Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word … The beginning of the thaw

The Last Word is back, and it’s still not remotely personal …

It’s been a while since I emerged from my foxhole to impart missives of trivel and drivia about all things political.

The Road

As I emerge, blinking into the light, bearded, swathed in rags, pushing my scavenged possessions in a supermarket trolley, I survey the new postapocalyptic landscape that is British politics.

Catching my reflection in a shard of broken glass, my gaze shifts to my broken, splintered fingernails. Five months ago, I belonged to a group of people who believed they were about to form the government of one of the greatest countries in the world.

Curb your somnambulism

It’s been the longest five months of my life. The parliamentary Labour party, for so long dutifully unquestioning and inert, is now enveloped in a silent, grinding conflict. It emerged this week that the previous Labour leadership was in possession of private polling in the approach to the 2015 general election that showed Labour seven points behind the Conservatives.

How did an election campaign based upon a knife-edged ‘neck and neck’ premise become developed? In resolute defiance of the facts, why was such a campaign prosecuted? In the history of modern British politics, has there been a more indecipherable, stupefying mystery?

The answers may never be forthcoming. The accountable parties have disappeared. Slipping silently from view, those responsible for the defeat have taken a vow of omerta.

There has been no reckoning, no explanation, no exploration or acknowledgement of the scale of Labour’s defeat. There has been no public postmortem: there is no ‘closure’.

A Winter’s Tale

Winter’s edge has become an uncomfortable feature of life in the barren wasteland of opposition. The rime of denial continues its creep.

The new footsoldiers of this hoarfrost can be found on social media. Abstaining from the pointless public relations gimmick that is George Osborne’s fiscal charter on Wednesday evening, I was introduced to a new kind of Labour politics from new kinds of people on social media.

In no particular order, I am to be spat upon, sent to the gulag, condemned to the salt mines, ‘lined up against a wall’, deselected and more. Dutifully obedient and centrally controlled, this is genuinely a new form of politics.

The revolution will not be televised, but the #purge will be live-tweeted.

The Thaw

Jon Cruddas is doing more than most to usher in a new age of enlightenment. Historians should mark 22 September 2015 as a critical point in the evolution of the Labour party. Delivering an address at the Queen Mary University of London, entitled Labour is Lost in England, Cruddas established the base-camp of the next Labour government:

The economy is transformed. We are living in a post-industrial age; new kinds of work, a changing class system. Labour has struggled to change with the times. It has lost its connection with the English people. Many do not know what the party stands for. In May we lost everywhere to everybody.

A recognition of the brutal reality we face, but the beginning of the thaw and the first steps upon the long road back.


Jamie Reed MP is member of parliament for Copeland. He writes The Last Word column on Progress and tweets @jreedmp


Photo: 2929 Productions

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Jamie Reed MP

is member of parliament for Copeland. He is shadow minister for health and writes The Last Word column on Progress


  • Not the most pleasant of options but what is your alternative. Don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution. Not all MPs are dedicated workers. Most people today work with the sword of Damocles hanging over their head. There are no longer safe, secure lifetime jobs. Guiding children into the future helping them choose “good Jobs” is no longer an option. At least elections give people the semblance of having some power. It also teaches that power does not belong to the strongest but a joint effort by a weak group holds the ultimate power. Standing alone makes you vulnerable. Again I ask what is the solution?

  • The “long road back,” if it succeeds, will be without Reed, Cruddas and others of their ilk. Do one!

  • Jamie Reed is a brilliant MP, he has 100% support from our CLP, he has done an amazing job for West Cumbria and if you think your “£3 voters”, long since scarpered, can destroy our democracy then you are very much mistaken. There is no way that the voters in Copeland are going to be convinced by your flip-flops.

  • What happened to him?
    After decades of training himself not to be a leader (in a surprisingly tolerant New Labour), he is now having to unlearn all of his old skills and, with the assistance of his similarly trained Shadow Chancellor, is showing that he is having some difficulty.

  • Two points:
    How would you yourself have run an election campaign knowing the party you lead is 7 points behind in the poll? Say ‘it’s close, very close’, or concede ‘there’s a huge hill to climb’? It is remotely conceivable that the latter would have made the Conservatives complacent and minded to stay at home and the Liberals that they could provide an opposition to the Conservatives (belying their guilty complicity of the previos five years of coalition) but in doing so drawing more votes from Conservatives than Labour. Pigs might fly. The only real option was for Ed to whistle hopefully. Except that like eating a bacon butty tidily, I suspect he cannot whistle either.

    The real reason Labour lost again was that it didn’t seem to have (I’m not saying they didn’t have) enough difference from the Conservatives to inspire people to come out and vote positively for Labour rather than just voting against the Conservatives; because on many issues Lanour’s message was that they wouldn’t do it, whatever in the partcular case ‘it’ was, quite the way the Tories were doing it. In effect, a policy encapsulated in the double-edged phrase “too fast,mtoo deep” Reeling off statistic after statistic to show Labour lots of it very well isnt enough t overturn a once-formed mindset.

    My secomd point is that one who disavows his new Party Leader, within moments of the announcement of the result and during the aceptance speech, is doing no good thereby to help the party to which belong. And in Clem Attlee’s words to Harold Laski (who tendered unwanted advice as to who should gomto the Palace on winning the 1945 landslide) “I can assure you there is widespread resentment in thr Party at your activities and a period of silence on your part would be welcome”

    On Trident, Jeremy Corbyn cannot change Party policy unilaterally (unilateralism : a good word!), snd has indicated there should be a conversation. – i.e. A full-blooded internal debate – on the subject. You are entitled to your views on the issue, and to resign from sny shadow post you held up to September 2015, but it would have strengthened your hand had you held your hand and let the new leader draw breath before pitching in your halfpennyworth. If we are committed to 2% of GDP on defence spending, in itself a position I yhink arguable, then does it really make sense to arm for a world policing role with weapomry that cannot in a civilised society ever be usdd, than to equip our forces with the manpower and weaponry appropriate for whatever conflicts might come in the future. It is a truism that wars are usually fought with the right wealons for the previous war, or similar words, but nuclear weaponry is certainly the armament of a cold war and wholly inappropriate to whatever problems we face mow and in the future. Let’s have that debate but mo vituperation of the Party leader for his honestly and consistently-held opnions. As Cromwell said “I beseech you, in the bosels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

  • “a period of silence on your part would be welcome”

    It may be welcome but is it good for the party?

    It was silence after the 2010 election that helped embed the myth that Labour caused the country’s financial problems.

    We need to talk. For example, we need to enlighten fellow members to the folly of bad economics and pursuade them to fight for the centre where elections are won.

    As for Jamie Reed standing down as a spokesperson, it wouldn’t be right for him to disregard all his convictions and shout “the king is dead, long live the king!” Would it?

  • The last election was lost in 2010 with our failure to defend our record in office, compounded by an uninspiring campaign topped of by the idiotic edstone. With such a poor set of politicians in charge, Cameron and Osborne walked all over us. And don’t say the leadership wasn’t warned. Members were shouting from the rooftops and were ignored.

  • It might have been possible to bite a tongue, quietly decline – if offered – any shadow cabinet role, and expressed views coherently within the PLP meetings where, incidentally, staffers should keep hacks from listening at key holes (or further away if people within the meetng bellow). Talking of making Labour unelectable in 2020, those opposed to Corbyn are doing their best to make this a self-fulfilled prophesy!

  • And the bad economics were mostly Osborne’s, but the silence you refer to was from the Brownite/Miliband front bench, wee cowering timorous beasties, who never explicitly challenged with clear data the utter lies, not from the now Corbynistas. Or ‘frit’, to quote Mrs T.

  • They haven’t scarpered here in Brent Central where turnouts at branches and GC are up (a constituency by the way where a LibDem majority of 1800+ was turned into a Labour majority on the same boundaries of 19,000+)!

  • Our local CLP has more than doubled in members and more than doubled in people attending Ward meets. If 60% are corbyn loyalists, I dont see how any road wont be led by him, even if they trigger another ellection. Worse yet, I think to the membership, the right have managed to Alianate themselves from getting power back for decades to come.

  • Thanks for welcoming me into the Labour party. I can tell how happy you are for the extra help. I promise not to get offended and reply with rude things when you suggest I’m part of some nazi death squad. I’m not entirely sure who threw the 1st stone, but then again I’m a ‘Moron’ and I probably ‘need a heart transplant.’Anyway I’m sure that was all in the spirit of things. But in all honesty, I’m looking forward to a time we can work together. Because if we can’t, well… it just means we lose. There is another leadership ellection and in all likely another lefty will get in on the current membership and then we repeat.. but in the mean time the general public loses. Regards, Will

  • I’m not a Progress member, or particularly on the ‘right’ of the party, but you lot are deluding yourselves.

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