A growing head of steam

14th June, 2012 5:26 pm

If you’ve ever been to a trade union conference, you’ll have experienced the strange feeling of déjà vu. You see faces you haven’t seen for 20 years. Isn’t that Dave Nellist over there? Wasn’t that Ted Knight? That paper-seller from the student union always going on about Thatcher– Janine something. Isn’t that her making a speech? The kinds of people who used to hang around Labour Party conference are all there. The paper-sellers from Socialist Worker, Workers’ Liberty, the Communist Party, or the Militant who used to stand outside the Brighton Centre or Winter Gardens are there – but as delegates, helping to shape the policy of the union.

It is hard to define a mainstream Labour Party member. But let’s say they vote Labour in elections, believe in parliamentary democracy, want to redistribute wealth through the tax system, support the NHS, state schools and the police and think people should have a job. These mainstream Labour views and values which place you on the left of society’s political spectrum, place you firmly to the right of the delegates to a major union conference. Everything is moved several steps to the left. A moderate is one who supports representative democracy; a radical is one who supports bloody revolution (at least until they go back to work as a GCSE geography teacher). Voting Labour is a right-wing act in this environment.

You’ll be familiar with May’s Special Law of Curvilinear Disparity. Of course you are. Political scientist John May determined that political elites and non-elites have greater shared values that what he called ‘sub-elites’. He meant that political leaders are in tune with the voters, but the middle layer of political activists are more extreme (to the left or right, depending on party). In the modern UK major trade unions, the model brakes down. Whilst the vast majority of trade union members have moderate views about life (and thousands of them vote Conservative), both the activists and the leaderships are well to the left. Under Labour, the last of the mainstream major union leaders Ken Jackson, was defeated. Now we have all the major unions led by men who are well to the left of the Labour Party’s centre of gravity. Lest you think this is some kind of criticism, it is not. Trade union leaders are democratically elected, unlike, say, the right-wingers who serve as high court judges, newspaper editors or  Anglican bishops. Trade unions are a force for good in any society. Their presence is the sign of a healthy economy.

All of which makes the GMB conference decision in Brighton this week to ‘investigate’ Progress all the more of a distraction. The GMB has decided to take down Progress. Its organisers have been prompting attacks on Progress at regional Labour Party conferences, in briefing to the press, and will bring a motion to the Labour Party conference this Autumn. The delegate proposing the anti-Progress resolution at the GMB this week stood against Labour at the 2005 general election. His argument was that Progress was ‘disloyal’ which is ironic, really. Is this really the best use of GMB resources? Progress has refuted the arguments put in the resolution passed by the GMB conference. You can read the statement here.

For many on the left of politics, it is a simple question of revenge. After decades of marginalisation under Kinnock, Smith, Blair and Brown, they want some payback. Progress, the place Labour moderates have coalesced and discussed policy for the past 15 years, is a convenient target. Progress is guilty of several crimes: helping Labour candidates get elected, supporting like-minded people in NEC elections, providing a platform to former Labour cabinet ministers like Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman. You can see why the GMB wants to purge it from the Labour Party.

There’s a growing head of steam. As Luke Akehurst pointed out here, this is not really about Progress. It is about the hard left asserting itself, after years of a Labour government which failed to do any of the things they wanted. They never went away. They went into the unions, and bided their time. Now they’re back, coming to a CLP near you. And they will take over our candidate selection, policy-making and manifesto-writing if we let them. It’s why they’re in politics.

If you think the most important issue for Labour Party conference this Autumn is not the NHS or jobs, but to purge a small-circulation Labour-supporting magazine with five staff, then you should definitely support the GMB resolution. And once we’ve done with Progress we can get those bastards in the Christian Socialist Movement, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and Fabian Women’s Network.

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  • Newham Sue

    As someone whose political ideas are an odd patchwork of the Progress-friendly with ideas further to the left, I agree that a motion that would be seeking to expel a sizeable section of the Shadow Cabinet from the party doesn’t send out the best signals. Attack Progress’ structure/ ideas but don’t let’s give the real right the satisfaction of seeing us enforcing another SDP -style bisection of the party – or giving our own right a real excuse to drum up hysteria against the left.

    • “another SDP -style bisection”

      I raised this possibility yesterday and was then described by a Progress member/supporter as being “totally delusional” – what difference a day makes. And there has, as yet, only been one  preliminary skirmish.

  • Mike

    It’s funny you mention old Militant members hanging around TU conferences, because with any luck that’s how Progress will be dealt with, using exactly the same rules- where they’ll hang around later, I don’t know. Tory conferences?

    Equating Progress with these other small groups within the party is completely disingenuous. Progress is a party-within-a-party, more so than Militant ever was.

    • How can Progress be accused of being a party within a party when if one of the major complaints about their legitimacy is that they don’t hold elections?

      • Progress an undemocratic party within a party, where money buys power not votes. Militant are and were a million times superior to Progress, who are an existential threat to the Labour Party. Which btw isn’t intended to be a compliment aimed at the Militant.

        Mind you, Militant never got sponsored by Bell Pottinger, I suppose that’s a plus.

        Just remember, absolutely anyone who questions the right of Progress to drag suicidally Labour further to the right at the behest of it’s millionaire backers will be labelled, just as this piece of McCarthyite piece of sectarian propaganda attempts to do, as “Militant” or whichever piece of sub Daily Mail left-baiting they can conjour up. It applies to anyone who opposes them, regardless of their political beliefs.

        There’s a civil war going on in the heart of the Labour party. It’s been brewing slowly for months, which this article acknowledges, and will soon be in the open. Labour members will have to make a stark choice; The Trade Union movement or Progress. Co-existence is now impossible. Are you with the bosses or the workers?

        The only reason these people are now appealing to party unity is because they know that they’re weak. They wouldn’t be doing this if David Miliband was leader, and anyone with any sense knows it.

      • Mike

        Progress breaks all the rules that Militant broke. It doesn’t have ‘interests consistent with those of the Labour Party’, and it does have its own ‘programme, principles and policy for distinctive and separate propaganda’. It breaks clause 2.

        • I suppose getting Labour elected isn’t a big enough ‘interest consistent with those of the Labour Party’.

          • AlanGiles

            You  are advocating power at any price, Mr Draper?

            What is the point of replacing the Coalition government with another right-wing administration that would persue basically similar economic and social policies.

            Or do you believe that Byrne really has become a pussycat and no longer believes in punishing the sick, disabled and unemployed?

          • Duncan

            While I don’t think people should be talking about “outlawing” Progress – silly and pointless; I would respond to this by saying that lots of people who were in groups that have been proscribed, and people who were expelled from the party, put in loads of effort campaigning to get Labour elected – including Labour MPs, of course.

            The problem for Progress is that they are absolutely right that they should be allowed to exist and organise within the Labour Party (providing they don’t stand candidates against the Labour Party, which of course they don’t) – but the same was true (stress WAS), really, of Militant, Socialist Organiser, etc.

            The attempts to explain a distinction are not really credible.  Neil Kinnock argued that Militant had to be expelled because they didn’t agree with Clause 4!!!

  • AlanGiles

    Paul Richards supports “Progress”.

    Well, that is a shock. I think I need to sit down and take a small glass of brandy for medicinal purposes.

    Progress is not made up of “moderates” but of people very firmly on the right-wing of Labour who find it easier to be civil to the Tories than they do to any of their own colleagues who dare to question their views.

    If people represent Progress down to the standard of  Stephen Twigg (“honouary” President) coming out with the vacuous nonsense he did on the Andrew Neil Programme (June 10th) and LL posters like “The Purple Booker” who think that Luke Akehurst snuggles up with “the Left” and those of us on the left are described by him in his ignorance as “Communist Marxists”, then quite frankly I would want, and have nothing to do, with a party made up of such comedians.

    •  “then quite frankly I would want, and have nothing to do, with a party made up of such comedians.”

      You and millions of other working class people, comrade. 😉

    • Lembit Opik’s Lovechild

      Go and join another party then. One that matches your political views. 

      • aracataca

        He’s a bloody Green anyway. Check his posts.

    • aracataca

      If only they could be civil like you, eh Alan?

  • Brumanuensis

    Gotta watch out for those Reds under the bed, eh? It seems the Labour right and the Labour left like to engage in one-upmanship as to how paranoid they can be.

  • Donaldstavert

    GMB Conference … will anyone notice

    • treborc1

       yes labour

  • Dave Postles

    Hard left?  My only hard-left attribute is that I had the sense to resign from the LP when they attempted to wheel Blair back out at the end of the 2010 campaign – hard-left away from the monstrosity of such a perverse action. 

    • Chilbaldi

       If there was a dislike button, I would have clicked it on this post of yours.

  • “Now they’re back, coming to a CLP near you.”

    I’ll be dead-locking and bolting all doors from now on. We’ll leave the lights on in the hall-way and keep the mobile phone right next to the bed. You just can’t be too careful.

  • The more apologists for Progress write these sort of missives on here, the more convinced I am that they are desperate to fend off an enquiry

  • robertcp

    I hope that Ed Miliband carries on being a moderate Labour leader and does not return to New Labour nonsense.  This approach has resulted in a 10% lead in the polls.   Do you agree Paul?

    • JoeDM

       That 10% lead is down to Cameroonian incompetence rather than anything else.

      • John Dore

        The strategy is complete silence and let the Cameroons f-it up, which they are doing a very nice job of.

      • robertcp

        The old saying is that governments lose elections, oppositions do not win them.  Labour is in a position to take advantage of Cameroonian incompetence because it has ditched New Labour nonsense. 

  • Daniel Speight

    Progress is more of a symptom of the problem facing the Labour Party rather than the problem itself. What has happened since 1997 is the balance of power inside party has changed drastically.

    In the post-war years a troika of PLP, CLPs and the unions managed to stop the party from moving to the extremes. You could pretty well bet that one leg of this stool would not be in agreement with the other two and there was always the conference to embarrass leaders too sure of their own power.

    Since the new Labour revolution we have seen control freakery from the Parliamentary leadership. The unions are weaker than they have ever been in a century and the CLPs have been emasculated by the likes of Harman and parts of the NEC.

    The fact that the anointed one did not win the leadership ballot even with so much loaded in his favour was almost miraculous. I’m not  sure how checks and balances can be built into the party’s internal systems to stop this being repeated under present and future leaders, but I do suspect opening up the conference to policy making debates again is a minimum.

    As for Progress, they are just the grouping of the most extreme of those wanting to have total control of the party and turn it into something like the American Democrats. In a way that’s their comparison with Militant, they want to turn the Labour Party into something it was designed to be.

  • Duncan

    “they will take over our candidate selection, policy-making and manifesto-writing if we let them. It’s why they’re in politics”

    Why are you in politics, Paul?  I assume it is (partly) to contribute to many of those things.  “Take over” is such a ridiculous phrase in this context.  Nobody wants to “take over” anything.  But they do want to contribute.  And, because – like all of us – they believe they have the correct analysis – they want to win the votes and win the arguments.  That isn’t sinister; it isn’t “reds under bed” entryism, it’s normal.

    I read your article on Progress on this subject and agreed with almost every word (there was a silly bit about the fourth international, but that aside…) – it is a real shame that you chose a different tone for this article.  As you rightly point out in your other piece, this attack on Progress has not come from “the hard left” but from those who dislike all groups and slates.

    So the focus of this article is a little mystifying.

    Remember Gaitskell at Stalybridge remarked:

    “I was told by some observers that about one-sixth of the constituency party delegates appear to be Communists or Communist-inspired. This figure may well be too high. But if it should be one-tenth, or even one-twentieth, it is a most shocking state of affairs to which the National Executive should give immediate attention.”

    This was an idiotic statement (not dissimilar to some by Kinnock in the 80s).  It at once alerted a previously uninterested press to an apparent red threat in the Labour Party, and smeared a huge number of hardworking Labour activists of apparently being beyond the pale and in need of investigation.  That of course is now being said about people involved with Progress, many of whom are very hardworking Labour activists who have known little else but purple propaganda since joining (poor dears).

    • Chilbaldi

      I disagree with you here. I am one of those members against groups and slates. I would never dream of doing something like this however.

      The reason I am against groups and slates is because I want Labour to avoid pointless infighting and one-upmanship. Make no mistake, this is a sectarian attack by one group on the other.

      • Duncan

        Of course I am not suggesting that all those who dislike groups and slates feel this way. By your very nature you do not tend to speak as one. But make no mistake, the anti Progress dossier was not penned by any group or faction on the left.

  • Paul Richards is the author of a book called “Be Your Own Spin Doctor”. I think that’s about as much as this drivelous, patronising rant deserves.


    • Perhaps he should have re-read it before penning this piece – can’t see that he’s done himself any favours with the hysterical tone.

  • Martin Yuille

    Paul Richards – and Luke Akehurst (?) – think they discern the re-emergence of a “hard left” and they ascribe this to some desire for revenge by those whom Labour has defeated in the past.

    This analysis is inaccurate and too parochial.  It’s not “left” and it’s not “hard”. The same kind of stuff is going on elsewhere,  notably with Syriza in Greece and with Melanchon in France.

    It’s not “left”.  This term should have been abandoned 200 years ago when the French Assembly was no longer divided between monarchists and republicans. Rather, the outlook of these union leaders harks back to a bygone age: they are reacting against a changed world. This changed world requires new thinking – for unions, that includes new forms of organisation through which people at work can satisfy their needs alongside other stakeholders. 

    It’s not “hard”. It’s romantic: they hanker after their proud traditions.

    Rather it’s the politics of protest.

    The same kind of protest can be seen in Greece, France and elsewhere: the Occupy movement has had a wide influence.  It is therefore difficult to see this trend as other than a gut reaction against the rolling financial and economic crisis and its effects on the 99%.

    Labour, PASOK and the PS in France should not ignore this trend. They need to re-affirm the realism that underpins their social democracy. An unromantic realism that spawned the Third Way under conditions of triumphant neo-liberalism. A realism that must now inspire the cause of social justice in the wreckage of bombed-out neo-liberalism.

    So let’s not get into a slanging match between GMB and Progress. A constructive debate on policy differences would serve everyone far better.

    • Daniel Speight

      Martin I suspect there is no hard left in the Labour Party as we all used to understand it. Revolutionary Marxist-Leninists even seem few and far between outside the party these days. 

      When Paul and Luke raise a far left bogeyman all they can point at as those that are left relative to themselves and that doesn’t need to be very left at all. I was hoping that in my autumnal days I could gradually drift to the right and moan about young middle-class activists quoting Trotsky badly. Instead I find I can’t keep up with the speed that Labour’s right keep moving in that direction and I’m left with the kids and still relatively on the left.

      • Martin Yuille

        I’m not saying there is a “hard left” within the Labour Party. I’m saying there is a romantic and essentially conservative discourse within British politics (and French and Greek). 

        Of course some party members will be – are – influenced by this discourse. And, more importantly, some people in the UK are so influenced: simple (non) solutions seem sensible to many.

        The point is to challenge that discourse through debate wherever possible. Not simply to disparage it.

        • Daniel Speight

          Sorry Martin, I can follow your first paragraph above, but the second and third left me scratching my head. So going back to your first comment, could you have another go at explaining this.

          An unromantic realism that spawned the Third Way under conditions of
          triumphant neo-liberalism. A realism that must now inspire the cause of
          social justice in the wreckage of bombed-out neo-liberalism.

          Like was the first realism either realistic or unromantic? Is the union movement really romantically hankering after its proud traditions by complaining about Progress?

          Is a constructive debate really the answer? Maybe getting a crowbar to separate Progress and the Blairites from that bombed-out shell is the answer.

          • Martin Yuille

            Hi Daniel:
            1. The Third Way has been a realistic approach to seeking social justice at a time when neo-liberalism (i.e. monetarism and the like) appeared to have won the day.
            2. Labour needs still to be realistic today in pursuit of social justice in what is now a changed world. A world where neo-liberal policies have led to a financial crisis, then an economic crisis, then a political crisis, then a social crisis.

            I hope that is intelligible!

            This realism contrasts with the romanticism of  people (who may or may not be in the Labour Party) who want to Occupy Wall Street,  go back to 1945 (nationalise the commanding heights of the economy),  go back to 1926 (call a general strike), go back to 1917  (man the barricades) etc. This romanticism is deeply conservative: both the UK and the world have changed.

            In other words, social democracy was born after 1917 and has been updated continuously since then as the world has changed.  Romantics and conservatives (who seek to be progressives) seek to go back to social democracy V. 1.0… which was full of bugs and required a different operating system.

            The Progress / GMB spat has, underlying it, this difference in outlooks (realism vs romanticism). What I am saying is let’s see a debate between these two outlooks rather than shadow boxing over organisational details.

          • John Dore

            Thanks for an informed and great post.

          • Martin Yuille

            Thanks John. You’re too kind!

          • Dave Postles

             Romanticism or romanticism is sometimes conservative, often comprising a re-enchantment with a world presumed lost.  OTOH, imagination involves the intelligence to see a different future.  It’s important not to confuse the two.  Compromise in the past – especially in the Third Way – has in fact involved conflation, capitulation and compliance.  The structuration of Giddens as the Third Way was thus complicity.  The structuration of Bourdieu allowed a different form of ‘third way’ in which travesties and differentiation were recognized before advancing to the new position.  We need the intelligence of imagination not simply the ‘realism’ or ’empiricism’ – which will be undermined by the opposing forces.  We need to think clearly about a new way.  In these circumstances, it is Blairism and the Third Way which is conservative and backward looking and, in so far as it is a persistent sentiment and ‘structure of feeling’ (Raymond Williams) romantic.

          • Martin Yuille

            I agree that the Old Third Way – like Old Labour – is past its sell by date. On the other hand, the realism (i.e. the concrete analysis of the concrete situation… NOT the same thing as empiricism) of the Third Way is as necessary for Labour victory in 2015 as it was in 1997.

            I agree also that Labour needs imagination. It has to imagine what policies are possible (i.e. will win an election) for 2015 and in what way those policies can be taken forward after 2015 to  rebuild the economy, rebuild society, rebuild politics and build a socially just society.

            It’s a tough call. Impossible if Labour were to adopt a romantic posture.

          • Dave Postles

             ‘the concrete analysis of the concrete situation’ – nothing must be set in stone.  The ‘Third Way’ of 1997 was a relative failure because it was complicit.  It was a concession to extreme individualism – that was the prescription of Giddens.  Bourdieu presented an alternative.  Blairism went for the easy option – ‘realism’ has no objective existence.

          • John Dore

            An example of how to use 57 words to demonstrate how well read and superior you are without saying anything meaningful to average person.

            The third was not a failure in the slightest. It secured 3 election victories and spoke to the country. What was a failure was Browns economic policy and Iraq.

          • Dave Postles


          • Martin Yuille

            The “concrete situation” is fluid – not stone… or concrete.
            The Third Way was not a failure: [a] it won 3 elections after decades in the wilderness [b] it used the ‘fruits of growth’ to rebuild our social fabric.

            It conceded that neo-liberalism was the dominant discourse. It primarily confronted the neo-liberal practise indirectly (until 2008-10). 

            That’s realism for you. I don’t want to start discussing, as you seem to want, whether realism is really real. But in a nutshell: realism isn’t real, but realists are (more or less).

            As for Blair taking the ‘easy option’… not sure what you mean. Was there some ‘tough option’? Would it somehow have worked better than the ‘easy option’? If not, would it have failed? If so, why bother with it?

          • AlanGiles

            whether realism is really real. But in a nutshell: realism isn’t real”

            This sounds like Pseuds Corner.

            The simple truth is Blair is history, the past.

            “Progress” don’t want to progress at all – they want to regress to 1997.

          • Dave Postles

            I said it was a relative failure.  In its perpetuation, it reinforced the prevailing ‘discourse’ (read ideology) and facilitated the entrenchment of the inequalities and inequities which have exploded now. The concession to the emphasis on individualism of Giddens obviated any movement back towards solidarity.  There was no acknowledgement of intermediate ‘structures’ such as Bourdieu recognized.  The deleterious position of today has not been simply achieved by the Coalition in two years.  It was inherent in the complicity of New Labour.     
            Blair was right about one aspect: 1997 could have been a new dawn – but it was not.  The perspective, IMHO, was allow extreme capitalism to rip provided that we can take what we can from it.  Where was the advocacy of cooperation and the new style of capitalism propagated by such as Red Hat or Canonical?
            Missed opportunities characterized New Labour. 

          • Daniel Speight

            Thanks Martin. I think I begin to understand you.

            1. The Third Way has been a realistic approach to seeking social justice
            at a time when neo-liberalism (i.e. monetarism and the like) appeared
            to have won the day.

            Must admit this is first time anyone has even gone this far with explaining to me what the ‘Third Way’ was, although frankly it still looks very suspect.

            So I guess what you are saying is that those who always disagreed with neo-liberalism (i.e. laissez-faire capitalism and the like) were wrong to suggest that Labour should stand up against it. They were just being romantics, and complaining about the increase in inequality was just being unrealistic.

            2. Labour needs still to be realistic today in pursuit of social justice
            in what is now a changed world. A world where neo-liberal policies have
            led to a financial crisis, then an economic crisis, then a political
            crisis, then a social crisis.

            And now that those neo-liberal policies have failed and everything is in crisis means what? Are those serial complainers still unrealistic romantics? Seems on the other thread you are still in favour of monetarist remedies such as austerity. That does tend to make social justice a tad more difficult doesn’t it?

            Seems to me those who pushed this third way should probably front-up and say we messed up big time. Better look for another another ideology because the one we thought was realistic and unromantic just caused one of our biggest defeats in post-war years.

            From my very uneducated position it seems that the US is producing gurus like Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs while here in the UK we seem to struggle to find anything other than intellectual lightweights.

          • Martin Yuille

            Hi Daniel:

            I am making a simple point. Labour wants to win elections and get social justice. But it cannot do so under conditions of its own choosing.  Its policies have to be OK for those conditions.

            If you agree with that, then you will agree that Labour policies need to change as conditions change. The values need not change necessarily. But policies need to change.

            So, in 1945, it seemed OK for Labour to want to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy. But later – say 1974 – this did not seem OK.  Maybe, one day, it will seem OK again (I doubt it).

            As a consequence of this, a person (like you perhaps) will say Labour is flip-flopping. And that this is wrong. That it’s better to stick for all time to a 1945 policy.

            Whereas another person (like me) will say: if the world flip flops then I have to flip flop too in response.

            That’s not “messing up” as you put it.  It’s just doing what you can under conditions as they change. 

            It’s like football fans. Some support the same team for life. Some follow winners.  Both have a point in the beautiful game.  The point is that football needs romanticism and realism. But politics only needs realism.

          • AlanGiles

            Typically New Labour to drag football into it!

            People like you assume that everyone in traditional Labour wants to go back to 1945-50 to nationalise everything that moves. This certainly isn’t the case where the majority of us are concerned (although even Blair promised to renationalise the rail network prior to the 1997 election – perhaps he meant it, perhaps as so often he was lying through his teeth)

            You seem to be another of those who want power – even if it means using Conservative policy to do it – power without principle – you admit you are happy to flip-=flop: just supposing your vision of Labour could be guaranteed to win the next election by agreeing to bring back capital punishment – woudl you go that far?.

            The extremes of the Freud/Purnell welfare reforms, and the behaviour of ATos towards very ill people shows what happens when you go down that road.

            Would there be any real purpose in throwing out the Coalition just to get a bunch of unprincipled twisters and turners in, he will ;persue similarily damaging  policies  because they were red rosettes?. Thats a bit of realism for you.

          • Martin Yuille

            Hi Alan

            I don’t know about ”
            the behaviour of ATos towards very ill people”.
            Can you tell me more?

          • AlanGiles

            Briefly ATOS is paid by results to get people off of benefits and into work.

            There are well documented cases of ATOS personnel declaring people terminally ill with cancer being signed off as “fit for work” thogh they may only be weeks or months from death.

            I am of an age when I have lost several close friends tto that appalling illness. The mental anguish — let alone physical pain and discomfort has been distressing, the last thing such people need are little fools like Purnell being taken in by a multi-millionaire investment banker and making their last days even more horrific.

            I will never forgive Labour for that – it becomes harder for me to support Labour. I had hoped with the end of Blair and Brown and their asinine fights we might be drawing away from that – but the frequent attempts to rehabilitate Blair and the conniving of Liam Byrne makes me fear otherwise.

            Take a look at Sue Marsh’s blog to see the damage the welfare reforms are doing to sick people – and please remember the Coalitrion is only continuing the work that WE started.

          • Martin Yuille

            Thanks Alan. I don’t know much about the benefits system.
            But the difference between Labour and Tory benefits policy is that the former has the intention (not always made real)  of preventing social exclusion while the latter doesn’t give a hoot.

          • AlanGiles

            Martin, Column too small please go to top of column

          • Daniel Speight

            So let me get this right Martin. In 1997 it would have been wrong to point out that the laissez-faire capitalism inherited from the Thatcher/Major governments was not the best system to help, and let’s use your phrase, social justice.

            Because, again using your phrase, we had flip-flopped to supporting neo-liberalism, it was only to right to go down the road of leaving power with the markets, even as far as giving the Bank of England independence?

            Now with hindsight Martin, would you think a bit more regulatory powers in the City may not have gone amiss? In fact with hindsight doesn’t the ‘Third Way’, which from now can be referred to as flip-flopping, look rather suspect.

  • treborc1

    Growing head of steam, lets hope nobody blows a gasket then, always a problem with steam.

  • I am greatly disappointed in the GMB for this attack on
    Progress and it’s a very poor move. I reject all the gripes against Progress as
    they are silly, the hard left in the Unions causing this need to grow up and
    stop assuming that only their views matter. Labour is a broad church and views
    that are progressive are vital to the party if it ever wants to win elections.
    Looking forward is where the public expect the Labour to be. It does not mean
    values and principles are ignored or lost.

    If the Unions seek to destroy Progress then they will split the party and lose
    huge amount of support for the Unions at a time they need backing more than
    ever. As a Progress member I do believing in looking forward for policy not
    back, but I have been very supportive of the Unions in their right to strike as
    a last report. But few will be so interested in given open support if they seek
    to dismantle a vital part of party democracy. I’d take fair and free debate
    from Progress any day over dogma and rigid hard left views that stay in the
    past and fail to see the bigger picture. Labour is not just a party for the
    working class, it has to be for everyone because equality is not just for those
    who have lest.

    This petty hatred of anything modern by the unions must
    stop and some common sense take over where they start to think of policy’s that
    the wider population would support. The reason we all despise the Tories so
    much is because they only focus on the rich, yet in doing so they ignore the
    working class and middle class. It would be ludicrous for us to do the same but
    in reverse. We are not a party for just one section but a party for fairness
    and equality for society as a whole. The Unions will find this obvious lurch to
    the hard left to seek to go back to some sort of glory days where they dictated
    their views on all aspects is not welcome and not wanted. This is not the 70s
    and that style of thinking has not place in a modern political party.


    Without Labour in office the Unions will have few chances
    of ever pursuing its policy’s, it should be obvious that the Tories nor the Lib
    Dems are interested or care enough about doing what is right. Labour may not
    always agree with a Union policy but a vast bulk of the union wish list is
    taken up and implemented which is fair and right on many occasions. But not all
    policy will be because this is a democratic party and not all what the Unions
    say is in tune with what the public want.


    The GMB should back off from this move, because if they
    persist it will be they who could cause the Tories to win in full in 2015, all
    the bravado in the world will do little to hide the harm millions of people
    will continue to suffer as a result. What matters is helping society for all so
    we can stop right wing ideology from destroying more of the state. Nothing will
    be achieved by forcing this unneeded battle over Progress and instead of
    gaining the Union’s support it will lose it.

    • AlanGiles

      “Progress” supporters certainly don’t believe in being brief, do they, Mr Hills?.

      Just to take one fairly brief pafragraph of yours:

       I reject all the gripes against Progress asthey are silly, the hard left in the Unions causing this need to grow up andstop assuming that only their views matter. Labour is a broad church and viewsthat are progressive are vital to the party if it ever wants to win elections.Looking forward is where the public expect the Labour to be. It does not meanvalues and principles are ignored or lost. ”

      Silly?. Can you explain that a bit more. We are talking about a union which gives large sums of money to the Labour party, complaining about an organisation that is bankrolled by wealthy businessmen, one of whom (Sainsbury) does NOT donate to the party but to that small group “Progress”

      I get sick to death of this “Labour is a broad church” claptrap. It might be a broad church but look at the insults those of us in the congregation who dare to complain about the behaviour of Progress members jointly and severely have to endure from Dore, the Purple Booker, Richards, Marchant, and (if his outpourings can be taken seriously) the poster with 3 names. The church is not very welcoming to traditional Labour supporters these days when Progress is in the pulpit.

      Finally (I don’t want to nick your record) where values and principles are concerned, let me say this. A “Labour” minister who pushes through the ill-informed report of a Conservative (Freud) and which allows the terminally ill to be passed as fit for work by a grubby outfit like ATOS, is lower than a snakes belly.

      Our party is meant to protect the vulnerable. In ditching that principle, as Progress supporters like Byrne and Purnell did, they lost any moral right to claim to have principles. Harold Wilson once said the Labour party was a moral crusade or it was nothing. He was right.

      And, BTW Progress is stuffed full of   MPs and ex-minister expenses swindlers. Don’t you feel at least SLIGHTLY embarrased by that fact?

      • Robert_Crosby

        Great post, Alan!  I love your last paragraph because it speaks, I’m certain, for hundreds of thousands of decent Labour people who lost faith but who want to return to support us.  I can’t blame people who walked away because they were so disgusted by some of those frauds.  We don’t want or need them around causing any more trouble.

  • Mr Chippy

    I have little time for Progress but I  oppose a ban. We can defeat Progress by the strength of our arguments. They are not like Militant/RSL who had a Central Executive.

    • John Dore


  • AlanGiles

    The columns are getting too small at the other end.

    Martin wrote:

    “Thanks Alan. I don’t know much about the benefits system.
    But the difference between Labour and Tory benefits policy is that the former has the intention (not always made real)  of preventing social exclusion while the latter doesn’t give a hoot.”
    I would say that the intention of all 3 parties, is, and was, to punish, even though these people are not ill or disabled through choice. To mollify tabloid newspaper readers. A chance for Purnell to show how “tough” he was. He and his little helpers Yvette Cooper and Liam Byrne did nothing to try to stop the “all benefit claimants are scroungers” nonsense spewed out by those papers. What angers me about all three of them was that they were merrily fiddling their Parliamentary expenses, while taking the moral high ground, proving what self-serving hypocrites they were.

    Purnell was well aware Freud had decamped to the Tories when he bought these reforms to the House. Unless he is a total fool he must have known that to pay an organisation like ATOS by results, it was in their interest to sign as many people off as possible.

    ATOS, like 4AE is motivated by money it even led the latter into dodgy and illegal practices.

    Also, you do not try to force the disabled, sick and long term unemployed into the job market at the very time unemployment amongst the able bodies is increasing, which it was in 2009.

    You should try doing some work for the CAB or local drop in centre and you would soon find out all about the nightmare of the benefits system.

  • Robert_Crosby

    It’s interesting that so many people involved with Progress habitually dismiss their “opponents” as ‘Hard Left’ and/or warn of a “lurch to the Left” when they are challenged.  The evidence indicates that Paul Kenny is, above all, a pragmatist.

    The charge laid at Progress deserves a hearing.  Sadly, there is all too much evidence of a whispering campaign against Ed M… predicated simply of course on their anger that David M did not win and nothing at all to do with what Ed says and does or might yet say and do.  This manifests itself in the shape of the continued “warning” (often implicit and occasionally more than that) held out by Progress disciples in Parliament as well as outside that they may/will act to force a leadership challenge – all to protect our electoral fortunes of course.

    I have never had time for factions.  I judge people by what they say and do and how effective they are.  I reject Paul Richards’s arguments that they exist to reflect the coalition that is our Party as, more often than not, I find that they are simply there to facilitate positioning.  As far as Progress are concerned, even the likes of David Owen will almost certainly find himself closer to the Labour “mainstream”, on some issues at least, than some of its most vocal proponents.

  • Robert_Crosby

    I read this afresh again this morning.  It’s a quite disgraceful article, which smears the principle of trade unionism and ALL trade unionists.  There are, of course, problem people in the union movement as there are in every other walk of live and in individual organisations (including, I suggest, Progress!).  Take on individuals whose conduct you can’t accept, by all means – but spare us the poisonous claptrap set out here.  Like it or not, the TUs are a fundamental part of Labour’s history and its present.  If Progress people can’t accept that, they should leave the Party and join or set up something else.

  • Mr Arthur Cook

    Pompous tripe!


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