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Putting Labour first: time to stop the party tearing itself apart

o0qghvLike Fight Club, the first rule of Labour First (the voice of Labour “moderates”) is to not talk about Labour First. Or at least it used to be. Pulling up outside the Brandhall Labour Club in Oldbury yesterday morning, conference-goers were treated to banners festooned with the Labour First logo and reminders everywhere about its hashtag. If that wasn’t enough, these days even Corbyn-critical lefts like me get invited. Assembled comrades included national secretary, Luke Akehurst, and parliamentary stalwart, John Spellar, a smattering of MPs and MEPs old and new, about 150 or so attendees, and the recently back-benched Michael Dugher, who was present to give the keynote.

I know from my six years as a party member that Labour First has a dark, backroom glamour – if such a thing could be said to exist. Unfortunately, folks expecting a conference living up to this Tuckeresque reputation were to be disappointed. Michael’s speech was witty and warm, and lacked the rancour one might have expected. His theme was, rightly, taking the fight to the Tories. In the first place it meant highlighting their many deficiencies, defending our record in government, but also avoiding the reopening of previously settled debates. Michael noted, for instance, that party conference had made its views on Trident replacement clear in September, so to try and overturn that decision by passing over party structures in favour of a “weekend email” to selected members is not only not on, it is a massive distraction from the burning issues the overwhelming majority of party members agree on. Michael also argued that he wants to see a Labour Party the Tories fear, and that will only happen if we’re prepared to pick fights with them. Every day we spend out of power is a betrayal of the people we serve, and ultimately it is them who pay the price.

There followed a number of questions. Referring to nuclear weapons, one comrade asked if the party’s policy is multilateral disarmament then why aren’t we pushing that position more strongly and challenging the government to take an international lead on this issue? Another comrade, noting the lessons of the Better Together campaign in Scotland, argued that our position for change can’t be a defence of the status quo but offer a vision of a changed Europe. Another, referencing the imminent Beckett report, asked why the party hadn’t turned outwards to ask members of the public why they didn’t vote for us. Noting the preponderance of men in attendance, there were questions on what can be done to promote more women, the need to construct an emotional appeal voters would find convincing, and, recognising the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands who’ve joined the party, what can the moderate wing of the party say to them?

I found Michael’s reply interesting, seeing as other self-professed moderates have called them “morons“, Trots, etc.. He said these new members were in the party for the right reasons, and to capture them for more mainstream politics means welcoming them and earning their trust. Later on, John Spellar returned to this theme and argued the best way to integrate new members into the party and administer a dose of pragmatism is to take them door knocking – preferably around a council estate to see what our people really think.

The conference also heard from Labour First-endorsed NEC candidates Ellie Reeves, Cllr Pete Wheeler, and Luke. Joanna Baxter, who’s also on the slate, was otherwise engaged. Also notable was the contribution of Labour First candidate for the national constitutional committee, Maggie Cosin. Referencing the electability gap Labour is facing, she said “I’ve been a member for 59 years, I refuse to die under a Tory government – I want to be buried under a Labour government.

If there was a message consistent through all the speakers and contributions from the floor was this need to win. In the spirit of straight talking and honest politics, comrades on the left would be wise to take the politics and concerns of people who support Labour First (and Progress, for that matter) at face value. The reason why I remain a Jeremy sceptic is because I do not believe we can win an election under his leadership. This concerns me not because there’s a safe seat waiting for me, or I stand to personally profit from the handout of spadding jobs, it’s because “our people” – our class and our politics – are strengthened by a Labour government. And going from what was said at Labour First yesterday by people who aren’t running for Parliament, nor fishing for positions on the party payroll, this – though not necessarily using the same language – is what they want to see as well.

It’s time all sides of the Labour Party at least came to a common understanding. Some of the issues that divide left, centre, and right cannot be papered over. They will always bubble up and will have to be resolved one way or the other. But the tearing of the party apart can be avoided if we recognise everyone enters these debates in good faith, and that all sides work to polemicise and organise against the others’ positions as they actually are, not what one’s factional rhetoric says they are. Yesterday’s Labour First conference was certainly encouraging in this regard.

Photo Credit: Ian McKenzie

50 Comments

  1. John P Reid says:

    Johanna Baxter isn’t part of the labour first skate,we had this discussion in 2015
    R when LF implied this, the fact that there are 6 places for the NEC and labour first put up 3 and the hard left,who call the,selves centre left CLPD put up6 jeans, moderates, don’t have 6 people to vote for and,probably vote for Baxter, as for comparing labour first to progress, as Kevan Jones pointed out,he’s not in progress,and it’s not a back room group, it just doesn’t get the articles/Attention the CLPD does, (witness Ken Livingstone, Jon Lansman, Kate Osamor, Ann Black constantly on the media)
    So left futures,if you think Labour first is back room, give them a column.

  2. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

    The first thing to say is that it is not the Labour Party tearing itself apart, it is right wing Neo-Liberal MPs are not Labour and they are determined to attack the current leadership even if that means destroying the Party.

    We on the left sat back whilst New Labour created a party within a party without democratically explaining what they stand for. When ever you ask Neo-Liberals to provide evidence for the policies they pursue they can’t offer any.

    Before Jeremy won the leadership contest I was firmly of the opinion that the best way forward for real Labour supporters was to leave the Party like those that set up Left Unity and form a proper socialist coalition with the support of the Unions.

    Then we saw the massive support for Jeremy, and that told me that most committed Labour supporters were actually the majority and that we can promote the policies of Labour.

    I went on the Picket lines locally and spoke with Junior doctors, who were also supportive of Jeremy and spelled out exactly why they liked him, when he speaks you can trust what he says, whilst the others say what they think you want to hear then do the opposite.

    That is what the public want to hear not New Labour spin.

    The facts are what matters to people, they know they are being lied to, the problem is they don’t know why and New Labour have no intention of telling them because they have their own agenda.

    We the members of the party need to concentrate on getting the message out to people, that they are being lied to, that we can afford our public services, that Neo-Liberals of all colours are hell bent on selling the ground from beneath our feet.

    Poverty is a policy decision, not a fact of life.

    Debt lies at the heart of the Neo-Liberal agenda, the banks rely on debtors to make profit, poor wages and less benefits mean that people will borrow money, high wages and savings mean people do not need to borrow, it’s quite simple really.

    What Labour Party members did not know after the last war, was that money enters the economy as debt printed electronically out of thin air, that is how it has always been although in the past it was referred to as fountainpen transactions, we now know that and also that we print money to save the Banks who crashed the economy, but when it comes to public services, we are suddenly broke.

    In essence the Bank of England is the issuer of our currency, and our government does not need to borrow it’s own currency from anyone or anywhere.

    The reason we do is a political decision, serving the sole interests of the financial sector at our expense, this is the 21st century, we need to start taking control of our lives not in becoming the modern day slaves to the corrupt banking system.

    New Labour talk about business interests, that has been the mantra for over forty years, that is what we need to reject and why we are here where we are today. Government has the power to create real jobs as we did after the second world war, unlike the first who promised to make a land fit for heroes, only to create the conditions of 20s and 30s.

    1. John P Reid says:

      and if labour get massacred in 2020 and someone from the centre of the party takes o er will you ,leave,but if we’re in such a state as a party ,it takes 40 years to recover

      1. Mervyn Hyde (@mjh0421) says:

        John:

        Look John, the Neo-Liberal right such as yourself have been in control of the party since Blair came into office, I remember the very first party forum in Reading, where Blair spoke about his programme in government. A member of the party asked him after his speech, “where was the socialism?” to which Blair replied, socialism was dead.

        Since then we have lost 5 million voters, in Oldham Labour increased its vote by 10%, Ukip gained 3% and the Tories lost 10%, that increase in the vote was on top of the popular Michael Meacher’s best ever, Where do you think the Tory vote went?

        You have had all the evidence placed before you of the complicity of New Labour selling off state assets, privatising the NHS, outsourcing public services and blocking the democratic aspirations of the membership with bogus policy forming forums.

        You always try to make out that New Labour won three elections, I would point out that we and I would suggest many other Labour supporters voted New Labour in ignorance of the real objectives, and fear of the Tories getting back in.

        Since the crash and with all the evidence highlighting New Labour and Tory complicity in the Neo-Liberal agenda, means that your wing of the party has lost all credibility.

        The disgraceful machinations against Jeremy by MPs I have never heard of before, just re-enforces the fact that these politicians are not representative of the people they purport to represent.

        I think you should ask yourself, who’s interests do you think they serve?

        1. John P Reid says:

          Various things wrong with what you’ve put, but, labour increased its vote by 5.2million from 1987-1997 for it to lose 4.86m votes between 1997-2010 and 3.6m of them had died. And Jim Mcmahon voted for Kendall for leader,of peopl for vote labour through of fear of the Tories getting in,and it’s obvious labour would only be win elections from thcentre, then, the party would say to itself, we NEC to be in the centre,which we’re not now, to try to win all the. Time

          I realize we were close to the centre when we lost in 2010 but even. Then,the centre was swinging to the right on certain things, Austerity,appearing popular with the public,so we by your logic, tried to have swung to the right in 2010 to try to ,get ex libdem voters,

    2. Sue says:

      well said Mervyn —- couldnt agree more.

  3. Bazza says:

    Interesting point in this was about taking new members out on council estates to see what people think?
    But aren’t we a political party which can actually engage with and try to politicise working class/working people and win them to our ideas?
    And I speak as a working class left wing democratic socialist who was brought up on council estates before being the first in my family to go to university.
    Activists are not passive market researchers many of us are left wing democratic socialists and we should get back to political education which was frozen under New Labour.
    I agree with Mervyn – Jeremy was elected by 60% of the grassroots and it is all these Labour ‘moderates’ (read Neo-Liberals) who are whining to the media (helping the Tories) and who are trying to weaken the leader, the grassroots, and who are hurting working class/working people.
    The Labour First/Progress Neo-Liberals in my view seem to be the great unread without an original ideas in their heads.
    But we now appear to have a progressive grassroots and need to get left wing democratic socialists on the NEC and policy back to members; many of us are bursting with ideas after years of top down New Labour where members could be seen but seldom heard.
    We also need to select left wing democratic socialist Labour MPs who reflect the grassroots.
    The Tories got about 11m votes at the last election (only 25% of the total electorate) and Labour got 9m but the tragedy is that 14m people didn’t vote perhaps quite rightly seeing the parties as all being the same (Neo-Liberals) and it should be the cause of left wing democratic socialists (as well as winning the 9m and others) to also try to appeal to these 14m of our co-citizens.
    Let ideas rule and let grassroots, bottom up, party democracy decide policy.
    Oh and members should read New Left Review!

  4. John Penney says:

    This disingenuous article is as one with your numerous previous bogus claims that the likes of Liam Byrne, and Tristram Hunt are now rid of their neoliberal, Blairite, mindset, and have real, useful political suggestions to make to assist Labour to win the next General Election on a platform which will actually help to improve the living standards of the mass of working people.

    You are completely wrong, Phil. The Labour First mob, and indeed the Labour Right as a whole , are sold body, soul, and political ideology, entirely to the interests of their direct personal financial and post political career directorship-providing superrich sponsors This is best represented by the Billionaire and business funded Progress Group – but Labour First is also simply an organisational manifestation of the dominance of what are quite simply the career politician creatures of the Big Business interests who have systematically subverted and bought the political processes in all the major Western democracies over the last 30 years as a key component of the neoliberal Offensive which has massively shifted wealth , and power, from the 99% to the 1%.

    The much loved and repeated invocation from the Right that if only the “dreamers of the Left” would get out on the doorsteps of Labour voters we would realise that only the policies of the neoliberal Labour Right “realists” could ever get Labour re-elected, is a sick joke. It was those viciously anti working class politics that totally destroyed Labour in Scotland FFS ! The SNP outflanked Labour on the Left by a mile in Scotland – quite separately from the independence issue.

    But let’s ignore this demonstrable reality – never a strong point for the claims of the Labour First/Progress Labour Right crew. Let’s pretend that the typical rag bag of racist, pro-capitalist, “aspirational” bullshit policies , recommended by the Labour First et al types are indeed the way to, in England at least, get Labour re-elected. What would this raft of policies look like. ? Ignore the obvious ones like renewing the grossly expensive and useless Trident system, or the desire to bomb anywhere our US overlords ask us to do. That’s a given. What economic and social policies would the Labour Right promote ? We know full well what they are, eg:

    Pursuing the neoliberal mantra of “balanced budgets and shrinking the state, ie,Cutting Welfare to the most vulnerable, letting local government services die. Continuing to privatise the NHS – moving to private health insurance. Continuing to support the most oppressive anti trades union legislative framework in Europe. Full support for the totally pro Big Business TTIP treaty. Collaborating with the Tories in scapegoating migrant workers. Continuing to support the ever growing financialisation of Britain’s economic structure. No serious attempt to create a regional Development programme. And on it goes – “Business as usual”.

    In other words the Labour Right will propose anything the Billionaire owned UK press want them to – leaving Labour, until the Corbyn Surge, merely a slightly less rabid neoliberal party to the Tories. How does getting that fundamentally corrupt and politically pro Big Business Party back into office assist anyone but the coterie of corrupt career politicians who now populate most of the PLP ? It certainly won’t assist most Labour voters – a realisation that is the reason Labour’s membership and total vote had diminished (and collapsed in Scotland) so much over the years of pro Big Business Blairism.

    Your repeated false claims that the Blairites of various stripes in the Labour Party have anything positive to offer is very tiresome. They are political poison, and whatever their insincere protestation of “party loyalty” in public forums (balanced against their constant anti Left paid for poison in the mass media) they will destroy the Labour Party without a second thought rather than see it continue on its current Leftward track.

    A future Labour “victory” on the continuing neoliberal terms the Labour Right want, is no sort of victory at all , Phil. Which is why the hundreds of thousands of new Left-oriented LP members want to pursue a new political direction. We have no interest in assisting a bunch of expenses fiddling, corrupt, Blairite career politicians get their noses back in the Westminster trough, by Kowtowing to the prejudices and false economic mantras peddled day in day out to a misinformed public by the capitalist mass media.

    Winning on a principled Left Wing Programme, in the face of this media barrage of lies won’t be easy – but as the wipeout of the corrupt, uber rightwing Blairite/Jim Murphy, Labour Party in in Scotland showed, the Left message (as spun alongside its nationalist victimhood rhetoric by the cynical SNP as part of its deliberate outflanking of Labour strategy) can actually win mass support when coherently argued.

    By 2020 the economy will be in such a shambles, almost certainly in the throws of another major financial crash, that any residual credibility for the snake oil neoliberal nostrums of the Tories and the Labour Right will be utterly exposed – and the radical Left Keynsian reformism of Corbynism will be one of the few believable political offers around (unfortunately probably alongside a resurgence of rabid Far Right politics of the French National Front type too).

    1. John P Reid says:

      the progress/labour first, right crew, And you get upset when it’s implied that people in CPLD are also in militant/socialist party, TUSC, SWP

      1. John Penney says:

        As I understand it, the Socialist Party (ex RSL/Militant) are still determined to avoid re-joining Labour , having written it off when they were purged. As I also understand it the SWP have not , so far at least, decided to “enter” the Labour Party , and haven’t done since their Earlier pre IS days (Socialist Review Group was it ?) in the 1960’s.

        The idea that the SPEW and SWP are present in the CPLD is a fantasy of yourself and the Labour Right, and the billionaire press, John. Worry a lot more about the hundreds of thousands of us ordinary actually present new and returned and longstanding Leftwingers in the Party rather than those bogey men/women of your fantasies.

        And yes, John, Progress demonstrably is a billionaire and Big Business funded neoliberal entrist grouping with an anti working class agenda, a party within a party, completely at odds with the Labour tradition and the overwhelming majority of Labour members today.

        1. John P Reid says:

          it’s. Magazine,not a party within. Party,it doesn’t put up candidates against labour, can’t vote at conference, doesn’t have progress only meetings at cLP level,and define anti working class agenda

          It isn’t completely at odds with the majority of lsbour members even if it’s a minority, in fact as Corbyn only got 49.5% of members votes, that makes no sense

          I don’t have to worry about new members, you can pretend they’re not bogey men,the way labour ignored militant in the 70’s till it was too late

          1. Nestor says:

            I love the “only” 49.5% of members stat, there.

            Remind us what Liz Kendall got again?

            “I don’t have to worry about new members, you can pretend they’re not bogey men”

            New members of the party are “bogey men”? That’s an incredibly odd thing to say.

            Tell you what, let’s call the 2015 election year zero, after which no new members are allowed to join. Would that make you happy?

          2. Nestor says:

            “it’s. Magazine,not a party within”

            I love this.

            “Progress? Just an incredibly well financed magazine with a miniscule circulation! Nothing to see here, move along”

          3. John P Reid says:

            I never said that, but if you’ve proof it,like militant before hand has CLP level progress meetings and backs non labour candidates and can secretly vote at inference, do tell

          4. John P Reid says:

            Kendall got 6.5% of mmbers 4.5% of votes Cooper got 20% of members and Burnham got 24.5% of members, who voted

            I was replying to you when you implied I thought they were bogey then.

            Why would I want new members not to join? As long as the rules of the £3 supporters are applied, that they’re not secret Tories for Corbyn, etc

          5. Ric EUTENEUER says:

            Yes, remember when Militant said it was “only a newspaper” ? Progress is exactly the same. Does the Independent or Guardian have an AGM, and do they sponsor candidates for election ?

          6. John P Reid says:

            Militant were lying , progress,they can’t vote at conference, people become members of a magazine if they subscribe to it,if it has a political view to encourage and debates and the guardian backed Yvette for lsbour leader,
            They don’t have local only meetings excluding other lsbour members to vote, they don’t have a plAn to vote for ousting others and a group can be just a magazine and a debating chamber like Henry Jackson

    2. Jon Lansman says:

      I don’t think you have to be a Jeremy sceptic as Phil is to find sense in the conclusions reaches here and I do think John is wrong to see the Labour right as a monolithic bloc. Theris of course some very deep hostility to Corbyn from all of Progress and most of Labour First, but there are important differences between them – especially in relation to their class orientation and commitment to trade unionism. The advice “that all sides work to polemicise and organise against the others’ positions as they actually are, not what one’s factional rhetoric says they are” surely must make sense.

      1. John P Reid says:

        And other groups the CO-op the fabians

  5. Richard Tiffin says:

    I really cannot make my mind up about you Phil, fool or knave.

    Your central premise is; “In the spirit of straight talking and honest politics, comrades on the left would be wise to take the politics and concerns of people who support Labour First (and Progress, for that matter) at face value”.

    So it’s all the fault of the left is it Phil? We simply don’t trust the baby kissing, puppy loving, fluffy right wing? If we did perhaps the civil war in the party would stop.

    Did you Google the news following Dugher’s speech on Saturday Phil? Go do it. You will find the word “barmy”, aimed at Corbyn of course, liberally spread around the headlines taken from a speech where we are told Labour cannot spend another day talking about Trident whilst Dugher talks about….err…Trident.

    He might have seen so lovely and reasonable to you Phil. Amiable, charming, nicely answering questions but I contend that he knew exactly what he was doing. He knows exactly what soundbites will be picked up the following day and how they will be played. If he doesn’t then he shouldn’t be in bloody politics.

    He knows full well that Trident will play out well for the right because the unions want to keep it for the sake of the jobs, the ruling class love their useless phallic symbol so the the media will play ball and the working classes are hot on ‘defence’ and fear Britain being ‘weak’. So if everybody is telling them that scraping Trident is a bad thing except for Corbyn, well…you get the idea.

    Of course the right are running with this one, they’d be foolish not to.

    That’s how these battles are fought Phil, can’t you see? Nice chaps in suits with charming smiles drop pearls to cause damage to their opponents.Play the crowd with one tune and play the media with something completely different, both at the same time and leave themselves with a reasonable defence if it goes pear shaped.

    The left have always fought their battles differently as our ranks are filled with rough worker types with a penchant for bluntness and liberal use of Anglo Saxon language. Blair used to hate the way we looked at conference out of suits and no ties, rough worker types.

    There is an inclination to unity amongst us on the left learned from years of knowing that our only strength is our numbers, a feeling epitomised by the slogan Unity is Strength. It is this very inclination you are trying to exploit when you ask us to take the right at face value, for the good of the party.

    It is clear to everybody out here on the left that the only unity they will give is to Anyone But Corbyn so this isn’t over until they topple him and that lovely Mr Dugher is in on it.

    So I ask the question again Phil, fool or knave?

  6. Nick Wright says:

    Fascinating how the Trident-loving Labour right wing now place so much importance on Labour conference decisions. This after years in which every device imaginable was manufactured in order to preserve policy making as the privilege of the elect.

    1. Sue says:

      Nail on the head!

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    So PhilBC follows up his right-wing attack on the Stop the War movement with a puff piece for the new organisation of the Labour right.

    And this right-wing rubbish is published on Left Futures…why?

    1. Luke Akehurst says:

      New? We have been around since 1988.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          I thought it was a new grouping started up recently by Chuka Umunna and that other posh guy…oh well, 57 varieties etc.

          Anyway, the article smacks of “concern trolling” – he’s basically saying: “As a left-winger myself, the right-wing do make some good points,” just like when he attacked the anti-war movement in a similar vein.

          Yes of course different viewpoints should be aired, not stifled and argued against democratically, but this type of stuff already dominates MSM.

    2. Nestor says:

      Karl, as much as I have little time for the Akehursts of this world, I think we’ve established that you know bugger all about the difference between left and right.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        The difference between left and right comes down to where one stands on a range of policy issues.

        We on the left tend to argue for workers’ rights, renationalisation, an industrial policy, defence of public services, against NATO and against UK invasion of other countries.

        Those on the right tend to oppose workers’ rights, back privatisation, and support NATO and UK invasion of other countries.

        1. Nestor says:

          Odd, last time we spoke you seemed to think being “left wing” meant supporting the ultraconservative Putin regimes military aggression and their neo-fascist auxilliaries in the Donbass who have banned independent trade unions.

          Well, you live and learn, I suppose.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Opposing the nazi right sector and its reign of terror across many parts of the former Ukraine SSR, while expressing admiration and solidarity for the valiant people who have stood against them isn’t a particularly left-wing position, it’s simple humanity.

            But your disgusting apologism for these nazi filth is certainly a right-wing, neo-con position, as is your support for NATO.

    3. Ric EUTENEUER says:

      I’m quite happy to hear a range of views of the left (even when they’re not particularly left). Phil’s other writings have been very good.

      I think he’s way off track here, mind

  8. Ray Visino says:

    The constant attacks on Corbyn are making sure that Labour will lose the next election. This seems to be the policy of this organised campaign by Progress and the Blairites who look like they will do anything to discredit a leader the vast majority of our members voted for.

  9. David Pavett says:

    Phil BC thinks that Michael Dugher and Liam Byrne are okay. I admire the ecumenism but wonder about the his sense of judgement.

    On the ecumenical side one might think from Dugher’s tweet pointing to a Left Futures article (Phil’s) as “an excellent summary” means that a genuine dialogue has opened but I rather doubt that.

    To be clear, I think that everything possible must be done to avoid alienating the centre of the Party. But when it comes to those who are pulling in the wrong direction and who show no signs of being prepared to accommodate themselves to the new leadership then I would like to combat their influence in whatever way is most effective without besoming a distraction from the main battle of combating the Tories and developing a clear alternative problem.

    But Phil obviously doesn’t feel that Dugher and Byrne are pulling in the wrong direction. He liked Byrnes critique of Corbynomics on the bases that “entrepreneurial socialism = progressive capitalism” and finds Dugher’s approach to be “witty and warm” and lacking in “rancour”.

    To me Dugher’s accusation that Corbyn is changing the Labour Party from a “broad church” into a “religious cult”, his attacks on Corbyn before the reshuffle, his on-air resignation and his accusation that Corbyn is trying to remove dissent, sound neither warm nor witty and seem to show considerable rancour.

    Phil has also adopted the line that trying to change policy in between conferences is a no no even if that means the Party’s representatives not reflecting the wishes of the members on a major issue. It is funny how positions change and that now we find the right of the Party and surpisingly Phil, becoming sticklers for having the sanction of Annual Conference (well the bits of it they like at least).

    But worst of all, in my view, is the repetition of the line that Jeremy Corbyn is not an appropriate leader because, it is asserted, he cannot win in 2020. This is the approach to political debate, are rather stopping it, that was endlessly repeated through the Blair/Brown (and Miliband years). It is not based on an adult discussion of the policies advocated by Corbyn and McDonnell to find what is right and wrong in them. Rather it is based on assertions about what the British public will or will not support in over four year’s time.

    This is discussion without principle, without critical examination of arguments using only a remarkable ability to predict political events in years to come (possessors of this ability should be able to sell their talent to the polling companies and the bookies at a very high price).

    Meanwhile, most of us on the left think that the important thing is not to use the imaginary yardstick of what the public will or will not accept prior to them being offered it and in the absence of the arguments made for. Rather we should focus on what we think are the possible and desirable alternatives to government policy. Once we are reasonably clear about where we want to get to then it is time to consider the stages through which we get there be they ever so slow or relatively rapid. Then is the time to look at how public opinion can be reasonably expected to change and what objectives the majority can be convinced about. All the rest is special pleading for right-wing stasis.

    P.S. While I am critical of both Labour First and of Phil BC’s take on them I find it really unhelpful to claim they are all devoted “entirely to the interests of their direct personal financial and post political career” (John Penny). That sort of abuse obstructs real debate.

  10. Andy Newman says:

    I think Phil’s article is fair enough, he thinks Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn as leader, but God knows we would have no chance with the other contenders that were on offer.

    Labour First are being tested by an entirely new phenomenon for them, can they deliver on their objective to focus the party on the task of winning the election, when there are others on the right and centre right of the party intent on sabotage.

    I know of constituency parties where Progress supporters are engaged in deliberate wrecking to make the party ungovernable, heckling during general meetings, hostile tweets about their own CLPs, calling people who supported Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham “trots”.

    For me, I will judge Labour First on whether they are as firmly against that sort of behaviour as they are skeptical of Corbyn.

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    I am somewhat peeved that the first post reshuffle ‘where are we now’ article on what is still I hope the main left pro Corbyn blog is a relatively uncritical article about Labour First from a Corbyn sceptic.
    I will not repeat the points made in the excellent critique made of this article by David Pavett,except to say that it was Doughty, not Dugher who resigned on live TV.
    Phil BC implies that a will to win is stronger on the right of Labour than on its left, and there have been some surveys that seem to have borne this out to some degree, although this probably reflected the views of those who joined for £3 to vote for Corbyn rather than commit themselves to the long haul in the Labour Party.From my point of view there is no point in being a member of the party if it is not to win in 2020, and anyone who thinks otherwise should join the SPGB.
    I also take exception to the views of John Penney who dismisses the Labour right as nothing but money grubbing careerism. This is frankly nonsense. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the party and its history knows that Labour First and Progress ( and they are different, as Jon Lansman has pointed out)are legitimate, if misguided currents that need to be opposed politically. The logic of Penney’s position is mass deselections and civil war within the party. We definitely won’t win in 2020 if that happens.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks for the the correction to my Doughty/Dugher confusion. Apologies to Dugher for that mistake. I would like to substitute for my incorrect point Dugher’s dismissal of opposition to a Trident nuclear deterrent as “barmy” and an “election loser”.

    2. John Penney says:

      As a an active socialist for over 40 years , Peter, most of it campaigning outside the Labour Party, I’ve never been that impressed with the Labour Party’s overall “progressive” credentials historically. It certainly never was, and isn’t now any sort of coherent socialist party. So yes, the ghastly, reactionary, neoliberal, politics (ok, with their various different nuances and priorities) held by Progress and Labour First are indeed based on very historically deep rooted strands in what has been a very politically compromised Labour Party/Labour Government history.

      You believe that a compromise can be reached between the neoliberal Labour Right and the Labour Left. I agree, but historically this has ALWAYS meant the Left doing all the compromising. For me, as a recently returned Labour Party member on the “Corbyn Surge” , and I hope much of the new radical “Corbynite” influx into the party since May, a “victory” for Labour in 2020 based on continuing with the Austerity agenda and neoliberal “shrink the state” privatisation programme of Blairism – a slightly less rabid form of current Tory policy – is no sort of victory at all. This bogus “victory would get the self-serving career politicians who dominate the PLP back on the gravy train – but provide no succour to the working class majority in the UK being impoverished by the very policies the neoliberal PLP majority think vital to “win” an election.

      Better to fight for a Left-oriented programme (of a mild Left Keynsian flavour at least ) in 2020, and lose, than become just a handmaiden for the continuation of the Austerity Agenda robbery on behalf of the 1% , as the tragic Syriza Government in Greece has become as a result of its total compromise with its Right wing and the Troika.

      You seem to have “lost the plot” about what the point of fighting to “win” an election should be for a Leftwinger, Peter. It’s not the “winning” in itself that matters – except possibly for the PLP politicians – but what you intend to do with that victory , surely ?

      1. David Pavett says:

        John, I think your response is rather wide of Peter’s points.

        First, he did not argue for a compromise between diametrically opposed positions. There has to be a basis for compromise. And neither does he recommend anything like a left cave-in to the right, as you seem to think.

        Second, “the right” is not an abstract entity but a general title for a very wide diversity of views and motivations. To treat them all as money-grabbing careerists, as you do, instead of looking for openings with those who are sincere but uninformed, is just not a helpful way forward.

        What we need is wide-ranging and well-informed debate to bring as many people on board for turn to the left (even if that in its early stages, as you suggest, is little more than a left-Keynesian approach).

        P.S. As I have said before I think the left needs to be able to debate its differences with rather less stridency than is often the case.

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        OK, so we now agree that Labour First and Progress represent currents of thought within the party, and that a compromise should be sought, but on the basis of a left Keynesian programme. The latter has to some extent been reached, as there appears to be little opposition to the policies that John McDonnell has been putting forward, and I see little likelihood of a return to an austerity agenda. The main differences are over defence and foreign affairs,and these need to be resolved.No, it is not a question of winning at any cost, but of a left Keynesian type programme that can be built upon for further left advance.

        1. Richard Tiffin says:

          I hope you’re right with regards to the lack of opposition signalling agreement having been reached between the wings of the party, but I have my doubts.

          I think all that has happened is the Corbyn opposition has moved to territory they feel safe on. This is foremost trident as they know that until the vote is over in parliament this will be the gift that keeps on giving. The other is the results in various election in May. The threat has been made a number of times that Corbyn must do well in those elections, though no consequences are spelt out, merely implied.

          I think the sniping factions are actually making a mistake because it could be they get any blame should it be required in May. They’d be far safer staying quiet and standing by the ‘unelectable’ proposition.

  12. peter willsman says:

    If I may make a few points;
    Jon Lansperson is spot on, as you would expect from a senior officer in CLPD. Labour First can be traced back to the ETU and pigeon fancier, Frank Chapple. The Machiavellian and neo Stalinist, J Spellar, was FC’s bag carrier. He is the Guru of LF and mentor to L Akehurst. If they ever got power in our Party they would use Chapple tactics, and seek to destroy the Left by closing down Branches and CLPs that challenged them and carrying out many expulsions. The spot on position in relation to our Party’s current stance on Trident is spelt out by Ann Black(CLPD activist) on CLPD website.

  13. David Pavett says:

    Note on being “Corbyn-critical”

    Phil BC describes himself as “Corbyn-critical”. I suggest that this designation is at best misleading. We are all Corbyn-critical. Either that or we support him on some quasi-religious basis that makes Coryn’s pronouncements the definition of wisdom on any given topic. No one writing for Left Futures takes that position. We listen to what he says and then make up our minds whether we agree or not. If we find that taken as a whole he is pointing the Party in the direction we favour then we support him (notwithstanding criticisms on particular issues).

    So let’s be clear about Phil’s use of “Corbyn-critical”. Phil favoured Yvette Cooper for leader because of “serious strategic reservations I have of Jeremy”. He didn’t explain (as far as I can see) what these reservations were but I guess that it is safe to assume that they were the same as the “reservations” expressed in this article: Phil thinks that a Corbyn-led Labour Party cannot win in 2020.

    Phil has the right to his opinions and he has the right to express them. What he doesn’t have the right to do is to suggest that his position can be usefully distinguished as being “Corbyn-critical”. As I said, we are all Corbyn-critical (apart from a few groupie headbangers).

    Phil likes Liam Byrne’s criticism of Corbynomics. He likes the contributions of Michael Dugher. He is also convinced that Labour under Corbyn cannot win an election in four years time. This is clearly something beyond “Corbyn-critical” it is Corbyn-oppositional and the latter should not masquerade under the title of the former.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Many of Corbyns supporters felt he couldn’t win an election in 5 years time,when they voted for him, plumping for the ,we’re going to lose so we might as well lose with style,

      1. David Pavett says:

        The reports of Corbyn supporters who thought that having the right policies was more important than winning the next election told us more about the low quality of our journalism and of our political debates than it did about Corbyn supporters.

        We get nowhere in debate by putting the most stupid possible interpretation on what people say. That is what the media generally does (unsurprisingly) when it comes to the left.

        A more intelligent interpretation would be that some Corbyn supporters think that just scraping into power to soften the edges of capitalism only to be chucked out a term or two (or three) later to have the work undone, as Labour has been doing now for the last 90 years is not an attractive proposition. They would put greater emphasis on getting a clear policy basis for moving out of this interminable cycle to a society in which the basis for Conservatism is progressively diminished and think that it if takes more than five years to win all the battles required to get such a policy then that is still what should be done.

        One can agree or disagree with this but whichever it is it is not the stupid ‘good policies more important than electability’ view attributed to those who think that electability should not be the first criterion used in policy discussions.

      2. Ric EUTENEUER says:

        Nice sound bite John, pity there’s absolutely bugger all evidence to support it

        1. John P Reid says:

          apart form them endlessly Poating Endlessly online, we’re gonna lose in 2020 with a Blairite,so we might as well lose on a bigger scale,with a real socialist

          1. Ric EUTENEUER says:

            Please point me to where a single member of the party has said that.

    2. Nestor says:

      “This is clearly something beyond “Corbyn-critical” it is Corbyn-oppositional and the latter should not masquerade under the title of the former.”

      David, I think this is a little unfair. Whilst Phil has made no secret of who he supported during the leadership election, his stance since has generally been critical support for the leadership and general opposition to the machinations of the right.

      Despite having voted for Corbyn, I can’t pretend not to have deep reservations about some of his positions, although admittedly not as deep as I would if a candidate from the right had been elected.

      I think one of the real problems with the activities of the right since the leadership election is that it has, understandably, made many of us to the left of the centre of the Labour Party circle the wagons and reticent to question Corbyn’s actions when they may need questioning. I have to admit to being similarly reticent in this regard.

      I think that Phil is right when he suggests that the door needs to be left open for a rapprochement with the more reasonable elements on the right of the party, but I do feel it is those elements that have to put in the legwork in that regard.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Thanks for the comment.

        I think that predicting failure in 2020 fails clearly short of offering critical support. Offering support and predicting failure just don’t hang together.

        Even so, I entirely agree with looking for ways of rapprochement with reasonable elements on the right of the party and I am totally opposed to the anathemas being pronounced by some on the left.

  14. Sue says:

    “John Spellar returned to this theme and argued the best way to integrate new members into the party and administer a dose of pragmatism is to take them door knocking – preferably around a council estate to see what our people really think.” Because the new members dont come from council estates? Because they are not well aware of what people think and say? Thats what the Labour Party is for ———– presenting a (socialist) alternative and convincing people to vote for it! With the billionaire owned media, papers etc will it be easy, no it wont. But shifting forever to the right and trying to stay in favour with the press barons got us where we are right now! My constituency party has been reinvigorated by the new members. Everyone understands the mountain to be climbed. We’re up for it!

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