Having been quite happily retired from frontline politics for 12 years, it was quite a surprise to be asked to be put forward as the Welsh Labour Grassroots nominee for the place on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), reserved for a representative from Wales.
As I would be up against former First Minister Carwyn Jones, my immediate reaction after accepting was to be prepared to be humiliated in order that the arguments could be made for more accountability for the role.
Between the launch of our campaign at Welsh Labour Conference in March, through the nomination process, to the last day of voting, we sent out hard-hitting messages on the future direction of the Party and the need for greater democracy and accountability.
I wrote an opinion piece for Nation.Cymru, titled ‘Labour must put People and Planet before Profit’, within which I put forward my pitch and vision for the Labour Party: https://nation.cymru/opinion/labour-must-put-people-and-the-planet-before-profit/
I also wrote for Labour Hub about how the Labour Party must face up to the challenges of our times, instead of reverting to its comfort zone: https://labourhub.org.uk/2022/05/25/we-must-not-be-fooled-into-replaying-the-soul-destroying-model-of-new-labour/
I had a fully bilingual campaign website which can be viewed here: http://lynnejones.wales
My campaign pledges were:
- To be accountable to Party members in Wales and to produce regular reports to CLPs, affiliates and for any members requesting them
- To do my best to ensure that internal democracy and disciplinary procedures are conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice
- To promote the progressive policies of the Welsh Government and work for the adoption by UK Labour of the policy platform on which Keir Starmer was elected leader
After the long-awaited publication of the Forde Report, its shocking revelations, and the complacent attitude it received from Keir Starmer, I wrote an article for Labour List (https://labourlist.org/2022/08/lynne-jones-why-i-am-standing-to-be-the-welsh-rep-on-labours-governing-body/) and added a fourth pledge:
- To ensure the full implementation of the Detailed Recommendations in the Forde Report, including the requirement for NEC members to act in accordance with the Nolan principles (of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership)
I was not elected, but contrary to my expectations when putting my name forward, nor was I humiliated, receiving 40% of the vote, meaning that a significant proportion of the membership in Wales share the concerns we raised in the campaign.
There is now a window of opportunity to hold the newly elected Welsh Rep to account for the decisions he makes as a member of the NEC.
Another important issue arising from the results was the huge drop (almost 50%) in the number of members voting both in the election for Welsh Rep and in that for the 6 Constituency Labour Party representatives. According to the General Secretary’s report to the September NEC, turnout was 18.4% of circa 380,000 members (compared to a turnout of 26% of 496,000 members the last time these elections took place). Not only are membership numbers slumping, but so is member engagement.
My fear, that fewer active members will mean a return to reliance on support from the rich and powerful, seems to be playing out. Such dependence on approval from mainstream media and on donations from the wealthy meant the last Labour Government did not challenge the Thatcherite economics and vested interests that gave us the 2008 crash.
During the Welsh Rep campaign, I said: “Our job is to inspire people to vote for us because we convince them that we can transform their lives for the better. To do that, we need to be convinced ourselves, so that members are energised and actively engaged in championing our values on the streets and in the workplaces.” That remains my view, even at a time when Labour has soared in the polls because of the huge unpopularity of Liz Truss and her economic car-crash of a short-lived premiership.
Being elected because we are less bad than the Tories is not a recipe for a party that aspires to be the ‘political wing of the British people’.