The NEC may be the key

Ellie Reeves (right), with sister Rachel and friend

Ellie Reeves (right), with sister Rachel and friend

I was surprised today to take a phone call from Radio 4’s The World at One asking for Ellie Reeves’ phone number. It’s not every day that the media try to hunt down members of Labour’s national executive committee. But they did rather find themselves at the centre of a political storm this week, as the Labour Party’s sovereign body, when Gordon Brown stuck a proposal for dealing with MPs with dodgy expenses in front of them and got them to approve it.

Keen readers of this blog (both of you, in fact) will know the last time NEC members were being rung up by journalists far more important than me. Yes, it was when there was talk about calling for Brown to be re-nominated as party leader every year. That wasn’t a welcome story for No 10. And this one is far, far less welcome. The NEC only becomes important, it seems, when things aren’t going well for Labour.

What’s fascinating about the current crisis of confidence in MPs in general, and Brown in particular (witness his poor poll showing) is it gives the NEC two important roles to play.

One is the official role as the party’s decision-making body. The fate of errant MPs like Elliot Morley and David Chaytor now lies in the hands of just three NEC members – chair Cath Speight, Ann Black and Ann Lucas (standing in for Jeremy Beecham). They will turn their thumbs up or down at these wounded gladiators.

The other role is as a conduit for grassroots Labour views. That’s what’s happened this week, when Ellie Reeves took the views of hundreds of activists (who really are quite angry/unhappy) into that room at Portcullis House and tried to get the proposals changed. And when it failed, she came out and told them all about it. Which is where the BBC came in.

This is serious stuff. When Tony Blair was leader and Mark Seddon sat on the NEC, he described it as being turned into Blair’s Praetorian Guard: an ultra-loyal corps of unquestioning defenders. It’d be hard to call them that now. Brown is vulnerable. Organisations which have both grassroots support and the leaders’ ear are uniquely positioned to seize the initiative. If the NEC is successful in detoxifying the expenses issue, Brown will be safe – and they will fade back into the shadows. If not, he may find himself handbagged by those unpaid, expenses-free activists.

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One Response to “The NEC may be the key”

  1. TRISHA Says:

    Can’t you sack that fat slapper Cath Speight who says she speaks for the country when deciding who we should vote for. I will be voting for the BNP for the first time and I will NEVER vote for you lot ever again.

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