Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 24th Jan 2012, at 39 Victoria St.

New Headquarters

This may have been our last meeting in Victoria St, as the Party will soon be moving to better, cheaper headquarters nearby. NEC members have been taken on a visit to the new building, but I had to be at work so haven’t seen it yet.

Local elections

Tom Watson spoke about the local elections campaign, which he wanted to be seamless and co-ordinated. In London, the herculean campaign and Ken’s gut instinct as a politician led to the successful campaign against fares rises, when 2000 Party members leafleted stations on a freezing January meeting. Ken is now ahead in the polls. The man himself reported that Johnson has now been forced to admit that he has cut police numbers by 1700, despite previously denying it. Tom continued that 55% of candidates are now in place for the English and Welsh elections, and the new leadership team in Scotland are very capable and energetic.

I asked why local CLPs, even in areas which don’t have elections like mine in Nottingham, have been told by regional offices not to meet after the end of February. Local members are being given the impression that the Party wants to close local parties down for months at a time. Iain McNicol, the new General Secretary, made it absolutely clear that the regions are just offering advice, that there is not a hard and fast rule, and that they were hoping to encourage parties to campaign, not hold business meetings. However, there is no reason why parties cannot continue to meet.

Leader’s report

Ed Miliband said that the brilliant by election result in Feltham and Heston hadn’t been given enough coverage. The Tories were losing the economic argument – they promised to clear the deficit within one Parliament, but that isn’t going to happen now. The public accept our argument that the Tory cuts go too far, too fast, but we don’t yet have fiscal credibility. We mustn’t make promises about reversing cuts now, because we can’t say where the money will come from. Faced with a choice between increasing pay and protecting jobs, we have to protect jobs. We will have to make difficult choices in government.

Considerable concern was expressed by trade union delegates about Ed Balls’ announcement that we couldn’t reverse all Tory cuts and accepting a public sector pay freeze. Many delegates were particularly annoyed that the announcement had been sprung on them with no consultation. I said that it wasn’t so much the process that bothered me, but that it was the wrong policy. In fact “too far, too fast” is the wrong policy. The deficit wasn’t created by the public sector, and it is a false choice to say we can have pay increases or jobs, but not both. The Party has no fiscal credibility because it is accepting Tory arguments on the deficit – the polls bear this out. We should be campaigning for fair taxation, clamp down on high pay, and get hold of the £70 bn lost to the Treasury every year through tax avoidance and evasion. The only member of the NEC who agreed with the announcement was a CLP “representative” – clearly he’s not representing us.

Mr Miliband said that Balls’ announcement was not a departure from the previous policy, and was not an attack on public sector workers, but had been reported wrongly. He said my position of “no cuts”(also held by most major trade unions) was valid but wrong, as the tax gap wouldn’t eliminate the deficit. Maybe it wouldn’t in one Parliament, and obviously not in one year, but the £70 bn is a conservative (sorry!) estimate, many economists put it far higher. Add to it taxation of the super-rich, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the cancellation of Trident, and we can have more jobs, better pay, better services and no deficit. Austerity is increasing the deficit, not cutting it!

Refounding Labour to Win

Peter Hain gave a report about policy making and the National Policy Forum. Delegates expressed concerns about the usefulness of the NPF particularly as Liam Byrne’s policy review is undermining the policy commissions and producing documents which have been seen by no-one on the NPF. Trade union delegates called for organisations to be able to put amendments to documents, not just send in comments which go nowhere. Hain reported that there would be a meeting of the NPF in late June, but that we don’t need a repeat of Gillingham and Wrexham where there were discussions but nothing happened.

Drop the Bill

Andy Burnham reported on the campaign to defend the NHS from Tory privatisation. There has been a breakthrough with the RCN supporting the campaign. Cameron promised to look after the NHS and his position is now untenable.