Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

It’s a fair cop!

It’s a fair cop!

’Ello, ’ello, ’ello. Labour’s police commissioner candidates are reporting for duty.

While most of the selections were fought with the passion associated with an international paint-drying tournament, some fascinating fights have been won. There is father-and-son team Alun and Tal Michael, who may soon find themselves running almost all of the principality’s police. There is not-very-PC John Prescott, who won a surprisingly tight race in Humberside.

Most intriguingly of all, there is Jane Kennedy, whose victory over Peter Kilfoyle marks a remarkable shift in Merseyside Labour politics. Kilfoyle was once Neil Kinnock’s enforcer in Liverpool against Militant. The Labour movement owes him a great debt for that (and for his anti-drug crime campaigning). That said, the victory of Kennedy shows how much things have changed there in the last two decades. Militant is long gone, leaving behind a tough but clean fight between two figures with a long history in Labour’s mainstream traditions.

Still, even in defeat, it is unlikely Kilfoyle will come along quietly. He will be his own man, as always.

Unite the unions?

It is unusual for a gossip columnist to find they write for a magazine that is the source of the most interesting gossip in your subject area. It is like writing for Hello! and finding your editor is in a bitter public row with Katie Price over Peter Andre.

For Katie Price, read Paul Kenny. For Peter Andre, read Ed Miliband. To see how far your insider can stretch this dubious metaphor, read on.

You see, dear reader, you are currently reading a magazine that the general secretary of the GMB thinks should be outlawed from the Labour movement.

It is not clear what this will actually mean. The increasing centralisation and political coordination of the key Labour-affiliated unions mean they could likely get a resolution onto Labour’s conference agenda, and the structure of Labour conference voting means they could win any motion put at the conference floor. But, practically, how do you outlaw people who disagree with you?

Further, Miliband has said he disagrees with the idea, so would the unions really want to publicly undermine a leader they claim to support in order to settle some factional scores?

So, while it is unlikely Progress will disappear, taking this magazine with it, the attack suggests the readers of this magazine would do well to pay a bit more attention to the politics of the union movement.

After the Kinnock years, union structures became a refuge for those who found they had no position in the Labour party itself. The growing consolidation of unions gave a critical mass to the left, internal opposition to Labour reformism gave them a sense of purpose and low turnout created conditions where a limited number of committed activists could make a difference.

For those broadly happy with the Labour leadership, there were generally more interesting and attractive things to do than fight endless tussles with the far-left over obscure committees. Nor did the leadership encourage grassroots activism. It was easier for successive leaders to reach agreement with general secretaries, then leave them to manage their empires. In power, when there was something tangible to grant, and authority flowed one way, this was sustainable. In opposition, it is not.

So, before you attack the GMB, or Unite, or Unison, for their apparent slide to the left, or launch an excoriating attack on the presence of Communists and Trots on union platforms, ask yourself some questions. Who do you want on the National Council of Unison? What value is your support to the moderate candidate in the next Unite general secretary election? What practical benefit to Unite is the Labour right compared to what Mark Serwotka can offer?

If the answers, like those of your humble insider, are ‘no idea’, ‘nowt’ and ‘nothing’, respectively, then perhaps we will find that Labour’s own Peter Andre will find it hard to ignore Katie Price’s assets.

Changing of the guard

The results of the National Executive Committee elections are in, and it is a case of ‘goodbye and hello again’, as former NEC member Peter Wheeler replaces fellow Progress-Labour Firster Luke Akehurst.

Akehurst was unlucky to miss out – three candidates for the final NEC place were separated by fewer than three hundred votes, on a turnout down due to the 2010 leadership election boosting participation. Akehurst may also have suffered from lower London turnout in the absence of a mayoral selection race as there was last time.

Beneath the minimal changes to the NEC, some shifts are clear. The lack of a ‘big name’ candidate hurt the Progress-Labour First slate. Last time Oona King came a clear second. This time, with Ken Livingstone topping the poll, the left faction got first and second and were not far from grabbing third.

For good or ill, being a recognised ‘name’ is a big help in the NEC elections. So perhaps the search for a star should begin now if Labour’s centrists are to gain a seat in two years’ time.

It is also noticeable that the left had two near-misses, Kate Osamor and Peter Willsman joining Akehurst in falling short by a few hundred votes. This suggests the left’s ‘floor’ was fairly high, probably lifted by the coat-tails of Livingstone and Ann Black.

In the National Policy Forum, too, things stayed much the same, with a centrist advance in Scotland balanced by left success in Yorkshire. It is all very ‘as you were’!

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The Insider


  • I was horrified to hear of Unions who want to outlaw Progress. i thought those days were gone , but it apears it is now Union Policy to dominate The Labour Party.

  • I don’t think it’s general TUC policy to outlaw Progress – I do know that some in Progress quite keenly want to break the Party/Union link, so a reaction to that by some, whilst regrettable, is entirely understandable. A number of postings here reveal that some Progress supporters in any case have a lukewarm attitude towards unions, sadly.

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