LabourList is the foremost independent blog for all things Labour, and a discussion platform for everything from the NHS to the EU. While taking a mostly centre-left position, LabourList encompasses a broad range of progressive views, providing analysis and commentary on news from Westminster, local government and the Labour party itself.
Labour’s ruling body could see each region and nation get its own place, under new proposals from centrist Labour groups to the party’s democracy review.
Progress and Labour First launch a campaign today to offer a place on the NEC to each of the UK’s regions, plus Scotland and Wales.
Former parliamentary candidate Mary Wimbury, who is standing for the NEC, said: “We need a guaranteed CLP rep for Wales, who votes in Welsh Labour members’ interests, and can be held accountable for doing so.”
The plans put forward by the centre-left organisations would also see the number of local government representatives on the NEC doubled, from two to four. Alice Perry and Nick Forbes are the local councillors currently occupying the two places.
Such recommendations must be passed by both the NEC and Labour conference in September before being implemented.
The extra NEC places would increase the chances that Progress and Labour First could retain places on the ruling body, where the Left now has a majority of approximately 23 to 16.
It includes Labour First secretary Luke Akehurst, former NEC member Johanna Baxter, outgoing NEC youth rep Jasmin Beckett, trans activist Heather Peto and Sikhs for Labour’s Gurinder Singh Josan.
Last week, LabourList exclusively revealed that Momentum will suggest Labour Party membership is opened up to include supporters of other movements, as part of its own submission to the democracy review.
Momentum’s proposals, put together following an online consultation of 4,000 members, would also see MPs face stronger parliamentary reselection processes.
This is the full slate of centre-left candidates for Labour’s national executive committee.
Centrist groups Progress and Labour First are supporting the following nine candidates for this summer’s elections to the Constituency Labour Party section of Labour’s NEC.
Luke Akehurst – South East; secretary of Labour First; former NEC member, councillor and parliamentary candidate
Lisa Banes – Yorkshire; Sheffield councillor; equalities activist
Johanna Baxter – Scotland; Scottish executive committee member; union official; former NEC member
Jasmin Beckett – North West; NEC Youth Rep 2016-18; CWU activist
Eda Cazimoglu – Eastern and London; Labour Students National Policy Forum rep; secretary of UEA Labour Club
Marianna Masters – London; vice-chair; council candidate in Streatham CLP; Unite activist
Heather Peto – East Midlands; LGBT Labour Trans Officer; former parliamentary candidate
Gurinder Singh Josan – West Midlands; vice-chair of Sikhs for Labour; Unite branch secretary
Mary Wimbury – Wales; former parliamentary and Welsh Assembly candidate; Wales Co-op Party treasurer
The slate was described as “the most diverse team of candidates that has ever been fielded for the NEC” by Richard Angell, director of centrist group Progress.
Angell said: “It includes candidates from nine different regions, two of Labour’s most prominent young members, a majority of women, three BAME candidates and a leading LGBT and Trans activist.
“As well as that, it is an experienced team with three former NEC members and three former parliamentary candidates. It represents the best of Labour’s grassroots members.”
Labour First’s secretary Luke Akehurst said: “The dominance of the NEC by Momentum is unbalanced, unrepresentative of the diversity of views among Labour members, and bad for party unity.
“We need an NEC where all the traditions and currents of opinion in the Labour Party are represented, and work together to plan how to beat the Tories in the next General Election, not one dominated by one faction pursuing a narrow and partisan agenda about its own internal control of the party.”
Faced with a national security crisis where it appears that Russia has attacked a British citizen and former intelligence asset with a proscribed nerve agent in a restaurant in Wiltshire, a large segment of the online Hard Left seems oddly preoccupied with a spurious allegation that Jeremy Corbyn’s hat was photoshopped by the BBC for a Newsnight backdrop to make him look more Soviet.
People will be in a position to complain about being unfairly portrayed as “Soviet” if they make a few changes to their political behaviour and the image they present:
Take a zero tolerance stance towards people in their own ranks within the Labour left who self-describe as “Communist” in their social media profiles or promote theories like “fully automated luxury Communism”.
Stop employing people from the Stalinist “Straight Left”/CPB tradition in the leader’s office.
Stop expressing “solidarity” with vile regimes like Cuba and Venezuela.
Provide ideological clarity that they are not seeking to abolish capitalism and replace it with a command economy.
Stop apologising for or giving the benefit of the doubt to Russia over its contemporary behaviour regarding assassinations in the UK, the occupation of the Crimea, and its military actions in Syria.
Stop promoting and writing for the Morning Star, the former newspaper of the CPGB, and appearing on Russia Today.
Show solidarity with Labour’s social democratic sister parties in Europe, not their far-left enemies.
Show zero tolerance of antisemitism, much of which derives from Soviet era propaganda that portrayed Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans” who controlled capitalism and politics, and Israel as a state of racists and Nazis.
Until then, the media is going to portray you how you present yourselves, so live with it.
There are millions of ordinary people in Britain who desperately need a Labour government to end austerity, restore our public services and promote a more socially just and equal society.
They won’t feel able to elect that Labour government until they can trust it to also look after our national security and defend democracy and freedom as being core centre-left values. A government in the tradition of Attlee and Bevin.
The dilettante online dabblers in communism memes, the anti-West obsessives, and the PhD students rehabilitating dead totalitarian ideologies are standing between those people and the government they need.
Labour will shortly be launching the Bernie Grant Initiative, a leadership and candidate training programme for BAME members similar to the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme. “Be a Councillor” events will also be held to encourage trade unionists, women, BAME members, disabled members, LGBT and young people to stand to be councillors. I recently attended one of these events for GMB shop stewards in Liverpool – it was inspiring and exciting to meet so many excellent future candidates and councillors.
The NEC equalities committee discussed the latest draft of the statement about trans inclusion in the Labour Party. The statement welcomes trans women standing in all-women shortlists. The statement will be finalised at a future NEC meeting. The NEC is aware that for some this is a sensitive and emotive issue. We want members to feel they can debate and discuss sensitive and/or potentially controversial issues respectfully. Personal abuse of any kind, whether online or in person, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
The NEC noted the report from Labour Too, which contained harrowing allegations of sexism and abuse. Labour takes this extremely seriously and is conducting an internal review. There is a new, confidential reporting system for allegations of sexual abuse. The reports are fully anonymous and details of the allegations are not shared with the wider disputes committee. Labour has dramatically improved the way it responds to allegations of sexual harassment but there is still more to do for all political parties to ensure that this behaviour has no place in politics or public life.
Katy Clarke gave a presentation about the ongoing work on the Labour Party democracy review. She and her team have attended over 60 meetings across the country. Members are encouraged to invite Katy and her colleagues to attend local CLP or Labour Group meetings. It is particularly important to hear from members and councillors across the UK. Further information about the democracy review is available at labour.org.uk/about/democracy-review-2017.
The disputes committee agreed to a review of Labour’s complaints and disciplinary procedures. A working group will be established to take this forward.
As of 6th March, 43 prospective parliamentary candidates had been selected in key marginal seats. The NEC reviewed the selection process so far and reviewed the code of conduct for candidates. The NEC discussed spending limits and the importance of having a process that was as accessible as possible to people from all backgrounds. A bursary scheme will be available to help support candidates on low-incomes.
The NEC is aware that members are keen to select candidates in non-key seats and we would like to begin this process as soon as is realistic. The NEC is aware that the next general election could take place anytime from this year to 2022. If the general election does take place in 2022, this will place additional pressure on candidates.
2018 local elections
I attended a meeting with councillors, staff and Andrew Gwynne and Ian Lavery to discuss May’s crucial council elections. The meeting discussed the national campaign strategy, key messages, voter and member mobilisation, differential turnout, key themes and training and support for volunteers. Key themes include local government funding and Tory cuts to council budgets, housing, education, community safety and damaging Tory police cuts, health and the NHS and living standards. Jeremy Corbyn has stressed that every Labour councillor elected brings us a step closer to a Labour government and ending austerity.
General secretary election
The NEC will elect Labour’s next general secretary at the NEC meeting tomorrow on 20 March. Whoever is elected, the NEC and Labour family will continue to work together to win elections and articulate Labour’s positive vision for our communities across the UK.
Alice Perry represents local government on Labour’s NEC.
It’s a quiet week for new legislation after Friday’s bumper set of private member’s bills. MPs are voting on a new law to protect social housing tenants who are victims of domestic abuse, as well as issues surrounding the lack of government in Northern Ireland.
Monday 19 March
Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill – 2nd reading
Applies to: England and Wales
Ensures that social housing tenants with a lifetime lease who need to leave their home due to domestic abuse are granted a new lifetime tenancy in the property they move to. This creates an exception to rules in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which will require local authorities in England to offer only fixed-term tenancies when they come into force. The bill started in the Lords, so it’s closer to becoming law than if it started in the Commons. It’s also backed by the government, so likely to get passed.
Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill – all stages
Applies to: Northern Ireland
Authorises the Northern Ireland budget announced last week. Usually this would be done by the local government in Belfast, but it collapsed in January 2017 and the leading parties haven’t managed to negotiate a new one, so Westminster is stepping in. The settlement includes £410m of the £1bn negotiated by the DUP at the last election in return for backing the Conservatives.
Wednesday 21 March
Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – all stages
Applies to: Northern Ireland
Introduces measures to deal with the fallout from Northern Ireland’s ongoing lack of government.
The Labour Party has always had socialists in it. But it is now led by socialists. This is not accidental.
Throughout my lifetime, each generation in this country has confidently and correctly expected its standard of living to be better than its parents. That is no longer the case. We are living in unprecedented times, at least in the modern era. These unprecedented times create their own exceptional political circumstances.
Yet Jeremy Corbyn is excoriated because he intends to do something about this terrible economic situation. As John McDonnell showed on LabourList this week, the Tories have no plan to lift the economy out of its stagnation. If people are to have any hope it will only be with Labour’s plans for investment, not cuts.
Prosperity is the bedrock of the socialist project. In the past, it was possible to simply argue for a slightly bigger slice of the expanding pie. Now we must take action to make sure the pie grows at all. That is the basis of our economic policy.
But socialism cannot be elitist or sectoral or ever concede to the divide and rule agenda of the Tories. We stand for the liberation of all. We oppose discrimination, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms. Our policies are aimed at promoting equality, in terms of pay, housing, schools, the law and every aspect of social life.
We are also internationalists. This term has become so abused that those who prosecuted illegal wars claimed it for themselves. Real internationalism means valuing the lives of others, promoting peace and recognising the need to tackle international problems such as climate change collectively and internationally.
Over the course of the week, I have tried to bring together some of the key elements of Labour’s approach to twenty-first century socialism. The intention has been to show how Labour will approach these issues, and to make these issues impact on Labour thinking.
A great many thanks are necessary. First, to LabourList and its editor Sienna Rodgers for giving me this opportunity. Secondly, I want to thank all the fantastic contributors, whose passion and erudition is so valuable now and in the future movement we need to sustain a Corbyn-led government.
Finally, I would like to thank you the readers, whose engagement, disagreement and support over this week is vital. You are the lifeblood of a growing movement that can change lives for the better.
“I don’t believe knowing is enough or alone makes you happy. You want the next thing – you want justice” – Max Mxenge, brother of Griffiths Mxenge, human rights lawyer assassinated by counterinsurgency police unit in Apartheid South Africa
Joan Connolly left eight children orphaned when she died. She bled to death after being shot in the face and leg by high velocity bullets and left in a field. She had been out looking for her young daughter amidst some civil unrest when she was killed.
Joan was one of ten innocent civilians who were shot dead by British Army in the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast in three days of brutal repression of her community after the introduction of internment without trial on 9th August 1971.
Another of the victims was the local parish priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot after he went to the assistance of an injured man, armed only with a white handkerchief. Similarly, Frank Quinn, Daniel Teggart, Kevin Phillips, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John McKerr were all unarmed when they were killed by soldiers.
An eleventh victim, Paddy McCarthy, died from a heart attack after soldiers allegedly performed a mock execution on him. In total, 57 children were lost a parent in the Ballymurphy Massacre.
No one was ever held to account for these killings. In 1970 an agreement was reached between the general officer commanding the British Army (GOC) and the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whereby in an investigation into the use of lethal force by military personnel, the interviewing of soldiers would be carried out by the Royal Military Police, another branch of the army ‘family tree’. During the period when the Agreement was in force, which included the events of Ballymurphy, soldiers who engaged in the use of lethal force were not subject to the rigours of the legal system, nor were they rendered accountable for their use of lethal force.
The original inquests into the deaths of the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre held in 1972 were hopelessly inadequate. The non-compellability of soldiers to give evidence to the coroner’s court, the lack of pre-inquest disclosure to the families or their legal representatives and the inability of the coroner to reach ‘findings’ meant the inquests were deeply flawed.
The legal regulation of inquests in the north of Ireland has been subject to penetrating changes in recent years. These changes have, in large part, been due to legal challenges by the families of victims of state killings. Inquest now must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.
In November 2011 the attorney general John Larkin QC exercised his discretion under section 14 of the Coroners Act (NI) 1959 to direct fresh inquest into those shot dead in Ballymurphy after considering legal submissions from my office. The inquest has been set for hearing in September 2018.
The relatives of those shot dead at Ballymurphy in 1971 have always known that their loved ones were innocent. But knowing is not enough. Officially acknowledging past wrongs and repudiating wrongful judicial verdicts, such as flawed inquest verdicts, is part of obtaining justice for these families. After 47 years, they hope that the new inquest will provide them with some measure of truth.
Pádraig Ó Muirigh is a lawyer for the Ballymurphy families.
The appeal of Labour for young people could not be clearer. The reality is that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership represents the friendliest approach to youth and students from a political party in generations.
The Labour pledge on cutting tuition fees and reinstating maintenance grants alone saw students queueing up at polling booths to vote out the Tories in Theresa May’s ill-fated snap election. Young people around the country feel empowered that they contributed to this political upset, helping topple Tory ministers and boost Labour at the expense of the Tories, which feels like an apt response to the Tories’ trebling of tuition fees.
Corbyn’s Labour made an offer to young people on higher education and the education maintenance allowance. Meanwhile the Tories were mired in a mess of their own making, offering only the dementia tax, cuts to school meals and hunting foxes. It was a chilling insight into what the Tories would have done to the population had they received the 20-point landslide result that prompted May to call the snap election.
Labour’s offer to students and young people was both popular and made economic sense. Just as the NHS was created during the post-war slump, boosting the economy by creating jobs that in turn created income tax revenue, so too could graduates contribute to the public purse for every pound invested. An educated graduate is able to compete for higher pay, and therefore generates higher income tax. Such logic is lost on the millionaire Tories whose associations with tax returns are more likely to be in the Cayman Islands or the scandalous paradise papers than building the economy.
As an EU student, I worry about the Tories’ reactionary hard Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is right to say that our rights should not become bargaining chips in the negotiations. The depths of Theresa May’s reactionary agenda is shown by her insistence on counting international students in migration targets. This makes little political sense, and she is opposed by MPs across the spectrum on the issue as a result. It also makes no economic sense, as the business department estimates that the economic value of international students is set to rise to £26 billion by 2025.
The Tories have found to their own misfortune that their reactionary politics allowed Labour’s progressive policies to reach new people. ‘Grime For Corbyn’ grabbed the headlines as artists like Stormzy backed Labour and called for for new voters to engage politically. It comes as no surprise therefore that there is no equivalent ‘Grime for May’. Activate, the Tories’ attempt at a youth orientated movement to rival Momentum, imploded in its infancy.
Jeremy Corbyn has enabled a political expression of young people in the mainstream that is unprecedented, and could not be more timely. The world is facing challenges like never before, with Donald Trump emboldening hate groups, the catastrophic implications of climate change, and the political upheavals of racism, war and and the economic crisis. How can the old ways of the establishment answer these problems, when they were responsible for creating many of them in the first place?
It is more clear than ever: we need young people and students to be engaged in shaking things up and making a positive difference. Jeremy Corbyn offers something different, and very necessary. The opportunity to affect change so that the many, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged are not exploited at the expense of the elite few.
Young people are inspired because Corbyn offers the potential of a more sustainable future, over the continuation of a system that has created a grotesquely rich one per cent. Cynicism and serious concerns surround the Tories boundary change proposals and compulsory ID checks on the electoral roll. They seem more motivated by attempts to create a more favourable election for them than their stated aims of a fairer system.
The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to young people and students being switched on and ready to make change. The stakes are higher than ever. Let’s not stop until the Tories have been defeated and Jeremy Corbyn is Prime Minister.
Myriam Kane is a member of the National Union of Students (NUS) national executive committee.
Almost all media bandwidth is recent months has been taken up with Brexit and our benighted Prime Minister’s attempts to not appear completely paralysed by the political events rapidly overtaking her.
While Theresa May commands no power and has singularly failed to show who she is or what she stands. While she does nothing, her ministers – who constitute the most right wing cabinet in several decades – are busy carving out their own agendas.
Paving the way towards a global Britain, Liam Fox at the department for international trade is scaling up of UK sales of arms and sophisticated eavesdropping kit to repressive governments in the Middle East.
He has lavished half of UK export finance on arms deals and has been on a recruitment binge of former executives from the defence sector. Civil servants from the defence and security organisation (DSO), for which Fox is responsible, spent last week chaperoning around delegations from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Turkey and UAE for the latest mass surveillance technology used by autocrats to to hunt down, and in many cases kill, dissidents and political rivals.
Liam Fox issued licences for telephone eavesdropping devices to Honduras’ ruling party, a sister party of the Tories, just before it rigged an election late last year and executed a surveillance-led crackdown following protests, including from the Honduran Alliance Against Dictatorship. At least 40 people have been killed and more than 2,000 detained.
At the Foreign Office, Boris Johnson is doing his best Churchill bit, signalling that he is the right chap to stand up to the Russians and floating the prospect deepening UK involvement in the Syrian civil war by bombing Assad (and presumably the Russian aid defences that surround him).
In a less Churchillian moment, he literally ran out of the chamber to avoid a tabled Urgent Question called by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who had been given time to question him on his confusing comments on Irish border arrangements following Brexit.
In the department for international development, Penny Mordant is continuing the work of her disgraced predecessor Priti Patel by farming out more and more of the UK aid budget to the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.
On Tuesday, the international development committee on which I sit heard evidence from Cambridge University’s Emma Mawdsley, a close monitor of UK aid projects and their developmental impact. She said that the Tories had reduced the impact of the aid budget on poverty reduction and enacted a series of regressive steps on labour rights had translated into the creation by development finance of fewer decent jobs.
Under the government of the living dead, we face the same problems abroad as we do at home. At home and abroad, the Tories employ the rubric of prosperity and security while making most of us less prosperous and less secure.
The Brexit the Tories will take us towards will be one that weakens us internationally and makes life at home nasty, brutish and short.
Labour policies around trade, aid and foreign affairs will ensure that the many are protected from the few.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle is MP for Kemptown and Peacehaven.
The ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters, distributed in a number of cities around the UK calling on people to verbally and physically attack Muslims, and the suspicious packages sent to Muslim MPs over the last few days are shocking but perhaps not surprising in today’s political climate.
From violence in the streets to vitriol online, Islamophobia and racism are undeniably on the march in Britain and across much of the Western world. As we enter the tenth year of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, government tactics that blame migrants, refugees and the most vulnerable in our society have achieved the desired effect of distracting from Tory failures.
Stagnant and falling standards of living, decimated public services and unprecedented wealth inequality on a global scale have created a dangerous context of disillusion and desperation. This has instigated the rapid rise of the far-right throughout much of Europe, including fuelling the growth and successes of UKIP, the EDL as well as neo-Nazi groups in Britain.
This context has meant that racism, far from being the remit of extreme fringe political groups, has become an acceptable political weapon. The words of Baroness Warsi are as poignant now as when she spoke them at the turn of the decade: “Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test”. From the poisonous rhetoric that surrounded the Brexit referendum to the dog-whistle racism used in Zac Goldsmith’s disgraceful campaign for London mayor, Islamophobia has undeniably become a consistent feature in mainstream political discourse.
MPs from all parties have condemned the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters. However, the counter-terrorism legislation of 2015, which includes the notorious Prevent duty, was passed and supported by many of the same MPs. The law both explicitly and implicitly encourages the conceptualisation of Muslims as a separate and dangerous community within Britain, thus institutionalising racist notions that directly fuel Islamophobic hate crime.
Prevent is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, first instigated by Labour in 2003. Its remit was widened by the coalition government in 2011, and it was eventually passed into law in 2015. It places a statutory duty on all workers in frontline services to have a due regard for those at risk of being drawn into terrorism. In practice, this means teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and a range of other workers are asked to form a mass surveillance apparatus. Notably, they are asked to report anyone who criticises UK foreign policy, among other dubious indicators of being drawn towards terrorism. This has engendered significant mistrust and alienation for many Muslims, who are disproportionately and unfairly targeted under Prevent.
Supporters of the initiative claim that Prevent is intended to tackle all forms of terrorism, including far-right extremism. However, since its inception the majority of resources have been devoted towards the Muslim community.
Critics, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and her predecessor Andy Burnham, have decried the legislation as “toxic” and counter-productive to its aims. They argue that by stigmatising Muslims and targeting communities with a state surveillance system, Prevent is contributing to a culture of suspicion and mistrust that is alienating the very people it seeks to reach.
Labour has pledged to review the Prevent programme, and will assess both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities. In the meantime, the Labour Campaign Against Prevent has been working to lobby councils to ensure that the most racist elements of Prevent training, which seriously contravene basic rights to freedom of speech and religion, are removed or mitigated, and meaningful risk assessments undertaken. While this cannot be a substitute for repeal, it does provide an important challenge to the institutionalised and accepted racism.
To effectively combat the threat of terrorism and heal the societal divides, it is imperative that the next Labour government fully commits to repealing Prevent, as well as fundamentally overhauling Britain’s role in foreign conflicts and its relationships with reactionary and authoritarian states.
Becky Boumelha is from the Labour Campaign Against Prevent.