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, 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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Astonishing that the lottery is such a success. It’s had a low key launch

4:15 pm, January 24, 2024

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is fantastically detailed and very appreciated. If only all Labour minutes were this good. A question - you've given far fewer vote counts in your last few reports. Is this intentional, just random or are there fewer votes taken at this point in the electoral cycle because of meeting focus on the election?

10:43 am, February 22, 2024

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Hi Anonymous on 22 Feb, there are fewer votes because the difficult internal political decisions were taken earlier in Keir's leadership, and because the political balance on the NEC has changed so less point Momentum pushing things to a vote when the outcome is usually obvious.

4:55 pm, March 28, 2024


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