Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 20 Mar 2012, at 39 Victoria St.

Local selections

Before the start of the NEC I had a meeting with the General Secretary, the NEC Chair and the Organisation Committee Chair to discuss my paper on selections (circulated with this report). I feel very strongly that local members should be able to select the candidate they want. In discussing the paper, some of those present felt that the tone was unsuitable (they should have seen the original version!). I agreed to rewrite the paper for the next meeting of the Organisation Committee with a view to its being discussed and incorporated into the guidelines for selections.

General Secretary’s report

Iain McNicol reported on the Eric Joyce situation and the recent regional conferences. Party staff will be moving to the new HQ after Easter. I raised the matter of Regional Directors advising CLPs not to meet after February. In January, Iain had said these letters were only advisory, but since then I was sent a letter from the North West regional office instructing CLPs not to meet. I read this out. Iain repeated that the letters were advisory and meant to encourage campaigning.

EPLP report

Glenis Willmott spoke to her written report. She also thanked Luke Akehurst for supporting Euro MPs when Jack Straw wrote an article criticising them. Luke is very supportive, of course. At the January NEC he was the only member of the NEC in favour of the announcement that Labour supports a public sector pay freeze and won’t reverse cuts. He also still supports the invasion of Iraq – in fact it’s the moment in the Blair governments that he’s most proud of.

Local elections

Tom Watson spoke to a power point presentation about the May elections. Labour’s key message is “With you in tough times – the Tories are out of touch.” It was pointed out by union delegates that this is rather a weak message, and that the Tories are not smashing the NHS because they’re “out of touch”, they’re doing it for ideological reasons. Tom said we need something easily understandable on the doorstep which we can then harden up.

Leader’s report

Ed Miliband thanked the General Secretary for all the work that had been done on the management reorganisation as having an integrated team is very important. He said the Budget would be based on Osborne’s failing, as his projections from last year had been wrong. It will also be deeply unfair. We have to keep campaigning on the NHS, and highlight what is happening on the ground. There has been fantastic co-operation between the PLP and the unions, particularly Unison. The May elections are very important and we need to mobilise the outer London vote for Ken.

NEC members raised the issue of the closure of Remploy factories, and pointed out that the policy was started by the last Labour Government. Mr Miliband was advised to be bold in his Budget speech and stress the importance of fairness, particularly in opposing regional pay.

NPF Chair’s report

Peter Hain spoke to a PiP progress paper suggesting an annual rolling policy programme, with Party units entitled to submit amendments. I asked about the original proposals (many years ago) for minority reports which have never quite happened, alternative positions which have to get through a very high threshold, and whether party units will be able to make amendments directly, or through the NPF reps as happens now. The paper will be discussed further then put to Conference.

Shadow Chancellor’s report

Ed Balls made some good points about the Budget, and said the focus of politics is moving from the past to the future sooner than in most Parliaments. He said we have to show people we’re responsible and will make difficult decisions. I said that never, in all the years I’ve been canvassing, has anyone said that they were worried that Labour wouldn’t make difficult decisions. What they say is, the parties are all the same as each other so what’s the point of voting? We need clear red water between us and the Tories, instead of Tory-lite policies on cuts. Why not make the difficult decisions to tax the rich, and collect the tax lost in avoidance and evasion to fund jobs and growth? I had some support from trade union delegates on this. Mr Balls replied that we can’t deny the deficit (I don’t) and that we lost the last election because too many Unite and Unison members voted Tory. This is simply not true. Labour lost 5 million votes between 1997 and 2010 and the Tories only gained 1 million, and I don’t believe the missing 4 million are sat at home because they think we’re denying the deficit.