Labour NEC member Nadia Jama spoke to the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy on Saturday
Hi, I’m Nadia Jama, one of the Grassroots Voice 5 who was elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee last year – and what a 12 months we have faced!
We knew that the dynamics would change given the new leadership. We are often reminded that our role is only of an administrative nature, yet given the things that have been implemented via the NEC in the last year, there’s no disguising the political nature of it and its decision-making, in my opinion.
From the get-go we have tried to ensure we are the voice of the members. From the very first meeting we raised issues like the Forde Report, we fought against the silencing of members in branches and CLPs, we tackled Keir on his lack of commitment to the National Education Union and opposition to the Tories during the pandemic, we called out the incessant use of the Union Jack, which appears to have abated for now, we challenged the whipping of the PLP on the Spycops Bill, and of course the utter disgrace that the whip still hasn’t been returned to Jeremy Corbyn – actually the left raise that at every meeting.
We’ve raised concerns regarding the scrapping of the community organising team, which was a massive mistake and so disappointing, given it was one of the most diverse sections of the Party –especially as we are now being told that it’s a key strategy to utilise members for campaigning for our electoral success in 2023/2024. We all play a part in the various policy commissions to ensure left voices are heard. We’ve supported Young Labour and Labour Student changes. There are nearly 50 meetings of the NEC, with working groups on top of the standard NEC meetings, so it’s a big commitment that we all dedicate our time to.
We have stated that we have no confidence in the disciplinary process under the stewardship of David Evans due to how deeply factional we believe it currently is, as well as being used for a broader attack on socialists within the party. We’ve officially placed our concerns on record. More recently we raised our concerns regarding our poor response to the refugee crossings and our use of language. No one is illegal and we need to shout that loud and proud. The Nationality and Borders Bill is frightening.
We’ve seen rule changes implemented that we were told by Keir would make us more electable as a Party. Keir was keen to point out that MPs shouldn’t have to worry about being triggered by members – MPs he said, need to focus on their constituents. Yet he has remained silent when later we hear allegedly that it’s the right of the Party briefing against some of the brightest within our movement, Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum. So we continue to protect the socialists within the Party, the people that are fighting for our democratic socialist values, we organise, educate and agitate ourselves and those in the wider labour movement.
We’ve seen the membership plummet during our first year on the NEC in excess of 150,000, estimated to cost in the region of £3m per annum in losses to the party finances. This is an ongoing trend and we ask that you stay – socialist voices must be heard within the Party. There are elections throughout the year, whether that’s in your CLP or the NEC elections. The left still have the ability to elect socialists to positions: we’ve seen that in the NEC, Women’s Committee, National Constitutional Committee and Conference Arrangements Committee. Our votes really can make the difference.
We’ve also been involved in some of the best bits of what the NEC can achieve for Labour members.
The National Women’s Committee’s inaugural meeting happened recently, which was possible due to the previous left-leaning NEC. I’m part of the working group that will work to ensure there are more Women’s branches across the country. We have been involved in the Islamophobia Code of Conduct, which will assist our Muslim members and afford them some protection within the Party, along with being part of the working groups that helped to implement the new Black, Asian Minority Ethnic structures along with Disabled Members structures.
It’s great to see the implementation of the democracy review finally coming to fruition. We must now organise in those groups to ensure those voices are heard and those structures are implemented and actioned across the country. We’ve been involved in the new code of conduct for Afrophobia and Anti-Black racism. Getting this over the line wasn’t easy, but it includes the recognition of racial trauma that our communities face along with the acknowledgement of misogynoir, the impact to colonialism and imperialism and how different communities have been affected, which is a really important conversation we need to have, as a Party.
We have submitted a number of statements during our first year, supported members and CLPs via the various emails we all receive, we’ve attended AGMs when asked, to try to ensure fairness, we’ve spoken at groups up and down the country, as well as with other regions. I recently met with Welsh Labour Grassroots, which was really inspiring for me, given the socialist policies Welsh Labour have been able to effect for the many. If only Keir would be more Mark Drakeford…
We have fought for amendments to policies or rule changes that would give more power to members. As I have consistently said, members are our greatest assets and there is nothing special about members of Parliament, although there are some exceptions.
We argued for Single Transferable Vote for all sections of the NEC, not just the CLP section. The hypocrisy from the right on that just baffles me.
It was great to be involved in the National Women’s Conference, personally for me, chairing some of the debate sessions and hearing from women, some of whom had never had the opportunity to take part in discussions and debates due to their caring responsibilities, so it was great to be a part of that. We also played a role in this year’s Conference – as a socialist on stage when members raised their views that you share was one of the best parts of the Conference for me. And seeing Yasmine Dar chair was awesome: there was such positive feedback from members in the hall, with Yas showing everyone how it’s done fairly.
We have brought motions to the NEC. I personally raised a motion on behalf of Sheffield members who wanted to be able to elect the local council leader. What I suggest is that you make use of the CLP reps to raise motions, as this is an effective way to actually get motions heard by the whole of the NEC with voting opportunities, CLP motions are otherwise just noted and passed to the relevant policy commission. What isn’t clear then is how they then get actioned or taken forward for the manifesto – so something for us as the Grassroots Voice 5 to work on this year.
We argued against the retrospective nature of proscriptions and will have our motion heard in January, along with an agreement that the chief whip attends to discuss how we resolve the issue that still faces Jeremy Corbyn. So we will continue to raise the issues close to members’ hearts in 2022 and we intend to ensure members’ voices continue to be heard by all in attendance and that socialist values and policies from our amazing last two manifestos, that would still be life-changing and just need a tweak for the crises we now face, are not forgotten.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the last six years is that the Party is not a social club. Not everyone will agree with each other, but it’s how we respectfully disagree with each other that is key to our success as a Party. We need the coalition of political views and that means those views being represented at all levels of the Party and from all wings of the Party, which is currently being ignored by the right, sadly.
It’s great to be a part of the Grassroots Voice 5 and I hope that you feel we are taking forward the things that matter to you as members. By all means contact us direct: CLPD have our contact email addresses online, so if there are issues you want to raise with us, get in touch. Obviously we can’t discuss or deal with individual cases, but can support you where necessary, and please invite us along to your CLPs and Branches.
Before I go, I just want to thank the CLPD Executive for the work you do for us all within the movement, the resources you provide throughout the year, the template motions for branches and CLPs, as well as the Conference info, the yellow pages, a particular highlight for left delegates (me included when I stood as a delegate in Liverpool in 2018). So keep up the great work you do to support us all.
And comrades, remember: unity is strength and strength in numbers – solidarity.
The Grassroots Voice 5 are Gemma Bolton, Yasmine Dar, Nadia Juma, Laura Pidcock and Mish Rahman. You can contact them and other members of Labour’s NEC – email addresses here.
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