A big win for Stella Creasy, fighting for single market membership, cracks in Labour’s newfound unity, and a thank you – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word
I am proud to know Stella Creasy on most days, but yesterday she showed politics and our movement at its best. She spoke with power and spoke for those whose voices rarely appear in our politics. The #MyPlegdeHerChoice campaign, its parliamentary champions, and a gentle nudge from the Speaker John Bercow, corrected an historic injustice. Women from Northern Ireland will no longer have to pay for terminations in England – previously they were met with a £900 bill on top of their travel, any accommodation and personal costs associated with leaving their own country to access a basic human right.
But Creasy did more than force one government U-turn, she strengthened the hand of parliament’s progressives – in all parties – and broke any sense that only one wing of the Labour party is principled and prepared to press their advantage to make change. As the latest manifestation of the party’s newfound unity, both Progress and Momentum were wishing well and celebrating her success.
And to think in an alternative universe – where Theresa May did not call an election that backfired – there are people trying to deselect Creasy because they think they would make a better ‘voice of Walthamstow’.
Nothing short of single market membership
Labour’s manifesto promised to ‘scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit white paper’ in favour of ‘fresh negotiating priorities … on retaining the benefits of the single market and the customs union’. Chuka Umunna’s amendment to the Queen’s speech sought to do just that but instead the front bench whipped Labour members of parliament to abstain – on the most important issue of the day – and the amendment was lost. Jeremy Corbyn – who had previously turned a blind eye when sub-shadow cabinet frontbenchers voted against article 50 just months before – proceeded to sack or accept the resignations of four of his frontbenchers, all members of the parliamentary soft-left.
The ‘it’s the manifesto what won it’ crowd pushed their sacred text to one side and instead proceeded to attack those seeking to implement it over its author’s grubby parliamentary tactics.
The irony fail came as this group turned to social media to attack Heidi Allen – the Conservative MP who expressed anger at the Tory deal with the Democratic Unionist party – for not being sufficiently disloyal to her leader and voting with her conscience and Umunna for insufficiently hanging on his leader’s every word and following his deeply held beliefs. British politics is just bizarre.
Progress annual conference sought to capitalise on the newfound unity in the party and have a grown-up debate about how to build on the massive improvement in Labour’s fortunes on 8 June.
Some of the frontbench seems to have missed that unity is a two-way street. I think many in attendance shared my disappointment that while everyone talked of unity, neither Diane Abbott nor Emily Thornberry would rule out deselections and Paul Mason goading Labour moderates to ‘form your own party’ was hardly in the spirit of solidarity that was supposed to characterise the short campaign and post-election Labour party.
The hard-left seem to want not unity with moderates, but silence from them as their takeover of the Labour party continues. The front page of today’s Evening Standard has details of how the leadership and Momentum seek to open old wounds and use Labour party conference for sweeping reforms to the leadership rules – the ‘McDonnell amendment‘ and some variations, plans to undermine the deputy leader Tom Watson and to make easier the process of deselections. Before any of this has been put to conference, poor Thangam Debbonaire – having recently increased her majority sixfold – is is being forced to fight off a deselection attempt in her constituencyrather than preparing for another snap election or fighting the feeble Tories in Westminster. Maybe these groups just did not get the ‘unity’ memo.
The day day before Progress annual conference it was announced that after 21 generous years Lord Sainsbury is going to stop donating to party political causes, Progress included. The response from Progress members and supporters has been remarkable. Thanks you so much and keep joining, upgrading and donating.
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Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell