Ann Black: I’d promote unity, accountability and openess on Labour’s ruling body

Ann Black is hoping to return to Labour's NEC

These are strange times, with coronavirus resurgent, Westminster at war with the North, a no-deal Brexit looming and the threat of another Trump victory. 

Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) elections may seem like a sideshow.  But the results will determine whether Labour will regroup, look outward and start to win elections.  There is no point in a target of net zero carbon by 2030, or all our other excellent policies, unless the party is in a position to deliver.

I served on the NEC from 2000 to 2018 as part of the centre-left grassroots alliance.  My principles never changed.  But after further election defeats, the Brexit referendum and two bruising leadership contests, the party was polarised at every level, including the NEC, and I lost in 2018 when that alliance ended.

However I believe there is a new mood for unity.  The party has changed:  between 2017 and 2019 over 100,000 members left, but 120,000 joined after the December election, and Keir Starmer won the leadership with 56% of the vote. 

It was wrong for members, including MPs, to undermine Jeremy Corbyn when he was leader, and it is wrong for them to undermine Keir Starmer now. I’ve had disagreements with every leader from Tony Blair onwards, but I’ve always respected their mandate.

I am therefore standing again as a left independent candidate, endorsed by Open Labour together with Jermain Jackman, as well as George Lindars-Hammond for the disabled members’ seat, and councillor Alice Perry.

We support Open Labour’s aims:  to fix Labour’s broken politics, so that party culture is more open and welcoming, and to re-energise our movement to get a Labour government that transforms Britain by ending austerity, tackling inequality and building a green economy. Importantly we are free to exercise our own individual judgment on specific issues.

A Lot to Do
If elected I would immediately resume reporting from the NEC, continuing my record from 2000 to 2018 at .  Members deserve better than leaks and gossip.  I would also work to:

  • Improve communication with members.  Too often we are only told what we cannot do.  We hear too little from the frontbench, not just about the complexities of Covid-19 and Brexit, but about the reasons for abstaining on the overseas operations bill and the covert human intelligence sources bill.  Shadow ministers could easily engage with local meetings via Zoom. 
  • Develop positive campaign messages:  free school meals all year round, maintaining the uplift to universal credit, protection for private tenants, scrapping “no recourse to public funds” exclusions, and pledging that unlike the 2010s, the bills will not be loaded onto the least able to pay.
  • Highlight the achievements of Labour leaders: Mark Drakeford in Wales, Sadiq Khan in London, Andy Burnham in Manchester, Steve Rotheram in Liverpool, Judith Blake in Leeds, MPs and councillors across the country.
  • Review membership rates and the share of subscriptions allocated to local parties, facing increased costs and reduced fundraising capacity.  Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) can bid for NEC funding, but grants tend to go to those with inside connections, or for paid organisers decided from the centre.
  • Provide IT systems which are more functional, robust and user-friendly, working with the CLP secretaries’ group and other stakeholders.
  • Allow local parties to select their own parliamentary candidates.  In 2019 the NEC imposed candidates on dozens of CLPs for the second time in three years.  The process has become convoluted, inflexible and expensive.  I’d like a plan for selections in every constituency, with procedures rewritten in plain, logical English.
  • Promote diversity among CLP officers, elected representatives and party staff, in co-operation with BAME, LGBT+, young, disabled and women members.
  • Get a grip on the backlog of complaints and disciplinary cases, where members still wait for years, unable to exercise their rights, clear their names or attend meetings without fear. 

Against the Odds
I’m honoured to be nominated by 302 CLPs, but in 2018 I had loads of nominations and still lost.  The big slates have money, databases and paid staff.  I will only be elected if enough members give me their first preference, so if you value my work, please vote for me.  I will not let you down.

Ann Black is a former long-time member of Labour’s National Executive Committee

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