Saturday, 26 May 2012

So - Who Should I Vote For In The NEC Elections?

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party is the representative body of the Party, alongside the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), and it is vital that we get the best people for it.  This month we will get a list of names – most of them will be utterly unknown to us – so that we can vote for our NEC; but who on earth should we choose?

By what right?
Yes I KNOW I don’t really know what I’m talking about and yes I AM nervous about getting things wrong.  But – as always – I am happy to share what I do know with you, and you will have an opportunity in the comments to rebalance as you wish.

To be honest, I have heard of few of the candidates for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), and have never met ANY of them. 
For the National Policy Forum (NPF) it is even worse; I don’t even know who’s standing!

This – I hear you think – surely disqualifies this man from writing about the NEC elections … and there you would be wrong.
Because – inasmuch as I in my ignorance am 100% representative of 99% of the thousands of Labour supporters who will be voting in the NEC and NPF elections – in fact I am JUST the person to comment.

None of the people who are going to be elected will really be representative of the Labour Party rank-and-file, because most of the Labour Party rank-and-file will never have heard of them, and will be voting in the dark for something they don’t really comprehend.
So – since I assume that most of the other people writing about this issue know (or pretend to know) what they are writing about – that makes me the ONLY genuinely grassroots-representative commentator on this business.

Anyway, I read on twitter this morning that the ballot papers are out, and so that’s why I’m writing … to give you, and the candidates, the benefit of my crushing ignorance.

The Candidates
The one person I do ‘know’ well enough to vote for is @lukeakehurst, who is prolific on the web (his blog is here).  If Mr Akehurst and I were ever to meet, I am sure we would find ourselves diametrically opposed.  Mr Akehurst is right-wing, pro-Israel, and can get aggressive.  But he is bright-red, true-through, loyal Labour to the core.  I know how hard he works – and works at down-to-earth-things like #LabourDoorstep – because he tweets everything he does.  He is always the first to share a blog-record of NEC meetings.  He has also published his manifesto on the web and it includes – though lower down than I would have wished – a commitment to increase the say of the rank-and-file in policy-making (which is the only thing which REALLY matters in this election).  Like him or hate him, Mr Akehurst is the exemplar of what every NEC member should be, and he deserves re-election.

The other person I’ve heard of is Ken Livingstone.  Mr Livingstone will no doubt be elected on name-recognition and notoriety alone … but I hope he isn’t.  There comes a time when people need to realise that they’ve had their day, and it’s time to step down and, personally, I feel that time has arrived for Mr Livingstone.  If he does get elected, as I’m sure he will, I hope he will adopt the role of elder statesman rather than activist, even though I suspect my politics are much closer to his than to those of Mr Akehurst.

Other names I recognise by reputation.  Ann Black is very highly thought of.  She has more CLP nominations than any other candidate.  She is ‘on the left’ politically and a member of Labour Left.  She also publishes her accounts of the NEC meetings, though apparently later than Mr Akehurst.  She has written an article which can be regarded as a manifesto, which includes an aspiration* to communicate more with members. 

I am told that @JohannaBaxter (#JB4NEC) is very active – she has certainly visited dozens of CLPs during her term on the NEC – and she too declares that she wants greater member involvement in policy-making. She is the subject of this eulogy by Lord Jim Knight.

For north-east people, you will probably be wanting to vote for @LewisAtkinson from Gateshead, who has made contact with me, and seems a lively and motivated person.  I thought Mr Atkinson was the only north-east candidate, but I heard at today’s CLP that there may be a chap from Sunderland standing – if there is anybody out there who knows him, give me a wave and I will add his name here.

The other name I just must run past you is Darrell Goodlife. Mr Goodlife is a member of
Labour Left, so you will appreciate that his politics and mine merge almost seamlessly – he runs a great blog called Moments of Clarity, so you can suss out his opinions before you vote.  The other thing I like about him is that he is a History graduate, which puts him a cut above the rest in my opinion!  I am sure that he doesn’t expect to win, but feels that a good showing would publicise issues that need raising; I tend to agree with him, so you might find him worth a tick.

The Slates
There are two slates that I am aware of.

Progress, as you may be aware, are on the right-wing of the Party.  They are very slick and well-funded, and closely connected to the Shadow Cabinet and therefore the policy-making centre of the Party.  I sometimes get a bit exasperated by some of the quasi-Tory stuff they come out with, but you can probably count on them to be safe, sensible and centrist.
The Progress slate carries:
- Luke Akehurst (sitting NEC member)
- Joanne Milligan (National Policy Forum constituency rep)
· Florence Nosegbe (Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and the 2012 Games)
- Ellie Reeves (sitting NEC member)
- Ruth Smeeth (parliamentary candidate for Burton in 2010)
- Peter Wheeler (long-serving NEC member until 2010)

The other, very powerful slate is the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance.
Their slate is:
- Ann Black
- Ken Livingstone
- Kate Osamor
- Christine Shawcroft
- Darren Williams
- Peter Willsman his rather impressive article/manifesto is here.
The CLGA always do very well in the NEC elections, because they are much more left-wing in their approach than Progress.  Their web-presence, I have to say, is complicated in the extreme.

The saddest thing about both these slates, I feel, is that only five of the twelve candidates come from outside London, two of those are from Oxford, and the most ‘northern’ is Peter Wheeler from Salford – which raises all kinds of questions about the nature of the Labour Party and how seriously it ever intends to involve its rank-and-file members … most of whom, let’s face it, come from the north.

I have published this, as you are aware, not in the belief that I have any great insight into who-you-ought-to-vote-for, but in the belief that I might as well share what I know so that you can add it to your own knowledge.
I am hoping that readers who know other candidates – different facts – and perhaps simply more(!) – than I will be able to redress my personal ignorance on this subject via their comments below.

Please note that I am trying to do my best here, and if you are aggressive, unpleasant or abusive I will simply delete you.

However, if I have made an error, please tell me and I will correct it.
If you wish to add a recommendation or comment on any of these candidates or others I would be delighted.
And if you are a candidate, please feel free to use the comments to appeal or inform as you wish.

Because, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – the best-possible NEC for the Labour Party.

* The only problem with any existing member assuring you that they are committed to improved communication with members is their record; they didn’t get very far last year, for example, did they, when the NPF met only twice, and briefly.  There is a real tendency for candidates to get a leg-up from grassroots members by agreeing that grassroots opinions need a greater impact at the highest – only to ‘go off’ the idea somewhat when they find themselves at the highest level.
Ms Black’s article refers to the very patchy member response to attempts at consultation on policy.  If that is so, then I hope she will acknowledge that the aspiration for member-involvement in policy-creation is not wrong, and simply that the NEC and NPF need to do much more in terms of member education, consultation procedures and CLP processes AS WELL as steadily improving member participation.


  1. I called it a day two years ago after 48 years of knocking on doors, walking miles to shove a leaflet through a door. I went to meetings conferences I debated talked stood had my say, went on TV to argue my case. Then one day I said hold on a minute what has all this got me, a Christmas card from labour with a request for a donation.

    When I was ill they even demanded to know why I had not attended a meeting and said that unless I was going to show an interest they would find another activist, I did not know being an activist was a party requirement.

    So I called it, I asked can anyone tell me what I have to day which was given to me by a Labour party, after my accident which saw me fighting for my life for two years, then ending up in a wheelchair they said ah benefits.

    £96 a week for working thirty seven years.

    Progress and the right and the dearly beloved squeezed middle class sadly of course I'm working class.

    So I said thank you but no thanks not when people like Luke are the main stay of the Labour party

  2. Kate Osamor has been personally recommended by the Labour Left website manager.

  3. A cynical but (as always) knowledgeable article by Peter Kenyon giving his views here:

  4. Labour Women's Network have aksed the NEC candidates what they are going to do to advance the role of women within politics; their questions, and the replies of candidates who have replied, are here:

  5. A bit late now, but I thought this was a sensible, if slightly bitter, contribution: