The main business was to finalise procedures for electing a new leader and deputy, though as the principles had been fully discussed at previous meetings, all that remained was to fill in the dates. Key events are listed below, and full information is available on the party website. Now is the time to get to grips with your MpURL, to follow the progress of candidates and to register for hustings and the climax in Manchester on Sunday 24 June – go to labour.org.uk/membersnet, and ring Computing for Labour on 0207-783-1291 if there are any problems. Now is also the time to recruit new members and bring back former members before the deadline of 1 June, so they can vote.
Countdown to Change
Monday 14 May to 12:30 p.m. Thursday 17 May – MPs nominate candidates. A candidate needs 45 MPs to go through to the ballot stage.
Monday 14 May to 12:30 p.m. Friday 1 June – constituencies can, if they wish, make supporting nominations at general committees or all-member meetings. The draft procedure was circulated in March, and the final version is on the website. Nominations will be listed in the ballot booklet.
Tuesday 15 May onwards – at 6 p.m. the first list of MPs’ nominations will be posted on the website, after which the list of MPs and supporting nominations will be updated daily at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Friday 1 June – deadline for members to join or renew, to take part in the ballot.
Wednesday 6 June to Friday 8 June – ballot booklets and magazine posted to all members.
May/June – the party is organising hustings at the following dates and places:
Sunday 20 May – Coventry
Sunday 27 May – Bradford or Sheffield
Wednesday 30 May (black and ethnic minorities) – Leicester
Saturday 2 June – Glasgow
Saturday 9 June – Cardiff
Sunday 10 June (youth) – Oxford
Saturday 16 June – London
The unions are organising the following additional hustings:
Saturday 26 May – Bristol
Sunday 3 June – Newcastle
Wednesday 6 June – London
Thursday 21 June – trade union ballots close
Friday 22 June – individual members’ ballot closes
Sunday 24 June, Manchester – leadership conference and announcement of results.
Individual members can register online for party-organised hustings (£10 each) and the leadership conference (£50) – first-come first-served for all. I asked for the times of events to be published, taking into account the state of the rail network at weekends, and Pete Willsman pointed out that many members would be unable to get to Manchester until the afternoon (the first train from London is supposed to get in at 12:30 p.m.).
There were requests for additional hustings in the north-west, for women, and for other aspects of diversity. The officers would consider these, but stressed that it would be difficult to squeeze more into a very packed timetable. There will be a special edition of Question Time during the campaign, and the hustings will be open to the media, so hopefully everyone will be able to see something of all the candidates before deciding how to vote.
3rd May and After
The scheduled May NEC and subcommittee meetings have been postponed, with any essential business, such as parliamentary selections, conducted by telephone. But while recognising the immense workload for staff, we do need to capture what happened in the May elections before memories fade. I would be interested in feedback from all parts of England and especially from Scotland and Wales, which are not represented on the NEC and which have increasingly divergent electoral systems and political dynamics, so please mail with your thoughts and experiences.
The End of an Era
This turned out to be Tony Blair’s and John Prescott’s last meeting, and the Chair Mike Griffiths marked the historic occasion on behalf of the NEC, on the day after the 13th anniversary of the tragic early death of John Smith. He paid tribute to John Prescott as first and foremost a Labour party man, a key figure on the NEC since 1988, and a moderniser in persuading conference to accept one-member-one-vote. And he praised Tony Blair for making Labour electable, for getting world leaders to confront moral issues, and for bringing reasoned and thoughtful analysis to the NEC. John Prescott thanked the party for the privilege of allowing him to serve and emphasised that Kyoto and much else would never have been achieved without the prime minister. However he regretted that the position of appointed party Chair, and its relationship to the deputy leader, remained unresolved. Tony Blair thanked the NEC for being understanding in difficult times, and said he valued the range of views expressed, recognising that they reflected currents within the party even where he didn’t agree with them. He would be 100% loyal to the new leadership, and wished the party well. And after a few further contributions from individuals, it was over. We shall miss them both.