Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

2016: the year in review

Welcome to the review of our year on Progress

Most progressives are glad to see the back of 2016. It has been a disastrous year in so many ways. Everyone will have their personal lows – the poor deal that David Cameron present to the public making Brexit more likely, Labour coming third in Scotland despite promises that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership would turn it around, the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, watching Bernie Sanders and his team attack relentlessly the first woman to stand for US president, supporters of Donald Trump shouting ‘lock her up’ or Hillary Clinton losing to that demagogue.

For me it was the political assassination of Jo Cox. The pain of her husband, children, family and friends is still unimaginable. To be cut down in her prime is an injustice in itself. Jo was an exceptional member of parliament because her passion was so revealing. She showed public service at it best from a group so often derided as self serving. She was murdered doing what all of her colleagues do – serving their constituents in local surgeries and advice centres. Her particular brand of determination and passion means an act that of wickedness inspired an outpouring of love. Her family and friends will miss her companionship and generosity but those of us in politics know every day we miss the causes she would otherwise have championed. Labour is poorer for it but so too is the country. Our thoughts are still with Brendan and her two children.

The highlight of the year is undoubtedly Sadiq Khan becoming mayor of London. He worked hard and was well deserving of the post and every day he is in office he is showing the change that Labour can make when it wins things. He does us proud. Alongside this sit Zac Goldsmith being beaten twice in the same year – let us hope that Conservative Central Office and Tory candidates learn the right lessons: dog whistle politics has no place in UK elections.

Almost every other political party changed their leader in 2016, but not Labour. We continue to be led by someone who shows no interest in uniting the party, barely appears in public when not campaigning for himself and despite nearly 100 days into his second leadership has fleshed out no policy offer for the country. Being ‘anti-austerity’ remains empty rhetoric, his much trumpeted National Education Service campaign pledge has no more meat on the bones and the supposed ‘election footing’ the party is on has led to no organisers being recruited for marginal seats but motions by Momentum to deselect Labour MPs. The wheels have come off the project – and people are starting to realise. The clash between the Trotskyists (Laura Murray’s term) and the ‘alt-Stalinist’ (the Trotskyists’ term) within Jeremy Corbyn’s outrider group Momentum has come to an ugly crescendo – so much so the Labour leader has had to wade in on the side of the Jon Lansman/Stop the War faction over his friends in the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, so-called Labour Representation Committee and the Fire Brigades Union. It’s all very messy.

Change will not be forthcoming, however, until we, the moderates and the modernisers, have something inspiring to say. This is where Progress and other groups on the left that care about ideas come in. We must be intellectually curious, ambitious for what our politics can achieve and find a way to align what the party believes, the country needs and the public wants. We must stop seeing this as compromising – being in opposition is what comprises our values – but as building a permission politics that will take Britain with us.

Finally, our work with our friends at Labour First is more important than ever. If you want be part of the solution we need two things – people to stay in Labour and get themselves or good comrades as delegates to Labour party conference. The hard-left are still intent on changing our party out of recognition – we cannot let them.

Fingers crossed that 2017 will be better. As my colleague Conor Pope argues the next 12 months ‘might not be the recovery progressives were hoping for but it could show a corner has been turned’.

Thank you for being a member, subscriber or friend of Progress and the work we do – I hope 2017 sees you get involved some more.

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Richard Angell is director of Progress

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NEWS, EVENTS AND CAMPAIGNS

PROGRESS STRATEGY BOARD ELECTION

This year the election to the Progress strategy board took place. Elected in the parliamentarians’ section were: Gloria De Piero MP, Peter Mandelson, Alison McGovern MP and Phil Wilson MP. Elected in the councillors’ section were: Theo Blackwell, Paul Brant, Joanne Harding and Rachael Saunders. Elected in the members’ section were: Christabel Cooper, Sheila Gilmore, Allen Simpson and Mary Wimbury. Elected in the 23 and under section were: Marian Craig and Samantha Jury-Dada.

This is our most diverse board to date and shows our politics at its best – living the politics we believe in and focused on the future.

PROGRESS FOR SADIQSadiq Khan London

Progress was out campaigning for Sadiq Khan and Labour’s London assembly candidates on the #labourdoorstep in every corner of London – as well as making the case for Sadiq Khan in the pages of our magazine and on our website. April’s editorial – ‘Khan and must’ – called on Londoners to reject the politics of hate and place Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city, in City Hall.

You can catch up with the Progress team’s efforts for Sadiq here

PROGRESS ANNUAL CONFERENCE

In May, Progress held its annual conference – bringing together figures from across the party to discuss how to place Labour on the path to government. The keynote speech was delivered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP and – as ever – Progress Question Time proved to be wildly popular. 

You can watch the events from the main hall, including the keynote speech and Question Time event, here.

GOVERNING FOR BRITAIN CONFERENCERobin Wales Governing for Britain

This year Progress held the first Governing for Britain conference. Leading figures from local government, such as Joe Anderson, Richard LeeseMarvin Rees, Robin Wales, Sarah HaywardPeter John, Claire McCarthyStephen Cowan, Jas Athwal, Rachael SaundersPeter LambTom Beattie, Alice Perry and others joined us to discuss Labour’s record of success in local government and how the national party could learn from it.

You can listen to the Governing for Britain conference here and watch it here.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY SPECIAL

Power-Behind-ThroneMarch’s edition of Progress magazine – timed to coincide with International Women’s Day 2016 – was guest edited by comedian and former special adviser Ayesha Hazarika, featuring leading female voices from politics, business, industry and culture, such as Rachel Reeves MP, Frances O’Grady, Gaby Hinsliff and Ellie Groves. You can download read the International Women’s Day Special here.

Progress director Richard Angell‘s podcast with Hazarika – in which they discuss the special edition – can be listened to here

A ‘Post pink bus politics: How does Labour speak to women again?’ event at Labour party conference, with Hazarika, Alison McGovern MP, Thangam Debonnaire MP and Emma Burnell built on the themes contained in our International Women’s Day Special. You can listen to it here.

REMEMBERING JO COX

Jo_CoxTragically, this year saw the assassination of much-loved Labour MP Jo Cox. Jo was taken from us for believing in an outward-looking, tolerant Britain. Not a day goes by that Jo’s absence is not felt by those that knew and loved her.

Remembering Jo Cox One of Labour’s brightest lights has been extinguished, lamented Richard Angell

The Last Word: An emerging greatness Jo Cox made a remarkable difference to the world, inside and outside of parliament, wrote Jamie Reed MP

EUROPEAN UNION REFERENDUM

progress-remainProgress played a leading role in the European Union referendum, making an unashamed pro-European case in our magazine and online, as well as pounding the pavements throughout the referendum to take these arguments directly to the electorate.

Nothing leftwing about leaving In June, the Progress editorial took on those that argued Britain could forge a more progressive future outside of the European Union

Labour must remain Remain Britain must leave the European Union, but Labour must rebuild the case for Britain’s membership of the neighbourhood of nations, July’s Progress editorial argued

PROGRESS AT LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE 2016

2G0A3411Progress held 11 fringe events at this year’s Labour party conference in Liverpool, including an unmissable Progress rally chaired by Peter Kyle MP with speeches from Richard Angell, Bex Bailey, Hilary Benn MP, Ben Bradshaw MP, Kezia Dugdale MSP, Caroline Flint MP, John Hannett, Sarah Hayward, Tristram Hunt MP, Liz Kendall MP, Alison McGovern MP, John Park, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Wes Streeting MP and Robbie Young.

You can listen all of the Progress events in Liverpool, including the Progress rally, on our Labour party conference playlist here.

#STAYINLABOUR

stayinlabour#StayInLabour was the clarion call for moderates in 2016 – a Progress-organised campaign to convince disaffected members not to leave the party earned widespread support in all corners of Labour’s broad church, including figures such as Peter Mandelson, the TSSA’s Manuel Cortes, Liz Kendall MP, and the Guardian’s Owen Jones.

It’s my party, I’ll stay if I want to #StayInLabour because leaving is exactly what the hard-left wants you to do, wrote Labour Tomorrow director Nicola Murphy

Battling for my identity Liron Velleman called on moderates to #StayInLabour to support Jewish Labour members

You can read the other #StayInLabour pieces published while at Labour party conference here.

You can also follow the @StayInLabour Twitter account here.

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IN PROGRESS MAGAZINE AND ONLINE

PROGRESS EDITORIAL

Clause_1_SocialistPermission politics They key to Labour’s revival lays in a politics of permission, not an obsession with the centre ground, the Progress editorial argued in November

‘Clause One socialists’ will win the day Shortly before the results of the leadership election, the Progress editorial called on those committed to a parliamentary route to socialism to stay and fight for the soul of the party

Time to stop blaming the media If you do not like what the press is writing, do not reach for Leveson – make better stories

COLUMNS

Jamie Reed MP and Richard Angell continued the Last Word column, holding both the Tories’ and Momentum’s feet to the fire in some of the year’s most read articles.

This year saw two new columnists writing for Progress – from strategy board member Christabel Cooper and former national secretary of Labour Students Grace Skelton. In each edition of Progress magazine, we will track the economic impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in our new BrexitWatch column.

THE PROGRESSIVEBrexit-Papers

Rage against the machine The battle to come is not the usual bureaucratic bust-up

Brexit means Brexit Britain cannot avoid living with its consequences

Wake up sheeple! The era of post-truth politics is now in full swing

THE DEBATE

The new economy Frances O’Grady and Claire McCarthy on the place of trade unionism and co-operation in the 21st century economy

Movement politics Should Labour back restrictions on freedom of movement of people? Renie Anjeh and Ellie Groves debate

Back to college Should Labour return to using the three-part electoral college system in its leadership elections? Anna Turley MP and Jonathan Reynolds MP debate

LETTER FROM …Norway EU flags

Letter from … Vienna How is Labour’s sister party faring in grand coalition? asked Philip Novak

Letter from … Bergen Fiona Twycross AM reflects on the lessons for the European Union referendum from Norway

Letter from … Montreal Recovery is going to take leadership and honesty, Policy Network director Matthew Laza

COMMENTARY

Don’t accept this new, ‘new normal’ Labour’s six-year slide damages not just the party but the country, argued Adam Harrison

The art of opposition Theresa May is not invincible. Here’s how to oppose her, wrote Jacqui Smith

Concrete action needed Time for the hedging on antisemitism in Labour to end, argued Richard Angell

PROGRESSIVE REVIEWSCitizen_Clem

Alice in Westminster: The political life of Alice Bacon Rachel Reeves’ book shines a light on one of Labour’s forgotten heroes, argues Joyce Gould

Zac versus Sadiq: The Fight to Become London Mayor Sadiq richly deserved his victory, as his competence in office these first months confirmed, observed Karen Buck MP

Citizen Clem: A biography of Attlee For Attlee, socialism and patriotism were inextricable, wrote Nick Garland

CARTOONS ON PROGRESS

Cartoonist Adrian Teal captured some of the moments of the year for The Insider column

View them all here

THE PROGRESS INTERVIEWNeil Kinnock

‘London’s shop steward’ The soon-to-be mayor of London Sadiq Khan talks to Richard Angell and Adam Harrison, and he is hungry for new power

‘We’re not holding back’ ‘Anti-austerity politics is now the centre-ground of 
Scottish politics’, Kezia Dugdale tells Ayesha Hazarika

‘Don’t leave’ Now more than ever, Labour needs its members to get stuck in, Neil Kinnock tells Richard Angell and Adam Harrison

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READERS’ FAVOURITE

Asset-stripping Labour Momentum is a party waiting to leave a party, argues Richard Angell

CNDRallies do not win general elections Ian McKenzie reflected on his time as a Bennite in the 1980\

Not a penny for the NHS The autumn statement proved that the Tories cannot be trusted with the NHS, wrote Jon Ashworth MP

Solidarity … but with who? Jeremy Corbyn let down women everywhere by appearing at a Socialist Worker’s Party front event, argued Grace Skelton

Tackling antisemitism is not a zero-sum game Mike Katz calls for zero tolerance of antisemitism within the party days after being heckled at Labour party conference

Unity should earned, not demanded Too many of the calls for unity are in reality commands to be silent, with the implicit threat of deselection as motivation to obey, wrote Christabel Cooper

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Thanks to everyone who has been part of an extraordinary year in the history of the Labour party. We look forward to working with you all again in 2016.

If you are not yet a member of Progress then sign up here to be the first to receive Progress magazine and receive discounted entry to our events. If you are interested in writing for Progress and contributing to the discussion about Labour’s way forward then please get in touch with us here.

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DONATE TO PROGRESS

2016 has been a particularly bruising year for progressives – but, as our new deputy editor Conor Pope wrote for Progress magazine, 2017 may well prove to be a turning point. In order for Progress to be able to put on thought-provoking discussions and training events around the country, we need the support of our members.

Please consider giving a donation – or joining the Progress 100 Club – to help us to continue to make the case for a progressive, mainstream Labour party capable of commanding popular support in the country.

Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.

It takes time, commitment and money to build a fight against the forces of conservatism. If you value the work Progress does, please support us by becoming a member, subscriber or donating.

Our work depends on you.

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5 comments

  • We moderates have lots of inspiring things to say. Just read this magazine and it’s bubbling over with ideas. What we don’t have is the means to promote those ideas and sell them to the public.

    Jeremy refuses to lead the party himself despite his enormous mandate, and that can’t go on. If we do one positive thing in 2017 it should be to appoint a parliamentary leader for Progress/Labour First, and a front bench team too.

    We need the means to hold the government to account and provide a real alternative for the vast numbers of disheartened, shell-shocked centrists to get behind. The left would be angry of course, but can we really waste more time allowing them to indulge their little fantasies?

    Sometimes, we just have to put country before party and now is just such a time.

  • Lots of policies like “being tougher on welfare than the Tories” or “Labour does not represent the unemployed”. Nothing else.

  • It’s been a great year. Jeremy defeated the anti-democratic #chickencoup. Millionaires were not able to reach into our party and reclaim it for the 1%. True, New Labour lost Scotland. But we can win the Scots back in time for 2020.

  • Jeremy’s appearances at, for example, the Tolpuddle Festival and the Durham Miners’ Gala were only “campaigning for himself” because a Leadership Election had been called by MPs whose own constituents could not name them. Where is Owen Smith these days? Then gain, who cares?

    People are saying that this has been a bad year. But today is the day on which the Durham County Council would have sacked its 2700 Teaching Assistants, in order to reappoint them on a 23 per cent pay cut. It is not, however, doing any such thing.

    Happy New Year.

  • Progress remains hair raisingly reactionary in its approach. Its mephitic commentary on Corbyn creates a nasty and venomous stain in the party which coarsens and hardens divisions.
    It should make a New Years resolution to remember it is part of a party based on solidarity and concern, and stop building up a handful of Trotskyists into a major internal opposition. Progress knows the Trotskyists are irrelevant but it suits them to make them seem powerful as a means of attacking Corbyn and painting his supporters as Stalinists.
    It is clear that Progress continues its move to the right in politics but seems ashamed to admit it preferring to label itself moderate, centre, progressives – when it fulfils none of these labels.

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