News from the national Labour Party

The NEC met in Glasgow, welcomed by the new Scottish leader Richard Leonard.  After a reception on Saturday evening hosted by Unite we convened at 9 a.m. on Sunday, and congratulated Paddy Lillis on his election as general secretary of USDAW.  The membership of NEC committees and policy commissions was agreed.  I will continue serving on the equalities committee, the business board and the work, pensions and equalities commission, and Pete Willsman is joining the audit and risk management committee.
 
We moved on to the election of the NEC youth representative, due in February.  Following ructions at the last youth conference the Royall report recommended balloting members rather than having delegates vote in person.  In previous incarnations the NEC would have extended the term of the current representative by a few months and run the election alongside the NEC and NPF ballots in July.  Also the party democracy review is expected to make recommendations for Young Labour in January and a short delay would have enabled an election by whatever method emerged.  I supported this, but it was rejected by 16 votes to 9.   
 
The NEC then considered whether to retain an electorate split into thirds:  individual young members, Labour students, and young trade union members.  In July the Young Labour national committee supported pure one-member-one-vote, but now favoured to halves, removing Labour students.  I voted for halves, as students already get one vote, though the review may soon replace it with yet another system.  That was carried with six against   Finally I proposed that individual young union members should be balloted, and that was rejected by 18 votes to six.  Instead each union will cast a single weighted block vote, with young members contributing through their union’s own internal democratic processes.  We did, however, keep the cutoff age for the NEC youth representative at 23, not the 27 requested by the YLNC, which would have allowed young women to serve for up to seven consecutive terms, until they were nearly 30.
 
So instead of continuing to combine elections in a single OMOV ballot, we have three separate votes, with the extra NEC places and the youth elections taking significant staff time and costing around £50,000 each.  For Young Labour this will be a continuing burden if a strict two-year timetable is carried forward.  For comparison £50,000 is the total amount allocated to bursaries to support candidates with disabilities.
 
Leaders’ Reports
 
At 10 a.m. the NEC were joined by members of the Scottish executive.  Jeremy Corbyn thanked party staff for their continuing work in difficult and distressing times.  He talked about homelessness, the budget, challenging the government on universal credit, Zimbabwe after Mugabe, the war in Yemen and arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the plight of the Rohingya people.  On Brexit he was working with MEPs and fellow European socialists to try to minimise the damage:  two-thirds of Labour supporters voted to remain, but even leavers did not vote to lose their jobs, turn Britain into an offshore tax haven, or give up environmental and consumer protections.  Jeremy Corbyn said, again, that local parties should take a hard look at their culture, so that new members find their first meetings happy, friendly and sociable.  Though from my experience it is not that simple, and his kinder, gentler politics is not yet universal.
 
Richard Leonard then spoke of the challenges facing Scottish Labour in moving up from third place and winning back the young people who voted for independence.  They wanted radical change, and Labour was pledged to oppose austerity, extend public ownership and redistribute wealth and power, building support outside as well as inside parliament and talking with voters as citizens, not just consumers.   He was talking with Welsh Labour on areas of common interest and hoped that councils could do more than simply manage decline.  Brian Roy, Scottish general secretary, added the need for more resources, another possible use for money spent on extra ballots.   Scottish members stressed the need to reach into communities, strengthen links between councillors and constituency parties, and recognise Scottish and Welsh dimensions to policy-making.  Alice Perry added that Labour should include a pledge to restore local government funding in the next manifesto, otherwise the Tories would continue to devolve blame for cuts.
 
The turnout for the Scottish leadership election was 62.3% of the 35,309 eligible voters.  Richard Leonard gained 56.7% overall, winning by 51.8% among members, 77.3% among affiliated supporters, and 48.1% among registered supporters.  Interestingly the contest attracted only 79 registered supporters paying £12 each, reinforcing the lack of enthusiasm for them expressed in rule changes at conference and in my inbox.  Meanwhile Wales is still using the old-style electoral college to elect their deputy leader.
 
Be Prepared
 
General secretary Iain McNicol said that Labour was preparing for a general election at any time, engaging with members, taking on the Tories in parliament, building a strong, professional organisation, and supporting early selection of candidates.  Three had already been chosen, and more than 100 should be in place next year.  I and others passed on the desire from all CLPs to select candidates as soon as possible.  Peter Willsman said that working-class candidates were still disadvantaged and it shouldn’t be possible to buy a seat.  Since the meeting not all selections have been going smoothly, and my comment that the NEC got fewer complaints when imposing candidates in all 631 seats is sadly proving true.  Though I am not suggesting that we do it again.
 
Not Drowning but Waving
 
Annual conference was massive, with 1278 constituency delegates representing 579 CLPs, and sheer numbers meant that councillors and MPs were exiled to the balcony.  NEC members agreed with Christine Shawcroft that jumping up and down and waving bizarre objects to catch the Chair’s eye made the party look ridiculous and discriminated against disabled members.  She suggested a system of speaker cards, and I hope that the new conference arrangements committee will look at this.
 
The 2018 women’s conference will again be held on the Saturday immediately before annual conference, but in discussion with the newly-elected women’s conference arrangements committee it was agreed that CLPs and affiliates should be able to submit motions rather than statements, and that one motion should go forward to the annual conference agenda.  I have asked for information about delegates and deadlines to be sent directly to women’s officers as well as secretaries, and for secretaries to be reminded to pass it on to their women members.  For 2019 a stand-alone women’s conference is planned.
 
Membership and Money
 
Membership began to slide after the vote on Article 50, but picked up again when the general election was called.  The end-of-year figure is likely to be 568,500, including around 50,000 in arrears.  Of these, 43% are renewing their membership if asked, so well worth following up.  Because membership is volatile, particularly when there are no national elections, financial planning has to err on the side of caution.
 
Back in 2014 the Collins review required union members to state explicitly, by 2019, that they wished part of their political levy to be used to affiliate to the Labour party.  However this had been overtaken by the government trade union act which requires all new union members to opt in to party affiliation, and will eventually affect all members.  The NEC therefore agreed that the Collins recommendations on collective affiliation had, in effect, been implemented.  This will lead to a decline, over time, in income from union affiliations, another reason for prudence.
 
The NEC development funds, established under Refounding Labour in 2011, are open for bids for local campaigning and for enhancing democracy and diversity, with a deadline of 28 February 2018.  In recent rounds there have been few bids, with some of those from previous applicants or those with inside connections, and little sharing of good practice.  These funds include part of the subscription income that was formerly returned to local parties, and I am interested in whether CLPs would prefer to continue with this system, or to have the money distributed directly to them, on top of the central payment of £1,400 for fixed charges (Euro-levy, election insurance, Contact Creator and conference pass) and the £2.50 per member. 
 
A Voice for Members
 
Katy Clark gave an update on the party democracy review.  Thousands of comments had already been received, most from individuals, and making sense of them all will be a Herculean task.  The review covers almost everything, though it excludes Westminster selections and complaints and disciplinary procedures.  On the latter there is continuing and justified concern about delays in investigating cases and arranging hearings by the national constitutional committee.  I am still rescuing individuals who were excluded or suspended over a year ago.  More personpower is being assigned to this and I hope will finally clear the backlog.  It can be done:  on sexual harassment six NEC members have already been trained and heard several cases.
 
The review will also have to decide what to do about the national policy forum (NPF).  It was reported that even in lslington North only four out of 200 members understood the system, and a manifesto written in three weeks was more successful than those constructed over three years.  Meanwhile, as under previous leaders, shadow ministers have their own groups developing policy without involving members.  However, after a six-month break the policy commissions are now meeting again.  On 17/18 February the NPF will agree documents for consultation from March to June (yes I know we will be in election mode for most of that time).  Since the NEC meeting the joint policy committee has decided one priority for each commission:  I’ve listed them below but, as always, members should discuss whatever is most important to them.
 
Early Years, Education and Skills – Towards a national education service
Economy, Business and Trade – A fair deal at work:  the future of work
Environment, Energy and Culture – Leading richer lives:  a greener Britain
Health and Social Care – Healthcare for all:  tackling health inequalities
Housing, Local Government and Transport – Leading richer lives: giving people the power to shape their local communities
International – A global Britain:  achieving sustainable development goals
Justice and Home Affairs – Safer communities: protecting our communities and turning lives around
Work, Pensions and Equality – Equality for all:  addressing in-work poverty and working-age inequalities
 
Elections Past and Future
 
The NEC agreed aims and objectives for 2018, including plans for the next general election, building a unified organisational strategy, empowering members and supporters, maintaining financial stability, and giving staff an exciting and inclusive working environment.   The NEC heard of a programme for women in leadership positions, support with mental health issues, and networks for women and black, Asian and minority ethnic staff members.  Jon Trickett was leading a transition team on preparing Labour for government. 
 
Campaign co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne ran through the elections to be held in May 2018.  Reviewing the June results Seamus Milne said that according to conventional wisdom non-voters don’t vote, campaigns cannot shift intentions by more than 2%, manifestos don’t make any difference, and parties cannot win without mainstream media support.  Labour tore up all those rules.  However the Tories would not repeat the same mistakes next time.  We had to keep our June vote, especially among young people, and gain support from northern and working-class communities.  Ian Lavery wondered why older people continued to vote Conservative even when they were kicked in the teeth by their own party.
 
It’s the Economy, Stupid
 
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell led the final session.  Amid Tory faction-fighting, Philip Hammond’s budget failed to mention social care, public service pay, council housing, or anything important really.  Labour would continue to resist austerity and to campaign on the issues which have such a direct impact on so many people’s lives.   After brief questions Andy Kerr, chairing his first NEC meeting, finished within minutes of the scheduled time of 5 p.m.  Perhaps because many of us had planes to catch, but welcome nonetheless.

National Executive Committee, 26 November 2017

The NEC met in Glasgow, welcomed by the new Scottish leader Richard Leonard.  After a reception on Saturday evening hosted by Unite we convened at 9 a.m. on Sunday, and...

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, has urged ministers to meet the deadline for handing over the 58 Brexit impact studies to MPs tomorrow [Tuesday 28 November] or risk being held in contempt of Parliament.

Earlier this month, MPs unanimously backed a Labour motion for the economic impact studies to be released to the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union. MPs on that Select Committee will then have the right to review the impact studies and determine what information is put in the public domain.

The Speaker of the House of Commons said motions of the kind tabled by Labour “have in the past been seen as effective or binding.”

Responding to the decision, the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said on Tuesday 7 November: “The Government is committed to providing the information to the Committee as soon as possible. I have made plain to the House authorities that we currently expect this to be no more than three weeks [Tuesday 28 November].”

If ministers fail to respond to Labour’s motion, then they risk falling in contempt of Parliament.

Parliament’s rulebook Erskine May states that “actions which…obstruct or impede” the Commons “in the performance of its functions, or are offences against its authority or dignity, such as disobedience to its legitimate commands.”

Labour is calling for the papers to be handed over, unredacted before Parliament rises tomorrow.

Keir Starmer said:

“There is huge anxiety across the country about the impact of the Government’s Brexit approach on jobs and the economy.

“Labour fully understand the importance of protecting the UK’s negotiating position with the European Union. However, the decision agreed unanimously by MPs earlier this month was about transparency and ensuring Parliament had the information it needs to hold ministers to account during the Brexit process.

“Ministers have accepted that the vote was binding and they must now respect Parliament’s decision. That means releasing the impact studies to the Brexit Select Committee in full and unredacted before Parliament rises on Tuesday. If ministers fail to act then we will have no choice but to raise this matter with the Speaker of the Commons.“

Labour urge ministers to meet deadline for releasing Brexit impact studies

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, has urged ministers to meet the deadline for handing over the 58 Brexit impact studies to MPs tomorrow [Tuesday 28 November] or risk being...

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, responding to the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, said:

“This is a White Paper made up of re-announced policies and old spending commitments, showing once again that this is a Government short on details and new ideas.

“Nothing in the White Paper will help give businesses the certainty or incentives they need to invest in the face of the Government’s catastrophic handling of Brexit.”

“What detail there is concentrates on a few elite industries in which Britain already has an advantage, and will do nothing to help the millions of people who work in low productivity and low wage sectors such as retail, hospitality and social care, or those based outside the “Golden Triangle” made up by London, Oxford and Cambridge.

“After the Budget last week, the Government’s economic credibility has been shot to pieces. This White Paper falls far short of the change of direction needed to improve our dire productivity, income and GDP growth. Labour’s Industrial Strategy set out a radical programme of investment and genuine partnership between industry and government, to build an economy for the many, not just the few.”

Government’s Industrial Strategy is just re-announced policies & old spending commitments

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, responding to the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, said: “This is a White Paper made up of re-announced...

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to the analysis today by the IFS, said:
 

“The analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has today exposed the appalling failure of seven years of this Government’s austerity economics and its grim consequences for working people.
 
“Seven years of austerity has not only blighted lives and plunged our public services into crisis, it has also trashed productivity growth and dragged down living standards.
 
“The NHS faces its toughest ever decade, whilst the IFS expects those on average earnings to be around £1,400 a year worse off by 2021, with workers facing two decades without earnings growth.
 
“The Tories are overseeing the worst economic growth of any comparable G7 country, while the outlook for real wages and salaries looks dire for generations to come.
 
“The IFS has also lifted the lid on Philip Hammond’s attempt to fiddle the figures, exposing his failed attempts to meet his own targets and admitting his chances of balancing the budget are ‘remote’. This means austerity is still top of the Tory agenda and looks set to continue well into the next decade.
 
"The confirmation that the stamp duty cut will in fact increase house prices, helping sellers and pricing some people, including first-time buyers, out of the market, will come as a major disappointment to many hoping to get onto the housing ladder.
 
“This is a government and an economic policy that has completely failed by any conventional standard, they can serve no further purpose in office. Labour stands ready to govern in the interests of the many, not the few.”

Labour Press IFS analysis exposes the appalling failure of seven years of this Government’s austerity economics

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to the analysis today by the IFS, said: “The analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has today exposed the appalling failure of seven years...

Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, commenting on the UK losing its place on the International Court of Justice for the first time in its 71 year history, said:

“While we congratulate our friends in India on maintaining their place on the International Court of Justice, it remains a shocking indictment of Britain’s declining international standing that, for the first time in the history of the court, it will now be without a British judge. Theresa May and Boris Johnson like to proclaim their dream of a ‘Global Britain’, but here in the real world, her weak leadership and his repeated gaffes have left our country increasingly isolated and ignored.

“Only a Labour Government, which will restore values and principles to our foreign policy, and build bridges with our international partners, will allow us to recover our global influence, and re-take our rightful place as a leading player at the United Nations.”

Theresa May’s weak leadership has left our country increasingly isolated and ignored

Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, commenting on the UK losing its place on the International Court of Justice for the first time in its 71 year history, said: “While we...

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, commenting on Public Sector Finance figures published today by the ONS, which show borrowing has increased by £500 million to £8 billion from last year, and that £147.8 billion has been added to the national debt since October 2016, said:

“These figures are a reminder of the continued failure of both Philip Hammond and Theresa May over these past seven years. The deficit has still not been eliminated as they promised it would be by 2015, and the national debt continues to grow. The rise in the Government’s deficit over October shows once again that seven years of Tory spending cuts have caused pain and misery for millions with little to show for it.

“It further highlights why it is so vital that we see a change of course in the Budget tomorrow, halting the growing emergency in our public services and ending their failed austerity policies.

“The next Labour government will set out a serious plan for the public finances with strategic investment underpinned by our Fiscal Credibility Rule, to help build a high-wage, high-skill economy for the many not the few.”

Comment on latest Public Sector Finance figures

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, commenting on Public Sector Finance figures published today by the ONS, which show borrowing has increased by £500 million to £8 billion from last year,...

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the European Council’s decision to relocate the European Medicines Agency from London to Amsterdam, said:

“This decision is extremely disappointing. Labour has been clear all along that Britain should seek to maintain membership of the European Medicines Agency.

“Not only will this relocation see the loss of almost 900 jobs from London, but Britain’s reputation as a world leader in the life sciences is under serious threat and patients will likely suffer from longer waits for new medicines.

“Ministers must urgently reassure the House that the UK will not become a second-tier market as a result of their reckless handling of Brexit, and that the best possible deal for patients and staff remains at the forefront of negotiations.”

European Medicines Agency to relocate away from London

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, responding to the European Council’s decision to relocate the European Medicines Agency from London to Amsterdam, said: “This decision is extremely disappointing. Labour...

John Healey MPLabour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, responding to comments made on housing in the Chancellor’s interview with the Sunday Times, said:

“After seven years in Government, it’s clear the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis and still can’t see that their policy failures are making the crisis worse.

"More big targets, small changes in funding and yet another review into the housing market fall far short of what is needed.

"The hard truth is that housebuilding is still below the level it was before the global financial crisis and affordable housebuilding has fallen off a cliff, with the lowest number of new social rented homes built last year since records began.

"Rather than more small-scale tinkering, the Chancellor should back Labour’s long-term plan to invest to build the homes we need, help first-time buyers and give private renters the protections they need.”

The Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, responding to comments made on housing in the Chancellor’s interview with the Sunday Times, said: “After seven years in Government, it’s clear...

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, responding to Phillip Hammond on the Marr show saying there are no unemployed people, said:

“The Chancellor is living on another planet. If the person in charge of the country’s finances doesn’t know, or chooses to ignore, the fact that nearly 1.5 million people are unemployed, and almost a million people are on zero-hours contracts, then he is clearly losing a grip on reality.

"The Tories have become even more out of touch and are now so inwards looking that they have no clue of the experiences of ordinary people suffering from seven years of Tory austerity.”

The Chancellor is living on another planet

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, responding to Phillip Hammond on the Marr show saying there are no unemployed people, said: “The Chancellor is living on another...

  • John McDonnell: This budget needs to be an emergency budget for our public services that are in crisis, not a budget desperately designed to save the jobs of a weak Prime Minister and her embattled Chancellor.

    John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, will today (Thursday) give a keynote speech at Church House in London, where he will set out the five main demands that Labour wants to see in next week’s Autumn Budget.

    The Shadow Chancellor will argue that the country needs an ‘emergency Budget’ to save our public services that are in crisis, not a budget desperately designed to save the jobs of a weak Prime Minister and her embattled Chancellor. The Shadow Chancellor will call for a Budget that deals with the growing emergency faced by working families and our vital public services, which have been left in crisis after seven years of Tory austerity.

    He will also make the argument that this Government is not prepared to clamp down on tax avoidance, but instead wants to engage in a race to the bottom in low corporation tax rates.

    John McDonnell will argue that after seven years of Tory economic mismanagement the Chancellor must change course next week, by abandoning his planned tax giveaways to a wealthy few and instead bringing greater fairness into the tax system.

    The Shadow Chancellor will set out five central demands for next week’s Autumn Budget:

    1.      Pause and fix Universal Credit

    2.      Provide new funding to lift the public sector pay cap

    3.      Serious funding for infrastructure across the whole country

    4.      Properly fund our public services including health, education, and local government

    5.      Launch a large-scale public house-building programme

    John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, in his speech today at Church House, is expected to say:

    “In his first year as Chancellor, Philip Hammond has demonstrated that he completely fails to understand how working people are struggling after seven years of Tory austerity.

    “Next week the country needs an ‘emergency Budget’ for our public services that are in crisis, not a budget desperately designed to save the jobs of a weak Prime Minister and her embattled Chancellor.

    “There has to be a genuine and decisive change of course.

    “As the Paradise Papers revealed yet again, the Tories have created an economy in which the rich elite at the top do better than ever, while the rest of us have to live with our vital public services teetering on the brink.

    “While the Tories refuse to properly clamp down on tax avoidance and push ahead with tax giveaways to the corporations and super rich, public sector workers like our nurses are relying on food banks.

    “Our schools’ head teachers have to ask parents for donations to keep them open for our children.

    “Our NHS is so badly underfunded that a quarter of nurses are forced to take a second job.

    “Local councils have had their funding for children’s services slashed to the point that charities now warn the crisis risks turning into a catastrophe.

    “Philip Hammond wants you to believe there is nothing that can be done to end these scandals. And that the millions more children who will grow up in poverty under this government due to their policies, cannot be prevented.

    “He wants you to believe that the housing crisis in our country cannot be fixed in the way that Labour has consistently called for, and even colleagues in his own Cabinet have argued for, by increasing investment to build more housing.

    “He wants to pretend he cannot invest on the scale needed, yet he has already borrowed more in his first year as Chancellor than any of his predecessors in their first year at the Treasury.

    “There is a better way than this. But it needs a complete break with past failures.“

McDonnell sets out Labour’s 5 demands for the Budget

John McDonnell: This budget needs to be an emergency budget for our public services that are in crisis, not a budget desperately designed to save the jobs of a weak Prime...

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