The Labour right’s ‘outrage‘ at the cancellation of yesterday’s election of a new National Policy Forum (NPF) chair rests on the claim that the decision to hold an election in the first place was a natural consequence of current Chair Ann Cryer’s decision to resign.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Below is the sequence of events leading up to Saturday – and an explosive revelation about Ms Cryer’s resignation.
On Monday the NPF officers – 3 vice-chairs plus the Chair of the ‘Joint Policy Committee’ – were told Cryer was resigning as Chair and it was proposed that an election should take place at the NPF meeting. This was opposed by one of the officers on the grounds that it was too short notice, but a vote was held and carried by two to one, with one abstention.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, NPF members were sent an email titled ‘NPF Update‘ – not ‘NPF election‘ – resulting in just three and a half days’ notice. National Executive Committee (NEC) rules and NPF procedures say all documents must be circulated at least seven days before the meeting.
The election was not an emergency matter – there was no pressing reason at why the election needed to be held on Saturday – so it could be held within any reasonable timeframe.
The text message
However, the key to the matter was the resignation of Ann Cryer. On Friday, Ms Cryer sent a text to an NPF member who had asked her to consider staying on to the end of her term of office later this year.
Ms Cryer responded that she had originally planned to do anyway, so that the new Chair could be approved by September’s annual Conference – but that she had been asked to bring forward her resignation so that an election could take place at yesterday’s NPF meeting.
Ms Cryer was in fact persuaded – apparently reluctantly – to stand down early as part of a planned manoeuvre intended to get Ann Black on the NEC Officer group – if the NPF chair is also on the NEC, s/he automatically gets a seat among the Officers.
As the week went by, it became clear that if the election went ahead it would be extremely close. On Friday, twenty-five additional delegates registered at the last minute to boost the numbers who would be there to vote for Ann Black.
The manoeuvre was, from the beginning, an attempt to set up an election the foregone conclusion of the election of Ann Black as NPF Chair – not, as it was presented, as a natural reaction to an announced resignation.
On again, off again
Labour sources say that Ms Murray was advised of the NEC officer ruling before the meeting and it was agreed that NEC Chair Andy Kerr would make a short statement following which normal NPF business would continue, rather than a debate about the decision.
However, points of order were taken and Ms Murray announced she would take the vote. A challenge to that decision was made and a vote was called to see if there was a two-thirds majority to approve this challenge.
While all this was taking place, urgent discussions were going on as the NPF cannot constitutionally overturn the NEC as the sovereign body of the party. There was chaos as the votes were counted and a recount was required.
Before the results of the vote were known, Labour staff asked Ms Murray to adjourn the conference and meet with NEC officers so the constitutional position could be explained and the reasons why the vote could not take place.
According to sources at the event, Ms Murray accepted the decision – as already confirmed by eyewitness accounts published on this blog – and it was agreed she would make the announcement jointly with Andy Kerr. They were therefore both at the podium together in the photograph shown above, which has been presented by the Labour right as depicting Kerr ‘shoving’ her out of the way.
In the context of the facts, any abusive behaviour that took place was not on the platform or carried out by NEC members – as video evidence has demonstrated. The Labour right has shamed itself and brought disrepute on the party.
Most significantly, Ms Cryer’s admission by text message that she had been specifically asked to bring forward her resignation in order to make yesterday’s events possible, exposes a cynical right-wing attempt to gerrymander an election to achieve a foregone conclusion for factional political purposes – and exposes right-wing ‘outrage’ for what it really is.
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