In defence of Progress

21st June, 2012 7:00 pm

I went to Bournemouth yesterday to speak at the Unison conference. The top concern of delegates is the pressure on public services and staff in all areas. Most didn’t know and didn’t care about Progress.

Last week I was in Brighton for part of the GMB congress. I heard Paul Kenny’s funny, forceful speech on Sunday. He lampooned out-of-touch, tax-dodging Tories and lauded GMB members facing down intimidation in Carillion and winning the first collective agreement with Asda/Wal-Mart anywhere in the world. I wasn’t there when the congress debated moves which “effectively, will outlaw Progress as part of the Labour Party”. And I don’t get it.

Of course, Progress is right-leaning, market-inclined and London-biased. But their commitment is to Labour. They’re Party members. And they’re an important source of fresh ideas and debate.

Of course, Progress is organising to promote candidates as well as events and debate. But this is just what trade unions also do, as part of the rich weave within Labour.

A formal move against Progress is unwarranted, as well as unworkable. You can’t expel ideas or bar beliefs from a political party.

It is also unwelcome. It draws attention away from exposing the Coalition’s policy failures.

This week the Today programme switched the discussion they’d booked with a trade union leader from public services to Progress.

I’ve never been a factional politician. I want what most Party members want, and what the country needs – vibrant internal debates and strong external campaigns. In the end, what matters most are the values, policies and activities that will put Labour back in government.

Where’s the centre-left’s political, intellectual and organisational confidence to take on the arguments? This is the progress Labour needs. Not a rule-change motion.

John Healey is Labour MP for Wentworth & Dearne in South Yorkshire, and former TUC Director of Campaigns

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  • ItstheMamboSon

    “A formal move against Progress is unwarranted, as well as unworkable. You can’t expel ideas or bar beliefs from a political party.”

    As long as this is applied to the hard left as well as Progress, then I wouldn’t take issue with the thrust of this article at all.

    • Chilbaldi

      One side makes a contribution to the debate in the centre of the party, the other does its best to ensure we lose. No comparison really.

      • ibid

         One side promotes a radical and principled platform of the left, the other does its best to ensure we adopt all the Tories policies.

        • Pete

          You obviously haven’t read very much of what Progress has to say if you think it’s particularly pro-Tory.

          • Honf

            It’s ideas are far too close to the coalition and far too reminiscent of the Blair years. I simply don’t agree with them

          • AlanGiles

            The fact is, it endorses a lot of the Coalition’s policies especially regarding welfare and economically. Great play is made of disagreeing with small details (e.g Byrne), but essentially wishing to persue similar policy. These policies are failing under the coalition and will fail under the New Labour banner – and what is more I think the public at large recognize they are failing.
            Progress can issue as many glossy documents as it likes, shmooze with the great and good all it likes, stamp it’s collective feet when we disagree with their ideas, but if the public don’t want these old ideas refurbished, they won’t vote for them.

          • Chilbaldi

            Question for Alan: without reference to any specific current tory policies, do you think that as a rule Labour should oppose every single thing that comes from another party to the right of it? Out of dogma?

          • AlanGiles

            Well in the case of welfare, WE started Freud because Blair, Hutton and Purnell took this ham-fisted amateur seriously -the Conservatives merely bought him and took him over.

            To answer your question: if an idea is a good one, that will not cause damage and can only be of benefit to ordinary people, no. 

            But when you are going to cause extra distress to people whose health is seriously compromised, we should condemn it – whoever is responsible for it.

  • Mike Homfray

    I don’t think ‘market-inclined’ groups can do anything other than damage the Labour party and take it in the wrong direction

    • John Dore

      Did you say think?

  • Jonny Plymouth

    I’m bored with this whole thing. Would Progress supporters please shut up and watch the whole brou-ha-ha die away.

    • Andian59

      Whatever people may say on here the Labour Party wether it be old new or no matter what its leanings has to be representative of those who vote for it. Labour activists may have a set of priorities but the ordinary person in the street may have other ideas. The gap between these two possibly conflicting viewpoints must be married in some way so that the perception of out of touch politicians can be reduced. We have to deliver what the people want and not always a set of ideas that are so removed from their lives that makes us unelectable. Unfortunately life is about making compromises as that is what working together for the benefit of the country entails. We may find shock horror that we may have to work with another party as the Largest party without an overall majority and what then would the idealist have us do let the Tories and Fibdems back in again to have another bite of the cherry I think not. Plus the inconceivable may result that even if we have another election after that if it is forced a clear majority may not be the result. We most certainly will not have the luxury of saying we cannot agree to work with another party no matter what happens. 

      • AlanGiles

        This is advocating power at any price again, isn’t it?

        “We have to deliver what the people want ”

        A great many people want the reintroduction of the death penalty and a total ban on immigration.

        Do we give into them, just to get power, or, do we stick to our principles and try to explain to the electorate why we don’t believe in hanging, shooting and flogging?

        If you start trying to please everybody you please nobody, and in the process you just look unprincipled and trivial.

    • JoeDM

      So sit back and let the Labour Party be taken over by the extreme left as it was in the 80s.

  • Daniel Speight

    So will John Healey “post & run” like so many other MPs do on LL? What are the odds and who’s taking the bets.

    • John Dore

      So typical from the AOI, you don’t discuss what the man says, you try to find an angle for a personal dig.

      The left does not have answers.

      • Daniel Speight

        So I guess the answer is “post & run”.

  • JanetGreen1

    So far as Solid Labour members are concerned, John Healey is quite right. Move on.

  • Mr Chippy

    Well said John. I always thought you would go far when I worked with you at MSF. Let us take on Progress in the battle of ideas rather than use organisational means. Resorting to such means belies a lack of confidence in your own ideas in my view. The left since the 70s-80s have failed to come up with an viable alternative prospective on how a socialist/social democratic economy would be organised and this has allowed free market orthodoxies to maintain their intellectual hegemony. The fact that this continues in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s is a reflection on the poverty of thought. The last thing we need since Milburn’s leadership finally shows signs of turning the corner is an internal bunfight. Stop it now.


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