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Labour's NEC: Tom Watson's Shadow Cabinet Elections Plan Delayed Until Saturday

NEC expanded to include Scots and Welsh reps; shortbread handed out by Corbyn

20/09/2016 20:17 | Updated 21 September 2016
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Plans to give Labour MPs a say over Jeremy Corbyn’s top team have been postponed by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee.

At a long and tense meeting, the NEC agreed to resume discussions on the so-called ‘truce plan’ on Saturday - after Corbyn is expected to be re-elected by party members.

The proposal was tabled by deputy leader Tom Watson and had been endorsed overwhelmingly by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), who see it as a key way to heal the rifts seen during leadership election.

But the NEC - which lasted eight and a half hours - failed to agree the plans and decided it needed more time for discussion. 

A bid to prevent the issue being delayed indefinitely was narrowly defeated by 16 votes to 15, with Watson on the losing side.

Allies of the Labour leader were pleased at the decision to delay discussions on the Shadow Cabinet elections.

Laura Dale/PA Wire
Jeremy Corbyn arriving for the NEC meeting

Corbyn and the leader’s office will now meet Watson, PLP chairman John Cryer and chief whip Rosie Winterton to discuss the plan further before a meeting of the NEC on Saturday evening, party sources told HuffPost.

As Corbyn will by then probably have been re-elected with a fresh mandate, his supporters believe he will have the authority to urge the ruling body to agree his own version of Shadow Cabinet democracy.

The leader has mooted plans to allow a third of his Shadow Cabinet be elected by MPs, a third appointed by himself directly and a third elected by rank and file party members.

Many Labour MPs are only prepared to return to the frontbench if a majority of the Shadow Cabinet posts are voted on by the PLP.

While the postponement was seen as a victory for Corbyn supporters, ‘moderates’ won another knife-edge vote to expand the NEC to include representatives for the Scottish and Welsh Labour parties.

John Linton/PA Wire
Labour's Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale

If party conference approves the plan, two new posts will be added to the executive committee, made up of frontbenchers from the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, sources told HuffPost UK.

Both reps will be nominated by the Scottish Labour leader and Welsh Labour leader, rather than directly elected by party members.

With both devolved parties led by Corbyn-sceptics, the shift means that the ruling NEC may now have an anti-Corbyn majority.

Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale backed Owen Smith in the Labour leadership election earlier this summer and her relations with Corbyn have been fraught.

The meeting, billed as a ‘showdown’ between Watson and Corbyn, broke up with both sides claiming progress.

Many members of the NEC were relieved that it was all over after eight hours 24 minutes.

Watson joked during the meeting about his leader’s newly-revealed fondness for shortbread biscuits, as discussed on the website Mumsnet this week.

Under wider reforms, the Scottish Labour party will become ‘fully autonomous’, with control over the selection of all its Parliamentary candidates and management of all the constituency Labour parties north of the border.

The NEC agreed 22 other party rule changes as part of a package of reforms.

Among other changes approved were moves to crack down on online abuse by making all existing and new members sign a pledge about behaviour on social media - or face being barred.

The long-awaited social media guidelines state that all party members will have to sign a pledge “to act within the spirit and rules of the Labour party in my conduct both on and offline, with members and non-members”.

They will have to sign a statement that “I stand against all forms of abuse. I understand that if found to be in breach of the Labour party policy on online and offline abuse, I will be subject to the rules and procedures of the Labour party.”

The party also approved rule changes to increase black and ethnic minority representation and support for local councillors.

Momentum founder Jon Lansman, a key ally of the Labour leader, said that the NEC decisions were mixed, with “some good.. some not so good [news]”

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