Left NEC members walk out, protesting “factional approach of the leader”

Only a few days after Left CLP and trade union members of Labour’s National Executive Committee challenged Keir Starmer’s refusal to readmit Jeremy Corbyn to the PLP, 13 of them staged a digital walkout from an NEC online meeting on Tuesday.

Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of Unite the Union, said on Twitter: “We won’t stay silent on Keir Starmer’s factionalism any longer.”

The immediate trigger to the walkout was a breach of protocol by which NEC vice-chair Ian Murray of the Fire Brigades Union was denied election as chair and supplanted by Starmer’s choice, Dame Margaret Beckett.

Read a full report from LabourList here, including the text of the left NEC members’ letter to party general secretary David Evans.





LabourList: Margaret Beckett elected as NEC chair after left stage digital walk-out

Margaret Beckett has been elected as Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) chair at the first meeting of the new ruling body following a digital walk-out by 13 members aligned with the party’s left.

Beckett, the longest-serving NEC member, has taken over from the TSSA’s Andi Fox as chair. The left had expected NEC vice-chair Ian Murray of the FBU to succeed Fox based on an existing rotating chair system.

Veteran Labour MP Beckett was instead elected unanimously with 24 votes, while Alice Perry – an Islington councillor who represents local government on the NEC – was chosen as the new vice-chair of the ruling body.

Before the walk-out, Unite’s Howard Beckett and ex-MP Laura Pidcock made points of order criticising Keir Starmer. Although members left the online meeting, sources say it was quorate when the elections took place.

LabourList understands that Howard Beckett, Jayne Taylor, Ian Murray, Andi Fox, Mick Whelan, Andy Kerr, Pauline McCarthy, Lara McNeill, Mish Rahman, Laura Pidcock, Yasmine Dar, Nadia Jama and Gemma Bolton joined the walk-out.

Sources have told LabourList that Angela Rayner was not present at the NEC meeting today, and that new Momentum-backed disabled representative Ellen Morrison stayed in the meeting but did not take part in the elections.

It is understood that the NEC’s ‘swing voters’ – local party rep Ann Black, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, GMB reps Tom Warnett and Kathy Abu-Bakir – all voted in favour of Beckett for chair.

Those who led the move to elect Margaret Beckett said the leadership was simply restoring the old system, in place until recently, according to which the longest-serving NEC member becomes chair and the next longest-serving vice-chair.

But newly elected NEC member Momentum’s Mish Rahman accused Starmer of “trying to play games with democracy” and “undermine the role of trade unions” with a “factional attack… reminiscent of the New Labour years”.

He added: “There can be no party unity until Starmer fully understands the need to work with the labour movement and the many tens of thousands of grassroots members who can help deliver a Labour government.

“Our walk-out from the NEC today was to remind him of this, and to send a message that we will not put up with petty and repeated attacks on trade unions and members.”

LabourList can reveal that the 13 NEC members who walked out have written a letter to general secretary David Evans making the case that Starmer is “promoting factional division within Labour” through the change in NEC chair plans.

The “true reason” for Starmer wanted Margaret Beckett to become NEC chair, the letter argues, was that Ian Murray had signed a letter to Evans last week criticising Starmer for withholding the whip from Jeremy Corbyn.

The NEC members have asked Evans to “uphold the rulebook”, “maintain protocol”, “remind the leader that he is an officer of the NEC” and “prevent factionalism”. They have pledged to return to future NEC meetings.

Beckett, who was first elected to the NEC in 1980 and is the longest-serving female MP overall, is one of only three people in Labour history to have been leader, deputy leader and NEC chair, according to party sources.

Former Momentum chair Jon Lansman said he was “sorry Ian Murray wasn’t elected NEC chair because it was his turn”, but added that “we cannot argue with democracy” and advised members: “Get over it!”.

Below is the full text of the letter to David Evans.

Dear David

As proud members of the NEC we find ourselves unable to stay in today’s meeting.

As you will be aware we recently wrote to you to request that you admonish the leader of Labour, Sir Keir Starmer, for his decision to undermine the role of the NEC by withdrawing the whip from Jeremy Corbyn MP.

The withdrawal of the whip directly undermined the legitimacy of the NEC decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn’s membership. It was made worse by Keir Starmer subsequently permitting his shadow cabinet members to make commentary on media that was clearly intended to undermine the legitimacy of the NEC process.

At today’s NEC the agenda item of election of the chair and vice-chair of the NEC appears. It is a matter of disagreement as to whether these agenda items can be heard absent the officers agreeing the agenda.

But regardless it has become apparent that the longstanding protocol of the vice-chair being elected as chair is not to be followed. Instead the leadership has lobbied for Dame Margaret Beckett to be chair. The public reason for such lobbying is to be given as Dame Margaret being the longest-serving member of the NEC. This is not protocol and is another example of the leader promoting factional division within Labour.

We believe the true reason for the leader lobbying for Dame Margaret, and indeed the reason that had been given by senior party MPs in private, is because the vice-chair, Ian Murray, was a signature to the previous correspondence sent to you seeking admonishment of the leader.

The leader’s decision to again promote factionalism comes at a time when the historic relationship with trade unions is under tremendous strain. Already we know that the Bakers’ Union are balloting their membership as to affiliation and the decision of the Leader to lobby and brief against the president of the FBU taking the chair, as would be protocol, must be seen in this context.

As the general secretary of the Labour Party you should be stepping in to uphold the rulebook, maintain protocol, remind the leader that he is an officer of the NEC and prevent factionalism.

We have decided not to remain in the NEC meeting today in order to show very clearly how factional the decisions of the current Labour leader have become. We will be returning to future NEC meetings to be the legitimate voice of the membership and to continue to demand that the party unite and reject the current factional approach of the leader.

Comments (8)

  • Doug says:

    Now would be a good time to call out the AS Scam
    99.9% of Labour members are not anti semitic
    JC does not have an anti semitic bone in his body
    Vexatious claims of anti semitism are hate crimes and should be prosecuted

  • Mary Davies says:

    SKS is possibly the worst leader of the Labour Party we have ever had.

  • 2015 would have been a good time to call out the AS scam. Anytime would be good but it MUST be a thunderous call.
    Don`t give an inch.

  • Ian Kemp says:

    Yes I agree it is time to confront this total misuse of A/S . It needs to be confronted for what it is. It is not about the real A/S out there. It has become a form of McCarthyism and undermines A/S . Corbyn is not A/S never has been. The 860 Page report needs to seen by everybody regardless. Nothing should be hidden. There should be a open discussion re A/S and why it has been misused and why certain members of the PLP campaigned against a possible Corbyn Gov. These are the People who should be suspended from the LP not Corbyn.
    Corbyn himself cannot keep apologising , he has nothing to apologise for. He told the truth. He needs to confront this issue head on vis the courts if necessary. The bigots will never be satisfied.

  • Me Again says:

    KS and RW cronies WANT the Left to walk.
    Time for a new party? Better than hanging onto membership to a party led by the corrupt and, frankly, evil. A youtube discussion between Yanis Varoufakis and Noam Chomsky quoted Thucydides (here by me misquoted): Power is in the minds of the masses, yet how easily it is purloined. Power is in the hands of the governed and it is by consent alone that the powerful are able to govern.
    Would the unions switch to a socialist party? Would it be truly socialist? Would the power hungry join merely to seize power?
    There has been no discussion of dumping current Labour and starting afresh – despite its skewed priorities; how can a British political party be so subjugated by Zionists? What is the % of UK population? – I would welcome some reasoning.

  • steve mitchell says:

    Until the truth about the assassination of Corbyn is revealed there can be no unity in the Party. Already ,Starmer has lost the confidence of the majority of the membership. Most members are on the Left .

  • Stephen Richards says:

    The pretence is over…..time to take the gloves off. Starmer is weaponising AS to eliminate Socialism. The old Blairites are still the puppetmeisters.

  • Margaret West says:

    If Starmer is really trying to get rid of the Left – or rather the “Hard Left” (!) by a process of attrition beginning with Corbyn – then he is very very foolish.

    It is evident from the correspondence on this forum that there are many who support Corbyn who are by no means of the “hard left” and in some cases very much of the centre ground. While not agreeing with his politics they are outraged at the vilification of – as they see it a decent man .

    So how does Starmer think he can win over voters “of the centre ground” who he has alienated because of his treatment of “a decent man”?

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