“My complete solidarity goes to the executive of Wakefield CLP. This kind of mismanagement and abuse of our party’s democratic structures undermines our abilities to mobilise members and win elections.”
Gemma Bolton, a members’ representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and Vice Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), reports back from the NEC meeting held on 24th May, 2022.
Keir Starmer reported to the NEC on his work as leader of the Labour Party, including Labour’s campaign for a Windfall Tax on the excess profits of energy companies; the results of the local elections; the forthcoming by-elections; and some of the upcoming items on the NEC meeting’s agenda.
Starmer was asked a range of questions by NEC members. In light of what I thought was a positive campaign for a Windfall Tax, I asked Keir Starmer whether he was still committed to public ownership of the energy utilities as a long-term strategic approach to both the cost of living crisis and Britain’s energy sector. Keir spoke again about the need for a Windfall Tax but did not respond to the question about public ownership, which was disappointing given this commitment was a prominent feature of his leadership campaign. He was also asked whether he would support rail workers should a national rail strike go ahead, and he said he would consult with his cabinet on this. Keir was asked a number of other questions, including: the lack of visibility of disabled people in Labour’s local election campaign; the strained relationship between the party and the Trade Unions; local government workers’ pay campaign; long Covid; and what Labour can learn from the Australian Labour Party’s successful election result.
Deputy Leader’s Report
Angela Rayner reported on her work as deputy leader, including the vile misogynistic abuse she had faced in the Daily Mail and the extent of misogyny faced by women in public life. Solidarity with Angela and all women in public life who have to put up with such abuse on a daily basis.
General Secretary’s Report
Labour’s General Secretary David Evans reported to the NEC on a number of issues that had arisen since the last NEC. As I’ve reported before, the loss of members and reduced funding from trade union affiliates has had a serious effect on the party’s finances. David commented that the staffing operation was the leanest it had been in a long time, and that there are potentially changes underway to staff pensions.
The NEC was informed of yet another delay in the publication of the Forde Inquiry into the infamous ‘Labour Leaks’ report. We were told that Forde was checking the publication for ‘factual inaccuracies’, which seems to me another excuse bound to damage Mr Forde’s reputation. I note that Sue Gray was able to produce her far more complex report with a much quicker turnaround.
The NEC was informed of the campaign plans for the Wakefield by-election, a crucial campaign for our party given the resignation of Conservative Imran Khan for being convicted of abusing a 15-year-old boy. The seat is in a part of the country that the Party desperately needs to win if we want a chance of securing a Labour government, and Keir Starmer referred to it as a must-win by-election. It was extremely disheartening, therefore, that the party took such a shambolic approach to selecting the Labour candidate for the election. The NEC chose to ignore a rule change passed by its sovereign body – conference – which mandated a majority of positions for shortlisting a candidate in a by-election to the local constituency party. Instead, the NEC chose to stack the panel with its own members, against the wishes of the CLP. This led to the mass resignation of all 16 of the Wakefield CLP Executive Committee in protest at the disregard in which they felt they had been held.
My complete solidarity goes to the executive of Wakefield CLP. This kind of mismanagement and abuse of our party’s democratic structures undermines our abilities to mobilise members and win elections. Given the disarray the Tories are in, this felt like a missed opportunity to unite the party ahead of this by-election. Nevertheless, I hope that we see a Labour MP elected in Wakefield who will stand up for the people of Wakefield against this heartless Tory government.
The Tiverton and Honiton by-election was mentioned to the NEC as something of an afterthought. I was lucky enough to sit on the shortlisting panel for this by-election, which was rewarding. My best wishes to Liz Pole, who stood for Labour in 2019 and came second to the Tories.
The NEC was informed that 58 ‘trigger ballots’ for sitting Labour MPs have been completed, with most of the remaining processes on track to be concluded by June. Best of luck to all Labour MPs engaging in this process, and to the CLPs organising them.
Campaign Improvement Boards
The NEC was presented with a paper which aimed to improve the functioning of Labour Groups in local government. Unfortunately, there was some unhelpful briefing of the paper ahead of the meeting to the Huffington Post, which turned out to be quite different to the final paper presented to the NEC after amendments from different stakeholders had been taken into account. The NEC was told that a small number of Labour Groups have a poor performance in campaigning and governance and a dysfunctional culture.
The paper proposed setting up ‘Campaign Improvement Boards’ (CIBs) for Labour Groups identified as having significant issues, on the recommendation of the General Secretary and agreed by the following panel: the two Local Government NEC representatives and the Chair of the Organisation Sub-Committee. The CIBs would then work with the Labour groups and local parties to improve campaigning capacity, the diversity of candidate selection, skills, policy development and more. Amendments were put forward by Mish Rahman to ensure that all major decisions of the improvement boards would have to come back to an NEC committee, and to give CLPs and Trade Unions greater representation on the boards. Unfortunately these amendments were rejected.
I didn’t support this paper when it was moved to a vote. This is because whilst we should always be ensuring that Labour Groups are in the best place to win elections and deliver for their residents, I’m concerned at some of the top-down control freakery that this initiative could lead to. It’s always useful for Labour Groups to have advice on how to improve things but it seems to me that the major political decisions, such as who leads the group, should be made by the group and local party not by the NEC. Labour councillors, this paper is one to keep an eye on…
Finally, I’m excited to be re-standing for the NEC this year on a platform of working towards a transformative Labour government and a democratic party.
Thank you to all of the CLPs who have nominated me so far. The deadline for nominations is 17th June, so make sure you go to your CLP nomination meeting. The ballots will drop on 8th July and close 5th August.
- Gemma Bolton is the Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) and is re-standing as a members’ representative to the NEC. Show your support for her campaign on Facebook and twitter.
- You can read Gemma’s candidate statement here.
- You can view this article on the CLPD site, first published on May 28th, 2022.