Time to convince fellow members of Labour’s founding purpose
The Labour party was founded as the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 by Keir Hardie and others to secure parliamentary representation of labour, because he and the founding trade unions had concluded that marches and placard-waving were insufficient to achieve the political reforms that their union members needed.
That is why Clause One of the Labour party rulebook says the purpose of the Labour party is to ‘maintain in parliament and the country a political Labour party’. It was a commitment to parliamentary and democratic change, a rejection of the syndicalist and revolutionary Marxists’ argument for extra-parliamentary change – currently referred to as a social movement – and it reflected the rejection of the ‘class war’ resolution at the 1900 founding conference of the Labour Representation Committee. Those who argue that Labour should secure change primarily be means of protest alone have challenged Labour’s founding principles every time we have lost power: 1931, 1951, 1979 and again today. It falls to our generation to defend our Clause One principles. But if we get it right, the Clause One socialists will win again. (more…)
The Labour party is full of people whose stories never get heard. Who put in the hours, sit in the rooms where decisions are made and make sure that change happens. They make the history, but are often not recorded in it.
Alice Bacon is one of those people. She was a Labour parliamentarian for almost 50 years, 25 of them as a member of parliament, was a minister in the Harold Wilson government of the 1960s and sat on the National Executive Committee for almost three decades. Having grown up in a working-class community in Yorkshire and working as a teacher before her election, she was an early and tireless champion of comprehensive education, as well as a feared operator – earning the nickname ‘terror of the Trotskyites’ from Denis Healey. She was firmly against attempts to liberalise drug laws but key – alongside her boss at the Home Office Roy Jenkins – to the big liberalising battles of the 1960s, especially on abortion.(more…)
Conference in Liverpool was a success for moderates
—The honest truth is that I had not been looking forward to Labour party conference this year. 2015 had been the first year I had not enjoyed conference, not because of the leadership result, but because suddenly Brighton went from being friendly to alien. Those who were abusive online decided to be so in person, and my staff were treated in not dissimilar ways, just for doing their job. Added to this year’s trepidation was the exhaustion from a summer of Saving Labour, a National Executive Committee campaign, and a leadership contest that went straight into a conference where those behind Momentum and the so-called Campaign for Labour Party Democracy wanted to change our party beyond recognition.
There was some, I hope understandable, foreboding. In the lead-up to conference, Progress and Labour First – working together like never before – travelled the country on our Road to Conference tour. Back to the basics of how conference works, what motions would be up for discussion, why moving from a 15 per cent to five per cent threshold for nominations for the leadership – known as the ‘McDonnell amendment’ – would be so catastrophic. I always enjoy getting out of London for our various events series in British cities – invariably run by brilliant Labour councils – but often these ‘moderate meet-ups’ were as much about hearing the stories of abuse being levelled at long-standing constituency officers, Jewish members and women councillors and members of parliament as they were about policy and procedure. I called the editorial of a previous edition of Progress ‘heart-breaking times’ – little else brings it home more than when members who campaigned for Michael Foot are close to tears because a small number of supporters of the current leader shout them down in meetings and intimidate them into silence. And it is not everyone, just some. Often not ‘new members’ but those returning to relive the 1980s (and the same sad outcome). (more…)
No one has levelled with the public about what drives migration to this country
‘No compromise with the electorate’ was Ted Knight’s infamous opinion when he and his hard-left friends ran Lambeth council into the ground in the 1980s. After the 2015 general election, a senior Labour member of parliament who has long been associated with Progress said to me, ‘On immigration, you are as bad as the Trots – no comprise with the electorate.’ Recently another MP remarked how bizarre it was that, as they saw it, ‘Tony Blair and Diane Abbott basically have the same opinion on immigration’. The former prime minister’s mantra of ‘fair rules without prejudice’ is certainly a position I – and most Labour party members – can get on board with. But the initial comment made me think.
Is there a neo-Blairite/neo-Bennite, liberal metropolitan elite view and is it just a modern form of Knight’s philosophy? Do they have a point? (more…)
The results of the National Executive Committee elections were disappointing. A clean sweep for the Momentum-backed slate will not be good for plurality, nor party democracy. But we should be proud of the six people Progress and Labour First supported. Ellie Reeves and Johanna Baxter doubled their votes and leave the NEC with a great list of achievements to their name. Bex Bailey polled 67,000 votes and ran a superb campaign. Parmjit Dhanda, Luke Akehurst and Peter Wheeler did well and should be proud. When it feels like you are the lone voice in a party meeting, remember that this ballot shows there are tens of thousands of members who want Labour return to its winning ways. (more…)
On an otherwise disappointing local election results night – net losses under a new leader being a first in British politics – there were a few bright spots for Labour this May. The party retained the mayor of Salford with a new and energetic candidate, Sadiq Khan became the highest-ranking Muslim politician in the western world – and Marvin Rees won the mayoralty of Bristol. He stood four years previously, and lost to former Liberal Democrat-turned-independent George Ferguson. Yale University-educated, this mixed-race guy from Bristol’s toughest estate has a higher vision for his city. It is fair to say Rees is not a very tribal politician, something his councillor colleagues have found frustrating. But he is a passionate progressive and perfect for the role of mayor: big on vision and keen to bring people together for shared solutions. Two months into the job, that big picture looms large.
‘How we untangle this challenge of doing economic development that doesn’t compound inequality, lead to gentrification, and then lead places to be unaffordable’, is the task he has set himself. He calls it ‘the golden nugget’. It is so important because the city he loves is ‘good on driving prosperity’, but recent growth has ‘compounded inequality and [Bristol has] become more unaffordable’ for many. To scale ambitious heights he is shaking up the council.(more…)
‘They’re all useless bastards’, was an agreed spoiled vote in David Laws’ Yeovil constituency in 2010. Fast forward five years and it was the public’s reaction to the Liberal Democrats after half a decade of power.
Having read Laws’ first book, 22 days in May, I was looking forward to an equally stimulating read in Coalition. But alas. His latest BiteBack publication gallantly makes the case that it was right for the Liberal Democrats to join the government in May 2010; after all, if the ‘Orange Bookers’ do not, who else will?
Never again should Labour play fast and loose with working people’s lives
The Labour party is full of idealists; it is one of the things I like about it most. But its ability to wish the situation to be better than it is sometimes has no bounds. Ed Miliband’s Labour party had this in abundance. Central to all this was one assumption: that the economic crash had moved the centre-ground to the left; that, because markets had failed, people’s trust in an all-powerful state had been restored. There was almost no grounding for this theory, other than wishing it so. The very reason Labour was in opposition was because the voters, following the crash, had replaced Labour with David Cameron’s pro-austerity Conservative party. No incumbent centre-left party in office since the crash has been re-elected across Europe, yet the centre-right in Germany and elsewhere has been. France was the only place the left was winning, but that has hardly gone to plan or been a model for British social democracy. (more…)