NEC report back
The bulk of this meeting was spent discussing the Euro and local election results. We have 7 more Euro MPs and a net increase of 338 councillors. Congratulations were offered to newly elected MEPs and councillors. With over 25% of the Euro vote for Labour (compared with under 24% for the Tories and over 27% for Ukip) and almost 36% of the vote in the local elections for Labour (with almost 26% to the Tories and under 16% to Ukip) it is clear that people are voting differently in local and Euro elections – and that they think the Euro elections don’t really matter. That is worrying, but hopefully means that Ukip won’t be able to make a breakthrough in the General Election.
Miscarriage of justice rumbles on
During the discussion of the elections report, it was coyly mentioned that in the Mayoral campaigns that took place “the incumbents had an advantage”. This was an attempt to glide past the fact that, for the second time, Lutfur Rahman has beaten the “official” Labour candidate in Tower Hamlets. I don’t have the space to give the history of this shameful episode in NEC history (second only to the expulsion of the RMT, in my view), please email me if you’ve missed it. I pointed out in the meeting that the ruinous split in Tower Hamlets Labour Party which ensued as people who supported a democratically selected candidate were expelled is now putting two Parliamentary seats at risk. Lutfur carries out Labour policies, and his supporters are good Labour people. They should be let back into the Party, and soon. Several delegates disagreed and said that Rules are Rules – we have to have internal discipline and we can’t allow people to go around standing against Labour and then letting them back in the Party. I actually agree with this, but I don’t know where in the Rules it says that you can turf out a candidate on the unsubstantiated accusations of the bloke who came a poor third, and then impose him instead.
Mr Miliband offered congratulations to the newly elected MEPs/councillors, and to Dave Sparks who is now Leader of the LGA, newly controlled by Labour. He said that Ukip have a simple “offer” to people, and that we have to deepen our message about jobs and housing. We need a transformative programme – even the Governor of the Bank of England is now concerned about inequality. We need to take on Ukip on their policies – they want a 40% top rate of tax and to bring back grammar schools. I said that we need to hammer Farage as an ex-stockbroker, too right wing for the Tories and not let him get away with his “ordinary bloke down the pub” image. Also, you don’t bring back grammar schools, you bring back secondary moderns. For every grammar school you need about 4 secondary moderns, so the electoral arithmetic should be with us on that one. I think Labour policy leaves a lot to be desired on this, which will hopefully be put right at this summer’s National Policy Forum.
Agenda 15 (National Policy Forum)
Speaking of the NPF, the deadline for amendments has now closed, so NPF members will be looking through them to see which ones we can put forward in Milton Keynes in July. As we only have 6 each, there isn’t a lot of scope. The hope was expressed that the process will lead to a radical, transformative Manifesto, and that it will also be open and transparent unlike some previous rather mysterious NPFs. The Policy Commissions will be meeting soon to ready their documents for the NPF. We are still waiting to see how the documents from the Jon Cruddas-led Shadow Cabinet process will be dealt with.
General Secretary’s report
Iain McNicol reported on plans for the Newark by election, the Scottish referendum campaign, the NEC ballot (ballot papers will be coming out in July, probably inside a Labour magazine as usual, do not throw this away without opening it. You can vote online but you need the number on the paper), a more local breakdown of the election result in the Nations and Regions report, and the finance strategy. Iain has done a great job getting the Party’s finances back under control and paying off the historic debts, unfortunately his good work is being undone by the decision made on affiliation changes put forward by the Collins Review. We are actually losing an extra £1.1 million a year more than budgeted for.
The most controversial part of the meeting came right at the end when a reference from the Org Sub came up. Several seats where women MPs are standing down had come up for a decision about an All Women Shortlist. I realise these are very unpopular, and they’re the worst method of getting women candidates – apart from all the other ones which have been tried. If women MPs are replaced by men, we will never reach the target for women in the PLP. After much discussion of the need to be consistent and credible, it was agreed that the seats in question, including Salford, should have AWS. I’m sorry if this upsets local members in these seats, but opponents of the policy need to come up with a better system. No-one has yet.