Keith Vaz Facing Loss Of Labour NEC Seat As Momentum Urges More Voting Power For Minority Ethnic Members

Published on January 12, 2018



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Labour MP Keith Vaz is in danger of losing his seat on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) under new reforms aimed at giving black, Asian and minority ethnic members more voting rights.

Grassroots group Momentum has tabled plans to radically update the way the NEC’s BAME representative is chosen, with a one-member, one-vote election replacing the current “tokenistic” system where a small party group decides the post.

The Momentum proposal has been submitted to Jeremy Corbyn’s wide-ranging democracy review, the first consultation phase for which ends on Friday.

In a separate move, it has also tabled plans for reform of the party’s youth section, vowing to end the treatment of under-27s as “mere doorstep fodder” and give them more of a say over policy.

Vaz has held his post on the ruling NEC since 2007, but many activists feel that the veteran MP ought to now make way for a new generation and that the present system for BAME representation is archaic.



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Jeremy Corbyn at a Momentum rally in Parliament Square at the height of the Labour ‘coup’ attempt in 2016.

Following its rapid expansion under Corbyn, Momentum estimates that the party now has 70,000 members from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

But BAME Labour, a socialist society affiliated to the party, has just 731 members. Only 530 people voted in last year’s NEC election, when Vaz defeated a late left-wing challenge by trade union-backed councillor Asghar Khan.

Having represented Leicester East since 1987, Vaz is one of the first four black MPs elected for Labour, partly due to pressure from BAME Labour’s early forerunner, Black Sections.

His defeat in a new system, would further entrench the ‘pro-Corbyn’ majority on the NEC, which is set to be boosted next week when Momentum founder Jon Lansman and two other leftwingers are expected to be elected to new local party rep posts on the ruling body.

Momentum’s minority ethnic proposals, seen by HuffPost UK, call for an end to the “tokenistic culture of clientelism that characterises the Party’s interaction with BAME communities”.

Under the group’s plans, all black or minority ethnic members of the party would automatically become part of BAME Labour and have one-member, one-vote rights in electing their NEC representative.



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Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant, Keith Vaz and Diane Abbott during a Black Sections debate at party conference.

Under the group’s plans, all black or minority ethnic members of the party would automatically become part of BAME Labour and have one-member, one-vote rights in electing their NEC representative.

BAME Labour would also have an independent organisation, with its committee having direct access to its own membership list and centrally-funded finances, and the ability to organise its own campaigns and events independently.

The Momentum submission adds: “BAME Labour shall have political autonomy, allowing it to take political positions that are independent to that of the Party”.

It also calls for an end to “all-white local parties”, arguing that “support must be given to develop greater diversity in their membership” and that every CLP should appoint an Ethnic Minority officer.

A poll of 960 black and minority members by Momentum has found that 40% of them have never heard of BAME Labour. Some 78% said that they wanted one-member, one-vote elections for their NEC rep, with just 6% against.



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Momentum founder Jon Lansman

When asked if they have an ethnic minority forum in their CLP, 59% of respondents stated they were unaware, 34% said there isn’t one, and 6% said they have one.

Huda Elmi, BAME Labour member and Momentum NCG member, said:  “BAME Labour was borne out of a history of powerful self-organisation in the form of Black Sections, that historically achieved the election of 4 Black MPs.

“It sought to drastically increase Black representation across the labour movement, fighting regressive forces that refused to acknowledge the role of ethnic minorities as active political agents.

“This summer, BAME Labour elections revealed some stark realities; that within a Party that has swelled to over 600,000 members only 700 BAME members were eligible to vote for their dedicated committee and NEC positions.

“This atrophy has been due to neglect and stagnation. In a movement that has come to pride itself in diversity, it’s important we tackle these pervasive issues head on to ensure our rhetoric is far from tokenistic.”

Momentum estimates that black and minority ethnic voters helped the party defeat the Tories in up to 28 Parliamentary seats in the 2017 general election.



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Momentum Huda Elmi, BAME Labour and Momentum member.

In its submission on the party’s youth wing reforms, the group says that it wants to better harness the power of members. Some 110,000 members are under the age of 27, more than the entire membership of the Tory party.

Young Labour shall be given a mandate to organise and have local groups in education institutions, ending the historic divide between Young Labour and Labour Students.

The Labour Party has approximately 110,000 members under the age of 27, more than the entire membership of the Conservative Party.

Laura Parker, Momentum’s National Coordinator, said: “This is an incredible resource, but one that still goes largely untapped.

“Thought of as mere doorstep fodder, young members stand ready to flood key marginals during an election but are often not encouraged to actively engaged in the everyday process of politics – or enabled to shape policy.



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NEC member and Islington councillor Claudia Webbe.

“This situation has to change. Using viral videos and digital platforms Momentum mobilised tens of thousands of young people to campaign for Labour during the election.  Now we’re putting forward proposals that will transform Young Labour and unleash the talent and creativity of our 110,000 young members.”

Following consultation with young Labour activists and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, it calls for Young Labour to have full organisational and political “automomy”, like its plans for BAME Labour.

The Young Labour rep on the NEC would also be chosen by one-member, one-vote ballot.  The NEC voted late last year to change the rules, ending the electoral college that gave Labour Students as third of the votes, along with unions and non-student members.

Under Momentum’s plan, “Young Labour shall be given a mandate to organise and have local groups in education institutions, ending the historic divide between Young Labour and Labour Students”.

The party democracy review, led by Corbyn’s former political secretary Katy Clark and NEC members Claudia Webbe and Andy Kerr, is split into various parts.

Reforms of party links with unions, NEC places and leadership elections are set to be decided by the summer.

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