Christine Shawcroft Labour

NEC report back

Report of the NEC meeting held on 28 Jan 2014, at 1 Brewers Green

One imagines that the thoughts of most people taking part in this meeting were directed towards the following week’s meeting to decide on the Collins Review recommendations. If the report had been brought forward by just a few days we could have discussed it at this meeting, but we had several presentations to pass the time instead.

Leader’s report

Mr Miliband said that we have to win the argument on the cost of living crisis. The Tories are saying people are better off, but they have no idea what people are going through. The reaction to Ed Ball’s announcement of the 50p tax rate has been predictable, but it will only affect the top 1% of earners, who are hardly in the middle income bracket. His commitment to balance the budget means the current budget will be balanced, but that won’t include spending for longer term investment. I welcomed the commitment to the 50p rate, and also said the energy price freeze was popular with people I spoke to, but that we need to be careful about reports of energy companies withdrawing from community energy schemes.

Scottish Labour report

Johann Lamont, Anas Sarwar and Ian Price gave a presentation on Scottish politics, particularly the referendum. The SNP are merely masquerading as a Party of the Left, they are ambivalent about the 50p tax rate and their rich supporters will certainly oppose it should they win the referendum. They prefer to cut corporation tax. Results in recent by elections have been very encouraging. Johann said that when people say to her that Thatcher came after Scotland, she points out that she came after all working people.

Deputy Leader’s report

Harriet Harman outlined the plans for the Wythenshaw and Sale East by election, for which an excellent candidate has been selected, from a very strong shortlist. We have to keep to our agenda and not let the media get away with pushing Ukip. We have won almost 2000 council seats since 2010, and need to squeeze the Lib Dem vote to win Tory seats, so those noises off about preparing for a coalition with them are wrong.

General Election strategy

Douglas Alexander and Spencer Livermore gave a very comprehensive presentation on preparations for the General Election. They stressed that the economy will be the dominant issue and that we have to reach people for whom politics is on the periphery of their lives, hence the importance of community organising. Several delegates mentioned the importance of rebutting the Tory message that Labour left the economy in a mess, and that we caused the financial crisis. We should not go into a General Election talking about cuts. I felt that we should not cede the argument about immigration to the Tories – we need to stress the importance of jobs and housing for all, to expose myths about “welfare tourism” (half the welfare budget goes on pensions, and most of the rest goes on tax credits, housing benefit etc for the working poor, very little of it actually goes to jobseekers and the majority of those are not immigrants) and that I support “tougher choices on spending” – if it means cancelling Trident.

General Secretary’s report

Iain McNicol reported on the regional organisation in the country and his meetings with staff in the regions. There was also a “Nations and Regions” report which was very interesting. Although it was made clear that most of the arrangements for the Special Conference on March 1st would be discussed at the next meeting, Iain was able to confirm that so far there are close to 700 delegates registered. I asked about the investigation into complaints about the Conference Arrangements Committee elections at Annual Conference which should be reported back to the NEC when complete. Iain said he was in discussions with Katy Clark and Pete Willsman. One can only hope that it’s not another of those investigations which never happen. We were also told that electronic copies of policy documents are to be sent to CLPs by the end of February, and that amendments can be sent in until early June, for consideration at the summer National Policy Forum. When it was mentioned that London CLPs have been told they can’t have meetings until after the May elections, unless it’s to deal with important business, the Chair pointed out that policy documents are important business. The question was also asked, why are CLPs being told not to meet for months on end, it hardly encourages new members and could have an adverse effect on campaigning.

Other reports

Dave Sparkes spoke to his written local government report, and said that people were very demoralised and that we need to be thinking creatively about alternative systems. Glenis Willmott reported from the EPLP that the Tories are deliberately not accessing various funding streams. The meeting was rounded off with the International report and the minutes of sub committees, and then we all left, looking forward to meeting again in a week.