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 30, 2023

NEC Report – 28 March 2023

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

1)    Britain is worse off because of Government choices.

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

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


Morgan said we have three things to do:

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

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

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


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


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


April 2020                  Forde Report commissioned

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

October 2020            EHRC Report published

December 2020        EHRC Action Plan agreed

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

April 2022                  Independent complaints procedure in place

July 2022                   Forde Report published

November 2022        NEC Action Plan in response to Forde agreed

January 2023            EHRC removed party from special measures

Today                         NEC finalises response to Forde


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

1)    A code of conduct for members

2)    A code of conduct for people in leadership positions

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

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


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


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


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


Finally, we agreed a suite of new safeguarding policies.


Anonymous Andrea said...

Are trigger ballots complete or some are still going on?

9:33 am, March 31, 2023

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Hi Andrea,

There are currently 196 Labour MPs, 12 of whom have confirmed their retirement.
As of 10 January 2023, a total of 165 re-selection processes have been completed.
Of the remaining 18 seats, 3 are represented by MPs recently elected in by-elections, and 8 have re-selection processes timetabled.

9:03 pm, March 31, 2023

Anonymous Andrea said...

Many thanks! Given that the 3 latest by-election winners should be readopted without a trigger ballot, we are looking at 15 trigger ballots left.
I've missed some of the 165. I managed to track down 122 outcomes. Are the trigger ballot losses still 3 (Ilford South, Liverpool West Derby and Popular & Limehouse)? I would guess almost all those "not heard" were pretty easy reselection.
At the end it would be interesting to estimate how many MPs would have been forced to an open contest with the 2017-19 rules (at least 2 of those I know).

3:39 pm, April 01, 2023


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