Sunday, September 30, 2007

NEC 18.9.07 - Unity Breaks Out!

The meeting opened as usual with the Leader's report. Gordon made the point that Conference was our opportunity to deliver a message about the future of the country and the need to engage with the public and renew ourselves in Government. We have already seen clear evidence of action on the big issues facing people - Housing Policy, the NHS and the economy.

There were numerous general questions. I made the point that I felt the publicity around Margaret Thatcher as a "conviction" politician ( should that read convicted?) was going down very badly with Party members. I also mentioned recent excellent local by-election victories in Liverpool, Rossendale and Brent - saying any time Gordon wanted an election would suit us.

Other issues raised were Zimbabwe, Remploy, Columbia, student funding and safety at work.
We then moved on to discuss the proposed changes to party policy making. These had been subject to a massive amount of internal discussion and at times it had looked like we could be headed for one of those major internal bust-ups which so damage us with our supporters.

However, to the eternal credit of all involved in the discussions, we reached a position that the overwhelming majority of the NEC could agree on, which will see the proposals being adopted but subject to a throughout review with a report to Conference in 2009. This should allow us to move towards any General Election in a united fashion. There will be Tory wailing and gnashing of teeth!

As this was the NEC meeting before Conference and much of the meeting was devoted to Conference preparations. There are a range of practical details including Conference timings, NEC speakers etc. The really good development from my point of view was that health and education will be debated as two separate issues. In the past we've debated these issues as one which can lead to confused and unbalanced debates. Its good that the Conference Arrangements Committee have listened to the views we relayed from the membership.

It was also good to see Ellie Reeves being appointed as one of the Assistant Chairs for Conference.

The General Secretary's report contained more good news. Finances continue to improve and there is now likely to be a Spring Conference - possibly in Birmingham in February. I wonder if we can read anything into that. There is also going to be a small expansion of staff to support the policy development work.

Harriet Harman gave her Deputy Leader report concentrating on the importance of the women's vote and attracting new women members, especially women Trades Unionists, where the party and Trade Union Equality Agendas are very similar. She also announced a series of visits in the key marginal's, where she will be meeting voters on walkabouts - the tour will be "Harriet in the High Street".

The meeting lasted four hours and we now seem to be in good state for Conference.

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