Get behind next manifesto “without equivocation”, Mandelson tells SCG MPs

Elliot Chappell

Peter Mandelson has warned that Labour left MPs will have to “commit without equivocation to the democratically agreed manifesto of our party and its implementation by the next Labour government” if they want to be candidates.

Discussing Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour Party in an event hosted by think tank Reform Scotland, the former New Labour minister argued that “taking the hard left out of control of our party” had been “absolutely essential”.

“There can be no going back. Momentum has now receded into, I don’t know, the fringes, the undergrowth somewhere. We rooted out a lot of antisemites in the party and that’s got to continue and the national executive committee of our party is now in absolutely the historic mainstream of our party. Those are major, major achievements by Keir,” he said.

“If the Socialist Campaign Group – the hard left in the in the parliamentary party – if they want to be MPs, and they want to stand again they have got to commit without equivocation to the democratically agreed manifesto of our party and its implementation by the next Labour government.

“No ifs, no buts. If they want to sign up to this journey and be members of the team, then they’ve got to agree that they will abide by the democratic decision making of the party. There can’t be standouts from the manifesto on which we are elected by the British people. That’s fundamental.”

Socialist Campaign Group members include several of those Labour MPs who served in the last leadership’s shadow cabinet, such as the left parliamentary group’s secretary Richard Burgon, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.

SCG secretary Burgon told LabourList: “Transformative socialist policy solutions are more relevant than ever before when we look at the problems people face – the cost of living crisis, the squeeze on living standards, the crisis of inequality and the threat of climate catastrophe.

“The political tradition of Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and Tony Benn and others that the Socialist Campaign Group represents has been part of our party’s fabric from its very foundation and will continue to be so.”

Reacting to Mandelson’s assertion that Momentum has receded to “the fringes”, co-chair Andrew Scattergood told LabourList that the “latest attack on the left” from the New Labour ‘spin doctor’ “bears little resemblance to reality”.

“It was Momentum-backed candidates who won the majority of seats in the last national executive committee elections among members, while Labour conference 2021 endorsed a series of our radical policy proposals,” Scattergood said.

Mandelson, who is thought to have been informally advising the current leadership, told the event this week that he was not interested in “reheating or rehashing New Labour”, but said Keir Starmer could learn from those experiences.

“The leader of the party and his colleagues have got to show themselves to be in control, that we are no longer a party of the far left or trade union activists – that we are genuinely the political arm of the British people,” Mandelson said.

“This is really very important, particularly given our experience of the last five years with Corbyn. You know, if the British public get the idea that Labour coming back means we’re going to have a job share at the top of our party between Corbyn and Starmer then they’ll not let us anywhere near the front door of No 10.”

He praised Starmer for having “crossed a threshold in many people’s minds” in recent months, adding: “He’s manifestly much more interested in being a winning Prime Minister for the country than simply a popular leader of his party.

“Actually, I think party politics barely interests him. I think changing the country does. He has really successfully driven home to all of us in Labour that we have to learn the lessons of Corbyn and learn the lessons of our defeat in 2019 and that there is no going back.”

But Mandelson said that while Labour is “very successfully removing the image of economic incompetence”. this “isn’t yet a plan for economic growth”, adding: “We are building a compelling story on health, on schools, on crime, but nobody would say that it’s yet fully come together.”

The former minister stressed that Labour must “provide reassurance, always, on your economic competence”, including by “not being afraid, and showing that you’re not afraid, to say no as well as yes when it comes to public spending”.

Polling last month put Labour ahead of the Tories on the economy, finding that 42% of people would back Labour to run the nation’s finances compared to 36% who would prefer Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for the job.

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