This was the first meeting of the NEC in the party’s lovely new offices in Brewer Street. The building is a really good space – self-contained and full of daylight. This was also the first meeting since the election of the new PLP Chair, Dave Watts, and Peter Hain’s resignation from the Shadow Cabinet. Sadiq Khan has taken over from Peter as the Shadow Government representative on the NEC. Sadiq and Dave were welcomed to their first meeting. It was announced that Tom Watson would take over Peter Hain’s work on the implementation of Refounding Labour and that the Refounding Labour Implementation Working Group would be renamed the Community Campaign working group. Thanks were recorded to Peter for all of his work on the Refounding Labour project.
Campaign Co-ordinator’s report;
Tom Watson took us through the analysis of the party’s performance in the recent elections. Whilst we already have some detailed stats further analysis will be done once the marked registers have all been uploaded. Key points were;
- In the English local elections we had 38% share of the vote and made 823 council seat gains (405 of which were from the Conservatives, 336 of which were from the Liberal Democrats, the rest from other parties). This resulted in us making 33 council gains. Whilst there was an increase in the vote shares of both the Greens and UKIP this was down to different voting patterns – the UKIP vote looks to be less focussed than the Greens, who now appear to be competing with the Liberal Democrats in local government.
- It was deeply disappointing that we didn’t win the London Mayoral election but we defied all the major polls of the last month of the campaign by coming within 3% of Boris Johnson.
- Our share of the GLA vote was up 13% since the previous elections. This resulted in us gaining 4 GLA seats and we pushed the Liberal Democrats into 4th place across the city.
- In Scotland the SNP’s share of the vote was up since the last set of council elections but down from the last Scottish Parliamentary elections. The Liberal Democrats lost half of all their councillors in Scotland. The success in Glasgow was both incredible and essential to prevent any perception of further momentum for the independence cause and the allocation of our resources in Scotland had been absolutely spot on. Turnout however was down 10% since the last set of council elections.
- In Wales our share of the vote had increased 7% and we now have control of 21 of the 22 councils that had all-out elections – that’s a net increase of 8 councils and 237 councillors.
- There are a number of differences between the elections that took place in 2011 and these ones in 2012 including: the massive slump in support for the Liberal Democrats; the fact the Conservative vote dropped in every region of England and Wales; disaffected Liberals are no longer going to the Conservatives; we have made in-roads in the South East and West and good progress in the key marginals we will need to win back at the next general election.
- But – the estimated 32% turnout is almost 6% down on last year and the propensity for the electorate to stay at home will negatively impact all of the major parties. We need to give them a reason to get out and vote.
- Looking at the future there are Police Commissioner elections in November and next May there are elections in 27 Shire and 7 Unitary Councils, covering the 40 marginals we need to win back at the next general election.
- Thanks were paid to the many party employees and activists who had invested so much in the elections.
We will roll out a presentation on our election performance and future strategy to all stakeholders and will be running an audit on the health of the local parties in all of the key seats we need to win back in 2015 (based on the new constituency boundaries). We will also be rolling out a series of Shadow Cabinet visits to CLPs in our key areas and will be investing in building capacity at local level.
I asked Tom what the plans were for the Scottish Independence referendum and it was agreed we invite the leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland along at our next meeting to discuss that in more detail. I welcomed the planned series of Shadow Cabinet visits which will be crucial in helping to mobilise and motivate our members in CLPs that don’t currently have a Labour MP. I also asked that we review our use of social media so that it is used intelligently, as an online campaigning tool which is a conduit for developing relationships with voters, rather than a another way of circulating press releases.
Deputy Leader’s report;
Harriet Harman talked about the momentous times we are living through in terms of Europe and the economy. She spoke about the unfairness of the Coalition’s budget and said that Ed Balls had been proven right on the economy. She said that the whole of the Shadow Cabinet team were working on making sure that we challenged the mistakes of the coalition and brought together an alternative programme for returning us to power at the next election. She spoke about our need to ensure our organisational resources followed our political logic and the need for us to better co-ordinate resources across regions. She also spoke about the need to ensure Scotland is represented on the NEC.
As someone who grew up in the Scottish Labour Party, and cares passionately about it, I absolutely agree with Harriet on that point. The issue was supposed to have been resolved in Refounding Labour – with the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party having representation – but that needs to be implemented urgently so that we can all unite in defending the union in advance of the Scottish Independent referendum.
I pressed Harriet to ensure that the unfairness of the Beecroft proposals were challenged at every possible level – not only are they an ideological attack on workers’ rights which have no basis in fact, they will add to the existing economic difficulties as greater numbers of workers get sacked at will and start claiming job seekers allowance. I also asked her to ensure that the impact of these proposals on the mental health of people at work (as well as those out of work) was highlighted. I have written in more detail about my concerns with these proposals here.
General Secretary’s report;
Iain introduced all of the new Executive Directors that had been appointed in recent months and it was good to hear from them about the work they are doing to better utilise all the talents within the party and ensure it is well governed. Our new Executive Director for Members & Supporters is Olly Buston – his priorities are to increase our density of activists, increase our number of new members and supporters, increase our retention rate and improve our members experience of the party. I particularly welcome Olly’s desire to improve our members experience and his willingness to be open to new ideas to achieve this. I met Olly just a couple of months ago and at that first meeting challenged him to get out of the office and come on the road with me to listen to the views of members on the ground who are doing the daily slog of keeping our party alive. To his credit he agreed and came with me on a visit to New Forest West CLP where he got both a warm welcome and a full and frank assessment of things that needed to change. He has agreed to come on the road with me again so if you’re booking me for a visit let me know if you’d like me to bring him along and I’ll see what I can do.
- There was no formal report from the Chair of the National Policy Forum since Peter Hain had stepped down and Angela Eagle has yet to assume responsibility for that work. It was however noted that the 6 policy commission documents had been issued to CLPs for consultation. I argued that the party had, with less than a month’s notice, given insufficient time for local parties to input into that process. It was stated that there were no hard deadlines for CLP submissions so these should be encouraged wherever possible. The Policy Forum is next scheduled to meet on the 16th and 17th June in Birmingham and it will be at this meeting NPF reps will have the opportunity to discuss the proposed reforms to the policy making process (set out in my last report here). I also stressed the importance of policy discussion rather than speeches at that meeting.
- We received a report of the elections taking place across Europe and congratulations were noted for President Hollande.
- Dianna Holland was congratulated in her re-election to the role of Party Treasurer, having been the only nominated candidate at the closing date for nominations.
- The NEC received an interim report from the working group looking into the party’s defeat in Bradford West. The content of that paper was confidential since the working group is still undertaking their investigation.
This is my personal account of this meeting and should not be taken as the official record but please do pass on to other Labour members who may be interested.
Ed Miliband was not present at the meeting because he was on leave celebrating his wedding anniversary.
Keeping in touch…
Since my last report I have focussed the majority of my activity on campaigning in the run up to the May elections – I campaigned in Scotland, in the Tower Hamlets Spitalfields and Banglatown ward by-election and led the Mayoral & GLA campaign in the Lane Ward, Southwark. I have also continued to visit local CLPs and have been delighted to visit and talk to members in Warwick & Leam CLP, Mid Sussex CLP and New Forest West CLP. Those visits, added to the others I have undertaken, means I have now visited 73 CLPs in the last 16 months (full details here). If you’d like me to visit your constituency to provide an NEC report or facilitate a policy discussion please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Imagine if all you had to do to get rid of David Cameron was to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he’s off…
Imagine a world where, instead of standing outside your local train station handing out leaflets, wearing down the soles of your trainers talking to voters on the doorstep, or trudging to your nearest polling station, all you had to do to get rid of David Cameron was to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he’s off. No explanation required. No need to engage in deep political discourse. Just ‘Tatty-bye posh boy!’
Appealing as that sounds, now image that person was Ed Miliband. We’d rightly feel more than a tad aggrieved at one of our own being nudged out in such a manner. The lack of any explanation, the complete control of the person whose finger was tapping the shoulder, the completely arbitrary nature of the decision making process – it would surely change your behaviour. Short termism, an agenda skewed towards the interests of the one person who had ultimate control rather than the job in hand and, ultimately, the instillation of fear would become the norm.
The fact is political discourse, leadership hustings, PMQs, emergency questions in the House of Commons, even an appearance on the Marr show, are all things that can be used to hold David Cameron, and others who do that job, to account. They are, if you like, our ways of managing his performance, holding him to account and providing our feedback.
Companies across the country have invented endless ways to ‘manage’ the performance of their employees. That’s not wholly unreasonable – every company needs to be able to deal with poor performance where it genuinely exists. Good and fair employers know the best way of doing this is through honest conversions which result in support for individuals to address any gaps. The bad ones often see performance linked to pay and quotas used to ‘differentiate’ employees performance as a means of driving down the cost of the pay bill. But these processes for managing employee performance, however deficient many are, exist for a purpose – they are a necessary check on an individual manager’s view that dismissal is justified.
David Cameron has already pushed through measures which bring about exactly the scenario described above for many employees up and down the land. If you started employment on or after 6 April 2012 and have less than 2 years’ service in your new role the decision to dismiss could come at any time, for any reason and – unless it relates to trade union membership, maternity, whistleblowing, your assertion of a statutory right, or being an employee representative – you’ll have no recourse to challenge it. Indeed you’ll not even be entitled to request written reasons for your dismissal.
But now we learn that David Cameron believes that being able to sack someone with less than 2 years’ service, without reason or recourse, just doesn’t go far enough in giving employers the ‘flexibility’ they need to grow. Neither apparently does the planned reduction of the time over which employers pay statutory sick pay, nor does the change to the indexing of pensions to CPI rather than RPI, the scrapping of section 78 of the Equality Act 2010, the scrapping of legal aid for all employment matters, the cutting of the Union Modernisation Fund, the cuts to the Union Learning Fund or the cuts to the TUCs International Programmes.
No, David Cameron wants to go further.
From the Queens speech we learn that he wants to extend the ability to dismiss employees without reason or recourse beyond those with less than 2 years’ service to all employees of companies that employ fewer than 10 people. In these ‘no fault’ compensated dismissals employees would be entitled to an amount of compensation – as yet undefined – but would have no right whatsoever to take a claim for unfair dismissal.
We also learn that David Cameron wants to allow employers to have ‘protected conversations’ with employees. These will be conversations that the employee will not be able to refer to in any constructive dismissal or equality claim. So, your employer would, for example, be able to tell you they think you’re failing in your role, tell you how onerous it would be to take you down the performance management procedure, how painful that will be for you, how, ultimately, it will likely to lead to your dismissal and invite you to resign instead. As long as they refer to it as a ‘protected conversation’ you won’t be able to refer in any constructive dismissal claim to the pressure you were put under or the intimidation you faced. These, in the business, are known as ‘car-park conversations’ because they usually happen out of earshot of other employees. They usually happen out of earshot of other employees for a reason….
If you happen to be lucky enough to have more than two years’ service in your role and work for an employer that has more than 10 employees, David Cameron plans to compel you to submit any claim you might have to ACAS for conciliation prior to presenting a claim to an employment tribunal. Whilst it’s never a bad idea to encourage early dispute resolution this proposal will no doubt add complexity to an already lengthy process, with no understanding of how this extra work will be serviced by an already stretched Conciliation Service.
The government also wants to amend the legislation and guidance on ‘compromise agreements’ – legally binding documents which are drawn up to stipulate the terms under which employment will come to an end through mutual agreement. David Cameron wants to review the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures – I won’t hold my breath on them being strengthened to better protect employees – and we are due to see the publication on the recommendations on the government’s review of employment tribunal procedures shortly.
Ed Miliband was right to say that the Queens speech contained nothing for people looking for work. Unfortunately it contains nothing for people in work either. I have written previously about this government’s unprecedented attack on workers’ rights – David Cameron’s proposal to introduce the Enterprise + Regulatory Reform Bill will see a further degradation of these rights.
There is no doubt that this is ideological – at a time when we have 2.7 million people unemployed you would have thought the government would be more focussed on allowing employers to hire rather than fire. Slashing employee rights is no substitute for a proper growth strategy. Employers are not prevented from ‘growing’ because they don’t have enough flexibility to get rid of people – they cannot grow because there are no measures to give them the help they need to grow and boost employment. Business leaders themselves have said that we need a British Investment Bank, which Labour is planning for, to get finance going to businesses and a long-term industrial strategy to secure growth in the future.
The problem for David Cameron is that the longer this ideological attack goes on the worse things will get – not just in terms of the number of people unemployed claiming benefits and adding to the social security bill but, also in terms of the mental health of people at work. The creation of a culture of workplace fear, combined with increased workloads (as companies try to do more with fewer employees) and fewer avenues in which employees can get help, has the potential to create a mental health crisis amongst employees unless David Cameron changes course quickly.
I wanted to thank everyone who has offered their support for my campaign for re-election to Labour’s NEC so far. I really have been overwhelmed by the level of support you have given me in recent weeks and today I have been informed that 172 CLPs have nominated me for re-election. That puts me 5th on the nominations leader board (up from 9thin the last election), is over two and a half times the number of nominations I received in the last election, more than any of the other Independent candidates and it demonstrates that members rather than money will decide this election. More than 100 individual members have also publicly endorsed my campaign and I have now personally visited over 10% of all CLPs in every corner of the UK.
As an Independent candidate, whose campaign is run only with the help, voluntary contributions and goodwill of grassroots members up and down the country, that level of support is truly humbling. But this will be a close election that is already hotly contested – I will need your support in the ballot if I am to be able to continue the work of making our NEC an outward facing organisation. Ballot papers for the election will be out on the 25thMay and I hope that when they arrive, you will support me – an Independent candidate who stands up for openness, transparency and a member-focussed policy making structure. A candidate who has a track record of putting members first.
If you would like to help my campaign please:
- Use your vote in the all-member ballot when it comes out and remember to vote Johanna Baxter for the NEC!
- Persuade your friends to vote for me when your ballot papers arrive – my campaign leaflet, which outlines my commitments to members, my record on the NEC and my experience in the party, is here. Can you send this on to your local members with a positive recommendation?
- Endorse my campaign on, & share the link to, my website http://johannabaxter.com
- Tweet your support using the campaign hashtag #JB4NEC
- Follow me on Twitter (at @JohannaBaxter) for copies of my NEC reports and news of my campaign
- Invite me to speak to your CLP. Ring me on 07811 450 410 and I will do my best to attend.
- Join my Facebook group Johanna Baxter for Labour’s NEC – Putting members first or ‘like’ my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Johanna-Baxter-Putting-Members-First-on-Labours-NEC/282530305139467
In the meantime the next few weeks will be crucial for our party – we cannot allow the dreadful turn of events in Bradford West to be repeated in the elections we contest in May. We owe it to the electorate to ensure that we put forward a credible alternative they can have confidence in voting for. For that reason I will be spending as much time as I can during that time out on the doorstep doing everything I can to help secure Labour victories across the country and I hope to see many of you there.
My grateful thanks and best wishes,
Our March NEC meeting was preceded the evening before with a meeting with the Parliamentary Labour Party where warm tributes were paid to Tony Lloyd MP at his last meeting as Chair of the PLP.
Change at HQ;
Iain McNicol reported on the successful regional conferences that had been taking place across the country in the past few weeks and the positive feedback that had been received from those who attended. He reported that the progress of the refurbishments at the party’s new headquarters will allow those members of staff not working directly on the election campaigns to move in mid-April. Staff working on the election campaigns will move over asap after the elections. It was noted that USDAW have funded an organiser to spend some time working on the Glasgow campaign and, in response to a question from me, he confirmed that the Scottish Party would remain in their current HQ at least until the election.
Iain went on to brief us on the Management and Commercial review that had taken place within HQ. This is review proposed the appointment of 6 new Executive Directors to better focus the activity of senior staff. All 6 positions had been advertised and interviews were held for 5 of the positions. The 6th position – the Executive Director, Commercial – did not receive sufficient applications for the party to proceed with interviews and a recruitment consultant is working with the party on a pro bono arrangement to help progress that. Of the 5 interview sessions held 5 individuals have now been appointed and the details of the successful applicants can be found here. An additional appointment has been made to this Management Board and that is the Executive Director for Strategy & Planning – this brings in an individual currently working in the Leaders office under the joint management of the General Secretary. It was noted that four of the Executive Directors will report directly to the General Secretary and three will have a dual report to the General Secretary and Tim Livesey, the Leader’s Chief of Staff. It was also noted that all existing staff who had applied for any of the positions were informed whether or not they had been successful prior to any public announcements being made and that the creation of the Management Board in no impacts the role of the National Executive Committee.
Ed Miliband on the Budget and the NHS;
On the budget Ed talked about how the Chancellor could have opted for a ‘steady as she goes’ budget but has instead chosen to give those who have most a cut in tax whilst those who have least are shouldering the burden of the failures of his previous 2 budgets. He explained that it will be for Labour to outline how his handling of the economy has stalled growth, increased unemployment and increased the burden on the treasury. It will be for Labour to outline why his choices are the wrong choices at the wrong time. And it will be for Labour to compare and contrast how he treats those on middle and lower incomes with those on the highest and dispel the myth he built up that ‘we’re all in it together’.
On the NHS Ed outlined how the Coalition had railroaded the Health & Social Care Bill through parliament and the shocking way in which they prevented people from seeing the risk register before the final vote. He praised the work of Any Burnham in his relentless bid to get the government to drop the bill and the way in which he is even now still working to save the founding principles of the health service. Whilst realistic about the prospects for the debate that evening Ed stated that this was only the end of the beginning in the fight. Andy and the Shadow Health team will continue to fight to protect our Party’s finest achievement.
I asked Ed to ensure that whilst our party rightly made the argument for more jobs that we are clear this is an argument for ‘good jobs’ bearing in mind that some employers will use the current economic climate to drive down wages and make the world of work more insecure, combined with the pressure on those who remain in work to deliver more for less at a time when their employment rights were being attacked and reduced. I’m pleased that he agreed with this. I also asked him to make sure that we are clear about what we mean when we say that we would repeal the Health and Social Care Bill if it is passed – it is the free market and competition aspects of the bill which will be repealed to restore the ‘N’ in NHS.
Harriet on Health and Shadow Cabinet leads;
Harriet also talked of the Health and Social Care Bill and pointed to an example in her own constituency which demonstrated that it is a false ‘market’ that is being created –GPs setting up private clinics that can be awarded public sector contracts to and from themselves is not ‘healthy competition’ but a conflict of interests and the creation of a new oligarchy.
Harriet also reported on preparations being made for the elections including confirming the Shadow Cabinet Regional Champions agreed at our previous meeting: Eastern – Ed Balls, East Midlands – Vernon Coaker, London – Tessa Jowell, North – Maria Eagle, North West – Ivan Lewis, South East – Caroline Flint, South West – Jan Royall, West Midlands – Liam Byrne, Yorkshire and Humber – Mary Creagh. The Shadow Cabinet leads for Scotland and Wales remain as Margaret Curran and Peter Hain respectively. Any feedback on the role and work of regional champions should be sent to Harriet’s office.
Tom Watson’s 14 week plan;
Tom note that the days when the party could co-ordinate everything from HQ alone were long gone so there will necessarily be greater emphasis on the work of the regional teams. Tom outlined the 14week plan those teams would be working to and, without going into the detail of the tactics and strategies discussed (I’m hardly going to give that gift to our opposition here!), it was clear there are many dividing lines the party would be emphasising to voters. Tom re-stated the stretching target of winning back 350 council seats in England, 100 seats in Wales and maintaining and improving our position in Scotland.
Giving members a say in Policy Making;
Peter Hain confirmed there would be a meeting of the NPF on the weekend of the 16/17th June (exact date/venue to be confirmed asap). Peter then introduced a discussion paper entitled ‘Partnership Into Power: A reformed Process’, the bones of which had been discussed at the Organisation Sub-committee last week. I didn’t circulate or comment on that paper at the time because we were promised revisions to it in advance of the NEC. The paper outlines a number of reforms to the existing policy process which include;
- Moving to a 5 year policy-making cycle, rather than the 3 years we have currently.
- Shortening policy documents so that they are more focused on key issues, drafted by the policy commissions following conference each year.
- Circulation of policy documents to party units for discussion & submission before the policy commissions produced a draft report in the spring/summer.
- Debating those draft reports at a meeting of the National Policy Forum (NPF) meeting each summer. The NPF would then send the revised documents to Annual Conference for agreement.
- Party units being able to submit a limited number of amendments.
- Strengthening the ‘duty to consult’, with party units being asked to show that they have engaged stakeholders before putting an issue forward.
- Rewarding party units who maximized engagement and built a broad community of support for initiatives before putting them forward
- Having Policy Commissions, as they do now, drawing up final year documents based on the policy documents agreed in previous years to put to conference (with those again being shorter and more focused than at present).
- Final year documents being agreed by the policy commissions, NPF, Joint Policy Committee (JPC) and Annual Conference and forming the Party’s Policy Programme.
- Agreeing the manifesto at a Clause V meeting based on the Policy Programme as agreed through the NPF and Annual conference.
- Strengthening the role of the Joint Policy Committee to oversee the amendments process and agreeing options papers to go to conference.
- Strengthening the role of National Policy Forum reps and allowing all to attend a policy commission.
- Giving greater support for Policy commissions including looking at topical issues through the use of conference calls.
- Allowing Annual conference to decide on Alternative Positions.
- Seeing greater use of new technology to facilitate discussion, feedback and create an on-line audit trail of submissions.
- Increasing the level of support for party units to participate in the process.
There is much to be welcomed in this paper. I know Peter understands the need for greater engagement and transparency. I am concerned though that we could be more ambitious with our plans and that many of the proposals are reliant on a number of unknowns. I asked Peter when the new technology would be in place, whether there would be any further amendments to the role of conference, whether conference would be able to vote on documents in sections rather than as a whole, whether he could provide further information on the strengthened role of NPF reps and what that would mean for members, what constituted a ‘limited number of amendments’, what status Alternative Positions would have and how, if the proposal is not to change the fundamental building blocks of the process, we could instill the cultural change needed to ensure members were engaged in the process.
Peter responded by saying that new technology would be in place as soon as possible and that the process of change in this area will be evolutionary – there will be no ‘big bang’. He also indicated he didn’t see it as realistic for conference to vote on documents in sections. The proposals will now be circulated to constituencies for consultation with a view to getting their views for consideration by the NEC over the summer to enable a paper and any consequential rule changes to go to Annual Conference this year. I would encourage you to participate in this consultation – I know it is something members are passionate about.
Balls on the Budget;
Ed Balls presented to the NEC the proposals for responding to the budget the following day. Like Ed Miliband his focus was on how the budget would impact jobs and growth. He emphasised how ‘off-track’ the Coalition were in terms of their deficit reduction plan – despite their committed to wiping out the deficit in one term it is now higher and they are borrowing more to pay off the costs of their own failure. They promised a budget for growth but the economic situation is getting worse – regional growth funds have done little to help and unemployment continues to increase. Those with the least are paying the most – the change to tax credits will actually mean that some people are better off on benefits than in work and he predicted they would go further by cutting top rate of income tax for richest. Ed pointed out the Coalition’s way to incentivise the poorest is to make them poorer but they only way they believe they can incentivise the richest is to make them richer. Ed made clear that we hadn’t made a commitment on tax and couldn’t until the manifesto but to think that now is the best time to cut that top rate, to think that is the priority right now, is madness.
Ed’s view is that the prism of politics has changed – and it changed with the autumn statement – the debate has changed from being all about the past to now being about the future. And whilst a debate about the future will be difficult – there will be difficult choices to make – we’ll go into that debate with a plan that is fair, a plan that is credible, a plan for jobs and growth.
- Remember you have until 5pm on Friday 30 March 2012 to make their nominations for the NEC and NPF. CLP Secretaries can submit nominations online via Membersnet here. If you need paper forms or a form in a Word format just email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7783 1498. You also have until the 29th June to make nominations for Merit Awards for members who have given outstanding service to the Labour Party. CLP Secretaries or CLP Chairs may make nominations on behalf of their CLP via Membersnet. You will need to provide some background information about your nominee and why they deserve an award.
- We have agreed the timetable for selecting mayoral candidates where referendums result in a “yes” vote (freeze date for members to have a vote is 5 May, short-listing by panels comprised of Regional Board and CLP reps wil take place on 16 May, the OMOV ballot goes out on 25 May, hustings meetings will take place by 10 June, the ballot closes on 13 June and results declared on 15 June). NEC and NPF elections and the Police Commissioner selections ballots will go out in the same mailing for return within the same timeframe.
- The NEC has agreed to trigger a further 14 early parliamentary selections (all 3 seats in Brighton & Hove based on the anticipated new boundaries, Carlisle, Redcar, Crewe & Nantwich, Gillingham & Rainham, Milton Keynes N, Reading E, Bristol S, Gloucester, Cannock Chase, Stafford, Tamworth & Staffs).
- We have also agreed guidelines for CLPs that will have to reorganise along new boundaries in January 2013, that Labour MPs selected as Mayoral or Police Commissioner candidates will have to resign from the Commons and trigger by-elections and that the Labour Movement for Europe and Labour Finance & Industry Group are to become new formal affiliates of the Party.
- Following representations from members involved in Intern Aware I also asked Iain to confirm the party’s policy on unpaid interns. He confirmed that, whilst there were a number of members who volunteered for the party, none of the party’s offices employed unpaid interns.
This is my personal account of this meeting and should not be taken as the official record but please do pass on to other Labour members who may be interested.
Keeping in touch…
Since my last report I have been delighted to be able to visit and talk to members in Braintree CLP, Witham CLP, North Norfolk CLP, Derbyshire Dales CLP, Enfield Southgate CLP, Harlow CLP, Bracknell CLP, Manchester Central CLP, Chester CLP, Denton & Reddich CLP, Westmoreland & Lonsdale CLP, Broxtowe CLP, Tooting CLP. Those visits, added to the others I have undertaken, means I have now visited more than 10% of all CLPs in the last 15 months. If you’d like me to visit your constituency to provide an NEC report or facilitate a policy discussion please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
I’ve also been pleased to attend and support Val Shawcross’ GLA campaign launch, Ken Livingston’s manifesto consultation meeting, a Labour Values roundtable discussion on the priorities for our new Executive Directors, the Scottish Labour Party conference, a meeting of the Livesey BLP, the Save Our NHS rally at Westminster Central Hall and I chaired the recent Fabian/Compass discussion on the Scottish Independence Referendum in Parliament.
These extraordinary members are the people I fight for. This is why I stand for re-election and why I’ll always put members first.
Today David and Netta Lambie, members of North Ayrshire and Arran CLP, became the 100th people to endorse my bid for re-election to Labour’s NEC.
I have been truly overwhelmed by the support I’ve received from members across the country. My campaign is not backed by either of the big political slates, I don’t have anyone paying for my leaflets or my travel to visit CLPs and I don’t rely on anyone’s reputation but my own – my only ‘slate’ is you, our members. This, in every way, is a member’s campaign and two members I could not hold in higher esteem are David + Netta Lambie.
I joined the party at 16, I didn’t come from a Labour family and whilst I felt a natural pull to Labour the world of politics seemed cold and intimidating. So when I turned up to my first branch meeting all those years ago I might have been put off but for the warmth of the welcome I received from David and Netta. From that first meeting, to now, they have been the kindest, most principled people I have had the pleasure of knowing in our party. Throughout these past 16 years they have encouraged me, supported me, seen me at my best and my worst. They were there to calm my nerves when I introduced Tony Blair to my first Scottish conference in 1997, have stuffed me full of cake on the many occasion I’ve turned up at their house looking like a drowned rat after a day’s campaigning in the Ayrshire rain and were amongst the first to send their congratulations when I had the honour of taking my place as your representative on our NEC.
David was the MP for Central Ayrshire from 1970 to 1983 and then, after boundary changes, Cunninghame South from 1983 to 1992. Whilst he was off in Westminster Netta held the fort locally: organising the CLP, serving as the Provost of Saltcoats from 1969 to 1972, a member of the local Health Board and raising their five children. Fame and fortune were not their motivators – they still live in the council house they first set up home in all those years ago. David is now the same age as the Queen but still canvasses voters every day on his way to collect the paper. They know their community and their community, in Saltcoats, know them as the face of the local Labour Party. For them their party is about their community and the party is their family. Like any family we don’t always agree but we are united by the same aim – doing everything we can for our party so that we return a Labour government which protects the most vulnerable in our society.
The 62 CLP visits I have made in the last 15 months have shown me that whilst David and Netta are very special they are not unique. Most constituencies have people like them – doing what they can, whenever they can to help the party win again. They are extraordinary. If my visit to their CLP can demonstrate to them that they have a voice at the top table, that their views are listened to and respected and that the leadership of our party are grateful for their contribution then that’s worth the train journey.
These extraordinary members are the people I fight for. This is why I stand for re-election and why I’ll always put members first.
If you’d like to join David & Netta in supporting my campaign please go to http://johannabaxter.com/johannas-supporters.
Partnership Into Power/Policy Review Report;
Peter Hain reported on the extended period of consultation on the reform of the Partnership Into Power process agreed as part of the Refounding Labour changes accepted by conference. That extended consultation lasts until the 31st January and will take full account of all previous submissions made to Refounding Labour, but if you have something else to add, please submit it to www.members.labour.org.uk/policymaking or by post to: PiP Reform Consultation, c/o Policy and Research Unit, The Labour Party, 39 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0HA.
Peter reported on the Policy Review and referenced the four ‘first stage’ policy reports that were published at conference. The Joint Policy Committee has now agreed that CLPs and affiliates should have the chance to use these reports as a basis for debate to help shape their contribution to this stage of the Policy Review. Copies of the four documents, along with short discussion guides to help guide debate, can be downloaded from here: http://fresh-ideas.org.uk/annual-conference-2011-documents. In order to support members in getting involved, NEC and NPF (National Policy Forum) representatives have been asked to help lead this work in the months to come, taking the discussions out to the Party. Let me know if you’d like me to help or you can contact your regional NPF representatives at http://members.labour.org.uk/npfrep. Policy Commissions will bring together all this work in their Annual Reports to Conference 2012.
Members of the Shadow Cabinet have also been asked to develop reports on specific issues that need attention and Peter agreed that the NEC should have an up to date list of who sits on those Working Groups. Their reports will also be submitted to the National Policy Forum Policy Commissions.
I asked Peter about his plans for the next meeting of the NPF meeting and stressed that, whilst we need to review feedback from the extended consultation, members needed to start to see quickly the roadmap to a changed policy making process in which they could easily participate. I welcomed the conference call with NPF representatives that took place before Christmas but urged the party to ensure that representatives were given a reasonable amount of notice of these things so that they could participate. Peter agreed that this was a fair point and that he was looking at an NPF meeting late June/early July. He also agreed that the use of new technology would allow better interaction with and between NEC/NPF representatives and members.
Campaign Co-ordinators report;
Tom Watson talked about the state of the race in every area of the country. In London he stressed that whilst Boris was on his 2nd skiing holiday in a month, had 4 other jobs, dodged interviews, cut police numbers and has raised fares, it was important not to be complacent. The traction Ken was making recently was down to the extra resource the NEC agreed to put in to London and the sheer strength of will of the campaign team and volunteers.
In the English regions it was noted that we have 55% of candidates in place for the forthcoming local elections. The party will be aiming to win 350 seats in those elections, where there are fewer seats up for election this time than previously, and whilst targets are identified we will not forget the non-marginals.
In Scotland and Wales target councils have been identified and resources are being allocated accordingly. I reiterated the importance of the party performing well in the Scottish local elections given the impeding Independence Referendum and the necessity for us to develop our narrative on Scotland’s future. Tom agreed and said that the new Scottish Leadership team will be developing the policy messages there. It was also reassuring to hear that Margaret Curran is already keeping Tom and Iain McNicol on their toes!
Declan McHugh, the party’s Compliance Officer, updated us the Boundary Commission proposals for Wales. It was noted that these proposals came later than the others because of the resignation of two of the Boundary Commissioners in Wales. The reduction of 10 seats would have a devastating impact on Wales and basing the 2010 results on the new boundaries confirmed that Labour would have been the biggest loser in terms of seats. As with other areas consultation meetings are taking place in Wales with CLP representatives and based on their feedback, and other electoral data, Greg Cook, the party officer leading on this, will draw up a series of alternative proposals in advance of the public hearings which commence on the 15th February in Swansea.
General Secretary’s Report;
Iain reported that in his first 14 weeks into the role he had, by Christmas, met with every member of staff, he has visited every regional office except Wales (which is forthcoming), started work on the Commercial & Management review which has seen the 6 Executive Director posts advertised, started a weekly brief for staff and NEC members, scheduled regular meetings with the Leader, Deputy Leader, the campaign Co-Ordinator, the Chair of the NPF and party Treasurer. Iain congratulated everyone who was involved in helping secure the Feltham and Heston by-election victory. Iain also confirmed that he has now signed the lease on a new property which HQ will move to very shortly. The address remains under wraps for now but I took the opportunity of visiting it and I’m really pleased – it’s a great self-contained space for our party staff and will look brilliant when renovations are complete.
Ed Miliband focused on the party’s recent announcements on the economy. He stated that he felt the announcement was necessary in order to frame the debate for the next general election. He stressed that the Tories are not on track to clear the deficit in one term as they promised, that unemployment and borrowing are both up. Ed stressed that where the choice was between jobs or pay increases the choice had to be jobs and that if the party ducked that choice we would not demonstrate fiscal credibility. Ed made clear that this does not mean that the party accepted the cuts – simply that we could not promise which we could reverse 3 years out from an election. He remained clear that he felt the cuts being made were being implemented in an unfair way and that more had to be done to tackle abuse and excessive reward, at the top.
The NEC had a full and detailed discussion on this issue. Ed responded to each and every point raised. I stressed to him that we have to address the difference between the message we believe has been sent and the message that voters have heard and we need to continually clarify and stress the different choices we would make to deliver a fairer system.
Andy Burnham addressed the NEC on the work of the Party’s Shadow Health team to get the Government to drop the Health Bill. He and the team have spent 10 days in each of the English regions shadowing NHS staff, speaking to members and campaigning to get the bill dropped. This campaigning effort is starting to have an effect with an increasing number of organisations, including recently the RCN, coming out against the Bill. He stressed that the more people let their views known, on http://www.dropthebill.com, the better. Andy stressed that if the bill was passed and our party got back into government at the next election we would repeal the act. We would have to look at how we did this given the significant fragmentation of services that would occur but that fundamentally we were, and would remain, committed to a national health service.
This is my personal account of this meeting and should not be taken as the official record but please do pass on to Labour members who may be interested.
Keeping in touch…
Since my last report I have been delighted to be able to visit and talk to members in Pontypridd CLP, Hertford & Stortford CLP and Blaydon CLP. Pontypridd CLP was my 52nd CLP visit in my first 52 weeks of joining the NEC! I made a short clip of my tour of constituencies to celebrate that year here – www.johannabaxter.com/on-the-road . I’ve also been out campaigning in Battersea CLP, Southwark and in the Feltham & Heston by-election. I’ve attended the David Cairns memorial dinner, Val Shawcross’ GLA Fundraiser and campaign launch and the launch of Labour Business.
Campaign for re-election
On the 5th January I also announced my intention to stand for re-election to the National Executive Committee. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as your representative to date and I’m proud of my record – I’ve provided regular reports of our work, sought your views on the big issues of the day and visited more CLPs than anyone else. If you re-elect me to the NEC I will: continue putting members first; ensure the commitment to a clearer, more transparent policy making process, which puts members at the heart of our decision making structure, is met; ensure that members and users are at the forefront of decisions taken about the party’s new technology platform and lead the charge for greater accountability within our democratic structures.
You can find more information about my campaign for re-election and all of my previous NEC reports and articles here; http://johannabaxter.com. Please do share my campaign leaflet with your fellow members, pledge your support on the site or contact me if you would like me to speak to your CLP.
CLPs have until the 5pm on Friday 30 March 2012 to make their nominations. CLP Secretaries can submit nominations online via Membersnet here. If you need paper forms or a form in a Word format just email email@example.com or call 020 7783 1498.
My first year on Labour’s National Executive Committee;