August 20, 2022

NEC elections: An action programme for the left

We have received answers from the following NEC candidates: Roger Silverman, Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal, Carol Spedding-Taylor, Alec Price, Ahmad Wattoo, Crispin Flintoff – they are featured further below.

The Labour Left Alliance campaigns to democratise the way that the ‘left slate’ for the election of Labour’s National Executive Committee is put together. Until now, this process has been shrouded in mystery, with the candidates being haggled over in backroom deals – which leads to mostly not very left-wing candidates emerging from the ‘negotiations’.

We believe that the political views and campaigning platform of the candidates should be the deciding factor in choosing who is deserving of the support of the left.

The candidates should, as a minimum, commit themselves to the following:

1) Will publish regular reports of NEC meetings, including details of how they and other NEC members have voted.

2) Have been selected by ballot of the grassroots membership 

3) Stand on a minimum political platform that includes a public commitment to:

a) Fight for socialism (including democratic ownership and control of a planned economy) and opposing the ruinous system of capitalism.

b) Campaign for open selections for all Labour Party public office holders – including Westminster MPs, which requires the scrapping of the trigger ballot. 

c) Thorough democratisation of the Labour Party, including transparent decision-making on all levels of the party.

d) Campaign for conference to become the Labour Party’s sovereign body, especially when it comes to deciding policy. This requires the scrapping the National Policy Forum, which was set up under Tony Blair.

e) Campaign for the Labour Party’s complaints and disciplinary procedures to be overhauled so that disciplinary procedures are carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice, and be time-limited: charges not resolved within three months should be automatically dropped. An accused member should be given all the evidence submitted against them and be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. All disciplinary cases processed during the last five years have to be overturned, pending unbiased re-examination.

f) Campaign to bring to justice those who have been exposed in the ‘leaked report’ as having worked against the aims of the Labour Party.

g) Campaign for Labour to:

– oppose attempts to label the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as antisemitic;

– overturn the party’s commitment to the so-called definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which conflates anti-Zionism with antisemitism in a number of its examples;

– oppose the party implementing the Board of Deputies’ 10 Pledges, as they undermine party democracy 

Replies from NEC candidates

Roger Silverman

I’m writing to confirm that I agree wholeheartedly with all the points listed in the LLA action programme. As you will have seen, the 200-word statement I submitted to the Labour Party together with my nomination papers begins with this opening paragraph, which I believe provides ample evidence of my commitment to these principles.

Chaudhry Qamer Iqbal

I confirm my commitment towards LLA  minimum political  platform as you are fully  aware of my unshakeable and determined commitment  in this regard. 

As a  NEC candidate in the last election I refused to support or sign BOD pledges. My CLP is  the only CLP in London which passed a motion against the implementation of IHRC definition of anitsemitism and I am secretary of my CLP.  I was  one of very few NEC candidates  who wrote letters  to general secretary Jennie Formby, protesting against the suspension of Jo Bird , Mo Azam and Mohmood Mirza. To show solidarity, I was the only NEC candidate to have a sit-in protest outside party HQ against suspensions.

Carol Spedding-Taylor

I confirm my support for all the clauses in the minimum programme laid down by the LLA for NEC candidates. With regards to the first clause, I absolutely agree that capitalism has failed the majority of people worldwide and is destroying the environment, we desperately need the Green New Deal proposed by the Labour party and even more radical policies. COVID-19 has shown clearly that socialist policies have been implemented to ensure people have been able to survive both financially and the actual virus. We have seen how the privatisation of social care and the NHS has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths. If we want the best for our children and grandchildren and the planet, then a different system is necessary but we need a detailed proposal on how this will be achieved in practice. I would be happy to be part of a group working on such a proposal. I support wholeheartedly all the other clauses.

Alec Price

Agree with 1). Regular reports have been lacking for too long. A website, email list, video reports for use on social media and offers to speak at Labour meetings are the mechanisms we should expect from elected NEC reps to report back. I’ll commit to that. 

Agree with 2) The timetable for these elections can be summed up like a game of two halfs. The first half – lasting around 2 months is for nominations. There is then a “half-time” of around three weeks before the second half – the actual voting- begins for the next month or so.

I am opposed to the backroom deals that have previously and continue to be the method of choice for the “centre and left”, at the exclusion of many others. 

All candidates should be prepared to stand before the grassroots of our movement and put forward their position and face appropriate scrutiny. There should then be a mass participation to decide the list of candidates for the left, including the best tactics to maximise the vote.

Considering the timetable of this election, I call on candidates on the left to commit to such a discussion at the “half-time” juncture, where our movement will also have the benefit of seeing the nomination results and have a clearer idea of who will go forward to the ballot. This is the best way to ensure no “splitting the vote”. 

Agree with 3a, b, c,d) I authored and moved one of the 2 rule changes on exactly this point to be heard at the Labour 2018 conference and I played an active role in the Open Selection campaign at the time. It was maneuvered off the agenda by the NEC, but had majority support amongst the membership. This was one of the key mistakes made under Corbyn’s leadership. It will be harder for this to happen if we have genuine Socialists elected to the NEC.

We need members and affiliates – not those in positions of power such as MPs and Cllrs – to decide the politics, campaigns and selection for public office at all levels of the party.

This is best achieved through a sovereign national delegate conference and a District Labour Party at a local level.

3 e) Agree with qualifications. An unjust suspension is an injury to all.

Disciplinary action has taken the form of “politics by other means”, largely against socialists. Rather than take up the political arguments it has been seen by some as a way to remove disagreement with no political discussion at all. The political question (Labour being made up of 2 opposite classes) needs to be resolved for this to really end, not just procedures being changed. 

A 3 month time limit, sounds reasonable for most cases but may not be appropriate in all cases. There may have to be exemptions for this depending on the case complexity.

Political education should be linked to  extinguish the background drivers of many complaints.

I don’t agree that all cases should be overturned automatically, but they should be re-examined, and not just those within a 5 year time frame. Any unjust findings should be overturned. This can only happen if a genuine re-examination is able to take place and should therefore only be advanced at an appropriate time.

All trade unionist and socialist campaigners who support the Labour Party should be warmly invited and welcomed as Labour Party members.

3 f) Agree with qualifications

Anyone who campaigned against a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party, in 2017 in particular, was in reality campaigning against the NHS, trade unions and public ownership. It was siding with the bosses against workers.

The ‘leaked report’ was a bad – potentially illegal – way to deal with what appear to be some of the most serious offenses against the Corbyn leadership, the party membership and the wider working class as a whole.

A wider, democratic investigation is needed – under the control and direction of elected and accountable Labour members and affiliates and party conference – to get a true and fulsome understanding of a plethora of issues surrounding the alleged machiavellian antics, including the “chicken coup” of 2016, from anti-worker sections of the Labour and trade union movement.

Any crimes committed against our class should be met with zero tolerance.

3 g) Agree with qualifications

The Board of Deputies have no serious strategy to defeat racism and the far right and they have no accountability whatsoever to the Labour movement. Consequently, they should have no say in how our party is run, our membership criteria etc.

Most Jewish people, like every other identity, are working class. Genuine engagement with Jewish people should take the principles so successfully used at Cable street in 1936, when socialists and workers of all identities stood together to block the path of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. At the time the Jewish community leaders warned people to “KEEP AWAY”, and the “disorder” will be “actively encouraging anti-semitism and jew-baiting” (1). Working class jews ignored them, and led the blockades. The fascists did not pass. Only by uniting our class – even in spite of the words of “community leaders” – will we truly be free to end racism. We will take no lectures from those who have not learned this basic truth from history.

Zionism is supported by significant numbers of non-Jewish people. Including all of the Labour leadership contenders this year. Anti-zionism is a position held by significant sections of Jewish people.

Anti-zionism is something different to racism against Jewish people. If the IHRA conflates this then it is not appropriate for the Labour Party.

I’m not a supporter of BDS, but it is not a racist campaign and shouldn’t be treated as such.

It is a tactic to raise awareness of the treatment of Palestinian people in the state of Isreal.

More effective at solving the issue would be a mass working class movement of  those who consider themselves either Palestinian or Isreali to overthrow the Netanyahu regime, end the sectarian leadership of Hamas, and build a genuine socialist federation of middle eastern states, with democratically agreed borders and equal rights for all, as part of a socialist world.

(1) David Rosenberg, Morning Star & Etan Smallman , The Forward

Ahmad Wattoo

I fully endorse all the issues [raised in our NEC Action Programme]. I will only add a further issue in my campaign that the  General Secretary shouldn’t be an employee. SH/e should be elected Officer at the time of leadership election. We lost our election in 2017 partly due to the party bureaucracy.

Our left members on NEC should be more responsive and engaged with membership. I received a message from my CLP member and she asked me, will you send us regular reports of NEC. I believe it’s very important. It keeps the members informed and they remain committed to a left agenda.

Crispin Flintoff

Where I stand on issues mentioned by Labour left alliance

1) I will publish reports on NEC meetings and would try to list how everyone voted where that is possible for me to ascertain.

2) I would be delighted to be selected by a ballot of the grassroots membership.

3)  a) I am in favour of a planned economy and opposed to all privatisation

b) I’m in favour of open selections, but would not prioritise this above creating a mass membership party as open selection could penalise socialist MPs and councillors if the party loses members and becomes dominated by a small clique.

c) Someone on the NEC needs to speak up about democratisation, transparency and accountability without fear they will lose favour from the party bigwigs. I have no hopes of becoming an MP or being paid off in any way by the party and would be fired up to take this on.

d) Members should decide policy and I believe conference should be the authority on what policy decisions are made.

e) People should be innocent until proven guilty under the complaints procedure.

f) The bureaucrats who worked against the leadership to throw the 2017 General Election should all be expelled from the party.

g) I’m not going to answer the first two points as I may be suspended from the party if I do, but I am certainly opposed to the party implementing the board of deputies’ ten pledges.