Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 20 July 2010, at Portcullis House

This meeting got off too a not-terribly-good start when we had to query the Minutes. I confess I don’t scrutinise them very carefully, as over the years I have found they bear only a passing resemblance to what happened at the meeting, but Peter Kenyon pointed out that my move to lower the threshold for nominations for the Leadership elections (from 12.5% to 10%) was not recorded. The General Secretary willingly agreed, but stated that there had not actually been a vote because the threshold is part of the Rules and you can’t have a vote on the Rules! I had to point out that at the same meeting the NEC had agreed to waive the Rules on membership qualifications for new members. From the Chair, Ann Black helpfully reminded the GS that there had been a vote, that she had presided over it, and that the result had been 2 in favour, 1 abstention, and lots against. Ray then agreed to its being included in the Minutes and the CLGA delegates geared ourselves up for the next silly game, for which we did not have to wait very long.

Supporting and increasing activity levels in CLPs

This paper was put forward after a discussion at the Organisation Committee. Due to lack of funds, the 2010 General Election was very much a doorstep campaign, and committed local activists achieved many victories against the national swing. Many seats that were narrowly lost now want early selections to help campaigning up to the next election. The Party is loath to let them do this as the Boundary changes associated with the Tories’ plan to axe 50 seats will cause enough chaos, with the possibility of 3 MPs going after 2 seats. In the meantime, they are suggesting CLPs elect “Campaign Leaders” or “Parliamentary Spokespersons”. Concerns were expressed that this would not really help – at the next round of selections there could be 3 MPs and 2 “Spokespersons” all after a couple of seats. And as the Boundary Commission could well take five years to review all the boundaries, we can’t wait to start selections anyway.

Acting Leader’s report

Harriet Harman made a presentation to Dianne Hayter, who is now ineligible to sit on the NEC as she has been appointed to the House of Lords. She then said that, since we last met on 18th May, a huge amount of political water has passed under the bridge. The new Government is even worse that we feared and the Lib Dems are totally supine and subsumed into the Tory agenda. (Glenis Willmott later reported that Tory MEPs had said before the election that Clegg was really one of them, and that in the event of a narrow victory they would be doing a deal with the Lib Dems.) However, the PLP is in good shape and we are landing blows on the Government, for example with Gove’s cuts to the Building Schools for the Future program. The outgoing Labour Government had tried for several years to rectify problems with electoral registration, but 3–4 million people are still not registered. Harriet was working on a system of automatic registration from Council tax and other records, with an opt-out if not eligible to vote. Party membership has increased by over 21 thousand since the election. A third of the new members were Lib Dem voters, a half are Labour supporters of longstanding. 41% are women. Members then asked questions. I welcomed the campaign on automatic electoral registration, having raised a very similar proposal many years ago on the Local Government Committee. I also said that we needed to challenge the Tories’ financial ideology – the financial crisis was caused by greedy bankers (all Tories) and public sector workers should not have to pay for it with their jobs and pensions. Accepting the premise of the Tory argument that there must be cuts cost us the election – when Alastair Darling said an incoming Labour Government would make worse cuts than Margaret Thatcher, we were finished.

More dirty tricks

On the report of the Officers meeting from 12th July, there was a short line about the eligibility of NEC members’ nominations. This turned out to be an attempt to disqualify Peter Willsman from the NEC, because he has had the temerity to move house! I pointed out that it’s a generally accepted civil right to move house if you want to, and that as nomination periods generally stretch over several months (leaflets about the NEC elections have been doing the rounds since January) the most sensible cut off date should be the close of nominations, otherwise all sorts of people could find themselves falling into a limbo of not being allowed to stand for office because their lease was up. After discussion and a vote, the GS’s recommendation was overturned by a large majority, a tribute to the common sense and fairness of NEC members.

Partnership into Power review

There is to be a consultation over the next year on improving the way the Party makes policy, and a draft document was put to the meeting. Unfortunately, the paper is less a complete overhaul of the much-criticised Policy Forum process, more a tinkering around the edges. Most members present felt that there should be much more far reaching changes to the process, and that the questions asked in the consultation shouldn’t be so limiting. Make sure your CLP takes part in the review when consultation papers come round.

Annual Conference 2010

Margaret Wheeler, Chair of the Conference Arrangements Committee, gave a presentation on the arrangements for Annual Conference. It is expected that there will be a Rule Change agreed so that any “contemporary issues” that are sent in by affiliates will be converted into contemporary resolutions. The ten word “issue” will be taken to be the title of the resolution, and the 250 word “supporting argument” will become the resolution. Questions were asked about the definition of contemporary – usually it means something that has come up since the meeting of the National Policy Forum, but as the NPF hasn’t met for two years that would make just about anything contemporary. Margaret said she would send guidelines to CLP secretaries, so look out for that if your CLP wants to send in a resolution.

Tower Hamlets Mayoral shortlist

There has been a great deal of disquiet about this, but as legal action has been threatened we weren’t allowed to discuss it. I did make the point that the problems are due to the local parties not being allowed any say in their local government selections. There has been regional office interference in council selections in Tower Hamlets for the last sixteen years. The LGC was closed down several years ago, supposedly awaiting an inquiry, which has never taken place. “Membership irregularities” is the usual excuse, but as all the membership has been routed through regional office for many years, it’s hardly the fault of the local party if there are problems. I made all these points to the GS, who said he would look into providing a path out of special measures for the local party. I will also try to get problems in other constituencies resolved – there is no reason why local parties should be closed down for years at a time.