Labour Party, Uncategorized

A View from the NEC

Rachel Garnham

CLP representative on Labour’s National Executive

Since my election to Labour’s National Executive Committee in January 2018, I have found being an NEC member somewhat frustrating but with much room for optimism.

The day after my election I attended a meeting of the Equalities Committee, Disputes Panel and Organisation Committee – in at the deep end! I was struck immediately by what a brilliant job Christine Shawcroft, Claudia Webbe, Darren Williams, Pete Willsman and Rhea Wolfson have been doing speaking up for members – on top of the detail (as far as it is available, and involving much work between meetings trying to piece together complex bits of information) and making well-reasoned proposals and suggestions that would help make us the democratic, inclusive, election-winning Party that we aspire to be under Jeremy’s leadership.

A few things have stood out to me:

  1. The great opportunity we have, through the Democracy Review, to involve members in decision-making to a much greater extent than currently by opening up our processes. We are already starting to see progress. Thanks in large part to the persistence of Theresa Clark and Jean Crocker (the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance supported constituency representatives on the Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee), this year we will see real opportunity for debates and votes at Women’s Conference. And there is the prospect of a two-day Women’s Conference in Telford on 23/24 February 2019 when we have the opportunity for a proper policy-making conference. I hope through the Democracy Review we can empower young, BAME and disabled members to build and develop their own democratic and inclusive structures and enable all members to make a full contribution to building our movement.
  2. I am regularly contacted by members in target marginal seats concerned that their selection processes have not sufficiently empowered members to have the say they should have in selecting their prospective parliamentary candidate. For example, in Norwich North, all sorts of shenanigans went on to keep the excellent Jo Rust off the shortlist by whatever means necessary, despite her support from members, with no room for appeal or intervention. Meanwhile elsewhere, despite selections being signed off by the “NEC representative”, the Regional Office has been quick to step in to put a candidate supported by the right of the Party back on the shortlist when they were left off by the locally elected selection committee. The left will need to be vigilant and well-organised in remaining selections and continue to play by the rulebook while trying to ensure that others do too.
  3. The mechanisms through which the NEC’s Disputes Panel are expected to rubber-stamp cases against members and send them off for the long wait for the National Constitutional Committee, are extremely concerning. I am glad we have successfully called for a review of the Disputes process. There is now much work to do to ensure that any reformed process prioritises transparency, accountability and legal due process so we see an end to the seemingly politically targeted suspensions and expulsions that should have no place in a democratic, socialist Labour Party.

Some persistent Corbyn-critics have called for an enquiry into May’s local election results. There is no need for an enquiry – the NEC has, of course, had a full analysis and discussion of the results. They showed that we are moving forward, building on strides made in the 2017 General Election in much more difficult circumstances given the impact of austerity on local government; and winning seats in places we have never won before. Labour won more seats than in 2014, which had been deemed a highpoint, and got its best results in London since 1971. Our share of the vote would make us the largest party in the Commons. But, of course, there is more work to do with important local elections in 2019 and maintaining election readiness for the collapse of this nasty and incompetent government.

On the NEC, Jeremy will continue to need 100% support from CLP representatives committed to his anti-austerity agenda for peace, justice and equality. We will need everyone’s hard work to mobilise the centre-left majority of the membership to deliver a team of CLP reps who will consistently back our elected leadership to deliver the democratic socialist Labour government we so desperately need.

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