Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 21 July 2009, at Portcullis House

This extended meeting of the NEC was primarily concerned with discussing the dire election results in June and planning for September’s Annual Conference, but first we heard from Gordon Brown.

Leader’s report

The Prime Minister said that there were four main issues: MPs’ expenses, the economy, getting our policies heard, and unity. During the Euro and County elections, none of these had been working in our favour, but he thanked all the excellent candidates who lost through no fault of their own. He outlined what the Government is doing to deal with all of these and stressed that the Tories have no plans for the future of public services. I told him about the anger in my ward meetings about Ministerial resignations which had seemed deliberately timed to damage our vote in the elections, and secondly about the inconsistency in barring Ian Gibson from standing whilst taking no action against Ministers (and ex Ministers) who seem to have a much worse record on expenses (this issue came up several times during the course of the meeting). Pete Willsman said that Afghanistan is turning into Vietnam and that the military and civilian death toll is for nothing. Other delegates raised issues on pleural plaques (a form of asbestosis involving scarring of the lungs) and redundancies amongst low paid teaching assistants. Mr Brown responded with a speech about how the Labour and Trade Union Movement were born against the odds and that everything we’ve ever achieved has been against the odds.

Vote 2009

Harriet Harman spoke after officers reported on the dismal results from June. She said that the election campaign came when people were already concerned about their own personal finances, so the MPs’ expenses affair hit them like a bombshell. People don’t realise that most Labour MPs haven’t done anything wrong: she said that when the Derek Conway affair was first exposed, people asked her why Gordon Brown didn’t sack him! Now we have to show that we’re understanding and tackling people’s concerns on housing and employment, and tackle the BNP by showing that we’re the anti-racist Party. Concerns were expressed about our candidates being too far down the ballot paper (under T for “The”, not L for “Labour”), the size of the paper leading to thousands of spoilt ballots in regions where we narrowly lost, and the threat from the Greens, as well as UKIP and the BNP. I said that I raised the issue of Labour’s position on the ballot paper at the last Euro elections, and was told Ian McCartney would look into it. I also said that in some regions, the Labour leaflet made use of billowing Union Jacks and smiling white families – rather dodgy iconography, to say the least.

National Policy Forum

The policy documents agreed at Warwick in 2008 take no account of the global financial crisis and need updating. There is to be an NPF in the Autumn, and some form of policy document will be circulated for consultation beforehand. Make sure you don’t miss it, as some of these consultations are not very well publicised. Which brings me to …

Extending and Renewing Party Democracy

You will recall that one of Mr Brown’s first acts as Leader was to further erode Party democracy with his amusingly titled plan to remove the rights of organisations to put resolutions to Party Conference. This was forced through on the grounds that it would be trialled for two years. There has recently been a consultation which most members and CLPs seem not to have noticed, the inconclusive findings of which were reported to the NEC. We will be trying to bring back resolutions at this year’s Conference.

Rule Changes at Conference

Don’t stop reading! I know this sounds boring but it’s vitally important. There are rule changes coming up on extending the constituency section of the NEC to get representation from Wales and Scotland, and to elect the constituency reps on the National Policy Forum by all member ballots instead of by delegates at Conference. At the moment, NPF reps can be elected by about 20-30 people. Few members in the regions can name more than a couple of their six “representatives”. Even I couldn’t name all of them, although I watched them vote down all my constituency’s amendments at the last NPF. Naturally, the NEC voted to recommend opposition to these, although there may be change of mood in the air. Please make sure your CLP’s Conference delegate supports these real extensions of Party democracy.