The All That’s Left Labour NEC Slate

by Jackie_South on May 29, 2012

2012 is a year of great contests: the European Football Championship finals, the Olympics and Paralympics, the US Presidential Race, the French and Greek elections, the London Mayor.

The biennial elections for the six places on the constituency section of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee probably do not quite figure in that league.  However, as the weekend saw the people’s party post out the ballot papers for the election, I thought I would take a look at the contestants.

Ever since the party rules changed in 1998, the NEC constituency elections have boiled down to a battle between two opposing teams.  In the red corner, the Grassroots Alliance championing the left.  Over in the purple corner stand what has now become the Progress slate for the right-wing of the party.

As the most Labour-inclined member of the All That’s Left editorial board, I pondered a run-through in a Ray North-style sport homage of pitting each slate against each other in one-on-ones.

Instead, I’ve opted for something more groundbreaking: announcing our very own All That’s Left slate.  In doing so, I’ve decided to (a) pick some people from both red and purple camps and (b) only pick people who have a realistic chance of being elected.  Here we go, in order of preference…

1. Johanna Baxter
Despite billing this as a contest between the two camps, our top place on the slate goes to someone who has admirably stayed clear of that factionalism.  That of course also makes it more difficult to be re-elected: she gained her current place on the NEC only after Oona King stood down to take her seat in the Lords, earning promotion for Johanna as the highest placed non-winner in 2010.

To overcome the non-slate principled obstacle, the diminutive Scot has been exceptionally hardworking, visiting 73 constituency parties over 16 months, independent-minded and has a reputation as a ferocious campaigner.  That Scottishness (albeit of the Peckham-based variety) is another virtue: despite Scotland being the part of the UK where its current representation is most under-threat, neither of the two organised slates have anyone with roots north of the border to understand the battle with the SNP.

She is also someone who has worked many years (as opposed to a few months to be able to wear as a badge of honour like some ambitious members of the party), so she understands well the importance of the link between the party and unions.

2. Ken Livingstone
OK, Ken has lost one important election already this year, but the NEC would be a far poorer and more staid place without his experience and rebellious spirit.  The years may have wearied him, but he is still one of the sharpest intellects in the party, and one of the very few politicians to have affectively shifted the political mainstream to the left: remember that much of what we accept as perfectly normal in the world of equalities today was seen as dangerous leftie lunacy when Ken was advancing it through the GLC.

Despite his demonisation by the Tory press, he has also had the most sincere form of flattery from Cameron: adopting (in an unattributed form, of course) his policy of neighbourhood community policing.

Ken is still the Labour Party’s most capable voice in finding creative policies for the party that are leftwing, dynamic and popular.

3. Ellie Reeves
Having picked one Grassroots candidate and one unaligned one, for balance my third choice comes from the Progress list.  Having said that, Reeves is not a Purple Booker of the longing-for-the-king-over-the-water variety, but someone who has genuinely taken independent positions on the NEC in her last four years on it.  She is also the partner of leftie rebel MP John Cryer, so is no Blairite stooge.

Reeves became the youngest member of the NEC four years ago, and so I think is a good contrast to the old and wily Ken.  She is also someone unafraid of getting her hands dirty with campaigning.

The only slight reservation I would have is that she is perhaps a bit too party establishment nowadays: there is not only the Cryer link, but her big sister is shadow minister Rachel Reeves.

4. Darren Williams
I’m aware that our first three choices are all London-based (despite Baxter’s Ayrshire roots) and all current NEC members.  That reflects the fact that four of the current constituency reps on the NEC come from the capital (and a fifth started her political life there) and that four of the Progress slate are Londoners.  Still, time for someone who most certainly is not London based.

Williams comes from Cardiff, and along with Baxter would give the All That’s Left ticket another powerful non-English voice.  That Welshness also means that he can bring some of the experience of how Wales has developed a distinctive non-Coalition style of politics that advances genuine progressive politics.  Williams is standing on the Grassroots slate of candidates.

5. Florence Nosegbe
Our second nominee from the Progress slate is also a new-comer.  She is also someone who comes across as pleasant, personable and a fully paid-up member of the human race, which is no bad thing.

Brixton Flo again appears to be on the more independently-minded wing of Progress, stressing that Labour in government got out of touch with its membership.  Given her Lambeth background, she is also keen to take the fight to both wings of the Coalition.

OK, this is the fourth Londoner (and third from south of the river, but quality will out) but her inclusion also ensures some BME representation.

6. Christine Shawcroft
To maintain the current balance on the NEC, our last slot on the slate goes to current Grassroots NEC member Christine Shawcroft.  I have to admit that there’s an element of not choosing the other three on the slate: Pete Willsman (allegedly too much of a bully), Kate Osamor (who?) and Ann Black (too boring).

However, Nottingham-based Shawcroft is probably the most leftwing member of the NEC over her 13 years on it, being a constant voice of challenge over the Blairite stitch-ups of Rhodri Morgan and Ken Livingstone, against the Iraq War and the Labour Government’s unwise decisions to piss quite so much money up the PFI tree.  The NEC would be a weaker beast without her.

Not on our list…

As well as the three Grassroots candidates not included mentioned above, I toyed with including Hackney councillor and current NEC member Luke Akehurst.  Akehurst is a dedicated and driven party man, but didn’t get the All That’s Left nod for a number of reasons.  One was that keeping the NEC balanced at its current 3:2:1 Grassroots – Progress – unaligned numbers has to be right given the in-built majority the right has on the NEC from its other sections and the danger of the sort of rightward knee-jerk accepting-the-cuts drift that All That’s Left has consistently argued against.  Another was the desire for the slate not to be any more London-centric than the four already on the list.

But finally, Akehurst is a master of the political dark arts: not always a bad thing but I do not think there is need for any more of them on the NEC at the moment.  This was re-enforced for me when I received an electoral address from him where he first stressed “when the NEC takes decisions … there needs to be confidence that we … are … not helping out our mates or political allies” before stressing that “I think for myself and judge decisions on their merits whatever the pressure – for instance backing Iain McNicol in the closely contested vote to pick a new General Secretary”.

Whilst I agree McNicol is a good choice for General Secretary (infinitely better than the unlamented Peter Twat for example), Akehurst voting for someone who has been one of his mates for the best part of two decades does not seem to be quite the act of selfless principle that he would have us believe.

For all his good work, perhaps a term off the NEC for Akehurst would be some useful medicine.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

nino May 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Maybe the fact that nobody can be bothered to post a comment on this speaks volumes. And, of course, if nobody is watching or commenting on who wins and who loses then the whole matter can be resolved internally by whichever interest group has the upper hand at HQ, or wherever these things are decided. But given that the Labour leadership was contested between Milliband and Milliband and the prominent role in the shadow cabinet of that nice couple, Balls and Cooper, maybe anyone who might be interested in political activism in the Labour Party might stand a better chance of receiving a hereditary peerage.

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Robert May 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm

To be honest I lost interest years ago, whom ever Newer labour wants in it’s NEC makes little difference to me or to people like me.

How many disabled people does the NEC have bet it’s not many

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Brumanuensis May 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

(From LabourList)

Interesting slate. I voted for your first three, but chose Akehurst, Black (nothing wrong with being boring! And I don’t think that’s a fair assessment) and Lewis Atkinson. I sort of see what you mean about Akehurst, but he’s a fair-minded sort of guy, even if I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on some things, and he has worked hard by all accounts over the last two years. Shawcroft rubs me up the wrong way, even if I share a lot of her views. I simply didn’t know enough about Williams to cast a vote for him. Similar story with Nosegbe unfortunately.

I smirked at ‘Peter Twat’. Truly the worst General Secretary in our Party’s history. How he’s rehabilitated himself after that back-stabbing memoir he published two years ago, I do not know. Even Blair thought he was a light-weight.

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John reid May 31, 2012 at 5:27 am

Peter was a bad general secretary, he was honded by brown ,Who let him take the blame for the party ,yet there aws no millions of pounds of debt when Watt was in charge, John Cryer kept the Ellie reeves relationship quiet when he was canvassing for her, I thought he’d had A change of heart and swung to the right after hanging around with Cruddas, the Jopanne baxter shoe in last tiem after Oona went to the lords annoyed me, If oona knew she was going to the lrds or had been selected As LAbours choice for mayor she shouldn’t have run, same as Ken,It means that there’s someone who got on there not through democracy, as I might have not voted for Ken or oona had they withdrawn and the person who came in next after Joanna Baxter may have recieved my vote instead,

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RedShift May 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

So much like the grassroots slate itself, you’ve failed to put on ANY people from any of the three northern regions.

With this in mind I took the Grassroots slate. Kicked off two Londoners and added a Manc and a Geordie (Labour First and Indy respectively).

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