Kirstin Hay says that Johanna Baxter would make the NEC more accountable

I joined the Labour party just after the general election, because I felt that I had taken a Labour government for granted, and now felt I had to fight to get one back.  I didn’t even know then that the national executive committee (NEC) existed, let alone who my representative on it was.  Odd perhaps for someone so new to politics but, given the number of internal elections taking place right now, I felt it my duty to find out how my new party operated before casting my votes.

I soon discovered that the NEC is important. It is the governing body that oversees the overall direction of the party and our policy-making process.  The six representatives in the CLP section are elected bi-annually by one member one vote and this year we have our chance to decide who will represent us.

Call me old fashioned, but I would quite like to know who is standing for election to this vital part of the party machinery.  The party seems to think that I need three months to decide on the leadership election, yet only three weeks to make a considered decision about who represents me on the NEC (the party will only confirm who is on the ballot when they send out the ballot packs in September).  Is this transparency, consistency or accountability in action?  I don’t think so.

I trawled Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere the other day, desperately seeking clarification of what was happening, and found evidence of nineteen people seeking to stand.  I am now struggling to understand how CLPs were supposed to nominate candidates with so little information readily available to their members.  For all I know, there could be another ten candidates standing who haven’t advertised the fact on, or don’t use, social media.  It surely can’t be fair, or particularly democratic, to allow certain candidates a much bigger platform purely because they have influence on social networks, which might bear absolutely no relation to their ability to do the job.

Many factions run ‘slates’, allowing not particularly popular or well-known candidates to be carried onto the ballot because of whom they are standing with, rather than their own capability. They no longer appear to be organised by political opinion, but rather by personality – someone running on a slate with one of the London mayoral candidates (who are seemingly standing only to further their own campaigns) has more chance of getting in than someone independent, who could easily be better at the job, but lacks the publicity of a high profile candidate.

Incumbent representatives state that even once elected they do not have access to the lists of CLP secretary or party membership.  How then are they able to communicate to us, their electorate, about their work on our behalf?

We pride ourselves as a party on fighting for equality and fairness, and yet appear to be operating here with an opaque and cumbersome system which allows very limited input from members every two years.  We need change.

Of our current representatives, three are called Peter and not one could call themselves Scottish or Welsh.  As a party we rely so heavily in elections on votes from these countries, but internally their voice does not seem to be heard.

Given its low profile, it is unsurprising that few members have the desire or passion to change the NEC for the better – giving it a bigger role, opening it up to be genuinely representative and accountable.   But we who know cannot stand back and let this be the case – our members deserve better.

That’s why I’ll be voting for Johanna Baxter.  Not only is Johanna Scottish, she knows the Scottish Party (she has campaigned there in every election for the past 15 years and has previously sat on the Scottish policy forum and Scottish conference arrangements committee).  And Johanna is fighting for change right through the system – she wants members to have a proper voice.  The national officer of a trade union, she is ridiculously hard working, an avid campaigner and is not hamstrung by one of the organised slates.

I don’t want our NEC to be stuck in the past.  We need an open, accountable and representative governing body. I know that Johanna Baxter wants and can deliver this too.

Kirstin Hay is on twitter

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6 Responses to “Kirstin Hay says that Johanna Baxter would make the NEC more accountable”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Ringer, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Scott Langdon, Jonathan Fellows, Kirstin and others. Kirstin said: Someone has written a *brilliant* blog about @JohannaBaxter and the NEC on @LabourUncut… 🙂 […]

  2. I hope you’ll use all six of your votes as there are six vacancies. Further details about why I’m running here on my website and on my blog

    Sorry if that falls foul of your comments about candidates who know how to use social media.

    I agree that the party should be putting info about all of us who are running on their website.

  3. stopjump says:

    I am glad that candidates are using social media, but for it to be a fair election we need full information from the party about who is standing. Of course if you want more information to be available, then you should be considering publishing information about other candidates on your blog…

  4. At the CLP meeting where we selected our NEC nominees, most candidates had sent in information about themselves to the CLP secretary (information about whom can, I believe, be found on Membersnet). Those who hadn’t can’t be considered serious candidates.

    The party machinery should facilitate NEC candidates giving information to members, but the party itself doesn’t have a responsibility to spread that material. If NEC members can’t find a way to do that, they’re failing to communicate with members and don’t deserve to get elected.

  5. stopjump says:

    Of course some NEC candidates are presently in positions where it is easy for them to access the means to communicate with CLPs, not all members are invited to the meetings where a decision is taken to nominate certain candidates, so not all those eligible to vote receive the information and each CLP does things differently, so certain members will find information more easy to access than others.
    We cannot allow there to be such variance.

  6. Clodagh says:

    As a new member, I agree that it is important for NEC members to have websites.
    It’s taken hours to hunt some of the candidates down, never mind finding out what they stand for.
    Perhaps Luke Akehurst or Peter Wheeler could offer to wade in and help Johanna Baxter to set one up.

    PS Re Labour Party funds – what are the chances of a website marketing “DON’T BLAME ME – I VOTED LABOUR” products. ‘T’ shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, wristbands, badges, knitting patterns etc.
    NOW is the time…

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