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, 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. 


Anonymous Brian Mitchell said...

Well done Luke, thanks for the report and keep up the good work!

4:43 pm, November 25, 2020

Anonymous Andrea said...

"We argued that the principle of seniority should be restored, which had been Labour’s custom of practice for four decades until broken by the Hard Left in 2017."

hasn't it been broken before to avoid Christine Shawcroft getting positions?

4:49 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Robin Vyrnwy-Pierce said...

The 540,000 membership is because of Jeremy Corbyn. It was even higher but Starmer has driven away so many good people.
Buggins' turn is NOT the way to elect the chair.
Moving the vice-chair up guarantees having someone with experience and new blood is then voted in as vice-chair.
As Margaret Beckett will be the longest-serving NEC member for some years yet we will not be seeing new blood come through.
I have no gripe with Margaret but Starmer has failed in his promise to unite the party.

4:50 pm, November 25, 2020

Anonymous Jackie L said...

Many thanks for the prompt report - glad to hear that respect for competence and gravitas is being restored when we need it most - NEC needs to restore to the party credibility to be elected to form a government not protest group

4:55 pm, November 25, 2020

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Luke, and also to Johanna and Gurinder for their reports. Refreshing as I never saw a report from any of the JC9 NEC reps.

6:45 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Sean said...

Marvelous way to live up to your election promise on uniting the Party, describing people as "hard" left. You'd soon be blabbing if anyone described you as "hard" right.

6:46 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger ATPM Molloy said...

That must be an intersting world that Robin (above) lives in. Probably one where the Labour party has not suffered a historic defeat, despite facing the worst Tory leader in over 100 years, and that will take years to recover from. But we have to rebuild step by step, reverting this Buggins Turn arrangement for NEC chair back to pre Corbyn disaster arrangements can only help.

7:08 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

I come from a long line of labour supporters and im truely fumming that instead of supporting the leader of our party to go forward theyd rather be like spoiled children in a playgroud.

7:08 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

Great work from the grown ups in the (virtual) room.

7:30 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Luke, excellent to get this insight. Is there anywhere I can see a full list of attendees?

7:41 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Alix said...

"Buggin's turn is NOT the way to elect the chair." Isn't expecting Ian Murray to become chair because he was vice-chair exactly that?

But "moving the vice-chair up guarantees having someone with experience", surely no one can say that Margaret Beckett hasn't heaps of experience?

But then you call for new blood - which admittedly Margaret isn't.

Which is more important though? Experience or new blood?

Personally, with the Tories ignoring everyone but their core voter's wish list whilst we engage in internal strife, experience is clearly more necessary than inexperienced exuberance.

7:53 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Ian said...

Robin, the membership plummetted in November/December 2019 under Corbyn. It's still about 5% higher now than it was then. You can't unite people that don't want to be united. We are now electable under Starmer.

10:02 pm, November 25, 2020

Anonymous M may said...

Unite that’s a joke you calling members hard left that will work wonders.

10:37 pm, November 25, 2020

Blogger Gregg said...

Elections for vice chair have indeed been competitive a number of times in the past, in contradiction to longevity and Bugins' Turn. There was nothing new about what happened in 2017.

But elections for chair have never previously been factional. What happened this week is the first time in the history of the party that an incumbent vice chair, who was available and willing to become chair, has not done so. This was unprecedented and means elections for chair in future will be factional.

2:28 am, November 26, 2020

Blogger Chris said...

If I'm reading this correctly, the flouncers left before the discussion/decision about Chair. If the incumbent vice chair was one of them, then surely their nomination was effectively withdrawn?
You have to be in the room to be in the game!

10:04 am, November 26, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for this very encouraging report Luke. It underlines that those on both left and right who are prepared to engage with the serious task of taking the party forward from the omnishambles of the past 4 years are now in the majority in the NEC and can start to turn things around with or without the presence of an abusive and oppositional minority.

1:25 pm, November 26, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

United under Corbyn were you?
EHRC report was biased
Ask Andrew Feinstein

1:56 pm, November 26, 2020

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Chris, only Margaret was nominated.

4:12 pm, November 26, 2020

Blogger Keith Macdonald said...

Thanks for a clear account of what was quite a difficult but ultimately successful meeting. Can I just urge you and your colleagues to keep in mind the absolute importance of preventing the nationalists getting a majority in the Scottish Parliament next May. If they do it will give Johnson an enormous opportunity to play the nationalist card against us and could well lead to Scotland being out before the next UK General Election. Preventing this should be our top objective for the first part of 2021.

4:44 pm, November 26, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Luke.
I do not agree with petulant behaviour; it is childish, I expect members of the nEC to behave in a grown-up way, to debate issues, and to try to change the culture that developed over the past 4 years.

5:10 pm, November 26, 2020

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Luke, very helpful and illuminating. Delighted that Margaret was elected as chair.

6:01 pm, November 26, 2020

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should tweet something like the following: "I was the only candidate to get more votes than Laura Pidcock for the NEC, and in support of @Keir_Starmer I would be interested in the @UKLabour candidacy at North West Durham, Hilary Armstrong's old seat. @labour_first @labtowin @ProgressOnline @TheNeilFleming @mal255 @JudeConsidine @FraserTinsley" Those last three are Labour councillors in the constituency.

1:01 am, November 27, 2020


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