Progress gets a Clause 4 moment

3rd July, 2012 12:29 pm

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.


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  • Johndclare

    Perhaps someone can help me here.
    Is Progress affiliated to the Labour Party?
    Does it need to be?

    • Pete

      Progress is not affiliated to the Labour Party – there is no official relationship between the two. Instead it is a member’s association; an external organisation which, though it has no official relationship with the party and is independent of it, only party members are allowed to join and be a part of. As such, all though it is an external organisation, it exists wholly within the Labour Party as a representative organisation and think tank for party members who sympathise with the New Labour ethos. Several other such organisations exist within Labour, though most are on the left of the party, like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

      • treborc

        But it does claim to have  a training program for candidates and people interested, it is a New labour group which it states, and it is to the right of center, and any candidates who are trained or go through the training would be right of center.

        You have to ask your self what is it’s reasons. To promote the right, just saying our task is to get labour elected , which labour party the New labour I would say, so it is a party within a party

        •  I don’t see what is wrong with a training programme, or actually running selection campaigns – which they do, by the way.

          The issue is to do with whether that is transparent and accountable. It bears a relationship with its funders, who can withdraw funding if they don’t like what it does. But members, being less rich, have far less influence in any formal sense, which is why I think there should be minimum democracy standards for groups in the party which organise.

          I still think it would be nice if Progress was more democratic about making policy, but now that is really up to whoever they elect to their board, and I won’t be one of that electorate!

          • treborc

            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

            Now then if New Labour is dead as we are reliably told by the leader of Labour, question what are these people doing.

            Simples as the advert says affiliate pay your fair share.

    •  No, and no….

      • treborc

         Then sadly it’s a party which is  working for it’s own end  within labour, it’s a party within a party, I have no doubt if Progress was to get large enough with enough people it will become a political party.

  • paul barker

    As an ex-labour entryist can I just say that I dont think you have any idea whats happening here. A loose alliance of far-leftists now control most of the major unions, something they never managed in the 1980s. Their aim is to push labour left until a split becomes inevitable, hence the constant harrasement of  the right/centre.
    As far as I can see the far-left have won, its just a matter of time. They will keep pushing & the centre/right will keep retreating.

    • Goodness! The Daily Mail should be informed forthwith.

      • treborc

         Made my day the left have one the right is retreating, the question is will the Tories take you back

        • The Tories are not for me but I understand they are offering discount membership for Progress members.

  • This is a very naive post indeed. The fact it accepts the behaviour of the unions as reasonable is absolutely outrageous.

  • rwendland

    Mark,  I’m not sure this is a “reasonable statement” about internal democracy, as it still does not seem that the so-called “members of Progress (Limited)” are being made members as defined by the Companies Act 2006 (s.122), as is normal for membership organisations constituted as a private company limited by guarantee.

    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 isn’t real membership of a legally constituted organisation they are proposing (it seems from the statement).


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