After a few weeks of low level acrimony – it seems, at long last, like we may finally be able to put Progress vs GMB/Unison/ASLEF et al row to bed.
And not before time – with the banking sector following the media as the latest establishment domino to fall, it’s crucial that we talk to the country, not to ourselves. That’s not to say that these internal issues don’t matter (they do, and in part that’s why LabourList is
here), but of they overwhelm the party – as this row had the capacity to do – then they become dangerous.
Progress should be congratulated for their reasonable statement this morning that should pacify many within the party – myself included – who were concerned about a membership organisation operating in the Labour Party that lacked democracy. Giving members a say and increasing financial transparency should go some way towards pacifying all but their most vehement and implacable critics.
This is peace with honour.
It’s also a testament to the power of reasonable, considered negotiation. Let us be in no doubt that these changes have taken place due to union pressure. But faced with calls to “outlaw” them (whatever that might have meant), Progress focused on tackling some of the issues raised by their governance – rather than attempting to strike back with similar force.
I’m not convinced that there ever really was a desire to “outlaw” Progress. It certainly wasn’t a desirable idea – not least because it would trash the diversity Labour needs to win whilst making the party look purge-happy. Certainly the language of outlawing has receeded in recent weeks.
What instead seems more likely was to force what might be called a “Clause 4 moment” for Progress – something which Sunder Katwala called for last year (and it’s telling to see looking back just how many of Sunder’s proposals at the time have now been adopted in the
Progress/Unions compromise). More democracy for Progress members, who now get to decide the direction of the organisation.
That’s what we are seeing today. Under duress? Perhaps. But they should be congratulated for it nonetheless.