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.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

NEC Report – 26 March 2024

The first substantive item at the full NEC meeting on 26 March was David Evans’ report as General Secretary. David said he was disappointed that the General Election had not been called for 2nd May as the staff were all ready to fight it. Now the local elections and General Election would be fought sequentially. There was a live possibility that Sunak would lose control of the Tory party and be forced into a June or July election to forestall a leadership challenge. Tory digital and print spent had increased immensely, showing they had been ready for a May election, but bottled it. Restrictions on staff leave were being kept in place so that we remained on an election footing. The internal task forces had completed that General Election budgets and staffing registers for the short campaign.

David said we were now fighting local election and a parliamentary byelection in Blackpool South on 2nd May. There were three very tough mayoral contests in East Midlands, West Midlands and Tees Valley. The new HQ had been refurbished and six of the regional parties had moved into new or refurbished premises. Labour Central, the party’s back office hub in Newcastle, had also been refurbished. Fundraising was going well, with 30% of members donating in addition to their membership fees. David commended Teddy Ryan, the South East Regional Director, who had been so successful in raising donations from businesses that he was subsidising other regions. The Party’s lottery was now raising £300,000 a year. CLPs and Regions have been given QR codes enabling them to keep half the income from each lottery ticket they sell. Membership was now 366,604, of whom a historically low proportion, 11,713, were in arrears.


David said there were increasing concerns about the security of elected members, staff, members and volunteers, and he had met all the relevant government agencies. He was pushing them to remove and distinction between the protection MPs get when they are engaged in parliamentary business and when they are engaged in party business, as the threat level is the same. There had also been cyber attacks by foreign state actors and individuals, so information security was a high priority. Unfortunately, different police forces take different stances on MP and councillor security. We want national standards applied and in the short campaign each party has a senior police officer attached to them enabling us to escalate concerns very quickly.


In the Q&A I said that communication with CLPs and unsuccessful candidates in the non-battleground selections had not been satisfactory and had detracted from the selection of excellent and diverse candidates. David committed to improving communications with both candidates and CLPs about the remaining selections.


He said that publicity making claims about abuse of the Anonyvoter system used for online voting in selections was “fake news” and completely misplaced and misdirected, and that nothing that had happened in the Croydon East selection related to Anonyvoter.


He responded affirmatively to a request from Gurinder Josan to support Muslim stakeholders engaging with their communities following the Gaza war.


He agreed to change the deadline date for contemporary motions to Women’s Conference so that meetings to pass motions could happen at a reasonable time during the year.


He said Labour would take a tough line on any Labour MP accepting donations from Owen Jones’ “We Deserve Better” initiative, as this was also funding Green and independent candidates.


He said that in Government we would change the remit of the Electoral Commission to focus it on enfranchising the maximum number of voters, whereas the Tories had tried to supress turnout with the new ID requirements and rule on needing National Insurance numbers on postal vote applications.


Next, Deputy National Campaign Coordinator Ellie Reeves MP reported on the local election campaign. She said the Government was at the mercy of events as there was continuous leadership challenge speculation. The Budget had not moved the Labour poll lead. The Tories were putting party before country with the fiscal irresponsibility of their £46 billion in tax cut promises. Their Rwanda deportations policy was now centre stage and was under scrutiny over cost and effectiveness. They could lose control of the General Election date, so we have to be ready to fight one at any time. The four pillars of our campaign were that the country needs change, the Tories have failed, Keir has changed Labour, and we have a plan for long term change.


Ellie said we would treat the three key mayoral contests like byelections. There was a political lead in each one: Steve McCabe MP in West Midlands, Lord (Vernon) Coaker in East Midlands, and Julie Elliott MP in Tees Valley. There were also target councils we were directing activists to via www.events.labour.org.uk. MPs were being asked to make three campaign visits to these battlegrounds during the recess and two more after that.  


We had launched a new site for sharing social media content: www.social.labour.org.uk.


Morgan McSweeney reported as Elections Director. He said Council Tax was up because the Tory government had systematically under-funded social care. We had been ready for a 2nd May General Election and would remind voters of the change they could have had if the Tories had not bottled it. We had strong policies to offer around growth, devolution, the NHS (especially access to GPs and dentists), and law and order. We would apply our national policy missions to local council areas, particularly in those parliamentary battleground seats that are in the three key mayoral areas. These would be challenging to win as the East Midlands one was a new mayoralty and the Tory incumbents in West Midlands and Tees Valley were running on a narrative of opposition to their own government! This was the smallest set of council seats up for election in each four year cycle. A plurality of them were already Labour. We had already maxed out gains in many of these areas. The incumbent Government usually gains council seats in a General Election year. The Tories are only defending 800 council seats. Because of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, every voter in England and Wales has a vote. The Tories have changed the goalposts by increasing spending limits and changing the mayoral electoral system to First Past the Post. Sunak is saying these elections are about sending a message to Labour, but councils are going bust because of national government funding cuts. There is no read across from Ben Houchen and Andy Street’s personal votes as mayors to what might happen in a General Election.


As I am the NEC link member to Labour International, our CLP for overseas members, I asked about measures that could be taken to secure more votes from overseas voters, many of whom are newly re-enfranchised. Ellie said that our most powerful tool in this regard was asking our members to remind relatives living overseas to register. The focus needed to be on those who were entitled to register in marginal constituencies. Morgan said that frontbenchers could reach overseas voters through appearances in expat specific media.


Morgan said that the London Mayor and Assembly contest did not require as much central support as the three previously mentioned because the London CLPs have such large and active memberships. In contrast, additional funding, digital effort and staffing were going into Scotland, which has historically had smaller membership CLPs.


He said within the battleground seats there was a focus of resources on the core battleground, the seats which were neither easier to gain nor the most stretching targets, but that would give us a working majority.   


Keir Starmer then gave his Leader’s report. He reiterated that the organisation had been ready for a 2nd May General Election, but this was still a really important set of elections. We had to keep focused and keep the momentum going, as a one or two seat parliamentary majority requires a bigger swing than Labour got in 1997. We must avoid complacency due to the large poll leads as that would drive down turnout. He had attended Sadiq Khan’s campaign  launch and had campaigned with the new First Minister Vaughan Gething in North Wales. Vaughan’s election was a historic moment, the first black leader of any government in Europe. It would be amazing to have a Labour Government in Westminster working with the devolved administrations, not holding them back. Keir thanked Mark Drakeford for his years of service, especially during the pandemic. He repeated the need to keep focused and disciplined through to 2nd May and then through the summer.


In the Q&A, Keir said there would be an anti-poverty strategy from day one of a Labour Government.


On the Gaza UN Security Council vote, he said the US and Israel now had different public positions. This reinforces Labour’s decision to call for an immediate ceasefire. Our motion in the last parliamentary debate had been proven to be the correct policy stance. There are one million civilians in Rafah, they need a ceasefire, the hostages need to be got out, and aid needs to go in, and there needs to be a foot in the door for a political process for a two state solution. It would be a Labour Government’s solemn duty to drive the two state agenda politically. But the fact that fighting is still going on despite the UNSC vote shows that just calling for a ceasefire doesn’t make one happen.


Keir said he was committed to the New Deal for Working People and dignity at work. Good terms and conditions led to higher productivity, so this was part of our strategy for building a stronger economy. He had told the TUC Labour was pro-business and he had told business conferences that we were pro-union and would bring in the New Deal.


On house building, he said the plight of young people, paying a fortune in rent or stuck with their parents as mortgages were unaffordable, was appalling, and a commitment to house building was a key dividing line with other parties.


He said he was against fire and rehire, wherever it is, including if the employer is a Labour council.


He said Sunak cannot put himself in the shoes of people who are struggling, and the fact the Tories are leaving the country worse than they found it is unforgivable.


He said Frank Hester’s abusive comments about Diane Abbott were racist and misogynistic and it was shocking that Sunak had sent ministers out to argue they weren’t. Diane had suffered abuse for decades and she was a trailblazer as the first black woman MP. However, there was a separate process about Diane’s own remarks in the letter to the Observer. He could not comment on individual disciplinary cases as that would be going down the slippery slope that had led his predecessor to the EHRC Report. But there are reasons why some cases take a long time. There has to be a formal fact-finding investigation. Then a chance for the person accused of breaking the rules to respond. They don’t always play ball within the time frame and you can’t move on until they do. In most cases, once it has been established that something wrong happened, and a sanction has been determined, there is then a decision to be taken before the whip is restored to establish what the person needs to do to come back into being a Labour MP, e.g. an apology, or training, or accepting the findings. Individuals sometimes don’t cooperate with these requirements.


Votes for the Greens, Lib Dems and smaller parties help the Tories and make it more difficult for Labour to remove the Tory government. The Greens would not take the country forward. There was a straight choice between a transformative Labour Government or rewarding the Tories for 14 years of failure with another 5 years in power.


We then received a report on the Bernie Grant Leadership Programme, which was about nurturing Black talent in the party. 30 participants had been chosen from 528 applications. It was a bespoke programme with a lot of resource and staff time put into it. The next cohort would have a wider BAME profile, rather than being specifically Black.


We approved a new code of conduct on disablism. As a disabled member, I thanked Disabled Rep on the NEC Ellen Morrison for her hard work with staff to bring forward this important set of protections.


Angela Rayner then gave her Deputy Leader’s report. She thanked Mark Drakeford and commented on Vaughan Gething’s election. She commended our incumbent mayors for their work on policy areas such as bringing buses back into public control, and tackling violence against women and girls, and challenged us to imagine how much more could be done if the mayors were working hand-in-hand with a Labour government.  She was launching a plan to tackle regional inequality and highlighted how the Tories had changed funding formulas to take money away from the most deprived local authorities and give it to the most affluent. She said Michael Gove’s proposals around counter-extremism needed very careful scrutiny as they might have unintended consequences. The New Deal for Working People was creating headlines and it was important to note that it was polling incredibly well. Angela said she, Keir and Rachel were pro-worker and pro-business, the two go hand in hand. The New Deal will be central to our economic mission. In the Q&A I commended Angela on the dignified way she had dealt with abusive comments and a very invasive book by Lord Ashcroft, and said she had the whole NEC’s solidarity.


Finally, we considered the BAME Labour development plan. A major finding of the Forde Report was the need to get BAME Labour back on its feet, as it has been moribund since 2018 and so the party has lacked an effective BAME affiliate. There had been problems getting membership and financial records, so it was proposed to appoint an interim committee which would get BAME Labour back on a stable governance footing, get it campaign-ready for the General Election, and organise an AGM. Unfortunately, it was not possible to agree this at the meeting, as colleagues from the trade unions wanted a period of consultation, so there was a vote by 13 to 10 to defer the paper until the May NEC. I was one of the 10 who voted to move forward immediately.


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

NEC Report – 23 January 2024


The NEC meeting on 23 January began with obituaries and eulogies for Derek Draper, Glenys Kinnock, Tony Lloyd and Alan Rogers.


Our first substantive item was to conclude the NEC’s work on the Forde Report by receiving a final paper on progress on its implementation from Vidhya Alakeson, Director of External Relations.


This report noted that 154 of Forde’s 165 recommendations have been completed, and only 11 had been considered but would not be being progressed.


Activity noted included:

·         Roll-out of the enhanced Member’s Pledge and Leadership Code of Conduct about acceptable behaviour

·         Development of an Afrophobia and anti-Black racism training module, with training by Patrick Vernon OBE, Marta Cuffy and the Diversity Trust

·         New employee code of conduct and social media policy

·         Changes to recruitment and management of staff


Anneliese Dodds MP said that the key was to focus on cultural change and make sure that became fully embedded.


Ann Black noted that adversarial motions about sensitive topics can make meetings unwelcoming and asked for there to be time limits on disciplinary procedures.


Abdi Duale said there was still not a forum for BAME members to organise in as BAME Labour had been moribund since 2017.


Johanna Baxter said one member’s vigorous discussion can be another member’s nightmare meeting they never want to come back to.


Angela Eagle MP said that there was too much history in the party of factional abuse about people’s personal characteristics to drive them out of activity and making meetings long and unpleasant to gain control of them and shrink the number of people prepared to turn up.


Keir was unable to be present to give a Leader’s Report as he needed to be in the Commons for a statement about the Middle East and tributes to Tony Lloyd.


David Evans began his report as General Secretary by showing us a new video commemorating 100 years since the first Labour Government: https://x.com/LabourTraining/status/1749707717713813553?s=20


He said there had been some immense results in the five byelections in 2023 but they had put huge pressure on the organisation. They had been used to learn, develop, innovate and test campaign techniques for the General Election.


The party was now campaigning in a holistic way, bringing together field, comms and digital.


There would be a big push on mobilising members to campaign.


We now have two more byelections we must win on 15 February in Kingswood and Wellingborough. The latter is particularly tough. Further byelections are down the track in Rochdale and Blackpool South.


The nature of the General Election will be extremely volatile, very expensive as the Tories have almost doubled the national spending limit, and with fragmented media consumption.


As well as the now 100 trainee organisers and digital trainees, the party has a new media monitoring operation, a new attack and rebuttal unit and is now physically in a new HQ. An opinion poll of the general public we had commissioned had shown 10% of them would do something to help us win the election if we ask them to.


We have to be on a General Election footing for a 2 May Polling Day and be ruthlessly focused as we need a 12% swing to win, which is without precedent, and we need to exceed our national swing in the battleground seats.


A staff survey had shown the staff fully understand our mission and goals, and 500 staff had attended an Away Day last week about the election campaign. The key presentation from this would be rolled out across the party so that members understand our basic strategy. Residentials for candidates and key activists from battleground seats were being held in every region.


180 candidates in battleground seats had been selected, with almost 50% women, despite not legally being able to use All Women Shortlists. The 211 non-battleground seat selections were being fast-tracked.


The majority of regions and nations have moved or are about to move to improved new premises.


We want Annual Conference 2024 to exceed 2023’s on income, attendance and political impact.


Our brilliant fundraising team is breaking all previous records and the new lottery we are running is already bringing in £250,000 a year.


Membership is now 390,000 of whom 14,000 are in arrears and 2,868 joined since 1 January (a higher rate of joining than in 2023). A membership surge is anticipated as we get nearer to the General Election.


We are looking at the most effective way of registering overseas voters who have been abroad for more than 15 years, as they are now newly enfranchised and vote where they last lived in the UK.


The single most effective way we can increase turnout is by getting our supporters to sign up for a postal vote. New regulations mean that the application form requires the voter’s national insurance number and therefore must be returned to the Electoral Registration Officer in a sealed envelope.


David pledged to meet the new Young Labour committee when they are elected.


Ellie Reeves MP, Deputy National Campaign Co-ordinator, gave a General Election update. She stressed we can’t take our eye off the target seat strategy and urged everyone to participate in national campaign weekends. She detailed who the MPs are that are “political leads” on the campaign in each region and nation. She unveiled refreshed new branding which is available as templates for leaflets and online materials on “Connects” and the print package options for the short campaign being offered to incumbent MPs.


Morgan McSweeney reported as Elections Director. He said that a 2 May General Election was exactly 100 days away. Opinion polls can move very quickly. Do not underestimate the chaos inside the Tory party, which is broken and divided. The PM may not be in control of events and may have to call an election to pre-empt a leadership challenge.


The Tories have been changing many election rules and the evidence all points to a 2 May Polling Day. They have timed Budget Day for early March not the usual late March. They have increased their digital spend, speeded up their candidate selections and cancelled the Lords Recess so they can get the Rwanda Bill through. They brought forward the National Insurance cut from April to January at a cost to the Treasury of £2.6 billion. They have not given up – they are pumping direct mails and leaflets into their 80 defensive marginals. They will use Labour’s big poll lead to try to turn the election into a referendum about Labour, rather than about their record in government.


Our messaging is clear:

1)    It’s time for a change

2)    The Tories have failed for 14 years and can’t be allowed to claim Sunak is a fresh start

3)    Keir has changed Labour

4)    We have a long-term plan to change the country


We have to gain about ¼ of all the seats in the Commons to win a working majority, but physically we can’t have the same level of resource in that many seats, so decisions are being made on which smaller subset of those seats to put the most resource into based on data and intelligence. Targeting is a zero-sum game due to spending limits and finite resources. We are being transparent with battleground candidates about how much support they can expect so they can plan accordingly.


The Kingswood and Wellingborough byelections are both challenging in different ways. Because Kingswood is being abolished in the boundary review, only part of the seat was previously being worked as a battleground. Wellingborough is very challenging politically, the percentage of the electorate who signed the recall petition was only 11%, far below Rutherglen’s.


If the May local elections go ahead without a simultaneous General Election, the Mayoral contests will get a lot of attention. All of them have battleground parliamentary seats in them, but that is particularly the case in the new East Midlands and Tees Valley ones and the West Midlands. Tees Valley requires a massive swing.


26 March is the last day on which a 2 May General Election can be called and the likely date for calling it would be 17 or 18 March.


Reform are polling very high, mostly from 2019 Tory voters, but Tory MPs will try to squeeze the Reform vote with right-wing rhetoric.


Tom Lillywhite, Director of Digital, gave a detailed report on Labour’s digital campaigning, highlighting the excellent work being done by the new digital trainees. He showed us examples of videos being made in vertical framing for sharing on phones for all battleground candidates, featuring both the candidates and the real voices of swing voters. A Digital Skills Academy was training all field organisers to be content creators. We are transforming our organising and mobilisation technology.


The meeting ended with Angela Rayner’s report as Deputy Leader. She paid tribute to Tony Lloyd and then went on to talk through the big issues that Parliament had been dealing with. On Gaza, she reiterated Labour’s support for a sustainable ceasefire, the release of all the Israeli hostages, and a two state solution. Keir had not been informed in advance of the most recent airstrikes on the Houthis but had subsequently been briefed on Privy Council terms. There was an Opposition Day Debate on Tata Steel. Labour’s Crime Week would focus on knife crime and the cuts to youth services. Health Week last week had focused on NHS dentistry. Local government was facing immense financial pressures and Labour had a long-term funding plan for it. Angela concluded with a passionate call for Labour to be united and disciplined in comparison with Tory infighting.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

NEC Report – 28 November 2023

 The November NEC meeting is always the Away Day, a more strategic meeting that looks at the year ahead. We met this time in at Labour Central, the party’s back-office hub in Newcastle upon Tyne. On the day previous to the meeting I was one of a number of NEC members to go canvassing for Sam Rushworth, Labour’s candidate in the target marginal seat of Bishop Auckland.


There are a number of business items that have to be signed off at the start of the Away Day, so we began the day by rattling through those: the NEC Aims and Objectives, terms of reference for and membership of all our committees and sub-committees, and dates for all our meetings in 2024.


Angela Eagle reported as Chair of Equalities that the proposed relaunch of BAME Labour was on a pathway to happening now that various constitutional issues had been resolved.


I asked about the panel reviewing our position on standing candidates in Northern Ireland (we have a legal commitment to review this once in every parliament) and was told it would report early in the New Year.


Gurinder Singh Josan proposed that coopted representatives on the Equalities Committee should only be from affiliated socialist societies, not campaigns and groups that are not formally affiliated to the party. This was agreed, but with the proviso that it would not affect groups already invited to the meetings.


A timetable for elections to the Labour Students and Young Labour National Committees was agreed. Nominations will open this Friday, 1 December. Nominations will close on Friday 23 February. The ballots will run from 7 March to 29 March. CLPs and Young Labour branches can nominate for the Young Labour committee, whereas nominations in Labour Students are made by individuals who have registered as students with the party and verified their student status. The final date for students to join, pay off arrears and register their student status to participate in the ballot is Friday 15 December.


This is a different timetable to the one for all the other national ballots (CLP reps on NEC, NPF, etc) which was signed off at the Organisation Committee. For the main set of ballots nominations open on 12 January and close at 11.59 on Friday 28 June. These are also the dates for the opening and closing of registration for Annual Conference delegates.


Annual Conference will be held from Sunday 22 September to Wednesday 25

September 2024, with the deadline for contemporary motions being 5pm on Thursday 12 September and for emergency motions being 12 noon on Friday 20 September.


It was agreed that, because it was a General Election year, the 2024 National Women’s Conference would follow the same format as 2023, a one-day conference on the Saturday before (21 September) and using the same venue as Annual Conference in Liverpool. After discussion, it was agreed not to make any recommendation to the Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee about the number of motion topics the National Women’s Conference could debate. It was agreed to consult the National Women’s Committee, Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee and women in the party more widely about whether they preferred a separate two-day conference or to continue the current arrangement in 2025 and subsequent years.


After this initial business we spent the rest of the day hearing detailed presentations from key staff about the General Election.


General Secretary David Evans said we had made big organisational changes to be election-ready and there was no complacency about the challenge.


Deputy National Campaign Co-ordinator Ellie Reeves MP said she believed the Tories were in the process of changing strategy to a “better the devil you know” theme from an earlier attempt to frame Rishi Sunak as a change candidate. They want to make the election a referendum on Labour rather than a referendum on their performance in government. They will try to deny Labour has changed.


Ellie said the by-election results recently had been brilliant, including in Mid Beds where there had been an attempt to say Labour could not win and that we should leave it to the Lib Dems. A highly visible garden poster campaign had helped show we were competitive. Each byelection took up an incredible amount of our resources but provided invaluable training opportunities for staff and activists. The results have sown doubt and division among the Tories. They don’t however predict the future, and there is still a huge task for Labour.


Our themes are that:

·         It is time for change.

·         The Tories have failed and will fail again.

·         Keir has changed Labour.

·         We have a long-term plan for the country.


We have a strong, funded policy offer based on:

·         Fiscal stability thanks to our fiscal rules

·         700,000 extra dental appointments in the areas of greatest need, and 2 million extra NHS procedures and operations.

·         Our five-point plan to tackle crime and shoplifting.

·         Breakfast clubs in every primary school.

·         Setting up GB Energy.

·         The New Deal for Working People, including the bans on zero hours contracts and fire and rehire.

·         1.5 million new homes built over the course of the next parliament.


The Tories will argue change means risk, so we need to provide reassurance to voters that the change we are offering is one they can trust. They will try to rehabilitate their record, so we need to remind voters how awful they have been as a government, and the threat they pose if re-elected. They will deny Labour has changed, so we need to be disciplined, particularly on our fiscal rules. They will try to make the election a referendum on Labour, so we need to bulletproof our policy offer and avoid making ourselves the focus of the election.


We need to remind voters that:

·         The Tories crashed the economy, and you are paying the price through higher mortgage interest rates.

·         Taxes have gone up 25 times, you can’t trust the Tories on tax.

·         The Tories crashed the NHS, there are record waiting lists.

·         They have caused political chaos – 5 PMs, 7 Chancellors, 15 housing ministers.

·         Crimes are not prosecuted, and prisoners released because there are not enough prison places.

·         If they win again, they will just carry on the same way.


Keir is:

·         A professional, serious leader.

·         He puts the country first.

·         Strong – he tackled antisemitism, changed the party, and is strong on defence.

·         Former prosecutor-in-chief.

·         Someone with a working-class back story.

·         A patriot who is ambitious for Britain.


Our key messages are therefore:

·         It is time for change after 13 years.

·         Keir has changed the Labour Party and is now ready to change the country.

·         We will put country before party.


Ellie emphasised that being trusted on the economy and national security are essential tests that need to be passed before voters will give us permission to talk about growth, the NHS, opportunity, safer streets and clean power.


Morgan McSweeney, Campaign Director, presented next. He said it was clear the Tories were planning a spring General Election from all their actions. They were dramatically increasing the national spending limit and the limits for donations not being publicly declarable.


Labour needs to gain 125 seats for a majority and perhaps a quarter of all the seats in the Commons (over 160) for a working majority. This requires double-digit seat gains in every nation and region.


In 2019 we had lost our way morally as well as electorally. We have gone from that to the best local election results in 26 years in May 2023. More important than the scale of the council gains was the map of where they had happened, we won in places where we had been in long-term decline, with our highest swings in the most Leave-voting wards, the most Tory wards and the most working-class wards. We have redistributed our vote towards the seats we must win, when it had become over-concentrated in cities and university towns in a way that produced a very inefficient return in terms of number of MPs won. There are no no-go areas for Labour. In Scotland there has been an incredible turnaround.


Morgan stressed that polls don’t predict election outcomes, they are a measure of progress. They can change very fast before and during an election campaign. Any problems people have with Labour are not priced in until the campaign starts, so we need to get rid of them now. We can’t allow the media to say the election is already done as then the Tories will be allowed off the hook of defending their very weak 14 year record and will run with a narrative that Labour is weak and too much of a risk to take. They have a strategy based on defending 80 seats and attacking 20.


Postal votes will be essential as they increase propensity to turnout, we need to ask every Labour voter if they will switch to voting by post.


We have to have a ruthless focus on our core battleground seats, the ones that will give us a majority, resourcing them with everything we can. Other battleground seats, that help build that majority, will get what resource is needed. Non-battleground seats will be twinned and asked to support the battleground ones.


Candidates are very important compared to in the past, they make a big political and organisational difference to their constituency campaign.


If the General Election is on the same day as the local elections, our targeting will prioritise winning a parliamentary majority.


Next we heard from David Evans again about the work that had been done rewire Labour’s structure, processes and culture. We had had to start by restoring the party’s belief it can and should win and had the authority to lead. We had encouraged risk-taking and innovation in the byelections. Everything has been speeded up but still needs to be speeded up more. We have a medium-term plan for beyond the General Election so we don’t just stop after Polling Day.


Hollie Ridley, Executive Director of Nations and Regions, presented on the Win 24 field operations strategy. We have to change the behaviour of voters, that requires understanding them first, persuasive storytelling, building trust and influence, and finally turning changes of belief into the action of voting Labour.


As well as securing switchers direct from other parties, we have to reinforce recent switchers, increasing the turnout of existing Labour voters, and tactically squeeze the minor parties by emphasising that only Labour can beat the Tories.


We have taken tactics around personal candidate contact with key switcher voters pioneered in previous elections in Hove and Ilford North and spread these to all battleground seats. We need high quality doorstep conversations, where emails and phone numbers are collected so that the conversation can be followed up with a personal letter and a call from the candidate.


We are using real voices as endorsers to show voters other people like them are voting Labour.


Hollie described the metrics we are using to measure performance of candidates and CLPs.


Gail McDade Director of Mobilisation, presented on the measures we had in place to mobilise members, mapping what they can do, and exporting activists into battleground seats. We are identifying and re-engaging pre-2015 key activists who dropped out of activity during the Corbyn years and Covid.


It was emphasised that our best quality data comes from doorstep conversations and we use that to identify what types of voters are potential switchers and direct our digital and direct mail communications to those voters.


Andy Whyte, Director of Governance and Legal, presented a paper on the remaining parliamentary selections, which was agreed. The procedures we had agreed for non-battleground seats in May were not streamlined enough. We have therefore approved a new process for non-battleground seats that are also not notionally held by Labour. The existing process will continue in the remaining few battleground seats that have yet to select, and in any retirement seats and other notionally Labour-held seats. All of the seats that the new process applies in will be advertised very soon for applications to be sent in. People who expressed an interest in any of the 94 seats advertised in a batch in the summer will be specifically asked if they want to convert that into a formal application. Applications will be considered by panels of two NEC and one REC member who will include at least one trade union representative.  The panels can hold interviews if necessary. There will be at least one panel in every region, more where there are many seats to deal with. The panels can create a shortlist of one, who will be deemed selected, if there is only one candidate, or run a contest between a shortlist of candidates, lasting two weeks, and culminating in a vote at a hustings. This route to shortlisting is faster than the previous model. Due diligence will be conducted after shortlisting on the provisionally shortlisted candidates. Selections in these seats will take place early in the New Year.


In the Q&A, the suspension of the Croydon East selection was raised. David Evans said that it had nothing to do with online speculation about the Anonyvoter voting system, and was a one-off case, unique to Croydon East, that didn’t affect any other CLP’s selection. It was serious enough to have led to suspension of the process while a through investigation was conducted.


We ended the day with a report from National Policy Forum Chair Anneliese Dodds MP. She said the Clause V manifesto sign-off process should be smooth as the full NPF process had been completed, unlike in the 2017 and 2019 elections. NPF elections were being held in the summer, so there would be no NPF reports to Annual Conference 2024. We agreed a trade union amendment to the effect that the July NEC meeting would decide whether the qualifying date for contemporary resolutions to Annual Conference would be 1 August, or the date of the General Election if it had already happened (contemporary resolutions have to relate to events that have happened after a certain date, usually the date of publication of the NPF reports, but there are none next year). We ended the meeting by voting to fill NEC vacancies on Policy Commissions, and to re-elect Gavin Sibthorpe of the GMB as NEC Co-Convenor of the Joint Policy Committee.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

NEC Report – 26 September 2023

The September NEC met in Glasgow, and before the meeting we went out canvassing for Labour in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.


We welcomed Ellie Reeves MP back onto the NEC after a seven-year absence, in her new role as Deputy National Campaign Co-ordinator.


Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) Chair Harry Donaldson gave the CAC report.  The CAC had met on Monday to make rulings on the validity of the 323 motions submitted to Annual Conference, and group them into topics for the Priority Ballot. Appeals regarding motions would be held by the CAC on Thursday. The deadline for submission of emergency motions was noon on 29th September. 1,012 CLP delegates and 280 union and socialist society delegates had registered. Total attendance at Annual Conference including visitors would be 16,177. The party was receiving £1m in income from fringe events, of which there will be 850. There were 237 exhibition stands, generating a further £1.85m in income. For the first time there would be SME Sunday, as well as the business forum held on the Monday of Conference. The Conference charity would be the Glioblastoma Research Group at the UCL Cancer Institute, in memory of Margaret McDonagh.


We then received the draft grid of what would happen in each session of Conference. It was noted that no “reference backs” had been received on the National Policy Forum (NPF) reports.


The following were appointed as Assistant Chairs of Conference: Luke Akehurst, Nesil Caliskan, Abdi Duale, Wendy Nichols, Ellie Reeves, Gavin Sibthorpe.


We then considered constitutional amendments (rule changes). Those agreed included the following:


·         To define clearly that “supporting the campaign of an individual that stands in opposition to, or declares an intention to stand in opposition to, a Labour Party candidate in a public election” is a prohibited act leading to expulsion.

·         To abolish the rights of CLPs to initiate disciplinary action, as this contradicts our national, independent processes and can lead to inconsistent or unfair decisions or vexatious cases.

·         To return to the pre-2018 system whereby the only motions that can be submitted directly to Annual Conference are “contemporary” ones relating to issues “not substantially addressed in the reports of the NEC and NPF to Annual Conference”. This is because policy motions should be sent direct to the NPF for consideration as part of its policy making cycle. This was taken to a vote and passed by 19 votes to 7.

·         To clarify that the default structure of a CLP is delegate-based, with All Member Meetings (AMMs) as an alternative where there are geographical or other reasons why a delegate-structure would not work.

·         That changing from a delegate-structure to AMM or vice-versa can only happen by a two-thirds vote at a CLP AGM.

·         To clarify that a CLP Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO) must be a member of a Labour Party-affiliated union and elected by and from union delegates to the CLP, where they exist.

·         To reduce the number of voting officers on a CLP Executive Committee from a minimum of 14 to a minimum of 6 (Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Women’s Officer, TULO and Vice-Chair, Campaigns & Membership). The other posts are not being deleted; they revert to the status they historically had of being “Functional Officers” without voting rights. Larger CLPs that want to can get approval to keep them as full voting Officers. This will hopefully make it less onerous for CLPs to fill such a large number of roles, produce a streamlined EC that can take decisions faster, and de-factionalise elections for practical roles like fundraising and social media, and equalities roles, by removing them from the “numbers game” around factional control of the EC. We agreed an amendment from Unison to the effect that if none of the six Officers self-identifies as BAME, the BAME Officer becomes a 7th voting member of the EC. The amended proposal was agreed with only Ann Black abstaining.

·         That vacancies on the National Women’s Committee should be filled in the same way as vacancies in the equivalent section of the NEC are.


David Evans then gave his report as General Secretary. He thanked Pat McFadden and Ellie Reeves for making a flying start in their new roles as National Campaign Co-ordinator and Deputy, and paid tribute to everything Shabana Mahmood had achieved in the National Campaign Co-ordinator role. He thanked field staff for the superb work they were doing in the three parliamentary by-elections. We were more than in play in all three. The Scottish result could be defining. The Tories will do anything to stay in power, including voter suppression measures such as the introduction of ID requirements and more complicated postal vote application forms. Next, they will bring forward statutory instruments to raise the election expenditure limit from £19m to £30m.


David reported Annual Conference will bring in £5.2m in commercial income, not including the business day. There are already 200 delegates registered for Labour’s Business Conference on 1 February 2024, which has secured £600,000 in sponsorship. Membership of the Rose Network (donors of over £1,000 a year) was now 614, of whom 147 are in the Chair’s Circle because they give over £5,000 a year. A lottery licence has been acquired and the first draw will be on 3 November. The lottery has 1,400 members and £150,000 of annual income before it has been hard launched.


The Party HQ will move 500m to the new premises on 20 October and be operational the following week. The East Midlands, North West, Scotland, South East, and Yorkshire & The Humber offices are also moving to better premises.


The Party now has 379,543 members, of which only 11,760 are in arrears. At 3% this is the lowest arrears rate for a decade. An Autumn recruitment campaign is being launched. Membership rates for 14-19 year olds, students and members of the armed forces, are being raised to £12 a year, as £1 a month is the minimum direct debit the party system can draw.


Following the work of the Forde Working Party, the new enhanced code of conduct was being circulated to all members.


A diverse intake of eight interns identified by Patchwork, which recruits interns from underrepresented groups in the workplace, had been with the party during the summer.


Staff were being send on leadership training provided by the Civil Service College, and management training provided by ACAS.


An Away Day was being held with all the Labour Metro Mayors and the priority councils for the May elections were being brought together.


In memory of Margaret McDonagh, a Leadership Academy in her name was being set up to foster excellent staff leadership.


Angela Rayner then gave her Deputy Leader’s Report. She said our policies on the Future of Work are polling well. She has now been appointed as Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. There had immediately been some very tough issues to deal with, such as the Government intervention in Birmingham City Council and Sunak’s announcement he would scrap the nutrient neutrality planning rule. Local government as a sector was reeling from 13 years of cuts and dwindling reserves. Angela’s team were working with the LGA Labour Group to support the worst affected councils, including Birmingham. We had opposed Sunak’s u-turn on landlord energy efficiency regulations, as this will lead to tenants facing higher energy bills. Angela was preparing for Women’s Conference and Annual Conference as she will give the opening speech at both. Her “Rayner on the Road” camper van tour was visiting marginal constituencies.


Ellie Reeves gave a detailed and confidential report on strategy and progress in the three parliamentary by-elections of Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth. Hundreds of members were being mobilised in each of them, and we had very strong candidates. New campaign techniques are being piloted with great success, especially in Mid Bedfordshire which is very rural so requires a different model of campaigning to urban areas.


Morgan McSweeney reported as Campaign Director. He repeated David’s concerns that the Tories will ask the Electoral Commission to raise the General Election spending limit to £30m. This shows they have that much of a war chest, they are in the final run-in to calling the election, and they don’t view it as a lost cause. The electorate remains very volatile – swing voters can swing back. Rutherglen and Hamilton West on 5 October will be a seminal moment which could set Scotland on a new course. The Scottish Labour Party has been transformed organisationally and politically. Annual Conference is hugely important as it is almost certainly the last one before the General Election. We are taking no votes for granted. The two by-elections on 19 October are in very stretching seats for Labour. Winning Tamworth would imply the Tories would only hold 47 seats. It is their safest by-election defence in this Parliament. Mid Bedfordshire is now a three-way marginal but has been Tory since time immemorial, any result is possible there.


We have to be ready for a May General Election. The Tories will be saying “net zero will cost you” and behavioural economics suggests that is a powerful message as a loss is twice as painful as any countering gain offered. We have to highlight the opportunities decarbonisation presents in terms of cutting bills, creating jobs and providing energy security.

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