During the recent Labour Party NEC elections I voted for Ann Black because, although I don’t agree with her political stance I know she is hardworking. I also voted for Lewis Atkinson from the North East. He is a decent person who also works hard and cares about the Party. I doubt very much his politics are the same as Ann Black’s, but I believe they both have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart and deserve a shot at representing the membership on the NEC.
I also voted for candidates promoted by Progress.
In some quarters that makes me a supporter of a dangerous entryist organisation. Unlike the Militant Tendency which played no small part in keeping Labour out of power for 18 years, Progress helped Labour achieve power by working with the leadership and not against it.
And now motions are being passed at trade union conferences condemning Progress. The General Secretary of the GMB believes Progress should be effectively outlawed. Where does that leave the half dozen or so GMB MPs who are on its advisory board or act as its vice chairs, three of who are in the shadow cabinet? I understand the trade union activist who moved the motion at the GMB conference has been a member of the Labour Party for 24 months and stood for Socialist Unity against Labour in Swindon North in 2005. Hardly mainstream. Neil Kinnock said Militant Tendency was ‘pickled in dogma’ I believe organisations like Socialist Unity go beyond that and are simply pickled.
I would hate to see the Labour Party fall into factionalism. Banning an organisation which, on the whole, has done it best to see Labour governments elected is not wise. Labour will become nothing more than a faction itself if it allows organisations to be banned that want to see the Party move onto the centre ground of British politics where elections are won.
Progress is associated with New Labour. To ban Progress is an attempt to ban New Labour. To do that is like banning from our memories the 13 years of Labour between 1997 and 2010. The Party’s policies of 1997 may not be appropriate in 2015. That is a not a criticism of New Labour, but an acknowledgement of New Labour’s main tenet, to change with the times but fight from the centre ground.
New Labour kept the Conservatives out of office for the longest period in time since the Great Reform Act of 1832, and Tony Blair is the only Labour Prime Minister never to have lost an election. These are facts to cheer at Labour Party conference not boo.
The Conservatives want us to keep on booing, because the more distance we put between ourselves and the most successful period of Labour Government the more they like it. We should celebrate our achievements not denegrate them, because if we don’t no one else will.
The people I voted for in the NEC elections were very much representative of a broad church. But to propose the banning of Progress is like wanting to ban success. And to propose doing that is never a wise thing to do.
Phil Wilson is the Labour MP for Sedgefield