The Labour leadership has today won key votes at a meeting of the party’s ruling body, with a motion in favour of restoring the whip to Jeremy Corbyn defeated and changes to the selections guidance approved.
Jeremy Corbyn’s whip
Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) considered a motion, proposed by union representative Ian Murray and local party rep Nadia Jama, that described the suspension of the whip from Corbyn as “deeply divisive” and “disrespectful”.
The motion urged Labour’s chief whip Alan Campbell to restore the parliamentary whip to Corbyn, who has been a Labour member but not a Labour MP since November 2020, when Keir Starmer decided not to restore the whip.
Campbell joined the Zoom meeting and said Corbyn has not apologised as requested or addressed any of the points in the letter sent to him by then chief whip Nick Brown in November 2020. Campbell did not take questions.
LabourList understands that Ann Black then asked for the vote to be deferred, but it was not, while other NEC members proposed a meeting on the whip issue be held, but this was considered out of order once the vote had taken place.
All those speaking on the proposal in favour of restoring the Labour whip to Corbyn did so supportively, but the motion was easily defeated, with 23 votes against, 14 for and one abstention, according to multiple sources.
Before the meeting, supporters of the motion issued a joint statement saying it would allow the NEC to discuss Corbyn’s situation and “express a view on the impasse, which is causing such harm and division in our party”.
Corbyn himself said: “I am very thankful to the members of Labour’s NEC who will raise the issue of the removal of my parliamentary whip today. I was elected on a Labour Party mandate by the people of Islington North.”
But not everyone on the Labour left believed it was a good idea to debate the motion and vote on it, with one source on the left telling LabourList: “We need to get serious and put people who actually understand politics on the NEC.”
After the meeting, Corbyn tweeted: “Today’s NEC vote and Keir Starmer’s ongoing decision to bar me from sitting as a Labour MP is disappointing… The struggle for peace, justice and sustainability goes on.”
Labour’s NEC approved new guidance for parliamentary selections today that will see the control of longlisting taken from local parties and given to national and regional executive committee members instead.
The argument for making the move is that NEC involvement in longlisting increases diversity among candidates and ensures a higher quality of candidates because the due diligence is then done at the start of the process.
The new guidance also reduces the timetable of selections from nine weeks to a maximum of five and introduces a spending cap on selection campaigns of £1.50 per member, with a maximum cap of £3,500 applied.
Commenting on the new guidance being approved by the NEC, Labour chair and women and equalities spokesperson Anneliese Dodds said: “Labour has a proud record of increasing women’s participation in politics.
“From the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme to 103 women Labour MPs at Westminster and a shadow cabinet with equal representation of women, we have taken decisive action to promote equal representation at all levels of government.
“We are also taking a number of proactive measures to increase the representation of women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, LGBT+ people and disabled people at all levels of elected office across the country – such as ensuring the cost of standing as a candidate doesn’t disproportionately deter people from seeking selection.”
In amendments, references to “gender balance” were replaced with “at least 50% women”, which could be more legally sensitive – as currently more than 50% of Labour MPs are women – but the change was passed unanimously.
There was also an unresolved query about when potential candidates receive membership lists – during longlisting or shortlisting – which will be revisited by NEC officers after an ad hoc committee has agreed a way forward.
Labour NEC members were promised sight of the long-awaited Forde Report at the January meeting, but Martin Forde QC sent a letter to them on Monday confirming that he could not deliver his report, though it is “largely completed”.
At the meeting today, Labour general secretary David Evans said “we’ve been let down” as the report has still not been delivered and said it was a source of professional embarrassment that he had not been able to get it over the line yet.
After 18 months of repeated delays and multiple deadlines missed, Forde has now set a new target of delivering the report at the February NEC meeting. It is thought likely that the NEC will then decide what do with it.
Labour’s NEC today voted on a motion that called for the retroactive application of the rule proscribing certain organisations to be scrapped. This was defeated by 20 votes to 14, with no abstentions, sources said.
The NEC agreed in July last year to proscribe four groups – Socialist Appeal, Labour in Exile Network, Labour Against the Witchhunt and Resist. Their supporters can now be automatically expelled from Labour.
Some NEC members have complained about the way in which the ban on some groups has been implemented, with Labour members being auto-excluded for supporting a banned group before it was banned.
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner both sent their apologies to the NEC meeting at its start, amid much Westminster activity after a police investigation into Downing Street parties was announced. Rayner later joined the meeting.