NEC report back
The report on the NEC’s Terms of Reference and Committees, deferred for lack of time in January, came to this meeting. Many delegates had put comments forward for consideration at the last meeting, and expected them to be discussed at this one. However, the trade union delegates had been holding meetings with the General Secretary to agree forms of words. The “consensus” document was put to the meeting, and we were told that no amendments or counter proposals would be allowed. The only item on which agreement had not been reached in our absence was whether the NEC is an administrative body or the governing body of the Party. In the end, the wordings were composited, so now we are both!
Jeremy Corbyn reported that he has been campaigning hard for all the elections coming up in May. He is making effective use of social media to circumvent the less than favourable mainstream media coverage – the lowest viewing of the PMQs videos has been 500,000, and many are much higher. We will have a chance to expose the Tories in the Budget debate, as they are in a terrible economic mess – their targets are always five years away. He reported on the need to involve members and affiliated supporters, and the work that Ian Lavery is doing on Workplace 2020, to be launched in May.
I gave Jeremy a copy of an email I had received from a former Tory / Ukip voter who is now supporting him on the grounds that he is honest and sincere. He replied that he had had many interesting conversations with Ukip supporters, particularly in South Thanet when he was campaigning against Farage, and was pleased to see that Labour has now won a seat from Ukip in Ramsgate
Shadow Chancellor’s report
John McDonnell reported that he had set up his economic advisory panel and that it was meeting regularly. There have been economics roadshow events all over the country which are booked up within 48 hours, and hundreds of people are attending them. On May 21st there will be the first of annual “State of the Economy” conferences. We have to challenge Osborne’s reputation for economic credibility, as he is failing even on his own terms. 81% of Tory cuts hit women, especially women with children and older women.
The presentation on election strategy was made by Jon Trickett and Nick Forbes, leader of the LGA Labour Group. The theme will be Standing Up Not Standing By. Polling shows that two thirds of voters believe that the Tories represent the privileged – even a quarter of Tory voters think so! As you might expect, 91% of Labour voters agree, but so do three quarters of Lib Dem voters, and three quarters of Ukip voters. As there are lots of different kinds of elections coming up, Council, Mayoral and PCC elections, it is very complex putting together messages.
Glenis Willmott spoke to her written report. She stressed that the Referendum is not about supporting Cameron. We have a different vision for Europe. The Socialist Group has managed to bring back the Posted Workers Directive for revision (this states that workers from other countries can be paid at the minimum wage in their country, thus undercutting workers here). She also promised that Labour MEPs would oppose any agreements on TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) which would threaten public services.
Membership refusals and suspensions
When we took the Minutes of the Disputes and Organisation Committees, I expressed great concern about the numbers of members being suspended all over the country. There are still rejected applicants from the time of the Leadership campaign who are waiting for their cases to be heard. Some of them have been turned down on the grounds that they supported other parties in the past, yet councillors from the Lib Dems, Greens and even Ukip are being accepted. They are all welcome as far as I’m concerned, but we seem to have one rule for elected representatives (of other parties) and one for everyone else. Meanwhile existing members are being suspended without knowing why, and waiting months for a hearing, during which they can’t take part in local meetings.
I asked at the last Organisation Committee meeting for a report at the next one into how many membership and supporter applications were turned down last summer, how many were subsequently accepted, and how many are still waiting for their appeals to be heard. I also want to know how many existing members nationwide have been suspended, and how many Party branches etc are currently closed. A couple of delegates who run appeal hearings assured me that they always grant appeals if no complaints have been received from the CLP. Which is all very well, but if the CLPs haven’t complained, why are people being barred in the first place?