“I intend to continue campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to be able to fight the next election as a Labour MP”

Gemma Bolton reports on the meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on 25th Janaury

Labour’s National Executive Committee met on 25th January 2022. Below is a report from the NEC and the key decisions made.

Leader and Deputy Leader’s Report

The NEC usually receives a report from the leader and deputy leader on their work in Parliament and the country. Unfortunately, both Keir and Angela were absent from this key NEC meeting. This was disappointing as it is the only time CLP reps are able to ask questions of our leadership team on behalf of members. 

Motion on the Restoration of the Whip to Jeremy Corbyn MP

The withdrawal of the whip from former Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after a democratic sub-panel of the NEC had re-admitted him to party membership, has been a stain on our party for the last two years and has divided us when we so desperately need to be united in opposition to the Tory government. 

My NEC colleagues Ian Murray (FBU) and Nadia Jama brought a motion to the NEC that aimed to rectify this sorry situation and urge Keir Starmer to return the whip to Jeremy. I spoke in favour of the motion, arguing that the whip suspension was disrespectful, causing untold damage and division to our party, and even harming our ability to campaign in CLPs across the country. 

Passionate speeches were given by NEC colleagues urging support for the motion. Not a single member of the NEC who voted against the motion spoke or gave any reasons for doing so. The motion did not pass, with 14 votes in favour, 22 against and one abstention. All five of the Grassroots Five CLGA candidates supported the motion. I have signed this statement along with other NEC colleagues to express our feelings at this state of affairs. 

I intend to continue campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to be able to fight the next election as a Labour MP and urge Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, the Chief Whip and the Chair of the NEC to convene a meeting with Jeremy at the earliest opportunity to resolve the situation. 

Motion on Retrospective Application of Expulsions Relating to Proscribed Organisations

At the NEC meeting on July 21st 2021, the NEC voted to proscribe four groups, meaning that any activity deemed as support for these groups would lead to a swift expulsion from the Party. I opposed this at the time for a number of reasons (you can read why in my previous report here). Importantly, however, the paper that the NEC passed on this matter did not state at any point that historical support for any of these groups would lead to expulsion from the Party. And yet we have seen scores of just such expulsions, with members being expelled for liking a post or even attending an event years before doing so was even considered a crime. 

My NEC colleagues Nadia Jama and Laura Pidcock brought a motion to the NEC seeking to clarify the application of proscriptions and prohibit any retrospective application of such breaches. I supported this motion, pointing out that these retrospective expulsions have often targeted young activists and Party members who are finding their feet and learning their politics but have now been cast out by an unfriendly movement that should have been welcoming. Unfortunately, the motion did not pass, with 15 votes for and 22 votes against. All five of the Grassroots Five CLGA candidates supported the motion. 

I’m appalled that the NEC could not support such a basic application of our rulebook. This goes against the most basic principles of natural justice and the rule of law. It is horrifying that a party that seeks to govern this country would apply its rulebook in such an authoritarian manner. 

Forde Inquiry

 I can’t believe that I am writing yet another report from the NEC unable to demonstrate any progress on publication of the Forde Inquiry into the ‘Labour Leaks’ report. The report was first commissioned by the Party before I even joined the NEC, and was first due to be released in July 2020. Martin Forde QC sent another letter to the party just the day before the NEC, detailing reasons for yet further delay of the report. He denies any political interference from the Labour Party in this delay. 

Questions were asked about how much money the Party has now spent commissioning the report, to which we were told that this would not be shared with the full NEC but only with the NEC’s Business Board (which has delegated authority from the NEC, and should thus be accountable to the NEC). Forde’s letter says the report is “largely completed” but we were previously told that the only delay was the outcome of an ICO investigation relating to data breaches from the leaking of the report. So is the report now being rewritten? Are parts being removed? I did not receive satisfactory answers to these questions at the NEC. Forde has said that the report can be released next month. I won’t hold my breath. 

General Secretary’s Report

2022 Rule Book

I asked when we would have the 2022 rulebook, normally produced after party conference each year. I sought assurance that the rulebook would contain, as it has for the past 100 odd years, all the rule changes agreed at Conference. I asked specifically about the rule change brought to conference by City of Durham CLP regarding by-election selection procedures. The General Secretary, regional offices and leadership are currently ignoring this rule change, despite Conference being sovereign. This is unprecedented. General Secretary David Evan’s said he “believes” it will be included and we will have the rule book in the coming weeks. It simply must be included as per sovereign Conference and then must be adhered to, or we will be in breach of our own rulebook. 

Westminster Candidate Procedures

A very worrying paper on the selection procedures for parliamentary candidates was presented to the NEC that would have given the NEC the sole power to agree longlists for the selection of candidates for seats that Labour does not hold. A good amendment was agreed, however, which enables candidates who receive a nomination from an affiliated trade union to automatically be on the longlist. This amendment will allow for a broader range of choice for members in selection meetings. There were also other amendments that made small improvements to the paper; however, overall, this paper unsurprisingly represents yet another power grab by the leadership.

Membership Data and Member Centre

The General Secretary reported that Party membership stood at 434,000, which is a drop of over 100k members since 2020. It’s also not clear how many of these members are in arrears. We know that such a drop in membership, combined with cuts to funding from affiliated trade unions, has led to financial ruin and scores of staff redundancies. The Party leadership should adopt an approach in which members and our affiliated trade unions are properly valued in order to stop the rot.

Many members and office holders will also know about the data incident that has prevented the Party from properly accessing its membership data for some months now. In parts of the country, such as London, this is even delaying Local Campaign Forums from selecting their council candidates for the May local elections. The NEC was told that membership data would be back online soon and I am hoping that members will be informed about this imminently. 

Labour Muslim Network

It is currently being reported in the press that the Labour Muslim Network are concerned that they are not being taken seriously or listened to by the Party. This is an issue this network has raised repeatedly at almost every Equalities Subcommittee I have attended since I was elected. I asked how often the Party is meeting with the Labour Muslim Network and what measures are being taken to ensure they are being listened to and taken seriously by the Party.

I was assured LMN are being consulted by the party on a range of issues, including EHRC implementation and the now completed and agreed Islamophobia Code of Conduct. Whilst this is to be welcomed, our Party clearly needs to up its game in tackling Islamophobia, which is still clearly a serious issue in the party, and engage fully with Muslim members. 

National Policy Forum 

The NEC was asked to agree the proposed timeline for the “pathway to a manifesto” NPF process spanning the next couple of years, the six new policy commissions and co-convenors and the proposals for the timing of the final stage meeting

They are cutting the eight current policy forums down to six and definitely removing clarity over what the focus of these commissions is to be. The new commissions will focus on the six themes of Stronger Together; 

  1. A green and digital future
  2. Better jobs and better work
  3. Safe and secure communities
  4. Public services that work from the start
  5. A future where families comes first
  6. Britain in the world

This is significantly more unclear than the current commission;

  1. Economy, Business and Trade
  2. International
  3. Health and Social Care
  4. Early Years, Education and Skills
  5. Justice and Home Affairs
  6. Housing, Local Government and Transport Policy
  7. Work, Pensions and Equality
  8. Environment, Energy and Culture

I fear this weakens the role of the NPF and will limit the ability of the NPF to make concrete policy. The proposals were agreed by the NEC. 

Joint Policy Commission

Gavin Sibthorpe from the GMB has replaced Tom Warnett, who also represented the GMB as the Chair of the Joint Policy Commission. 

Gemma Bolton is a CLP Representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee and Co-Chair, The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

This report first appeared here

Image: Middle East Monitor, licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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