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Questions to NEC candidates - Responses from Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft and Darren Williams

Questions to NEC candidates - Responses from Ann Black, Christine Shawcroft and Darren Williams

Reply from Ann Black

 

1.        Labour International

 

1.1     If elected to the NEC, will you attend one of our events at Conference and/or come to our LI members' meeting in Germany planned for October?  

I will come to your conference meeting as I have done for the last few years, subject only to not clashing with NEC meetings.  I'm not sure yet whether I will be able to come to Germany. 

I have also shown my support for LI by

- obtaining a new financial deal for LI.  In 2011 Refounding Labour reduced the amount paid to CLPs per member in exchange for central payment of election insurance, contact creator, the Euro-election levy and a conference delegate pass.  As LI does not benefit from most of these I won an annual payment of £1,350, index-linked, equivalent in value to the services which UK-based CLPs receive;

- persuading the party to pay travel costs for national policy forum constituency members, including those from LI, for meetings of policy commissions as well as for full NPF meetings

 

1.2     We have tripled our membership since May 2015, and experienced infighting and tensions between groups within LI. How will you try and bring the Party together?

I will continue to listen to all points of view and to encourage differences to be aired in a respectful manner, in private, and preferably not on social media where exchanges have become particularly unpleasant.  If there is any way that I can be of direct help, please get in touch.

 

 

2.        Voting rights

 

2.1     Do you support the right of UK citizens living abroad having the right to vote for life and remove the present restriction? 

We've discussed this before and I'm not yet entirely convinced, because MPs represent constituencies where local issues change with time.  For instance immigration is clearly (and regrettably) a factor in the current EU referendum campaign.  Fifteen years ago none of the eastern European countries had yet joined the EU, and their citizens were not yet able to live and work freely in the UK.  Understanding the social dynamics may be more difficult from a distance. 

For the Westminster parliament I would favour your suggestion at 2.3 whereby some  MPs would be elected by, and accountable to, UK citizens living in other countries.   Your question doesn't specify which elections, but I believe that the campaign does not ask for votes in electing local councillors, the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly, police and crime commissioners, city mayors and MEPs? - please get back to me if this is incorrect. 

I did, however, propose an amendment to the Better Politics document at the 2014 national policy forum which would have included further consideration of this issue, but unfortunately the NPF did not accept it.  I also facilitated discussion between LI and Stephen Twigg, the then shadow minister for constitutional affairs. 

 

 

2.2     The UK Labour Party thinks that most UK citizens living abroad are Tory voters. How can you help us overcome this prejudice within the Party?

Ideally decisions would be based on principle rather than political advantage, but would it be worth commissioning some opinion polls to replace prejudice with fact? 

 

2.3    Do you support the idea of having MPs to represent Britons living abroad i.e. international constituencies, like France?

Definitely worth exploring

 

3. Election of Party Leader

 

3.1    Should the current Leader of the Labour Party automatically be on the ballot in the event of a leadership election?

Yes.  This may require a rule change, but I think it should be comparable with reselecting MPs, where even if a constituency votes for an open selection the sitting MP is automatically included on the shortlist. 

3.2    Do you support one member one vote (with each vote having the same weight) for future leadership elections? If you don’t why not?

Yes.  I think we also have to keep the affiliated and registered supporters as agreed by the special conference in March 2014, because removing them would be seen as having ulterior motives, but more time must be allowed for checking applications, with clearer criteria for acceptance or rejection.

 

4. General 

4.1 Do you support the “unfreezing” of the rate of UK state pension paid to pensioners living in many countries abroad? (e.g. Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan)

Yes, unequivocally.

4.2 Do you support public ownership of utilities and the transport system?

 

In principle yes, and I opposed selling them off in the first place.  Taking the railways back would be relatively straightforward as they could revert to public ownership when the franchises expired.  Water, gas, electricity would be more complicated.  If they are renationalised with compensation for shareholders that would have to be paid out of general taxation.  If there is little or no compensation, small shareholders would lose out, and I think it would also affect pension funds and therefore pensions.  So I agree with the objective, but there must be a realistic way of getting there.

 

 

4.3 Are you in favour of scrapping university/tuition fees?

For the last 37 years there have been huge cuts in all areas of public spending, mainly under Conservative governments.  In addition the proportion of eighteen-year-olds going into higher education has increased to nearly 50%, so restoring the pre-1979 system of grants and free tuition would cost many times as much as it did then.  Given the overall economic situation I would prioritise early-years and primary education, care for the elderly and vulnerable, and the NHS, above paying for university study.

Until those more urgent demands have been met I would prefer a graduate tax.  This would avoid students leaving with tens of thousands of pounds worth of individual debt, half of which will have to be written off - i.e. picked up by the taxpayer - because they will not earn enough during their working lives. 

 

4.4 Are you in favour of repealing the anti trade union laws brought in by various Conservative governments?

 

Most of them.  I would keep secret ballots for strikes, and for electing general secretaries.  There is a very long list since 1979, and it would be useful to draw up priorities for an incoming Labour government.  

The changes currently going through parliament are particularly vindictive.  The Lords did a splendid job in preventing the complete destruction of trade union political funds, which are used for campaigning and, for some, for affiliating to the Labour party, but there are still problems for the unions and the wider labour movement.

 

4.5 Would you be able to represent all current views within the Party, even if you disagree personally? 

I believe my record shows that I have done this for nearly 20 years and I will continue to do so. 

 

Reply from Christine Shawcroft

 

1.        Labour International

 

1.1     If elected to the NEC, will you attend one of our events at Conference and/or come to our LI members' meeting in Germany planned for October? Reply from Christine Shawcroft

I’m happy to attend a meeting at Conference but I don’t think I would be able to make Germany in October (much as I’d like to!) because I won’t have any annual leave left after attending Annual Conference. I use it all up going to NEC meetings and Conference.

 

1.2     We have tripled our membership since May 2015, and experienced infighting and tensions between groups within LI. How will you try and bring the Party together?

I’m sorry to hear there have been disagreements, although pleased to find you have had the same membership surge that has been seen all over the country. Jeremy has a huge mandate and we all need to support him and work for a Labour Government with him as Prime Minister. We can all agree on where we are going, even if we sometimes disagree on the best way to get there!

 

2.        Voting rights

 

2.1     Do you support the right of UK citizens living abroad having the right to vote for life and remove the present restriction?

Yes, that seems fair.

2.2     The UK Labour Party thinks that most UK citizens living abroad are Tory voters. How can you help us overcome this prejudice within the Party?

The large increase in membership must have made a difference, presumably. Could citizens living abroad be part of a Mosaic analysis? Although I’ve never been sure which Mosaic group I fit into! Maybe if LI has a greater input into Party matters that would make a difference.

2.3    Do you support the idea of having MPs to represent Britons living abroad i.e. international constituencies, like France?

I haven’t really thought about this. Maybe we could discuss it at Conference? Things do seem to be moving that way – Americans can vote in their Presidential primaries. I’d like to know what you think in LI.

 

3. Election of Party Leader

 

3.1    Should the current Leader of the Labour Party automatically be on the ballot in the event of a leadership election?

Yes. I have to say that the plotting to remove Jeremy is most unedifying. Over 250,000 people voted for him, surely that is sufficient mandate?

3.2    Do you support one member one vote (with each vote having the same weight) for future leadership elections? If you don’t why not?

Yes I do, with the addition of the supporters voting. It worked really well last time.

4. General

4.1 Do you support the “unfreezing” of the rate of UK state pension paid to pensioners living in many countries abroad? (e.g. Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan)

Yes.

4.2 Do you support public ownership of utilities and the transport system?

Yes, very much so, I’ve been campaigning for this for years.

4.3 Are you in favour of scrapping university/tuition fees?

Yes, investing in the education of our young people is one of the best investments we can make. They shouldn’t be leaving University up to their necks in debt. (So I also support grants, not loans).

4.4 Are you in favour of repealing the anti trade union laws brought in by various Conservative governments?

Yes, absolutely.

4.5 Would you be able to represent all current views within the Party, even if you disagree personally?

 If anyone contacts me with a concern about their treatment by the Party, eg a suspension, I try and support them regardless of whether we are politically in agreement. Obviously if a topic comes to the vote on the NEC or the NPF I can only vote one way. However, if something is voted on democratically and becomes Party policy, I will support it even if I disagree. The important thing is to have that democratic input.

 

Reply from Darren Williams

 

1.        Labour International

 

1.1     If elected to the NEC, will you attend one of our events at Conference and/or come to our LI members' meeting in Germany planned for October?  

 

I won't be at conference, as I'll be on my honeymoon that week, but I would be willing, in principle, to go to the meeting in Germany in October, subject to my availability on the date in question.  

 

1.2     We have tripled our membership since May 2015, and experienced infighting and tensions between groups within LI. How will you try and bring the Party together?

 

I'm sorry to hear about the infighting and I think that there is an extent to which people have to want to work together. However, I would try and emphasise the urgent need to unite behind our elected leader against the Tories and, in so doing, to put the interests of ordinary people before those of particular factions. 

 

2.        Voting rights

 

2.1     Do you support the right of UK citizens living abroad having the right to vote for life and remove the present restriction?

 

Yes. As long as someone retains British citizenship, they should be able to vote in UK general elections. 

 

2.2     The UK Labour Party thinks that most UK citizens living abroad are Tory voters. How can you help us overcome this prejudice within the Party?

 

If elected, I would be happy to raise the priorities and concerns of Labour International members in NEC meetings, which might help to make leading party members more aware of the reality for many UK citizens abroad. I could also potentially work with Labour International in developing literature and online material highlighting the experience of a representative sample of Labour International members, which could, again, combat misconceptions about the circumstances and political views of emigré voters.    

 

2.3    Do you support the idea of having MPs to represent Britons living abroad i.e. international constituencies, like France?

 

No. It would not be very meaningful to have MPs representing geographical areas over which Parliament has no jurisdiction.

 

3. Election of Party Leader

 

3.1    Should the current Leader of the Labour Party automatically be on the ballot in the event of a leadership election?

 

Yes. It would be ridiculous if, in the event of a challenge, the current leader were barred from standing for re-election. I also support lowering the threshold of MP nominations that leadership candidates are currently required to meet: MPs should not have so much power as "gatekeepers" that they could disenfranchise many thousands of party members.

 

3.2    Do you support one member one vote (with each vote having the same weight) for future leadership elections? If you don’t why not?

 

In principle, yes - but I didn't support (and still don't) the creation of the category of "registered supporters". In my view, all of the latter should be encouraged to become full members and, at a certain point, the category should be discontinued.

 

4. General

 

4.1 Do you support the “unfreezing” of the rate of UK state pension paid to pensioners living in many countries abroad? (e.g. Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan)

 

I don't know much about this issue, to be honest, but I think pensioners everywhere have the moral right to a decent standard of living and that pension payments should, at the very least, keep pace with inflation.

 

4.2 Do you support public ownership of utilities and the transport system?

 

Absolutely. Privatisation has been a disaster for service-users, workers and taxpayers alike. Even a majority of Tory voters support re-nationalisation of the railways; it's good that Labour party policy in this area is finally catching up with public opinion.

 

4.3 Are you in favour of scrapping university/tuition fees?

 

Yes. Young people should be able to pursue a higher education with building up crippling levels of debt. 

 

4.4 Are you in favour of repealing the anti trade union laws brought in by various Conservative governments?

 

Yes. Tony Blair notoriously boasted that the UK had the most draconian union laws in Europe and the situation has become even worse as a result of the recent Tory Bill. Strong unions are the best defence against exploitation, injustice and inequality. 

 

4.5 Would you be able to represent all current views within the Party, even if you disagree personally?

 

Yes. I would take up, through the official channels of the party, any issues that might be put to me, provided that I felt they were being raised in good faith and in a manner consistent with the basic values and principles of the party. 

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