Over the past few weeks of the NEC election campaign I’ve met with party members, as well as campaigned and attended meetings in a variety of settings.
When speaking to members I’ve run a quick straw poll. I ask members to put their hands up if they’re a Councillor and to keep their hands up. I then ask in turn for members to raise their hands if they’re a school Governor, volunteer at a food bank, youth club or community centre or if they serve on a committee, board or charity or have run a campaign to make crucial differences in their local community.
By the end of the list over half the members present will have their hand in the air. To me, this shows ordinary rank and file members are not just talking about change but are actually making a real difference in their community and, in doing so, putting our Labour values into action. The Labour Party NEC needs to work for these people and that’s why I’m standing for the NEC.
From the very beginning I’ve stood on a platform of improving diversity and representation at every level of our party. For me, this goes beyond the BAME diversity and the other equality strands of gender, disability and LGBT. If we really believe in the slogan ‘For the Many Not the Few’ we must also ensure steps are taken to make our party more inclusive of working-class people. For example, a single parent working two jobs to make ends meet will find it far more difficult to attend Labour Party meetings or give up their spare time to campaign. We also still have a lot more to do in those white working-class communities where, thankfully, UKIP has now been defeated, but regrettably Labour still isn’t seen as the natural home.
We also need to address the imbalance in geographic representation including regions like the West Midlands never having been represented in the members section on the NEC or those rural or coastal towns where geography means very different challenges to campaigning than in inner city seats.
Many of the conversations I’ve had on social media and in person refer to the fact my campaign has been backed by Labour First and Progress. I couldn’t be clearer that I’m standing as a candidate in my own right and have put together a campaign where I hope I am able to show my experience, as well as the type of person I am and what I stand for.
I am appealing for support from across the party in this election. I am grateful to the 55 CLPs who nominated me. I am also grateful to the many individual members who have backed my campaign, and I am equally grateful for the support of groups like Labour First and Progress who are asking members to back me.
However, some of the rigid factionalism I’ve encountered since deciding to stand for the NEC has genuinely shocked me. People have openly said they are unprepared to even consider voting for candidates who aren’t backed by the respective factions. Often based on the experience of a leadership election that happened over a year ago.
The Labour Party is at its best when we harness the energy, talents and ideas of all our members. Our history has shown that the party is strong enough to be able to accommodate people of all politics providing they subscribe to the principle of the Labour Party being a democratic socialist party working to achieve power to achieve change for those we represent. It is telling that this strength is perhaps most starkly demonstrated by the fact that the long serving MP who rebelled on principle against the Labour whip many hundreds of times is now the democratically elected leader of our party. The broad-church party that accommodated Jeremy Corbyn then will only progress to win the next election if it continues to embrace all viewpoints now.
The NEC is the body that protects and grows this broad-church. It is essential those who are elected to serve on it always act in the best interests of the whole party and are able to do so in a way that accommodates all viewpoints. That is what I will do and that is why, ultimately, I am an independent candidate.
Starting tomorrow and all the way to Christmas I will be publishing a series of pledges defining what I hope to do when elected to the NEC – my advent calendar of pledges! I have pledges about broadening our party and making it more representative; encouraging working class membership; our socialist societies; support for candidates; protecting the interests of unions, MPs and Councillors; how we deal with branch and CLP resolutions; the liberation campaigns; making our party more accessible; ensuring the party is driven by its members; and more.
Please do have a look – all I ask is that you to look beyond the labels and vote for the right person for the whole party!
Gurinder Singh Josan is a Candidate for Labour’s NEC and Vice Chair of Sikhs for Labour and a Director of Hope not Hate