Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Five years of Progress

Looking back over a parliament of working for a Labour majority as Labour’s new mainstream



The first Progress pamphlet of the parliament examined seats that performed against the odds in the last general election.

Organising to Win looked at what lay behind Labour holds in Bassetlaw, Birmingham Edgbaston, Dagenham and Rainham, Wirral South and the Labour gain in Blaenau Gwent.


Starting in the early days of the parliament – since the rerun elections following the cancellation of proposed unitary authorities and the Oldham East and Saddleworth byelection – Progress was out on the ground helping Labour candidates win up and down the country.

Not afraid to get out of London, Progress’ all-weather campaigners go out on the doorstep for the party they love.



By 2010 there were 14 seats which Labour won in 1997 but where the party came in third. A number of these – Bristol North-west, Cambridge, Leeds North-west and Watford – are target seats for 2015.

Third Place First and its conferences, addressed by figures such as Harriet Harman, Andy Burnham and Caroline Flint, looked at how Labour moves from no-hold to toehold in local government, stepping up from toehold to foothold, and from third to first in crucial parliamentary marginals.

THE PURPLE BOOKThe Purple Book front cover

In 2011 Progress released The Purple Book, which drew on Labour’s early decentralist tradition to argue for the state to become more efficient and devolved, with more local ownership and control of local services and assets. It proposed that Labour: build a ‘something for something’ welfare state and a more balanced economy; tackle the new inequality and the ‘care crunch’ affecting the ‘squeezed middle’; and further social mobility so that future generations can realise the ‘promise of Britain’.

Learning from our history in government and daring to change the way we do politics is not easy. I know many will find this path uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But that is why I welcome, and take encouragement from, the debates being opened up in this book.

Ed Miliband, Foreword, The Purple Book

The Purple Book sought to help Labour navigate the uncharted waters of the 21st  century political world.



Liam Byrne identified fiscal realism, a new economy, new welfare states, civic inventiveness, and a new politics as principles around which the new centre-ground could be built

PROGRESS STRATEGY BOARDThe Purple Papers_Front Cover

Progress members elected four members, four members of parliament and four councillors to the Progress strategy board.


The Purple Papers were published in October 2012. They examined four big themes – restoring economic growth; getting Britain working again; rebuilding public services; and tackling the ‘care crunch’ – and presented some of the choices confronting the party. ‘It is safe to predict that the challenges an incoming Labour government would face in 2015 are akin to, if not greater than, those the left faced in Denmark and France’, wrote one of the Papers’ authors.


Labour_majority_campaign_logo_no_straplineCampaign_for_a_Labour_MajorityTHE CAMPAIGN FOR A LABOUR MAJORITY

Progress’ Campaign for a Labour Majority sought
to help the Labour party focus its efforts on achieving a majority Labour government. Party members around the country were invited to join debate about what Labour must do to get rid of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in one term and join us on the campaign trail to make it happen.


To change our politics and the Labour party, Progress’ Winning with Women conference, events series and campaign days have helped women stand for public office, take centre-stage in the debates about the party’s future, and raise the salience of issues unaddressed elsewhere


In this special report for Progress, Deborah Mattinson and Zoe Tyndall of BritainThinks researched what swing voters in four ‘Frontline 40’ seats – marginals that see Labour in clear majority territory – want to see from Ed Miliband’s party.


Battleground_Briefing_front_coverBATTLEGROUND BRIEFING

This definitive guide to Labour’s general election target list looked at the seats in detail, the majority and vote shares of the parties.


On the 20th anniversary of his election as leader of the Labour party, former prime minister Tony Blair gave the inaugural Philip Gould Lecture.

The hallmark of this progressive politics is that we should never be afraid of new ideas. We embrace them; we search for them; we scour the globe for them. Not out of an absence of principle; but from an abundance of it. We should always be uncomfortable in the “comfort zone”, because the only comfort found there is for the already privileged.

Tony Blair, 21 July 2014


At a Progress event in early September 2014 Gordon Brown set in train ‘the vow’ of Westminster leaders for more devolution to Scotland, announcing:

This debate has now been resolved but perhaps in a way that people then did not expect. For the question facing voters in Scotland on 18 September is not “Yes” versus the status quo, but “Yes” versus more devolution. The status quo is not now an option. A “No” vote is a vote for further devolution.


Think three peaks challenge but for Labour in marginal seats. The brainchild of a group of friends and a bottle of wine, the idea – quickly supported by Progress – has inspired 25 challenges and separate but similar initiatives by Young Labour, Dan Jarvis and Tessa Jowell.



Progress coordinated nine simultaneous campaign days in the target seats where the Conservative or Liberal Democrat incumbent is standing down, all but one after just one term. 4,526 contacts were made by 213 volunteers who criss-crossed the country in all weathers at the very start of January 2015.

Labour’s attempt to win the election “ground war” will intensify this weekend as its MPs and activists target the nine seats in which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are standing down. More significant for Ed Miliband is that the campaign, dubbed Operation Flight, is being led by Progress.

Philip Webster, The Times, 9 January 2015


Liz Kendall and Steve Reed interviewed five innovators working on the frontline of today’s public services to find out how change can be brought about to improve the quality of services by putting power in the hands of people – and doing so in an era of spending constraints. Download at:


During February half term, Progress’ battlebus visited 24 seats in seven days. 321 party members gave over 717 volunteer hours and held 5,105 conversations in target seats.



Progress has taken on tour the Refounding Labour consultation, The Purple Book, the New Centre-ground pamphlet, The Purple Papers and the Campaign for a Labour Majority. Every event was open to all Labour party members.

We were the first Labour organisation to formally rule out ever organising all-male panels. We are proud signatories to the Labour Women’s Network #PowerPledge and encourage others to do the same.

We had speakers at our events from Community Union, CWU, GMB, TSSA, TUC, UnionLearn, Unions21, Unison, Unite the Union and Usdaw. Our staff have spoken at events for Community Union, CWU and Unions21. The general secretaries of TSSA and the TUC have written for our magazine, alongside both Michael Leahy and Roy Rickhuss from Community. John Hannett of Usdaw has been interviewed for the magazine.

We ran events in partnership with Chinese for Labour, Christians on the Left, the Fabian Society, Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Finance and Industry Group, Labour Friends of Sure Start, Labour Movement for Europe, Labour party Irish Society, Labour Students, LGBT Labour and Sera. We worked with LabourList, Labour Uncut, Left Foot Forward and Southern Front as event media partners.

Thank you to everyone, especially my predecessor Robert Philpot, who has been part of the success.


Richard Angell is director of Progress



See the ‘Five years of Progress’ review from our April 2015 magazine here:

PROJ3179_PRO_Mag_April_24.3.15_5years copy

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Richard Angell

is director of Progress


  • Five years of ‘Progress’ achieved utter defeat.

    Why ?

    Instead of uniting under the concept of ‘One Nation’ we divided into sectional interests. Women, LGBTs etc all, fundamentally, share one identity : nationality.

    Instead of standing up for the national interest we gave every appearance of wanting to go along with every single policy emanating in ‘Brussels’

    Instead of recognising Scotland and England had ceased to share a common political identity and community we donned the cloak of British Nationalism.

    This is not UKIP talk. This is the reason why Labour voters in their millions either voted UKIP or didn’t bother turning out to vote at all.

  • Progress really working well.scotland gone SNP.Northern Constituencies Voting UKIP.
    Now we have that kendall women go far right.We are not one nation.these far right mp’s will divide the nation even do they sleep at night? Labour is dying.with these mp’s it will finish it off.shameful.

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