Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 23 March 2010, at Portcullis House

As this was to be the last NEC meeting before the General Election everyone had their mind on that, although first we heard tributes to the work of Michael Foot, Albert Booth and Ashok Kumar who had all recently died. Members stood for a minutes’ silence to honour the contribution of all members who had died since the last meeting.

Fighting to win

In his Leader’s report, Gordon Brown said that the election was a straight choice between us and the Tories, and that when people took a long hard look at them, they wouldn’t like what they saw. We are the Party of fairness, they are the Party of the few. Their economic policies would put jobs and the recovery at risk. We will fight the election to win.

Mr Brown then answered questions on the intervention by ministers into the lawful industrial action by Unite members working for British Airways, Kraft taking over Cadbury’s, and the murder of human rights workers in Colombia. I pointed out that the provision of affordable and social housing would be a major issue in the election, as its lack leads to many resentments and social problems.

Campaigning to win

Harriet Harman spoke about the work of the campaign team. As we cannot outspend Lord Ashcroft, the Labour campaign will make a virtue out of necessity and use footsoldiers on the ground to get the message across. Also, new technology will be utilised, with emails, Facebook groups and Twitter feeds being very useful – and inexpensive. Already, trade unions and CLPs are mobilising their activists. There was a discussion about the possible impact of the TV debates between the Party Leaders, and also concern about the role which might be played by the last Party leader.

Revolting MPs

Nick Brown gave a Chief Whip’s report on action he has taken against Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt, Geoff Hoon and Margaret Moran. They are subject to administrative suspensions, with the possibility of further action to be taken. A great deal of anger was expressed about how their actions have damaged the Party in the run up to an election, and the speedy response was supported by NEC members. Some regret was expressed that Members of the House of Lords don’t have the same sanctions which can be used in their case.

Last minute selections

The NEC had taken part in a telephone conference call to consider East Lothian’s GC decision to seek reselection of their MP Anne Moffat on 3rd March. The flavour of the discussion was in support of the CLP’s decision, which was later confirmed by a postal ballot of all members who had been “present” for the phone call. When the Minutes of this meeting came up, the whole issue was discussed again by members who didn’t agree with the vote. I found this a little trying, as I support democracy for local CLPs, and whenever I want to raise anything from previous meetings or sub committees I’m told that the issue can’t be discussed again. Anyway, after a discussion, the Minutes were accepted and we voted overwhelmingly to support East Lothian’s decision. Again.

We also had the Minutes of seven Special Selections Panel meetings from February and March. I don’t have space here to go into all the concerns that have been expressed about the decisions taken at Panel meetings, and as I was involved in some of them (as an applicant, not a member!) it might be thought my motives are somewhat suspect, but there has been a great deal of disquiet expressed about the way local candidates have been kept off shortlists for late selections (not only the ones I was involved in). The Chair expressed her view that the fault is with MPs who chose to stand down at the very last minute, and there is some truth in this, but of course we all know of selections that were delayed for months in order to bring them within the purview of the Panel. The Panel Minutes were noted, as there was little else we could do about them. For future elections, we need to make sure that the involvement of local CLPs is enshrined in any arrangements for late selections.

After further reports from the General Secretary, the Leader of the Local Government Association Labour Group and the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, the meeting was closed.