NEC

‘Never more relevant’

Rachel Reeves tells Richard Angell and Conor Pope the subject of her book, Alice Bacon, would have a clear message for today’s moderates

First publish in Progress magazine

The Labour party is full of people whose stories never get heard. Who put in the hours, sit in the rooms where decisions are made and make sure that change happens. They make the history, but are often not recorded in it.

Alice Bacon is one of those people. She was a Labour parliamentarian for almost 50 years, 25 of them as a member of parliament, was a minister in the Harold Wilson government of the 1960s and sat on the National Executive Committee for almost three decades. Having grown up in a working-class community in Yorkshire and working as a teacher before her election, she was an early and tireless champion of comprehensive education, as well as a feared operator – earning the nickname ‘terror of the Trotskyites’ from Denis Healey. She was firmly against attempts to liberalise drug laws but key – alongside her boss at the Home Office Roy Jenkins – to the big liberalising battles of the 1960s, especially on abortion. (more…)

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Reason to be cheerful

First published in Progress magazine

Conference in Liverpool was a success for moderates

—The honest truth is that I had not been looking forward to Labour party conference this year. 2015 had been the first year I had not enjoyed conference, not because of the leadership result, but because suddenly Brighton went from being friendly to alien. Those who were abusive online decided to be so in person, and my staff were treated in not dissimilar ways, just for doing their job. Added to this year’s trepidation was the exhaustion from a summer of Saving Labour, a National Executive Committee campaign, and a leadership contest that went straight into a conference where those behind Momentum and the so-called Campaign for Labour Party Democracy wanted to change our party beyond recognition.

There was some, I hope understandable, foreboding. In the lead-up to conference, Progress and Labour First – working together like never before – travelled the country on our Road to Conference tour. Back to the basics of how conference works, what motions would be up for discussion, why moving from a 15 per cent to five per cent threshold for nominations for the leadership – known as the ‘McDonnell amendment’ – would be so catastrophic. I always enjoy getting out of London for our various events series in British cities – invariably run by brilliant Labour councils – but often these ‘moderate meet-ups’ were as much about hearing the stories of abuse being levelled at long-standing constituency officers, Jewish members and women councillors and members of parliament as they were about policy and procedure. I called the editorial of a previous edition of Progress ‘heart-breaking times’ – little else brings it home more than when members who campaigned for Michael Foot are close to tears because a small number of supporters of the current leader shout them down in meetings and intimidate them into silence. And it is not everyone, just some. Often not ‘new members’ but those returning to relive the 1980s (and the same sad outcome). (more…)

Unity or uniformity: the shadow cabinet decides

First published on Progressonline

It seemed clear to me at Labour party conference that Jeremy Corbyn did not know how to lead. His shrill demands for followership are not a replacement for leadership. ‘Unity’ demands something to unite around – a programme, a political strategy and plan for getting Labour into government.

But leadership is also about being both shepherd and sheepdog. Not just setting out a path – which Corbyn is still yet to do – but finding ways to bring the stragglers along with you – which, it seems, he is yet to try. (more…)

Asset-stripping Labour

Momentum is a party waiting to leave a party

First published in Progress magazine

The results of the National Executive Committee elections were disappointing. A clean sweep for the Momentum-backed slate will not be good for plurality, nor party democracy. But we should be proud of the six people Progress and Labour First supported. Ellie Reeves and Johanna Baxter doubled their votes and leave the NEC with a great list of achievements to their name. Bex Bailey polled 67,000 votes and ran a superb campaign. Parmjit Dhanda, Luke Akehurst and Peter Wheeler did well and should be proud. When it feels like you are the lone voice in a party meeting, remember that this ballot shows there are tens of thousands of members who want Labour return to its winning ways. (more…)

Three hundreds and thousands

First published on ProgressOnline

300 the film is a bloody portrayal of valiant warriors battling invading hordes, outsiders wishing only ill on the heartland, which in turn unites, inspired, against its common, outlandish enemy.

300 the number is a clear reminder of the difference a few votes can make here and there in the election to Labour’s National Executive Committee, which has just begun. (more…)

It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

First published by LabourList

I love the Labour party. I enjoy canvassing, I pay my subs, go to the various fundraising dinners and vote in National Executive Committee (NEC) elections. I, like many, hate the constant barrage of ‘please donate’ emails and fear the dreaded fundraising call. And if I feel like that, imagine the dread felt by a candidate when they receive such a call. Don’t believe that happens?

Hard to believe as it is, on more than one occasion now I have heard of target seats candidates getting direct calls from the party asking for money. There are terrible stories of candidates being required to be at events in London to raise vital and substantial funds for the party but having to pay their own travel from as far away as Scotland and the North East. Many candidates are expected to go to the dinners of neighbouring candidates, even those of existing members of parliament. (more…)

Time for NEC reform to strengthen members’ and councillors’ voices

First published on Progressonline

The events of last weekend were historic and unifying. The changes will be meaningful and, let us hope, lasting. Giving 2.7 million trade unionists the chance to step closer to the party their forebears helped create is no small thing. And asking the nine million people who stayed loyal in 2010 when the party got the second-worst electoral thumping since 1918 should chart a new opportunity for the people’s party. All make it more likely we win the coming general election.

Missing from the reform package, and Refounding Labour before it, is the necessary changes to the committee that is now to implement the Collins proposals, the NEC. (more…)

Closed shop

First published in Progress magazine and LabourList

Labour selections are long due an overhaul, but are new proposals a step backwards?

Barnsley Central’s selection of former paratrooper Dan Jarvis as its by-election candidate stands out for its choice of a new face with a different background. But the National Executive Committee’s new rules look set to restrict what can already be an opaque system.

The current assault course for wannabe MPs constitutes a 12-week process starting with self-nomination and access to membership lists, knocking frantically on doors and telephoning members. Four weeks in, a members’ event is organised and six weeks in branch meetings nominate up to three candidates. Anyone winning nominations in branches with a membership totalling more than half the CLP’s membership is shortlisted. The remainder are selected from those nominated by ward branches, unions and affiliates, and CLP equalities groups like Young Labour, women or BAME by members of the CLP’s General Committee. The prospective MP is finally decided by AV at an all-members’ hustings meeting. (more…)