The National Executive Committee is responsible for making decisions about Labour’s internal party workings, and it is likely to be a crucial player in Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to increase party democracy, not least on the question of elected shadow cabinet members. It’s famous for holding endless meetings, and sometimes tempestuous ones. But apart from the Labour leadership, most of the NEC members are relatively unknown. So who’s who?
Holland, the party’s treasurer, was elected over John Prescott in 2010 thanks to a landslide in the trade union affliates section. A Unite member, she is regarded as less factional than the rest of the Unite representatives, and can be a swing vote on the NEC.
Opposition front bench
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP
The new MP for Salford and Eccles has had a meteoric rise. Now serving as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, she is fiercely loyal to Corbyn.
Jon Trickett MP
An Ed Miliband loyalist to the last, Trickett was an early supporter of Corbyn, despite starting out his parliamentary career as PPS to Peter Mandelson. Now serving as Lord President to the Council, he tends to vote with his leader on the NEC.
Kate Osamor MP
For Osamor, politics is in her blood. Her mother, Martha Osamor, was vice chair of Labour’s black sections, which, while never achieving the official recognition they craved, helped to get Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz elected in 1987. Osamor was a thorn in the side of Neil Kinnock, and her daughter, likewise, is absolutely loyal to the Corbyn project in general and Jeremy in particular. She will be a reliable vote for the leadership on the NEC.
European parliamentary Labour party leader
The MEP for the East Midlands represents MEPs on the NEC. In June, Willmott sent a letter signed by her and her colleagues asking Jeremy Corbyn to stand down. It stated: “Responsibility for the UK leaving the EU lies with David Cameron. That being said, we were simply astounded that on Friday morning, as news of the result sank in, an official Labour briefing document promoted the work of Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart for the Leave campaign.”
The Young Labour representative, Beckett describes herself as a “working-class woman from Liverpool”, who was expelled from school and once ran away from home. After winning a tempestuous election against a Corbyn supporter, she struck a conciliatory tone, declaring:
“First step is to remember who the enemy is. My maintenance grant wasn’t taken away by Progress, my EMA wasn’t scrapped by Momentum, and Open Labour didn’t close my old school. The pain that is being felt by young and working class people in the country is because of the actions of a cruel government, a Tory government.”
Keith Birch (Unison)
Birch is parliamentary officer at Unison Labour Link (the union has an opt-in system for affliating its members to the Labour party, which is done via Labour Link). Unison is regarded as the swing vote in Labour politics both inside and outside the National Executive Committee, backing the eventual winner of every Labour leadership race since the union was founded from the merger of three public-sector unions in 1993.
Jim Kennedy (Ucatt)
Kennedy represents Ucatt, the construction union, on the NEC. Following Ucatt’s merger with Unite, he will sit for Unite. That Unite now has five members on the NEC when the treasurer Diana Holland is included is a source of resentment among the other affiliated unions, particularly the other big unions: GMB, Usdaw, and Unison.
Andi Fox (TSSA)
Fox represents the Transport Salaried Staff Association on the NEC, and also represents the northeast on the TSSA’s executive committee. She is a reliable ally of Jeremy Corbyn’s on the NEC, reflecting the full-throated financial and moral support of her general secretary, Manuel Cortes.
Paddy Lillis (Usdaw)
Lillis represents Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, on the NEC, where he is deputy general secretary. Having been replaced as chair by Glenis Wilmott, the leader of the European parliamentary Labour party, he will be a reliable block against rule-changes
Wendy Nichols (Unison)
Nichols is Unison president and represents the public sector union on the NEC. She is also secretary of the union’s North Yorkshire branch.
Andy Kerr (CWU)
Kerr started work as a BT engineer and is a power-player in the Communication Workers’ Union, where he is deputy general secretary, representing workers in telecommunications and financial services. Although the CWU is a reliable and early ally of Corbyn, Kerr joined the NEC when the union was under the leadership of Billy Hayes, who was closely identified with Labour’s soft left.
Martin Mayer (Unite)
Mayer is a longtime organiser on the left of the party and a reliable ally of Corbyn’s on the NEC. He is regarded as a combative presence on the NEC with a sharp tongue.
Mary Turner (GMB)
Turner is president of the GMB’s London region (the GMB is heavily devolved), and is regarded as one of the NEC’s swing votes. The GMB is at odds with the leadership over Trident and fracking, both industries where it represents workers.
Jennie Formby (Unite)
Formby, now regional secretary of Unite, was political director prior to being moved out to the regions to lay the groundwork for Len McCluskey’s re-election bid. Referred to as “Len’s representative on Earth”, Formby is a vocal advocate for McCluskey’s way of thinking on the NEC.
Cath Speight (GMB)
Speight is national political officer on the GMB and was regarded as a loyalist to Paul Kenny, who retired last year as general secretary of the GMB. She is seen as a swing vote on the NEC and is identified with Labour’s old right.
Pauline McCarthy (Bfawu)
McCarthy, of the bakers’ union, was only elected onto the NEC last year and is regarded as a solid pro-Corbyn vote. However, there is a feeling among the trade unions that the bakers vote with Unite, adding to that union’s outsized footprint on the NEC. She may be a victim of jockeying between the bigger unions when the union places next come up for election, with Community a possible beneficiary.
Jamie Bramwell (Ucatt)
Bramwell, from the construction union Ucatt, will soon be a Unite delegate when the merger between the two goes through. In any case, he is a solid pro-Corbyn vote; Bramwell described himself as “appalled and disgusted” by the decision of MPs in the shadow cabinet to resign after Brexit.
Asser kept a low profile during the leadership contest, except to condemn abuse of MPs. He tweeted his congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn after he won re-election in September. However, he is regarded as a solid vote on the side of the Corbynsceptics, though he, along with Johanna Baxter, advised MPs they were “going to war without an army” when they attempted to force Corbyn out after 23 June.
The Labour veteran is still the BAME representative, despite his recent resignation from the Home Affairs select committee over a sex scandal. In March, Vaz was named as “core group negative” in a leaked document ranking MPs’ loyalties to Corbyn. However, he unnerved Corbynsceptics when he revealed he was moving towards the Labour leader on Trident. After the scandal broke, Corbyn defended Vaz’s right to privacy. One to watch in close votes.
Constituency Labour party
The respected former NEC chair has been a member of the committee since 2000 and topped the ballot in the most recent elections with 100,999 votes.
Something of an institution in the party, she is regarded as a swing vote, despite her longstanding connection to the Labour left. Before the contest, the Labour Representation Committee (chaired by John McDonnell) vowed “never again” to support Black’s candidacy “in view of her role in disenfranchising members… and in suspending Brighton, Hove & District Labour Party”. But with no possibility of a replacement, the LRC backed her as part of the left-wing Grassroots Alliance. The LRC has, in any case, attempted to remove Black from the slate on multiple occasions, and been rebuffed every time.
Black voted for Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the leadership ballot on the grounds that “doing otherwise would be seen, rightly, as a stitch-up”. But she backed an increased registered supporter fee (from £3 to £25) and said that she wanted the category scrapped entirely.
One of the NEC’s longest-serving left-wingers, Shawcroft was first elected in 2002 as part of the Grassroots Alliance.
Perhaps no member of the committee divides opinion more sharply. In May 2015, Shawcroft was suspended from Labour for publicly supporting the former independent Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman. But she was reinstated two months later after arguing that she was “campaigning against miscarriages of justice” and not the Labour Party. She described the suspension period as “the nicest rest I’ve had for 20 years”.
A committed ally of Jeremy Corbyn, Shawcroft was condemned in February 2016 for suggesting that British soldiers should have “cups of tea” with Isis terrorists, rather than fighting them. She defended her remarks as “jocular comments”, adding that “they weren’t taken at face value at the meeting and shouldn’t be read at face value now. However, behind the joke there is a serious point: bombing countries doesn’t seem to be improving our national security; we should be looking at other strategies to improve our national security and resolve conflicts.”
In July 2016, she voted for Corbyn’s automatic inclusion on the leadership ballot, arguing that “He’s brave, he’s honest, he’s principled, he doesn’t back down under pressure. They sound like pretty good leadership qualities to us.”
Shawcroft finished second in the NEC elections in August with 97,510 votes.
The Islington councillor won election to the NEC for the first time in 2016. She serves as the borough’s executive member for environment and transport and was a senior adviser to Ken Livingstone during his London mayoralty.
Webbe is also a founder and former chair of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Trident, which was established to tackle gun crime and homicide in black communities.
She finished third in the elections with 92,377 votes and backed Corbyn for his “clear anti-austerity stance”.
The Cardiff councillor and PCS industrial office joined the NEC in July following Ken Livingstone’s suspension for his remarks on Hitler and Zionism. A loyal left-winger, he helped to preserve Corbyn’s NEC standing and was subsequently elected in August (finishing fourth with 87,003 votes).
Williams recently clashed with fellow Welsh executive members over the addition of a Welsh representative to the committee (which cost Corbyn his majority). The Welsh secretary of Unite was so angered by his stance that he convinced his delegation to abstain on the proposal, which was subsequently approved by conference.
A veteran left-winger, Willsman is one of Corbyn’s most redoubtable NEC allies. He is secretary of the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, which champions increased powers for grassroots members.
At the 13 July NEC meeting, which put Corbyn on the ballot paper, he reportedly declared: “I want the party to split, so we can get rid of the Blairites!”
Willsman finished last out of the six constituency representatives with 81,863 votes.
The young left-winger was originally blocked from standing for the NEC after her Eastwood constituency party opposed her candidacy. Former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy warned a members’ meeting that Wolfson’s links to Momentum were unacceptable. “He claimed [Momentum] has a problem with anti-semitism,” she recalled.
Wolfson went on to circumvent the ban by transferring her membership to Almond Valley, West Lothian. The only Jewish candidate in the NEC elections, she finished fifth with 85,687 votes.
Wolfson immediately angered Corbyn’s opponents by calling for “a much more healthy conversation around reselection”. In response to the threat faced by some MPs, such as Stella Creasy and Peter Kyle, she argued: “Ultimately reselection is an important democratic tool that our members have and whether they choose to use it or not we have to make sure that that is a constructive conversation.
“It’s not about demonising particular people who have worked very hard for the party, but it is an important tool that members should feel that they can use if they feel the need to.”
Representing St Peter’s ward on Islington Council since winning a council by-election five years ago, Perry has represented local government on the NEC since councillors elected her to the Committee in August 2014. She is a very active local government operator, serving both as chief whip of Islington Labour Group and deputy whip of the Local Government Association Labour Group. This year, she was the councillor elected with the most votes (2,991) to the NEC.
Though councillors on the NEC act somewhat independently, Corbyn’s opponents will be encouraged by Perry staying in the post. Having herself received abuse, Perry is particularly troubled by the new atmosphere in the party, bringing up concerns about bullying, harassment and intimidation at an NEC meeting in July. She has also compared the current “thuggish minority” in Labour to “1980s fringe groups” that tried “to gain control of local Labour Party branches” by creating a “toxic environment”.
Perry was a vehement supporter of a secret ballot for the NEC’s vote on whether Jeremy Corbyn should automatically be put on the ballot during the second leadership contest. She is also pushing for two additional places for local government representatives on the NEC.
A new face on the NEC, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council Forbes was elected with 2,510 votes by fellow councillors onto the Committee this year. He was first elected to the council in 2000, aged 26, and represents the central ward of Westgate. He is also the leader of the Local Government Association Labour Group.
Seen as a “moderate”, Forbes replaces fellow Corbynsceptic Ann Lucas – recently ousted as Coventry City Council’s Labour leader – on the NEC’s councillors’ bench. He argues that Labour’s local politicians have more of a clue about serving the public, and has despaired about the activity of some of the party’s MPs, and its division nationally. He believes the future of the party’s electoral success lies in councillors, warning: “by 2020, the parliamentary Labour party will have had a decade of people with no experience of government”.
Parliamentary Labour party
The former Foreign Secretary Beckett nominated Corbyn first time round, but later described herself as a “moron” for doing so and backed the no-confidence motion against him. Regarded, as with all three of the elected PLP representatives on the NEC, as a reliable block on the leader’s will.
The MP for Knowsley, Howarth is a Labour party veteran. He backed the no-confidence motion in Jeremy Corbyn with a “heavy heart”. He replaces the socialist Dennis Skinner.
The MP for Birmingham Ladywood is a long-term critic of Corbyn, who stepped down from the shadow cabinet when he was elected in 2015. She backed the no-confidence motion against Corbyn, citing the need for competency during Brexit negotiations.
Although it is regarded as routine for the leader to appoint loyalists to the NEC, Dugdale took the move a step further by appointing herself to the role of Scottish Labour representative on the NEC. She endorsed Owen Smith in the leadership election and her opposition to Corbyn has only hardened after the leadership tried to block the long-delayed move to give the Scottish and Welsh party leaders its own representatives on the NEC.
Davies is the new Welsh representative on the NEC, appointed by the Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones. Davies is a Jones loyalist and will very much be Jones’ man in London when the NEC is meeting. (As Jones is First Minister as well as leader of the Welsh party, he could hardly commit to marathon sessions of the NEC.) Jones stayed out of the Labour leadership race, though he is at odds with the leadership over membership of the single market, which he regards as essential for the Welsh economy.