Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Stop the McDonnell amendment

My New Year’s resolution is to stop the hard-left lowering the threshold to stand for Labour leader from 15 to five per cent

2016 was obviously a total disaster for those who want to see a Labour government in the not too distant future. Disappointing local election results, coming third in Scotland, losing the European Union referendum and the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn followed by near silence. Since 24 September 2016 there has been little done to unite the party, nothing done to flesh out of policy ideas, campaign days on grammar schools and the NHS were so poor few voters noticed and the Labour leader appears at prime minister’s question time and that’s about it. Labour finishes the year with a 25 per cent standing in the polls – some 17 points behind an unelected Tory leader that is bereft of ideas and vision. Only 18 per cent of the public like our economy team and just 17 per cent our leader. The Corbyn project has clearly failed and many who voted for him, even the second time, are rapidly coming to the same conclusion.

Charlotte Church is the latest to realise that Corbyn will fail those who need a Labour government, because he is unable to convince their friends and neighbours. She told the New Statesman:

‘I think he can’t win. The best thing for him to do is to train somebody up under him, who can be a new fresh face.’

She is only saying what others are thinking. So the hard-left – understandably not keen to give up the controlling heights of the workers’ party – focus on who comes next.

John McDonnell, in an interview with the Eastern Daily Press, recently tipped ‘Clive Lewis, along with Richard Burgon, Becky [Rebecca] Long Bailey, Angela Rayner’ as future leaders. But the shadow chancellor wants the crown for himself.

To that end Momentum – ironically set up out of Corbyn’s first campaign to bolster his leadership – have a plan. Their friends in the so-called Campaign for Labour party Democracy intend to change just one digit in the Labour party rule book: the threshold to stand for party leader from 15 to five per cent. Known as the ‘McDonnell amendment‘ after the two-time hopeful who craves the leadership his friend currently occupies, it aims to allow a candidate with little support in the parliamentary Labour party into all future races for the top job. It means a would-be leader would need support from only one in 20 of their colleagues, down from one in seven.

This pitiful threshold not only belittles the idea of leadership, it is an anathema to Labour’s commitment to parliamentary socialism and to Britain’s parliamentary democracy. Not only is ‘Clause One’ of the party rule book to ‘maintain in parliament and the country a political Labour party’ but our system requires the candidate to be prime minister to command overwhelming support on the treasury benches. The hard-left’s amendment acknowledges that their candidate for leader will never command that kind of support.

2017 will see their rule change come to Labour party conference. It must be stopped. McDonnell is not the answer to Labour’s problems, nor is one of their hard-left prodigies. It is my New Year’s resolution to do all I can to stop this disruptive amendment. Small it may seem, but huge are its potential consequences. At last year’s conference, moderate delegates in the trade unions and from constituency parties were able to vote through a positive set of reforms. If we work together this year’s conference can ensure Labour’s future is in the hands of the voters, not the Corbyn apparatchiks and their failed project.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell


UPDATE: This article was covered by the Guardian



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Richard Angell

is director of Progress


  • So he lists four people who are all young enough to be his children (three of them are younger than I am, and yet there they are in the Shadow Cabinet), but you still insist that he wants it for himself? You are just desperate for the Leader always to be far older than you are. Well, you had better get used to seeing your own and subsequent generations become this or that. It happens. Get over it.

  • Richard Angell lives in fear of democracy. His fatuous musings ironically speak volumes about all that was wrong with New Labour.

  • And we should all be somehow entranced by Charlotte Church’s opinion of anything.

    Why is her opinion of more importance than that of thousands of other Labour members?

    It seems strange that the self-selected “Progress” is willing to place any onside voice above the democratic process – but that’s what ‘Progressives’ have always been about, haven’t they?

    The undermining of real democracy with Common Purpose trained networks of unaccountable and unelected apparatchiks.

  • Oh Richard, Richard, Richard you need to accept that rules can change and that while we live in a parliamentary democracy there is a party outside parliament as well as inside. Those of us outside want to be heard and think our elected representatives should listen to us.
    Who knows if they did we might not have had the disaster of invading Iraq, the PFI debacle, the breaking up of the state education system by academies, the deregulation of banks . . . All of which lost us millions of votes and made the party seem like a Tory lite entity.
    Of course articles like yours are picked up by the mainstream media. You provide them with more post truths to use against us. It seems the right of the party take the view that if they cannot run the party then they will destroy it.
    Try showing some loyalty.

  • well said Richard the ‘militant’/momentum movement are all about power at all costs while our democracy just ignores their egotism. Of course we get the usual wailing from the Corbynistas who live on the email and internet where they convince each other the world agress with them but they don’t go out in case they find out what real people are doing.

    I want a Labour leader who can lead a movement not follow a lot f self important dreamers !

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