Why I'm running for Labour's NEC
After a lot of deliberation I’ve decided to run for the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC). One-Member-One-Vote elections for the six Constituency Labour Party representatives are being held next year and candidates are starting to emerge.
My hesitation has been because my illness and hospitalisation this year has meant that my main goals in life are rather more personal than political at the moment: still being alive in a few years time and watching my son grow up is my number one priority, and learning to walk again comes in a strong second.
However, I think I’ve got experience, skills and judgement to offer the Party as we enter choppy political waters and have therefore decided to throw my hat in the ring for the NEC.
The Party website usefully sets out what the NEC does:
"The National Executive Committee is the governing body of the Labour Party that oversees the overall direction of the party and the policy-making process. It carries out this role by setting strategic objectives on an annual basis and meeting regularly to review the work of the party in these areas.
All members of the NEC are members of the National Policy Forum. This body oversees the development of party policy through a rolling programme of policy development. Throughout the year, NEC members participate with government ministers in Labour Party policy commissions that prepare reports on different areas of policy which are then presented to and consulted on with the party membership before going to annual conference.
This forms the basis of Labour’s general election manifesto. The NEC is also responsible for upholding the rules of the party and propriety of Labour selection processes.”
So what sort of approach would I bring to the NEC?
· Transparency. As a constituency rep on the London Regional Board I report back to CLPs in writing after every meeting. I would want to do the same on the NEC (within the obvious constraints about any confidential agenda items). Too much of what the NEC does is shrouded in byzantine secrecy. Party members need to know what their representatives are doing in their name and what the justifications are for NEC decisions.
·Objectivity and even-handedness. When the NEC takes decisions that affect ordinary members there needs to be confidence that NEC members are taking decisions based on upholding the Rulebook and natural justice, not helping out their mates or political allies. My track record dealing with difficult disciplinary and selection issues as a council Chief Whip for seven years and a regional board member shows that I will do the right thing when confronted with contentious issues, not do what is politically expedient.
· Putting members first. Where-ever possible I would want to put control in the hands of local members and CLPs and maximise local autonomy and democracy – particularly regarding selection of candidates.
· Rebuilding the Party. Whilst there are geographical pockets where CLPs are thriving and there is excellent campaigning best practice, in too much of the country we have let our organisation atrophy. I want to see a priority made of regeneration of branches and CLPs nationwide and building their campaigning capacity. Members are our greatest asset but we haven’t systematically done a recruitment drive for over a decade. I don’t accept that we can’t aspire to be a mass membership organisation. We also need to rebuild our base in local government as there is a direct link between losing councillors and losing our local campaigning base.
· Focussed on campaigning. I’ve got 20 years experience of grassroots campaigning to bring to the table. Whatever the outcome of the General Election, we need to immediately start rebuilding for the electoral challenges that will follow it. What we don’t need is a prolonged period of navel-gazing, infighting and blame. We need to learn the lessons of the 1979-1983 period when Labour spent more time attacking its own record in Government than attacking the Tories.
· Resisting a “lurch to the left”. I’m proud of what Labour has achieved in Government and want to build on it, particularly in the area of tackling poverty and inequality. In the aftermath of the General Election there will be people who want us to veer sharply to the left. I’m not one of them, I want us to align our politics and policies with where ordinary voters are, not wander off into the electoral wilderness.
· Committed to the Trade Union link. I think the current constitutional settlement in the Labour Party, whilst it could be tweaked, broadly works. I’m very wary of radical proposals such as primaries that would sever the union link, which is fundamental to keeping us grounded in the practical concerns of ordinary working people.
· Positivity. My starting point is one of loyalty to the Party leadership and respect for the hard working professional staff of the Party. I’m no pushover but unlike some candidates elected in the past I’m not seeking to get on the NEC to undermine anyone or with a starting point of suspicion and blame. If we lose the General Election we will all need to be united and work as a team to make sure our period in opposition is as short as possible.