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Why these NEC elections matter – Rachel Garnham, outgoing Labour NEC member

“This really is a government that acts for the few not the many and Labour must offer a genuine alternative.”

Rachel Garnham

It has been a difficult six months. Despite Keir Starmer being elected on a platform of unity, and a set of policies not too far off our progressive manifestoes of 2017 and 2019, it has been clear that Party organisation is fast returning to the worst days of Blairism and policies are being designed by focus groups, seemingly solely targeted at older, socially conservative voters who, over many years, have been switching from Labour to non-voting and latterly to the Tories. Who’d have thought this time in 2019 that one year on only 35 Labour MPs would vote against legalising rape and murder by undercover state agents? And in the midst of a government approach to COVID-19 that puts profit before people, how can we have a Labour leadership falling into line with an ultra-right wing government and not championing the necessary measures for public health that those in the frontline, for example in the education unions NEU and UCU, have known and told us are needed? Of course the government is incompetent, and it is necessary to call this out, but this really is a government that acts for the few not the many and Labour must offer a genuine alternative.

But the Labour Party, thankfully, is about much more than the leadership – we are a movement locally, regionally and nationally with our roots in the trade union movement. Locally, many Labour politicians, led by Mark Drakeford as First Minister of Wales, have put Labour values at the heart of their decision-making, working with comrades in the trade union movement to prioritise public services and support for those most impacted by the crisis. This is the way ­– as we saw from the brilliant, well-deserved election results in New Zealand – that Labour can build the necessary coalitions to win elections – not through triangulation and pandering to the right-wing press.

On the NEC since April there have been some dismal moments – the arbitrary, unjustified ruling on so-called ‘incompetent business’ for CLPs to try to stifle political debate; the refusal to write investigation of the 2017 alleged misallocation of funds into the Terms of Reference for the Forde Inquiry; the failure to reverse the decision of an unrepresentative selection panel for West of England Mayor not to shortlist the candidate supported by more CLPs than any other. These were topped off by the introduction of Single Transferable Vote for elections to the CLP section of the NEC (but notably rejected for every other section) – a purely factional move in my opinion, designed to minimise the number of Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance candidates elected, because we are the ones who fight these decisions every step of the way. We are the ones who speak up for so many members when we repeatedly say:

  • We defend the right of members to select the candidates of their choice who will be best-placed to fight for local communities;
  • We want justice from the Forde Inquiry and in particular, action against those who worked against Labour victories;
  • Our democratic structures, especially the sovereignty of annual conference and our CLPs – the backbone of our Party – are a great strength involving thousands of ordinary people embedded in our communities and should be supported and resourced;
  •  We want efficient, fair and transparent disciplinary process which can win the confidence of members, alongside a much greater emphasis on political education
  • We want equalities structures that can genuinely, and democratically, engage our diverse membership; and
  • The Leader must listen to members and the issues we care about and know that voters care about, for example in challenging Keir Starmer’s dismissal of the Black Lives Movement as a ‘moment’.

These voices have to be heard at the top (currently virtual) table, at the NEC – the administrative authority of the Party. And we need as many representatives as possible there who will fight for these principles, for Labour values, for policies that can build the diverse coalition needed to win elections. We have brilliant ‘Grassroots Voice’ candidates supported by a diversity of centre-left organisations in the Labour Party and trade unions. We must ensure Yasmine Dar, who as Chair of the NEC’s Disputes Panel fights for justice for members on a daily basis; and Ann Henderson, who as Chair of the NEC Equalities Committee has led the drive to rebuild inclusive, dynamic equalities structures, are re-elected, having built up a wealth of experience and knowledge in their 2-3 years on the NEC that will be essential in keeping up the fight for members’ rights going forward. And our new candidates, led by Laura Pidcock, along with Gemma Bolton, Nadia Jama and Mish Rahman are rooted in activism and have the passion, energy and commitment needed for this wearisome role.

Under STV it is difficult to share out the single votes we have as members in a way that will maximise our voice. Every preference could count. That is why the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance are urging members to vote for the Grassroots Voice six in different orders according to the region you are in, to get as many of the six elected as possible. To find out which order you are being asked to vote in, to maximise influence for the left, visit https://futureweneed.com/preference/

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