Hands off Progress

by Jamie Reed

As a GMB sponsored Member of Parliament, I’m proud of the achievements of my trade union. I don’t only have good working relationships with GMB officials at a local and national level – where I watch them undertake incredibly valuable work for their members, day in, day out – but I enjoy strong friendships too, in some cases, stretching back decades.

My grandfather was a GMB trade union official – and without him and his commitment to the trade union movement, the political world would never have held any interest for me. The point is, my association with the GMB trade union is long, deep and personal.

That’s why I cannot understand the decision of the GMB conference to seek to ‘outlaw’ Progress from the Labour Party. Let’s be clear: Progress is one of the most important, active, hard-working parts of our party. In helping to deliver an unprecedented three general election victories, Progress holds an important position in the most successful period of our past and it must play an equally important role now and in our future if we are ever to form another government. Progress is part of our future. Progress is here to stay.

It isn’t and never has been accurate to state that the unions belong to the ‘left’ of the Labour party. The GMB, like all trade unions, encompasses the full spectrum of Labour opinion. It’s good that it does so; it’s essential for democracy and a vibrant, healthy, important organisation. It’s also worth noting that trade union leadership isn’t, and never has been, able to control every motion that is introduced or passed by their respective conferences. That’s democracy; that’s life.

That said, my gut feeling is that those who are seeking the expulsion of Progress from the party belong principally to the left. There are some on the left who seek an impossible ideological purity. This notion causes its adherents to seek out the ‘betrayals’ of others who do not follow precisely the same ideological line, even if all desire the same ultimate objectives. This notion isn’t healthy, it never has been and will ensure the permanent failure of progressive politics in the United Kingdom if it remains unchecked.

The future of the Labour Party depends upon plurality. Monolithic movements are doomed to fail. They invite inevitable splits, schisms and civil wars. If the recent history of the Labour Party isn’t a sufficiently stark warning against the perils of monolithic thinking, then take a quick look at the Church of England…

I’m proud of Progress and I’m proud of the GMB. Both are required to shape the progressive offer we make to the country at the next general election – and that offer will be poorer without the involvement of both.

Pluralism will form the basis of our future success – we’ll achieve nothing without it. Finally, lest we forget, unity is strength.

Jamie Reed is MP for Copeland and a shadow health minister

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8 Responses to “Hands off Progress”

  1. Nick says:

    As a GMB sponsored Member of Parliament


    However Labour complain if the Lib Dems or Tories take outside cash.

    Nothing like hypocrisy is there.

  2. swatantra says:

    Likewise, I’m also proud to be a member of Progress; I joined at the outset in 1997 and I can say without any shadow of a doubt that Progress was instrumental in winning us that landslide GE victory. Progress challenges the many outdated views, views which have held the Party back from fully connecting with the public and the real world.
    The calls for its expulsion are unwise and should be withdrawn.

  3. Reuben says:

    The idea that kicking out Progress would turn labour into a “monolithic” organisation is too ridiculous to even bother responding too.

  4. Martin says:

    I’m saddened and angered that the GMB have put forward this stupid and undemocratic motion.

    I can’t seriously believe that one faction of the party is stupid enough to try and purge the party of another faction of the party.

  5. Stephen G. says:

    “There are some on the left who seek an impossible ideological purity.”

    But isn’t this what Progress yearn for with their insistence on the perennial relevance of yesterday’s solutions? I’m not in favour of the expulsion of Progress but we have to move on and face the challenges of a changed world. 1997 was the year that preceded 1998, not the year when the clock stop ticking.

  6. Angela says:

    Progress is “independently funded”: that is why I object to it. It is not likely to be unemployed people, students or shop-workers on minimum wage doing this “independent funding”, is it?
    Progress “challenges many outdated views”…. would these be the outdated views held by many Labour suporters? Like socialism, decent wages for ordinary workers, wanting a welfare state, objecting to privatisation and PFI, and similar old-fashioned stuff?

    Insofar as Progress is an organisation set up by rich people who are seeking to buy influence over the Labour party, and encourage policies which favour themselves, Progress is undemocratic, verging on corrupt, and should be thrown out.

  7. john Reid says:

    progress is also funded by M.P.s like Caroline flint and Hazel blears who write articles who woriking calss, and some of it’s subscribers are working class, union barons have a large financial influence, why can’t working class people who buy progress have that influence

  8. Unions rule the elections. Progress is a smart way to influence the voters. Can you please elaborate how it is helping the unions? And about elections this time, it is total waste of people’s money and time.

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