the discussion as the meeting was running very late at this point and I had to put my daughter to bed.
I raised the issue of the personal safety of councillors. Recently there have been frightening attacks on female council leaders. This includes someone invading someone’s home and attacking them, and the horrifying car bomb targeting Oldham’s amazing council leader Arooj Shah. Much more needs to be done to address the issue on and offline. I asked Keir Starmer what more Labour could to support councillors and put pressure on the government, councils and the police to take this more seriously. I was very reassured by Keir’s response and look forward to working with people to further this.
Labour Party conference
There are a number of different plans for Labour Party conference depending on public health advice. We can go ahead as normal, have a socially differenced hybrid conference or hold conference online. It would be nice to see everyone in Brighton, but we will need to follow the latest advice and prioritise safety. At the NEC officers’ meeting, we joked about holding it on the beach instead. I recently chaired a policy debate at Labour’s online women’s conference. This went very well and the tone of debate was positive and the technology (most) worked. We will have to wait and see.
In person Labour Party meetings are banned until July 31st. NEC members noted that not everyone was comfortable with our next meeting being in person. People who are clinically vulnerable should not be marginalised and for that reason I support online meetings continuing or people keeping the opportunity to take part in meetings remotely. The party will publish more guidance on this in due course.