Labour’s NEC needs to stop being an echo chamber and stand up for members’ interests

by Kevin Meagher

Labour’s National Executive Committee meets today to discuss, among other things, Margaret Beckett’s anaemic report into why the party lost the last election so comprehensively.

It promises to be a courtly affair, reflecting the rarefied world at the top of Labour politics where there is little, ever, in the way of transparency or plain-speaking.

This is because the NEC serves as a proxy of the leadership, or the unions, or as a symbolic battleground about who controls the party at any one time.

Yet it’s high time it started acting like any other non-executive committee in any other organisation and properly scrutinised how the party is managed and financed.

Take two recent examples.

Last week, the Electoral Commission detailed the general election spending of the main parties. While the Tories spent somewhere in the region of £3.5 million more than Labour, its revealing how and where the parties deployed their limited resources.

While the Tories made canny use of Facebook advertising, Labour relied on planting magic beans.

The party spent a small fortune – of party members’ money – hiring US election guru, David Axelrod, the man who ran Barack Obama’s campaigns, to sprinkle some of his magic dust.

Nearly quarter of a million pounds was spent retaining his services, (which seemed to amount to the odd sojourn to this side of the pond, expounding the bleeding obvious to the slavering US fan-boys that abound in Labour politics) only for him to prove a complete dud.

An NEC doing its job properly would be urging the party’s officers to recoup costs for his manifestly unsuccessful advice.

Then there’s the amount spent on a debating coach for Ed Miliband. The princely sum of £184,609.67 went on yet another US consultant, Michael Sheehan.

Putting aside questions of why a professional politician should need such advice, or, indeed, why perfectly experienced Labour staff couldn’t provide the service, the sheer scale of what was spent is staggering.

It’s enough to make the £7,700 the party spent on Cherie Blair’s hairdresser back in 2005 seem like a good deal.

The NEC needs to stop being either an echo chamber or a gladiatorial arena and concentrate on its more prosaic role in overseeing the management of the party. It could start by ensuring the party leader – any leader – isn’t able to fritter away money like this again.

The cash misspent on US consultants would have paid for an extra dozen party organisers working on the ground for 12 months in marginal seats.

Nearly half a million pounds spent on comfort blanket appointments that contributed nothing to Labour’s chances. Is it any wonder the country didn’t trust the party to run the economy?

Labour’s NEC needs to bare its teeth and stand up for members’ interests – and basic financial probity.

It could start by sinking them into the next US guru that appears in HQ.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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16 Responses to “Labour’s NEC needs to stop being an echo chamber and stand up for members’ interests”

  1. paul barker says:

    Fair enough but avoiding your problems now. Theres an excellent article on Political Betting which enumerates some of the Labour Right/Moderates failings, you would do better to reprint that.

  2. Delta says:

    Lol This is hilariously funny!
    You can see now how this self-indulgent, eccentric(to say the very least) fiasco has nothing at all with managing even a small irrelevant Political Party?
    Remember you cannot call yourselves that any-more, you are merely a platform of completely distant strange folk who have no idea about the practicalities of administering an organisation with spoons in the PLP with their sense of entitlement, that eventually the public must vote for them and the Conservatives cannot rule forever, thus no longer being concerned with campaigning or well achieving anything really.
    You can mock Corbyn, I do. But he is the latter day symptom of a much deeper problem of the corpse that is Labour having nothing to do with reality and people.

  3. swatantra says:

    Axelrod should give us the money back, if he had any conscience at all.
    Isn’t it about time we stopped looking to the USA for political guidance, when we all know that the USA has b****r all to teach us.

  4. Madasafish says:


    we all know that the USA has b****r all to teach us.

    Oh I don’t know. The Republicans are likely to choose Trump as their candidate (big leads over his opponents).

    Hilary Clinton is in doo-doo.

    Trump might become President.

    That shows you how to elect a leader who could win an election 🙂

  5. swatantra says:

    Trump cannot win. The man is a complete cad and bounder.
    He has as much chance of being President as Corbyn has of being PM.

  6. Tafia says:

    “Labour’s NEC needs to stop being an echo chamber and stand up for members’ interests”

    So you want the NEC to impose policies that the majority of the membership want then otherwise your argument is hollow. Which means you want Corbyn’s policies. And it’s Corbyn that is saying the party must reflect the wishes of the membership.

    And then in the next breath you’re moaning about Corbyn.

    F***ing joke.

  7. Rogueywon says:

    It’s not just the spending on consultants that needs to be questioned. Reading the recent Tim Ross book “Why the Tories Won” makes clear that the Conservatives didn’t just have better political consultants (though they did), but also that they fought a much better ground campaign. More mobile, more focused on not just the key seats but the key streets and, most crucially, below the radar of the other parties. That ground campaign and the Facebook spending were two sides of the same coin; the information gathered from one informing the spending on the other, and vice-versa.

    Bragging about “five million conversations on the doorstep” was a horrible tactical mistake. Not only was it a bad strategy, but Labour were broadcasting their strategy for the world (and the Tories) to see.

    The genius of the Tory ground campaign was that everybody thought it had been rubbish until the day after the election.

  8. Mike Homfray says:

    I think you will find the pro Corbyn element on the NEC will be entirely with you on this one. It’s the right wing with the US obsession.
    I’m not sure we could legitimately get the money back from Axelrod. Pity

  9. Will all this mean the Labour ‘moderates’ will cease trying to turn the party into the British equivalent of the American Democrats? On the other hand I’m not at all sure that trying to depict themselves as working class fighters against a North London middle class leadership will work either. Too many Oxbridge spads and careerist in their ranks for that;-)

  10. Mike Stallard says:

    I am an old man who voted Conservative last time and now I am looking for a party which I can support.
    Who is representing all those sacked – yes sacked – steel workers? Who gives a damn about all those aluminium and ceramics workers? Who cares a jot about the men who have given their entire working lives to coal fired power stations? Or to the nuclear industry?
    All totally brushed under the carpet. Green issues trump them in the workers’ party.
    And the money is wasted on salaries.

    Labour is dead.

  11. Madasafish says:

    “Trump cannot win. The man is a complete cad and bounder.
    He has as much chance of being President as Corbyn has of being PM.”

    I think you may be surprised.

    I don’s rate Trump’s chances equal to Corbyn’s. Trump is intelligent (more so than JC), can run things (JC cannot) and is running a savvy campaign.. He is likely to win the Republican nomination..

    I am not saying I am a Trump supporter but he appeals to US rednecks – and there are lots of them…

  12. Delta says:


    Labour is for ruling France and managing French Migration apparently as Holland is not up to it.

  13. Tony says:

    I really do have to question the value of spending on consultants.

    It is interesting that Ed Miliband did not answer very well the question:

    Did you spend too much?

    This is what he should have said:

    No, we did not and the Conservatives, let us not forget, backed our spending plans.
    Only later on, when the financial crisis hit, did they then start making such a claim.
    We were wrong to de-regulate the banks and financial institutions but the Conservatives wanted to go much further.

    They are now rather opportunistically trying to re-cast this as a question of too much government spending but I hope nobody will be taken in by it.

    Labour also made another mistake in that it failed to realise that the Conservatives would be out to win more seats so as to gain an overall majority. And so a list of a few vulnerable seats should have been drawn up a few years before the general election. Those few seats lost to the Conservatives could have been saved.

  14. WHS says:

    “Trump cannot win. The man is a complete cad and bounder.
    He has as much chance of being President as Corbyn has of being PM.”

    The Septics have no sense of ‘cad’ or ‘bounder’ because these ideas are tied up with class, of which they have none.

  15. John Vinall says:

    Trump will win the Republican nomination and will win the election unless Sanders can claw the nomination back from Clinton. He’s a master manipulator and has by far the most experience compared to the entire rest of the field.

    He’s a dealmaker, a businessman, not a politican, and he’s applying those principles to the presidential race. So when he says he wants to build a wall along the southern border of the US and make Mexico pay for it, you know that what he really wants is something less than that and he’s setting out a negotiating position – he’s basically saying he thinks there should be better border controls.

    (of course this has completely perplexed his rivals who now say things like “yeah, and we need a border to the north to protect us from Canada” in an attempt to sound tougher than Trump.)

    When Trump says he wants to ban all Muslims from the US, you know that what he really wants is something less than that and he’s setting out a negotiating position – he’s basically saying he thinks there should be more regulation and checks on who’s going into the country.

    Go and look at his track record of business dealings. He comes in with grandiose plans, every time, he causes an uproar as they look at what he “wants” to do, every time, then he negotiates and ends up with something less than what he originally “wants”, every time. And every time, he ends up with concessions from his opponents, they end up giving him more than they wanted, because he “gave up” so much from his original “wants”.

    A business genius with tens of years experience versus career politicans who’ve only ever dealt with the enclosed atmosphere of Washington. One commentator described it as “not so much bringing a gun to a knife fight, more like bringing a bazooka to a stick fight”

  16. Tafia says:

    Trump cannot win.

    You would be stupid to bet against him. He’ll almost certainly take the Republican nomination. And the only Democrat that stands a chance of beating him to the Whitehouse is Hilary Clinton – who is now facing indictment over the e-mail incident and lying to investigators.

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