The NEC meeting yesterday morning was interesting for two reasons – first a door blocking demo by “loyal party members” demanding the NEC support Tony Blair in the interests of unity. Rather than manhandling them out of the way and interrogating them under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, they were allowed to generally mill about as long as they wanted. It’s good to see that the party machine has learnt from last year’s mistakes and is so tolerant of such actions. I’m sure the rules will be applied equally to all such protests.
Of more substantial import, however, was the result of the NEC meeting itself, at which members were presented with four draft NEC statements for approval. Rights at Work, Pensions, Corporate Liability and Health. The effect of agreeing these statements would have been to ask the movers of conference resolutions on these topics to remit. If they declined, then the NEC would recommend Conference vote against.
Trouble was, the NEC drafts had not been agreed with the CLPs or unions moving the motions and there was considerable anger at the way this had happened. A suggestion was put that the NEC should not put the draft statements until they had consulted with the CLPs and unions concerned to seek a consensus – a suggestion which was carried by 18 votes to 13.
Update 27 Sept
Yet more evidence of the NEC/CAC learning from previous year’s mistakes. Having permitted a rowdy “protest” on Monday, we of course had the “spontaneous” placard waving during Blair’s entry to the hall yesterday. Bit of a problem, in that security would normally preclude any such materials being taken into the hall in the first place. Actually, the general consensus is that they would have got away with it except some over-enthusiastic party worker added the “safer streets” slogan. Who writes that on a placard?
It didn’t end there. Despite party rules forbidding distribution of leaflets in the hall, an unsigned A4 sheet was being distributed during Wednesday’s health debate, calling on delegates to support the NEC against the Unison backed Composite 8. Again, looking to persuade people that this was a spontaneous process, the sheet had handwriting on the back, calling for backing for the NEC. Except that even the handwriting was photocopied. Who has access to double sided photocopying facilities at conference, and how come no-one stopped the sheets being circulated anyway?
When will they learn? You just don’t over egg the pudding or gild the lily.