Posts Tagged ‘Progress’

Progress has been a force for good and the party needs it

03/07/2017, 10:15:14 PM

by Rob Marchant

Ten days ago it was announced that Progress, the centre-left pressure group within the Labour party, would cease to be funded by its patron for over a decade, Lord Sainsbury.

Progress has always been the part of the party most in tune with the British public, rather than Labour members or supporters, and has been unafraid to challenge Labour to engage with new voters, rather than preach to the converted.

It has therefore, as one might imagine, had a somewhat tough time since the party’s return to opposition and its gradual move to the left since that point. During the Miliband era, it continued to push quietly but firmly towards the centre, providing a useful ballast creeping “hullo clouds, hullo sky” impossiblism of the party’s then leadership.

However, even during that era, it was under attack: Miliband’s appeasement of the increasingly militant Unite union required the organisation in 2012 to take measures to defend itself against those, like Unite’s leader Len McCluskey, who accused it of “manipulations” and who would happily see it severed from the party body politic.

Eventually, even Miliband stood up to Len McCluskey after the Falkirk selection debacle; but by mis-specifying the solution, he lost. Unite saw its chance, in Miliband’s adoption of a US-style primary to select its leader, to push the party in its direction. The result was the election of an outside candidate which the PLP did not want and a resulting influx of new, Corbyn-supporting members who have by now displaced many of the old-timers.

The resulting onset of the Corbyn years saw, rightly, an even more robust defence of centrist politics from Progress, presumably on the grounds that, faced with a hard-left leadership, attack was the best form of defence.

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What next for Labour’s moderates? Start winning people round

22/10/2015, 08:27:01 PM

In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory and Labour’s continuing poll struggles, Uncut is running a short series on what Labour’s moderates need to do. Here is David Ward’s take.

What should Labour moderates do? It’s a question playing on many minds at the moment and, in the true spirit of the new politics, some Corbynistas have given us a few suggestions via Twitter and Facebook.

In a sense that’s the starting point, because we want to stay and fight to get Labour back in government. As Jonathan Todd said on these pages “cut Labour moderates and we bleed Labour red”.

I don’t have all the answers to how we do that, but I think there’s a danger in jumping to quick fixes too early.

For a start there’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about what moderates should call themselves. I disagree. Rebranding is rarely the answer, just ask New Coke. Especially if your problem is strategy, you failed to adapt to a changing marketplace in time, or you want some people to move on from the past.

Changing a name isn’t going to make soft left members attracted to Corbyn forget what they didn’t like about Blair or Brown. Moreover, there’s no point changing the name on the tin if we don’t really want to change our own approach. We have to convince members on the soft left, and maybe even non-members from the centre, to join up and join us.

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Next May’s elections will be the test for Corbyn. If he fails, its up to the PLP to act

22/10/2015, 05:12:53 PM

by David Talbot

We are told that “something amazing happened” over the summer of 2015 in British politics. That the election of Jeremy Corbyn had “blown politics wide open”. As if it needed further reinforcement, the American actor Shia LaBeouf was said to exclaim “British politics just got very exciting”.  It is of course billed as the new politics, but is very much the old machine-style politics just with a Twitter handle.

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery after all, and after years of railing against Progress – a party within a party, we were so vehemently told – the left have their new vehicle: Momentum. Its raison d’etre was codified on the hallowed pages of Left Futures, now the Corbynistas headquarters, where the veteran Bennite Jon Lansman rather gave the game away,

And it will also campaign inside the Labour Party to change it into the campaigning organisation we need, rooted in communities and workplaces, a truly democratic party with polices to match the needs of the many not the interests of the few.

This is a positive outward-looking agenda and that is as it should be but there is a defensive agenda too. The fact that those who were threatening a coup until days before Jeremy’s victory stopped doing so when they saw the size of his majority does not mean that they have all changed their minds.

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Five things we learnt from Tristram Hunt

29/10/2014, 04:49:26 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Having derided Ed Miliband as “a vulture” in his column, David Aaronovitch is not an uncritical Labour observer. Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, was last night brave enough to sit down for an hour of conversation with him at a Progress #InConvo14 event.

We can only wonder what an hour of conversation between Miliband and Aaronovitch would tell us. But five things to take away from last night’s event were:

Labour loves teachers

Blowing smoke up the bottoms of teachers is a Hunt speciality. The policy chat was of lessons to be learnt from Finland and Singapore where a focus on teacher quality has driven improvement in school performance. The political pitch was also clear: for the support of teachers bruised by Michael Gove. Where Gove sought to bend them to his will, Hunt wants to put them on a pedestal. And if the Finnish and Singaporean experiences can be replicated, children and parents will thank Hunt.

Labour doesn’t love faith schools as much – but isn’t going to abolish them

Parental choice and school diversity become Labour virtues under Tony Blair. Last night, though, we debated what kind of divided society we might become if this choice is exercised to create a diversity of schools centred on different faiths and ethnicities.

Hunt recognised the concern but argued that school challenge and collaboration can overcome it. He claimed that these characteristics were present in the successful London Challenge, while their absence goes some way to explaining recent problems in Birmingham schools. A diversity of faith schools, on this argument, is unproblematic if they are challenged by Ofsted and integrated into local networks of both accountability and collaboration.

Labour wants to make a big play out of being pro-EU

“The thing,” according to Chuka Umunna’s recent GQ interview, “business fears most is exit from the EU, not a Labour government”. Umunna made this argument when it was put to him that Labour is anti-business. Hunt did the same last night when similarly pressed. Labour cannot be anti-business, so the story goes, because business values the UK’s EU membership and Labour government guarantees this membership, whereas Tory government doesn’t. Having cast around for business pitch, it appears that Labour has disembarked on what it thinks is a winner. (more…)

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Reheat the “white heat of technology”

03/02/2014, 11:13:29 AM

In the run up to tonight’s Progress event , we have been publishing a series of pieces on what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Jonathan Todd looks at how Labour can re-calibrate it’s economic message to reflect the changing times.

Back in October, Uncut noted the trends over 2013 for a narrowing of Labour’s poll lead and rising economic optimism. We ran regressions on these trends that indicated the Conservatives would take a poll lead when a quarter of the electorate described the economy as doing well.

On 9/10 January, 15% of voters reported the economy as doing well. A small rise on the 14% that had done so in the last three polls of 2013. Then 18% gave this verdict on 16/17 January. This reached 20% by 23/24 January.

At the same time, Labour’s polling lead has further narrowed. Three out of four polls reported in the YouGov tracker between 22/23 January and 28/29 January gave Labour a poll lead of 3%. Less than it has tended to be throughout this parliament.

Looking at the trend toward rising economic optimism and Labour’s further diminishing poll lead, it seems plausible that another bump in the optimism tracker to 25% would secure the Conservatives a poll lead. Consistent with this, the regressions implied that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate that think the economy is doing well, the Conservatives would close on Labour by 0.6%.

Sadly, therefore, things are playing out as the Todd thesis – as Lewis Baston called the regressions – indicated. Labour has two options. First, hope that the trend toward increasing economic optimism abates. Second, act to prevent this trend translating into a shrinking Labour poll lead.

The first approach is a “something will turn up” strategy. It rarely does. And even if it does, it – persistent economic gloominess – is not something we should be hoping for. Instead, Labour should appreciate the context in which we now operate – one of rising economic optimism – and adopt an approach that allows us to get on the front foot.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Leadership on Europe

03/02/2014, 07:00:51 AM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces on what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Callum Anderson looks at the need for leadership on Europe.

In just a few months, UK voters, along with their fellow EU citizens, will be given the opportunity to vote in a new cohort of MEPs, who will represent them in the European Parliament for the next five years. Current polling does not read well for the three main parties – UKIP are regularly polling numbers in the high 20s, and could ultimately ‘win’ the election. Regardless of whether the party leaders like it or not, Europe, and Britain’s place in it, remains an issue for many.

With all this is mind, Labour Uncut’s joint event with the Fabian Society next Monday is extremely timely. Uncut’s very own Atul Hatwal will discuss, alongside Peter Kellner of the pollster YouGov, the Fabian’s Marcus Roberts and the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, how Labour can secure a majority government in 2015. Whilst the issue of Europe, and Britain’s membership of the European Union, is not as striking as the economy, it has, and continues to cast, a dark shadow over successive governments. It is one that must be tackled head-on. And soon.

Where does Labour stand on all of this?

Naturally, Ed Miliband and the shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander have voiced their broad support for Britain’s membership of the EU. But, at the time of writing, only the Conservatives advocate an EU in/out referendum in 2017, with both Labour and Liberal Democrat frontbenches highly reluctant to acquiesce. This has led to their respective leaderships of both parties being forced onto the defensive by the Conservatives and the media alike: ‘don’t you believe that Britons should be given a chance to decide?’ they ask.

So, how should Labour go forward?

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Ed needs to demonstrate leadership and reform the party

30/01/2014, 08:01:06 PM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Rob Marchant looks at the need for strong leadership in revitalising the party.

Six months on from the heady days of last July, when Miliband swore to reform his party after the failure of Refounding Labour to refound very much, the final proposals are being sent to members of Labour’s NEC this weekend. But has Miliband delivered?

In Chapter 2 of Labour’s manifesto Uncut the main objective we saw for the proposed reforms – in which he had Uncut’s full support – was to help boost his personal popularity with the electorate, by showing he could make a difference to that little company of which he is effectively the CEO: the Labour Party (although, for the record, we also urged him to go further).

Now, rather than judging on the basis of what has so far been leaked, we could simply ask the question: what would be the impact of Miliband not delivering? It’s not hard to predict.

One: in the event of losing a battle already made irrevocably personal, his personal poll ratings would very likely continue to languish. Because people like people who say they’ll do things, then do them. And the perception that unions run Labour Party is a decidedly dangerous one.

Given that reforming their party is really the only realm in which a leader of the opposition can actually do anything, and that this is a one-shot game, that game would be lost. For the record, the last three leaders, Kinnock, Smith and Blair, were felt to have succeeded in this area (kicking out Militant, OMOV and Clause Four respectively). People will draw their own conclusions.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? We need to be more than just the least worst option

30/01/2014, 02:28:56 PM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Sam Fowles looks at the need for a clear vision.

The biggest mistake Labour could make in the search for victory in 2015 is thinking that’s what’s most important. Labour needs to win but winning is the easy part. We also need to actually change people’s minds. Labour needs to give the country a big idea of what Britain could be in the 21st Century. We need to aspire to be more than simply the least worst option in the existing paradigm.

The specifics of policy and politics are important but Labour needs to do more. There needs to be a bigger reason. We need to offer the electorate a different idea of society and we need to give each and every person a tangible stake in it. Individual policies must all drive towards this goal.

If government is seen merely as economic stewards or national regulators conservatives will always be at an advantage. Government needs to be seen as the expression of society, the heart of a living breathing organism which engages us all and through which we fulfill our responsibilities to each other.

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Find out on Monday February 3rd

30/01/2014, 12:45:01 PM

As the polls narrow and Labour nerves begin to jangle, it’s the question many are thinking: how does the party secure a majority in 2015? What seemed comfortable 13 months ago, when the poll lead was regularly in double digits, is now in the balance.

Fortunately, for those of a nervous disposition who do not simply want to wonder in silence, the good people at Progress have organised a series of events where answers can be provided. Uncut will be taking part in the next one

6-7.30pm, Monday 3 February 2014

Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons

Atul Hatwal Editor, Labour Uncut
Peter Kellner President, YouGov
Marcus Roberts Deputy general secretary, the Fabian Society
Polly Toynbee Columnist, the Guardian
Chair: Siobhain McDonagh MP Member, education select committee

If you can make it, come along. If not, follow it (and the other events) on twitter at #labmaj.

As a teaser for the debate, over the coming days, we will be publishing a series of short pieces that look at the key issues for Labour to win majority in 2015, where the party is and what needs to be done. So look out for them and we’ll see you on Monday.

 

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Westmorland and Lonsdale needs Labour as much as anywhere else

23/01/2014, 04:44:44 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour has invariably been in third place in Westmorland and Lonsdale, as Dr David Clark, Lord Clark of Windermere’s vivid history of the local Labour movement accounts. As Labour’s candidate in the constituency in 2010, however, I know that Westmorland’s Labour activists are as passionate as any elsewhere in the country.

They can see rural poverty around them. Which grinds as its urban cousin does. They can see locals priced out of villages dominated by second homes. Which is inequality as visceral as the contrast between the Square Mile and the poorest parts of London. They can see a country struggling to recover from the ruin reaped by the inhabitants of the Square Mile and a world scarred by injustice. And they know that only a Labour government can best respond to these national and global challenges.

As a party we cannot ask members in seats like Westmorland and Lonsdale to look upon the inequities of their neighbours and to hunger for a Labour government capable of alleviating them without then providing them the support to make a difference in their neighbourhoods and communities.

Pragmatists might point these activists to near-by parliamentary seats – Barrow, Lancaster and Morecambe – that Labour is closer to holding or winning. And I’m confident that John Woodcock, Cat Smith and Amina Lone will provide a warm welcome to helpers from Kendal, Ambleside and elsewhere in South Lakeland.

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