Posts Tagged ‘Progress’

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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Sunday review on Thursday: The not-the-London-Labour-mayor hustings

28/11/2013, 01:14:49 PM

by David Butler

When is a husting not a husting? When it is a Progress Campaign for a Labour Majority event on winning in London. That all the invited panellists, including the curiously absent Sadiq Khan, are considered potential nominees for Mayor of London was just pure coincidence.

The event was less a tale of two Londons (or One London Labour or whatever today’s vogue is) but of two de Blasios. David Lammy and Diane Abbott sought this mantle both through reference to New York’s Mayor-elect and through the language and policies on offer. Lammy provide a toned down version of de Blasio’s message, whilst Abbott raised the rhetorical and policy stakes, offering a clear left-populist platform. This, and her potential support from the remnants of Ken’s old machine, makes her a serious contender within a party and electorate to the left of the national norm. Even Andrew Adonis and Tessa Jowell, neither of whom particularly fit the de Blasio mould, referenced “two cities” and “One London” respectively.

However, in many ways, it felt like a London housing policy seminar that happened to have a different title. Both Abbott and Lammy announced support rent regulation, albeit with Lammy obfuscating by calling for “fair rents”. Lammy subsequently redeemed himself with an eminently sensible proposal to build housing on the Green Belt. Jowell warned about the impact of the mansion tax on “asset rich but cash poor” families, a rather surprising move in the circumstances; worrying about those who do well out Britain’s over-inflated housing market should not be high up her priority list. As expected, Adonis had the more innovative ideas proposing to explore shared equity schemes and a “housing bank” to take a stake in future developments in order to prevent land banking.


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Union backed change to Labour rules set to wipe out party groups like Labour Women’s Network

12/08/2013, 07:29:58 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It started as an attempt by sections of the union movement to target Progress. But Uncut understands that a rule change, submitted by ASLEF and initially intended to outlaw Progress, has been drafted so broadly that it would in fact wipe out a range of Labour party groups.

These include Labour Women’s Network, all of the Labour Friends groups (such as Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of India) and even TULO – the trade union and Labour party liaison organisation.

Under the terms of the amendment, all of these organisations would have to transfer half of donations received, above the first £25,000 per annum, to the central party, crippling their ability to operate. The amendment states,

“Delete rule 5.B and insert:

B. Political organisations not affiliated or associated under a national agreement with the party, but whom engage in internal activity, shall be required to:

(i) Notify the national party of all legally reportable donations received.

(ii) Transfer 50% of all donations received beyond the first £25,000 per annum to the national Labour Party.

C. Incorporated organisations that engage in internal activity shall be required to provide upon request all legal, constitutional, and financial documentation to the National Executive Committee to ensure that they meet acceptable standards of democracy, governance and transparency.  These organisations are expected to abide by the authority of the NEC in such matters.

D. The NEC shall be responsible for the interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of these rules.”

Labour party officials have confirmed that this drafting has an extremely broad application. On this basis, if the rule change were passed, thousands of pounds would be slashed from groups, as funds would be appropriated by the national party.

This would have a major impact on the operation of the Labour party.


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A response to Labour’s military interventionists

23/07/2013, 06:51:04 PM

by Lee Butcher

Kirsty McNeill and Andrew Small’s contribution to Progress Online on “the interventionist dilemma” reopens an important but neglected debate within the party. The pre-eminence of the ‘interventionists’ (as they term it) within the Blair and Brown governments were key to how the last government acted out in the world, and the consequences that had for those on the receiving end and for the party’s popularity at home.

The silence on this matter of the party since returning to opposition has seen discussions about the future, or otherwise, of interventionism within the party largely neglected. This is partly due to the convention of opposition parties sticking close by the government on such matters, and partly to avoid reopening the barely healed wounds of Iraq. Such a debate ought to be had before returning government. On this I would agree with McNeill and Small, there however is where my agreement with their analysis ends.

There is an assumption that runs throughout their article that British intervention overseas is not just desirable, but is of critical value to ourselves and to the rest of the world. They make a rather curious assertion that because of American withdrawal from foreign commitments a future Labour government will need to immediately budget for doing so ourselves. Though they do not explicitly say so, one would ask if this would be done on a unilateral basis. This view would seem to be contradicted by an example they cite, Libya, which was done with close co-operation with France. The evidence would strongly suggest that if it is not the Americans we accompany into such pursuits it is our European partners. To believe that the United Kingdom can aspire to going it alone does not take into account the size and strength of our armed forces and what they are capable of achieving. This has been made plainly clear by the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

If McNeill and Small get their way and Prime Minister Miliband instructs Chancellor Balls to budget for increased military spending while critical spending at home is being squeezed, they will quickly find they lack the support of their Labour colleagues in Parliament and vast swathes of the electorate. For all the recent support for the military, spending on wars abroad remains unpopular when schools and hospitals are falling to pieces.


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Labour must look forward, not back, to win in 2015

28/05/2013, 09:51:49 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Peter Kellner reminded us in his recent hard hitting analysis for Progress that the Tories’ central message in 1992 was that Neil Kinnock was a dangerous man who would lead Britain down the road to ruin. He also recalled that the same trick completely failed in 1997. This was because, he argued, Tony Blair had reassured voters that their jobs, homes, pay and savings would be safe with him.

The “Demon Eyes” poster just seemed daft next to the reassurance that Blair had provided. Labour’s “Demon Eyes” football team, founded in 1997, plays on, but the need for reassurance from Labour has returned. Ed Miliband is, according to the Tories, the menace that Kinnock once posed. He must convince that his sums add up on the big challenges facing the country: the economy, welfare, immigration, public services and the cost of living.

While Miliband must seek to reassure, his capacity to do so is not entirely in his control. It can be argued that the tentative economic recovery of 1992 was a harder context in which for Kinnock to provide reassurance than the more upbeat economy in which Blair campaigned in 1997.

Taking a chance on an opposition party seems less of a risk in a stronger economy. Which is why a tepid recovery by 2015 may be the best backdrop to David Cameron’s “don’t let Labour ruin it” message.

Labour’s opposing message, of course, will be “it’s time for a change”. But why? We might say that it’s time for a change because if too far, too fast cuts had not been implemented then we’d now be better off. Unfortunately, this invites the Tories to remind the country why they deemed the cuts necessary: Labour’s profligacy. And there is evidence that this argument increasingly convinces the public.

As the opposition party, Labour has to argue for change in 2015 but this should be an argument about the change that could be achieved from 2015 under Labour, not the change that might have been achieved had Labour been in office from 2010. This might seem obvious but placing an attack on the depth and speed of the government’s cuts at the centre of our economic argument has us looking back to 2010.

Labour can only win with a positive argument for how things will be better from 2015. Yet not only is our main economic argument backward looking but it is backward looking in a tonally negative way. The implicit message of much of our rhetoric is fearful: the government shrinks and the economy collapses; the immigrants arrive and society implodes.


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Miliband’s Progress speech was virtually ignored. That’s a worry.

14/05/2013, 07:00:57 AM

by Ben Mitchell

Ed Miliband made a speech over the weekend that literally dozens of people will have read. More were there to see it live. I was one of the former. Opposition leaders make speeches. That’s what they do. That’s what they’re expected to do. Some get labelled as “keynote,” i.e. this is quite important and will probably form the direction of policy X so pay close attention. The leader’s address at conference fills a few column inches for several days. Either we have a Prime Minister in waiting or it’s back to the drawing board. Saturday’s speech falls into the “strictly for diehards” category.

To sum it up: it wasn’t very good. That’s the charitable conclusion. Being brutally frank, it was actually pretty dire. Or maybe that’s the charitable conclusion. Speaking on Saturday, to the Blairite think-tank Progress (not exactly on home territory for Ed), Miliband said….something. To be honest, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what he said.

It was a hotchpotch of his responsible capitalism vision; the usual to be expected attacks on the government; listening to voters; learning lessons from New Labour – where we got things right, where we got them wrong –  more listening to voters; with sprinklings of One Nationism added for extra flavour.

One Nation: the slogan that just will not budge. Still being drummed home to death. We may have tired of it but we’re not going to forget it. The mark of a successful slogan? Not really. I still don’t understand what it means. Or more accurately, what we’re meant to do with it. Alone, it’s meaningless: Labour has broad appeal? It will unite the whole of Britain?

But, all parties profess to do this. Besides, One Nation fails the “elevator pitch:” able to be summarised in one elevator ride. Which isn’t 100% accurate as I’ve just summed it up in a sentence. Unfortunately, the summary alone is so vague it requires several more elevator rides. Heck, it might be easier just to get in one, hit the emergency alarm, and hope the rescue takes several hours.

I couldn’t help but feel I’d read/heard this speech several times before. Probably because it’s been delivered several times before. Ed’s conference address last year (rightly hailed a triumph) has been regurgitated more times than should be humanly possible.

“One Nation is about everybody having opportunity and having a responsibility to play their part.”

Sounds very Big Society to me.

“A country that acknowledges the difficulties, accepts the anxieties, knows that times are going to be hard, but that is confident that change can come.

“A country that knows that we work best when we work together.”

See above.

“All the lessons of our history, from the industrial revolution to the post-war reconstruction, are that we need a recovery made by the many.”

This is David Cameron speaking.


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Progress are here to stay, get over it

16/07/2012, 01:32:14 PM

by Curtis McLellan

It’s been a strange few weeks to be a Progress member, a Unite member and a Labour party member.  It is almost like me and my kind are persona non grata.  Well, I am not ashamed.  My kind are part of a long proud lineage of revisionist thought in the Labour party.  My kind and our thought laid the philosophical foundations for an unprecedented 13 years of Labour government.

My kind bided our time whilst the other side had their 1983 manifesto, we fought against Trotskyist entryism, siding with the unions to remove that threat.  We had internal victories and internal defeats, but there was one thing for certain: we were in perpetual opposition.  And then, in 1996, many of my predecessors formed a think-tank to generate ideas for the fledgling New Labour project. A year later, well, the rest is history.

For all of you still pretending that it is simply an “organisational” spat, who still believe in the platitudes that we are a broad church, be under no illusion.  This is an ideological attack on Progress and the philosophy of New Labour, cloak and dagger.

In all honesty, anyone on the centre should have seen it coming.  We were in the ascendancy for too long, and now we are in decline.  That is the cyclical nature of internal Labour party politics, and it is now time for revenge.  They’ve got their party back.  For those of you who disliked Luke Akehurst’s Niemoller analogy, look away now: prepare for a period of Stalin-like rewriting of history.  Unite call the last Labour government “a bitter disappointment”.

Why?  Was there too much employment?  Too high a quality of life (certainly better than before and now)?  Did the minimum wage grind their gears?  Perhaps the low number of strikes annoyed them.  Or maybe there were too many hospitals and schools built, or the top tax rate was too low.  I don’t know, but it certainly wasn’t what some union leaders had wanted.  But it’s not just the past, and how bad New Labour was that draws union leaders’ ire. It’s the influence of New Labour now.

I should hope that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, two members of New Labour government, feel quite insulted that they are not thought to be able to think for themselves.  The times that they adopt centrist policy, it is claimed by Unite, is only at the times that those nasty Blairites lean on them:

“‘it was Progress who argued that Labour’s front bench needed to support cuts and wage restraint. Congress regrets that Ed Miliband caved into this pressure. Congress notes with concern the support by Ed Balls and Ed Miliband for public sector pay restraint, thus giving credibility to Tory arguments about the deficit”.

For the record, Progress did not argue that.


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Labour approaches a tipping point

11/07/2012, 03:13:52 PM

by Rob Marchant

“The future is unwritten” said Joe Strummer. He was right.  We really can change the future: really. Because politics is driven by people and events.

That said, many of these people and events are in turn, whether we like it or not, driven by power.

It’s significant that even the word tends to bring to mind thoughts of how power corrupts or how the wielding of power is somehow an undesirable act. But power can be good too. We need it. The just wielding of power is a wholly good and desirable act, whether or not we agree with the political outcome. Democracy would be meaningless without it, after all. Power is there to be used for good, even if that is not always the result as we see it.

Those who have it can choose to wield it, or not. And sometimes it can be about perceived, rather than actual, power, as well. The shifting of the political tectonic plates often happens because the balance changes between one side and another, and it is often these events, rather than the froth of the everyday media, which we should be watching.

So, let’s go beyond, for a moment, the day to day – whether or not Osborne will apologise to Balls (he should), or even whether the coalition is on the rocks (it’s probably not) – and take a little look into the Labour Party’s immediate future. It’s either entirely frivolous, or deadly serious: you choose.

And so we come back to the underlying story which manifested itself in Labour’s affiliated unions wanting to ban Progress. It hasn’t gone away, as many had hoped: the motion to conference has arrived from ASLEF, and it’s not clear that it was an “honourable peace” either, as Mark Ferguson  noted at LabourList on Monday.


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The hard left is on the march and in no mood to stop

06/07/2012, 08:00:42 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The first skirmish is over. The unions have drawn blood. On Tuesday, Progress released its statement describing a series of changes to its internal operation. They were all reasonable changes, but this was never about reforming Progress.

If this row had truly been about the governance of pressure groups active within Labour, then a lot of other organisations would have been in the frame.

The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) for one. Founded in 2004 (though bearing the name of an illustrious forbear), the LRC is open to non-Labour party members, affiliated to such sage organisations as the New Communist Party and Permanent Revolution and has the primary purpose of taking control of Labour party constituency parties to help shift national policy so far to the left, the 1983 manifesto would look Blairite.

Nothing to see here guv. No scrutiny needed at all.

No, this was never about the “acceptable standards of democracy, governance and transparency” trumpeted by the ASLEF motion targeting Progress that is still in the process of being submitted to Labour conference.

It’s one of the hallmarks of how far the party has stepped through the hard left’s looking glass that so many Labour commentators have just accepted the assumption that Progress were a problem.

Following Tuesday’s statement,peace with  honour” was the description used by Mark Ferguson at Labour List. Why not go the whole hog, wave a bit of paper about and proclaim “peace in our time”.

In actual fact, there’s no need. “Peace with honour” were the words used by Chamberlain to describe his thoroughly successful jaunt to Munich, when talking to reporters on the doorstep of Number 10.

Strange how that phrase sprang to mind.

Because this was never about the alleged substance of the issue, Progress’ statement will not be the end of the conflict. Why should it? The unions and left have just won a significant victory. Why stop here? The limits of their power have clearly not been reached.


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Revealed: the GMB backtracks on Progress

29/06/2012, 02:10:43 PM

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”.


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