Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Response to threat to ‘outlaw Progress’

At a time when Britain is led by a government which appears unable to recognise, let alone overcome, the enormous challenges facing it, Labour needs to be outward-looking, united and engaged with the issues that matter to voters.

Over the past year, Progress has been doing its part to make that happen: through our magazine, website, and events in London and throughout the country, we have provided the opportunity for hundreds of party members to debate Labour’s future policy agenda and how to beat the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Greens, as well as providing them with practical skills and advice on how to do so.

As Ed Miliband said in his address to this year’s Progress annual conference: ‘You have always been at the heart of challenging old orthodoxies and championing change. You have given the Labour party space to think, you have challenged the party, and you have changed it.’

It is regrettable, therefore, that the GMB union conference this week passed a resolution attacking Progress. We are also deeply disappointed that its general secretary, Paul Kenny, has now announced his intention to bring forward a resolution to Labour party conference which would ‘effectively outlaw Progress as a part of the Labour party’.

It is absurd to suggest a comparison between the role of Progress and that of the Militant Tendency in the 1980s. Militant were loyal to an external political force and affiliated to the 4th International; were secret about their activity; recruited people to join the Labour party to pursue Militant’s aims; and were outside of Labour’s mainstream.

By contrast, Progress is an organisation of Labour party members for Labour party members; we are open, pluralist and proud of the last Labour government and what it achieved for working people; and our events have been addressed by Ed Miliband and his two predecessors.

Progress will not be distracted by attacks or threats. For Labour to come back from its second worst defeat in 2010 it needs to be broad, pluralistic and inclusive. To suggest that there are members of the Labour party who are somehow unwelcome and should be ‘outlawed’ is both counterintuitive and just wrong.

Over the coming months, we will continue to focus on the issues that have been at the forefront of our work over the past year: restoring Labour’s economic credibility; promoting universal child and elderly care; and devolving power to public service users and workers, and local government.

Most importantly, we will continue to focus on the election of a Labour government in 2015 under Ed Miliband.

Inaccuracies in the GMB resolution are listed below:

  • There is no relationship between the funding we receive from Lord Sainsbury and the funding that he gave to the Labour party. Our annual income from him was £250,000 until May 2010, when it was raised to £260,000. This was before he ceased giving money to the Labour party and our income from Lord Sainsbury has not been increased (as the resolution implies) as a result of that decision.
  • To suggest, as this resolution does, that our only financial relationship is with a pharmaceutical company is, to say the least, misleading. Like other centre-left organisations and thinktanks, we rely on sponsorship to support our events programme, particularly at Labour party conference.  While it is true that Progress received sponsorship from Pfizer/Pharmacia (it is one company, the former took over the latter) for a series of events (including a Scottish conference, Progress annual conference and a reception at Labour party conference) we have received no sponsorship from them since 2005. As our website states, in 2010-2011, we worked with the following sponsors: Community union; unionlearn; The Cooperative Group; Brighton and Hove Labour; City&Guilds; the Electoral Reform Society; The European Azerbaijan  Society; Hackney Labour Group; Institute for Government; IPA; Labour Friends of Israel; Bell Pottinger; Local Government Association Labour Group; PwC; Reading Labour; Sussex Cooperative party; The Open University; and Unions21.
  • There is no evidence whatsoever for the claim that ‘Prominent Progress members have briefed against Ed Miliband to the press.’
  • Progress publicly endorsed the Labour candidate in the London mayoral election; organised six campaign days in the capital throughout the first five months of the year;and ran a double-page spread – ‘The case for Ken’ – by Tessa Jowell, Livingstone’s then campaign manager in our April 2012 edition. To wilfully misconstrue a debate in the magazine last year about Labour’s chances of victory as opposition to its candidate is uncomradely.

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Robert Philpot

is a contributing editor to Progress magazine and former director of Progress


  • The way you guys operate and what type of politics you represent its a miracle there hasn’t been an enquiry into your organization.

    If the Militant Tendency and other left wing groups that got slated and expelled weren’t above the law – Right Wing NeoCon elements in the Labour Party that have no place in it aren’t above an investigation either.

    Plus Progress Conference’s ‘discussions’ on ‘modernising’ – that means breaking to me – The Union link haven’t endeared them to Trade Union members such as myself nor The GMB.

    I can promise you that I to will be proposing a motion for Labour Representation National Committee (LRC) and my Trade Union where there is also much distaste for Progress to consider the outlawing of Progress.

    It is your organizations Blairite loyalties and Blairs policy’s themselves that have ruined The Labour Party and lost us 5 Million Working Class votes.

  • What the hell were you doing hosting an event with The European Azerbaijan Society? Any other propaganda outlets for corrupt, dictatorial regimes you like to consort with?

  • Im on the fence atm, purely because I’m not sure of either sides adequacy or inadequacy but what work did you do with Labour Friends of Israel? Labour Friends of Palestine need to be sponsoring more me thinks.

  • I don’t want to abolish Progress – far from it. I just want them to abide by the rules of the party and operate like other factions of the party do.

    I want them to support the leader of the party, and any selected Labour Party candidates, and promise not to brief against them, like they did against Ken Livingstone. Progress Magazine last year ran a wholly critical double page spread article against Ken. Like with Ed Miliband, it appeared that some of the group has difficulties accepting democratic decision making by the party, if we don’t back the right Progress-approved candidates.

    I want them to stop using Party machinery to recruit members – along with hundreds of other Eastern Region Labour Party members, I received an invite to a Progress-sponsored conference from a regional official. I do wonder if any other faction would have been afforded that facility. We’ve already seen the misuse of party member lists by Progress members, and Progress endorsed candidates.

    Progress have endorsed a rightwing slate of candidates for the NEC, and I’ve received multiple emails asking me to vote for them. How were these candidates endorsed? At the Progress conference. Are Progress’s board members democratically elected?

    As regards sponsors, I’m not sure they prove that Progress is supported by a broad church of people in and out of the party – the Local Government Association Labour Group, Reading Labour Party, Brighton and Hove Labour Party are all well known Progressites, as is Hackney Labour Group ; The European Azerbaijan Society exist to try and justify the rather dubious Aliev regime in this country – they also sponsor the Tories; Institute for Government is a centre right think tank, prominent in which is Progress Chair and advocate of selective education, Lord Adonis ; Labour Friends of Israel includes a number of Progress supporters, not least board member and regular correspondent here, Luke Akehurst; Bell Pottinger, well know for being supporters of the Tories, and PR advisors to a variety of dubious regimes like Belarus; frequent donators to the Conservative Party, PwC. So not so diverse, after all. That’s without getting into Lord Sainsbury and dubious pharma companies.

  • The main issue that we need to deal with in regard to The future of our party and indeed membership is to identify and stop the career poliiticians who are taking over our party and gaining key positions. The Labour Party needs to be more inclusive and not divisive.

  • As far as I remember, most party members, most MPs and most MEPs didn’t vote for Ed Miliband, so to say ‘accepting democratic decision’ is a bit funny, because it was the unions that won the election.

  • Er, this was the system you as Blairites introduced – you can’t complain about the product of your own doing. Feel free to change the system to ensure Miliband D gets elected next time !

  • Er, this was the system you as Blairites introduced – you can’t complain about the product of your own doing. Feel free to change the system to ensure Miliband D gets elected next time !

  • Surely the real question is why would Progress members want to remain part of a political party that tries to suppress free speech and limit free thought?

  • What an arse – you can’t even put your name on this. Why don’t you go and set up a Stalinist party that approves of your methods and see how many votes you get. I’m lifelong Labour, progress supporter and have noticed that the ‘Blairites’ you decry actually won three elections. You are so stupid that you actually write that about “distaste for Prorgress”

    The more I think about it, this is probably all made up by the Tories as a joke

  • Paranoid stuff. People like me support Progress but aren’t ‘members’. Maybe the hard left expects Progress to be a vanguard entryist clique because they are all too familiar with operating like that themselves!

  • Like most of my family I voted Labour as a tradition, an instinct. It was ingrained into us from an early age from listening to tales of the 1930s when Nan would decide if there was enough money in the kitty to call the doctor when someone was ill.

    As a class we supported Labour loyally until the seventies and then the eighties when the party that had been a part of our tradition was taken over by left wing lunatics and black nationalists who wanted quotas for everything.

    What we now see is a party that is preparing to tear itself apart again just when working people need it. Whether or not Compass is a funded by a pharmaceutical company or what its views on Israel are has got nothing to do with the NHS or the rate of unemployment.

    I knew members of the Mili in the eighties and they were are bonkers deranged people who needed to be booted out of the party. The 1983 Labour Party Manifesto, partly written by Jon Landsman, was correctly dubbed the longest suicide note in history.

    The defeat of that year was blamed on the Falklands war and to a certain extent that is true. The left, including the lot who are behind this attack on Compass, came out in open support of the Junta in Buenas Aires under the guise of opposing ” Imperialism”. The working class looked at the shambles they were and voted Tory.

    I see references to Tanks here. Mere semantics. Tankies and Trots have sunk whatever differences they might have ever had in a united suicidal effort to make the Labour Party what it was ever and was never intended to be, Marxist.

    The main cheer leader is a political gadfly, Andy Newman, a political Vicar of Bray if ever there was one, who should be sacked by his union for the amount of their paid time that he spends attacking Jews.

    Militant, like Socialist Action the backers of Livingstone, were secretive entrist groups which denied their own existence. Compass should use this opportunity to oppose and expose the new entrists in the party. If it is not taken we will see a return to the marginalisation of the Labour Party and a long time in opposition.

  • And, Mr Dwelly, your Blairites also lost the last election – or was that because Gordon was insufficiently Blairite for you ?

  • Paranoid stuff? The stuff about sponsors is all true – check it out for yourself.

  • What an unpleasant lifelong Labour supporter you give the impression of being, Mr Dwelly. Not a nice advertisement for this ‘Progress’ thing… Certainly making me tend to the opinion that they’re as bad, in their own way, as the foul Militant Tendency mob were.
    James Fussell, currently living in Sweden (note that being labelled as ‘Guest’ could quite simply mean that the poster forgot to change the default – oh yes, and civilised behaviour means being polite to guests – especially when they haven’t descended to name calling and personal abuse)

  • It is truly despicable that progress takes funding from regimes which violate human rights and abuse political opponents. As states above Progress received sponsorship from the European Azerbaijan Society – a lobbying organisation closely linked to the corrupt dictatorial regime of President Ilham Aliev. I draw your attentions to the following reports:

    “Questions over MPs’ all-expense-paid trip to Azerbaijan”

    Tory MP on intelligence committee is paid by Azerbaijan lobby group

    We expect this sort of unscrupulous behaviour from Tories. But for Progress, A Labour Party movement, to take funding from apologists and lobbyists of human rights abusers is truly shocking!

    Murad Gassanly
    Azerbaijan Democratic Association – UK

    Pimlico & Knightsbridge Labour Party

  • Anybody following this debate should realise the problem with Progress is their reactionary politics: which have spread their tentsacles beyond the Labour Party. The dominant clique within the Hope Not Hate campaign, which was formerly anti-racist but is now insipidly ‘anti-extremist’ includes Progress NEC Candidate Ruth Smeeth and Anthony Painter. For full chapter and verse see the latest Notes From the Borderland (issue 10). See for details

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