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.

Monday, May 30, 2022

NEC Report – 24 May 2022

This was another relatively short NEC meeting, at six hours, as the party moves on from the infighting of recent years to preparations for the General Election.


The meeting opened Angela Rayner’s report as Deputy Leader. She talked about the local election results and then about the misogynistic and classist attack she had been subjected to by the media, prompted by the Tories, and thanked Keir, the NEC and party for supporting her. The meat of her report was then on policy on employment and workplace issues. The Tories had dropped the Employment Bill from the Queen’s Speech. Labour was promoting a New Deal for Working People, and improvements to procurement law that would be helpful to good businesses that invest in their staff and the country. She praised the GMB getting a good agreement for Deliveroo drivers. Labour would ban zero hours contracts. Sadly 230,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost. Angela had been on the picket line with Oldham bus drivers and attended the TULO (Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation) political weekend. She had been working with Labour Women’s Network and Stella Creasy to support women candidates. She highlighted the TUC We Demand Better march and rally due on 18 June. Labour had won the Commons vote on forcing the release of security advice about Lord Lebedev given to the PM. She was pursuing the scandals relating to dodgy PPE contracts, taxpayer funded focus groups for the Chancellor, and Baroness Mone. She believed that whilst law-breaking by the PM over party gate was not as central an issue the cost of living, it was still important to expose it as he has demeaned his office.


David Evans then reported as General Secretary. He described progress in the local elections as firm and significant. The staffing of the party was at its leanest but with fewer staff than in May 2020 we increased our vote share by 6% and got our biggest lead over the Tories for a decade. There were some flies in the ointment where we went backwards in individual councils. It was disgraceful the way Arooj Shah, who lost her seat as Oldham Leader, had been treated, and we had a duty of care to candidates. He said there was no complacency, and we can and must do everything better. We must change the party further and faster and challenge bad internal cultures and become inclusive and outward facing everywhere. Our digital campaigning was much improved. We had successfully framed the election as being about cost of living. The number of canvassing contacts made had broken records. We now need to put meat back on the bone of the staffing, that needs money. Resources must be focused on the battleground General Election seats and the key voters in them. We have raised more this year already than in 2021 but that is still not enough. Staffing was moving to a Task Force based structure for the General Election. A revised voter conversation script would deliver better information. Every marginal seat will have a plan of action tailored to it. Candidate selections have started. There have been 500 applications for the 21 trainee organiser roles. The Wakefield byelection campaign is underway and Simon Lightwood has been selected as candidate. We must take due diligence about candidates very seriously and that was done in Wakefield. We also have an excellent candidate in Tiverton & Honiton, Liz Pole. The independent complaints process is now up and running. Of the first c30 cases heard by NEC panels reviewed independently only one has been remitted back to a fresh panel. Membership is still declining but at a gentler rate than projected. With 10,000 new members this year, membership is now 420,000, of which 30,000 are in arrears. The new membership system for CLPs and branches to use will be in place by the end of the summer at the latest. Martin Forde QC has written a new letter saying his report will be completed shortly as it is being checked legally and for factual accuracy. Conference will run from Sunday to Wednesday, i.e. will not sit on the Saturday.


Answering questions on Forde, including a rather rude call for David to resign from one of the Momentum members, David said he was not in post when the Forde inquiry was set up, did not set the terms of reference and was confident he was discharging his duties correctly. He reminded Momentum they had had the chance to vote him out of office at Conference 2021 and had lost the vote. He will be the person who receives the report from Forde, he hasn’t received it yet. It will be a public document.


In other answers he said that Labour Muslim Network has applied to be an affiliated socialist society and this is being reviewed as per all applications. 58 trigger ballots for reselecting sitting MPs have been completed and 35 are underway. The NEC majority in the composition of byelection selection panels was raised and he reminded the NEC that one of our previous meetings had agreed the supplementary guidance on this as the rulebook contradicted itself since the 2021 rule change.


Keir Starmer then gave his leader’s report. It had been a good set of local election results. He cited wins in Cumberland (which includes the parliamentary marginals of Carlisle, Copeland and Workington), Rossendale, Southampton, Worthing, Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster, all significant pointers for General Election marginals. Barnet and Bury have large Jewish communities and could not have been won if we had not tackled antisemitism. There had been progress in Wales and in Scotland we moved into second place and got our best result for ten years. He thanked Shabana Mahmood, Conor McGinn and Morgan McSweeney for their leadership of the campaign. The next two years will involve a lot more hard work and hard decisions. We must win the Wakefield byelection. The Tories were out of touch and had no response to the cost-of-living crisis. He predicted they would U-turn on the Windfall Tax Labour had called for 132 days previously. People are really suffering but all the Tories do is stoke culture wars. They will try to focus on this and not the economy in the General Election. There was no content to the Queen’s Speech, even though it is supposed to be a two-year programme. We need to pull together and it was heartening that ASLEF and FBU conferences had voted to continue affiliation to Labour. We need good local campaigns to make national ones work across the country, hence the proposal for Campaign Improvement Boards. There are 11 months to a May 2023 election or 95 weeks to a May 2024 one.


Morgan McSweeney, Elections Director, reported in detail on the local elections. We won, with growth in every type of voter and every part of the country. The results would see us be the largest party in a General Election, but not yet reach 326 seats. It was the best Labour vote share lead for ten years. We gained a net 108 councillors and the Tories did a lot worse than expected. Our 12 council gains were in every part of the country. Labour vote share was up most in the North and the West Midlands, but the North West and Yorkshire had not performed so well. Our vote grew fastest in areas that had voted Leave in 2016. Where these elections mapped directly to parliamentary constituencies, there would have been 44 clear constituency gains. Labour’s projected national vote share of 35% would see us gain 88 MPs, whilst the Tories on 30% would lose 112. There were good signs of organisational health. 2.4 million canvassing contacts had been made between 1 January and Polling Day. This beats all the non-General Election years since 2010. We had fielded the most candidates of any party for the first time in six years (5,304 versus 5,273 Tories and 3,623 Lib Dems). We had stuck to the issue of the cost of living and not got dragged into Tory culture wars. This had all happened because the NEC had changed how the party works. The Tories can’t hold together their majority, forged around culture wars, because of the economy. Annual Conference is the next big set piece event and needs to be a platform to show the public what a Labour government would look like. In some areas the activity rates were low or local parties lack campaign skills. This must be addressed. There are fewer and fewer solid voters for either main party, and far more churn between elections, so we have to research what motivates voters.


Shabana Mahmood, Campaign Chair, added that there had been significant progress among Labour Leave voters and people we lost for the first time in 2019, but slower progress in winning over Remain-voting Tories, some of whom were moving to the Greens.


In the Q&A I warned about the Tories using government funding given to Labour councils for radical traffic reduction measures, such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, as a tool to create another culture war where they pit different elements of Labour’s support base against each other, namely our environmentalist middle class supporters against parts of our core vote who are reliant on their cars for essential journeys, and we lose votes at both ends of our coalition, to the Greens and the Tories.


We agreed that parliamentary selections in the following seats should begin as

soon as practicable: Bassetlaw, Birmingham Northfield, Bishop Auckland, Chingford & Woodford Green, Cities of London & Westminster, Dover, Erewash, Exeter, Hartlepool, Hastings & Rye, Hendon, Ipswich, Norwich North, Penistone & Stocksbridge, Peterborough, Plymouth Moor View, Shipley, South Swindon, Southampton Itchen, Stoke-on-Trent Central, and Watford. A review of procedures will be undertaken once selections in the earlier, first tranche of 16 seats have concluded, likely at a July meeting of the NEC. I urged a focus on speeding up the selections and said I hoped NEC colleagues would be relaxed about further tranches being signed off at NEC Officers’ meetings or Organisation Committee rather than waiting two months for a full NEC meeting. The aim remains to get all the marginal seats selected by the end of the year unless they would be massively impacted by boundary changes.


We agreed a proposal to create Campaign Improvement Boards which can intervene where there are dysfunctional Labour Groups or councils. I argued in favour of this, citing the success of NEC and LGA and government intervention in Hackney in the 1990s and 2000s in turning the worst local authority in the country into a very good one. The paper was passed by 20 votes to 8 with 2 abstentions.


We heard an NPF (National Policy Forum) update from Adam Terry, Head of Policy. There was a discussion about whether the final stage NPF meeting should be in Q4 of 2022 or summer 2023. Colleagues from the unions wanted to defer this decision until the July NEC meeting but that was defeated by 12 votes to 10 and it was agreed unanimously to hold the final stage meeting in summer 2023.


The meeting concluded with a very wide-ranging and impressive update on all the different strands of our equalities work by Vidhya Alakeson, the party’s new Director of External Relations, who stressed that “Equalities sits at the heart of what the Labour Party is about. It defines who we are as a Party and will define who we are as a future government.” She outlined work around creating a more diverse party; engaging equalities stakeholders; and policymaking to support equalities.


Since the previous NEC meeting on 29th March, 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 disciplinary panels the proceedings are confidential:


Boundary Review Working Group


4 Disputes Panels


NEC-led local government selection panels in Newham


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am shocked that Birmingham Northfield is not on the list of early selections. We need to win this key Midlands constituency. Local elections the local election results were poor, lost a seat to the Greens and the Tories, won one back. The Tory MP is a jerk but very effective organiser particularly in the red wall areas. Ironically the Tory areas of thirty years ago are solidly labour, the Labour areas of that time are going towards the far right..

12:42 pm, May 30, 2022


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