Posts Tagged ‘NEC’

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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What the Labour leadership election rules say about removing a leader

12/09/2015, 07:00:23 AM

by Trevor Fisher

The Labour party system of electing a leader for an indefinite period makes sensible recall procedures impossible. The logical reason for an open ended term was ended once the Fixed Parliament Act was passed in 2010, as the need to have a leader ready in opposition to fight an election was ended. Up to then, the government could call an election at any time so Labour had to be ready. Now the government is able to replace the Prime Minister within a five year term, Labour also gained this freedom while in opposition.

Previously the Labour party could be caught out by a snap election with no leader in place, as it was in 1935.

The fact that there is no fixed term of office, allows mechanisms for challenging and replacing the leader while in opposition, which are indeed part of the rule book. However the rules are vague and certainly do not provide a mandatory system. Instead they either allow a leader to go on for the full term – currently 4 years and 8 months once the NEC had decreed a four month campaign, which is not within the rules*. Alternatively, members of the PLP are allowed to challenge the leader and indeed apparently can do so on a yearly basis if they wish.

The rules decree the currently operative three section system of full members, registered supporter and affiliated members (mainly unions), but I have not been able to find a definition of their rights and responsibilities, but it is clear this is not One Member One Vote (OMOV) and the phrase ‘One Person One Vote’ is used.(Chapter 4, Clause 2, Section C clause viii). This is not the only ambiguity in the rules, but there is no ambiguity that the rules allow a challenge to the leader by forcing a ballot.

How the ballot would be carried out is not in the rule book as far as I can see, but the current postal-electronic ballot and complex vetting procedures, which are inefficient and not actually specified in the rules as far as I can see, could not be repeated easily. The resources involved are considerable, potentially ruinous and could not be operated especially if the challenges became annual, which appears to be currently possible and hardly desirable.

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Yes to OMOV. No to registered supporters. Ed Miliband’s party reforms are killing Labour

25/08/2015, 10:49:12 PM

by Daniel Charleston Downes

We can now forget the Ed Stone and the bacon sandwiches, we now know for sure the most damaging thing that Ed Miliband did for the Labour party. The recalibration of votes among members to one member one vote was essential and the right thing to do, but then this was extended too far into a new concept of registered supporters.

It makes sense to take the selection of leader away from just MPs. MPs have maintained their right to select who makes it to the ballot, but even then they seem to have done everything that they possibly can to misplace that power. Once the ballots are out it is correct that the PLP should have the same weight as those delivering leaflets and running campaigns.

The fact of the matter is that registering to support a party was always going to result in some mischief. As it happens it has meant that there are those in the Conservative party that have sought a vote in order to pick what they consider to be the least desirable electoral option for Labour and it has encouraged those from the far left to sway the ballot.

Both pose their own problems. Opening yourself up so that your opposition can infiltrate your leadership selection is foolish, particularly if MPs are nominating a candidate whilst denouncing them as a suicide ticket. This should never be allowed to happen and unless the NEC can guarantee that not one vote has been cast by an individual for the sole intention of disrupting the party, the vote should not go ahead. I would be amazed if they can do this with any confidence.

The second issue is that it has exacerbated and even created divisions within the party that weren’t prevalent before the election. There were a great many members that wanted a deeper anti-austerity message but many were able to assess that need against electoral pragmatism.

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Will Labour survive a drawn-out leadership contest?

13/05/2015, 10:22:55 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The inside of the Labour party is beginning to feel like a tense family funeral, just before the point when everyone starts drinking.

There’s a lot of unreconciled psychological baggage as we await the National Executive Committee’s decision about whether it will institute a short leadership process, or stretch it out to the September party conference, or, indeed, beyond.

The problem is that years’ worth of sleights, rivalries, anguish, antagonisms and things that have been left unsaid have all built up. If invited to have a drawn-out discussion about why the party lost, it is inevitable that this will lead to family members’ pulling each other’s hair out as they send Granddad’s ashes flying.

In its soul, Labour is a party of deep divisions (personal and social as well as in terms of emphasis and priority). When a colleague remarked that Herbert Morrison was “his own worst enemy” Ernest Bevin famously snarled, “not while I’m alive he ain’t.” The decade-long drama between Blair and Brown (“the TB, GBs”) was merely symptomatic of this same psychosis.

These tensions are usually capped by the affected manners and superficial pleasantries of the party’s generals. Everyone is nice to each other’s face. Get behind that carapace, however, and it’s a different story.

During a Labour leadership contest, it is not enough for candidates to put themselves forward and explain what they would do, they also need to define themselves against their opponents.

So while your candidacy may represent The Last Hope, the only possible choice of any sentient adult; your opponents are, in contrast, sell-outs, lickspittles, lightweights, too associated with the past, too untested, too naïve, too unpopular, too Blairite, or not Blairite enough, et cetera, ad infinitum.

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Labour must discipline Livingstone

19/11/2014, 10:44:03 AM

by Rob Marchant

Last week, a member of the party’s governing body, the NEC, encouraged a crowd of people to go round to the homes of public servants (£) and “peacefully” demonstrate outside.

Presumably as Unite “peacefully” demonstrated at the homes of Grangemouth oil refinery managers, during last summer’s botched industrial dispute. It is a technique latterly championed by the union, known as “leveraging” (in fact, so excited is it by its novel idea that the union now has created a merged Organising and Leverage Department, to help promote it further).

The reality: when someone’s child dare not go outside to play, or has to ask its parents who the angry crowd of people shouting outside their garden gate are, or it is an unacceptable crossing of the line between legitimate and non-legitimate targets.

It is, needless to say, intimidation, by any other name. It is bullying.

The point is not the unpleasant practice itself: the point is that a member of the party’s NEC should be openly inciting this kind of behaviour. Morally, it would be equally bad if the victims were private sector managers, who are entitled to their privacy like anyone else; but this was worse: it was politically stupid as well.

It was against, let us not forget, public servants doing their duty; the kind of people, in fact, one might traditionally expect to support the Labour Party.

We might also note that the demonstration was in support of a political independent, currently undergoing numerous separate investigations, including by the police. A politician whom this NEC member has repeatedly supported, in opposition to the ranks of his own party’s councillors, including during an election: a clear suspension offence in the party rule-book.

Or his disingenuous backing of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets’ wearily predictable cries of “Islamophobia”, having being investigated himself for improper allocation of public funds and his election still being investigated for alleged electoral fraud.

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Enough is enough. Labour should kick out Ken Livingstone

08/05/2014, 03:44:44 PM

by David Talbot

In January 2004 a controversial member of the Labour family was readmitted to the fold. Ken Livingstone, the hitherto independent Mayor of London, had submitted his application before Labour’s NEC in order to run as the official Labour candidate in the forthcoming second London-wide ballot.

Livingstone had been expelled from party membership for five years in 2000 when, having been blocked by the party’s hierarchy from running as its official candidate for Mayor, he stood as an independent. Labour’s gerrymandering of the selection procedure, coupled with its heavy-handedness in throwing out the longstanding MP, merely resulted in Livingstone beating Labour’s official candidate into a humiliating fourth place.

Upon his return to the Labour column a jubilant Livingstone described it all as an unfortunate misunderstanding and of a marriage that had temporarily broken down. It is near long-forgotten that this fiercely independent firebrand lobbied extensively for his readmission to the party. But since then Livingstone has abused this “marriage of convenience” with the Labour party to the point where many right-minded Labourites can no longer willingly tolerant his membership of their party.

He has taken all he could from the relationship, and given scant in return. The charge sheet of abuse, varying in seriousness, is so extensive and so oft-repeated it is barely worth the bandwidth to detail further; campaigning against an official Labour candidate in 2010, admitting that he never voted Labour under Tony Blair’s leadership, whilst throwing in the customary charge that he should be tried for war crimes; his tax avoidance, his penchant for the mullahs of Tehran, telling the Reuben brothers to go “back where they came from”, likening a journalist to a concentration camp guard – even after he knew he was Jewish, his distaste for the Jewish community in general, and his patronage of Shaykh Yusuf Al Qaradaw, who denies the Holocaust, promotes female genital mutilation, and urges the throwing of homosexuals from rooftops as a punishment for their sin.

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The boy Miliband done good

05/03/2014, 09:29:23 AM

by Rob Marchant

In a sense, nothing changed over the weekend: there was virtually no doubt that, once a proposal of such import was made “privately” to the NEC – and therefore instantly leaked to the whole world – that ducks were already in a neat row and nods had already been duly given. In dark, smoke-filled rooms, of course (it wouldn’t be the same without them).

But the securing of the party’s reform package – namely, the change from bulk to individual relationships with the party for union members, fair and representative leadership elections and a primary for London – was undoubtedly a great thing.

Finally – finally – Miliband has left his mark indelibly on his party. Even should he turn out next year to have been a mere one-term leader, the changes he has made will have an extremely long-lasting impact (assuming, that is, that such things cannot be undone later: either owing to an untimely 2015 leadership election, as noted here; or the use of the NEC veto clause on the London primary, as Progress’ Robert Philpot observantly pointed out last week).

There are things missing from the final report: NEC and conference votes remain unreformed. Neither, as blogger Ben Cobley noted, did the party take the opportunity to address its pathological obsession with identity politics, which has left to some nasty stitch-ups in the past, and which may yet be the undoing of the party before long (read this piece by Uncut’s Kevin Meagher if you want to understand why).

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