Peter Willsman writes:
This NEC meeting was dominated by a very lengthy, very informed and very thoughtful discussion regarding the antisemitism Code of Conduct. In my 37 years on and off national committees, I can hardly remember a more sensitive and thoughtful debate. Almost every NEC member provided contributions. There was no attempt at point scoring and every participant spoke frankly and sincerely.
Jeremy took us through the fraught goings-on in Parliament. The Tories have their backs to the wall and we are getting very close to winning some crucial votes. Our Whips Office is on top form and the PLP is very determined to expose the many weaknesses of this incompetent and heartless Government.
Jeremy then reported on the trade union annual congresses that he had attended and spoken at. On every occasion he had stressed the key policies, especially ending austerity and returning rail and key utilities to public ownership. Jeremy emphasized that his plan was to attend as many trade union conferences as he could.
Jeremy highlighted the success of the Durham Miners’ Gala and confirmed that he would soon be speaking at the Tolpuddle Rally.
Jeremy then took the NEC through the many efforts that he and our Party to increase the links between the Labour Party and our sister, Socialist, Social-Democratic and Labour Parties. Jeremy introduced a detailed document prepared for the NEC by our International Section. He thanked our Officers present for all their hard work in putting the Paper together. Jeremy emphasized that with many political changes around the world, we need to keep our link arrangements to sister parties under constant review – he gave the NEC a rousing report of the tremendous success of AMLO in Mexico.
Jeremy highlighted some of the recommendations in the Paper which were endorsed. In particular:
- If the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019, we must prioritize keeping a close relationship with the Party of European Socialists.
- To create a new linked party status, perhaps initially restricted to observers to our Annual Conference together with informal discussion between Labour and the named linked party.
- To identify those countries where there are gaps in our engagement and no formal sister party links.
Deputy Leaders Report
Tom was on the phone and only able to give a brief report. He took the NEC through the plans that are being put together to ensure that all the staff working in Europe will be guaranteed a position as a full-time staffer.
Local Government Report
The Chair, on behalf of the NEC, warmly congratulated Alice Perry and Nick Forbes for being elected unopposed to the NEC as the two local government reps.
Nick then introduced the Local Govt Report document which had been circulated to the NEC. In particular, this highlighted the serious funding threat to the whole social care system and the abject failure of the Government to address the increasingly dire situation. Nick informed the NEC that the LGA are preparing a paper on the social care crisis that will be endorsed by both Labour and the Conservatives. Jeremy welcomed this initiative by the LGA and stressed the need to protect and value all care workers, giving special attention to those care workers who have been carrying out this vital work for years without having many or any initial qualifications.
Finally, Nick stressed the severe funding crisis that local govt is suffering. It has been estimated that between now and 2025, there will be a local govt funding shortfall of some £7.8 billion.
EPLP Leader’s Report
Richard Corbett MEP introduced his written report which had been circulated. Richard highlighted the approval by the MEP’s of new EU laws on the posting of workers that bring in the principle of equal pay for equal work in the same location. Richard emphasized that in the UK this revision of the Posted Workers Directive is particularly important for the construction industry.
I raised the very serious issue of the international tariff war now being waged between the US and China. In the 1920’s and 30’s a similar trade war was a key factor in the Great Depression. As in the 20’s and 30’s the tit for tat tariff war, which Trump is provoking, would threaten the existing structure of international capitalism.
General Secretary’s Report
* Labour Party Code of Conduct in Relation to Anti-semitism Issues
The NEC Working Group – Antisemitism, had presented a full report to the Organization Committee on 3rd July. The accompanying documents at the Org Ctte had set out a wide range of important recommendations. These included a NEC Code of Conduct – Antisemitism, which had been improved nem con by the Org Committe.
Jennie gave a very comprehensive introduction concerning all the work that the staff had undertaken on this issue over many weeks. Jennie stressed that it was obligatory upon us that we agree a way forward that is fair and just and totally defensible. Jennie emphasized that it was essential that we sit down with all of the Jewish groups and identify their concerns. These can then be addressed in a fair and just manner. The specific details of the concerns are not that clear since most of the criticisms are presented in very broad-brush terms. The NEC then discussed at length and in a very thoughtful and concerned manner the points raised in the documents and by Jennie. It was agreed that we need to keep the whole matter under constant review and clear the backlog of cases without delay. A special meeting of the Disputes Panel, that will last a whole day, was agreed so that all remaining cases could be progressed. It was pointed out that due to the very small size of the NCC, there are always inevitable delays in getting 3-person panels up and running for each case (NB The Democracy Review will address this problem by recommending a significant increase in the size of the NCC). During the discussion, I drew to attention to the letter by 68 Rabbis in that morning’s Guardian. The Rabbis stated that “antisemitism within sections of the Labour Party has become so severe and widespread that we must speak”. I pointed out that no evidence whatsoever has ever been produced by anyone to give any credibility to this rather wild assertion. I added that we have been told that there is a backlog of some 70 cases that need to be considered. Our Party has over 500,000 members and to portray 70 out of 500,000 as “severe/widespread” would be generally considered to be somewhat of an exaggeration. I would like to add here that in The Guardian of July 18th, the facts were yet again in error. The Guardian reports that “Pete Willsman at the NEC asked for a show of hands of who believed that there was antisemitism in the Labour Party”. In fact, what I ACTUALLY said was, “Hands up those who have seen antisemitism in our Party, since, in over 50 years I never have myself”. Other speakers highlighted the fact that there is certainly a problem with Islamophobia in the Tory Party (as constantly highlighted by the constant complaints by Lady Warsi – see below). But of course, not only the are the Tory Party doing little if anything about it but the Tory lapdogs in the press and media deliberately ignore it.
Our Party, with Jennie taking the lead, will keep the whole issue including the Code of Conduct under constant review. There is a total commitment on the part of the NEC to constructive dialogue, to talk through all the issues of concern and reach a concensus that is generally acceptable. Everyone present vehemently hoped that the Jewish groups would respond positively to our desire to a thorough dialogue. If the groups declined to engage in any dialogue that would be very negative and unhelpful. To simply use the press and media as a megaphone to continue to make rather wild assertions that have no evidential basis is not the way forward.
* Democracy Review Update
The Chair apologized to Katy Clark for the long wait before we reached this very important item and added that everyone in the room will appreciate that we need to find a fair and just way forward with the Jewish groups.
Katy then presented a very large pack of documents covering 22 issues of democracy reform. Both Jeremy and Katy congratulated all of the staff putting all of these papers together. There have been something like 12,000 responses and every single one of them was given individual attention. Katy confirmed that the recommendations largely followed the weight of the opinions in the submissions. The NEC was given some 3 weeks to make amendments to the recommendations and then during September a very wide range of rule changes will be drawn up, in some cases various alternatives will be prepared. Before Annual Conference the NEC will decide which of the rule changes will be timetabled for debate and decision by our Sovereign Body. In the debate that followed, I congratulated Katy for the awesome quality of the proposals in the review. During my 37 years on and off national committees there have been more reviews than I have had hot dinners but this is streets ahead of any others.
Obviously, the recommendations have not yet been finalised but the following are some of the most noteworthy:
* The election of leader and deputy leader. It is proposed that the minimum number of nominations required would be:
10% of the PLP and EPLP Or 10% of CLPs plus 5% of the PLP and EPLP Or 10% of trade unions which comprise at least 10% of the affiliated membership from at least 3 trade unions plus 5% of the PLP and EPLP.
* NEC – Scottish and Welsh Conferences to decide how Scottish and Welsh Labour Party NEC places are elected; Creation of a Disability Place on the NEC.
* Members Rights – A new set of Rights for Members should be enshrined in the Rule Book. Enforcement of requirement to be a trade union member for candidates.
* Annual Conference – Remove “contemporary” from “contemporary motions”; Large affiliates entitled to additional motion; Constitutional amendments to be debated the year they are submitted; Reform of CAC – additional representation for Disabled, BAME and LGBT+ members.
* Women – Women’s Conference entitled to send 2 motions and a constitutional amendment to Annual Conference; A new National Women’s Committee will be elected; Voting entitlement at Women’s Conference to reflect Annual Conference; Regional, Scottish and Welsh Labour Party Women’s Conferences will be able to send a motion and potential constitutional amendment to Annual Women’s Conference.
* Young Labour – Young Labour Conference will be able to send 2 motions and one potential constitutional amendment to Annual Conference and to Annual Women’s Conference; each region will organise an Annual Young Labour Conference.
* Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Members – Annual national BAME Conference with voting entitlement to mirror Annual Conference; each region asked to organise Regional BAME Conference; newly elected National and Regional BAME Committees.
* Disabled Members – Annual Disabled Members Conference with voting entitlement to mirror Annual Conference; National Disabled Members Committee.
* Local Parties – Reducing quorum for All Member CLP meetings; Default branch and CLP rules set out in Rule Book; Easier to move from All Member CLP structure to General Committee structure and vice-versa.
* Local Government – LGCs reestablished in place of LCFs with 75% CLP and branch and 25% affiliate representation; All Member LGCs allowed where they currently already function as All Member LCFs; each LGC required to have an Annual Conference for all members to discuss local government matters; similar process to Clause V where the manifesto will be agreed by the LGC and the Labour Group; affiliated trade unions able to add to local government panel using same criteria as LGC; 50% of Cabinet and Committee Chair posts in Labour run local authorities to be held by women; campaign to allow all women shortlists for Metro-Mayor selections.
* Regions – Creation of new Regional Executive Committees; Annual policy making Regional Conferences where motions on national and regional matters can be debated.
Tory Party Riddled With Islamophobia – Lifting the Lid on the Tory Cesspit
* A 42-page dossier of abusive material from the Conservative Debating Forum, a 2,700 strong Facebook group, has been collected by the Red Roar blog. Several sitting Tory MPs, as well as dozens of Tory councillors, were members of the closed group…a spokesman for the group said “we cannot control the words of individual members in a forum of this size”. – Michael Savage, The Observer, 10 June. Re the last point – of course, when JC makes exactly the same valid point, he is criticised by the Tory media for failing to exercise control of his members.
* The former Tory parliamentary candidate Shazia Awan joined Labour because she believed the Tories have “a notion that Islam is not compatible with British values”. The Guardian 27 June
* “Nearly 3 years since I raised these issues with the then Tory Chairman, a year after submitting a 6 page dossier to the party and nearly a year after I wrote to the prime minister, we now have a string of voices adding to the chorus of concern. The Muslim Council of Britain has called for an inquiry; the Times published a leader urging the party to “set Muslim minds at rest”; and Lord Sheikh warned that bigotry was a matter of grave concern, yet absolutely nothing tangible has happened. There should be a forensic wide-ranging and transparent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party. The process should be published, those who are found wanting should be published , those who are found wanting should be publicly named and membership withdrawn.” – Lady Warsi, former co-chairman of the Conservative Party – The Guardian 4 July