Response to the recent document concerning Progress

Progress logo2

In recent days, CLP secretaries around the country began receiving an anonymous document entitled A Report Into the Constitution, Structure, Activities and Funding of Progress.

The report contains gross misrepresentations. Therefore, despite the author of the document not being willing to make their charges publicly, we feel obliged to set the record straight.

First, Progress has never claimed that membership of the organisation bestows rights other than to receive the magazine and attend our events. Those joining Progress do so to support our aims and values. We are not an affiliated organisation like the Fabian Society, but a magazine which organises events, like the ‘New Statesman’.

Second, the document suggests that the character of Progress has ‘transformed itself from a political education trust into a factional body that self-identifies with “New” Labour and as such has its own ideology, policies, candidates and campaigns’. This to fundamentally misunderstand the character of Progress both at the time of its founding and now.

There has been no change in Progress’ purpose since its creation. The organisation was established to promote the modernisation of the Labour party and the election or re-election of Labour governments; something we continue to vigorously support.

There has, therefore, been no breach of our Memorandums and Articles of Association, which state our objectives to be: “To promote commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession and to promote any social, political or sporting activity and anything incidental or conducive to any of the above objects.”

Third, the document makes a series of charges regarding Progress’ funding. Under the terms of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act: ‘An organisation is a membership association if its membership consists wholly or mainly of members of a political party registered with the Electoral Commission.’ Progress is, therefore, classed as a membership association and required to report all donations over £7,500 to the Commission.

(a) The document suggests that Progress has received ‘donations’ from Network Rail, the British Retail Consortium, Pharmacia/Pfizer, and Sovereign Strategy.

The Commission defines donations in such a way as to include sponsorship (and, indeed, until recently there was no way of discriminating between the two when reporting a donation). Each of these ‘donations’ was, in fact, sponsorship of events held, and organised, by Progress, in the case of Network Rail and the British Retail Consortium for fringe events held, respectively, at Labour party conference 2005 and 2001. Pharmacia/Pfizer sponsored Progress’ Scotland conference in 2002 and 2003, and Progress Annual Conference in 2004 and 2005.

Although these were the only organisations from which we were required to declare sponsorship, Progress events at Labour party conference have been sponsored by a wide range of organisations including: the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the British Council for School Environments, Brook, DEA, Nationwide, the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism, the Police Federation, the Institute for Government, the Open University, City & Guilds, UnionLearn, the Local Government Association, Elephant Family, the IPPR and Unions21.

(b) The document suggests that Progress received  donations ‘from its second largest donor, Lord Michael Montague, … at least two years after his death.’

Until it was wound up in 2003, the Progress Trust was Progress’ principal source of income. Lord Montague was the chair of that trust. When registering donations from the Trust with the Electoral Commission, Progress was required to list ‘the full name of the person who created the trust’. This being Lord Montague, we were required to name him as such even after his death. We were also required to list the person whose ‘property has been transferred to the trust’ (ie the donor to it). This was Lord Sainsbury, and we duly declared it to be (although the Electoral Commission chooses not to list this information).

Progress made clear to the Electoral Commission that Lord Montague had died in 1999 and informed him of the names of the trustees of the Progress Trust, who were fully authorised to make donations from the Trust to Progress. Thus Progress never received any donations from Lord Montague, before or after his death, and donations are simply listed in his name by the Electoral Commission as he was ‘the person who created the Trust’.

(c) The document suggests ‘Progress raises far more funds than any other members association … Inside the Labour party, Progress raises 122 times more funds than  its nearest comparator, Islington Labour Group’

While everyone would recognise that Islington Labour Group is funded by hard-working local councillors, it does not, therefore, operate nationwide, run an annual conference, political weekend, or publish a monthly magazine for 4,500 Labour party members. As one of the few national Labour-supporting organisations to declare its donations, this is not a fair or just comparison.

Print Friendly
  • milly molly mandy

    woaahhh ! more spooks ,keep us posted.

  • Ben Garratt

    Keep up the great work!

  • Rose Clarke

    The article mentions a magazine being sent to 4500 party members. I know of organisations sent several copies without being members, and lots of copies are sent to MPs, think-tankers and other elite “influentials” whether members or not.

    Does Progress publish membership figures – or refuse requests for this info?

    If it won’t, why not?

    Surely the organisation should want to be transparent and democratic.

  • Dermot

    Keep up the good work.
    Those who think attracting funding, working with all sectors including the private and trying to get labour re-elected as somehow ‘bad things’ are probably best advised not to join progress.

  • Curtis

    If that’s what the membership wants, then they can campaign for that.

    But at the moment it’s not concerns raised by members, it is a rather sectarian leftist attack on an organisation they happen to disagree with.

    I pay a subscription to Progress. I receive my magazine. I read my magazine. I call myself a member of Progress. Quite happy with that, thanks.

    Echo Ben, keep up the great work and ignore the tin foil hat conspiracy theorists.

  • Editor

    More Tories in disguise.

  • Bob

    Quite amusing that an anonymous document claims to favour transparency!

  • Ryszard

    My CLP Secretary hasn’t received it – or if she has, she’s not telling us, which could be because she’s a member of Progress, as indeed is the Leader of the Labour Group. I hunted down the paper ( available on leftfutures.org for those who wish to find it) and the appraisal of Progress seemed fairly accurate to me. It *is* a faction along the lines of Briefing or the LRC – why else would it be putting up – sorry – SUGGESTING a slate of candidates to the NEC? To be brutally honest, I have no particular objection to there being a centre-right faction in the party – ’twas ever thus, in a variety of guises. It’s only when factions seek to dominate and close down debate – as often factions do – that I object to them. I understand some of the nuancing and equivocation outlined above, but Progress has to be completely honest about its outlook and orientation. Progress (with a small p) is not solely the province of the party’s ‘moderates’ as they are so keen to fashion themselves, and good old fashioned political debate is part and parcel of that. But undermining existing candidates does not form part of this equation – I did laugh when I read that “…the organisation was established to promote …the election or re-election of Labour…” – presumably unless they happen to be Ken Livingstone and that election being for Mayor of London.

    The fact this paper hadn’t been circulated or even referred to at our CLP means that, outside those that are perhaps more politically motivated, people will be blissfully unaware of the debate and alleged controversy here. It’s interesting that our Leader and other members of Progress never quote the organisation when they are using material from here. Instead, people are ‘approached’ to see if they’d be interested in the organisation. From my years gone by in the Party, this is all too familiar, the approaches however, coming from the other side of the political fence. An impassioned speech in favour, for instance, of the abolition of the remainder of the country’s grammar school led to me being approached by someone from “Socialist Organiser”.

    If Progress want to be treated like a serious organisation, they need to become a completely transparent and democratically accountable organisation – I presume that their terror of the latter is a worry that they will be infiltrated and taken over by people they have ideological disagreements with. Other factions (sorry, political education trusts) in the Party seem to manage it without the dreaded invasion of Trotskyists and ne’er do wells

  • Ryszard

    My CLP Secretary hasn’t received it – or if she has, she’s not telling us, which could be because she’s a member of Progress, as indeed is the Leader of the Labour Group. I hunted down the paper ( available on leftfutures.org for those who wish to find it) and the appraisal of Progress seemed fairly accurate to me. It *is* a faction along the lines of Briefing or the LRC – why else would it be putting up – sorry – SUGGESTING a slate of candidates to the NEC? To be brutally honest, I have no particular objection to there being a centre-right faction in the party – ’twas ever thus, in a variety of guises. It’s only when factions seek to dominate and close down debate – as often factions do – that I object to them. I understand some of the nuancing and equivocation outlined above, but Progress has to be completely honest about its outlook and orientation. Progress (with a small p) is not solely the province of the party’s ‘moderates’ as they are so keen to fashion themselves, and good old fashioned political debate is part and parcel of that. But undermining existing candidates does not form part of this equation – I did laugh when I read that “…the organisation was established to promote …the election or re-election of Labour…” – presumably unless they happen to be Ken Livingstone and that election being for Mayor of London.

    The fact this paper hadn’t been circulated or even referred to at our CLP means that, outside those that are perhaps more politically motivated, people will be blissfully unaware of the debate and alleged controversy here. It’s interesting that our Leader and other members of Progress never quote the organisation when they are using material from here. Instead, people are ‘approached’ to see if they’d be interested in the organisation. From my years gone by in the Party, this is all too familiar, the approaches however, coming from the other side of the political fence. An impassioned speech in favour, for instance, of the abolition of the remainder of the country’s grammar school led to me being approached by someone from “Socialist Organiser”.

    If Progress want to be treated like a serious organisation, they need to become a completely transparent and democratically accountable organisation – I presume that their terror of the latter is a worry that they will be infiltrated and taken over by people they have ideological disagreements with. Other factions (sorry, political education trusts) in the Party seem to manage it without the dreaded invasion of Trotskyists and ne’er do wells

  • Ryszard

    To be fair, Bob, the article above isn’t signed either…

  • d. mcardle

    Progress are hookum spookum then ryszard ( is that your NAME ? ) please could you tell us mere mortals why you say that ,because they are ” right of center ” in your opinion or is it something else ? thankyou.

  • Ryszard

    Mr/Ms McCardle – I must admit to not understanding the question above. I have no idea what ‘hookum spookum’ is – blame my cultural unawareness. I am more opining that Progress are a ‘centre-right faction’ (not ‘right of centre – that’s the Tories and the Lib Dems) of the Labour Party. We’ve had this type of faction in the party since its foundation – Gaitskellites for instance. I’ve no problem with this, as I’ve explained. I just wish Progress were more honest about it. I am not alleging conspiracy, just a lack of democracy or transparency. And my description of Progress as a centre right group in the party is shared by that scion of revolutionary socialism, Luke Akehurst.

    http://lukeakehurstsblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/walthamstow-dogs.html

    Ryszard (yes, that’s my name – pronounced ‘Reeshard’) is the Polish equivalent of “Richard” by the way.