Monday, July 23, 2007

National Executive Committee 17 July 2007

Gordon Brown's first NEC meeting as Prime Minister. A brainstorm leads me to think its at Victoria Street not Westminster - resulting in spending £8 for a taxi to go round in a circle! Try to look composed and collected as I arrive five minutes late.

Under the new Prime Minister, Cabinet meetings are on Tuesdays which delayed the arrival of the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers so we had a discussion about the role of the Chair of the NEC and the Party Chair. Many of the previous problems of an unelected Party Chair are solved by that post being held by the elected Deputy Leader.

When Gordon arrived his leader's address was very much in tune with the tone of his new Government - he wants to speak directly to the concerns people have.
New policy initiatives include:
1) A new version of the "New Deal" with big employers signed up to provide work to people who have the most difficulties in entering the job market - an initiative funded by unused accounts of the big financial institutions.

2) Grants for two-thirds of students with loan repayment holidays at key times - such as buying a house, starting a family. Students on education maintenance awards at sixteen to see them carried through any university course.

3) Better housing opportunities with more money for housing to rent and a greater role for local Councils. 550 areas of public land to be released for development. There will be a Housing Statement next Monday.

4) More for younger children - including five hours of sport per week. (That won't be popular with all young people!)

5) A new Pensions Bill with more help for victims of pension fund failures

6) Much greater support for Youth Services

7) More support for carers' - especially those caring for the elderly.

Gordon acknowledged the party on the ground was in a bad state - that's why he's proposing changes to involve all members.

There was plenty of time for questions - let the record show that Gordon's second NEC question as Prime Minister was from yours truly. I welcomed his new initiatives as the sort of down to earth policies we needed but stressed the need for more support for manufacturing and the importance of using the voluntary skills and efforts of our own members in campaigning. The importance of both were acknowledged by the Prime Minister.

All in all - it really does look like we're on our way! Then there were report backs from the National Policy Forum and the consultation on renewing party democracy.

We had a brief report from Harriet Harman. No fault of her's as she had to be back at the Commons to prepare for a policy statement on women.

Amongst other things she referred to sex trafficking and how prestigious local papers are full of advertisements for such things. Have we ever thought of prosecuting them for living off immoral earnings?

The General Secretary gave a full report on the recent deputy leadership elections - which were a credit to the Party and saw us recruit 1000 members per week.

Our finances are really beginning to improve and whilst we're far from healthy we're off the "life support machine" and into "intensive care". We have also safeguarded the staff's final salary pension scheme.

The Hayden Phillips review of party funding is nearing its end - will report back when finished.

We discussed Annual Conference and several of us made the point about the need to have separate debates on health and education - key issues which need their own separate discussion rather than being lumped together as in the past.

The Leaders' speech will now be on Monday.

I raised a request from Constituency Labour Parties to increase the Trade Union affiliation fee which has not been looked at for many years - currently 6p per member. It will be "looked at".

Lots of business packed into a four and a half hour meeting with a brief stop off at the "Red Lion" before the train to Manchester - and a day's holiday booked for Thursday in Sedgefield.

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