Progress and the GMB should be looking for ways to work together

12th June, 2012 3:53 pm

I reacted to yesterday’s vote of condemnation of Progress at the GMB Conference, and the subsequent statement by the GMB’s Paul Kenny about “outlawing Progress as part of the Labour Party” more in sorrow than in anger.

Since the 2010 General Election defeat, Labour has on the whole acted with calm, maturity, comradeliness and inclusivity in debating why we lost and how we can win again.

We have avoided the recriminations, infighting and blame game that followed all our previous defeats in 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979.

That is why we are now 14% ahead.

The last thing we need now is a sectarian bun-fight with an attempt to delegitimize or exclude one strand of opinion in the Party.

That is how we acted in the 1979-1983 Parliament and it led directly to 18 years in opposition and the tragedy of Thatcher’s assault on working class communities.

I feel an affinity, but not a total one, with both the GMB and Progress.

I am not a GMB member now (I’m in
Unite) but I was a proud member of the GMB NULO section when I worked as a Labour Party Organiser. My family ties to the GMB date back to the 1920s when my great-grandfather, Cllr William MacKenzie, was a Boilermakers’ union shop steward in Dumbartonshire and then Kent and suffered much persecution in the workplace for his union activity.

The GMB is historically a moderate, pragmatic union which has sponsored MPs from the Labour right like Giles Radice and Jack Cunningham in its North of England heartland. It helped defeat the Hard Left in the 1980s. The current General Secretary Paul Kenny is usually one of the most constructive voices in the Party, a peacemaker and alliance builder. I am proud to serve on the Party NEC alongside the GMB’s two excellent representatives Mary Turner and Andy Worth. They are consistently wise voices for working people. I am proud that I voted the same way as Paul Kenny and the GMB for Labour’s Leader (Ed Miliband) and General Secretary (Iain McNicol). I hope many GMB members have voted for me for the NEC.

And yet if I read Paul’s statement correctly, my association with Progress implies that I should be “outlawed” from the Party I have been a member of for 24 years.

I am as proud to be a member of Progress as I am of my trade union membership. I was there at the first meeting when it was set up by Peter Mandelson in the mid 1990s. I have always tried to attend its conferences and events (I missed this year’s conference to take my son to a Woodcraft Folk Summer Camp …). I stated that I was a member of Progress in my statement in the NEC manifesto booklet. I am delighted by the support they have given my re-election campaign.

Maybe this will cost me my seat on the NEC. But I would rather be honest about my political affinities and lose than hide them to win.

I am actually more heavily involved in Labour First, an older organisation on the moderate wing of the Party dating back to the 1980s and with deep roots in the trade union movement.

As such I don’t sign up to everything that Progress stands for. Does anyone in the Labour Party 100% subscribe to what one grouping says or thinks?

I don’t support primaries, which Progress does. I don’t think their
emphasis on elected mayors should have been such a priority. I was with the GMB opposing Foundation Hospitals. I supported Ed Miliband for Leader, not David who Progress backed. I strongly oppose the “choice” agenda and marketisation in public services. I think many Blairites think I’m a Brownite though I don’t shy away from either label.

But whilst I disagree with lots of things Progress says I will die in a proverbial ditch for their right to say them.

Are there people who really think supporters of Tony Blair and what he stood for don’t represent a legitimate strand of opinion in the Labour Party? What signal does it send to the swing voters who have only voted Labour in the three elections when Blair was leader if we “outlaw” (whatever that means) the organisation that most publicly carries forward his agenda.

What signal does it send to say Lord Sainsbury, a man who served as a Labour Minister for a decade unpaid and donated £18 million to the Party, the largest amount in our history, is persona non grata because he funds this “outlawed” organisation? How will we ever persuade him to donate to the Party again?

Why is there this bizarre conspiracy theory that Progress is all powerful when the reality is it lost most of its influence when Blair left No10 in 2007. There are about three of us on the NEC with even the most tenuous connection to Progress, out of 33!

How in practical terms would it look to “outlaw” an organisation whose events Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman have both spoken at, and whose magazine the Party General Secretary writes for?

Who is going to do the excellent work Progress does on issues like “Third Place First” its strengthening of rural CLPs, if it is “outlawed” or its funding curbed?

I don’t want to be on an NEC that seeks to police the internal political life of the Party and define what is politically correct and what isn’t. Our job is to uphold the Rulebook, referee the ideological debate, and guard the party against interlopers who owe their allegiance to another party, not to define what people can and can’t think or how they associate voluntarily with each other.

The can of worms that would be opened by “investigating” or “outlawing” Progress would be huge. I could have great fun looking at Socialist Action, which is said to be an entryist Trotskyist organisation and is secretive no one is quite sure if it exists; or the LRC (and by extension the Grassroots Alliance) with its affiliates that are parties hostile to Labour or proscribed by us; or at Compass with its inclusion of Green and Lib Dem members. And that’s before you start looking at all the single issue campaigns and “friends of” groups.

But to engage in this kind of sectarian feeding frenzy would be a colossal waste of time and get us not one step further towards beating the Tories.

The trouble with the GMB is that the extremist tail has wagged the moderate dog. The anti-Progress motion was moved by Andy Newman, ex-SWP, ex Respect, stood against Labour as a “Socialist Unity” candidate for Parliament in 2005, only rejoined Labour in 2010.

But when brother Newman moved his motion not one person got up at the GMB Congress to say this is sectarian, extremist nonsense, and to call out his political track record.

Partly this is the right of the Labour Party’s own fault. We are not engaged enough in trade union work. If we were we would have been there on conference floor to oppose this.

But partly it is the fault of the union leaderships who run scared of their extreme left factions and try to appease them by letting resolutions of more and more extreme tenor be passed.

The problem is that the ultra left showed in the 1980s they are never satisfied by just attacking the Labour right.

First they will come for Progress.

Then they will come for Labour First.

Then they will come to take over your l CLP and deselect you as an MP or councillor.

Then they will come for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

Then they will come for the union executives and general secretaries.

But there will be no one left to fight them.

And the eviscerated wreckage of the Labour Party, saddled with out of
touch policies and ruined by infighting, will totter towards a General Election defeat, and another, and another, just like we did in the 1980s. And all the time the people suffering under the Tories will be ordinary voters, GMB members included.

This whole thing is absurd.

Progress and the GMB should be looking for ways to work together.

Where the left and right of the party disagree they should resolve those arguments by democratic debate, not existential attacks on each other’s structures. That goes for any marginal fools who want to attack the union link as well.

We must not throw away the unity that has led Labour under Ed Miliband to a 14% poll lead.

I plead with Paul Kenny to show wisdom and leadership and step back
from this descent into the kind of self-destructive politics that ruined Labour 30 years ago.


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  • UKAzeri

    I always wondered if the right of the party represented by Progress is as militant in its ideology and its pursuit as the socialist radicals of the 80s??
    ( perhaps this is more of a question rather than a rhetorical position)

    • treborc1

      I do not know really has labour been worth joining since they got rid of the Trots and the Militants, not sure.  Would labour be any better if they got rid of the Unions they might be broke but I doubt they care much

      • UKAzeri

        Labour without the unions is not Labour , technically speaking  🙂 if that happens .. oh boy  🙂

        • treborc1

          The GMB can only warn Labour so many times before they leave, it’s been nearly every year for three years  now, also a lot of Union members nearly walked on the GMB last year when they did a deal to become the Union of a work fare firms, that nearly exploded.

        • Dave Postles

           The unions without Labour will still have work to do; Labour without the unions will be an empty vessel, a simulacrum, a minor party.  Labour has become detached from the lives of the poor and indigent, just another interest group or think tank.  Loyalty works both ways.  There is currently no point in being attached to Labour; extra-Parliamentary movements are the only voices.

  • treborc1

    Ah well I suspect in the end labour will join Progress then it will be all happiness and sunshine. But crossing picket lines never works for labour leaders, or telling them strikes are worthless when you hear about directors wages  going up by 49%.

    In the end you vote for what you believe in, be it Tory labour, progress, or Pie in the sky.

    But if people think three years from an election 14% in the polls is enough or even special      ” Kinnock”.

  • Duncan

    Mark – you’re listed as the author of this, but I’m assuming it was written by Luke Akehurst?

  • Who would have guessed that Treborc would be on this article like a fly to.. honey?

    Good article, Luke, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    • treborc1

      Seems the Progress bunch are out in force again. as you said to me why the one liners ….

    • treborc1

      New labour at it best

      • You’re a court jester, Treborc. 

        • treborc1

           well we have to be with you lot around

  • Duncan

    Assuming I’ m addressing Luke Akehurst and not Mark Ferguson… Where to begin?

    This was one of those rare posts, Luke, where you could have tried to find some moral high ground.  However…

    Why have you spent so much of this appeal against sectarianism indulging in your customery sectarian bilge?  You could have written this post in such a way that even I (as a proud Bennite) would have agreed with you.

    I think perhaps the most offensive part of this article is the “First they will come for Progress” section.  Why is it acceptable to suggest that one section of opinion in the Labour Party might “take over” a CLP (I always prefer the description “join” it) but not another section?

    Your depiction of Labour in the 80s is not one that I recognise – but are you seriously saying as a Kinnockite that Labour was saddled with “out of touch policies” in 87 or 92? 

    You and I will never agree as to the identities of the villains of 1980s Labour,  but – as it happens – we do agree that Progress should not be “outlawed” or subject to special monitoring.  I think some issues that have been raised about funds and transparency are reasonable questions to be addressed, but the “party within a party” stuff is pretty silly.

    As far as I can tell, this attack on Progress has not been launched by the left.  Despite his recent past, Andy Newman is a pretty centrist figure, as you mention yourself Paul Kenny is pragmatic and moderate.  I am sure there will be people who share my political position who will relish the opportunity to give Progress a bit of a kicking and I am sympathetic to that…

    •  Duncan, I agree with all you say. As a socialist in the Labour Party – and for 16 years now – I have no interest in banning or proscribing or outlawing anyone.

      The left should focus on out-organising Progress, defeating them in debate (easy, their policies are generally Tory-lite nonsense), and yes expose their funding / lack of internal democracy, not ‘outlawing’ them.

      Also – let’s face it – they backed Oona for mayor, David M for leader, and Hazel Blears for deputy leader. Not that influential are they!?

      p.s. Duncan, I took Luke to be referring to Kinnock’s obsession with fighting the left rather than the Tories that damaged us in the 80s when he said “a sectarian bun-fight with an attempt to delegitimize or exclude one strand of opinion in the Party”.

      Of course the real villains of the 80s were the SDP – who ensured we had 18 years of the Tories when they could have been defeated in 83 …

      • Duncan

         Agree whole-heartedly Andrew.

        I would much rather ignore Progress to death than anything else!

        The tactics of trying to use the machine to silence those we disagree with are the tactics of the right and while some might argue “those who live by the sword, etc.”  I would say that winning the argument is a whole lot more satisfying.

        Just a shame (a predictable shame, but a shame nevertheless) that Luke chose to inject such nonsense into his article!

        • treborc1

          I do think this will be labours last chance and it depends really if labour think 1.4 million is worth keeping. But another silly error telling people on the Min wage, people working for agencies, people working part time, that striking is wrong, or you should not be getting a decent wage rise , and it will be over.

      • Andrew, do you not believe that our policies were to blame for the 1983 defeat?  It was called ‘the longest suicide not ever written’ for a reason…

        • Daniel Speight

          Jonathan would the highest vote for a third party slate have anything to do with it? The SDP-Liberal alliance polled 25% didn’t they? How about the Falklands effect? I think the ‘suicide note’ is overdone somewhat, don’t you?

  • Steve

    ‘Progress’ as an organisation is exceptionally ‘Blairite’. Eric Blair that is. To “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” we can joyfully add “PROGRESS IS REGRESSION”. 

  • “The last thing we need now is a sectarian bun-fight with an attempt to delegitimize or exclude one strand of opinion in the Party. ”

    Oh really? Luke’s sheer gall in saying this is stunning. Let’s compare this statement to some of the statements made by Luke the Nuke when discussing other “Strands of opinion in the party” and see how committed he is to pluralism in the Labour party.

    “The wider phenomenon of Tony Benn and the Bennites was seen off by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s, with its Trotskyist entryist wing, Militant, expelled.”

    Also this from a twitter argument between Owen Jones and David Aaronovitch “Blairism sits neatly in Labour history and Bennism was the alien import from outwith Labour tradition”

    So attacking the Bennites as being an extension of the Militant tendency? Accusing the ethical socialism of Tony Benn of being an “alien import” in order to delegitimize him? That’s not at all sectarian, is it Luke?

    This shows how you’re prepared to re-write history and conflate entirely seperate political tendencies in order to attack strands of opinion in the Labour party that are hostile to your paymasters interests. It is shameful and a disgrace to the Labour party.

    Just remember than anyone in Labour who’s hostile to Progress and it’s big money corporate backers will also be attacked in the same reprehensible way. It doesn’t matter how pragmatic or plural you are, anyone at all who’s not a Tory infiltrator like Luke will be attacked in the same way.

    • aracataca

      This is a bit paranoid isn’t it Delroy? Besides Owen Jones, Aaronovitch and Luke are 3 different people aren’t they? Or at least they were the last time I looked.

  • ThePurpleBooker

    Luke Akehurst never fails to disappoint. Like most tribal Brownites, when the going gets tough he just tries to cosy up to the left.

    • treborc1

      This from a bloke who was a Liberal and ran to labour.

    • Dave Postles

       Purple Bookie
      I’ll have a fiver each way on Cherie’s Darling in the 3.30 at Haydock.

    • Duncan


      • treborc1

        we seem to be getting a lot of ex Liberals who seem to like the Progress group, it reminds them of the days of being a party

    • AlanGiles

      ” he just tries to cosy up to the left.”


      Some people here who shouldnt have access to crayons let alone computers.

  • John Ruddy

    The problem with Progress is transparency and openness and the lack of democracy.

    Its funding is not transparent, its members have no influence over its stance on issues, or the ability to vote in its executive. 

  • aracataca

    What an excellent piece.  Absolutely right-nobody is going to benefit from a laughable bun fight of this kind except the Tories. Nobody should be expelled from the party it would serve no helpful purpose whatsoever. Well done Luke.

  • AlanGiles

    Mr Akehurst makes mention of “the ultra left” and then “the extreme left”. He makes that he doesn’t support marketisation of public services or Foundation Hospitals.

    Fair enough, but for balance why not mention the “ultra right”. One example. Purnell and Byrne, leading figures of Progress both supported – indeed Purnell introduced it – welfare reform that saw people in the final stages of terminal illness being deemed by ATOS as “fit for work”.

    If THAT is not bloody extreme I don’t know what is – and that pair are definately not on the left. 

    • treborc1

      Would you say Luke is to the left or the center right, lets see yep to the right.

      But time changes so Luke has to change, he will stay with Progress because that is where his core beliefs  are, but will kiss ass to the left if it gets him his safe seat.

      But then he writes an article so cannot talk about the left, but it’s his hate of anything to the left which upsets him.

      I suspect in the coming years when the Liberals are out of power and rebuilding people like Luke may well find a home and a seat in this bunch of  political has beens.

  • “The left should focus on out-organising Progress”

    Sure, that’s gonna happen. There’s loads of millionaire businessmen queing up to pour money into the Labour left.

    You’re all assuming that these right-wing corporate stooges in the Labour party will fight fair. They won’t, they never have, they never will. They play to win.

    Even if by some miracle the left, despite the massive structural disadvantages they have in organizing, manages to beat Progress, do you think these people will just settle for being subordinate to the left? No chance. They’d rather make like the SDP, and destroy the whole party if needs be, than let the left win. They will never subordinate themselves to the left in the way the left subordinates itself to them, they never have and never will.

    • Duncan

       Well there’s a cheerful thought Delroy. 

    • “”The left should focus on out-organising Progress”

      Sure, that’s gonna happen. There’s loads of millionaire businessmen queing up to pour money into the Labour left.”

      With that logic, Labour would never beat the Tories … and capital can never be defeated.

      You may as well top yourself, join an irrelevant sect or start accommodating to Progress.

      The reality is the Labour left speaks for the majority of working people, of pensioners, students, and those out of work. We need to get our message across, organise and mobilise.

      Seeking to ban our enemies is a distraction that the millions who need a socialist government can’t afford.

      • treborc1

        Who we are

        Progress is the New Labour pressure group which aims to promote a
        radical and progressive politics for the 21st century. Founded in 1996,
        we are an independent organisation of Labour party members and trade unionists.

        Through our national and regional events and regular publications, we seek to promote open debate and discussion of progressive ideas and policies.

        Progress is chaired by Lord Andrew Adonis. Our vice chairs are Jenny
        Chapman MP, Julie Elliott MP, Tristram Hunt MP, Dan Jarvis MP, Liz
        Kendall MP, Alison McGovern MP, Toby Perkins MP, Bridget Phillipson MP,
        Jonathan Reynolds MP, Anas Sarwar MP, and John Woodcock MP. Progress’
        honorary president is Stephen Twigg MP, shadow secretary of state for

        I think this says all I need to know about Progress.

  • Skeptic

    I completely agree, although there are some unsavoury elements within Progress I do not believe that they should be expelled from the party. Most of the Trade Unionists I have met have been relatively moderate, and concerned quite rightly with their jobs, salaries and pensions. These concerns should have support from the Labour party because we are the party of working people, who support fair employment and good conditions for all. Ideological purity is a luxury that can only really be afforded to the intelligentsia who do not need to worry about work, most people recognise the need for some form of pragmatism.  

  • One important correction. Luke attempts to denigrate the motion against Progress by attacking the member who moved it (Andy Newman). But in fact the motion was submitted by a branch (not a person), and was approved for support by the GMB’s CEC and by the Regional Delegation before anyone even arrived at GMB Congress this year. And as Luke admits, not a single person stood up to oppose the motion yesterday, and no-one voted against it.

    This is very much the GMB’s motion, and not somehow the action of a small minority.

  • “How will we ever persuade him [Lord Sainsbury] to donate to the Party again?”

    The answer is simple: get rid of Ed Miliband. Sainsbury hasn’t donated to Labour since Ed became leader, instead he bungs £260,000 a year into Progress coffers.

    And as for “First they will come for Progress.”

    Shouldn’t that be:

    First Progress came for Livingstone…

    • How many times do we have to go over this, Dave?

      Progress WERE NOT responsible for Ken Livingstone’s defeat. He managed that perfectly well by himself, turning a Labour-leaning city to twice elect a Tory buffoon. Why don’t you examine why polls systematically showed that around a fifth of Labour voters would not (and indeed, did not) vote for Livingstone? Or is that Progress’ fault too?

      Progress actually dedicated a great deal of campaigning and financial resources to the London effort. Far more than other internal party pressure groups, in fact. Take one example – lets call them ‘Compass’ – who have in the past actively promoted rival parliamentary candidates in the run up to the general election, including inviting the then leader of a rival party to Labour conference ’09 in Brighton in a seat she then went on to win – by defeating Labour.

      Surely Compass deserve some of your pious scorn, Dave? Though something tells me that they will not..

      • “pious scorn” – that raised a smile.
        Transparency would resolve the matter. How about it?

        • treborc1

          Compass is dying on it’s feet, maybe because many of us left when it went into conferences with Progress.

        • You didn’t answer any of my queries though, Dave. 

          Did a significant minority of Labour voters refuse to back Ken Livingstone? Was that, in any way, Progress’ fault?

          Have Progress promoted rival parties in winnable Labour seats?

          • Sorry David, I’m a retired businessman gone into academia – not a political consultant – I know very little about Compass. I’m assuming, from what you write, that they now support Caroline Lucas? I just don’t know about these things – you know far more than I of their shenanigans.

            My concerns are those voiced in the motion put before the GMB conference – that “Prominent Progress members have briefed against Ed Miliband to the press” and that “the November 2011 edition of Progress magazine sought to undermine Ken Livingstone’s campaign for London mayor”.

            When a faction with possession of all the apparatus of an independent political party, including significant corporate sponsorship and distinctive policies, intervenes in this way, I can’t help but wonder if they have ambitions beyond the party within which they are situated.

            Re Livingstone: Clearly the electorate were responsible for the London result. I just happen to think that, in politics, breaking ranks while under fire is never useful.

          • Righto. Yes, Compass invited Caroline Lucas to speak at its fringe events at the 2009 Brighton Labour party conference. Of course, the Greens went on to win Brighton Pavilion. 

            Imagine the hysteria if Progress had invited, say, a Tory to speak at a Labour party conference? Get me drift..

            “Prominent Progress members have briefed against Ed Miliband to the press” and that “the November 2011 edition of Progress magazine sought to undermine Ken Livingstone’s campaign for London mayor”.

            This is slightly silly. Briefing the press is part and parcel in politics. I’m surprised supposedly hardened trade unionists are in uproar about this. And the November 2011 Progress magazine did not seek to undermine Livingstone; one outsourced journalist (namely Dan Hodges) did. There is a difference. And frankly, it would not have swayed many Londoners either way.

            And glad you’ve recognised that Livingstone is solely responsible for his election defeat.

          • Oh dear, I give up.

          • treborc1

             Nobody seems to answer his questions

          • Dave Postles

            Hoe long is a piece of string theory?

          • Dave Postles


          • treborc1

            You cannot say Compass is a Labour party group, it’s a think tank of the socialist left leaning, and did not back New labour where as Progress is New labour, it says so.

  • Brumanuensis

    I broadly agree with what Luke has written, but I do have two reservations:

    First, Progress are too secretive and the absence of transparency over their organisation, as well as how they formulate policy gives them the look of a cabal – rather like Labour Students. There’s always the sense that there is something under the surface that is undisclosed and not generally known and this contributes to suspicion of Progress.

    Second, Lord Sainsbury hasn’t donated to Labour since Blair stood down, so the fact that he continues to donate to a Labour-affiliated organisation, but not the main Party, looks a bit dodgy.

    I also think paraphrasing Niemoller’s famous lines about the Nazis was in poor taste, given that the stakes are vastly lower.

  • Can’t believe this GMB motion. Are we really going to outlaw a grouping whose vice chairs include 1 shadow cabinet member, Ed Milibands PPS and the Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party!!! Not to to mention the Chair is now involved in the policy review with Jon Cruddas and the honourary  president is also in the shadow cabinet!

    This is madness and it’s time to leave this sectarianism behind.

    • AlanGiles

      “1 shadow cabinet member”

      Liam Byrne(!)

  • MD

    Good article from Luke here, the fact is Progress represent a legitimate strand of Labour thought, as do Compass, and the LRC for that matter.

    It doesn’t matter if millionaire business men fund it – if the organised left put the effort in and actually made itself relevent to the wider populace then it could attract lots of smaller donations that could be enough to outspend Progress.

    Also we need Progress to provide a balanced argument within the party, something essential if we are to engage with all sections of the electorate and actually win the next election. Whether the left like it or not, the British public has a wide range of views and any successful party needs to be able to represent that range effectively in order to gain power.

    Lastly as Luke correctly points out there have long been links between the TUs and the Labour moderates and rightwing, and furthermore Paul Kenny is no friend of democracy within his own union let alone the wider Labour Movement. 

  • postageincluded

    I’d have thought that Progress members would be aware of the suspicions many in the Party hold about them and would welcome the chance to show that, as an organisation within the Party, Progress is operating in lines with the Party Rulebook. The GMB motion gives them that opportunity. 

    If, the GMB was making slanderous backroom briefings to the press about Progress, they would have a legitimate complaint. That’s not the case. It’s an open and transparent motion.

    It’s he disingenuous tone of this response (“Not me, Guv, I never lifted a finger” and “How Very Dare You!”) that raises alarm bells for me.

  • The use of Niemoller’s poem is tasteless and massively disproportionate. What an odd decision it was to include it…

    • Daniel Speight

       Very much so – Luke shows a lack of class by using it in this way.

  • Completely agree with all of this, Luke. Frankly, 

  • Completely agree with Luke here.

    I’ve been a Labour member for 11 years. As I get older I’m less willing to adopt positions through convenience, or which I think are false; more and more, I want to say precisely what I think.

    I don’t agree with everything Progress does or says, but I’m with them on a general approach to Labour politics. I completely disagree that this makes me a less worthy social democrat than someone else.

    Luke’s right that Progress fits into a moderate wing of the Labour party that’s always existed. But in a way that’s beside the point. We shouldn’t delegitimize the parts of New Labour that were, arguably, complete innovations: for a remarkable period of time New Labour was popular, rescued Labour from a prolonged slump in its fortunes, and was effective at meeting the public policy challenge at the time in a way that was both publicly acceptable, and authentically Labour (in my view).

    Do I want to pursue a 1997-2007 Labour policy now? No. The country, its expectations of government, and the state of the economy are completely different. But I have yet to be convinced that anything other than a New Labour analysis of the problem and the way forward is what will solve Britain’s economic and social woes, or win Labour another election.

    I think this is what Progress offer. I’d invite its detractors to read The Purple Book and the articles published on the website and the magazine. You’ll struggle to find egregious examples of rampant capitalism: instead you’ll find thought-provoking ideas, often by Labour MPs and councillors, on how they can achieve results given the situation the country and government finances are in.

    You may not agree with all of these articles – I know I don’t. But it takes the mind of an extremist, a fundamentalist, to say that this voice needs to be silenced or outlawed.

    Attacks on Progress’s organization are a poorly disguised attack on the politics. Progress’s finances are transparent, and are declared on the electoral commission website; Progress has more than once provided a commentary on these declarations, for those who are interested. Progress also doesn’t make any secret of the fact that it is a supporters’ network and magazine rather than a membership organization of the type we typically encounter in the party – I don’t think anyone has a right to be disappointed when they find this out. It is not my experience that Progress members are unhappy with this setup, and membership is strong and rising.

    The left need to work out what they want. They can kick Progress out, if they really want to. But the ideas that Progress and its members stand for won’t go away. You can have us in the Labour Party, or you can’t. But maybe, just maybe, we’re all better off together than we are apart.

  • Jonny

    Could the Party have some of the Progress millions, please? You can set up a Direct Debit, it’s very easy, and I’ve got some forms just by my desk.

  • Redshift

    “Partly this is the right of the Labour Party’s own fault. We are not engaged enough in trade union work. If we were we would have been there on conference floor to oppose this.”
    Isn’t this what fuels some of our party members scepticism of Progress? There does often seem to be an intentional disattachment from the Labour tradition of being part of the wider labour movement – and a complete ignorance of the opinions of trade unions. The fact Progress members weren’t there on the conference floor to oppose this kind of reinforces this. 

    All in all, whilst I agree that they are a strand of opinion and this should be respected (and allowed) I think Progress need to have a hard look at the way they do things. It isn’t just GMB and the trade unions who have concerns. It isn’t a democratic organisation (unlike most internal groups or affiliates) and it does have a tendency to intentionally rock the boat with policies that it knows would be unacceptable to large chunks of the party. I take your point about not agreeing with it all personally Luke, but someone needs to kick the people running Progress up the arse and make them listen. Frankly, it’d be better coming from you than GMB or the wider party.

  • Curlew2012

    Of course it is important that millionaire Sainsbury is funding Progress to such a high tune.  Obviously Sainsbury is unhappy with decisions and policy made by the party, and by extension, its members at conference, so he’s taken his ball away.  If the man so disregards internal party democracy in such a way I think we are well advised to give him a wide berth.

    • treborc1

       If you put money into any party you want something for it, even if it’s a fiver a week from a socialist you will want to have policies which reflect your opinion, so when you place a million into a party then your either buying a title or your buying easy safer planning permission for shops or your  trying to get your daughter elected to a safe seat.

  • Tom Headland

    As Progress doesn’t have “millions” (I understand), there ain’t millions to go around.
    Let’s cut to the quick on this – forget whether you support Progress or not; like Blair or not;
    regard the last government as too accommodating or not – this is about democracy. No, not “internal democracy” which sounds like the Politbureau but democracy, honest debate, and free speech pure and simple.

    There is only one question to ask – do organisations which broadly support Labour (and all bodies, unions, Fabians, Progress etc etc can only do that); which are transparent (Progress is if you check the electoral commission’s site but some Labour organisations do not submit accounts); and which are commited to democracy and free debate – have a right to exist within the Labour umbrella? The answer is so self-evidently “yes” that it must call
    into question the motives and understanding of democracy of the GMB and others.

    And does the GMB understand the practical implications of proscribing (let’s use the correct word) Progress? It means that any party member – Cabinet minister to some who only puts up a poster at election time – who is a member of that organisation could be expelled from the party if they hold membership of Progress.

    Let the GMB pull back from the brink now – the Tories will lap this up and profit from it, just as
    they did from the Wild Men of Militancy (whose supporters, suspiciously, are numbered
    among Progress’s opponents.

    This would be a great political satire on the left if it were not desperately serious

  • Steve Jennings

    It’s not just the discredited Blairit policy’s. It’s about how Progress are funded, I don’t undestand why with all that Sainsbury cash they don’t give any to the Labour Party? or are they a party within a party?

  • Sionedmair

    Proper sensible as usual Luke.

  • Duncan

    Have blogged further thoughts on all this at Labour Left Forum

  • MIke Homfray

    I think the tired and redundant ideas of Progress can be challenged by argument. But that isn’t the GMB’s primary concern. It is the way that Progress organise and operate which is of concern. They are things which can’t be argued against because they are underhand and unequal. This is what should be ‘outlawed’


  • Mitsukurina

    A read-through of the blog of former Trotskite Andy Newman — the man who is proposing this — is instructive. He variously cheerleads for: Sinn Fein (against the Irish Labour party and the SDLP), the Peoples’ Republic of China, and Syria. He also engages in eulogies for East Germany, which he is very keen on.  How the hell is this clown in Labour and why?


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  • The misuse of Pastor Niemoller’s lines on the rise of Nazism is the most bizarre and hysterical over-reaction I’ve seen.

    Disgraceful that you would compare Labour Party comrades to Nazis and disgraceful that LL let you publish it here.

    And its to my mind compounded by your working for an organisation (BICOM) which is supposed to campaign against anti-semitism.

    Last week I nearly voted to keep you on the NEC as despite my disagreeing with you on multiple policy issues you always struck me as a incredibly dedicated and hard-working Labour campaigner – I am now very glad indeed that I didn’t. 

  • Both left and right of the labour party should make a binding commitment to put full Proportional representation and put it into their manifesto before the election thus giving people a political and democratic choice. 
    Labour should let the people decide the complexion of future parliamentsThe kind of government we get is dependent on the type of democracy we have if we want people to vote then they must know that their vote will contribute to a voice in parliment. Perhaps one of the most important liberties is the right to a democratic voice that allows you to cast a vote for a party knowing that the vote will count. Human rights and liberties in part should be about the maximization of peoples votes in a representative democracy. It may be suggested that the existing system at the moment is undemocratic . I live in a safe constituency and feel disfranchised at elections as I Know my vote will not count or change the result. I have no chance of my vote counting toward even one representative with a voice in parliament. Thus my feeling of disgust at the current far right administration can find no democratic outletmany people will point to the current coalition to highlight the failure of coalitions this however ignores the essential point that under full proportional representation there would be a plurality of parties and MP’s in parliament making up very different types of coalitions. Many people voted tactically for the LibDems thinking that they were a left of centre party not realizing that many in the party were singed up to the far right orange book agenda. Under full proportional representation people would not need to vote tactically and could either make a solid left or right choice any party that betrayed the voters like the LibDems Have would face extinction at the next election. Labour should make a full and binding commitment To Full proportional representation and put it in its manifesto before the next election thus making the election not just a political choice but a future democratic choice too.

  • Guest

    You’ve cetainly changed your tune. Does this mean that all your calls for crushing the left, defeating the left  etc. etc. etc . will end . I think your use of that well considered verse is  an insult to those groups that have truely been presecuted and who are represented in the original words.  

    You also misrepresent  GMBs view .The concern is , I believe, that Progess is massively funded by an external organisation in order to get people who will speak its agenda , an agenda that, as you yourself have pointed out does not always chime well with most Labour members and is not transparent . IT is a Wolf in Labour clothing .  It also has access to membership lists which should only be for internal LP use .  Not so long ago I received a number of emails  from Progress inviting me to their events . Despite requesting  them to remove me from their mailing list as I had never given my permission for  them to use my details  they contuinued to give the impression that they were an official Labour Party organisation , until I threatened to take action under  Data protection regulations.    That all sounds a bit dubious to me.     

  • Thank God I stopped supporting Labour years ago. Labour are no longer the party of the centre left, but one of the centre right, or rather Tory-Lite. I like Ed, but it’s clear that the Blairites are still dominant in the party, good news for the Bankers, non-domiciles tax dogers & big greed businesses, but not for the people.

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