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Will the Labour Right maintain its unholy alliance in internal elections?

NEC electionsToday saw nominations close for Progress members wishing to stand for Labour’s national executive in 2014 to apply for the organisation’s endorsement. In a process designed to convey the appearance of transparency and internal democracy, the strategy board invented last year for the same purpose will meet shortly to select two or three candidates who Progress will back alongside the two sitting Labour First members.

This is a significant departure from previous years when organising the right wing slate was a fairly simple process. It was decided by two people.

For Labour First, which has never had any pretensions to internal democracy, its commander-in-chief, John Spellar, MP for Warley and chief right-wing union fixer for the more than thirty years since he learnt his craft as Frank Chapple’s leading henchman. Michael Dugher tells the story of Spellar being asked whether “you electricians get bored with being moderate all the time” to which he replied “we’re not moderate, mate, we’re right-wing“.

The other is young Richard Angell, deputy director of Progress. He learnt the dark arts in student politics when unlike Spellar, Richard occasionally courted controversy with a radical outburst. Back in 2005, for example, as President of the Birmingham student union, he banned the National Blood Service from the Freshers Fair over its policies of banning gay and bisexual men from giving blood.

The following year, he proposed a motion titled ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead that the student union should “have a party” on the occasion of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Some suggest that his period of exile in Australia was because he was seen as responsible for the drubbing Progress received in the party and trade union movement over the last two years. At any rate, his influence is clearly on the wane.

The more serious problems are that not only is there a growing political gulf between Progress and Labour First, but Progress candidates are not very likely to be elected.

Progress have no-one on the national executive in any section. Even the representative of right-wing trade union Community, Susan Lewis, who slipped onto the executive in Brighton by a tiny margin over left-wing Bakers’ Union candidate, Ian Hodson, cannot be regarded as one. In the constituency party (CLP) section, Progress candidates in 2012 performed far worse than Labour First candidates, and the discrepancy cannot be explained by being less well established candidates.

In the last CLP election, every candidate who stood received over 4,000 votes. In an election the top placed Progress candidate was Florence Nosegbe who received 12,745, almost 5,000 votes and four places behind the highest placed losing candidate, Kate Osamor, also a first time candidate on the Centre-left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate. Other Progress candidates were roughly 2,000 or more votes behind.

In nominations too, Progress candidates trailed Labour First candidates, piggy-backing though they did on the Labour First organisation. Over half the Progress nominations come from CLPs which nominated all six right-wing candidates. If I were John Spellar, I’d be arguing that Progress nominate only two candidates, and Labour First one, in addition to the sitting two, and that they also back Johanna Baxter, a trade union friendly candidate with whom they (but less so Progress) feel perfectly comfortable. I’d do so in the full knowledge that they’d be enormously lucky to get even one more place next year and that it would certainly not go to a Progress candidate.

The truth is that Progress may run slick, well-funded campaigns for their chosen parliamentary candidates, but their activists are thin on the ground. And their political differences with Labour First are growing. They remain instinctively loyal to the leadership whilst many Progress types are instictively hostile. Furthermore, they are desperate to severe the link between the party and the trade unions (or at least slash union voting strength for now) whilst a commitment to the union link is the one issue on which they despair about Ed Miliband’s public commitment to review it.

If this unholy right-wing alliance does survive for now, it’s an alliance of convenience, not one based on any sort of programmatic agreement. Pragmatic, cynical even. Right up John Spellar’s street. But there may be some Progress types who are daft enough to want to go it alone.

The votes for the top-placed NEC in 2012 were as follows (those in bold were elected):

Candidate Slate 2012 vote 2010 vote 2012 share 2010 share
1 Ken Livingstone (1) Left 31,682 88,235 11.3% 15.0%
2  Ann Black (3) Left 30,240 59,200 10.7% 10.0%
3 Ellie Reeves (4) Right 23,417 45,481 8.3% 7.7%
Christine Shawcroft (5) Left 22,236 44,338 7.9% 7.5%
5  Johanna Baxter (7) Ind 20,146 30,653 7.2% 5.2%
6  Peter Wheeler (9) Right 17,721 28,752 6.3% 4.9%
7  Kate Osamor (-) Left 17,598
8 Luke Akehurst (6) Right 17,475 30,825 6.2% 5.2%
9 Peter Willsman (8) Left 16,786 29,009 6.0% 4.9%
10 Darren Williams (-) Left 14,641
11 Florence Nosegbe (-) Right 12,745
12 Ruth Smeeth (-) Right 10,860
13 Joanne Milligan (-) Right 10,034

The latest returns to the Electoral Commission show that Progress is still primarily funded by the £260,000 a year which is provided by Lord David Sainsbury, but in the last 18 months, it has also accepted £28,830 from that well-known supporter the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. Labour First runs on a shoestring but is far more effective.



  1. John Reid says:

    Ken Livngstone got a lot of votes on the Back of his mayoral bid,his vote fell by about 8% on 2010′

    Saying that Peter wheeler or Ellie Evers aren’t progress,is a mistake,but the they backed Ed miliband for leader,so to say that progress are right wing is a mistake too

    As for Florence doing worse than Kate osamor, her mum is martha, supporter of the broadwater far rioters,now one can’t blame ones parents for the way we vote, but she never denounced her mums views,,and Yes Johanna Baxter is liked by both left and right alike, it’s also worth pointing out that Luke Akehurst percentage of vote actually went up from 2010 to 2012′

  2. Robert says:

    Well said John what it has to do with the article mind you I’ve no idea, but well said thank god I cut up my card.

  3. John Reid says:

    Shame certain People who put labour out of power for 18 years didn’t cut up their membership cards 30years earlier.

  4. swatantra says:

    I cut up all my credit cards during the Thatcher Recession which was a hellava lot worse than now, thanks to QE2; at least the Economy is picking up a bit and moving into the ‘boom’ part of ‘boom n bust’. I’ve learnt my lesson and will be more frugal in future, and careful to save up for the rainy days ahead, which are bound tom come, with all this global warming.
    I still don’t know why everyone is pressing for ‘Growth’. Why not just live within our means; cut out the luxuries and don’t waste. You don’t really need that new coat, or plasma tv, or convenience food. Make do with what you’ve got.
    If you dump people into Estates like Broadwater Farm without the community support and development team, then you’re asking for trouble. Since the troubles the Estate has been redesigned and reinvigorated and revalued with a bit more greenery about it, and pride, not the concrete Alcatraz it once was.

  5. Robert says:

    John I suspect mate that what a lot of people wished you had done, as I said when your around Blair will have his back to the wall, and a very large metal plate in his pants in case you get to close.

    John your a Tory who came to labour because your to stupid to know the difference mate, your a pratt at best and an idiot at worse.

  6. John Reid says:

    So you imply that I want to see Blairs penis, sodomise him, and am a Pratt and an idiot, and you call me mate, I retract about you joining SWP you should join the NF.

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