Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Labour must be calm, clever and kind

Progress organised a great public meeting in Stratford last week, where we had an open and frank conversation about losing the general election, the Labour leadership campaign, and where the Labour party goes next. I was glad to speak, alongside Wes Streeting MP and Unmesh Desai.

It feels like the Labour party nationally is entering into a period of turmoil just as Tower Hamlets is starting to achieve stability – and some of the actors are the same.

My contribution was advocating that we be calm, clever and kind.

Calm, because anger and fury put people off. If you see two people fighting in the street, most of us will not wait to ask reasonable questions about who is in the right – we will have a brief, curious look, or steer clear. We are not attracting new supporters by screaming and shouting at the Tories, or each other. We need calm, dignity and strength.

Clever. There is an odd English anti-intellectualism, and it has contributed to failure in the Labour party, where the current debates are an odd mish mash of debating the legacy of the 1945 government; rerunning the 1980s, this time as farce; and entire articles in mainstream newspapers analysing the current state of the Labour party in terms of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. We need new ideas – the world around us is changing rapidly, and the jewels of our traditional values desperately need resetting. We have an intellectual chasm, since we lost in 2010. Attempts to fill it have been half baked and underdeveloped, and we have to stop allowing endless commentary on personalities to replace a rethinking of our core purpose and philosophy.

Kind. Being in opposition, in Westminster or locally, is tough. Running local authorities in a context of Tory cuts is tough. Being a Labour activist whilst we keep losing elections is miserable. Politics can be a competitive game, but looking at where we are now, there is plenty of work to go around and plenty to do. To be resilient for the future, we need to learn to be kind and look after one another.

That evening in Stratford was a bit like family therapy, as we all let off steam and reassured one another that, however dysfunctional the Labour party can sometimes feel, we stand together. Now, to do all we can to win for Labour in May.


Rachael Saunders is deputy mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets. She tweets @RachaelSaunders


Photo: Louisa Thomson

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Rachael Saunders

is leader of the Labour group in the London borough of Tower Hamlets


  • Last January it was clear to this observer that Labour would lose. Compass said that voters who had picked Blair three times were the wrong kind of people and were not needed. That included me. I got the message. And when Ed Miliband visited Salford, one Labour aide yelled at a BBC reporter who dared to ask a question that he should GET BACK TO LONDON. Never mind that Ed himself lives in London, this sent the message to voters in the south that Labour was focused only on its northern heartlands. And that Labour was a nasty party. The nastiness continues and even though Saint Jezza wows his teenage fan club, older voters are not deceived.

  • Unfortunately held on the night most Wards in West Ham CLP meet. Information which is readily available.

  • I found it difficult to get the meaning in the article. There is an intellectual chasm but we need to be kind? And Progress Party therapy is the correct response because we are united as one?

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