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Progress dispute can’t be resolved without action by Labour’s executive

Progress has today announced that it is making a number of “changes” which it claims make it more open and transparent and introduces some elements of democracy into its structure. The announcement was timed to coincide with the meeting of the organisation committee of Labour’s national executive which will receive notification of the rule change governing internal “factions” referred to by Paul Kenny at the GMB Congress which has been proposed by rail union, ASLEF.

Although we welcome the changes Progress has made, they do not go nearly far enough and, most importantly, do nothing to address the concerns that it is largely funded by one rich man who has stopped gving money to the Labour Party. That money is used in part to fund the training and promotion of its supporters in parliamentary and local government selection processes — which Progress admits for the first time today — as well as internal party elections.

The critical part of the proposed rule change submitted by ASLEF would require that:

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.

It would also require the executive to ensure that all such groups met “acceptable standards of democracy, governance and transparency” (although this is something the executive could already do).

Most Labour Party members, we suspect, would sympathise with this proposal. But they may well prefer not to wait until September 2013 for conference to debate it (as current rules delay debate for a year on all rule changes except those proposed by the executive itself). Most party members would sooner see the current dispute settled sooner, and that requires action by the national executive.

In addition to the question of whether there should be a ceiling on donations by a single individual (or a form of match funding to the party as suggested by ASLEF), disclosing accounts already registered at Companies House is inadequate. As you can see from Progress accounts 2009/10, there are no figures included at all for income and expenditure – they are not required in small company accounts. That is not acceptable — what is need is the full detailed disclosure seen, for example, in the Compass accounts, which also serve as a model for the type of open disclsure appropriate for an organisation with a turnover of over £250,000.

There are other issues we could raise: Progress has, for example, still not disclosed the names of the members of its company – who ultimately control its activities (subject to the views of it dominant funder) and elect its directors. The test of whether the party is satisfied with the changes Progress has made ultimately lies with the membership.

When the legitimacy of Progress’s “party-within-a-party” operation was first questioned, they dismissed the allegations as a fringe concern of the “hard left”. It is now clear from the debates at their conferences, that they are widely shared in the party’s largest affiliates. However, no-one wants a damaging extended internal row, any more than anyone wants a purge of Progress or its members from the party. Only the executive can ensure that action is taken to put this matter to rest.

7 Comments

  1. TK says:

    I really despair at this. As someone who has been chair of my CLP, councillor, shop steward, agent and deputy leader of my local authority I think this is all a nonsense.

    We are one party and i believe people to be picking a fight because they lost battles in the past.

    Beat people with the strength of your arguments, not bloc votes and rules at a conference. This will have a severe kick back against the unions in CLPs across the country – left, right and neither party members will see this for what it is – macho nonsense.

  2. john p reid says:

    Compass is open to non labour members,same as Militant was open to Socialist workers party.

  3. Pete says:

    The Labour Representation Committee proclaims that its goal “is to fight for power within the Labour Party and trade union”; it “organise[s] within the constituency parties, trade unions and socialist societies to achieve the implementation of its aims and objectives” and its members speak openly of “recapturing the Labour Party”. Many of its members are not even part of the Labour Party; some are part of other political parties! It has official local branches and official affiliates which have to pay subscription fees to it. It counts among its affiliates Communist Students, the Group of International Communists, the New Communist Party of Britain, Permanent Revolution, the Newrad Communist Collective, the Alliance for Workers Liberty (formerly Socialist Organiser) and Socialist Appeal – the group set up by some Militant leaders after they were expelled from the party. It works to gets it motions adopted by other organisations (LRC Youth is gleefully taking the credit for Young Labour’s recent motion on ending right to buy), and it works to secure nominations for its preferred NEC/NPF candidates and then in turn campaigns for them in the election proper. In the 2005 general election it even published its own independent Labour manifesto; in the 2010 general election it only supported 30 (4.8% of the total) Labour candidates and urged its members to campaign for them instead of Labour’s 603 other candidates. It is currently supporting Labour Left’s training programme for aspiring Labour Party candidates, as far as I’m aware.

    Tell me, Jon, why are you harassing Progress so incessantly and not the LRC? It seems to me like that latter is much, much closer to being “entryist” (as some say) or an insidious “party-in-a-party” than Progress ever is, has been or will be. If you are so concerned and fearful for our party’s democracy, why do you not treat the left and right wing of the party with equal severity of scrutiny?

  4. Robert says:

    The place is empty mention progress anywhere on the blog and this lot turns up

  5. john Reid says:

    well said pete.

  6. Ryszard Konietzka says:

    @Pete

    Progress is a secretive organisation with a complete lack of democracy at its core, the LRC, whatever it’s faults, is not.

    Progress purports to support Labour, whilst actually only supporting a narrow band of the brand. The LRC backs Labour with equivocation.

    Progress editorialises and briefs against people whose politics it doesn’t like, and who have been democratically selected and elected by the party – the Leader, Ed Miliband, and Ken Livingstone, are but 2. The latter of which Progress members were calling for a vote against. The LRC does not call for its members to vote against Labour.

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