Scottish Executive Committee Report - November 2017

Report Nov 2017  - Joint National Executive and Scottish Executive Meeting & Scottish Executive Meeting   

This was an unusual meeting. Partly because it was on a Sunday – mostly because the morning consisted of a Joint Session with the National Executive Committee (NEC).  

After brief introductions from the Chairperson of the NEC, the CWU’s Andy Kerr, and Cathy Peattie Vice Chair of the SEC the meeting began (as I think is standard at NEC meetings) with obituaries of recently deceased comrades. Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to former Cornish MP and an old colleague of his from Islington Council, Candy Atherton, Former Aberdeen MP Frank Doran – whose work on offshore safety, and helping push through the minimum wage legislation was mentioned. Jeremy, being a former NUPE official, gave a particularly warm remembrance of Rodney Bickerstaffe formerly General Secretary of NUPE and then UNISON, speaking of visiting him in hospital during his final illness and how Bick would interrogate every one of the NHS staff who came near him about whether or not they were union members - recruiting to the very end. Jeremy also talked of the sad death of Carl Sargant extending sympathy and support to his family and that he would be representing the party at the funeral.  

UK Leader report

Jeremy Corbyn (JC) congratulated Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard on their campaigns and Richard on his victory. Reminded those present that he had been a frequent visitor to Scotland as leader – and had instructed the Shadow Cabinet that they should be making themselves available to come here and campaign with Richard.  

JC reported on the Democracy Review which is just beginning. We have a party of over half a million members. Now is therefore a very good time to look at our culture and how we work. We need to make sure that CLP’s operate in a welcoming and inclusive manner. We will win not simply by virtue of what we do in a four week campaign when an election is called, but by the messages we spread through the community on economic justice, on fairness and decency so we need a party doing that.   

JC congratulated Paddy Lillis on becoming General Secretary of USDAW and looked forward to working with him. He went on to say that the LP should be encouraging members who aren’t in TU’s to join. We have a large number of new young members many of whom will be working in unorganised areas of the economy – absolutely no reason we can’t be encouraging them to join a union.  

Budget.  JC congratulated John McDonnell and his team for the budget response as we got out a strong alternative message. For the first time ever absolutely no advance copy of any budget related material was provided. Normally at the very least a copy of the Chancellor’s budget speech (with figures redacted) is provided an hour in advance. The budget contained many failings – specific mention was given to the paucity of the proposals to tackle the housing crisis. Labour set out the need for an investment led economy – and we will need to keep making this case. Our analysis of the budget was quickly confirmed by both the OBR and IFS. 

Other issues touched upon in JC’s report included the Paradise papers, the slight progress made in relation to Universal Credit (dropping of premium rate phone calls, from 6 to 5 weeks for payment) all in all Universal Credit was described as “a wholly avoidable crisis”.  

Party had been supporting the case of Nazarin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

International Issues -  Party had been raising the issue of the treatment of the Rohingya people in Myanmar – condemning the activities of the Burmese military and urging more action on the part of Aung San Suu Kyi. Rosena Allin-Khan, the MP for Tooting had been across working as a Doctor in the afflicted area and had been very active on the issue in parliament.  

In Yemen there is an unfolding humanitarian crisis because of the ongoing war. The UK gives aid to the area (which is good) but also sells weapons (which is not good). What is required is a political solution and Saudi withdrawal from Yemen  

JC will be attending the meeting of the Party of European Socialists next week where he will be raising the issue of the rise of the far right in EU countries – specifically mentioning Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia  

Jeremy will be speaking in Geneva on UN International Human Rights Day  (and didn't he just )   – there are various initiatives planned around that.  

JC has been travelling round the country – party Regional conferences have been big, enthusiastic. Re participation – young people voting went up from 47%- 59% - this is obvious an impressive leap but still below national average.   

JC asked (by SEC member) about why the party had voted against Ian Murray’s amendment to the EU withdrawal bill. JC reported that Ian had been advised by the party’s European team (and others) that the amendment wasn’t particularly competent – in that it wouldn’t do as he expected it to. Following this Ian agreed that the amendment would go forward as a ‘probing amendment’ ie aimed at raising discussion on the topic – but he would withdraw it before it came to a vote – he failed to do this . There were in fact very few Labour MP’s in the house at this point (the amendment was only a one line whip so there would be no censure for those not voting).

JC finished his report by saying that we have changed the political conversation – issues of economic and social justice are now being discussed in a way that they haven’t been for years. That said there is a sadness as we approach the end of the year – as we didn’t quite get there in the election. We had seen the biggest swing to Labour since 1945, we added votes, we added seats but we didn’t win. We need to work so that we will get there next time.  

Scottish Leader Report  

Given he was standing next to a bust of the man, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Richard Leonard began his report by referencing James Keir Hardie (about whose life and work it became clear he knows a great deal) – remarking that being Scottish Labour Leader was something that he found both surprising and humbling. He congratulated Anas on his campaign – pointed out the number of common ideas and how there was much consensus during the election “A consensus shaped on the anvil of our ‘for the many-not the few’ manifesto.’ – extending public ownership, challenging austerity and tackling inequality.  He also spoke of the need to have a political strategy that isn’t just about Parliament but goes beyond that.  

Everyone in Scottish Labour is fully supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership whatever has happened in the past is now done. We’ve had a growth in membership around leadership elections. The challenge now is to convert members into activists.  

Kezia has of course abandoned parliamentary duties for a TV programme. RL remarked on this that  the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party (SPLP) Standing orders –  contain a reference to the necessity for Labour MSPs to show a “a diligence in carrying out their duties’. Also that this absence from parliament was not authorised.  

Richard recounted the first thing he did on being elected was to go to the BiFab work–in. Because the workforce acted and refused to accept closure – the SNP Govt were forced to step in. It was a victory for working people that came about because they had confidence in themselves.  

As regards the Scottish Labour Party – it’s not about calls for unity – it’s about demonstrating a unity of purpose. People have sought to make distinctions between the UK and Scottish Parties in recent years – we cannot afford this. In order to deliver fully in Scotland we need to have a Labour Government in Westminster – in order to get a Labour govt in Westminster we need to rebuild the Scottish Party. We are part of a UK wide movement – JKH had a message of socialism, he failed to get elected in Scotland – he got to parliament via the people of London and of Merthyr.  

RL mentioned meeting the Labour group of CoSLA, saying that this will be a regular occurrence, and reiterated his point that we need a political strategy that will combat austerity .  

RL spoke to a paper he presented to the joint meeting - “Winning In Scotland”  

This outlined the position we face in Scotland . We are in third place in Holyrood – in June the vote increased by 9.6% but in Scotland a mere 2.8%. There are some signs of optimism we won back 6 seats and have 23 marginals. RL’s election is an opportunity to reach out  - with Scot Lab’s new policies and leadership. Offering radical economic answers to hard pressed communities where our vote had collapsed.  

We must engage with communities and trade unions – this needs to be invested in and given a high priority we need to strengthen links with TU’s and facilitate grassroots campaigning. 

We need a better policy development process. This should include an arm working exclusively on longer term policy planning, working with affiliates and other external organisations.  

Getting out of parliament is critical in building and solidifying support – taking our message to communities and workplaces. Inside the Scottish parliament the work should be proactive as well as reactive. Whilst it is necessary to hold the SNP Govt to account we should also never forget to bring up Tory record and plans.  

Needs to be a recognition of how and why we have lost support to in Scotland. We need to argue Labour has changed – and that under our new leadership we are offering a programme with the potential for transformation, social justice and redistribution of wealth and power in a way that the SNP can never achieve and indeed would not want to.  

Richard’s report and paper were enthusiastically received by NEC colleagues.  

In the discussion that various people with a local government connection commented around the need to promote the good work Labour does in Local Government, and the view that we are one movement. How – despite lip service being paid to the idea – there has never been parity of esteem for councillors. The need to improve LCF’s functioning was also mentioned.  

In his response to the discussion RL reminded people that Ch2 of JKH’s From Serfdom to Socialism is entitled ‘Municipal Socialism’ and talking of how we need to reinvigorate the whole idea of labour local government – pointing out that previously we would hold not a conference of Labour Cllrs – but a Labour Local Government Conference.  

JC wound up the session – Budget was everything dislikeable about the Tories process driven inaccurate and helping no one  

While our Manifesto was very good – it does need work. Details need to be added and that will take engagement and discussion. We will also need to allow for local specificity within that particular measures in for example a ‘manifesto for Cornwall’ etc.  

NEC comrades were clearly impressed with the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness that Richard Leonard brings to his new role. There is a clear understanding on their part that winning in Scotland is not an optional extra but an essential. The commitment from the leadership at highest levels to make winning here a priority was most heartening.   

Scottish Executive Meeting

Cathie Peattie in the Chair welcomed people – said she was pleased we had a new leader and thanked the party staff in general and General Secretary Brian Roy in particular, for tireless work during the election.  

Democracy Review  

Katy Clark who is heading up the democracy review then gave a short presentation. She said the spur for the review was a massively expanded membership that we needed to engage with and make more effective.

Made various points-  

Across the UK regional structures lacked consistency  

This is a UK wide initiative – some elements of it may not apply to us (although we may wish to pick them up) but some of the UK wide elements will definitely have implications  

At the moment the review is looking for input – later on there will be consultations on specific proposals.  

In the discussion that followed there was mention of how do we manage policy making and policy discussions between conferences eg if a CLP takes a policy position where does it go?  

The role of CLP officers also got a mention  

It was pointed out that the motions on party democracy that went to annual conference were (mostly) remitted to the democracy review – was suggested that publicising these would give people an idea of where the discussion on party democracy had reached.  

The obvious (but someone had to say it) point was made that changing structures is easier than changing underlying cultures.  

Was suggested that the SEC is copied into all of the Scottish submissions. Brian Roy agreed to circulate terms of ref for the review and a flow chart of the decision making process in the party.   

Katy C outlined some of the mechanics – there will be surveys and some pilot projects, some work has already been done on Women’s, disabled and BAME representation.  

There will be three stages to the review with deadlines in end of Jan, end of March and end of June (this last to allow full participation of TU’s.)  

She finished by stressing the purpose is to make ourselves a more effective agent of change.  

Women’s Working Group Update  

Siobhan McCready reported on this – lots of work done, Women’s conference arranged for Feb 17th – Dawn Butler MP booked as a guest speaker, others to be confirmed .  

At present this is being organised by a Steering group, the aim being that a proper committee be voted in at the conference.  

 The Scottish Labour Women’s Voice initiative had arisen – in part at least – out of an awareness that with an all male leadership contest likely, prominently raising some key women’s issues could both put them on the agenda and perhaps a deflect a bit of criticism from the party.  

Political Reports 

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party  

Richard Leonard (RL) noted that he was back following a nineteen month absence following nineteen years on the exec (he may have described it as a sentence...). He repeated the remarks made earlier about Anas Sarwar and their campaigns having a fair degree of policy consensus that were made to the NEC  

There is across the Labour Party a settled position of tackling poverty and inequality, tackling the housing crisis, extending public ownership and making taxation more progressive. Being robust on issues of public procurement and the need for a more active and interventionist industrial policy.  Following (as he seems to intent on saying repeatedly) a decade of mediocrity and indifference from the SNP.  

We are 20 years on from the Devo ref – now is a good time to discuss whether Holyrood has lived up to what we wanted from it and what the Labour agenda for the Scottish parliament is.  

Sexual harassment – Mentioned that there is a need for some independent involvement here and that he wasn’t happy with a situation where essentially it was a matter of the party investigating itself.  

He had met Council leaders a few days before – and intended making that a regular occurrence. Councils are the front line of austerity. Austerity is happening and it needs to be combated not simply managed .  

He is meeting each of the SPLP individually asking each of them where they see their role. Will be a different shadow cabinet in due course, but not overnight.  

On the leadership election – turnout was 72% amongst members which was pretty high and showed that it had resonated with people.  

On the vexed topic of Kezia’s trip to the jungle. KD had approached Richard asking permission to be absent from Parliament before he was Leader – indeed before votes had begun to be cast. RL told her that he wasn’t yet and might never be labour leader, so it wasn’t a decision for him and she should seek permission of the Business Manager,  James Kelly. RL didn’t know at the time that she had done so already – twice – and been refused both times. Richard said that KD had also phoned Anas on the same basis she had phoned him - the implication was that that call had gone along similar lines to his own. 

Local Govt Report  

Local Govt rep David Ross indicated that the gap left by Alex Rowley was considerable as he was the link person with local govt and the next few weeks with budgets are very important. Particularly some protest on the 14th Dec when the Scottish Govt would be publishing its budget. Dave Watson indicated STUC  had plans and we be fully participating in that. 

A written report had been presented which made mention of attempts at  “more regular face-to-face meetings with union colleagues and would welcome more meetings in future” the financial pressure local government is under”.

Spending Review - just to stand still on current services, local government would need a revenue increase of £545million, 5.7% , arising from inflation and demand. Overall between 2010/11 and 2017/18 funding of local government has gone down by 8%. There is an urgent need for an active campaign from across the Labour Movement in relation to the Spending Review.  Labour groups want to see improved pay and conditions for local government workers, but every 1% on the local government pay bill costs £70million Local Governance Review - need to emphasise the key areas of local governance, subsidiarity and local democratic accountability within this Review 

The lack of any mention of the care crisis in the Local govt report was brought up 

Brian Roy acknowledged that party resources for local govt will need to be worked on.  

EPLP  

C Stihler MEP -  work goes on. EPLP has elected Richard Corbett as chair.  She has been tasked with working on cyber security.  

Gen Sec Report – Brian Roy (BR) 

(Cathie P again thanked him for much work during the leadership election.) 

BR began by reporting on various staffing issues relating to appointments and reorganisations 

Leadership Election

A written report detailing the stats of the leadership election was presented and BR thanked both the procedures Cttee and the verification panel for their work. Re the leadership election BR thanked the procedures committee & the verification panel. There were apparently only 36 applications for votes rejected by the verification panel (figures for auto exclusion were requested)    

A breakdown of numbers voting by post and electronically was requested (nb this is now available Leadership election 2,766 (12.6%) voted by post and 19,228 (87.4%) online. )  

SEC Youth section election  

Cate Vallis and Meg Whitelaw were congratulated on winning re-election to the youth positions. The turnout for this election was 39.4% 243 - (9.9%) voted by post and 2,202 (90.1%) online. 

Sexual harassment procedure

BR presented a report on sexual harassment procedure and complaints process. This was for the purposes of providing an outline of current practice and to provide a starting point for review and discussion to see what improvements could be made. BR’s recommendations included making submissions to the procedural review into complaints procedure being carried out by Karen Monaghan QC – with the aim of supporting an independent external reporting process for serious and sensitive complaints.  

A draft code of conduct on Equality & Diversity for CLP/Branch officers was also presented 

Existing procedure was both critiqued and criticised.  The lack of any mention of TU involvement was flagged up. The collective bargaining role of TU’s should allow for a role in this – and there is much to be learned from the TUC “not just banter - tackling sexual harassment” document. Also code of behaviour for MP’s etc should mention that TU’s as part of their responsibilities as employers.  Also no mention of third party harassment. It was suggested to no demonstrable level of dissent) that we  should feed back strongly that the NEC proposals are not good enough and we should make strong representations to the Monaghan review. 

A working group was set up to bring forward proposals for improving the procedures 

Alex Rowley  

BR outlined that party had three possible options once Alex came forward. Exclusion, suspension or formal notice of investigation. It is the formal notice that is now live.   Stressed that Alex referred himself and is not the subject of a formal complaint. Also mentioned that the central allegation made by The Sun that Alex had been interviewed by the Police was untrue.  When asked given that there had been no formal complaint – how long could this go on for. BR said it was difficult to investigate quickly. The individual has been reached out to – it is up to her to make a formal complaint. 

Aberdeen Council

Formally the task of the SEC was to decide a position to be reported to the NEC disputes panel in Jan 2018.  

The background to this issue is the decision of Aberdeen City Labour Group to enter into a coalition with the Conservatives following May’s elections (nb during the general election campaign) . Any such deals have to be approved in advance by the SEC – not to do so is in breach of LP rules (Ch13, Clause X LP rule book , SLP rulebook Appendix 6) The criteria used by the SEC to approve/disapprove are the policies  passed at 2017 conference on opposing austerity and defending services.  In staying in coalition with Conservatives following a clear instruction from the General Secretary to withdraw, the Cllrs were suspended.  There are however two issues here: 1st is what are they doing as Cllrs, and 2nd, is how they are behaving as LP members.  

The question of the coalition deal is one which the SEC is obliged to keep under review and consider things in the light of material changes in circumstances (approval for pre existing deals can be and has been withdrawn in the past) – It’s the constitutional committee that does this   The 2nd issue is that one that is the one that would be considered by the NEC disputes panel. In this regard – absolutely no doubt that Cllrs remain in breach of rule and so disputes panel would be duty bound to refer to full National Constitutional Committee hearing.  

What support was expressed for the Cllrs was made in terms of a speedy resolution to the issue being necessary to improve party functioning in the city. It was noticeable that some of those who had previously been vocal in support remained silent.  The limited nature of this support may have been driven by the transcripts of interviews with the councillors presented to the SEC. In these they maintained variously that the SEC did not understand the situation in Aberdeen (not taken particularly well by some of the longer serving members) and that Cllrs didn’t wish to be seen to be ‘caving in to central belt influence’.  There is not the slightest indication that any of the Cllrs gave a single thought to the impact that signing a deal with the Tories might have on the rest of the party – even though we were at that point in the middle of a general election campaign.   

The decision was taken to uphold the suspension of the councillors for the time being pending further developments.  

Motions from Glasgow Shettleston.  

Two motions from Glasgow Shettleston were briefly considered to the extent that the gen secs recommendations on them were agreed.  The 1st motion concerned the effective operation (or lack of) of Local Campaign Forums. It was agreed that reviewing Local campaign forums form will form part of the Democracy Review.  

The second motion is that SEC minutes be circulated, reps expected make regular reports, and how individuals vote be recorded;  was deferred for consideration at the all day meeting of the SEC in January.  

As part of the very brief discussion on this the lack of SEC details on the website was raised.  

AOCB  

Was reported that the consultation on All Women Shortlists had been conducted and various representations have been received these will be reported to a future meeting.