Ann Black SUPPORTER reports on #NPF18 row: “mob climbing over seats to get to front”

The row over the cancelled election of a new Chair at last Saturday’s National Policy Forum (NPF) meeting has rolled on, with ‘centrists’ claiming the election was cancelled because Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) knew it was going to lose to the right – how they knew if it wasn’t rigged is somehow never answered.

Inflaming the situation, the so-called moderates have accused the male NEC Chair of ‘barging’ or ‘shoving’ the acting NPF Chair out of the way to get to the microphone and enforce his will on the meeting – even though the video and image evidence presented to support the claim shows nothing of the sort.

Those who have dared to challenge the centrist version of events have been accused of distorting the truth for factional purposes – in spite of clear evidence that the election was a right-wing set-up, in the form of a text admission by the Chair who resigned to trigger the election that she was specifically asked to bring forward her resignation from September so an election called for Saturday’s meeting at short notice.

But the SKWAWKBOX has obtained a copy of a report on the meeting – by an attendee who is not only an Ann Black supporter, but who had agreed to nominate her for the vacant Chair’s position.


George McManus is an NPF CLP Representative for Yorkshire and the Humber. He has been on the NPF for over twenty years and is not someone to mince his words.

He had been ‘wooed’ by the right – to his bemusement – and was set to nominate the centrists’ preferred candidate Ann Black for in the election of NPF Chair on Saturday. So he can safely be said not to ‘have a dog in the fight’ in terms of not wanting Ms Black to be Chair.

Here’s how he described Saturday’s events in a report titled ‘What happened on the way to the Forum?‘ (emphases by the SKWAWKBOX):

Labour representatives to the Party’s National Policy Forum (NPF), which considers proposals for the next manifesto, came from all corners of the UK to Leeds on February 17th. The agenda would focus on the NHS and Brexit but most were blissfully unaware that a weird scenario, of Kafkaesque proportions, was unfolding. The early highlight should be Jeremy Corbyn’s speech. But some had other ideas.

Four days earlier, on Tuesday 13 February members were shocked when an email from Labour chief Simon Jackson reported that the popular NPF Chair, Ann Cryer, had announced her immediate resignation. The message went on to say officers had met the day before and decided an election for the post should take place on the Saturday morning of the NPF, immediately before Jeremy’s speech.

This is where Kafka comes in. It transpired that Ann Black, a stalwart of Labour’s Left for 20 years, was being supported by members of the NPF belonging to the Right wing Labour First faction. Following recent changes at Labour’s NEC Ann Black’s popularity with the Left had started to wane.

Suddenly I found myself being wooed for support for Ann by people who formerly would never have given me the time of day. Now I’ve always been on the same wavelength as Ann and when she asked me to nominate her for the role my response was unequivocal. ‘If there is an election, of course I will.’ I was not convinced an election would happen. I couldn’t understand why Ann Cryer had suddenly resigned. But, the plot thickened.

On the Saturday morning at 11am, 300 NPF members and Party staff packed into the ornate, art deco ballroom of the Queens Hotel, Leeds…But a row erupted and Jeremy’s speech was delayed.

NEC Chair Andy Kerr announced that Ann Cryer’s immediate resignation had been confirmed but due to representatives being given inadequate notice, there would be no immediate election for her replacement.

You would have thought World War 3 had broken out!


McManus then described the reactions that constituted ‘World War 3’ – and who was behaving in an aggressive manner:

A solid cohort of members gathered in the centre of the hall, went ballistic. To shouts of ‘Point of Order’ and ‘We demand an election’ the normally forceful NEC Chair was drowned out.

At this point the podium was given over to the hapless NPF Vice Chair Katrina Murray who attempted to explain the rationale of the decision but the self-appointed Praetorian Guard of the NPF were having none of it. They demanded to be heard. Cue more shouts of Point of Order. Unfortunately the embattled Katrina made her first mistake and decided to take points of order.

The ‘mob’

McManus’ depiction of the centrists and their behaviour is not pretty:

What needs to be understood is that the NPF has no standing orders under which points of order can be raised. It does have procedural guidelines which have been agreed by the NEC. When I tried to point this out to Katrina, I was shouted down by the mob which smelled a rat. People were shouting. Others were climbing over seats to get near the front. Dissident MPs were on their feet.

At this point poor Katrina made another disastrous error. ‘ As stand in for the Chair I’ve decided we should have an election.’ I shook my head in disbelief. From the back of the hall there was a cry of ‘Challenge the Chair’s decision.’ ‘I will put the challenge to the vote announced Katrina.’ In order to restore some order, Andy Kerr then took to the podium again. He re-iterated the NEC’s position. ‘No election’

Their blood boiling, the mob got nasty with shouts of ‘Bully’ and ‘Dinosaur’ directed at the NEC veteran. Andy backed off. ‘OK said Katrina, those in favour of the challenge please indicate’ followed by ‘those against the challenge please indicate.’ Andy Kerr and the other officers at the far end of the stage sat, heads shaking in disbelief. ‘Right’ says Katrina, ‘We’ll have a short break whilst we count the votes.’ As this was unfolding I understand the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition was waiting in the wings for his cue. It was a long time coming.

Twenty minutes later the embattled Katrina took to the podium and announced that there would be no election today. The mob rose again. ‘What was the result of our vote’ they demanded. ‘Nobody’s told me’ said Katrina. You could not make it up.

There were more ugly scenes as it was whispered around the hall that the proceedings were being viewed and shared on Social media.

Cue Andy Kerr with a promise that the issue would be referred to the March meeting of the NEC. He went on, ‘The NEC’s authority supersedes that of the NPF;’
The mob would not be placated. ‘No it bloody well doesn’t’ came a loud reply. There was a further comfort break during which several people left the hall following which Jeremy Corbyn was introduced.

“It was clear this was about giving Corbyn a bloody nose”

It was at this point that the mist started to clear. The dissident rebels remained glued to their seats, refusing even to offer a polite welcome. This hadn’t been a challenge to the NEC but to Jeremy Corbyn. A barn storming speech brought a standing ovation, but the rebels were stoney faced. They remained seated. No applause.

With no time for the expected question and answer session, Jeremy left the hall as the assembly finally dispersed. It was becoming clear what had led up to this.

For many years the NPF was a rubber stamp for the Leadership’s policy ideas. Debate was deliberately stifled. Labour First, and their associate group Progress, ran the NPF, in thrall to the leadership. Many of those members are still on the NPF.

“Ann, the former sinner, was now their Joan of Arc”

Now dis-enfranchised, as they see it, the same members had seen an opportunity to re-establish some control over policy formulation and the NEC. Recent events had suggested that Ann Black might be persuaded to accept support in her ambition to be NPF Chair. Ann, the former sinner, was now their Joan of Arc. Getting her elected would give Corbyn a bloody nose.

“A carefully crafted coup had failed”

But they forgot something. The Labour Party Rule Book says that for elections to take place, voting members must be given at least 7 days notice and with the NEC as arbiters of the Rule Book, the decision was theirs. Not the NPF’s. So a carefully crafted coup had failed but not before news agencies had broadcast the events to the world and Corbyn’s speech delayed. The damage done can only be imagined.

“I doubt that even Kafka could have made it up”

The weekend went onto deliver fantastic seminars on Brexit and on the future of the NHS. Over 20 breakout groups discussed every aspect of the next manifesto. Guest speakers included the incredible Frances O’Grady from the TUC and Keir Starmer but all was overshadowed by the Battle of Leeds. It’s only when you start to understand the background that it’s possible to unravel events. It was ugly. It was irrational. It was surreal. I doubt that even Kafka could have made it up.

I don’t know if the NPF can survive this latest row. It was originally set up to stifle debate not to encourage membership engagement. I was elected in 1997 and have always believed that a rolling programme with deliberative policy formulation was preferable to open arguments on the floor of annual conference. I’ve been arguing for this for 20 years. So if the NPF is to have a future then it must change. But to do so, it needs to discover its raison d’etre. It’s sense of purpose.

Unedifying spectacle

We now have over 500,000 members who thought that last year’s manifesto was brilliant. They don’t care who is Chair of the NPF. The members’ priority is to see our man go through the door at Number 10. But they do care when they see Tories having a laugh at the unedifying spectacles like that being broadcast on Saturday.

When you’ve run the show for so long it can be difficult to adjust

Unfortunately when you’ve run the show for so long then it can be difficult to adjust. I hope that Labour First supporters will understand the need to be flexible, adapt and tolerate the changes. The Labour Party is, and must remain, a broad church. That’s its strength. But it’s not York Minster. If they can’t adapt then they will become irrelevant but they won’t just be letting themselves down. They’ll be letting the Party down and worse, they’ll be letting the people down.

The Democracy Review will make proposals in the autumn, but clearly if the NPF is to give a voice to members as it should, then it must be reformed, strengthened and re-configured. Otherwise it must be replaced. There will be an election for Chair, I’m sure. I just don’t know how long the successful candidate will be in post.

This account – by someone who wanted to see Ann Black elected as Chair – portrays ‘ugly’, ‘mob’ behaviour from a ‘self-appointed Praetorian Guard’ who saw an opportunity to give Jeremy Corbyn a bloody nose.

A ‘guard’ that contrived to manipulate events to get its way – and instantly turned into a mob when their “carefully crafted coup” was thwarted.

So much for ‘abuse from the left’ – as usual, those on the right are as quick to cry abuse as they are to perpetrate it.

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  1. At last a clear concise account of what actually happened both on the floor and the background leading up to it.
    Thank you Mr McManus.
    It paints a picture of a vice chair unable to control the situation and the NEC Chair having to come to the rescue to stop the whole thing disintegrating.
    Newly joined Labour members must be wondering what the hell they have joined.
    Agree that the NPF now needs to change in line with Labour under Corbyn and what I can see from my limited understanding is that the NPF seems to serve now no valuable service , the democracy review will hopefully sort this out . The behaviour and antics of the right wingers in Labour First /Progress is appalling , much work still to do to convince those who can be that the way forward is getting behind JC and supporting the election of a Labour Govt . Those in the party who cannot be convinced ( inc many right winger MP’s ,we know who they are ! ) and don’t want a Labour Govt need to be expelled / reselected as their continuing undermining and corrupting of the party is totally unacceptable.

  2. I trust, following this unedifying and disgraceful behaviour by her supporters, Ann Black will now withdraw herself from standing to be chair of the NPF, for the good and unity of the Labour Party.

    If she does not withdraw she will be endorsing the sectarian hatred and division of the right wing mob who back her nomination.

  3. Pathetic. It smacks of ‘ parish pump ‘ politics.
    The bloody Labour Party as a WHOLE should be focussed on one thing only – getting the Tories out of power.
    This latest nonsense is an utter distraction which undermines all the good that is being done.
    This lurid spectacle is just the sort of thing the right wing MSM devour.
    And the Tories must be rubbing their hands in glee.

    I repeat – pathetic !!

  4. The decisions of the vice chair Katrina Murray were almost certainly not inexplicable or mistaken. She voted for the election to be held with 3.5 days notice, on the Monday, and was presumably was very much on board with the self-appointed Praetorian guard/mob. I’m afraid that the only answer is to abolish the NPF and clear out from power those elements who do not wish to understand or respect a democratic process.

    Furthermore, questions need to be asked about the role of Simon Jackson, Director of Policy & Research at The Labour Party. It is reasonable to expect that a LP employee would not be engaged in plotting to undermine the NEC and Leader of the Opposition.

    1. Could you elaborate aboute what Simon Jackson has done exactly (I must confess I’ve not heard of him before), or give me a link to an article that covers it. Many thanks

    2. Cancel the request. I should explain that I quickly read the above article this morning, and then left a comment, and I just came back to this page to see if there had been any response to my comment, and THEN read the ‘report’ more thouroughly. And on the way up the page to do so, I read through some of the comments again including yours, and that’s why I asked about Simon Jackson. But then when I started reading through the report, I saw that HE is the person that sent out the email to delegates, and I then realised of course that THAT is what you must be referring to – ie his part in this saga.

  5. Yet another appalling and subversive play for power. We need to clear the decks because these people will be responsible for keeping us all another tory government if we don’t find a way to quel or dispel them.

  6. The report by George MacManus implies that some of those involved included a number of MP’s.

    Is this actually the case and if so who are they as it would seem reasonable to observe they have a case to answer of bringing the Party into disrepute. It certainly seems odd that such behaviour is tolerated when many members remain expelled for a lot less.

  7. Yes the NPF was perhaps set up as a Fig Leaf for members democracy by the top down Neo-Liberal Blairites – the ‘Great Men and Wonen of History’ without perhaps an original idea in their heads – and the Iraq War policy and cosing up to the banks didn’t go too well.
    Hopefully this could be their last throes, what strikes me about the Right is perhaps they enjoy fighting the Left when we want to focus on crushing the Tories and empowering diverse working people and trying to end poverty here and globally! I would have nothing against elected working groups (50% experts, 50% experts by experience) – could be set strict deadlines and engage on-line in between meetings plus members could contribute on-line and chaired by Shadow Ministers then drafts could be sent to CLPs to discuss (could even have open meetings ie on housing) and CLPs make amendments for Conference – it could be done with the will! Oh and the Right’s theory that you can only win by being moderate was smashed for good as we now stand for something again and we enthused a significant number of citizens as well as massively increasing the number of members (and paying off all our debts). I actually pity Labour’s Right ‘Little People’ they seem frightened of being radical and challenging the rich and powerful and Neo-Liberal capitalism when there is plenty of left wing reading out there! At least we on the Left know we existed, oh and as this shows we need to study Labour rules by heart! Solidarity to all left wing democratic socialists and “to the oppressed and those who fight on their side” – Paulo Freire.

    1. There is no ‘original article’ as such – it’s an internal report we were given permission to publish

  8. I wonder if Momentum has a team or persons who know the rule book inside out and could thus be a useful resource in resolving conflicts with the right wingers.
    Peter Berry’s comment above is spot on re all of us focused on removing the Tories from power ASAP
    It is a great shame that we are even having this type of conversation with the use of rules to batter each other with . To those people in the Labour party inc MPs who still seem to believe that following the Tories on a Tory lite set of policies is going to win us the next election , the results show clearly it will not . Honestly to those folks who still think this way do us all a favour and the country and leave the party ( you are in the minority now ) , go join the Libdems or Tories or even start your own party ,,, call it Progress if you like , but continuing to erode the chances of wining the next election by undermining activities like this will ensure another Tory victory which is what they prefer I suspect .

  9. Skwawkbox: Just out of interest, where and when did this report by George McManus first appear, because I did a search (duckduckgo) and the only relevant result that came up was skwawkbox re this article.

    And can I just reiterate what I have, in effect, said before (in another skwawkbox article covering this matter):

    If you know that you have to notify NPF delegates at least seven days in advance to give them details of the itinary of a meeting, and have done so in the past precisely because that is what the rules stipulate, then why would you – as Katrina Murray and whoever decided to do – decide to have a vote of the vice chairs FIVE days before a meeting on whether to hold a ballot, and then notify (email) delegates of the decision to hold a ballot THREE-AND-A-HALF days before the meeting – ie give delegates only 31/2 days notice.

    The point is that you would know that you were breaching the rules by instigating a vote of officials to hold a ballot to elect a new Chair when you wouldn’t be able to give delegatess the required notice, and surely you would know that by doing so, you were as good as inviting NEC officials to not permit the ballot to go ahead.

    The key question regards this whole saga is WHEN did NEC officials LEARN about the decision to hold a ballot at the meeting, because it does seem very odd that it was only at the meeting itself that delegates are being told the ballot can’t go ahead, and NOT in the days before. And by that I mean that surely if NEC officials had learnt of the breach of rules in the days before the meeting, they would have contacted Katrina Murray or whoever, told them they were in breach of the rules and that the ballot would have to be postponed and rescheduled, AND for them to notify all delegates immediately (by email) to notify them that THAT is the case (and explain the reason why of course).

    And it would be interesting if skwawkbox could contact some of those claiming that the ballot was shelved because the pro-Corbyn element knew they would lose if a ballot was taken then and there, how THEY knew their desired candidate would win if the ballot HAD gone ahead, AND also ask them why would the pro-Corbyn element think that there would be any difference if the ballot was held at a later date – ie what was their thinking that led (as the Ann Black supporters supposedly saw it) for wanting the ballot to be postponed and held at a later date. WHAT advantage did THEY think that THAT would give them.

    Yes, it sounds convoluted the way I’ve composed it, but I’m sure skwawkbox could come up with a simplified and less convoluted version.

    1. “Just out of interest, where and when did this report by George McManus first appear”

      Unless you are questioning the veracity of George’s report it is difficult to see the relevance of your ‘interest’.

      As for the rest of your post, who was or wasn’t going to win this attempt to jerrymander this election is irrelevant. The only thing that counts is that the election was called without the necessary notice period as prescribed by the Labour Party Rule Book, anything else is just an irrelevant attempt to muddy the waters.

      1. If you don’t mind me saying so Steve, what has “veracity” got to do with it? When Mr McManus – who I don’t know and have never heard of before – had the idea to write a report about the meeting, he must of had a target ‘audience’ in mind, and given that I did a search which only brought up ONE relevant result – ie skwawkbox – I thought I would enquire of skwawkbox where the report was initially posted.

        As for what you say in the rest of your post, I totally disagree 1000% that “the only thing that counts is that the election wasn’t called with the necessary notice period……”, etc. For me the thing that REALLY counts is WHY was it called in the first place, when those who called it MUST have known they were breaching the rules. It is precisely because they did what they did that led to the totally distorted media coverage of events, and them disseminating the falsehood that JC’s supporters cancel elections if they are not going to get the result they wanted.

        And then the falsehoods about a woman being shoved out of the way and being sworn at etc, all of which was concocted by you-know-who – ie the so-called ‘moderates’.

        And the fact that Mr McManus doesn’t criticise Katrina Murray (and whoever else decided to call for a vote in the first place), who by their actions led to all the incredibly damaging media coverage for JC and his supporters, does make me wonder.

        What counts to me is that JC and his supporter are, in general, being painted and smeared as entirely the opposite of what they actually are, and for the obvious reason. And the timing of this latest episode is, to my mind, no coincidence.

    2. It was a report to CLPD. We’ve asked the question of some centrists present how they knew they’d win – non-responsive.

      1. Thanks for the info. As to the centrists you contacted, I’m surprised they didn’t accuse you of bullying them and trying to intimidate them!

        Have you thought to contact Katrina Murray to ask her to confirm one way or another whether she was “shoved” by Andy Kerr, or if he swore at her etc? (I realise of course that none of it happened, but it would be interesting to see how she responds, if at all). It would also be very interesting to ascertain from her who it was exactly that took the decision to have a vote (on the Monday) to have a ballot to elect a new chair at Saturday’s meeting, or who suggested it in the first place. And also whether, to her knowledge, the email sent out on the Tuesday afternoon was also sent to the NEC officers that were going to attend the meeting, including Andy Kerr (I don’t really know very much about the internal workings of the LP, or in what capacity they – the NEC officials – would be attending a meeting of the NPF).

        And just one last thing, regarding Betty Bus (who said that the email SHE received DIDN’T mention that there was going to be a ballot at the meeting to elect a new chair). Is it possible that there were two emails, one that was sent out to X amount of delegates that DID mention the ballot, and one that was sent out (‘accidentally’) to the other delegates that DIDN’T mention it, because the only other explanation is that she was lying, and it does seem odd that someone would think to do that. Then again, if she/they WERE a delegate, why didn’t she use her real name.

  10. That last paragraph was obviously meant to start…….JC and his supporters

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