Sunday, September 28, 2008

National Executive Committee – 16th September

Tuesday’s NEC was preceded by some major publicity about calls for a leadership election and distribution of nomination papers. In the end it was a bit of a damp squib. The general secretary repeated that he’d received some requests for nomination papers, consulted with party officers and the records to see what the procedure was and recommended that we stick with correct practice, that we do not invite nominations when in government.

The NEC unanimously accepted this. The clear thing though is that as a party, and a country, we are in a very worrying position. We have 18 months approximately to claw back a 20% Tory lead and we know that wont be easy. From my point of view, times like this are when we really need solidarity. We voted Gordon in as leader last June and its important we have him when the going gets rough.

Anyway, the September NEC meeting is the one where we discuss conference arrangements. We had a briefing from Greater Manchester Police who seem really on top of things. Some changes have been made since last time. The late accreditation is in the hotel next to the Bridgewater Hall and the taxi rank has been moved to Mount Street near the Quaker building. This will be of particular benefit to mobility impaired delegates & visitors and I’m please because this is an issue I brought up 2 years ago after the last Manchester Conference (sometimes the system works) Apparently the credentials system is working well – touch wood.

There was a proposal to not have lunch on Wednesday and finish early. A number of us spoke against this as it disrupts the fringe meeting arranged for that lunchtime. It's not fair to chop and change things like this at the last minute. It went to the vote and we lost 14-9.

We had a report from Harriet Harman concentrating on the economic issues. She felt peoples main economic concerns centre around savings, jobs and homes, and the government was taking action to safeguard all three. Gordon Brown arrived hot foot from meeting the new president of Pakistan, and prior to flying out to Northern Ireland. He made reference to economic prospects, particularly in the fall in the price of oil from 150$ to 90$ per barrel, and the need for long term answers for energy usage, ie more official use of oil and alternative sources of energy. The basic message is that Labour is here to help people through difficult times, when times were hard in the 80’s and 90’s the Tories abandoned them!

Dennis Skinner offered to write Gordon’s conference speech (an offer I think should be accepted) Ellie Reeves raised the problems of Zimbabwean asylum seekers and I highlighted the importance of the Manchester velodrome in Britain success at the Olympics and its importance in the economic re-generation of East Manchester. This elicited the response from Gordon “Glasgow, London and every other country is trying to follow Manchester”

The meeting finished at 2pm and I headed back to the North West to report back to the South Riddle General Committee, a key marginal seat we need to hold at the next election. The first question I got was “why are they all falling out just before conference” – precisely!

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