Some details of the anticipated deal among Labour NEC (National Executive Committee) members were leaked ahead of today’s NEC meeting to Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror and found their way into the Guardian and other media.
But only some – because the person responsible for this leak and others was not privy to the whole story. The identity of the leaker and the motives for doing so – putting the whole process at risk of unravelling – are transparent to those aware of the facts, but not a topic for this article.
Today, a BBC Radio 4 political correspondent described the changes as an ‘incremental’ move toward bringing the party structures into line with the wishes of the leadership and membership – but again, clearly based his conclusion on only partial information.
In fact, the shift that has taken place today is the result of careful and intelligent negotiation among the unions, the leader’s office and NEC members, with small and smart compromises where necessary – and is best described – and has been, by one of those involved – as a ‘tectonic shift‘.
The SKWAWKBOX can exclusively bring its readers the full story of the changes and their impact:
The CLP delegates
Labour’s almost 600,000 membership is up to now represented on the NEC by just six delegates. There were calls for this to increase to twelve, to match the NEC’s union representation – but it will increase by fifty percent to nine. The three additional CLP delegates will be elected by OMOV (one member, one vote) among party members around the UK.
The election process will begin more or less immediately and is expected to conclude in around three months.
The union delegates
As the SKWAWKBOX has reported, there were moves to reduce Unite‘s representation by two, with Unison and retail workers’ union USDAW aiming to take one place each. The left managed to head off that threat and secured places for the solidly pro-Corbyn Aslef and the firefighters’ union FBU. But there was still a threat to the positions held by the delegate from the Corbyn-supporting bakers’ union BFAWU and UCATT, which has become part of Unite.
Today the NEC has agreed one additional place on the NEC for union representatives. It will be taken by the right-leaning USDAW in a compromise designed to secure its support and that of other less Corbyn-friendly unions – protecting the two positions occupied by UCATT and the bakers.
Recognising the deal is a package, USDAW will not take up its seat until the additional CLP delegates take theirs in around three months’ time.
As the SKWAWKBOX revealed, the re-election of the current BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) representative on the NEC was unlawful according to Labour’s own rulebook, because the group – with a long and problematic history – has only around 700 members, a long way short of the 2,500 it must have under Labour’s rules in order to have its own NEC member.
The election of the delegate representing Labour’s BAME members switching to OMOV has the support of all the unions and will be implemented immediately.
The so-called ‘McDonnell Amendment’, requiring nominations from only 5% of Labour MPs and MEPs, will be set aside in favour of a 10% threshold. However, the 10% will apply across the board whether or not there is an incumbent leader. The TSSA union’s Manuel Cortes will be asked to remit the 40% threshold he had tabled for situations in which there is an incumbent leader.
The issue of extending the 10% nomination threshold to every constituent part of the party – unions and members alike – will be included in a ‘Corbyn Review 2017‘ covering ‘everything else’ not covered by the specific rule-changes agreed today.
The Scottish and Welsh delegates
This time last year, the ‘scorched earth’ move of voted-out NEC members to block the party leadership at NEC level involved an unlawful and anti-democratic rule-change to put an additional unelected delegate onto the NEC, appointed by the party leaders of Scottish and Welsh Labour. As both of those positions were held by opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, this effectively gerrymandered the NEC in favour of the ‘immoderates’.
With deputy leader Alex Rowley currently representing Scotland in place of the departed Kezia Dugdale, there is a temporary two-vote swing in favour of the left – but in order not to impose a change on the Scottish party, Scottish left-wing members will take a motion to the SEC (Scottish Executive Committee) to make Scotland’s NEC representative elected by OMOV. This motion is expected to pass.
Wales’ arrangement will not change yet – but will be included in the review and will be looked at by Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn’s political secretary. If Scotland switches to OMOV, Welsh Labour will also be under justified pressure to make itself no less democratic.
The net effect
The net effect of these changes is seismic.
The assumption that the ‘left slate’ of new CLP delegate candidates will sweep the board, as the left NEC slate did this time last year and as left candidates Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes did in the recent CAC (Conference Arrangements Committee) elections, is a safe one. That the OMOV-elected BAME position will also be won by a pro-Corbyn candidate is almost as certain.
This will mean a net increase of three NEC seats for the party leader and the vast majority of members who support him and his vision for Labour. That net figure takes into account the new USDAW representative – but does not include the likely left-wing Scottish Labour delegate who will be elected by OMOV or appointed by Richard Leonard if he wins the Scottish Labour leadership.
Either of those scenarios will add a further pro-Corbyn voice and vote to the NEC’s make-up.
Either puts ‘clear red water’ between the left and right in any key NEC votes.
The SKWAWKBOX’s senior sources within Labour also say that the damaging and unworkable rule-change disciplinary rule-change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement will be replaced by a far better version that respects justice and due process, while dealing firmly with any actual hate-incidents.
‘Strong, socialist women’
One of the most striking aspects of the tectonic shift the Labour party just underwent is how much of it was driven by strong, bold, capable women. Party insiders say a huge amount of the credit for the successful navigation of such tricky negotiations to a key group of Labour women.
Key members of the leadership team such as Karie Murphy, Katy Clark, Amy Jackson and Laura Murray, together with union women such as the GMB’s Lisa Johnson, are considered the driving force of the negotiations and Labour sources say that the agreement could not have been reached without the involvement of ‘these strong, socialist women’.
The seismic shift
The mainstream media’s assessment of these changes as ‘incremental’ could not be further from the truth. With a majority of the NEC behind the leader and the membership and a left-balanced CAC governing Labour’s 2018 annual conference in Liverpool, the scene is set for a seismic shift.
One that – in the light of the ‘Corbyn surge’ revealed by the General Election result in June and by polling since – will terrify the Tories.
The Tory party is already imploding under the pressure of minority government against a tough opposition when policies and unity have been hindered by party structures working in favour of a small, divisive right-wing faction.
With the reins at key levels firmly in the hands of the party’s leader, allies and a huge majority of its members, the Tories will fear that Labour’s march into government – a government of real change – will become unstoppable.
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