Posts Tagged ‘General Secretary’

The party, the party, the party: an eight-point plan to save the Labour party from itself

12/04/2020, 10:26:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

We have now had the Shadow Cabinet appointments. While a few have raised eyebrows among moderates – not least the self-same Miliband who helped get us into this mess in the first place – it is not a bad selection from the limited numbers of available MPs.

Its significance will be dissected for weeks by the Westminster lobby, because that is what they see – the Westminster face of the party. But the first thing we members need to realise is that the Shadow Cabinet and, indeed, party policy in times of Covid-19, is a sideshow.

Let’s not forget: the party is finally out of immediate danger, but it is still in intensive care.

Yes, it is important in these difficult times to provide a reasonably effective scrutiny function to the highly-variable ministerial quality on the Tory benches. But most moderates, we might wager, inside or perhaps temporarily outside the party, have always seen this leadership election as a two-step battle, in which both steps are essential and not just the first.

Step one: get a decent, competent, non-extremist leader (a low bar, you might reasonably say). Tick. And with Starmer, at first glance, things looks considerably better than anyone might have expected. Then, step two: sort out the party. In short, get it back to a decent, healthy, functioning organisation without the slightest hint of anti-Semitism or far-left extremism – both of which pretty much amount to the same thing.

And it is this second one to which we need now turn. It is not a question of it being a nice-to-have or an “in the fullness of time”: any failure to act on this immediately will mean that the good guys will not return – either our members or our supporters – and the whiff of racism will remain. The party, simply, will not recover. It is a sine qua non.

Here Uncut proposes eight things which will need to happen to make that a reality, and they will all need to start – and some finish – during the first hundred days.

One. Make it abundantly clear there needs to be a new General Secretary. The GS cannot easily be fired, but it is also impractical for them to continue if a party leader really does not want them there. The only key figure who will now want Formby to continue is Len McCluskey; the PLP, NEC, Leader’s Office and other unions will not.

Two. Eradicate anti-Semitism, branch by branch if necessary, as was done with Militant. The EHRC report, when it comes, will help mobilise opinion within the party and ensure that the guilty are brought to task, but action needs to be taken before then. Starmer’s meetings with JLM and BoD have been a good start. But this cannot really happen until we deal with point one. This will also have the happy side-effect of removing some of the nastier extremists from the party.

Three. Ignore Momentum. It is not necessary to try to attack it, it is already in disarray; a fan club based around one man can hardly have much future when that man goes. It is fracturing, as the far left always does. Its anti-Semitic members will be expelled from Labour. The important thing is not to engage with it, let it have its little conference in September and let it be a flop. Ironically, an organisation called Momentum will die if it lacks that which gives it its name. Those decent members, who are not mad or extremist and joined in good faith, will drift back towards the party proper. Eventually even Unite will dump it – they will want to be where the power is. (more…)

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Len McCluskey is the conservative candidate in Unite’s leadership election

17/03/2017, 06:37:08 PM

by Dean Quick

Len McCluskey is being championed as the “left” candidate in the Unite general secretary election. Assuming that the label means something we have to think it means he’s the candidate that stands for greater equality, for challenging the unfairly powerful and undeservingly privileged and the person most committed to giving us a powerful trade union able to meet and match the worst a Tory government can throw at us.

But the truth is that McCluskey is none of these things. He’s the candidate of the status quo, of continued decline, of no change, of jobs for the boys and he’s armed with a backward looking programme because, in essence, he’s a candidate of the past and certainly not of the future.

McCluskey – unlike some of his chief lieutenants – has never been in the Communist Party or even aligned with one of its satellites, like the Straight Left faction that Jeremy Corbyn’s paladin Seumas Milne supported. But his approach to his job is fundamentally that of the “militant labourists” that formed the traditionalist internal opposition to the CP’s “Eurocommunist” leadership in the 1970s and 1980s.

That factional battle was at its height this time thirty years ago. But it would be a mistake to think that the issues involved collapsed with the Berlin Wall. For while the Communist Party was at heart a pathological organisation – how else can you think of a movement so tied into a history of defending dictatorship and murder – its influence was profound.

The “Euros” were influenced by the new left movement (itself born out of an earlier Communist fragmentation) of the 1960s and engaged with ideas like feminism and what they called “new social movements”. Above all it sought to build a broad coalition for social change through a cultural politics that encompassed much more than the traditional movement settings of the workplace meeting and the party committee.


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McNicol sidelined in coup as Miliband asserts control over party machine

20/10/2013, 07:00:09 AM

At 1pm last Thursday, Labour party staff were summoned to the Buckingham Room on the first floor of the party’s Brewer’s Gate head office.

Ed Miliband, flanked by Douglas Alexander, his newly-appointed ‘Chair of General Election Strategy’ introduced Spencer Livermore as the party’s new campaigns director who will now be tasked with day-to-day control of the party’s election campaign.

Livermore, reading from a prepared script, announced that in future, the party’s seven executive directors would report directly to him – bypassing Iain McNicol, the party’s General Secretary.

Uncut can reveal that the announcement came as a total shock to most senior staff who knew nothing about the changes – including, it is said, NcNicol himself.

Appointed to run the party’s organisation by a vote of the governing National Executive Committee, both McNicol and the NEC have been effectively usurped by Miliband’s team in an organisational coup.

“It was a brutal meeting” said one eyewitness.

“It’s been obvious for some time that they were going to do something. Iain is not Ed’s man”.


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The flaws at the heart of the Labour party’s reorganisation

15/03/2012, 07:00:22 AM

by Peter Watt

I have decided to write something about Labour party governance.  Now wait; before you stop reading simply because you assume that any article about governance must be aimed at anoraks give me a moment as it really is an important issue.

The Labour party is governed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) who act in the same way as a board of directors or trustees do.  In other words, they are responsible for ensuring that the party manages its finances well; delivers on its primary objective of securing elected Labour representation and other subsidiary objectives like better representation of women.  And also for ensuring that the party complies with its legal responsibilities.  They also oversee, but do not direct, day-to-day operations of the party.  The day-to-day work is managed by the party’s chief executive the general secretary.

Traditionally the arrangement has not been a particularly good one in the Labour party with good governance being secondary to other political pressures.  The result was that the party became horrifically in debt and no one on the NEC seemed to notice.

The reasons for this are twofold.

Firstly the NEC itself was much more interested in politics than governance.  In other words they got elected or appointed by virtue of fighting for position or votes in internal elections on the back of taking positions politically.

They were experts in lots of things to do with politics, trade unions and so on.  But that didn’t make them experts in governance, asking the right questions, finances and the like.  Whilst other organisations could undertake a skills audit of their boards and appoint non-execs or other trustees to plug the skills gap – the NEC had elections to its various stakeholder sections.

And secondly the party management team saw it as their job to keep the NEC out of decision making.  What they didn’t know couldn’t hurt and anyway the NEC really weren’t that interested, or so the argument went.

It was just easier to set up NEC committees and structures that provided more confusion than transparency.  Plus there was always a third source of power that party managers had to worry about – the leader’s office.  The leader’s office always wanted to be in charge of everything but knew that the key to managing the weird and byzantine world of the NEC was the general secretary and their team.


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Vive la résistance la rue Victoria!

12/03/2012, 07:00:33 AM

That’s the mood brewing in Labour’s Victoria street headquarters.

On Friday, the long planned internal Labour party restructure was finally announced: new departments, new directors, more effective party. Or at least that’s the official line.

While the changes do make some welcome technocratic adjustments, they are  ultimately driven by hard politics.

Labour HQ has long been regarded with suspicion by Ed Miliband’s team. During the leadership election it was virtually united in its backing for David.

Since then the relationship between Victoria street and casa Ed in Norman Shaw south has been frosty at best. One leadership loyalist recently described Victoria street as, “a vipers’ nest”.

The restructure is team Ed’s move to bring headquarters to heel. Despite the job advertisements and apparently open selection process, the big three appointments at communications, strategy and policy all have something in common: their previous employer, one E Miliband.

Bob Roberts, Greg Beales and Torsten Bell will seamlessly move a few hundred yards down the road from the leader’s Westminster office to impose direct rule on Victoria street.

Needless to say, the changes haven’t gone down well with a staff team that regards the Ed Miliband’s team with barely concealed derision.

One staffer whispered late on Friday, “Set aside the politics for a moment, what sort of job have this lot done for Ed? Do we want that to happen to the party operation? “

It wasn’t an isolated comment.

But it’s not just personnel that are being changed. Perhaps the biggest change is structural. The way the party is managed has been fundamentally redrawn with the creation of a new executive board.

The board brings together the executive directors, the general secretary with the leader’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff. It will be the new decision-making heart of the Labour party machine.

The organisational independence of the Labour party from the leader’s office is now a thing of the past. For many, even amongst Ed sceptics, it’s a common sense step. A large gap between leader and machine is hardly conducive to effective campaigning.

But, as ever when power shifts like this, there are winners and losers, and the big loser here is the well-liked and respected general secretary Iain McNicol.

He wasn’t the leader’s choice for general secretary, but McNicol has been loyal and tried to ensure headquarters and the leader’s office worked together more smoothly in the few months since he took office in September.

Now with executive board, the dynamics at the top of the party are very different.

If an executive director, who nominally reports to the general secretary, has a difference of opinion about what should be done, the executive board not the general secretary will decide.

And what are the chances that some of the new executive directors might just decide to pick up the phone to their old chums in the leader’s office before executive board meetings to make sure they get the right decision, regardless of what the general secretary might think?

In the words of one staffer on Friday, “Iain is basically now a glorified head of HR”.

Over the weekend, as the scale of the changes were being digested by the Labour HQ team, two camps were emerging.

One group was dusting down CVs. It’s a tough market out there for Labour apparatchiks, but for many, even unemployment might be preferable to this brave new world.

The other was talking about resistance.

The signs of rebellion were evident even as the changes were being announced. Before the full staff team had been briefed, details were being leaked to Guido Fawkes, hardly team Ed’s greatest friend.

And then when Iain Mcnicol sent an e-mail to staff about the leaking, that was leaked to Guido as well.

For the rebels, it’s just the start. Over the coming weeks expect to see more signs of the Victoria street maquis. Team Ed has moved decisively to take control of the party operation. But lurking in the sandwich bars and watering holes of Victoria street, the resistance is plotting.

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A mounting in-tray will curtail Ed’s summer fun

19/07/2011, 08:03:20 AM

by Kevin Meagher

The annual summer wind-down beckons. Westminster rises for the summer recess this week and MPs will pack up their troubles along with their metaphorical buckets and spades and disperse for sunnier climbs. The silly season begins and through the haze of August, the party conferences loom.

After hitting his stride over the past few weeks with more assured parliamentary performances and some genuine speed and boldness in response to the hacking scandal, Ed Miliband at last has wind in his sails.

But it is not all plain sailing for him. A pile of knotty party management problems is accumulating which needs his careful attention.

First up is the selection of a new Labour general secretary to succeed Ray Collins. This is a pivotal appointment for him (well, technically the national executive). Ed needs a figure capable of energising the party, but also someone long enough in the tooth to know what the party can and cannot deliver for him. The choice is down to a respected insider, current deputy Chris Lennie, and a well-regarded outsider, the GMB’s political officer Iain McNicol. Today is decision day.

Then the political gets personal as Ed has to make good on his bid to scrap elections to the shadow cabinet. The parliamentary party backed his plan last week. The NEC will most likely rubber-stamp it today before a nod-through at conference in September. We can presumably expect a reshuffle thereafter. (more…)

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Labour party general secretary: some tips for hopeful applicants

07/04/2011, 07:00:16 AM

by Peter Watt

Last week the party finally decided to set a timetable for the selection of a new general secretary. Not before time. Ray Collins has been a good general secretary. But once he had announced his departure and taken his seat in the Lords the timetable should have been set. The delay will, inevitably, have been destabilising for the party organisation.

To hold office as the general secretary of the party that created the NHS, established a minimum wage, legislated for civil partnerships and created the open university is a tremendous responsibility and enormous privilege. It is also incredibly hard and demanding work.

So I thought, having been there, that I’d try and give some inside tips to those thinking of applying.

My first tip is to be prepared to sacrifice any semblance of work-life balance. You will be in demand seven days a week, often for 16 hours a day.  It’s one of those jobs where if someone wants to speak to you, then they want to speak to you right now. If you are unavailable it will be seen as a personal snub. It doesn’t matter why you were unavailable. You weren’t available when they wanted you; and people with egos remember snubs. (more…)

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The moment to stand up and be counted

16/11/2010, 07:00:12 AM

By Len McCluskey

Millions need trade union help and protection as never before. This is a moment for us to stand up and be counted.

We are in a deep economic crisis. Hard-won pay, conditions and pensions are under threat from Cameron and Clegg.

The government is making ordinary people pay for the bankers’ crash with the most savage public spending cuts ever seen – that’s you, your parents, your children and their schools, your neighbours in difficulties, your daughter’s chance of a home of her own on the line.

And jobs are being blitzed. Over a million more people will be on the dole because of Osborne’s plans. Another “lost generation” looms for young people. The anger students have already expressed is increasingly shared across the country. (more…)

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Hung out to dry by Labour: I know how Woolas feels

08/11/2010, 11:30:59 AM

by Peter Watt

I have a very personal experience of what it is like to be brutally cast asunder by the Labour party. The circumstances were different than those which have led to the position Phil Woolas finds himself in – but I suspect that the personal impact was similar.

I was general secretary of the party when, in November 2007, the Abrahams 3rd party donation scandal erupted. It happened on my watch. I took responsibility and in a blaze of negative publicity I resigned.

I knew that once I’d resigned an important part of the “handling strategy” of the donation story would be to rough me up a bit. I wasn’t naive. I accepted it as part of the rough nature of politics. The more I was damaged in the short term, the less the party was going to be damaged in the long-term. That had to be the right thing for the “greater good”.

What I was not prepared for was the massive toll this took on me, my family and friends.  I expected that the party would support me personally, behind the scenes. That they would caveat their attacks. Issue some statements of personal support that recognised my contribution to the party over many years. With a few notable exceptions, what I got was a character assassination. It went beyond being “roughed-up” to being a full blown assault. The personal impact was devastating. (more…)

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Ray Collins forgets to pay lip service

23/05/2010, 11:59:18 AM

Ray Collins did two things last week which politicians don’t usually do.  First, he expressed an unfashionable view to a difficult audience because he thought it needed saying.  Then – once he realised that he’d overdone it – he apologised even though he didn’t have to.

He might reply that he is not a politician.  That he is foremost a trade unionist, and that as Labour’s General Secretary he is merely an appointed official; the servant of the party.

In fact, he is a skilfull politician who has wielded an influence as general secretary not seen since Tony Blair wrested it from Larry Whitty and never gave it back. (more…)

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