There’s a huge amount that needs to be done before 2024. Here’s what I would prioritise as a newly elected NEC member, focusing first on the things we need to address most urgently.
These are my early thoughts and commitments, based on conversations with members at all levels of the party in the last four years. Looking forward to talking to many more during the campaign – get in touch here, or invite me to your CLP. Let me know what you think must be done, and why.
On election – the next few months
The slots currently being contested in this by-election will only put someone on the NEC for a matter of months – the entire committee is up for election again in the summer. In that time, however, I believe there is plenty that can be achieved.
1. Top priority: begin to fix the internal complaints and disciplinary system
It might sound bureaucratic, but making the party’s internal complaints system fit for purpose is at the heart of fixing many of our pressing problems, including anti-Semitism, racism, sexual and other forms of harassment. We need to import best practice from elsewhere – trade unions have colossal expertise in workplace challenges, as do community organisations, charities and others.
That will be a difficult process – there is a colossal backlog to clear. There are some who will need to leave the party, and others clearly told that any repeated misdemeanours will mean the same for them. Our priority must be to protect our members, particularly the most vulnerable – not those with authority and privilege. Bottom line: if you are making other members feel uncomfortable, especially those from minorities and disadvantaged groups, then either you change behaviour or get out.
We must also make sure our national and regional offices – and those of our parliamentary representatives – have amongst the best practice in the party, not the worst. We should listen to those who have complaints, not go out of our way to shut them down through nondisclosure agreements and intimidation.
As a new NEC member, I would push for the new leadership to make addressing these issues their top priority.
2. Ensure accountable, open future NEC elections
One the most striking lessons from running the NEC is how opaque the process can be, and how little information is publicly available. Perhaps because of the power of the very small number of positions, this inherently strengthens the hand of our most powerful factional organisations and makes it challenging for more independent voices to run and thrive.
If elected to the NEC, I would ensure the timetable for the next NEC elections be made publicly available, including the dates constituencies hold their nomination processes. I would encourage other independent voices to stand, ideally on a platform of much greater institutional reform, including increasing the number of elected NEC constituency representatives.
Rather than simply imposing a factional slate they believe will serve their purpose, I would encourage the new leadership to encourage more independent voices to stand. I believe the next NEC term offers a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a truly democratic, accountable party – and we should encourage the conversations and planning necessary to build that.
3. Promote more accountable, inclusive party structures
Whoever is elected leader in April will have a clear mandate for their own plans for party reform, and as an NEC member I would back them, whoever emerges as the winner. More broadly, however, I would push for structures that are more democratic, accountable, transparent and inclusive.
I have written separately here about the need for greater effort to ensure representation of disabled party members. There is work to be done across the board, particularly for black and minority ethnic, LBGT, women and all members from minorities and disadvantaged groups. I believe we should do much more to support the party bodies that support such members, including providing much more centralised support for groups like Disability Labour, BAME Labour, LBGT Labour and Labour Women. All do incredible work – but with far too little direct party support.
Much more broadly, there is an urgent requirement to make sure future candidate selections and other similar processes are handled transparently and fairly, particularly for parliamentary by-elections and councillor selections.
The longer term. What I would do if re-elected in the summer.
1. An open debate on party structures
With a new leader, I believe the next full NEC term will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver a more accountable, democratic central structure. What that should entail is, of course, a major policy discussion, one that I hope will involve all parts of the party.
There is a lot of good material in the most recent Democracy Review, but given all that has happened since I believe a wider, open new consultation is appropriate. As an NEC member, I would push for those discussions to be as open and wide-ranging as possible, and their conclusions to be put to a democratic vote of all Labour Party members.
2. Argue for more elected members of the NEC
The very small number of elected NEC roles – six elected by the general membership, several more by minority and other groups – is inherently unhealthy. It makes each individual position far too powerful, and makes it too easy for the process to be stitched up by factional groups usually loyal to the current leadership. At the bare minimum, I believe the number of elected roles should double, perhaps more. That would lead to more openly contested elections, and a very different party.
3. Ensure a competent, effective central party system
Once the initial backlog of complaints has been dealt with, we must ensure our central party systems prevent similar problems re-occurring. Reforms, however, need to go beyond that. The last election saw central party campaign structures perform woefully, often seriously letting down the front line constituencies. Our policy planning functions are also far too often ineffective. We need better systems to tap the expertise and knowledge of our members, tackle any problems and ensure that we are more than ready for the election in 2024.
What do you think? Keen to hear from members across the party of how they think we can do things better, and their experiences of what has gone wrong. Get in touch, ask me to speak at your CLP or campaign alongside you for the local and London elections.
Whether I win or lose, we need a conversation on how to make our party work – and I’d love you to join me in making that happen.