Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 25th February 2017 (Joint Report with Chris Newman)

This was a special meeting to consider the business of Welsh Labour conference, due to take place in Llandudno at the end of March.

The first item of business was the Welsh Labour Rules Review – i.e. the rule changes that the WEC itself will put before conference, many of which aim to incorporate in the Welsh party rules the decisions made by the Liverpool conference in September to transfer certain powers from London to Wales.

These included the following:

  • increasing the membership of the WEC to include a (non-voting) representative of the Welsh Labour Police and Crime Commissioners and a second Young Labour representative (the latter already existing de facto); and giving the WEC’s Party Development Board and its sub-committees on Organisation and Local Government formal status;
  • acknowledging that County Parties have been replaced by Local Campaign Forums and similar bodies;
  • recognising the position of Welsh Labour Leader (who will be the leader of the Assembly Labour Group) and providing for the establishment of the post of Deputy Leader, with one of these being a woman (detailed procedural arrangements for such an election to be decided by WEC at a later date).
  • amending the provisions for gender balance in electing certain posts, so that the post-holder must be female at least every other year, rather than having to switch between women and men in consecutive years.
  • increasing the membership of the Welsh Policy Forum to incorporate the new positions listed above.
  • acknowledging that the WEC now has the power to draw up rules for Parliamentary, Assembly and Local Government selections in Wales (which will be undertaken at a later date).
  • introducing new Procedural Guidance for WEC meetings, to address a rule change submitted by the Socialist Health Association to last year’s conference, which the SHA was prevailed upon to remit. Papers would be circulated at least ten days before meetings, as sought by the SHA, but not published on membersnet, as the SHA wanted. Also, a quorum for WEC meetings would be set but simply at 40% of the voting members of the executive overall, and without stipulating a particular number within each section of the executive (CLPs, unions, etc.) In endorsing this Procedural Guidance, the WEC also effectively agreed to oppose a rule change from Swansea West CLP, which repeated the requirements of last year’s SHA motion – although it was not entirely clear at the time that we were making this decision.

It was agreed that conference should vote on these proposals in blocks, with each covering a single issue – not take them all together as one vote, as the Liverpool conference had controversially done with its rule changes.

More detailed proposals for rule changes in areas like the election of the deputy leader and candidate selections will be subject to detailed consultation within the party after conference.

The Provisional Conference Agenda was noted. In response to question from Chris as to how progress on agreed resolutions is reported, we were told that this would be dealt with via the WPF.

Next, the WEC considered what stance to take in relation to those Motions, Issues and Rule Changes submitted by party units and affiliates and accepted as valid by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC):

It was agreed without significant dissent, to support motions from the GMB to establish a ‘Fair Work Commission’ to address issues like casualization and zero-hours contracts; from Unite to defend jobs, manufacturing and employment rights in the face of Brexit; from Unison, seeking to improve the quality of domiciliary care and the pay of those providing it (against the advice of the SOC, which had recommended seeking remission); from Brecon and Radnorshire CLP to maintain and strengthen NHS recruitment and provide stability and security to heath workers from the EU; and from Welsh Labour Students to increase healthcare and support for transgender people in Wales.

With all other motions, it was agreed, after debate, to ask the organisations in question to remit them for various reasons:

  • an USDAW motion seeking a package of support and legal protection for carers, because of uncertainty about the cost implications;
  • a motion from Ceredigion CLP on the election of the Welsh Labour Leader and Deputy Leader, because its support for OMOV was felt to pre-empt the forthcoming consultation on these elections;
  • a motion from Clwyd West on affordable housing because of its final paragraph calling for Fair Rents Officer to ensure parity between private sector and social sector rental charges was felt to be undeliverable (it was agreed by 11 votes to 7 to seek remittance, with us being among the seven; it was then agreed by 10 votes to 8 to oppose if remittance was not forthcoming, with us being among the 8).

The longest debate was on the motion on ‘Not For Profit Rail’ from our own CLP, Cardiff West, noting that the Welsh Government had failed to carry out conference policy to establish a not-for-profit rail franchise in Wales and calling on it to make good this failure. Carwyn argued that the Welsh Government does not have the legal powers to do what the motion asks, because these were denied by the UK government in negotiations over the Wales Bill – yet did not explain why, in that case, Welsh ministers had supported the original conference motion, at a time when the Wales Bill was not even under discussion and there was therefore no immediate possibility of any additional powers. We believe that, under the existing legislation, the Welsh Government could have specified a not-for-profit service when inviting companies to tender and established its own provider if no such bids had been forthcoming, and that that remains the case. We therefore rejected the recommendation to seek remission but almost every other member of the WEC accepted Carwyn’s argument and we were heavily defeated. The WEC will present its own statement to conference, expressing support for the principle of public control of rail travel but claiming that the Welsh Government is doing everything it can under the law. Cardiff West CLP has subsequently agreed to mandate its delegates not to remit, so there will be a battle over this on the conference floor.

It was also reported that the validity of motions from Cardiff West CLP Women’s Forum motion and the Socialist Educational Association Cymru motion was still being considered by the SOC.

Three Contemporary issues had been submitted by affiliates, and five by CLPs, for consideration by the Welsh Policy Forum in the year after conference but only one from each section will go forward. These were not discussed by the WEC because they will be subject to a priorities ballot at conference.

A Report on the Welsh Policy Forum (WPF), covering the consultation with CLPs and affiliates about the policy-making process leading up to the next Assembly elections, was also agreed.


  • The current structure of the WPF is retained, with the minor changes in membership that the WEC had agreed to incorporate in its rule changes for conference.
  • When nominations are sought for the next WPF, a statement on the expectation of WPF role holders is included.
  • A meeting will be held with the WLGA Labour Group to discuss the role of councillors in WPF policy making after the council elections.
  • Following a review of Local Campaign Forums in Autumn 2017, a decision will be made as to whether a rule change to increase Local Government representation should be brought to the 2018 conference.
  • The Welsh party will seek to make greater use of social media to facilitate policy discussions, supplementing the formal face-to-face discussions in the policy forum.
  • The Welsh MPs and AMs will be invited, via their WEC reps, to consider questions raised by Ian Lucas MP about MPs’ role in the policy-making process in relation to non-devolved issues; they should report back to the WEC with recommendations by September 2017.
  • Conference 2017 will be asked to approve this report as providing the framework for the work of the WPF 2017-2021. Arrangements be made for a WPF meeting in November 2017 and in the meantime, Welsh CLP and affiliates will be encouraged to contribute to the work of the party’s (UK) National Policy Forum.

Dave Hagendyk gave his final General Secretary’s Report (the vacancy has now been advertised). This was supposed to have included a further update on suspensions but Dave explained that the necessary information had not yet been forthcoming from HQ because everyone was so preoccupied with the Stoke and Copeland by-elections but he would circulate it by email when it was received.

The main discussion under this item was to initiate a consultation on whether Welsh CLPs should be organised according to the new parliamentary boundaries that were expected to be introduced, or to be based on the Assembly boundaries, which are co-terminus with the current parliamentary constituencies. (This is a matter for the WEC, as a result of ‘devolution’ rule changes agreed in Liverpool in September). This was originally intended to close in 9 June to enable the WEC to make a decision at our 8 July meeting but, given the importance of the issue and the fact that the local government elections were pending, it was agreed to give CLPs another couple of weeks to consider the proposals and, in order to facilitate this, to move the July WEC meeting to the end of the month (despite this being in the school holiday).

In Any Other Business, the case of Shiromini Satkunarajah was raised: she is a final-year electronic engineering student at Bangor University who was due to be deported, along with her mother, after eight years in the UK and had been taken to the Yarls Wood detention centre. It was agreed to circulate the petition calling for her to be allowed to stay. Darren also highlighted the important demonstration in Cardiff on 18 March to mark UN Day Against Racism and asked for the party to promote it, and concerns were raised regarding widespread misunderstandings about the role of the WLGA.

Welsh Executive Committee Meeting 4 February 2017 (Joint report with Chris Newman)

In opening the meeting, the Chair initiated a vote of thanks to both Dave Hagendyk, who had announced that he would be stepping down as Welsh Labour general secretary, in order to take up another position, and Jo Stevens, who had resigned as Shadow Welsh Secretary in order to vote against the whip on Article 50 in the House of Commons.

As usual, the first substantial item was the report from Carwyn Jones. He described the new Wales Act as a ‘two steps forward two steps back’, piece of legislation, which would not provide a lasting devolutionary settlement and did not offer Wales what had been granted to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The Wales Office had been unhelpful throughout the drafting process and the Westminster Government, focussed on ‘Brexit,’ had been reluctant to grant the Welsh Government many concessions.

The Joint Ministerial Council, bringing together the UK and devolved governments, had held its most recent meeting on ‘Brexit’ in Cardiff and Carwyn noted the frustrating lack of information coming from the Prime Minister. Each country had its own set of problems but they all wanted a full and unfettered access to the Single Market, yet no progress was made. The Westminster Government’s recently published White Paper on the matter was unhelpful and so was Whitehall! It appeared that the Prime Minister and her team were keen to go for a ‘hard Brexit’ dogmatic approach, which would leave Wales in a state of considerable economic uncertainty.

The Welsh Government had also published a Local Government White Paper, which seeks to promote greater collaboration between councils, as well as facilitating voluntary mergers (having moved away from compulsory mergers) and also aims to give councils the opportunity to choose their own electoral system, subject to a two-thirds majority vote (which was consistent with the Assembly’s newly-obtained power to choose its own electoral system).

There would be changes to the way the Assembly operates as a result of the new powers it was due to obtain and the Presiding Officer has set up an advisory group to help her respond to this, in which Labour had agreed to participate. There is still a widespread view that the Assembly needs more AMs, because of the increased workload associated with legislation and scrutiny work, but the political climate makes it difficult to justify the increase in cost.

Carwyn was asked a number of questions, mostly on the Brexit process and the implications for Wales, as well as the prospect of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and USA and the threat this might represent to the NHS. Chris conveyed the disappointment of the teaching unions over the lack of action by the Welsh Government’s Supply Taskforce to tackle the power of private agencies like New Directions and asked why Wales couldn’t adopt the same approach as Northern Ireland, which has a central register of supply teachers. Carwyn said that the Welsh Government didn’t currently have sufficient power to address this properly, although it would do in the near future. Mike Payne of the GMB added that the issue had also been discussed within the Education Sub-Group of the Workforce Partnership Council and it was disappointing that more progress had not been made.

Next came the EU Update from Derek Vaughan MEP, who commented on the difficult decisions Labour MPs had had to make in relation to the vote on triggering Article 50. In his view, the key ‘red line’ should have been the ability of MPs to vote on the final Brexit deal, as MEPs will. The EU is insistent that the UK must trigger Article 50 before they start serious negotiations. It was noted that, in many parts of the UK, the Brexit vote was really only an anti-Cameron/Tory/Establishment vote. Many people currently believe that things are fine following the ‘leave’ vote but don’t realise that this is because we are still in the EU, as the final exit is not until two years hence. Derek thought that we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a second referendum, not least because many people might change their views once the economy started to go downhill. Chris asked whether an early general election might be better than another referendum but Derek thought an early election would be difficult for Labour at present. Carwyn reiterated his view that all four UK parliaments should be required to ratify the final deal, although he felt that a second referendum could break the deadlock if this were not forthcoming.

Asked if Brexit could be stopped once Article 50 had been triggered, Derek said there was a view that this could be done if the other 27 EU members agreed. He also confirmed that funding for projects in Wales would still be available until 2020. After that, Wales will take a massive financial hit as it seemed unlikely that the Westminster Tory Government would not make good the losses that the Welsh Government would have to deal with.

Dave Hagendyk then gave his General Secretary’s Report and announced that the appointment of his successor should take place in early March. Tributes were paid to Dave, as those present thanked him for everything he had done over the years and wished him well in his new job.  Dave also announced that Rhiannon Evans, who was originally from Mold and was previously at the League Against Cruel Sports, has been appointed as Press and Communications Officer. Dave also hoped to secure monies to employ more staff to help in key seats for the local elections. Candidate selection for the local government elections are going well but concern was expressed about the lack of gender balance. The Training Academy is going well, providing a programme of training opportunities for new and young members throughout Wales, in modern training techniques and systems. The expected parliamentary boundary changes would also pose difficult questions for Welsh Labour’s organisation – i.e. whether to work on the basis of the 29 new parliamentary boundaries or stick with the existing 40 CLPs. Dave would bring a paper on this to the next meeting.

Dave had also conducted an investigation into some issues within Ceredigion CLP, which resulted in the re-running of the AGM, but praised the energy and enthusiasm of the CLP. Darren highlighted the fact that Ceredigion currently has only one Labour councillor and, having seen a huge increase in membership, is trying to find candidates to run a bigger slate in May but has had most of its few newly-selected candidates refused endorsement because they did not have twelve months membership. He asked Dave to clarify the scope for providing special dispensation. Dave replied that he was keen to see the local party stand more candidates this time and was willing, in principle, to be flexible if the CLP could provide more details and make a sufficiently persuasive case.

Minutes of the WEC Sub-Committees on Local Government and Organisation and Campaigns were circulated, discussed and noted.

The WEC then considered the Stage One Report of the ‘Making Gender Equality a Reality’ Working Party. This gave an update on the work done in response to a composite resolution carried at last year’s Welsh conference following motions from several CLPs and affiliates, seeking a more robust approach to ensuring gender-balanced selections. The report, which will be put to this year’s conference, set the scene for detailed consultation by reviewing the historical record, setting out some practical considerations and identifying the principles on which the party’s approach to selection should be based – namely, transparency, principle and consistency. The report was well received and Catherine Thomas and Dawn Bowden were thanked for their commitment and hard work in producing it.

Dave gave an NEC Investigations Update, saying that all those who were still suspended following last year’s leadership election had been contacted and offered an interview, although some hadn’t responded. The vast majority of those dealt with so far had had their suspensions lifted with a warning and that was likely to be the case with the majority of the remainder, although one or two were likely to b taken further due to homophobic and/or misogynistic language.

Darren queried why, based on information he’d received as an NEC member, a disproportionate number of those cases still unresolved (around a quarter) concerned members in Wales (Dave did not have an immediate explanation for this). He also said that there was almost universal recognition on the NEC that there had been problems in the way that disciplinary matters had been dealt with, partly due to the limited number of penalties available (i.e. members had been suspended when a milder response might have been more appropriate). The NE C Organisation Committee had, however, considered a paper that sought to learn lessons for the future and take a more nuanced and less draconian view in future. Another CLP rep also expressed concerns about the way some Welsh Labour members had been treated and said that she believed that at least one or two had not yet been contacted; Dave agreed to investigate this and report back. It was also agreed to make ‘Investigations Update’ a standing agenda item.

Regarding Welsh Labour Conference, we were told that arrangements were going well, with registrations now around the 300 mark (members under the age of 27 had been allowed to register free of charge). Its detailed business, comprising the review of Welsh Labour rules, policy making process and the future work programme of the WEC, would be discussed at an additional WEC meeting on 25 February.

Finally, an update on the work of the National Policy Forum was given. Alun Davies AM said that he was trying to use his role on the NPF, by virtue of his NEC membership, to promote more effective ways for Welsh Government ministers and the Westminster Shadow Cabinet to work more closely and productively together.

NEC Meeting 21st March 2017

The meeting took place after 24 hours of media coverage of divisions in the party, following Tom Watson’s dire warnings about the supposed threat posed by Momentum and its (supposed) would-be paymaster, Len McCluskey, with the result that Jeremy Corbyn was a little late arriving, due to the throng of journalists outside.

We began, as ever, with the sad roll call of those party stalwarts who had died in recent weeks –this time including Gerald Kaufman; the long-serving former MP Tam Dalyell; and former party chair, Margaret Wall – and tributes were paid by those who had known them (Jeremy also recommended the book written by Dalyell, a serial backbench rebel: The Importance of Being Awkward!)

The Leader’s Report began with Jeremy’s reflections on another high-profile figure who had died recently, Martin McGuinness, acknowledging the controversy over the Sinn Fein leader’s earlier years but paying tribute to the huge contribution he had made to the Northern Ireland peace process. Jeremy also acknowledged the previous day’s news coverage and referred to the joint statement that he and Tom Watson had put out, seeking to draw a line under the talk of disunity. He said that he was disappointed by the attitude of some Labour MPs, however, and that no other political gathering in the country would tolerate the kind of behaviour that was often seen at PLP meetings.

Jeremy also commented on the Tory government’s budget climbdown, under Labour pressure, over National Insurance contributions by the self-employed and acknowledged that Article 50 was expected to be triggered on 29 March. Labour would continue to push for tariff-free access to the single market and for the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK – and for the equivalent rights for British nationals living in EU states (Labour was asking sister-parties to support the latter). The so-called Great Repeal Bill, which would unpick the influence of EU regulations on UK legislation, was now expected to be a short bill but accompanied by another 6-8 bills on specific subjects.

In relation to Scotland, Jeremy wanted to clarify the position that he had set out, which was that it was not in the interests of the Scottish people to have a second referendum and that independence does not represent an economically credible policy. Labour MSPs would vote against Sturgeon’s proposal in Holyrood the following day but the party’s Westminster MPs would not do likewise if and when the issue came to Parliament, as it would only play into the SNP’s hands for Labour to be seen to be blocking the referendum. Jeremy ended by talking about the challenge of the forthcoming election and the need for Labour to get a clear and consistent message across.

Jeremy dealt with questions about his comments on Scottish referendum; about the Copeland and Stoke by-elections; about the New Economics conference in Scotland; he was praised for hosting a BAME media event in his office. Someone also asked him to rebut allegations that disloyal party staff were withholding ‘short money’ and thereby reducing the number of party staff who could be employed in the Leader’s office. Jeremy was bemused by this claim and Iain McNicol clarified that there are now more staff employed in the Leader’s office than when during Ed Miliband’s time in office.

Tom Watson then presented the Deputy Leader’s report, which was brief and uncontroversial, covering things like the party’s recent local government conference, the by-election campaigns and a study he was conducting into the way that automation is changing the world of work. He was asked for further information about the latter by several of the trade union reps. One of my fellow CLP reps raised the issue of the controversy that had occupied the media over the previous day, expressing frustration that it had deflected attention from potentially more positive stories and making a plea for the party to be more united as we move towards the elections. In his response to this question, Watson sought to justify his comments as a legitimate response to what he saw as dangerously divisive activities by Momentum, as highlighted by the recording of Jon Lansman speaking at a meeting. I then asked how he thought it would assist the situation to make inflammatory comments to an already hostile media six weeks before crucial elections; whether he had spoken to Jeremy before making his remarks; and what was the difference between Momentum seeking to increase its own influence within the party and other factions, like Progress and Labour First doing the same thing. He didn’t directly answer all my questions but reiterated his position and claimed that he had been deliberately misled by Momentum’s leadership. In the meantime, others had commented on the matter, both for and against Tom Watson.

John McDonnell joined us at this point to give the Shadow Chancellor’s Report. He reported on how Labour MPs had held the Government to account over its Budget – especially the inadequacy of the sums made available for Health and Social Care and for the so-called “industrial strategy”. The austerity measures announced in the previous year’s budget – in PiP, tax credits etc – were now coming into force. The UK was unique in having a growing economy but declining real wages, reflecting the unfair distribution of income and wealth. Moreover, 84% of the cuts were falling on women, with older women and those with caring responsibilities hit particularly hard. In addition, the present government had now borrowed more than all Labour governments put together – a startling statistic – and was set to borrow much more. And, while it was good that Labour (and Tory backbenchers) had forced a climbdown on National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, this had left a£2 billion hole in the Budget and Labour was demanding more details on how this would be filled.

In the discussion, points were made about the deeply unfair removal of child benefit for a family’s third or subsequent children; about the National Insurance debacle and bogus self-employment; about school budget cuts; and about the fact that the government was showing blatant favouritism toward Tory-run councils in the distribution of funding for social care. It was also pointed out that Government ministers were not subjected to the same scrutiny as the Labour frontbench over how their policies would be paid for. In responding to this point, John reminded us that all of Labour’s existing commitments had been fully costed and the party was developing a tax strategy that would enable a future Labour government to pay for policies that were currently more aspirational, like free childcare. Initiatives like the Fiscal Credibility Rule and its work with an independent panel of respected experts like Joseph Stiglitz had done a lot to protect Labour from the excessively hostile criticism of the media.

Condemnation of the Tory Budget was continued under the next item, the Local Government Report, presented by Nick Forbes, Labour’s Leader in Newcastle Council and the LGA. He said that the only extra money given to councils had been to cover the increased cost of paying the National Minimum Wage. The retention of business rates my council was a good idea in principle but the way it was being applied could lock in inequalities. Nick reported on a very successful Labour Local Government Conference. He reminded us that it is a very difficult time to be a Labour councillor (a sentiment I can endorse from my own experience) but circulated a booklet that the party has produced listing 100 positive achievements by Labour councils around the UK in this challenging time – a very welcome initiative. NEC members then made points about the need to keep the party’s internal divisions out of the local elections and about the need for some Labour councils to do more to address the issue of low pay and to support local government unions in the face of Tory attacks on facility time. Another member remarked that we should give greater prominence to local government matters at the NEC and also suggested that, in future, we have dedicated sessions in the devolved politics of Scotland and Wakes – certainly a suggestion that I would support.

We were then given a presentation on the forthcoming elections by Andrew Glynne and Ian Lavery, the two MPs who had jointly taken over from Jon Trickett the role of National Campaign Co-ordinator. Andrew began by addressing the speculation about an early general election. He pointed out it was already too late to hold such an election on the same date as the local elections because the Tories had missed the deadline to trigger the no-confidence vote required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. This could, however, be done on 9 or 16 May to facilitate an election on 29 June. Party staff had circulated a number of election timetable scenarios and had prepared a guide for MPs in the event of a snap election. Work had also commenced on a constituency health-check – looking at the voter ID gathered, resources required, etc for every seat.

There are elections on 4 May, Andrew reminded us, for 33 English county councils; 8 English unitary authorities; 6 Metro Mayors; 2 ‘regular’ mayors; all 22 Welsh councils; and all 32 Scottish councils. The dates of the previous elections for each of these varied greatly, from 2012 to 2015, so it was difficult to work out a national vote share. Last time around, Labour had won outright control of ten Welsh and five Scottish councils, two English counties (Derbyshire and Notts) and two unitary authorities. There had been extensive boundary changes in Scotland and the STV system meant that the party wouldn’t field as many candidates as there are seats, to avoid splitting the vote. The devolution deals agreed for the various Metro Mayors varied considerably, with the greatest powers to be exercised by the Greater Manchester Mayor, encompassing health and social care; education; housing and the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner.  The West Midlands would be a major battleground, with Labour’s long-time base in Birmingham coming under concerted attack from the Tories; likewise Tees Valley.

Ian Lavery then talked about the content of Labour’s campaign and the importance of messaging. The Tories’ claim to be the party of ordinary people had to be demolished and Labour would be using the slogan, ‘Standing Up for You’. There would be a number of key themes, related to economic investment; health and social care; educational opportunities; safer neighbourhoods; and affordable housing. Each week of the campaign would highlight a different one of these themes. The strategy for communicating these messages would embrace the traditional (2.2 million items of campaign material had already been printed) as well as use of tools like Facebook to reach voters. There would be remote volunteering (members in areas without elections – such as London – being encouraged to travel to specific electoral battlegrounds); virtual phonebanks; mobilisation through SMS messaging; and a ‘town hall’ style event in London.

Responding to Andrew and Ian’s report, members emphasised the need to maintain a focus on the economy (which Andrew readily acknowledged) and to give due attention to the issues of NHS privatisation and council housing; the challenge of juggling our local election campaign with a response to Brexit, the proposed Scottish referendum and a possible early general election; and the need to reach out beyond our ‘core vote’ (Andrew agreed with this and sad that we have to reach out to ex-Labour voters and those who have never voted).

The National Policy Forum Chair’s Report was given by Ann Cryer, who told us that the eight policy commissions had all been meeting regularly and that the various papers were now out for consultation with the wider party, with a closing date of 31 May. The whole Forum would be having a two-day meeting on 1-2 July. One of the CLP reps most involved in the NPF said (quite rightly, in my view) that the closing date for responses to the policy papers wouldn’t allow sufficient time for party units to discuss and respond to the documents; some responses had started to come in but they were mostly from individuals giving their own personal views. Another CLP rep asked that any policy motions received from CLPs be considered by the relevant commissions; this was agreed by the full-time officer responsible, who also said that the party’s policy consultation website was now up-and-running, although there had been a few teething problems.

Giving the General Secretary’s Report, Iain McNicol thanked party staff for all their hard work on the two recent parliamentary by-elections. He reiterated that his team were doing detailed preparatory work for the eventuality of an early general election. On membership, he said that resignations and lapsing had increased, especially during the discussions on Brexit. The party still had a substantial financial reserve set aside, which would hopefully be put towards the general election campaign, although the effects of a more substantial dip in membership would have to be taken into account.

The question was raised as to how the party would go about selecting its candidates in the event of an early general election; this was not resolved but it was suggested by one member that those 2015 candidates willing to put themselves forward again should simply be allowed to do so (not a solution that I could support, as it would deprive party members of any democratic say over their local candidates). I asked for an update on current membership figures and for this to be included in all future meetings. I was told that the figure was still comfortably over the half-million mark but that a fairly substantial minority were in arrears. An update was also given on the (all-BME) shortlist for the Manchester, Gorton by-election; concerns were expressed about the fact that one of those shortlisted had tweeted some very hostile comments about Jeremy Corbyn and also about the composition of the panel that had made the choice: the fact that three had been parliamentarians was apparently against existing NEC policy.

One piece of good news was that the party’s Business Board has agreed that the portion of subscription revenue for each party member that goes to that member’s CLP will increase from £1.63 to £2.50 and will increase further in future as the subs themselves go up.

We were also told, when we got to the minutes of the Disputes Panel, that in future even the most sensitive papers for the Panel’s meetings would be available at HQ for members to read a couple of hours beforehand, so that we won’t have to continue making such rushed, ill-informed decisions. This is something I had requested (although my preferred option was that the papers be emailed out the night before, or on the morning of the meeting) so I was pleased that it had been agreed.

The last two substantive items – the International Report and the EPLP Report – were both rather rushed because the meeting was, by this stage, overrunning. The latter naturally focussed mainly on the situation on the eve of ‘Brexit’ negotiations, with our Chair and EPLP representative, Glenis Willmott, and other members lamenting the Tory government’s complete lack of any tangible commitment to protect the material interests of ordinary people in the UK.