Consolidating Corbynism involves the transformation of the Labour Party from a vote-catching bureaucracy into a movement capable of winning power by prosecuting its class interests. This in mind, the decision of Lord Sainsbury to pull funding from Progress shows, if you like, some progress towards this goal. Needless to say this, which was apparently announced prior to the election to Progress staff, is a significant setback for the Labour right as a whole.
Progress was set up in 1996 as a praetorian guard of sorts for Tony Blair and New Labour politics. Presenting as an innocuous organisation known for sending free copies of its glossy magazine to leading local politicians and select ‘influencers’, it runs policy seminars, day events, and a full roster of fringe events at party conference. And complementing its outward facing activity is its role as a clearing house and cadre school for career-minded Labour right-wingers. As a matter of course it offered training events for would-be politicians, and some members could expect (and received) coaching for selections. It also provided network opportunities between ambitious party climbers and the PLP cognoscenti, where it has and continues to exercise disproportionate influence. Take a cross section of the parliamentary party today, and you will find a surprising number of honourable members who habitually attended Progress events before their passage into the Commons. Continue reading
Despite now being out of Parliament, Alan Johnson doesn’t seem to want to stay out of politics. This weekend he made a typically unastute intervention into Labour’s post-election debate, saying, “Momentum, by now, should have disbanded. Jeremy Corbyn by now is very safe”, and that, “I don’t see the point of a separate organisation which is just a fan club for the leader.”
Not only has Johnson completely overlooked the tremendous role that Momentum played in the General Election – but he speaks as a supporter of Progress, an internal party organisation that, like Momentum, was founded immediately following a leadership election. Yet in the case of Progress, the organisation has outlasted the leader who founded it – Tony Blair – by ten years. Why then is Johnson calling for Momentum to go? Continue reading
In yet another example of the lion laying down with the lamb, last Saturday say Jeremy Corbyn deliver a keynote speech at Progress conference. Yes, read that again. Jeremy Corbyn. Keynote. Progress conference. Debate rages whether it’s broken, but everyone can agree that politics has definitely got weird. That speech then, yes. Not a great deal was said, and all was pretty cordial. The questions at the end were polite and business-like. No one attempted to be a hero or went nuclear or anything like that, and for his part Jeremy gave the kind of speech few, if any, on the left could disagree with. You can find an overview of it here.
There was, however, something of interest buried in the subtext. As I’ve argued before, Labour is part of a movement and for its continued health and electoral success it first has to be conscious of the its roots in particular constituencies, and use whatever influence it has to build up their strength, cohesiveness, and social power. This is something a great many in the PLP have forgotten (some of them purposely) or were never aware of in the first place. Jeremy’s speech to Progress was a reminder of this. Continue reading
Rachel Reeves, a former Labour shadow secretary for work and pensions, has produced a short note for Progress which has been hailed in the right wing media, and by the Labour right, as ‘an alternative Budget’. The New Statesman was perhaps the most excitable, describing Reeves as the shadow chancellor in waiting. All of this is entirely incorrect as the article offers no alternative to the Osborne’s resumed austerity, which he is certain to recommence in the next Budget.
Reeves has declined to join the current shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn and her intervention is clearly posed primarily as an alternative to the economic policy framework outlined by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, not to George Osborne. It confirms once more that the Labour right is disloyally more interested in attacking the Labour Party leadership than in attacking the Tories. Continue reading
Like 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. Continue reading