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.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

NEC Report - 25 May 2021

The NEC met in sombre and serious mood on 25 May, with an obvious priority of reflecting on the 6 May election results and considering the dramatic improvements and changes that will need to be made to respond to the message the electorate has sent us.


You can read my own analysis and response to the election results here https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/starmer-has-one-shot-to-save-labour-from-national-irrelevance-qqltzcj3f and here https://labourlist.org/2021/05/how-successful-was-labour-in-the-may-2021-elections/


Keir Starmer’s report opened with a pledge, on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, that a Labour Government would bring in a Race Equality Act to address structural racism.


Keir welcomed Anneliese Dodds (new frontbench rep) and Angela Eagle (new PLP rep) to the NEC.


He provided a candid, balanced and sobering summary of the election results and how serious a setback they had been, before setting out five policy themes that Labour will now be promoting:


1)    Restructuring a broken economy towards long-term investment rather than short-term shareholder return.

2)    Transforming the way we deliver public services so they are more integrated and less silo-ised.

3)    World class education and skills.

4)    Radical devolution.

5)    Modernisation of Britain.


He said the party needs a complete change of culture, so it is facing the voters at all times and less internally focused. We need to transform and modernise our campaigning structure in order to be able to transform and modernise the country.


Keir warned the General Election could be as early as May 2023 and we face the immediate challenge of a byelection in Batley & Spen.


During the Q&A I responded to claims by Momentum-supporting members of the NEC that members had been demoralised and therefore not campaigned by saying that this was not borne out by my personal experience as a council candidate or, in a different ward, as a ward organiser, in both cases I had seen increased levels of volunteering. Nor was it borne out by the data collected nationally about the number of canvassing contacts made, which Keir confirmed was higher than in the previous set of local elections, even with Covid affecting the way we could campaign. I asked Keir to make sure the policy review developed policies that would appeal to segments of the electorate who have moved away from us, particularly older voters, who we can’t win a General Election without winning back, as they are an increasing share of the population and have high propensity to turnout.


Answering a total of 16 questions, some of them disappointingly couched in less than comradely tones, Keir emphasised that policies from past manifestoes are never ruled out, but after several defeats you can’t just pick up the old manifesto you lost on as the starting point. We needed a simplified and focussed policy offer as there had just been too much for voters to believe was deliverable in 2019.


He emphasised the need to reach out to both rural voters and older voters, where an existing trend towards Labour voting falling off by age had become profoundly worse in 2019. He said we needed policies for older voters that would guarantee security and dignity in old age and wanted a discussion in detail about this at a future NEC meeting.


Asked about the Gaza conflict he reiterated Labour’s support for a two-state solution and referred the NEC to Lisa Nandy’s balanced statements which strongly condemned breaches of international law and human rights by either side (https://labour.org.uk/category/lisa-nandy/).


Following Keir, Angela Rayner also gave her report, talking about how we reconnect with voters we have lost and about her policy priority of addressing fire and rehire and insecure work in her new role as Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work.


Executive Director of Elections Anna Hutchinson took us through a detailed statistical analysis of the 6 May results.


General Secretary David Evans covered the byelections in Batley & Spen and Chesham & Amersham in his report, and the possibility of one in Delyn as the Conservative MP has been suspended for six weeks.


He reported on the work of the party’s internal Diversity and Inclusion Board, including the rollout of unconscious bias training.


He said publication of the Forde Report was still postponed, to avoid even partial disclosure prejudicing an ICO investigation. He was doing everything he could to get it published.


Membership is now 489,000, which remains very high by historic standards. A membership retention strategy is being developed.


The party was concerned about the risk of potential loss of income if Covid leads to restrictions on the format of Annual Conference.


Both David and Keir were repeatedly and tediously asked the same question about restoration of the whip to Jeremy Corbyn and David advised those NEC members who repeatedly raise this to write to the Chief Whip.


After David’s report we supported an amendment from Ellen Morrison to the paper about future arrangements for CLP and branch meetings to keep open hybrid online and offline options as online meetings are more accessible for many people. All meetings remain online until the end of July when the situation will be reviewed.


Anneliese Dodds spoke about the policy review she is now leading. This will produce a clear offer in time for a 2023 early General Election. It will show our core values of equality, security and ambition for our country. The review will work in step with and not duplicate the work of the National Policy Forum (NPF) and its commissions. The NPF tries to be encyclopaedic and develop policy on everything, whereas the review will only look at a small number of key areas. It will be future looking, trying to generate a Labour vision of the UK in 2030 and counterpoise that with a vision of what the UK will look like by 2030 if the Tories stay in charge. We want to create a country that is more equal, more secure and more ambitious about what it can achieve.


We were then given an update on the NPF’s processes. Equalities issues had been better integrated into the work of each Policy Commission. There will be a full NPF meeting on 6 July. The Policy Commissions were proving consensual and constructive. NPF Chair Ann Black said she wanted to harness the positive energy around policy making to give the NPF a more campaigning role.


Just to confuse things there is also an ongoing review of policy development. The deadline for CLPs and affiliates to make submissions is 24 June, then the NEC will agree proposals for a new way of making policy and put these to conference.


We signed off standing orders and a code of conduct for the National Women’s Conference.


We also signed off procedures for the trigger ballots and selections for Mayoral elections. Mish Rahman from Momentum proposed the trigger threshold should be 1/3 of branches or affiliates rather than ½ (i.e. that it should be easier to force a full reselection ballot). This was defeated by 19 votes to 10. He proposed that the Organisation Committee should have to sign off any decision by the General Secretary to rescind endorsement of a candidate if something damaging to the party emerges about them, This was defeated by 16 votes to 14.


Nadia Jama from Momentum tabled a motion calling for the Leader of Sheffield City Council Labour Group to be elected in an OMOV pilot by party members rather than by the Labour councillors. This was defeated by 20 votes to 11.


The meeting ended on a forward-looking note with agreement of a paper on an impressive Future Candidates Programme of training for up to 350 potential parliamentary candidates.


Since the previous NEC meeting on 11 February, I have also participated in the following other meetings. It is not my intention usually to report in detail on sub-committee meetings because when I was on the NEC before we were under instruction that reports should only be on full meetings not committees, and in the case of Disputes Panels the proceedings are confidential:


Equalities Committee – 4 March – dealing with EHRC Action Plan, All Women Shortlists, Women’s Conference, GRT working group, candidate diversity

Boundary Review Working Group – 9 March

Disputes Panel – 11 March

Organisation Committee – 11 March – dealing with EHRC Action Plan, new codes of conduct, BAME Structures, GRT working group, regional rules and standing orders

Working Group on student structures – 12 March

Health and Social Care Policy Commission – 15 March and 27 April

Full day training on Decision Making – 9 April

Training on antisemitism – 15 April

4 Disputes Panels hearings

Friday, April 30, 2021

In memory of my mum

 A few words about my mum, Nan Akehurst (nee Davies), who passed away suddenly today.


Mum was quite a character. She was fun, caring, thoughtful, arty, creative, wacky, and could be incredibly stubborn, illogical (she said logic came from maths, and she hated maths), and hot-tempered.


She was a baby boomer, whose mum and dad had put off starting a family for five years because they were busy doing their bit in WW2 as a casualty clearing station nurse and a Lance Bombardier in the 11th Survey Regiment. Back in civilian life her dad, George, returned to his teaching career, while her mum, Molly, cared for the family. Baby Nan was born in Northfleet, Kent, in June 1946. She owed her unusual first name to Scottish ancestry on her mum’s side, her maternal grandfather William McKenzie was born in Dumbarton but had travelled to Kent to find work and ended up as the Labour Mayor of Gravesend.


Mum’s childhood was marred by a series of painful operations and long stays in Great Ormond Street hospital for reconstructive surgery because she and her brother were born with a rare genetic anomaly that meant they only had one ear, and this obviously meant in later life her hearing was affected. Tragically her younger brother Billy died in a road accident when he was 11 and mum was 13. She became a rebellious teenager – school reports she kept cannot have been comfortable reading for her parents, nowadays we would say she had PTSD. Her dad’s promotions in his teaching career saw the family move first to Coventry, where my mum liked her short time at the gleaming new Whitley Abbey Comprehensive School, where her dad was a housemaster, and remembered crossing acres of still bombed out streets to get there (this would have been around 1957). Her dad’s promotion to be a secondary head teacher saw the family move back to Kent and settle in Canterbury. Mum didn’t enjoy her new school, Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar, and the loss of her brother a year later clearly had a big effect on her for a long time. She only really opened up to me about how traumatic it was a few years ago.


Mum left the Langton after a rather mixed bag of O Levels and spent a couple of years at Canterbury College of Art. It sounds like incredibly good fun, and she kept in touch for decades afterwards with her favourite teachers, but there were no jobs at the end of it. A highlight was that she designed a tie for Mick Jagger which she says he wore on stage.


After art college there was a brief period living away from home in Kingston-upon-Thames and commuting into a very dull civil service job in a tax office near The Strand.


London life didn’t appeal so mum ended up back in Canterbury and eventually found a role that really suited her as a fashion buyer in the boutique section – the clothes for younger women – at Martin’s, the main women’s wear shop in town. She also worked at Riceman's and Lenleys, department stores that were features of Canterbury shopping. The fashion job was in the late ‘60s.


1960s mum was described by her younger cousins to me today as “cool and groovy”.


By this time my mum had developed a very clear set of ideas about what she liked and what she didn’t like. She liked the Stones and despised the Beatles. She liked to be stylish, and this was achieved whether through careful saving for certain key outfits, or an incredible eye for bargains at sales and jumble sales. She liked music in a minor key and with soul to it – Motown, Ella Fitzgerald, Georgie Fame, blues, heavy Russian classical composers like Prokofiev and Rachmaninov. She liked equally soulful art: Van Gogh (who she identified with because of his missing ear), Hieronymous Bosch (thanks for the nightmares when you showed me his pictures of hell as little kid mum!), Fra Filippo Lippi. This meant on a later trip to Italy when we took her to Florence we got stuck for nearly an hour analysing one picture in the Uffizi. She liked cooking and eating spectacular meals, often waking at the crack of dawn to start preparing them, with a range from traditional roasts to French style sauces and often a choice of several hand made deserts. The Christmas parties she hosted were legendary. The final year of her life seemed to involve a lot of confit de canard. To go with the food, she liked wine – it had to be red, or if white, of a dryness akin to gargling pebbles. No fruit flavours were allowed to get in the way. Gin was also on the list of household essentials. She liked interior decoration, the house seemed to get a makeover several times a decade. She loved to read, particularly historical novels.


She did not like TV (until relatively recently – she didn’t allow one in the house until the late ‘80s), or sport, or technology, pizza, or pasta.


At the start of the 1970s she met my dad, Tony Akehurst, at the Bridge Country Club at a jazz gig, mum was working behind the bar there. They were together for the rest of her life, marrying in 1971. They would have had their 50th wedding anniversary this October. Dad was 8 years older than mum, and a farm boy from Barham in East Kent. I think he was blown away by mum’s sophisticated and fiery persona, and he provided the perfect foil for her – calm, laid back, practical. They made a brilliant team as parents to me (born 1972) and my younger siblings Sam (1974) and Ella (1976) and their loyalty and affection for each other and us has been just incredible.


Financially the 1970s were very tough for mum and dad, with mum at home with three little kids and dad in not very well-paid jobs, particularly after he returned to the family farm. They lived with my grandparents until I was two, and then in a draughty 1919 bungalow built of asbestos near the farm. This was a mile or more to the nearest bus stop, quite a hike with three children, so my mum felt very isolated.


Things looked up in 1979, though money was still short, when they were allocated a housing association house on a new estate in Chartham, a large village just outside Canterbury. Mum was delighted to be somewhere where there were people rather than just fields, and became a fixture of the village community for the rest of her life, later moving to the first and only house they bought, Swanhaven, in the heart of the village.


Mum was the Chartham village columnist for the Kentish Gazette for decades, paid 7p a line to report everything down to who got 3rd place for potatoes at the cottage gardeners’ society exhibition. She played a leading role in the Friends of Chartham Primary School, helping organise a succession of Christmas and summer fetes. She ran summer holiday play sessions for local kids, sometimes in liaison with the librarians from Canterbury children’s library. Whilst not as involved in political life as me or her grandparents, she was a member of the Labour Party from about 1980 onwards, standing once for the parish council (she didn’t enjoy being a candidate) and for many years leafletting the entire village at election times. Her politics were ferociously left-wing – she was burning with anger about her own experience of coping on Family Credit top-ups in the Thatcher years, but also about poverty, injustice and racism wherever she saw it.


Mum’s biggest contribution to village life was to be part of the upbringing not just of her own three children but of two entire generations of Chartham children. This started with helping organise the Chartham Preschool Playgroup, in the days before areas like that had any LEA provided nursery provision. This eventually folded into a proper nursery class at the local primary school, and my mum worked as a classroom assistant from the 1990s until well into her 70s. She was adored by small children and loved working with them. She stayed at the school so long that eventually children she had looked after in the 1990s came back as parents with their own children twenty years later. She spread happiness and love to hundreds of children.


Mum was delighted to become a mother-in-law to my wife Linda and Sam’s wife Catherine. She welcomed them into her family and hosted some of the most glorious, deliciously catered and wine saturated dinners you can imagine. She was even more delighted when over the last 15 years, between her three children a total of five grandsons joined the tribe.


She adored them all and loved spending time with them, and they with her. She particularly played a crucial role in the upbringing of my sister’s son Casper. My sister and her son have been living with my mum and dad as my sister has a number of health problems, and mum has sacrificed more than we will ever know to provide them with care, support and love.


Mum was a loyal friend to dozens of people. She would handwrite letters – definitely not emails, which she refused to engage with – in her extremely distinctive italicised handwriting (a graphologist would have had a field day) to contacts she had kept since school and art college days. Her art college friend Denise, who she adored, would come to stay. Every minutiae of people’s lives in the village and beyond appeared to be a matter of passionate concern. If you were alone, bereaved or having a bad time, there was a place at the dinner table. No matter her own family stresses and tribulations, and there were many, she was always there for other people.


My mum wasn’t a person who found consolation in any faith, but she lived her life by very firm values about serving and caring for others, friendship, selflessness and love.


She hated the idea of getting old, and never conceded an inch to the aging process. In going suddenly, we’ve missed a couple of decades we thought we had left of her excellent company, but she will be forever remembered as about as youthful a 74 year-old as it is possible to be.


Thank you mum for everything you have done for us. We will always be in debt to you for your love, support and care. We love you and miss you already.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

NEC Report - 11 February 2021


Although there have been the NEC Away Day and a special meeting to deal with the EHRC Action Plan, this was the first ordinary full NEC meeting I have attended since my election back onto the NEC in November.


Apparently, it was a better meeting that others in 2020 had been. The mind boggles about what they were like if this was a “better” one. Presumably, any improvement is down to the changed political balance. There is now a clear working majority that supports the leadership, making any votes that are forced performative displays of victimhood by the Hard Left for the benefit of their reports to the (rapidly dwindling based on the results of recent CLP AGMs) Momentum email list.


When I served on the NEC from 2010 to 2012 it was characterised by being a friendly, collegiate body, where people from across the spectrum of party opinion looked for issues where they could work together, treated each other respectfully, and were polite and positive towards the leadership and the General Secretary.


This longstanding culture has been broken and needs to be restored. I am assured by people who have served in the interim that the breakdown in good manners and professional behaviour is very recent, and that despite profound concerns about his leadership, moderate NEC members treated Jeremy Corbyn with respect and courtesy.


Now we have a situation where the majority on the NEC are behaving in a comradely, professional way and a minority are being relentlessly uncomradely.


The six and a half hours of the NEC meeting included large sections where the time of people of good will who are trying to make Labour electable was wasted in order for people who don’t want Keir to succeed to undermine him with a litany of negativity.


Time, because of what members choose to focus their questions on, is disproportionately spent on attack lines about confected internal cause celebres that excite the hyper-active, have already been extensively aired on social media and are of very little interest to the mass of party members let alone Labour or potentially Labour voters (whether Keir should appear next to our national flag, the end of the Community Organising Unit, suspensions for ignoring instructions about non-competent business, Jeremy Corbyn’s disciplinary case, something that Lord Falconer has said). Rather less time is spent making positive proposals or offering constructive scrutiny that might help the party staff with their immediate and huge task of rebuilding a party traumatised by the Corbyn era and winning the bumper lot of elections that are happening in May.


It is like having an opposition party inside the NEC meeting trying actively to damage the party. On occasion people were overtly personally rude as well.


I think this is a terrible waste. There are talented people from across the political spectrum on the NEC. If everyone played their role as team players we could achieve so much more, and in fact the left of the party would be far more likely to advance its agenda by being collegiate and constructive.


This is not a good use of Keir, Angela or David’s time, and their forbearance, dignity and calm in putting up with this nonsense is extraordinary, as is Margaret Beckett’s skill as chair.


Keir’s report was delivered from Heathrow where he had been meeting Unite union reps in solidarity with their dispute over fire and rehire. He outlined Labour’s approach to the Budget on 3 March and to the May elections, stressing that we want to “build forward” to a different, more equal future, rather than “build back” to the pre-Covid world as the Tories want. Keir said Labour will be fleshing out the detail of our practical “Recovery and Rebuild” policy proposals, which are in the three areas of health and wellbeing, the economy, and redistributing power.


Keir reported that Labour had forced Opposition Day debates on topics that were important to raise in Parliament and divided Tory MPs: fire and rehire, Universal Credit and Cladding.


In the Q&A I asked Keir to emulate the Biden campaign by consistently driving home the message about the need to sign up for postal votes.


Keir was on incredible form and dealt with all the questions, positive and negative, with great answers.


Angela Rayner’s report focused on campaigning but again there were silly attempts by the Hard Left to extract damaging answers, such as asking for foolhardy predictions about May’s elections. Have these people never heard of expectation management? I was pleased that Angela specifically picked up on my theme about postal voting and set out steps that are being taken.


David Evans read out a letter from the Forde Inquiry, saying they had had to pause publication of their report while the Information Commissioner’s Office conducted an investigation into the data breach associated with the leak that Forde was investigating. The report has already been delayed because the panel has conducted so many interviews and considered so many submissions. The letter has now been published on the Forde Inquiry website: https://www.fordeinquiry.org/forde-inquiry-update/


David also covered progress on the Organise to Win 2024 programme of organisational change, staff diversity, and the EHRC Action Plan, where he reported on creation of an Antisemitism Advisory Board (biographies here: https://labour.org.uk/antisemitism/action-plan/ ) and said training for staff and the NEC would be completed by 29 April.


On the suspensions for ignoring guidance about non-competent business about antisemitism there had been no blanket policy of suspensions, they had been on a case-by-case basis and were being resolved by Disputes Panel hearings. The key issue was that the EHRC Report had made the Labour Party legally responsible for the actions of its “agents” down to the level of councillors and branch and CLP officers. David said he would, after consulting the NEC, recast and reissue an updated set of guidance in order for CLPs to be able to frame discussions about antisemitism in a safe and inclusive way. He would also change the disciplinary process so that members could be issued with reminders of conduct and formal warnings without them having to be suspended.


I welcomed David’s proposed change to the disciplinary process as I don’t think it is fair for people breaching the rules in less serious cases to lose their right to hold office for months and eventually only get a written reprimand. But I made it clear that I supported the party having taken the action then available to it to stop uncontrolled debates about issues around antisemitism, which could have created flash points that would have caused a hostile environment for Jewish members and could have led to further legal and EHRC problems for the party. I said that many members had contacted me demanding the party take action to tackle the unpleasant culture in their CLPs and desperately wanted positive debates about policy and campaigning, not meeting after acrimonious meeting focused on the debate around antisemitism and the disciplinary process.


The membership report revealed we now have over 512,000 members, 19% of whom have joined since the start of 2020. I urged the party to work with affiliated unions to bring union members into full individual membership to redress the longstanding disproportionate bias in the party’s membership towards older middle class white male graduates and the London and South East regions.


We were given an update on the review of how the party makes policy, which will now move to a period of focussed engagement led by Angela, with rule changes to be proposed at Annual Conference. David said he was committed to there being a 2021 Annual Conference but Covid meant there were still two scenarios, a full conference and a socially distant one.


The most important item from my point of view was the update on the May elections, presented by the newly appointed Executive Director Elections & Field Delivery, Anna Hutchinson. This is a uniquely challenging double set of elections, with the added complication of Covid meaning that doorstep campaigning is unlikely to be possible and in-person voters will be told to wear a mask and even take their own pen or pencil! The party’s top priorities are maximising the number of postal voters, which we are describing as “early voters” as postal voting has connotations of being for older people only; and using the newly upgraded Dialogue phone canvassing. It was fantastic to hear that as much canvassing is now being done via Dialogue as was being done conventionally pre-lockdown. I was pleased that Anna responded positively to my suggestion of greater use of twinning and targeting of key marginal areas given that this is particularly easy when almost all the work is being done by phone. She said the party will be pushing a message to CLPs that every third Dialogue session they run should be in support of a marginal area.


We agreed that in Sandwell, where there has been a lot of local infighting (largely unrelated to national left vs. right conflicts), to ensure the council candidate selections are run fairly they should be untaken by panels consisting of regional appointees, and we added two of our own NEC colleagues, Nick Forbes and James Asser, to the panel line-ups.


A working group to come up with a model for re-establishing a student wing of the Labour Party was agreed. I was very pleased to be appointed to serve on this as I am a former National Secretary of Labour Students.


We agreed that overseas members in the Labour International CLP should be allowed to pay the concessionary membership fee if they are unwaged, when previously all overseas members had been charged the full rate.


Finally, we agreed to sign up the Labour Party to the employer aspects of the Armed Forces Covenant.  


Between the NEC Away Day on 24 November and this meeting I also participated in the following other meetings. It is not my intention usually to report in detail on sub-committee meetings because when I was on the NEC before we were under instruction that reports should only be on full meetings not committees, and in the case of Disputes Panels the proceedings are confidential:


·         Training for serving on Sexual Harassment disciplinary panels – 3 December and 2 February

·         Two Disputes Panel hearings.

·         Equalities Committee meeting on EHRC Action Plan – 4 December – this elected James Asser as the new committee Chair.

·         Special full NEC meeting on the EHRC Action Plan – 7 December

·         Development Fund Panel – 10 December – this panel allocates grants to CLPs

·         Equalities Committee – 14 January – this included items on the EHRC Action Plan, Women’s Conference, tackling anti-GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) racism, and BAME working group.  

·         Disputes Panel – 21 January – this elected Shabana Mahmood as the new Panel Chair and received statistics on total numbers of cases being resolved etc.

·         Organisation Committee – 21 January – this elected Wendy Nichols as the new committee Chair. I was elected to the working group on the parliamentary boundary review, and as the NEC link member for Labour International CLP. Items considered included the Liverpool Mayor candidate selection process, boundary review, ensuring high quality candidates, election of Young Labour equalities positions, membership data access and use for CLP officers.

·         I have also been elected to the NPF Health and Social Care Policy Commission, but this has not met yet.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NEC Report - 24 November 2020

 Yesterday was my first NEC meeting after an eight-year gap.

I wanted to give you a quick report back so that you can be confident all of us elected on the Labour to Win ticket are doing the job of representing you that you would expect.

I think I ought to have anticipated a fraught start to the meeting when outgoing Chair Andi Fox congratulated a list of newly elected list of members and perhaps accidentally, perhaps on purpose, left out my name, and then had to be reminded to grudgingly add it.

Within minutes we were into an explosive row about who should be NEC Chair. This matters, it isn’t just about effective chairing of often contentious meetings, the Chair can rule out agenda items and only be overturned on this by a two thirds majority (which supporters of the leadership don’t have, we only have a simple majority), and the Chair and Vice-Chair sit on the extremely powerful NEC Officers group, which makes urgent decisions between NEC meetings. A hostile Chair using their role negatively could really damage Keir Starmer’s ability to lead Labour effectively.

The Hard Left argued that the outgoing NEC Vice-Chair Ian Murray (from the Fire Brigades Union, not the Scottish MP of the same name) was next in line to be chair.

We argued that the principle of seniority should be restored, which had been Labour’s custom and practice for four decades until broken by the Hard Left in 2017. This meant that we nominated Margaret Beckett for Chair as the longest-serving NEC member. She first joined the NEC in 1980, whereas Ian Murray has only been on the NEC about three years.

At this point Howard Beckett from Unite and Laura Pidcock attacked Keir and the General Secretary for “factionalism” and led a virtual walkout (it was a Zoom meeting) of 13 Hard Left NEC members.

In my first intervention I condemned this extraordinary behaviour. The disrespectful and personalised attacks on Keir and David Evans and the childish petulance of the walkout really shocked me, as when I had previously served on the NEC from 2010-2012 it had been a very comradely and collegiate body. Apparently this rude and aggressive behaviour only started in April when Keir became leader. The people who walked out failed their own supporters by leaving them voiceless in the rest of the meeting. This isn’t the serious approach to internal governance that a potential party of government needs to demonstrate, particularly when under scrutiny from the EHRC.

The rest of the eight-hour meeting was quorate, friendly, constructive, and brilliantly chaired by Margaret Beckett, who we went on to elect nem con once the kerfuffle from their stunt had died down. Alice Perry was also elected nem con as Vice-Chair. Congratulations to them both. They will bring much needed calm and experienced leadership to the NEC. Margaret is an iconic figure as Labour’s first woman Deputy Leader, Acting Leader and Foreign Secretary, who brings huge gravitas to the role of Chair.

During the formal part of the meeting we agreed a new NEC Code of Conduct (clearly behaviour of members needs to improve); a process for dealing with CLP motions sent to us; an important review of Safeguarding for children and vulnerable adults who participate in the Labour Party; and gave the go ahead for an online Labour Women’s Conference from 25-27 June 2021, which will elect the National Labour Party Women’s Committee. 

In the afternoon we had our “Away Day” where staff presented to us and we brainstormed ideas around three themes; Elections 2021, Engaging our Membership under Covid, and Effective Governance. We learned that Labour now has 540,000 members, a historically very high total.

We heard reports from both Keir and Angela Rayner. Keir answered questions on the forthcoming Brexit deal vote, devolution, public sector pay, Islamophobia (the party is drawing up an action plan to tackle it), local government funding, and shop workers. 

After an unnecessarily and wholly inappropriately disrupted start this felt like a good beginning for the new NEC with its new pro-leadership working majority. I’m honoured that your votes have allowed me to serve on the NEC and help with the big task of repairing the party. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Labour NEC Elections - state of the race

According to the CLP nominations so far, I'm currently 10th in the race for the 9 CLP reps on the NEC, which is an exciting place to be!

The deadline for CLPs to nominate NEC candidates is fast approaching on the 27th September.

There are over 200 CLPs with nomination meetings scheduled in the next two weeks.

How is the battle for nominations going so far?

The headline figures are that Momentum are ahead, but not by an insurmountable margin given there are hundreds of CLPs still to nominate. Labour to Win candidates already have more nominations than in 2018, with two weeks to go, and Momentum have lost many of the CLPs they won then. Here are the numbers from Friday, when 120 CLPs in total had nominated:

Laura Pidcock                      Momentum                    83 CLPs
Ann Black                            Open Labour                  81
Yasmine Dar                         Momentum                   68
Gemma Bolton                     Momentum                    67
Mish Rahman                       Momentum                     65
Johanna Baxter                  Labour to Win                     61
Nadia Jama                           Momentum                            60
Gurinder Singh Josan      Labour to Win                     59
Ann Henderson                    Momentum                            56
Luke Akehurst                    Labour to Win                     45
Theresa Griffin                    Tribune                                 38
Jermain Jackman                 Open Labour                        36
Michael Payne                    Labour to Win                     35
Terry Paul                            Labour to Win                     31
Shama Tatler                       Labour to Win                     30
Paula Sherriff                      Tribune                                 25
Crispin Flintoff                      Independent                         16
Roger Silverman                  Labour Left Alliance            14
Vince Maple                          Independent                         12
Liz McInnes                          Tribune                                  11
Cameron Mitchell                 Independent                         11
Alex Beverley                       Independent                         11

Another 12 candidates also have the required 5 nominations to get on the ballot.

Things to bear in mind:

·         The final ballot is by Single Transferable Vote so it will award seats roughly proportionately between the factions – the days of one grouping taking all nine seats are gone.
·         Any increase in our representation from the 2 of 9 seats we already hold strengthens the mainstream majority on the NEC as a whole.
·         Over 100,000 new members who joined the party to vote for Keir, Lisa or Jess didn’t get a vote in the February NEC by-elections that saw Gurinder and Johanna narrowly win. They can now vote. And the Hard Left keep complaining that many of their supporters have quit the party …
·         With every week of nominations, our position has got stronger compared to Momentum’s.
·         Over 80% of the CLPs nominating Labour to Win candidates are gains we didn't win in 2018.
·         We are doing best in CLPs with All Member Meetings where the new members can vote, and Momentum are mainly holding on where there is a delegate GC system – AGM cancellations due to the General Election and COVID mean some GC delegates were elected at the height of Corbynism in 2018.
·         We are doing best in the CLPs with the largest membership that will have the most voting members in the final ballot while many of Momentum’s nominations come from small CLPs.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Unite Executive Council Elections 2020

If you are a Unite union member you will get a ballot for the Executive Council elections if there are contested elections in your region and/or industrial sector.

They must be returned by 12 noon on Thursday 18th June 2020.

Members who have not received a ballot paper by Monday 8th June 2020 should contact the ballot enquiry service on 0800 783 3856 (0818 333 155 from the Republic of Ireland or Gibraltar).

Details of candidates are here: https://secure.cesvotes.com/V3-0-0/unitenominates2020/en/home?bbp=6942&x=-1

I have seen the following list of suggestions circulated for who members should vote for if they want the union to change direction:

Noel Gibson
Marie Casey

North East Yorkshire and Humberside Region
Gary Andrews

Grieg McArthur
Helen McFarlane

South East Region
Dominic Rothwell

Kerry Owens

West Midlands Region
Stuart Hedley

Engineering, Manufacturing and Steel
Gary Buchan

Food, Drink and Agriculture
Neelam Verma
Matt Gould

Finance and Legal
Jacob Goddard
Fiona Tatem

Steve Thompson
Tracey Osment

Local Authorities
Lisa Colquhoun
Kevin Woods

Passenger Transport
Nigel Atkinson
Simon Rosenthal

Road Transport Commercial, Warehousing and Logistics
Mick Casey
Paul Shedd

Service Industries
Howard Percival

Unite Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians
Jamie Bramwell
Stuart Grice

National Black and Asian Ethnic Minority Members’ Constituency
Raffiq Moussa

Friday, March 06, 2015

Council by-elections

Here are the recent council by-elections. Labour's vote increased in all 5:

5 March

Kenton Ward, LB Brent. Con hold. Con 1097 (51.6%, +0.3), Lab 839 (39.4%, +7), Green 121 (5.7%, -4.3), LD 79 (3.3%, -3). Swing of 3.4% from Con to Lab since 2014.

St Pancras & Somers Town Ward, LB Camden. Lab hold. Lab 1481 (72.8%, +4.7), Con 243 (12%, +2), Green 213 (10.5%, -4.8), LD 96 (4.7%, -1.9). Swing of 1.4% from Con to Lab since 2014.

Selhurst Ward, LB Croydon. Lab hold. Lab 1517 (71.5%, +19.4), Con  246 (11.6%, -2), Green 148 (7%, -1.5), UKIP 147 (6.9%, -5.6), LD 65 (3.1%, -2.9). Swing of 10.7% from Con to Lab since 2014.

Bocking Division, Essex CC. Con gain from UKIP. Con 1071 (34.3%, +2.1), Lab 974 (31.2%, +1.3), UKIP 855 (27.4%, -5.3), Green 165 (5.3%, +2.2), Ind 58 (1.9%, +1.9). Swing of 0.4% from Lab to Con since 2013.

19 Feb

Hengoed Ward, Carmarthenshire UA. Lab hold. Lab 335 (33.2%, +7), PC 313 (31%, +6.6), UKIP 152 (15%, +15), People First 80 (7.9%, -18.2), Ind 76 (7.5%, +7.5), Con 54 (5.3%, +5.3). Swing of 0.2% from PC to Con since 2012.

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