Changes at Progress

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.

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* 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)

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