Changes at Progress

July 3, 2012 11:01 am

The New Labour pressure group Progress have just released the following statement:

Throughout its existence, Progress has had one overriding purpose: to secure the election of the Labour party to govern Britain.

Given the damage the Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies are inflicting on our country every day they hold office, that need – and our determination to secure that end – is as great as it has ever been.

Progress has always campaigned for an inclusive, tolerant and outward-looking Labour party, focused on the needs and aspirations of the British people.

Over recent months a number of serious allegations and charges have been levelled against the organisation, culminating in the declaration last month by Paul Kenny, the general secretary of one of Labour’s biggest affiliated trade unions, that he intends to support a rule change which would ‘effectively outlaw Progress’.

We have repeatedly offered to engage in a mutually respectful dialogue with those trade unionists who are critical of Progress. We are keen to understand and respond to their concerns and correct any misapprehensions they may have.

As we have said in previous statements*, the charges made against Progress contain gross misrepresentations.

Anonymous dossiers mailed to party members or megaphone diplomacy conducted through the media are not a comradely way for party members to engage with one another. More importantly, they do nothing but damage Labour’s standing before the public.

We want Progress’ members to be confident in their organisation’s work, its openness and transparency.

We are, therefore, announcing a number of measures to underline our commitment to this aim:

First, and by way of background, to ensure the proper internal management of Progress’ finances a company was created when the organisation was established. The names of the directors of that company are, as with all companies, easily obtainable from Companies House. They are published today on Progress’ website* and any changes to them will be updated both there and, as is required by law, at Companies House. Furthermore, from 2011-12, we will file unabbreviated accounts at Companies House and provide a link to them from the Progress website.

Second, from 1 August we will publish annually Progress’ membership figure.

Third, we already comply fully with the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act and declare to the Electoral Commission all sponsorship and donations we receive above £7,500 (this threshold was previously £5,000 but was raised by the Electoral Commission in 2010).

On Progress’ website, we already detail: our annual income for the most recent financial year; the declarations we make to the Electoral Commission for the current financial year; and the names of all sponsors and partners we have worked with during that financial year.

Last month, the Who Funds You? website awarded Progress an ‘A’ rating for our funding transparency.

From 1 October, we will go beyond our legal obligations and detail on the Progress website all amounts of sponsorship or donations we receive over £5,000. We will make this information public within 28 days of receiving any such sponsorship or donations.

Fourth, like other organisations, we wish to ensure our members understand and are able to compete in parliamentary and local government selection processes. We will continue to hold training events to shine a light on these processes. As they always have been, such events will be publicly advertised and open to all Progress members. For clarity, we will shortly publish a brief online statement outlining the limited training and mentoring role Progress plays in local government and parliamentary selection processes.

Finally, we wish to ensure that the growing Progress membership feels a true sense of engagement with and understanding of the organisation’s work. From 1 October, a new elected strategy board will be established. To ensure representation from all of our stakeholders, it will be elected by our membership and by parliamentarians and councillors who are members of Progress.

The strategy board will:

-    Approve the appointment of Progress’ chair, vice-chair and honorary president for a full parliamentary term.
-    Approve any endorsements made by Progress in internal party elections.
-    Approve Progress’ overall political strategy.
-    Have a representative on any interview panel constituted to appoint a new director of Progress.

Further details on the processes for electing the strategy board will be announced shortly.

We hope that our announcement today will draw a line under the debate about Progress’ role in the party.

We continue to believe that Labour is at its best when it is broad, pluralist and welcomes all to its ranks.

We intend to press ahead with our primary purpose: returning a Labour government under Ed Miliband in 2015. We trust that others will do the same.

—————————————————————————————

* Please see here and here for previous statements.

** The directors of Progress Ltd are: Jennifer Gerber (former deputy executive director of Progress and former acting executive director of the organisation); Jon Mendelson (former treasurer of Progress); Robert Philpot (executive director of Progress); and Stephen Twigg MP (former chair of Progress and current honorary president)

  • Pete

    Once again, Progress defies its critics by demonstrating what a wonderfully reasonable and decent organisation it is. Maybe now we can finally move on from this completely nonsensical, counter-productive internal bickering and get back to fighting the Coalition – together.

    • treborc

       Just like a party within a party.

      • therealguyfaux

        OK now, who’s going to use the word “entryism”?

        • treborc

           It’s a great word and it does suit this situation, if Progress now as it says train up prospective candidates to become MP’s or  be on the NEC or what ever, these people are going to be on the right of the party.

          If in ten years or twenty or thirty you have a Political party in which the majority of the people are then to the right, where is the labour party, then I suspect some bright ex Politician sitting in an armchair is some Island he owns will say how about calling it the Progress party, hic I will drink to that Cherie dear we have won.

          • Pete

            How on Earth does it fit the situation? Progress is comprised entirely of Labour Party members and unionists and has no relationship with other political parties or organisations – it is an organisation for Labour members, by Labour members acting in the interests of Labour members. Every member of Progress is, first and foremost, a loyal Labour member.

          • treborc

             Progress is a New labour group.

            New labour is dead.

            If you cannot see it then fine.

      • Billsilver

        “Useful idiots” as Lenin said.

    • Steven T Green

      I agree, I want to move on too – but Progress is just TOO structured and organised for my liking. Why is it needed when we already have the Labour Party? Perhaps if we could return to more involvement of individual members in genuine policy making?

      • treborc

        It’s simple Affiliate to the labour party pay the fee which is again easy you ask your members to pay a political levy which can be paid to the labour party, then you can be the Right wing of the Labour movement, at the moment they are training prospect candidates, prospect MP’s from out side of the party.

        And that is being a party within a party

        • Gibbon

          Not analogous. First off, Progress stipulates that all it’s members must be members of the Labour Party. Which, actually, isn’t the case in the affiliated Fabian Society. 

          Also, their membership fees are opt-in. For the analogy with Unions to hold, then Unions must give an opt-in, not an opt-out to the political levy. Don’t see that happening anytime soon – and I’m not calling for it. I don’t think most people, critics and supporters, want Progress to affiliate. 

          • treborc

            Fine by me, of course I do not intend voting for labour or the center right group progress, because labour has moved away beyond what I would call socialist.

          • aracataca

            What would you define as ‘Socialist’?

          • treborc

            Well I can tell you this I would not define progress as socialist group that’s for sure, just the same as I would not define you or Dore as socialist.

          • aracataca

            OK. But do you have any idea at all what you envisage the word Socialist to mean?

          • treborc

             William your a silly boy sometimes, you want me to say something like Build social housing, ensure the NHS stays in the public sector, and then you will say yes and that is what Progress wants, but of course Progress is the political arm of Tony Blair third way.

            And nothing that gentleman does is socialist

          • aracataca

            Thank you for putting words into my mouth. I am not, never have been and never will be a  member of progress. As I thought you are unable to define what you understand by the word Socialist.

          • treborc

             well with you amount of names mate nobody can tell who you are really

          • Pete

            It’s strange how utterly unable you are to answer aracataca’s question; all you can say is “well, Progress isn’t socialist” without offering us a concrete explanation as to what you consider to be sufficiently socialist. You cannot define an ideology by telling us what it *isn’t* – a political tendency must describe what it *does* believe in. It seems to me that you haven’t actually given any serious thought to the kind of policies you think Labour should champion.

        • aracataca

          Or they could follow your example of course- leave the party, deliberately contract out of the political levy made by their unions and then spend all day, every day, criticising the Labour Party and levelling abuse at individual Labour Party members.

        • aracataca

          Or they could follow your example of course- leave the party, deliberately contract out of the political levy made by their unions and then spend all day, every day, criticising the Labour Party and levelling abuse at individual Labour Party members.

          • treborc

            I see so you and your right wing friends will be funding labour form now on, you lot seem to forget where labour gets it’s funding from. I’m all for Progress paying a few million into labour coffers then you can do as you like.

      • Pete

        Actually, as organisations within Labour go, Progress really isn’t all that well organised. Take the left-wing Labour Representation Committee for example: they have their own constitution, national committee, decision-making conference, formal youth wing and even in some places constituency level branches, often affiliated officially to CLPs – at the 2005 election they went so far as to issue a full “Real Labour” 28-page manifesto. In contrast, Progress is a loose association of Labour members from across the UK who identify with the right-wing of the party and behaves primarily as a think tank.

        I agree that in an ideal world we shouldn’t need organisations like this within Labour – we are all Labour, afterall. But Labour is a very broad church with a lot of diverse views and opinions within it; just as we all have grouped together to form the Labour Party as people who share the same core political values, so too will people within the Labour Party naturally form organisations to represent the different interpretation and translation of those values into policy. Organisations like Progress have a very important part to play in our party’s democratic discussions and processes by giving a dedicated, representative voice to members on the left and the right.
        Progress in particular stands out as the only major mass-member’s association for those on the moderate right of the party; in contrast, there are quite a few organisations standing up for the party’s left, like the LRC or the CLPD. For a lot of Labour members, even if they don’t always agree with everything it has to say, Progress is an organisation that is standing up for their interests and making sure they are still heard – as they should be in a democratic organisation – within the wider Labour Party at a time when the party’s left is enjoying something of a resurgence.

        • john p Reid

          Yes but as pointed out, progress isnt an organsation within labour ,you dson’t have to be a laobur member to subscibe to the magazine, even if it has it’s won prefered choice for the NEC, same as the guardian having its own prefered choice Ed, m for the leader after it backed the liB dems

    • DaveCitizen

       Any group of people that calls itself “Progress” has just got to be trying something on. Smacks of the old Blair arrogance that makes him believe that “any reasonable person would agree” with him and if they don’t they can’t be reasonable and don’t want progress! Typical Tories!

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  • James

    I feel sorry for Progress and others to have to work with absolute balloons like Paul Kenny

    • Mr Chippy

      Mr Kenny is elected to run the GMB. Their income is paid for by workers making voluntary contributions. Their are legal obstacles on their political fund and it is entirely transparent. I know Mr Kenny personally. He is a principled trade unionists who supported me fully when in ‘stuk’ with my employer. I do not agree with prescribing Progress. An organisation entirely based on getting Labour into power so members can start getting ‘franchises’ – safe seats, advisor posts, boosts to lobbying companies – is easy to defeat in argument.

  • Mr Chippy

    Is Jon Mendelson by anyway related to the M in LLM which pimped out access to the last Labour Government for personal financial gain (ref Observer sting) and which made a contribution to the debasement of Westminster village? I somehow recall his name being associated with the cash for honours allegations. If true I am greatly re-assured by this move!

  • RobbieScott100

    yawn

  • Daniel Speight

    Of course if there was nothing wrong with the existing structure, why would they change it? 

    • treborc

      Must be getting hot, perhaps they have to look at the funding issues from the Right winger Sainsbury. After all we are always hearing from the Progress-ives on here Dore and William the Unions do not do anything for nothing they buy power, so perhaps somebody asked what the hell Sainsbury is buying.

  • Curlew2012

    Nothing changes. Still Sainsbury is ‘buying’ the party he wants:
    ‘we wish to ensure our members understand and are able to compete in parliamentary and local government selection processes. We will continue to hold training events to shine a light on these processes. As they always have been, such events will be publicly advertised and open to all Progress members.’

    This is money that could have gone to the main Labour Party to support ALL labour members.

    • treborc

      New labour is alive well and well funded you mean.

      • John Dore

        New Labour is not stupid.

        • treborc

           Well your in it.

    • John Dore

      “This is money that could have gone to the main Labour Party to support ALL labour members. ”
      Not at all, its the money of the donors who want to give it to progress because they feel it is best put there. Why would they give it to the mainstream party to promote ideas that they disagree with? Sainsbury gives SOME money, but NOT ENOUGH to buy the party. That is hysteria, but our left wing cousins have always been hysterical..

  • aracataca

    Diversity and pluralism are great strengths in our party. There has always been a left wing group in our party and a right wing group. Remember the Tribune and the Manifesto groups from the 1960s and 1970s? Militant were completely different. They were in fact the Revolutionary Socialist League an organised democratic centralist Trotskyite party.
    They intimidated people sometimes through the threat of violence.As a Labour Party Young Socialist Branch Secretary,  me and the chairman paid lip service to their fascination with dead Russians and simplistic propaganda in order to ensure that they did not take us over. Any comparison, however oblique, between them and Progress is utterly absurd.

    • Daniel Speight

      As a Labour Party Young Socialist Branch Secretary,  me and the chairman
      paid lip service to their fascination with dead Russians and simplistic
      propaganda in order to ensure that they did not take us over.

      Although we have to take your word regarding paying ‘lip service’, one problem is that that the step from middle-class Marxist-Leninist to middle-class New Labour apparatchik, or even New Labour MP, seems such a small one judged by the number that take that route.

      • aracataca

        Quite right. Militant supporters in my CLP at the time were all from places like Bournemouth and Tring etc (nothing personal against these places by the way). The Chairman and I lived with our parents in council flats in Brixton. Their ideology was totally irrelevant to anybody. 
         New Labour were of course very relevant in the mid 1990s and this was evidenced by unparalleled electoral success. However, it is clearly time to move on from this phase in our party’s history and IMHO the party has done so.

        • treborc

           And what the pulling down of those flats to build private housing, or the building of so called affordable housing.

          God you talk some crap

  • postageincluded

    Progress-speak: “We hope that our announcement today will draw a line under the debate about Progress’ role in the party.”

    English: “We’ve been given a nod and a wink that this is the absolute minimun we need to do to be square with the rulebook so back in your cage, Kenny”

  • Daniel Speight

    Just thinking out loud. Wouldn’t it be better just to rename Progress to Sainsbury and then all would know where they stand.

  • John Dore

    Just read an article from Peter Watt entitled “Labour and the Trade Unions”

    The following is a straight cut and paste of the key bit. If true it will send a shiver down the spine of any moderate Labour supporter.
    Preamble ……….But the irony is that it is the trade unions that are making the attacks.  Now if ever there was a case to be made for the buying of undue influence and lack of transparency then you really need look no further than the many of the affiliated trade unions.  Progress has an annual budget of about £300,000, the trade Unions have millions.   The Trade Unions employ thousands of people, Progress employs five!  The Trade Unions have a direct formal input into every part of the Labour Party’s decision making, Progress has none.  Now the Trade Unions would no doubt claim that their decision making is democratic.  They certainly have votes.  But anyone who has worked with the political operations of the Trade Unions knows that in fact decisions are made by handfuls of full-time officials.  It is Trade Unions claiming to speak on behalf of their members when in reality the dominant voice is that of their own elites.  Political deals are done and power is asserted.  Those employed to wield political power for the General Secretaries have expense accounts and cheque books so that favoured sons and daughters can be furnished with extra help at election times.Now, the Labour Party is a coalition, as are all political parties.  The various elements competing for support and the dominance of their view of the world.  At times one particular strand emerges as dominant and then ebbs.  Over the years the Trade Unions have in fact generally been firmly in the centre of the Parties political coalition and have often helped Leaders stave off attacks from the Left.  But in recent years the leaderships of several of the bigger trade unions have firmly tacked left.  And they have very definitely decided to wield some of their financial and organisational muscle.  And that is what this row over Progress is really about.  As I have said previously, Progress is the lightning rod for those who wish to move the Labour Party firmly to the left.  GMB, Unison and Unite – the biggest three affiliated trade Unions have all joined in the attacks on what they see as the dangerous ‘blairite’ wing of the Party.  But it’s not a coordinated campaign honestly!If you are in any doubt about the seriousness of intent of the bigger trade unions then just look at the plans of the biggest – Unite.  Unite have agreed a strategy for effectively taking control of local Labour Parties and through them the Party as a whole.  Details of this secret plan are only now emerging.  But the intention is that they use their financial might to ensure that their people get appointed and elected and that their policies get promoted.  They are going to ‘recruit’ 5000 members of Unite directly into the Labour Party who will be controlled by Union political officers.  With the active membership of the Party relatively small, such numbers could make a real difference.  So there really is a concerted attempt to take over the Labour Party by some of the Trade Unions.  And the impact is already being felt with candidates and those who wish to be reselected feeling that they have to publicly dance to the Union tune.  If they don’t then they risk serious attempts to deselect them and reduced campaign funds.

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  • Garlicpickles

    They are more than training. They are giving a huge level of financial support to their chosen candidates and have certainly in my consituency have created a completely unlevel playing field.

  • rwendland

    This proposal for internal
    democracy still does not seem to make the so-called “members of
    Progress (Limited)” members as defined by the Companies
    Act 2006 (s.122), as is normal for membership organisations constituted
    as a private company limited by guarantee. So I’m not convinced that this is an adequate change on internal
    democracy.

    The statement merely says the so-called members will have “a
    representative on any interview panel constituted to appoint a new
    director of Progress”. Proper members under the Companies Act 2006 would
    elect directors on their own, at a general meeting, not just have a rep
    as a minority on an interview panel. This doesn’t seem to be real membership of a
    legally constituted organisation – the principle funders and associates  seem to be keeping the real control, with a token gesture to the so-called membership.

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