Posts Tagged ‘NEC’

The Monday column: When will Momentum strike?

13/11/2017, 10:00:44 PM

There was a good reason why the Roman Senate forbade the army from entering the city. Armies have a single purpose: to dominate and control. That’s what armies do: They march forward and vanquish enemies. Or there’s not really much point in having one.

From the grand events of antiquity to the humdrum affairs of Labour’s internal politics.

Momentum, Jeremy Corbyn’s Praetorian Guard, was created out of the remarkable insurgency that propelled him to the Labour leadership back in 2015.

It made sense for the Corbnyintes to try and bottle that enthusiasm and organisation, but Momentum was, from the very beginning, created as a standing army outside of the party’s control.

A back-up plan. If Corbyn was usurped by his internal opponents, Momentum could rely on hundreds of thousands of members and graduate into a new left-wing political party.

But June’s general election result has made Corbyn unassailable. His critics have withered. There is no realistic threat to his position, which begs the question: What is Momentum now for? Does it find itself without a purpose, or is it preparing the cross the Rubicon and seize control of Labour’s internal workings?

There have been skirmishes over the past few months, with local branches and constituencies across the country falling under the hard left’s influence. Meanwhile, Momentum’s founder, Jon Lansman, is currently running for a seat on the party’s National Executive Committee.

And while it’s likely that a swathe of moderate councillors will be replaced by Momentum supporters next year, robust local government regulations will prevent the hard left from being able to force through illegal budgets and the like.

But Momentum has bigger ambitions and the mandatory reselection of MPs remains the Holy Grail.

So far, Jeremy Corbyn has been incredibly cautious about triggering a full-on civil war with his MPs over this, but if Theresa May presses ahead with the parliamentary boundary changes for the next election, Labour MPs will, de facto, face mandatory reselection.

Indeed, if she wants to bequeath a once-in-a-generation advantage to her party on the way out of Number Ten, Theresa May will allow the Boundary Commission to proceed with its work of cutting the number of constituencies from 650 to 600.

A full-on offensive to replace moderates with true-believing Corbynites will be too great for Momentum to resist. The resulting schism with the party’s moderate wing will cripple the British centre-left for a generation.

Can Momentum resist the urge to dominate and control?

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Danczuk’s treatment makes it open season on Labour candidates’ private lives

02/05/2017, 11:28:37 AM

So Simon Danczuk is to be barred from standing in the general election and deprived of defending his Rochdale seat that he first won form the Lib Dems in 2010.

A high price to pay for being an honest critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s various shortcomings and for his ubiquity in the pages of our tabloid newspapers.

Yesterday, he faced a three-member star chamber of the National Executive Committee to answer allegations that he was involved in sexting a 17 year-old girl back in 2015.

Danczuk made no excuse for his actions. He explained to the NEC that he was going through a hard time in his personal life (for which he subsequently received counselling) and had simply made a foolish mistake.

Without rehashing details, there was no allegation of illegality and most fair-minded observers would regard it as a closed, private matter.

Labour’s NEC operates to higher moral standards, it seems.

They deemed his actions to be so deplorable that he must forfeit his political career.

But in their bid to punish a critic and (they imagine) free up a Labour seat for a Corbyn acolyte, the leadership has just made a catastrophic error.

What will the NEC now do if it is revealed a Labour MP or candidate is, say, having an extra-marital affair? Or has a cocaine habit? Or uses rent boys?

By punishing Danczuk they have just set a precedent that the sexual peccadillos of other candidates are enough to have them dumped, inadvertently announcing open season on Labour MPs’ private lives.

Gleeful researchers in Conservative Central Office will be able to weaponise tittle tattle about Labour MPs to detract attention from the ongoing police investigation into their 2015 election expenses.

Right-wing tabloids, perhaps wary of exposing MPs following the Leveson inquiry, will feel justified in bringing tales of Labour MPs’ human frailties to light.

Corbyn has just done exactly what John Major did during his ill-fated “back to basics” campaign in the early 1990s. He has invited the media to hold other Labour candidates to the same standard as Danczuk.

Many will be found wanting.

Westminster is a gossipy place and there are plenty of Labour MPs who should be panicking right about now.

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Danczuk NEC hearing delayed yet again

26/04/2017, 10:17:30 PM

Today was meant to be the day that the NEC finally decided on whether Simon Danczuk would be allowed back into the party and to stand as an official Labour candidate in the looming election.

It’s been over a year since he was suspended and this decision has been a long time coming.

As arranged, Simon Danczuk made his way to the meeting in good time and was waiting outside the room, ready to hear his fate.

And then he was told.

Despite the huge, unexplained delay in scheduling this hearing, the NEC wasn’t quite ready. More time was needed to review the paperwork. Really.

Monday is the new decision day. The saga continues. Readers will draw their own conclusions on the efficiency and effectiveness of the party’s internal processes.

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Danczuk to learn his fate today

26/04/2017, 07:28:55 AM

Simon Danczuk is set to appear before a star chamber of the National Executive Committee this morning to learn whether he will be readmitted to the party and allowed to stand as the official Labour candidate for his Rochdale seat.

Suspended from the party since December 2015 following newspaper allegations about his private life, Danczuk had previously earned widespread praise for his tenacity in exposing his predecessor, Sir Cyril Smith, as a sexual predator.

His disciplinary case is now a microcosm of a bigger debate within the party.

As Atul noted the other day, it boils down to whether Labour’s priority at this election is maximising the number of Labour MPs returned, or positioning for post-election control of the party.

If the former, the NEC has to allow Danczuk to stand.

Despite his ubiquity in the tabloid media, he remains popular among his constituents and is a solid and determined campaigner.

In 2015, he increased his majority from 889 in 2010 to 12,442.

The Rochdale seat is mercurial for Labour. Having oscillated between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in recent elections, Danczuk remains Labour’s best chance of holding it.

If, however, the party leadership is more concerned with the composition of the post-election parliamentary party- and the potential of getting a bloc of left-wingers who will nominate a left-wing successor to Corbyn – then removing a vocal critic of the leadership like Danczuk may be the over-riding consideration.

Is Labour a serious political party focused on winning an election, or a fan club? The treatment meted out to Simon Danczuk will tell us.

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More signs Corbyn’s cabal has abandoned Labour’s key seats and is focused on the next leadership contest

24/04/2017, 09:15:51 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The starting pistol for the election has been fired but when it comes to candidate selection, Labour has been left on the blocks.

According to Labour’s selection timetable, Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in seats where the MP has stood down, are being chosen by the NEC between Sunday 23rd April and Friday 28th April and in seats without Labour MPs, between Sunday April 30th and Tuesday May 2nd. Sitting MPs have been automatically reselected.

Think about those dates for a moment.

Six days to pick 14 candidates in seats Labour already holds where the MP is retiring, three days to pick 416 candidates, out of which just under 100 are the key seats needed to win a majority.

Actions speak louder than words and the focus on seats where MPs are standing down tells us two things.

First, the party has written-off anything not already held.

Candidates in seats needed to form a Labour government are likely to be two weeks behind their incumbent Tory opponents, at the stage they are confirmed after the May bank holiday.

Labour officials suggest that based on past election experience, sitting Tory MPs will be on their third or fourth leaflet to voters by the time Labour has candidates in place.

Given the snap nature of the election, where the sole opportunity to introduce the Labour candidate to electors is the eight week window starting from Theresa May’s announcement, this is a major handicap.

There are doubts whether Labour’s candidates will even be able to make the first of the two free election mailings – that’s how late our selection process runs.

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Labour’s much changed leadership rules are a case study in the law of unintended consequences

29/07/2016, 01:43:19 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Lenin once said that some months only contain a week’s worth of action. While some weeks contain many months of activity. Currently the Labour party is living through years of action in a few weeks, but the last weeks of July saw particularly significant developments.

Firstly, during the 48 hours 18th to 20th June, the NEC devised window for upgrading £3 supporter subs to £25 to buy a place in the leadership ballot passed. Astonishingly, even in the Corbyn era, the Labour party gained 133,000 registered supporters in a matter of hours. One third of the selectorate was now registered supporters. By 28th July the BBC – Shaun Ley – was reporting the figure was 183,500. Where the extra members had come from is part of the current mystery.

We will not know till September who this benefits But it is very clear that a politically savvy cohort of some size now exists, understanding deadlines and able to spend £25 without blinking an eyelid to vote for the leader. And the Labour party has effectively no way of knowing who they might be – even if local parties tried to check the validity of the applications, they do not have enough time to do so. Ley reported that in HQ a mere 15 people are trying to check social media for unacceptable attitudes. But the problems are not about classical entryism.

Labour leadership elections are increasingly randomised, a marked contrast with the Tories who carried out a selection process which secured the choice of the M Ps. Labour’s M Ps have not just lost control of the process – which they did under the Miliband reforms – but have demonstrated this by launching a coup which seems to have relied on Corbyn not being on the ballot paper.

The NEC allowed him on, which lead to Michael Foster, ex- Labour PPC, launching a legal challenge which is the second major development. But before considering this, a few background points on the assumptions going for a dubious revolt, rather than a sensible redrafting of the rules for a mid-term election. This is increasingly necessary as the party fragments and shows the failure of the core theory of New Labour.

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Labour’s leadership plotting is going to end in tears

11/07/2016, 08:50:08 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Last autumn the Labour leadership issues seemed possible to discuss objectively, with a possible clean up of a deeply confused rule book. Perhaps even a sensible mid-term election could be devised while the Fixed Term Parliament Act was in force, a mid term election being discussed in passing during the summer leadership debates. This is no longer possible and even before a rumoured leadership plot is launched, the situation is becoming more confused and dangerously fraught.

The context of what Kevin Meagher rightly described as a ‘putsch‘ is internal disputes in the Whitehall bubble, mirroring tensions over Labour’s direction. There has been little to justify a leadership challenge despite the EU referendum dispute, and as Kevin Meagher pointed out, “The risk is that the current putsch plays straight into the hands of the Corbynites and inflicts lasting, long term damage on the party”. This is clearly true and while I suspect a general election in the autumn is unlikely for Theresa May, if one was called leadership dispute would seriously damage Labour.

However the immediate issues are two-fold, and centre on the nature of the putsch.

The first issue is whether they plotters can keep Corbyn off the ballot paper. If the rules are used to prevent enough supporters to nominate Corbyn, I cannot see how a legal challenge is unavoidable. He is the elected Labour leader. Whether he can be excluded is open to legal challenge but if successfully excluded, this has the effect of making the leadership a PLP matter. The membership is merely rubber stamping the PLP decision.

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Corbyn and Livingstone cannot now both survive within the Labour party

03/05/2016, 07:03:57 PM

by Rob Marchant

Political historians will one day chronicle last week. In their texts, Thursday will surely turn out to have been a watershed day for Labour. It was the day that the party could no longer ignore the fact that some of its senior people not only tolerate anti-Semites in their ranks, but can even slide into making similarly ignorant statements themselves. That it truly had a problem.

Jeremy Corbyn, though apparently unfazed by associating with Holocaust deniers such as Paul Eisen and extremist preachers such as Raed Salah (check out his “hilarious” swastika joke here), is not thought by most commentators to be remotely anti-Semitic. But his willingness to embrace all-comers in the name of “dialogue” between communities, especially on the question of Palestine, has made him used to mentally blocking out the offensive things that others may say about Jews, to the point where he appears not even to see the problem.

For example, when hosting a talk show on Iran’s notorious propaganda channel Press TV (whose UK broadcasting licence was revoked by the present government): witness here how he pulls up a caller over US involvement in Palestine, but responds merely with the answer “okay” when the caller calls Israel a “disease”. Nice.

But he – or his office, at least – took an enormous step yesterday in suspending one of his party’s most famous figures and one of his own strongest supporters, Ken Livingstone.

While the reasons for Livingstone’s suspension seem fairly straightforward, Corbyn as leader has been extremely slow to act on the issue of anti-Semitism in general. Only the day before, he had been content with Naz Shah’s “fulsome apology”; until later that same day, when the media clamour became too much and she was suspended in a humiliating U-turn.

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

26/01/2016, 09:41:15 AM

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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This is now Corbyn’s front bench. Good. He’ll be solely responsible for the failure to come

06/01/2016, 12:43:17 PM

by Atul Hatwal

This is now Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench. Hilary Benn might still be in post but he’s been politically emasculated and the sackings of Michael Dugher and McFadden along with the demotion of Maria Eagle have delivered a clear message: deviate from leadership orthodoxy and you’ll be next against the wall.

We won’t be hearing any more from Hilary Benn on Syria. Little from anyone in the shadow cabinet on Trident. Talented shadow ministers such as Kevan Jones, Jonathan Reynolds and Stephen Doughty have already walked the plank. The Corbyn line has become the Labour line.

Good.

Clarity was needed. Since Labour’s leader was elected, large numbers of moderate Labour party members have been engaged in a collective act of self-delusion: that Labour can present itself as a centrist, electable party with Corbyn at the helm.

The attempts of several members of the shadow cabinet to rein in Corbyn’s exigencies on foreign affairs, defence and the economy are laudable but futile and ultimately counter-productive.

The Syria vote was regarded by moderates within the PLP as some sort of triumph but while parliament ultimately voted the right way to take on the fascists in Isis, it was a political disaster for Labour.

Here was the main opposition party so riven that it had to opt for a free vote on the most important decision a country faces – whether or not to go to war. What does that say to the voters of Britain about Labour’s capacity to lead?

Trident has been another red line for many front-benchers but in the end it’s another pointless fight.

Moderate PLP-ers can talk about Labour’s policy being settled in favour of Trident at conference last year, but what will happen after conference this year, or next?

Within this parliament, party policy will be changed at conference to oppose Trident.

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