NEC News, 22 September 2009

I’ll circulate a full report of today’s meeting after conference, but just a couple of items of urgent business:

First, the NEC accepted the organisation committee’s recommendation that Bury North, Stretford & Urmston, Wirral South, North-West Durham, Newcastle North and Sittingbourne & Sheppey will select candidates from all-women shortlists, while Carlisle, Darlington, Hyndburn, Luton South, Pudsey and Norwich North will have open selections. Burnley was referred back to the organisation committee, where it will be considered together with Warrington South, Makerfield and Wigan. The last two have higher majorities, and the NEC is keen to increase the proportion of women MPs, rather than just women candidates. Improving black and minority ethnic representation must also be taken into account.

I will do everything I can to speed up selections in constituencies who do not yet have a decision on all-women shortlists or a timetable, and for any further vacancies which arise before the election.

Second, conference will discuss a rule change which would elect the constituency national policy forum (NPF) representatives by one-member-one-vote, instead of by conference delegates. The NEC position is currently to ask the movers to remit (withdraw) it for further consideration, or it will be opposed. However the reason for voting it through this year is that the next NPF elections could then be run at the same time as the 2010 NEC elections at minimal extra cost.

My personal view is that one-member-one-vote is a cornerstone of the modern Labour party. For the national policy forum it would give a voice to the 20% of constituencies who do not send delegates to conference, and create a more direct relationship between members and their representatives. When I visit local parties, most cannot name the NPF members who have spoken on their behalf for the last twelve years.

The change would not take the party back to the bad old days of internal strife, as some have suggested. That has not happened on the NEC, where I and my colleagues are elected by one-member-one-vote, nor in Scotland, where their policy forum is already elected through an all-member ballot. Indeed, one-member-one-vote was introduced in the 1990s to increase the diversity of political views, and to prevent dominance by any faction. That principle still holds good.  At a time when some are contemplating primaries to broaden engagement in selection processes, it seems perverse and anti-democratic to restrict engagement within our own organisation

As always there will be arguments for and against, and delegates will have the final say. I hope that before the vote, they will confer with their local parties, and act in accordance with their wishes.

Ann Black, NEC constituency representative