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Willsman’s report on this week’s NEC meeting

Left NEC member Peter Willsman has published a report on this week’s meeting of the NEC, which is reproduced unedited below.

Leader’s Report

Jeremy had attended the very moving farewell to Paul Flynn MP. Jeremy said that he and Paul had been close comrades for many years and he will be greatly missed. Jeremy added that towards the end of his parliamentary career, Paul achieved the distinction of being the oldest person to speak from the Front Bench since Gladstone.

Jeremy then highlighted the appalling and relentless attack on local government and its funding. Indeed, the damage wrought by this Government is even worse than that wrought by Thatcher. He contrasted this with Labour’s proud record on Housing, highlighting the superb record of Labour’s council in Glasgow during and after the First World War. Housing will be top priority as soon as Labour gets back into office. Also, Jeremy restated our commitment that under the next Labour Government there will be public ownership of local bus services under the auspices of local government.

Jeremy then turned to the Brexit imbroglio which has been dominating the press and media for seemingly an eternity. Jeremy has made several visits to Brussels which involved detailed discussions with the EU negotiators about Labour’s strategy and programme for the way forward. Our alternative proposals have been generally well received. Jeremy stressed we will continue to press our alternative and that, above all, we believe that there should be a general election. His assessment is that a majority is developing in parliament which is opposed to both the Prime Minister’s “deal” and to “no deal”.

Jeremy then took the NEC through all the preparations leading to the launch of our campaign and manifesto for the forthcoming May local elections. He has already been to several local election campaigning events around the country. There is a lot of energy at our Party’s local level and many very good candidates.

Jeremy then outlined all of the work being done in relation to “preparing for Government”. Each Shadow Cabinet Team is developing an effective programme that can be implemented from Day One. Seminars involving these Teams and the PLP are being arranged.

Jeremy then highlighted the terrible tragedy in Christchurch. Jeremy has been in touch with Jacinda Ardernand expressed our solidarity and admiration for the way that Jacinda has responded to the sheer horror.

In the UK, there have been many examples of our local members showing solidarity with their local mosques. The Far Right has been gaining ground in Europe, the US and also here at home. Jeremy emphasised that the general acceptance in the West of neo-liberalism and austerity has played a major role in alienating whole communities who feel neglected and oppressed and believe that they are treated as second-class citizens. This is a classic situation that the Far Right can and has exploited.

Jeremy sent his love and wishes for an early recovery to Jennie and Cath. The whole NEC signed a special card for Jennie and a special card for Cath – to be sent to our very dear comrades.

In the discussion following Jeremy’s report, major points were raised in relation to the protection of human rights and to serious concerns in relation to the environment. Jeremy confirmed that our Shadow Cabinet Teams are giving both of these issues high priority. Finally, Jeremy emphasised that our whole focus must be unity around an effective and popular programme that will ensure a better society and will fully address the disgraceful neglect and inequalities that we see around us every day.

Deputy Leader’s Report

The Deputy Leader reported on the events he had attended and the work he has been carrying out with various Shadow Cabinet members; especially how Labour will tackle the increasing scourge of the gambling industry.

The Deputy Leader gave his assessment of TIG. He feels that few if any will win their seats. TIG have conducted themselves very poorly in Parliament and are internally conflicted – some pro-austerity, some less so.

In the following discussion a large number of very perceptive questions were put to the Deputy Leader by CLP and TU reps, in relation to his recent statements and actions. The Deputy Leader responded at length to the questions, many of which were somewhat critical.

Local Government Report

Local Government Conference – Warwick 8-9 February

At the conference the LGA launched their new publication “100 More Innovations”, showcasing best practice from Labour councils across England and Wales.

  • Local Elections Candidates’ Support

As part of the support offered from HQ Local Government Team, we now send regular communications to all Local Government candidates.

  • Mental Health in Local Government

We have now launched our dedicated area of the Local Government website focused on Councillor mental health and wellbeing.

  • Opposition Councillors’ training day – 14th June 2019

The ALC and LGA Labour Group will be jointly hosting a one day training event, on 14th June in Birmingham specifically targeted at councillors in opposition.

  • LGA Labour Women’s Taskforce

The LGA Labour Group hosts a Women’s Taskforce group meeting focused on tackling the barriers to women’s participation in standing as a councillor and the issues faced by women councillors once elected.

EPLP Report

  • Brexit update

The Commons has now voted against leaving the EU without a deal and also rejected the only deal currently on the table. There are now only two possibilities: finding an alternative deal or not proceeding with Brexit.

  • PES Congress in Madrid

The Congress was a success in that it adopted the common European Socialist election manifesto for the European Parliamentary elections. Our European comrades share our objective of avoiding a no-deal Brexit and agree that the alternative deal sketched out in Jeremy’s letter to Theresa May would have been (and could in principle still be) a far better basis for negotiation than May’s red lines.

International Report and Sister Party Review

A staff working group has been set up to conduct a review of relations with the party’s three existing sister party organisations.

  • Objectives of the Review
  • To assess the party’s international relations in light of Brexit, the current administration of the United States and the worrying shift towards right wing populism, most notably in Europe and Latin America.
  • To assess our sister parties’ current political and policy priorities.
  • To assess the priorities of our sister parties in line with the principles, values and policies of the Labour Party.
  • To make recommendations to the NEC on political parties to extend a link party status to.

The review will report to the NEC when its work is concluded.

General Secretary’s Report

There has been an initial meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about their potential investigation into the Labour Party. They are responding to complaints that we have not yet seen and have asked us to give them further information to enable them to make a judgement whether to use their statutory investigatory powers.

The first equality monitoring email has been sent to members who record members who self-define as BAME and disabled.

Campaigning is well under way in the Newport West by-election which will take place on 4th April. Ruth Jones is a first class candidate.

In the six weeks to 18th March nearly 7,000 new members joined the party, far outstripping those who resigned.

National Policy Forum Report

  • Women’s Conference

A stand-alone Women’s Conference was held on 23 & 24 February in Telford.

The eight topics chosen and debated were – Affiliate Section: Social Care; Universal Credit and Employment Support; Violence Against Women and Girls; Women in the Workforce. CLP Section: Rights for Migrant Women; Pensions; Early Years, Education and Childcare; Abortion Rights.

At the end of the weekend a vote was held to decide which two motions would go forward to be debated at Annual Conference. The topics as chosen by votes from Affiliate and CLP delegates were Universal Credit and Employment Support and Rights for Migrant Women respectively.

All motions put forward to the priorities ballot, the eight composite motions and notes from the policy debates over the weekend have gone forward to the NPF policy commissions for consideration.

  • NPF Consultation 2019

The 2019 NPF consultation featuring eight new consultation topics was launched on Monday, 25 February with an all-member email from the Leader. The consultation will be open until 30 June 2019.

Revision of National Constitutional Committee (NCC) Procedural Guidelines

The approach taken in the draft Guidelines is to separate the decision-making function of the NCC – that is, the role of NCC panels in considering the evidence, determining whether a charge is proved and, if so, imposing a penalty – from the administration of NCC proceedings. This is aimed at achieving the 3 month time limit for hearings.

It remains to be seen how the new procedures will work in practice.

Rules for Young Labour

These include the following:

  • Membership

All individual members of the Party aged between 14 and 26 years inclusive shall automatically be members of Young Labour.

  • Structure
  • There shall be a National Committee and an Executive Committee to ensure that the effective administration and organisation of Young Labour.
  • There shall be Young Labour Local Branches throughout England, Scotland and Wales which shall usually be co-terminus with Constituency Labour Parties.
  • There shall be a regional/Welsh/Scottish Young Labour Group for each English Region, Wales and Scotland. Such Groups shall produce regular reports on their work and progress to the National Committee of Young Labour and to the appropriate Regional/Welsh/Scottish Executive Committee.
  • Young Labour shall ensure at every level close cooperation and liaison with young trade unionists, Labour Students and young people in other affiliated organisations

Local Digital Media Strategy

The recommendations are drawn from the Democracy Review Implementation paper. The recommendations concern the online presence of CLPs as well as their use of technology.

Democracy Review – NEC Representatives

Annual Conference 2018 introduced a new NEC disabled members representative and a new election method for the NEC BAME representative. Elections for both of these positions will take place when sufficient equalities data has been collected to provide a viable electorate. It was agreed that the role of disabled members’ Representative be open to job shares.

Minutes of Organisation Committee March 19th

  • Definition of Islamophobia

Islamophobia is a phenomenon that encompasses far more than hate crimes, extending to a variety of different manifestations such as behaviours, casual discrimination, or the well-known conflation of Islam with terrorism. Survey evidence suggests that, although 94% of Muslims felt able to practice their religion freely in the UK, 70% reported that they had experienced religious-based discrimination, and young Muslims felt that they faced more prejudice than other religious groups.

Prompted by the Government’s reluctance to adopt a formal definition of Islamophobia, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims established an inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia. Following a “widespread consultation with academics, lawyers and Muslim organisations”, it recommended the adoption of the following definition:

“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

This definition was agreed for the Labour Party by the Organisation Committee.

  • Motions from CLPs

The Organisation Committee noted several motions that had been submitted to the NEC since our last meeting. The motion from Newbury CLP was particularly noteworthy and I highlighted this to the Committee. It contained the following key points:

“Individual cases should be treated as confidential for the entirety of the disciplinary process, and the CLP therefore respects the advice given by Labour’s General Secretary to this effect.

This CLP further believes that the same principles of confidentiality and natural justice should apply to our elected representatives. We therefore call upon the General Secretary and Chief Whip to issue advice to Labour’s parliamentary representatives that they should not discuss individual cases in the media or elsewhere. In cases where this advice is ignored, there should be sanctions imposed.”

  • Motions to Annual Conference from CLPs and Unions

Following the decision of the 2018 Annual Conference we are no longer restricted by the convoluted rule that they must be “Contemporary” which has been totally abolished. We are now continuing with the system that lasted almost 100 years prior to the Blair days, namely that CLPs and Unions can send motions on any subject they choose. Prior to the Blair days it was perfectly in order to submit motions on Party Organisation matters. We need to ensure that the post-Blair days are not a step backwards from the pre-Blair days.

Postcript

  • Quote: Unquote

“One father had come in to the food bank as he had no money for himself and his family. He received too much money the last time his payment had been made, so social security took the lot off in one go. Nobody told him he had been paid too much, so it was entirely the department’s fault. His plight moved the volunteers to tears.” Letter in The Guardian, March 9th

“The Guardian found at least 60 councils with public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) forbidding people from putting up tents, seeking charity and other behaviour associated with rough sleeping, up from 54 last year. Those who violate the orders are liable to a £100 fine which, if left unpaid, can result in a summary conviction and a £1000 penalty.” Patrick Greenfield and Sarah Marsh, The Guardian, March 7th

“If things are fine and dandy in the US, why has the recent US Federal Government shutdown meant that 38m Americans went without food stamps? Over half of US children live in homes receiving state aid and half the total population receives more in government aid than they pay in taxes.” Investors Chronicle, January 24th

“Britain’s working class population appear not to the main cause of rising racism and religious tensions, according to research showing middle-income earners are more likely to feel threatened by immigrants, Muslims, Gypsies and Travellers. “We were shocked by the extent to which those prejudiced views seeing minorities as a threat really carries across the full spectrum of society” said Kate Ferguson, director of Research and Policy at the NGO.” Robert Booth, Social Affairs Correspondent, reporting on a study by Protection Approaches, an NGO, The Guardian, March 6th

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7 comments

  1. Very interesting report and thanks SB for publishing .
    The section on NCC is, in the light of recent rulings, very pertinent . I would like to see just how Panels are chosen and on what basis , what checks are done on backgrounds to ensure as best as possible impartiality.
    The section on CLP motions and Union Motions is also IMO good news and the reminder of removal of the Contemporary requirement , I never really understood or agreed with the idea of this rule , is a welcome positive one .So some positive news for a change IMO

  2. The deputy leader’s report seems rather lightweight compared to the other parts of the meeting.

    It looks like Tom Watson has been skiving off from doing any real work again and only seems interested in slagging off the Labour Party in public and damaging the Labour vote.

    1. Or perhaps maybe , he is being ignored and not given any more airtime/oxygen , not that I’d suggest that’s the case you understand …of course ….

  3. Did i read this correctly ? The EHRC want more information about complaints made but will not provide labour with details of the actual complaint? This is against Natural justice . Audi alteram partem

  4. I posted the following potential/possible solution to the anti-semitic Smear Campaign late last nght on another thread, which I don’t suppose many people saw, so I’m posting it again and, as such, would be grateful for any feedback – ie the pros and cons – regarding the idea.

    Anti-semitism is a form of racism, and racism is a criminal offence, and so bearing in mind that the vast majority of claims are bogus and, as such, dismissed by the NEC, many other accusations lead to the suspension of the person concerned, and THEY then have to wait until their case is dealt with, AND, in the vast majority of THOSE cases, the person concerned is NOT judged to have said anything anti-semitic (but never-the-less often judged to have brought the party into disrepute, or whatever, which is just a catch-all phrase, and in most cases applied fraudulently).

    Anyway, my suggestion is that when accusations of anti-semitism are made to the LP/NEC, the person – or organisation – making the complaint should be told to report the matter to the police, and told that if the person is then prosecuted and found guilty as such, then the they will be expelled from the Labour Party. In other words, they should NOT be suspended just because someone made a complaint, except of course in instances when what they said – or did – was a blatant case of anti-semitism.

    Another aspect of this situation is that the Labour Party, unlike the Tories, has jurisdiction over its members, if I can put it like that, and THIS should be looked into and reconsidered. Do OTHER UK political parties have this ‘power’ over its members? I don’t know the answer, but it would be interesting to find out. My guess is that along with the Tories, UKIP is probably the only other party that doesn’t have this jurisdiction over its members (I’m not including the fringe parties in this of course).

    Anyway I would be interested to hear any thoughts on this, especially my initial suggestion about complainants being directed to the police etc. As things stand, the smearers hold all the cards, and those being victimised hold none, and that HAS to change.

  5. The following is from July of last year (which I just came across whilst doing a search on my PC for something else). It’s quite possible that someone posted a link to it on skwawkbox at the time, and THAT’S where I got it from, but I really don’t recall:

    40+ Jewish groups worldwide oppose equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel

    https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/first-ever-40-jewish-groups-worldwide-oppose-equating-antisemitism-with-criticism-of-israel/

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