NEC makes controversial decision on BAME and disabled members’ structures

Katie Neame
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Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) met in Newcastle on Tuesday for an away day. The party faced criticism ahead of the meeting after controversial plans emerged for it to break with a commitment to establish democratic wings for members from a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic (BAME) background and for disabled members.

LabourList understands that the proposals approved in the NEC meeting include: launching an effort to update Labour’s equalities data for BAME and disabled party members; offering support to the existing BAME Labour organisation to hold new elections for leadership positions next year; introducing accessibility training for regional Labour teams and local party officers to better support the inclusion of disabled members; restricting access to the Bernie Grant Leadership programme to Black party members; and setting up a working group to take forward recommendations made by the Forde Report that have yet to be implemented, to be chaired by NEC BAME rep Carol Sewell. LabourList also understands that plans for standalone BAME, disabled and women’s conferences will be reviewed after the next general election.

A Labour Party spokesperson told LabourList that the decisions made would “strengthen the voice and representation” of BAME Labour members, adding that the plans followed “extensive consultation” after the publication of the Forde Report. “We want to help grow and support a vibrant BAME Labour affiliate because we know it will help drive forward the cause of equality both inside the Labour Party and in wider society,” the spokesperson said.

NEC member Jess Barnard, however, criticised the decisions made in the meeting. In a Twitter thread, the former chair of Young Labour, who was elected to the NEC earlier this year, argued that the meeting was “another bad day for democracy and anti-racism in Labour”. She declared that the decision not to establish separate wings for BAME and disabled members “risks doing significant damage to Labour’s relations with core constituencies”, adding: “Equalities structures are not a distraction, they are an essential part of empowering all our members, creating genuine representation and addressing decades of inequality.”

Voters in the City of Chester will head to the polls tomorrow. The by-election is Rishi Sunak’s first electoral test and will be a key indicator of his impact on the Tory Party’s reputation among voters. Though Labour’s majority in the seat at the last election was a fairly healthy 6,164, it was just 93 in 2015, and the constituency has only returned a Labour MP at six elections throughout its history. Labour’s by-election candidate Sam Dixon has served on the local council since 2011 and was previously leader of the council, the first woman to hold that position. Her campaign team is aiming to knock on more than 12,000 doors on polling day. Got a few hours to spare to help out? Sign up here to join the get-out-the-vote effort. I spoke to Dixon yesterday, and she told me that the team would be “delighted” to have any LabourList readers come along. Stay tuned for the full interview later today.

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