Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 18 May 2010, at Portcullis House

This was the second NEC meeting I went to in eight days. A week certainly is a long time in politics. The first meeting was about the possibility of doing a deal with the Lib Dems. This one was about the consequences of being in opposition, plus a first look at precisely what happened during the General Election campaign.

Acting Leader’s Report

Harriet Harman said what an honour and a privilege it was to be acting Leader of the Labour Party. Our election result was remarkable under the circumstances – asking for a fourth term coupled with global recession, the expenses crisis, Ashcroft money and the attitude of national newspapers. Now we are going to be a strong and powerful opposition, holding the Government to account. Four million people will be involved in the Leadership election, and thirteen thousand have joined since the election.

Leadership election

Ray Collins, the General Secretary, outlined the unanimous recommendation of the Procedures Committee to hold a longer Leadership process with a September election. I was in agreement with that. Unfortunately the proposal also stuck to the nomination threshold of 12.5% (33 MPs), and set a nomination deadline of Thursday, 27th May – just over a week. During the debate that followed, Peter Kenyon moved that we abide by the Rules that state nomination papers for Leader and Deputy Leader must be sent out every year, whether there is a vacancy or not. Ray replied that we have legal advice saying that as a contest can be triggered at any time by the collection of 52 (!) MP’s signatures, there is no need to send out papers. Peter called for a vote on this, and on moving the closing date back for nominations, but got little support apart from me. I have no problem with Harriet Harman, but am a little tired of a somewhat partial attitude to the Rulebook.

During the debate, several MPs said that the PLP wanted a shorter timetable, but that some had been concerned about the possibility of a snap election, something which is obviously not going to happen now. I reminded the meeting that before the last leadership “election”, myself and Walter Wolfgang had moved that for that election only the threshold of nominations should be reduced to 10%. We had lost, but I felt were proved right by the not very satisfactory coronation which followed, fatally undermining Mr Brown’s authority in the PLP. I therefore moved again that the threshold be lowered for this election only. I was told that couldn’t be done because it was against the Rules (see above- obviously I need legal advice) and when it was put to the vote only Peter Kenyon supported me. The recommendations were then agreed.

General Election report

Greg Cooke and Douglas Alexander gave a report on the General Election. Greg produced figures showing that there had been variable swings across the country, with 67 seats being won by the “wrong” Party. The polls had not given a true picture of what was happening during the campaign, as could be seen by the Liberal surge which never happened, but the exit poll was remarkably accurate. We had very good results in Scotland, Merseyside and metropolitan areas. We did much less well in new dormitory towns, the port-industrial fringe, and county towns. However, organisation and the incumbency factor were also very important.

Douglas added that although we lost badly, we prevented the Tories from getting an overall majority. Activists had done a great job – during the short campaign we were making 100 thousand contacts a day. Contact Creator worked well, and our broadcasts and literature were also very good. It all showed that committed candidates and activists can beat lots of money any day.

During the discussion, members welcomed the defeat of the BNP, expressed concerns about the capacity of Contact Creator, felt that there had been problems with the political messages which weren’t positive enough, but had nothing but thanks for the presentation, the work of Party staff, and the dedication of candidates and activists.

Clause Five Meeting

On discussion of the Clause Five meeting which agreed the Manifesto, several members said that the changes agreed at the meeting never made it into the Manifesto. That was certainly my experience, but I’d thought that was just me. It was agreed that the fate of agreed amendments at the meeting would be looked into.

Post script

Since the meeting, the PLP managed to put the deadline for nominations back two weeks. Labour Home is running a campaign to cut the nomination threshold. I recommend you all sign up to it.