Delegates voting against EHRC changes should not be in party, says Ruth Smeeth

Caitlin Prowle
© Ian Vogler

Delegates who vote against Equality and Human Rights Commission rule changes later today should “look yourself in the mirror and ask what party you should be in – because it isn’t ours”, former MP Ruth Smeeth told a Labour First rally today.

Smeeth, who lost her Stoke-on-Trent North seat in the 2019 general election, urged delegates at the rally to vote for the EHRC changes, saying “today is the day to turn the page on the horror of antisemitism in the Labour Party”.

Changes to the rulebook mandated by the EHRC include a new internal disciplinary process with independent oversight for cases related to protected characteristics. Momentum has said it will urge delegates to vote against the changes.

Reacting to the news, Wes Streeting told the rally that Momentum “were never interested in antisemitism” and have “shown their true colours”, adding: “They know they’ve lost the argument and they know they’ve lost the votes.”

Streeting, who is now Shadow Secretary of State for Child Poverty, urged the Labour First crowd to “give your full-throated support to Keir Starmer” who will “rid us of this past and free us of these shackles”.

Luke Akehurst, secretary of Labour First and a member of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), addressed the rule changes to leadership elections and the reselection of MPs among other areas that have been pushed by Starmer.

Changes to the MP nomination threshold and other reforms today will be “decided by a big swing group of delegates” who are making decisions based on the quality of speeches, Akehurst said.

One of these proposed changes, scrapping registered supporters, will “end the arms race of recruitment in the Labour Party”, he told the rally. He said he supported the introduction of registered supporters in 2015, but now regrets the decision.

On the reduction of the number of policies debated at conference to 12, which had been increased to 20 under Jeremy Corbyn, Akehurst told the event that 20 debates allowed “all sorts of random nonsense” to be discussed.

He also praised general secretary David Evans, who he said has been “wading through” a backlog of “5,000 uncatalogued reports of abuse and antisemitism”.

Johanna Baxter, also a member of Labour’s NEC, told the rally that the party’s legal fees now stand at £2m a year and said that this is one of the key reasons for recent decisions made by the party in relation to staffing cuts.

The Labour Party is currently in the process of accepting voluntary redundancies from staff, after compulsory redundancies were taken off the table following threats of strike action from GMB and Unite.

Labour First staff member Kira Lewis declared during the event today that “there is no greater journey in the Labour Party than fixing Young Labour”.

Lewis, who also serves as LGBT+ Youth Officer on Young Labour’s national committee, said Young Labour should be about more than “petty fights about who can embarrass the leader or who can make the most noise on social media”.

Other speakers at the Labour First rally included Labour First chair Keith Dibble and Labour MPs Conor McGinn, Angela Eagle and Wayne David.

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