NEC Update – Elections, Women’s Conference, Policy-Making

Thank you for everything that you’re doing, and good luck on Thursday.  These are not easy elections, and though the full NEC does not meet till 25 May, please send me any thoughts on your local campaigns while they are still fresh, and I will pass them on.  The NEC needs to know what worked well and what must be done better.

Women’s Conference

Constituency secretaries and women’s officers have been notified of the timetable, and more information will be sent to delegates soon.  See https://labour.org.uk/conference/womens-conference-2021/ for details.

Key dates are

Wednesday 26 May – deadline midnight for delegate applications and women’s committee nominations, 12 noon for motions

Friday 4 June to 12 noon Friday 11 June – priorities ballot to decide which topics will be debated

Friday 18 June and Saturday 19 June – compositing sessions for motions on prioritised topics

Sunday 20 June 2021, 12 noon – deadline for emergency motions

The main business will be conducted on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 June, with training and fringe events running through the preceding week.  These will include a session on setting up new women’s branches.

Members can also attend as visitors from £5 upwards – details were in the Labour Women’s April E-Newsletter sent to women on 23 April 2021.  Please let me know if you did not receive this.  Unfortunately visitors cannot watch the debates on motions, as these will be held using a separate and secure voting platform, but they are welcome to all the plenaries, fringe events and training sessions.

There are no rules about how CLPs elect delegates and agree nominations and motions.  Ideally these decisions should be made by women members, and if there is time, the CLP women’s officer may be able to arrange an online meeting.  Delegates can register themselves free of charge, but nominations and motions must be submitted by the CLP secretary or chair.

Multiple Consultations

Following the elections, local parties will be able to contribute to policies and to the final round of consultation on the national policy forum framework itself.  The schedule includes:

Policy Development Review – a further consultation document, shaped by thousands of contributions during the initial phase, is attached here.  The deadline for responses is 24 June 2021.

National Policy Forum Consultation – short papers from each of the eight policy commissions will be published towards the end of May, with comments accepted up to 30 June 2021.

Rural England Policy Review – a year-long listening exercise exploring what rural communities need from Labour on every aspect of rural life, from farming to connectivity.  The deadline for responses to the first phase is 28 June 2021, submitted at https://labour.org.uk/page/rural-england-policy-review/

High Street Commission – the shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has launched an independent commission on rebuilding our high streets, including experts from retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, trade unions, local government and co-operative and social enterprise sectors.  Suggestions can be submitted at https://labour.org.uk/page/rebuilding-our-high-streets-commission/ by 31 July 2021.

In addition local parties and individuals can continue to contribute through the policy forum website https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/.  The policy commissions will concentrate on the topics listed in their workplans at https://policyforum.labour.org.uk/policy-commission-work-plans but as usual feel free to write about anything and everything.

Tough Choices

I have made the point that all this allows very little time.  So far only CLP secretaries and policy officers have been notified, and local parties are not meeting during the campaign period.  Many will already have plans for May and June, some have to organise AGMs, nominations for the conference arrangements committee and the national constitutional committee close on 11 June, and delegates, motions and nominations for women’s conference have to be decided in May.

These are unprecedented times, and staff and volunteers have been working in difficult circumstances.  All normal cycles were disrupted by the pandemic, last year’s conference was cancelled, and no-one knew till recently if and when local, Welsh and Scottish elections would take place.   But as chair of the national policy forum I will try to ensure that next year local parties have sufficient time for full consideration.

If you cannot cover everything, I recommend prioritising the policy development review, as the NEC may propose rule changes to this year’s conference based on the responses.  This is a challenging task:  the document is 26 pages long and there are more than 50 questions.  I believe the national policy forum will continue for the moment, as there is no time to work up alternative models, so it will be a matter of evolution rather than revolution.

Personally I would suggest two overarching principles.  First, improving transparency and accountability, so that members know who speaks in their name and what happens to submissions, as well as clarifying relationships between the national policy forum, the NEC, the leadership, the parliamentary party and conference.  And second, focusing not only on what a Labour government like to do, but how to achieve a Labour government which can actually do it.  The national policy forum was developed in the 1990s as Partnership in Power, to keep a Labour government in touch with members and voters.  Then, Labour could choose the dates of elections and set the political agenda.  In opposition we cannot control the electoral timetable and have to react rapidly to a hostile government as well as to external events.  The policy commissions could act as a sounding-board for party opinion, and should be better integrated into effective campaigning.

But everyone will have their own ideas.  If there is no time to discuss this collectively in your branch or constituency party, individual views can also be sent to pdreview@labour.org.uk.  As always comments and questions are welcome, and I am happy to come to your meetings to talk about policy-making, women’s organisation, elections or anything else, especially while Zoom makes travelling so much easier.

Ann Black, 07956-637958, annblack50@btinternet.com. Previous reports are at www.annblack.co.uk