The National Executive Committee (NEC) sits at the heart of Labour’s democracy. The highest authority within the party between conferences, it traditionally had day-to-day responsibility for both policy and organisational matters. It is the body to which the party’s General Secretary, and therefore all staff, formally report. The dominance of the trade unions on the NEC historically provided a ‘loyal base responding to the initiatives of the “politicians”, particularly the Parliamentary leadership’ (Minkin, 1992, p. 626). However it had no formal link to the PLP apart from the ex officio seats given to the leader and deputy leader. Thanks to shifting attitudes in the unions in the 1970s the NEC increasingly became a competing centre of power, backed by activists on the left.1 It thus began to back policy positions that were rejected by Labour leaders, and ultimately helped secure the CLPD’s organisational reforms. This showed the body’s potential to frustrate the parliamentary leadership, and created a determination by many, particularly moderates and right-wingers, to achieve reform.
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