Revealed: the GMB backtracks on Progress

by Atul Hatwal

As Labour’s internal battle between the moderates and the left rumbles on, evidence reaches Uncut that some selective re-writing of recent history is under way.

The GMB kicked-off the latest witchunt against Progress at their conference. Paul Kenny, seen as the most pragmatic and savvy of the current generation of leaders, turned up the heat in his speech. The key passage couldn’t have been any clearer,

“On Progress let me say this. I know that at this very moment a resolution is written and will be delivered to the Labour party shortly. It is a rule amendment which will go before this year’s Conference for next year which, effectively, will outlaw Progress as part of the Labour party, and long overdue it is.”

But now, the GMB is backtracking. Talk of “outlawing” Progress and changing the Labour party’s rules has been quietly dropped and is in the process of being airbrushed out of accounts of their conference.

Last week, the union’s national political officer, Gary Doolan, sent a private e-mail to the network of GMB councillors with some very careful wording. The relevant paragraph comes at the end:

“In addition, there has been much debate about GMB’s Motion 154 to Congress, which has been described as “banning Progress from the Labour Party”. Just to clarify the situation I have included the actual Motion 154 for your perusal.”

The operative phrase here is “there has been much debate”.

No view on who started and led this debate. Certainly no sense that it was the general secretary of the union that raised the prospect of proscribing Progress and actively welcomed it. Instead, this is a discussion that has emerged without origin. What us? No way guv. Couldn’t be us.

Then Doolan attempts some sleight of hand. “Just to clarify”, he refers to the original motion from their conference. This calls for Progress to be monitored rather than expelled. Directing councillors to the motion rather than the words of the general secretary, which drove the news stories, is deliberately misleading.

The reason for this clumsy artifice? Pressure on the GMB from Labour’s leadership to calm the rhetoric and defuse the situation.

Any time Ed Miliband has to spend publically addressing Labour’s internal divisions, rather than attacking the Tories, paints the party as riven by the old conflicts of the 1980s. Unfortunately for the leader, he keeps getting asked about it.

The good news is that the GMB are still listening to the Labour leadership. Otherwise there would have been no change in position. The bad news is what they consider to be a de-escalation.

It’s a sign of where the modern union movement is politically that a call to single out a specific organisation, which has broken no rule or ordinance other than to hail from a different wing of the Labour party, is seen as an acceptable, moderate line to take.

What happens next will be key. The leadership now want this row to go away. It served a purpose in silencing Blairite MPs but if it rolls on into Labour party conference, this debate will soon morph into a media narrative about another Labour lurch to the left.

The question is, after so much sabre rattling, will all of the unions simply drop the witchhunt and do as the leadership say?

The answer will reveal much about the true balance of power within Labour between party and union bosses.

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

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6 Responses to “Revealed: the GMB backtracks on Progress”

  1. For those of us not steeped in the Kremlinology of the left, what are the grounds on which the GMB is seeking to expel Progress? I don’t mean ideological motives – I mean what is their alleged breach of Labour Party rules?

  2. paul barker says:

    This isnt a repeat of the 1980s.The big unions then were mostly under moderate control & acted as an anchor to hold back the CLPs. Now the hard left control the major unions there is no anchor.
    To make things worse the party is heavily in debt & the union leaderships seem willing to use their money as a weapon.

  3. Quietzaple says:

    Not much like 1980-6 because Militant was a Trotskyite organisation affiliated to a different International, determined to take over rather than achieve a few goals as I take it most Progress folk do.
    Clive Jenkins certainly obtained vast power because he controlled his union purse strings. It was said that the Leadership election of 1983 was his: “One man one vote! I’m the man and I have the vote!”
    Contrast with the Tories when Cameron best the far more typical Dave Davies. Ashcroft, who’d bankrolled the party for years, donated £100,000 TP Cameron’s campaign. Not entirely dissimilar.
    Politics is like that, which is why state funding of political parties is needed, and why the foreign/Brechou based owners/leaders of UK media must be forced to relinquish their UK interests. Caps on individual and corporate political spends too ..

  4. swatantra says:

    YES to State Funding and NO to the corruption of Parties.
    And YES to OMOV, and NO to the likes of Clive Jenkins.

  5. London says:

    On the issue of Union HR matters Ken Clarke will next week return to his post as Director of the London Labour Party. He is a controversial figure. Ex regional director Hillary Perrin has been filling in for him while he was in Scotland. She is off to work for the GMB and is leaving the employ of the Labour Party entirely.. This seems to be a somewhat convenient arrangement for both Clarke and Perrin. Does anyone know if the GMB cared to advertise this post or who is responsible for her appointment?

  6. Clr Ralph says:

    Lol since when did the Labour party Rules matter for anything if you check the Rules every single expense Mps inclusding the majority of the Shadow cabinet and the leader (for different reasons) would have been booted out of the Party long ago. Your Rules are irrelevant and useless and the Party is lewd by family and friends you have nothing to say about equality and fairness, you are the most corrupt Party in Politics and worse deluding people into thinking you are moral when in effect you are just greedy sleaze-bags!

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