A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

NEC Report – 23 May 2023


The NEC met on 23 May for the first time since the local elections, with spirits consequently high.


The first main item of business was to sign off the assignment of incumbent MPs (except those that have failed a trigger ballot or have outstanding disciplinary issues) as candidates for new seats following the boundary review. In all except one case contests between MPs had been avoided. However, the abolition of the current Wirral South constituency means that both Alison McGovern MP and Mick Whitley MP wish to stand in the new, redrawn Birkenhead constituency, so a selection contest using an OMOV ballot between the two will proceed. Some members raised anecdotally that they had heard (literally during the meeting) that Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood had announced her retirement, and this created an extra vacancy in that area, but as this hadn’t been notified formally to the party we agreed the paper as it was with a proviso that it could be changed if the two MPs indicated a different stance after any news about Wirral West.


Parliamentary candidates who have already been selected in target seats are also being assigned to new seats, but in every case there is an obvious successor constituency.


It was noted that there is also a contest between two incumbent MPs (Gerald Jones MP and Beth Winter MP) for the new Merthyr Tydfil & Upper Cynon constituency but that this was a delegated matter for the Welsh Executive Committee.


Concerns were raised about the Copeland selection proceeding on the old boundaries rather than the new Whitehaven and Workington boundaries, as members in the town of Workington can’t participate. It was noted that this was unfortunate but that the process was already under way so could not be changed.


We then agreed a paper on the procedures for selection in non-priority constituencies, defined initially as those with a Tory majority of over 40%. This category of seats will involve a review by an NEC panel of any due diligence concerns about applicants, but then move straight to shortlisting by a panel consisting of three members of the relevant CLP. They may either run a contest if there are multiple suitable candidates or announce a shortlist of one if there is only one suitable applicant. The NEC representative has to sign off the final shortlist and can refer it to the Chair of the Organisation Sub-Committee for final adjudication.


David Evans then gave his report as General Secretary. He said the party had used the local elections as a testbed for the General Election campaign and drawn key learnings from the experience. The results were hugely encouraging but there was no complacency about the General Election. The results were not inevitable, they reflected political and organisational choices over the last three years. The organisation had worked well but there would be a thorough evaluation process.


David reported that Simon Mills had stepped down as Executive Director, Finance after very good stewardship that left the party with no debt and no deficit. It was testament to Simon’s hard work that he was being replaced by two people, having become responsible for all the functions based at the Labour Central office in Newcastle. Chris Tidswell would join from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and be Chief Financial Officer. John Lehal would be Chief Operating Officer and oversee key service functions. Scott Hardy has been appointed as the new Regional Director for Yorkshire and the Humber.


David said the General Election organisational strategy would be about persuasion of swing voters, not just GOTV of Labour supporters. We had to consolidate support which is currently provisional and conditional.


Over the summer there will be residential training for field organising staff and candidates, and regional events for the volunteer leadership of each battleground CLP.


Further professional development of staff was being pursued with leadership training for those at director level and above, and management training for everyone with a managerial responsibility.


The party now has 395,811 members, of whom 17,233 are in arrears. At 4.3% this is the lowest ever recorded level of arrears. 48,295 of the members have joined in the last 12 months and 15,000 of those since the start of 2023.


Annual Conference was set to be a major commercial success, with 220 exhibitors registered, bringing in £1.7m in income. There was a waiting list for fringe space, and sale of that has already raised £700,000. The summer raffle had raised £280,000.


David stated that he had reminded staff of the standards expected and procedures for reporting complaints, after recent distressing news about harassment in Parliament.


In local government, Campaign Improvement Boards had been invaluable in resolving longstanding issues.


There is almost certain to be a recall petition and by-election in the SNP-held seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and this will be led by Scottish Labour but be a big priority for the UK Labour Party.


Campaign Director Morgan McSweeney then reported on the local elections. The campaign had been framed as “Build a Better Britain”. This was the biggest set of local elections in the four-year cycle but did not include London, Scotland and Wales. Labour gained a net 536 councillors and 22 councils and the Tories lost over 1,000 councillors despite most of the seats they were defending having last been fought in 2019 which was a year so bad for them that it led to Theresa May resigning. Labour’s margin of 9% over the Tories in projected national vote share was the best for 26 years, since 1997, and the best for an election not coinciding with a General Election since 1996. We are now the largest party in local government, winning back the Local Government Association Chair. Our votes were where we needed them in marginal seats, not stacked up in large majorities in wards in big cities and university towns. Labour was up 8% in Conservative wards compared to 6% in Labour wards and 4% in Lib Dem wards. Our vote is becoming distributed more efficiently. Labour improved most in Leave-voting areas. We were up 3.7% in the most Remain areas, but up 7.8% in areas with a Leave vote of 58-63%. This is important because the Leave vote is distributed in more parliamentary constituencies (it “won” 77% of them) than the very urban-concentrated Remain vote. We are reversing a trend that has been long-term of piling up a vote among graduates in big cities and university towns that can’t deliver a parliamentary majority.


Morgan gave examples of key wins in parliamentary marginal areas: Swindon where we have a majority for the first time in 22 years, Dover, which we have not won since 1995 and is a strongly Leave area, and the Mayor of Middlesbrough, part of Teeside where there are seven parliamentary marginals. But as well as making progress against the Tories we also took Brighton with sweeping gains from the Greens with our first majority there since 1999 and took York again with gains from the Greens.


There is no need for pre-election “dodgy deals” as voters know what they need to do in terms of tactical voting to beat the Tories. The Greens were up 8% in Tory seats but only 0.5% where they were fighting Labour for the seat. This is a lethal cocktail for the Tories.


Leaders usually peak in their first or second year of local elections, but Keir has built up year-on-year: Labour was 12% behind the Tories in 2019, 6% behind in 2021, 5% ahead in 2022 and 9% ahead in 2023.


We notionally gained parliamentary seats that are beyond the 200 gains mark, such as Aldershot. We are forming a coalition of Labour support that can win in every type of seat.


Our messaging grid had been Cut the cost of living, Cut crime, and Cut waiting lists. To this we had added campaigning around sewage in rivers as the public are very concerned about this. The adverts attacking the PM for his responsibility for the Tory record over the last 13 years had captured media coverage of the campaign and got it back onto our key messages when the Tories had been dominating the media with “culture wars” messaging about trans issues and grooming gangs.


For next year’s local elections we would aim to select candidates earlier and spread best practice about how to campaign where the Greens are our main opponent.


Keir Starmer then gave his report as Leader. He thanked David, Morgan and Campaign Chair Shabana Mahmood MP for their work. Overall, he was very pleased by the results but there are some pockets that still need to be worked on. The range of places we won was impressive, including Medway, Dover, Plymouth, Swindon, Stoke and Middlesbrough. The trajectory is improving but we need to keep it up and there is a lot more to do. A lot more will be thrown at us in the General Election. Everything we do has to be exceptional to go from the heavy 2019 defeat to government. He had set three objectives in 2020:

1)    Recognise the scale of the defeat and change the party.

2)    Expose the Tories as not fit to govern.

3)    Set out our positive case for change.

The third had been started with policy announcements at Annual Conference last year. This year’s conference is probably the last showcase before the General Election. He had set out our five missions for a purpose-driven government. The one on “NHS Fit for the Future” had been launched on Monday and well-received. The National Policy Forum meeting in July is the culmination of the first full policy-making cycle since 2014. There will be a choice of whether to reach a consensus on key policies at the NPF or slug it out in public at Annual Conference.


Returning to the local elections, Keir concluded that our messaging and targeting had been vindicated by the results.


Shabana Mahmood gave a very vigorous defence of the attack ads against Sunak. She said:

1)    We have to hold the Tories to account for the whole of their record since 2010, there can be no clean slate for Rishi because he is “new”.

2)    The criminal justice system has been wrecked by the Tories. Labour has to be on the side of the victims of crime.

3)    As a person of colour, she rejects the “dog whistle” charge – the PM’s ethnicity should make no difference to whether we condemn Tory failures around criminal justice.


I asked about the process for signing-off power sharing agreements in hung councils. Nesil Caliskan (Local Government rep) explained that there was a far higher volume of requests to form coalitions because the Tory collapse had increased the number of hung councils. Each request is considered on a case-by-case basis. The NEC panel looks at the merits of the proposal from the local Labour Group and the local context. In most cases the panel challenged details and requested further clarification. The panel did not want to sign-off unnecessarily broad and unstable coalitions with lots of small partners if a majority could be attained by Labour plus one additional party. The panel also looked closely at who any Independent councillors were who a deal was proposed with and would not authorise coalitions with ex-Labour councillors as this undermines Labour Groups. Some “Independents” were actually “Tories in disguise”. Post-election agreements, with NEC approval, are very different to pre-election pacts which are against party rules.


Angela Rayner reported as Deputy Leader about the meetings with unions and businesses she was holding around the company around a fair deal for workers. Labour’s coalition includes employers who want to do the right thing. She had been campaigning with Anas Sarwar in Rutherglen and spoke at the Scottish TUC, which is not a universally pro-Labour audience. She had enjoyed the “battle of the gingers” vs. Oliver Dowden when she substituted for Keir at PMQs. A Labour government feels closer than ever, the data shows this and the attitude of our activists does too. We must keep focused as this is our real opportunity to change lives for the better. We must also keep in mind how bad five more years of the Tories would be.


Finally, under AOB, we agreed that once the current seven selections are completed all parliamentary selections will be conducted using the new constituency boundaries.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Unite Executive Council elections 2023


If, like me, you are a Unite member, you should have received ballot papers this week for the Unite Executive Council. They must be returned by post to the Independent Scrutineer by Noon Tuesday 25th April 2023.


I would recommend voting for the following candidates, they don’t necessarily share my politics but with other long-term Unite members an assessment has been made that these are the best people on the ballot. Please circulate this information to anyone you know who is a Unite member.


Regional seats


East Midlands

Dawn Borthwick

Raffiq Moosa



Marie Casey


London & Eastern

Daniel Collins

Jane McGuire


North East, Yorkshire & Humber

Gary Andrews

Tricia Willoughby


North West

Jacqueline Wilson

Gary Walker



No recommendation

South East

Tracey Whittle


South West

Caroline Baikie



Kerry Owens


West Midlands (Note the ballot paper for this one is being reissued due to an error)

Stuart Hedley

Vanessa Williams

Jason Powell


National Equalities Seats



No recommendation



Susan Matthews



Martyn Gwyther



Sam Shaw



No recommendation


Industrial Sector seats



Craig McDonald


Community Not for Profit

Ben Davies



Ken Drury


Finance & Legal

Kelly Shaw


Food & Drink

Andy Smyth


Graphic Paper Media

Peter Gomez



Steve Thompson



Nigel Atkinson

Dayne Astill



Davy McCord

Andy Rafferty



Mark Barnes



Stuart Grice

Bill Parry

Thursday, March 30, 2023

NEC Report – 28 March 2023

 The March NEC was rather livelier than the previous one in January.


The meeting opened with fine obituaries for Labour stalwarts Eddie Lopez and Janet Anderson.


Keir Starmer and Shabana Mahmood then moved and seconded their motion calling for Jeremy Corbyn to not be endorsed as a parliamentary candidate by the NEC.


Keir said we were all here for one purpose, to win. He had changed the party irrevocably. We are out of the EHRC special measures, but the job is not complete yet. Now we need to resolve the issue of Jeremy Corbyn being suspended from the PLP, so we can move on and focus on the voters. We have to deal with anything that distracts us or jeopardises the changes we have made. We can’t have the exciting policies we want to promote in the local elections overshadowed by internal machinations.


Shabana said that every day we are undoing damage done before 2019. Jeremy’s behaviour since stepping down as leader has been a threat to us winning the next General Election. The EHRC found that under his leadership we breached the Equality Act. It has taken two years of hard work to come out of special measures. We have tackled issues that brought great shame to our party. Jeremy has failed to move one inch from his suspension and acknowledge and deal with what he did. We would be failing our candidates if we don’t protect them from old sores. We have to deal with this ahead of the local elections. We don’t propose to start a selection process in Islington North now. This cannot be allowed to fester any longer, we need to be able to fight a General Election campaign free of the stain the EHRC found.


There was a very passionate debate, resulting in the motion passing by 22 votes to 12.


I voted and spoke in favour. I’ve written up the points I made in my speech into an article for Labourlist which you can read here: https://labourlist.org/2023/03/luke-akehurst-why-i-voted-for-the-nec-motion-to-block-corbyns-candidacy/


Keir then gave his leader’s report. He covered the local elections, but not in detail as there was a full item on this later. He also reported on the launch of the five missions for a Labour Government, with specific launch events also held so far for the ones on economic growth and safe streets. The new press conference facilities at our new HQ had been used for the first time. Finally, he spoke about Scotland, where the new SNP First Minister Humza Yusaf inherits a woeful record. Yusaf has been attacked within the SNP because of his total incompetence in every brief he has held. This is a big opportunity for Labour to win back seats in Scotland, which will be vital to winning a majority in the Commons. Keir has been to Scotland five times in recent months.


David Evans then gave his General Secretary’s report. The EHRC has taken the party out of special measures after two years. He thanked Anneliese Dodds for doing much of the heavy lifting on engagement with the EHRC. There is no complacency whatsoever as driving antisemitism out of the party is not a job that is complete. There are only 37 days until the local elections. An “Exporting London” Officer has been employed as London has a quarter of the party membership but only one tenth of the battleground parliamentary seats and no elections this May. We are piloting innovative ways to get members to campaign where it matters. The local elections are dominating our work. The new Task Force structure at HQ is working well. Each task force has short term objectives for the local elections and then ones until the end of January 2024, in case there is a May 2024 General Election. We are constantly testing and evaluation campaign techniques. For instance, in the City of Chester by-election, where we have a very active CLP, we were able to look at canvassing data and discover there was a 6% increase in propensity to turn out among voters who had met the parliamentary candidate during the campaign. Turnout among postal voters was 71%, but only 34% among voters who went to the polling station (overall turnout was 42%). People who Labour canvassers had contacted went up to a 57% turnout if contacted once, 64% if twice, 72% if three times and 80% if four times. This shows the importance of doorstep campaigning. There had been an Away Day for our 100 new parliamentary candidates on Saturday. They are brilliant, energetic and committed. David has been campaigning in Blackpool, Crawley and Medway for the local elections. He detected huge discontent with the Government but support for Labour is conditional and provisional, so reassurance through face-to-face contact with Labour is essential. He reported that the party now has 400,757 members. 23,000 are in arrears, but this is down from 35,000. The total membership remains at what is a historically very high level, and is pretty stable, with joiners and leavers cancelling each other out. On party finances David said the Electoral Commission report shows 2022 was the best year for Labour since 2008, and better than 2017 and 2019 combined. Q4 of 2022 was the first quarter since Q1 of 2008 when Labour had raised more money than the Tories, beating them by £1/4m. There were 550 members in the Rose Network (donating over £1,000 a year) and 115 in the Chair’s Circle (donating over £5,000 a year), an all-time record. A multi-million-pound pledge had been made and £1.5m had been received in Q1 from major donors. The party was introducing a new HR system and working with Patchwork to recruit people from diverse ethnic and social class backgrounds for work experience. This will eventually lead to an apprenticeship scheme. We are on the cusp of 26 new trainee organisers joining the staff, in addition to the 30 existing trainee organisers, and the 13 digital trainees (all of whom are women). The diversity of this group of new staff is very impressive. The total staff headcount is about 400 and following tough decisions 18 months ago to retrench, and successful fundraising, we are now growing the organisation, as well as changing its shape to focus on digital, comms and field and enhance the regional teams.


In the Q&A to David I stressed the importance of looking after the welfare of parliamentary candidates and providing mentoring and pointing them to the bursary scheme, as it is a stressful and physically, mentally and financially demanding.


The NEC then considered an amendment to our parliamentary selection procedures so that if a candidate is turned down from being long-listed on due diligence grounds they now have a right of appeal to a fresh panel. Appeals will be held on a very short timescale so that the overall timetable of the selection is not delayed. This proposal was agreed unanimously.


Campaign Director Morgan McSweeney reported on the local elections. He highlighted Derby, Plymouth and West Lancashire as key battleground councils. He said voters need to know three things:

1)    Britain is worse off because of Government choices.

2)    There is an alternative, this situation is not inevitable.

3)    Labour has a long-term plan to give the UK back its future. We have plans now to cut the cost of living, cut waiting lists and cut crime.  


Morgan said we have three things to do:

1)    Target the right wards and the right councils where the ground campaign will make a difference.

2)    Ask all Labour voters to get a postal vote. This leads to a three times higher turnout. Almost everyone who will vote in a local election already has the required Voter ID, but all voters are more likely to vote if they vote by post.

3)    Focus on getting the debate back onto the cost-of-living crisis. It isn’t a competent government if it has allowed 10.4% inflation and interest rates to soar, and the has the OBR saying living standards won’t rise for 5-6 years. The Government is economically disastrous.


He said we are pushing hard to find candidates in every seat so every voter has the opportunity to vote Labour. These elections are the hardest in the cycle for Labour to do this due to the rural nature of many of the councils up this time. We have never had 100% coverage. In 2019 we had candidates in 77.2% of wards and we are on track to improve on that. If anyone at local level attempts to hold back from nominating candidates in order to help other parties, that will be viewed as a betrayal of Labour and will result in disciplinary action. The campaign launch is on Thursday. The Tories are aiming to gain back some Southern seats where we are not in contention that they lost to independents in 2019 in order to offset losses to us. The end of the campaign will coincide with the run-up to the Coronation, so it will be difficult to get politics into the media. We are fighting against a Tory macro-strategy of killing hope, breeding cynicism and saying the country’s problems are nothing to do with government choices.


We next received a series of reports about the progress made by the NEC’s Working Group on the Forde Report and finalised our response to it. The details of this work will be posted on the party website here in the next few days: https://labour.org.uk/fordereport/ David Evans said that for the first 18 months of his time as General Secretary he had been focused on dealing with an inherited mess regarding finance, legal and HR functions. We could not win a General Election without addressing what we had found. He outlined the following timeline to explain why some of Forde’s recommendations had been overtaken by events before they were published:


April 2020                  Forde Report commissioned

August 2020             Evidence submission to Forde closes (terms of reference were to look at the 2014-2019 period but this bled over into events up to August 2020)

October 2020            EHRC Report published

December 2020        EHRC Action Plan agreed

September 2021      Rule changes flowing from EHRC Action Plan passed by Annual Conference

April 2022                  Independent complaints procedure in place

July 2022                   Forde Report published

November 2022        NEC Action Plan in response to Forde agreed

January 2023            EHRC removed party from special measures

Today                         NEC finalises response to Forde


We were compelled by the EHRC to respond well in advance of the Forde Report being published, and had already started achieving many of the outcomes Forde wanted by other means.


When the EHRC Report was published we decided to broaden from its focus on antisemitism and implement all its required actions so that they applied to all protected characteristics.


Forde made 165 recommendations. We split these into 3 categories in November. 50 had already been completed. 73 were under way. 42 were not being pursued.


David said he was ashamed of where we had been, proud of the progress made, but not complacent.


Annelise Dodds reported on work being done among staff to address all the points made by Forde about the pay gap, recruitment, retention, and unconscious bias training. She reported on engagement with the BAME PLP caucus, the LGA Labour Black caucus and the BAME members’ event.


Executive Director of Legal Affairs Alex Barros-Curtis said that of the 42 recommendations not being pursued, 36 related to the independent directorate for complaints, a route we had already decided not to go down for legal reasons two years ago when we agreed the EHRC Action Plan. The 73 recommendations under way had been split into some being driven forward by staff, some being driven forward by LOTO and GSO, and some being looked at by the NEC Working Group.


Vidhya Alakeson, Director of External Relations, said the NEC Working Group had met three times and gone through 26 recommendations, turning them into four grouped proposals:

1)    A code of conduct for members

2)    A code of conduct for people in leadership positions

3)    Adding anti-Black racism training to our suite of training courses

4)    A cultural reset which will be driven forward in the new CLPs after the CLP boundary changes in October, and will be aimed at creating meaningful debate but inclusive conversations at CLP level.


David said he would have counselled Martin Forde against being interviewed by Al Jazeera, but he and Annelise would be meeting Mr Forde soon to reset the relationship. The NEC had wanted to invite him to a meeting pre-publication of his report but there had been no clear consensus about inviting him post-publication. We had been keen to implement the recommendations and just cracked on with it. There were lessons learned about clear terms of reference, timescales and budgets when commissioning reports and these had been implemented in the Liverpool report process.


The recommendations from the Working Group and final response to the Forde Report were agreed unanimously.


Anneliese Dodds gave a National Policy Forum update. Policy Commissions will consider submissions made since 2021. The Joint Policy Committee will meet on 26th April. It has agreed procedural guidelines for the full NPF, which will be held in Nottingham from 21st-23rd July. CLPs will be able to contact the Policy Team and feed in comments via them to NPF members between 9th May and 5th June. Keir’s five missions signal priorities but aren’t everything we will do in government, whereas the six policy commissions are catch-all – everything fits into one of them.


Finally, we agreed a suite of new safeguarding policies.

Friday, January 27, 2023

NEC Report – 24 January 2023

The January NEC meeting was the first one held at Labour’s very impressive new HQ in Blackfriars Road in south London. The overall feel was the most united, friendly, and focused externally on winning the election that I have seen since I re-joined the NEC in 2020.


The meeting opened with a minute’s silence for Holocaust Memorial Day, and the solemn tone continued as we noted the obituaries of former MP Alice Mahon and former NEC Chair and AEU stalwart Brenda Etchells.


David Evans presented an upbeat General Secretary’s report. He said we had to capitalise on the opportunity presented by our poll lead with a modern campaign machine. He was focused on sharpening our comms, print, digital and field operations. He believes the current support the party has is conditional and provisional and there is still a lot of work to be done to convert poll leads into cast iron commitments to vote Labour in the May 2023 local elections and the General Election, whenever it comes. We have to have a positive, optimistic, future-facing offer for voters, and will be shaping that through the National Policy Forum this summer and the Annual Conference in October. The task force structure for fighting the election was in place, and LOTO was now integrated completely as one team with party HQ. Staff training was being provided on management and leadership skills. The regional comms teams were being enhanced. Interviews were taking place for 11 digital trainees. We were advertising soon for an additional of trainee organisers.


David outlined Project Victory, the plan for May’s local elections, where 8,000 council seats are being contested. The new requirement to provide ID in order to vote was something Labour had opposed as it is a fairly obvious Tory attempt at suppressing turnout, but we need to campaign in a way that doesn’t put voters off by suggesting it is too difficult, and to get more people signed up as postal voters, as this is unaffected by the new law. Selections of council candidates are proceeding faster than in previous years.  71 parliamentary candidates have been selected and this will rise to 100 by the start of the local election campaign. 57% are men, 43% women. 20% are BAME, 10% disabled and 10% LGBT+. There is no complacency about any of these diversity stats. The 10,000 backlog of disciplinary cases has been cleared and the new independent aspects of the complaints process are up and running. Preparation for Annual Conference is underway. Membership is still at levels that are high in historic terms. There are 407,328 members, of whom 25,000 are in arrears. Labour Hub is replacing the existing log-in systems for all campaign tools. The new membership portal will give greater reporting, analysis and ability to fundraise from and mobilise members. The new membership hub is intended to be rolled out in early February, subject to testing. There will be investment in the Organise system for emailing members to make it more effective. The party is in a relatively strong financial position, with growing commercial income, and large and small donations. A two year pay deal and deal re. the pension scheme has been agreed with staff. Lord (Waheed) Ali has taken on a senior role in donor relations. The winter raffle raised a record £400,000. The party has moved into its new Blackfriars Road HQ and our accommodation in the regions and nations is also being reviewed.


Keir Starmer then gave his Leader’s report. He described the party as being in reasonably good shape, with a united PLP taking the arguments to the Tories, and polling looking good for the time being, but it was going to be a long year, with a General Election unlikely in 2023. We need to be disciplined and focused and ready for the greater scrutiny we will face. It is almost certain that Annual Conference will be the last one before the General Election. We need to strike the balance between maintaining our confidence but not being complacent. We have to fight like we are 5% the Tories, every vote needs to be earned. There had been a busy and positive start to the New Year for Labour. Keir’s New Year speech had been focused on hope, change and the need for a decade of national renewal. He had visited Northern Ireland with Peter Kyle and Angela Smith on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, to try to push for progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Attending Davos with Rachel Reeves had been a statement about Labour wanting the UK to play a greater part on the global stage. The discussion about the NHS was about the need to reform and restore it. It needs to offer a different service as well as being better funded. Other policy announcements had been about getting the over-50s back into the labour market, and Bridget Phillipson’s announcements about childcare and skills. Keir referred to the stories about Tory sleaze and said he could not understand why Sunak did not sack Zahawi. The Shadow Cabinet will be out across the country on 28 and 29 January for the national campaign weekend.


Angela Rayner gave her report as Deputy Leader. We had two excellent new MPs from the North West, Sam Dixon and Andrew Western, following the Labour wins in the City of Chester and Stretford & Urmston by-elections. The morale of activists and voters is high, they are convinced Labour can win and make a difference. On 9 February we hope to get Ashley Dalton elected as the new MP for West Lancashire. Angela condemned the “levelling up” grant awards as not being targeted on the basis of need, but on protecting Tory MPs in marginal seats. She was leading the opposition to the Procurement Bill and the new anti-strike legislation. The latter would not resolve the current disputes, which are driven by pay not keeping pace with the cost of living. She also lambasted the Tories over voter ID requirements, aimed at making it harder for people to vote them out of office, and sleaze.


Campaign Director Morgan McSweeney spoke about the local elections on 4 May, now less than 100 days away. We have to use them to demonstrate we are on course for a majority, and to improve all aspects of our campaigning. They are the largest set of elections in the cycle and the last or second to last set before the General Election. They are only in England, and not in London. 8,000 seats are up for election in approximately 240 councils. Morgan described three categories of key council: traditional swing councils that are more Tory than the ones up last year, areas where we have been going backwards and need to recover, and a small number of Labour councils facing insurgencies from the far right or independents. When last contested in May 2019 the results across the country had been 28% Conservative, 28% Labour, 19% Lib Dem. The Tories had lost 1,330 seats in a good year for the Lib Dems, which led to Theresa May resigning. This is therefore a tricky set of elections for Labour as the Tories are defending a position that was already a low point. Labour was seeking to present a positive offer, build campaigning capacity across the country, improve turnout, present Keir as candidate for PM, and get in shape for the General Election. Our strapline was “Build a Better Britain”. Themes would be cost of living, NHS waiting lists and sager seats. We need to get headline stories on the TV news so that there is greater awareness of our team and policies. We will be using digital channels to get content to voters who might make a difference. Regional comms is a priority as we need coverage in the regional and local media, which voters trust more than the national media. We were deploying the trainee organisers, have an increased campaign budget, and total integrated campaigning. We would overcome the voter ID challenge by increasing the number of postal voters, this is the proven way to increase turnout. By the end of the month selections in target councils should be complete. We needed a campaign that was far more targeted on the key swing wards in key swing councils. We need to persuade members in areas like London without elections to show solidarity and travel and campaign in target councils. Every Shadow Cabinet member has a target council they are supporting. We are trying to select candidates faster every year and always aim for 100% coverage so everyone can vote Labour. We mustn’t underestimate the Tories, they are still the most efficient election-winning party in the world.


Finally, Anneliese Dodds gave an update on the National Policy Forum. There are ongoing discussions with the unions about how many amendments each NPF member can submit, and what the threshold should be for an alternative position to be put to Annual Conference (i.e. what percentage of NPF members need to back the minority position).


I also wanted to report on a key decision at the Organisation Committee the previous week. We agreed that CLPs will change boundaries to match the new parliamentary constituencies agreed by the Boundary Commission immediately after Annual Conference. Details of how this will work are online here: https://labour.org.uk/activist-hub/governance-and-legal-hub/clp-hub/clp-reorganising-faq/




Friday, December 02, 2022

NEC Report – 29 November 2022


The NEC held its Annual Away Day on 29 November at Labour Central, the Newcastle home of the Labour Party's Head Office in the north.


The meeting began on a sad note with obituaries, including that of our fantastic National Constitutional Committee colleague Judi Billing.


We signed off on the NEC’s updated Aims and Objectives, Terms of Reference, Code of Conduct for NEC members and committee membership.


I will continue to serve on the Complaints & Disciplinary Sub-Committee, Equalities Committee, Organisation Committee, Development Fund Panel, Boundary Review Sub-Committee and as Liaison Member to Labour International CLP.


The main business of the day was a series of presentations about preparation for the General Election.


Campaign Co-ordinator Shabana Mahmood opened by emphasising the scale of the task facing Labour. We need a swing larger than in 1997 to get a single seat majority. The election is likely to be in summer 2024 and the polls are expected to tighten. Labour is under far more scrutiny as we are viewed as a government in waiting. This perception makes it easier to fundraise and easier to get a good range of candidates applying to stand, but it brings the risk of complacency. We have to make sure we pin the blame or economic chaos on Tory policy choices since 2010, we have to reinforce the hard-won economic credibility we have built up, and we need to make a positive offer to the electorate. Organisationally, we have recruited a new cohort of trainee organisers, and will be adding digital campaigning trainees. The new script used in Wakefield is important, particularly the question asking voters how likely they are to vote Labour on a scale of 1-10 helps us target swing voters. 80 candidates will be selected by the end of the year, currently almost 50% are women. We need to select candidates as early as possible, as it transforms the campaign having the candidate in place, and we have a new “First 100 Days” pack for them to make sure they hit the ground running.


Campaign Director Morgan McSweeney said that 20% poll leads should give us confidence but we had to avoid complacency. He quoted Shimon Peres: ““Polls are like perfume-nice to smell, dangerous to swallow.” Morgan said the Tory Party are in the business of winning General Elections and are the best party globally at doing that, they have increased their vote share six times in a row, at every General Election this century. Polls change, in March 2022 Opinium put Labour only 1% ahead and all the experts said the Tories were about to take the lead, but two days later Boris was fined for “partygate”, and that triggered the series of events that has led us to a 20% lead. If the pollsters can’t predict one week ahead, we should be cautious about any prediction of the outcome of the General Election. The polls are volatile, and we could go back down in the same way we have gone up. The boundary changes make our task more difficult. The Tories have immense financial resources and media, particularly the Daily Mail, who will try to destroy Labour. Our objective is a majority Labour government. The battleground seats are not all in the “Red Wall” or all in the “Blue Wall”, they are spread across every region and nation and we have to win seats across the country so we need messages and organisation that work for the whole country. Everything comes down to what will be in the mind of swing voters in swing seats at 6pm on Polling Day. We have to demonstrate to them that we understand their lives, we have a plan to make their lives better, and we are strong enough to see that plan through.


Morgan described the volatility of the electorate. From 70% of voters being core vote for either Labour or the Tories in 1997, the figure is now 40%, so 60% of the electorate are swing voters who are up for grabs. Voters definitely want change, but the Tories are adept at reinventing themselves and saying they now represent change from their own record of the last 12 years. The Tory coalition built by Boris in 2019 is very large but was forged from whipping up cultural divisions so has clear weaknesses. Sunak is so far just trying to accommodate the different factions in his parliamentary party. The main Tory attack line will be to accuse Keir and Labour of being weak, so we have to present leadership, a fresh start and that we will do what is best for the country, not act like the Tories do in the narrow party interest. On the economy we have to show that mortgage rate rises are down to Tory economic choices, to protect our own economic policy and to get our message out that we will prioritise growth but that we have proposals for doing that which are green. We need to promote a story about the country. People are angry with the political system because they can see it has caused their economic pain. We need to explain how we will redistribute power and rise above divisions and culture wars with a mission to unify the country. We have to promote all our candidates, starting with Keir as the candidate to be PM, and getting him out of Westminster speaking to voters as much as possible. Our manifesto has to be a manifesto for the voters, not internal party audiences.


Organisationally, Morgan emphasised the need to have a disciplined focus on target voters in target seats, because the party’s data showed that in May 2022 too much effort had gone into seats that were very safe or unwinnable. We have to close the funding gap with the Tories, who have outspent us in the last three elections. We had to change the party completely to convince voters to trust us again, as in 2019 we were financially, politically and morally broken. Conference 2022 showed the public Labour had changed in a way that was real, not just presentational. The changes are bearing electoral fruit – a 35%-30% lead over the Tories in May, and councils gained all over the country, but this was not enough. Under Anas and Jackie, Labour has started to recover in Scotland and is now back in second place. We are transforming our campaigning machine based on lessons both from our own past victories in 1997 and 2001 and from winning campaigns by sister parties across the world.


General Secretary David Evans said he now had a very high calibre staff team thanks to tough legal, financial and HR decisions in 2020 and 2021 and the first major restructure in over a decade. The run of General Elections close together meant that the party had needed to reduce spending by £5 million but was now on a financial even keel. He was concerned that voters didn’t yet understand how much Labour has changed. Internally decision-making has been streamlined, resources had been prioritised around campaigning, and the structure is now based on task forces focussed on key aspects of the General Election.


Morgan said that the most voters we ever manage to canvass in a General Election is about 4 million out of 40 million, so we need to make sure the 4 million people we do canvass are all in the marginal seats where it will make a difference. Similarly, campaign spending has to be focused on reaching the right voters in marginal seats. Extra canvassing contacts in a seat delivers an increase in Labour’s vote share, the problem in May was that in many councils we didn’t target our canvassing at the most marginal wards. Seats Labour did target got an extra growth in vote share above the national increase. We were too cautious and not ambitious enough in our targeting in May, and we need to share data more to get activists to buy in to moving to work in marginal seats.


Director of Digital Tom Lillywhite said there had been no strategic rigour to Labour’s digital campaigning in 2019. We had now abandoned vanity metrics such as how many views a video gets and focused on making sure the right voters that we need to persuade see our content. There will be a new digital trainee staffer in every region and nation. Staff, supporters and candidates would be upskilled in digital campaigning.


Director of External Relations Vidhya Alakeson said the party had three key categories of external stakeholders relevant to the General Election. The first was business, which was essential for establishing our economic credibility. We needed to particularly build relationships with SMEs and with the manufacturing, agriculture and construction sectors. The second was faith and ethnic minority communities, which are electorally decisive in 30 of the key target seats. The third is to engage with and reverse recent disengagement from Labour among men, particularly older men, and working class voters, where our poll leads are lower than among women and middle class voters, the opposite of the historical pattern.


National Policy Forum Chair Anneliese Dodds spoke about the policy development process. The final stage NPF meeting on 21-23 July 2023 would resolve differences of opinion well in advance of the General Election and agree election winning policies. Consultation documents will be published by each Policy Commission in January, with consultation open until March. The Commissions will then reflect on the submissions and produce draft policy documents which will be circulate in April with amendments being submitted by a deadline in May. A draft policy platform will be presented to the July NPF meeting which will from this produce a final policy platform which is put to the vote at Annual Conference 2023 alongside alternative positions. If the document is passed by a two-thirds majority it becomes the party programme ahead of the final manifesto being agreed by the Clause V meeting.


David Evans reported on fundraising. The party needs £20m for the short campaign as well as funding for the long campaign. This year had been the best non-General Election year in memory, with £6m in donations already in the bank. It still isn’t enough. A membership surge of 30,000 since September had brought in a huge cash injection, not just membership fees but also £300,000 in top-up donations from those new members. Targeted members were being phoned about donating and this is working well. Support is being given to the regions and nations to develop fundraising as it needs to happen at this level as well at CLP level.


Finally Executive Director Nations and Regions Hollie Ridley spoke. She described the trainee organiser and digital trainee schemes, the selection process and the progress made with getting candidates in place so far, and the way in which byelections had been used to pilot and test new organising techniques.


There was an extensive Q&A session. I asked about postal vote strategy, how we would respond to the new “voter ID” requirements, urged flexibility in targeting so we can pick off “targets of opportunity” (seats we suddenly discover are swinging unexpectedly heavily) and called for early selections in less winnable seats where there is a consensus about the candidate and for a job description for candidates in these seats that emphasises a high visibility, low resource campaign and providing twinning support for nearby marginals.


After lunch, we agreed a paper on implementing the recommendations in the Forde Report. This established membership of an NEC working group, its terms of reference, its timetable and that it will have Carol Sewell (NEC BAME rep) as Chair and Johanna Baxter (NEC Chair) as Vice-Chair. We had already categorised Forde’s recommendations at the previous meeting into those that had already been implemented, those that could not be progressed due to significant legal, financial or regulatory issues, and those that are in progress or require further analysis. This meeting further sub-divided the final category into those that can be taken forward by staff, those that need to be considered by LOTO (Leader’s Office) and GSO (General Secretary’s Office), and those to be dealt with by the NEC Working Group (grouped into cultural change and tackling discrimination). The LOTO and GSO category will be reported back on to the March NEC. The NEC Working Group will also report back to the same meeting and final decisions will be voted on if the group could not reach unanimous decisions. Progress reports will be made on implementation to the Working Group in April, July and November 2023 and published on the Forde Report page of the party website, with a final report to the Working Group in December 2023 and then to the NEC for approval.


Finally, Vidyha Alakeson presented a paper on Delivering on Equalities in 2023. Key recommendations were:

·         Not to hold the BAME and Disabled Members’ Conferences and elections at them to national committees until after the General Election, producing a saving of about £450,000, and allowing the alternative arrangements below to be tested.

·         To hold the in-person Women’s Conference on the Saturday of Annual Conference 2023.

·         To work in partnership with Labour Women’s Network to support the fifth

cohort of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme.

·         To strengthen BAME Labour (the affiliated socialist society) by assisting the existing BAME Labour Committee in conducting democratic and

transparent elections in Q1 2023; conducting a renewed drive for equalities data to identify BAME members of the Labour Party; look further into the collection of membership fees for BAME Labour and take appropriate action; all self-identifying black and minority ethnic members will be invited to join and stand for elected positions in BAME Labour; BAME Labour’s affiliation fees continue to be waived until a newly elected committee is formed and the affiliate can be deemed as self-sufficient.

·         BAME Labour to elect the NPF reps that would have been elected by the National BAME Committee.

·         Tackle underrepresentation of Black men by focusing the next cohort of

the Bernie Grant Leadership Development Programme on Black members only, as this is where we as a Party faces our biggest challenge when it comes to representation and where a targeted programme could add the most

value in overall equalities impact.

·         Establish a new local government focused Future Candidates programme to develop a diverse pipeline of talent through being councillors.

·         Disability Labour (also an affiliated socialist society) to get an extra NPF seat alongside one for disabled trade unionists as the seats allocated to the National Committee of Disabled Members will not be taken up.

·         The Party uses the period from now until the New Year to conduct a renewed drive for equalities data to identify disabled members of the Labour Party and all self-identifying disabled members will be invited to join Disability Labour

(membership of Disability Labour for disabled members is currently free).

·         Accessibility training for regional teams and CLP role holders.

·         Member training and engagement events :

o   Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members event on 19th November

o    Women members event on 5th December

o   Islamophobia training for members on 17th November and 15th December.


There was extensive debate as some NEC members were unhappy about going back on the commitments regarding the BAME and Disabled conferences and national committees, whereas others felt it was better to help BAME Labour and Disability Labour flourish as socialist societies, as this was in line with the principle of autonomous self-organisation for liberation campaigns. Constructive amendments were accepted from the GMB to ensure appropriate union representation and from Gurinder Singh Josan about BAME self-organisation. An amendment from Yasmine Dar to elect a BAME committee using the method used to elect the NEC BAME rep and to delete the recommendations about BAME Labour was defeated with 5 votes for, 22 against and 1 abstention. The amended paper was passed with 21 votes for, 3 against and 4 abstentions.

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