How not to find out the NEC results, by Kirstin Hay

I arrived in Manchester ready to head down to the Labour leadership announcement with Johanna Baxter, one of the candidates for the national executive committee (NEC). There was trepidation in the air throughout the whole conference zone, everyone waiting anxiously to find out who would be the next person to lead our party. We had all known for months exactly when and how this announcement would take place. Unfortunately, this was not quite the case with the NEC results.

We turned up to conference without knowing which day they would announce the results (not that we hadn’t tried hard to find out). While we enjoyed finding out that Ed Miliband was going to lead our party, and attending the Ed Balls campaign party (Johanna and I had both been very involved in his campaign), the rest of the evening consisted of trying to gather information from national policy forum candidates and party officials (including asking the current chair of the NEC) about what the process was for announcing the results. None of which let Johanna know when her votes would be published.

Rumours flew around that NEC candidates were being phoned on the Saturday evening, but the only information we had was that they would either be published in the conference arrangement committee report supposedly released at 12.30 on Sunday as conference opened, or at least the timetable for the publication or announcement would be spelt out there.

I woke up on Sunday morning to see tweets from one candidate to another in the early hours of the morning asking what was happening, and to see a tweet suggesting that five of the six successful candidates were known. Phone calls and direct messages on twitter that morning were to no avail. We still did not know when Johanna would find out her result properly.

But we did know that the incumbent NEC was meeting with Ed Miliband in the morning, where we expected that results were to be passed around. We found out that this meeting was taking place from an incumbent candidate tweeting that they were on their way, and subsequently learnt that some people standing in the election had far more information about where, when and how the results were being released than others. Certain candidates would therefore be finding out their results before others.

We sat listening to Yvette Cooper at the women’s summit and saw Ellie Reeves (who had stood for re-election) arrive at the back of the hall. So I asked her if she could tell me the result. But I could have – as Johanna did – glanced at the twitter page open on my phone to see the results and links to a post on one of the successful candidates’ blog displaying the votes cast for each candidate.

Johanna had still received no information or communication from the party about her results, or their publication. We straight away headed for the conference reception to try and get hold of the CAC report, which was there, before 12.30. But it contained nothing about the NEC elections.

I went to the administration office to try and get hold of the internal party elections booklet of which we knew that others already had a copy. They did not want to tell me anything, including how or when the results were to be officially announced. Johanna spoke to them subsequently, and was told that the results were discussed and distributed at the morning’s NEC meeting, and that an officer of the party had phoned “some of the candidates” the night before, but that they were unsure as to how far though the list they had got. Johanna had not been phoned. They were still unable to say when she would receive her result, and claimed that they did not have the information at that office.

At this point, I phoned Luke Akehurst (a successful candidate). He explained that he had seen people walking around the conference centre carrying the internal elections booklet, so had phoned a senior party official and was given one himself. The very booklet we had just been told was not yet available. During this time, Johanna had tracked down the number of the aforementioned party official and had a long conversation before he read out her result over the phone. It was just before midday, and she had just been given confirmation of her votes.

It took until half past three to get a breakdown of results from the internal party elections booklet, which was placed at the conference reception for anyone to see without informing those on the ballot papers that it was there. After I had asked at the desk a number of times throughout the early afternoon, someone tweeted that the booklets were there, so I was able to go and collect a copy. I had a conversation with Oona King that night at around half past midnight congratulating her on her election to the NEC. She had to that point not seen her results, and did not know that they were at conference reception. Fortunately, I was carrying my copy of the breakdown, so she was able to see them.

Not many people in the party are passionate – or even care at all – about internal party elections. But that does not mean that due process should be ignored. It is unacceptable that the candidates were informed at different times. There was no reason for successful (or any) candidates to be told the night before. Someone whose name appeared on the ballot should be allowed the courtesy of knowing the procedure for announcement before that announcement, and not have to fight to find out. Johanna should not have found out her result on twitter, or been told to wait for a platform announcement that never took place.

I look forward to being represented by those elected to the NEC, and hearing full feedback of what is being discussed relevant to ordinary members. Johanna Baxter missed out by 172 votes after a tireless campaign and passion for ensuring that ordinary members have a voice on the NEC. She did not stand on a slate, so faced an uphill struggle to win the support of members, but this should not mean that she faces an uphill struggle with the party machine as well. As far as we are aware, the results were not announced or publicised by the party, only slipped out in the elections booklet.

Kirstin Hay blogs at StopJump.

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3 Responses to “How not to find out the NEC results, by Kirstin Hay”

  1. susan press says:

    My sympathies. I had no phone call either and only found out on Sunday after meeting Christine Shawcroft who had the document with the votes.
    Sympathies also to Johanna for missing out so narrowly.
    The NEC constituency reps should be grassroots activists – not high-profile politicians like Ken Livingstone and Oona King. I hope they stick to their pledge to support us Also very disappointed Peter Kenyon was not re-elected …..better luck to all next time

  2. Andrea says:

    When were the results published on the party website?
    On Sunday evening I noticed NEC and NPF results under the leadership result in the “Ed Miliband is the new Labour leader” page. I don’t know how long they had been there. I found them by chance as I would have not looked at that page to search for them. They could have published in a more accessible way. On twitter there were many nervous NPF candidates asking for their result

  3. I was very sorry to read about Johanna Baxter not making it on to the NEC; she’d would have been a terrific choice. I think more than anything the issue highlights the need for change at the heart of the NEC. I believe it was David Miliband’s idea to introduce a member to represent the devolved regions. I’d go further, let’s elect a member from each of the 3 devolved regions. I think I’m right in saying that the NEC has no members on it from North of about Oxford following the election? Not that that in itself is a bad thing but it does highlight a fairly yawning gap in representation throughout the country.

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