June 30, 2020
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Starmer Wins Battle To Water Down Left-Wing Presence On Ruling NEC
Keir Starmer has further entrenched his authority as Labour leader after the party’s ruling body agreed to reforms expected to water down the influence of left-wing activists.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) passed plans to change the election of its own local party reps from first-past-the-post to single transferable vote, a move likely to ensure the presence of “moderate” activists.
The NEC elections – which allow members to pick nine of the 39-strong body – will also go ahead this year despite protests from some Jeremy Corbyn supporters and trade unions that they should be paused during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The NEC voted by 19 to 12 in favour of the change, a larger victory than had been expected given fierce opposition among some on the Left.
Many on the Left of the party are feeling bruised after a week in which Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from his shadow cabinet over her refusal to delete a tweet linking to an anti-Semitic trope.
Since he became leader on April 4, he has also acted swiftly to install a new general secretary David Evans and the change to NEC election was seen as a further test of his authority.
Some trade unions such as Unite, the Bakers’ Union, Aslef and fire Brigades Union had backed moves by some activists to threaten legal action, claiming the full party conference should make the decision not the NEC itself.
Under the first-past-the-post system, all nine seats for constituency representatives were won in a “clean sweep” for Corbyn supporters under his leadership.
If proportional voting had been in place, representatives from the centre-left of the party would have won more. 
The so-called ‘JC 9’ went on to become the standard bearers for Starmer’s predecessor, ensuring his own NEC majority. One member of their number, Pete Willsman, has been suspended since last year over anti-Semitism.
The change to STV has been seen by some in the party as a fair way to balance its different wings, and was championed by the Left when it felt it didn’t get fair representation under Tony Blair.
“It’s a victory for both Keir and Angela [Rayner] and hopefully ensures no one wing of party dominates membership section, as a broader range of views will be represented,” one NEC member told HuffPost UK.
During the meeting, the debate became “heated” as some union reps rounded on Rayner, telling her the change was “disgraceful”.
Left member Huda Elmi tweeted her anger afterwards, claiming the leadership was “waging war” on member democracy.NEC have decided to wage war on member democracy. CLP’s only meeting virtually to nominate- no proper meetings/motions/AGM’s allowed. Only CLP section changing to STV, other NEC divisions untouched. No consultation, engagement or consistency (other internal elections deferred).— Huda Elmi (@hudaelmi_) June 30, 2020Another of Left NEC member, Rachel Garnham expressed her own displeasure.At today's NEC I proposed an amendment that CLPs should be allowed to meet formally online, as well as nominate for local govt selections and the NEC. It was defeated by one vote. Your new leadership does not want our CLPs meeting other than on its own narrow priorities.— Rachel Garnham (@LabourRachel) June 30, 2020Nominations for the nine NEC places will take place this summer, with a ballot opening on October 19 and results on November 13.
The change means the Labour leadership will have a stronger presence before the next annual conference, which was postponed from September. Of the nine places for local parties, two are already held by ‘moderates’ and one or two more could be elected.
The meeting heard that the party’s membership now stood at 580,000 members, higher even than under Corbyn.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: “Labour’s move away from one-slate-takes-all should be the start of backing fair elections at Westminster - where every vote candidates, and no one has to ‘hold their nose’ by voting tactically.”
A spokesperson for the leftwing Campaign for Labour Party Democracy urged members to stay and fight. They said: “Many members will be deeply disappointed at this divisive decision by the party’s executive, to fiddle the methods of its own election.”
But Starmer also faced criticism early in the meeting over his remarks on Monday that Black Lives Matter was more a “moment” rather than a political “movement”.#BlackLivesMatter isn’t just a moment, it’s a movement.It was a pleasure to speak at @BLMWandsworth recently.It's clear that if we want to see real change, it's going to take sustained pressure from below. pic.twitter.com/nUlUB4dn2o— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) June 29, 2020Several Black activists said they had been appalled at his comment, as well as the dismissive tone of his suggestion that calls to defund the police were “nonsense”.
NEC sources said that the Labour leader spent four or five minutes addressing the issue of Black Lives Matter directly.
Challenged by NEC member Huda Elmi, he stressed he did not see the BLM movement as a momentary event – rather that recent weeks would come to be seen as a momentous point in history.
Sources said that Starmer said that this was a ‘moment’ where more people than ever before are paying attention and getting involved in fight against racism and systemic discrimination and where a big shift in attitudes is possible.
He also said he would never ‘defund’ the police and reminded the NEC that Diane Abbott as shadow home secretary led the party campaign in the last two general elections on a platform of 20,000 more police and more money for fighting crime.
He said supporting the police did not prevent the party from also supporting more mental health, youth and other services.
Labour MPs such as Bell Ribeiro-Addy and other activists attacked Starmer on Monday after his remarks on Black Lives Matter and some of their demands made in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in the United States.
Asked about defunding the police, the process whereby funds are diverted from law enforcement into other areas such as social care and rehabilitation, he had said: “Nobody should be saying anything about defunding the police.
“I was director of public prosecutions for five years. I’ve worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court, so my support for the police is very strong.
“It’s a shame it’s getting tangled up with these organisational issues, with the organisation Black Lives Matter, but I wouldn’t have any truck with what the organisation is saying about defunding the police – that’s just nonsense.”
Starmer then sparked further anger with his reference to BLM as a “moment”.
“There’s a broader issue here. The Black Lives Matter movement – or moment, if you like – internationally is about reflecting something completely different. It’s reflecting on what happened dreadfully in America just a few weeks ago and showing or acknowledging that as a moment across the world.”
The Labour BAME Staff Network and parliamentary and constituency Bame group demanded a meeting with Starmer earlier, saying that his “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism should apply to all forms of racism.
“Without this, the party risks forming a hierarchy of racism in which different forms of discrimination are treated differently”.
Others said that he also refused to engage when asked by NEC youth rep Lara McNeill to take action against shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves for her own praise of Nancy Astor. Astor was the UK’s first woman MP to take her seat but has been heavily criticised for her views on Jews and Nazism.Related... What Keir Starmer’s Sacking Of Rebecca Long-Bailey Tells Us About His Leadership Keir Starmer Criticised For Saying Calls To Defund Police Are 'Nonsense' Opinion: Keir Starmer Is Wrong. Defunding The Police is The Only Option This is a BREAKING news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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