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NEC members ‘walk out’ after Margaret Beckett elected chairwoman

LEFT-WING members of Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) “walked out” of an online meeting today in protest at “factionalism” by the right in blocking a leading trade unionist’s election as chair.

A dozen members of the NEC wrote to Labour general secretary David Evans to say that the longstanding protocol of the vice-chair — currently the Fire Brigades Union’s Ian Murray — being elected as chairman had been torn up.

They said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had lobbied for veteran Derby South MP Dame Margaret Beckett, a foreign secretary under Tony Blair, to be elected under the “public reason” that she is the longest-serving member of the NEC.

But they added: “We believe the true reason for the leader lobbying for Dame Margaret, and indeed the reason that had been given by senior party MPs in private, is because the vice-chair, Ian Murray, was a signature to the previous correspondence sent to you seeking admonishment of the leader.”

Signatories to the letter are believed to include Mr Murray, Unite’s Howard Beckett and Jayne Taylor, TSSA’s Andi Fox, Aslef’s Mick Whelan, CWU’s Andy Kerr, BFAWU’s Pauline McCarthy, youth rep Lara McNeill, former Labour MP Laura Pidcock, councillor Yasmine Dar, Gemma Bolton, Nadia Jama, and Mish Rahman.

The leftwingers said: “We have decided not to remain in the NEC meeting today in order to show very clearly how factional the decisions of the current Labour leader have become.

“We will be returning to future NEC meetings to be the legitimate voice of the membership and to continue to demand that the party unite and reject the current factional approach of the leader.”

Unite assistant general secretary Mr Beckett said that Sir Keir had personally lobbied to stop Mr Murray being elected NEC chair. He added: “The union representing Grenfell firefighters [is being] treated disgracefully.”

The online walkout comes amid anger from some NEC members at Sir Keir’s decision to withhold the whip from Jeremy Corbyn after the former Labour leader was reinstated to the party last week.

On Monday, Labour chief whip Nick Brown asked Mr Corbyn to “unequivocally, unambiguously and without reservation” apologise for claiming that the scale of anti-semitism in the party was “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”

Mr Corbyn had made the comment in response to an Equality & Human Rights Commission report into Labour’s handling of anti-semitism complaints that evidence has suggested was sabotaged by right-wing Labour HQ staff.

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