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 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.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Dr Martin Yuille said...

Your summary of our tactics for winning the GE is excellent.

I think every member who wants to work for that win - not just readers of your blogspot - would really like to read about these tactics.

The party should consider an email shot to all members.

The counter-argument is wrong that we should not let other parties know our tactics and thereby enable an attack on those tactics. First on grounds of the need for transparency in politics (will the Tories publish their tactics??). Second because all publicity is good publicity.

9:39 pm, November 29, 2023

 
Anonymous Chris Henson said...

Luke, does that imply the nominations are reopening for the 94 seats mentioned? We have a great local candidate but she unfortunately missed the qualification period by 1 week. Would be great if she could apply

8:52 am, November 30, 2023

 

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