Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

The Last Word: The wrong Jeremy

The NHS crisis, progressive alliance ploys and Momentum purges – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

Toby Perkins’ speech to the House of Commons this week on the death of his father was not only a brave personal intervention, but also an important contribution to the debate around the National Health Service. That the story he tells comes from the summer of 2016 shows that the current winter crisis in the NHS is no one-off. It is the result of years of Tory mismanagement, of ill-thought through reorganisation and failure to deliver the funding it needs.

The morale among workers in the health service is plumbing new, worrying depths in the wake of the long-running dispute over junior doctor contracts, the four hour accident and emergency target is so regularly missed there is speculation it may be scrapped, and the Red Cross has had to enter hospitals to help out. We should be very worried about the dire state of one of our most-treasured national assets.

How Jeremy Hunt remains in a job as health secretary after four catastrophic years is one of the most enduring mysteries in politics. As Martin Edobor wrote for Progress this week, Hunt was absent as the scale of the crisis became clear, and only resurfaced to shrug off responsibility. Theresa May wishes to be seen as a safe pair of hands, but her dithering means that if she finally takes some action, it may already be too late to sort out this mess.

The progressive alliance ploy

This week’s failed relaunch and double U-turn on both free movement and maximum pay did little to help Labour or Jeremy Corbyn. The main result was it let Hunt off the hook about the winter crisis he is overseeing in our much-loved NHS.

We are even less clear about what Corbyn might put in a manifesto. However, Corbyn wading into the Brexit debate has laid bare the idea of a ‘progressive alliance’. These so called ‘progressive friends’ did not hesitate to not just critique what the Labour leader had to say – as, say, Green party leader Caroline Lucas did – but to try and damage Labour simultaneously. Lucus’s co-leader Jonathan Bartley used it to encourage people to leave Labour and join the Greens instead. He tweeted:

And the Greens are not the only ones. The so called Left Unity did something very similar, as did the Scottish National party – who have never missed an opportunity to knock Labour on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall. Just yesterday Tom Brake confirmed that the Liberal Democrats would not be stepping aside in Copeland.

My colleague Jerome Neil put it best, ‘The progressive alliance is a ploy cooked up by fringe parties to convince Labour to assist them in destroying it.’ Hopefully we can put this hair-brained idea to bed and do the main job of the Labour – to build a coalition of voters before an election, not aim for a coalition of small parties after an election.

Local election results

People are right to caution that the Liberal Democrats going from fourth to first in Sunderland does not say something about the wider malaise of Labour. It is sad to lose a seat held continuously by Labour since 1982, but one seat is not a pattern. The Daily Politics, however, has marked out pretty clearly what has happened in 190 council by-elections that have taken place since May 2016. 70 has changed hand. The Tories are down by net 15 – which is to be executed for an incumbent government seven years in. Labour, worryingly, is down 12 and the Liberal Democrats are the major beneficiary.

This is worrying. Jon Trickett needs to pull his finger out and get a plan of action in place quick. We are supposed to be on a general election footing …

The Momentum Purge

Jon Lansman pulled off a coup this week and purge those loyal to the Alliance of Workers Liberty and brother of Fire Brigades Union chief, Nick Wrack, out of the organisation and off its ruling body. He vacated his high horse as a ‘democrat’ and called and concludes an email meeting of Momentum’s old steering committee that decided to abolish itself and establish a new structure. The new constitution might not be all it is cracked up to be …

Behaving like an absolute monarch, the owner of Momentum Campaign (Services) Ltd used his powers to do exactly as he wanted. He got his way. He then resigned as director, most likely to stand for election in the new structure. It should be noted that Lansman has not resigned from the company, formerly know as Momentum Campaign Ltd, Jeremy for Labour Ltd that holds the data from two leadership elections.

Lansman is trying to suggest this debate is ‘nasty Trots verses nice Momentum’ but this is not so. Recent changes leave those around the Stop the War coalition as the dominant faction in Momentum. With the emergence of ‘Continuity Momentum’ and local groups declaring UDI this issue is not going to fall away and will continue to blight Labour.

Last week shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti called on the party to complete the investigation in Ken Livingston to be concluded, either way. The Times reporter Lucy Fisher has just tweeted that next week’s disputes committee will not be hearing Livingstone’s case. As she points out, he has been suspended for eight months now.

Moving On

Today, Tristram Hunt announced that he is leaving parliament and continuing his public service as director of the V&A. Like Jamie Reed, Hunt has clearly (and publicly) hated being in opposition – not only under a disastrous government, but also, sitting behind an ineffectual leader of the opposition. Both Reed and Hunt have small children and frequently get spiteful and vitriolic abuse online. You can see why those who can continue to deliver a public good might want to pursue that calling outside parliament.

I make no criticism of those who feel that is best for them and their family. I am, however, more of the Peter Mandelson school of thinking and that the occasion calls for ‘fights and not quitters’. The Labour party is worth saving and needs more people to step up and be counted.

For all the wrong reasons the wrong Jeremy and the wrong Hunt are now in the news. Next week will hopefully see Jeremy Hunt resign as health secretary and Labour no longer self harming but harming the Tories.


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets @RichardAngell



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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Richard Angell

is director of Progress


  • Right on Tristram and Jamie Reed. It is a poor show to cut and run. To call it continuing their public service is pushing it, particularly for Mr Reed. I constantly needed to remind myself that he represented the Labour interest in Parliament and not British Nuclear Fuels and BAe.

    I expect to see them both campaigning in their old constituencies for the Labour Party. I hope this is not a forlorn hope.

  • Super-posh Tristram Hunt was famously imposed on his Stoke on Trent constituency – with which his only connection is inheriting a lot of fine porcelain – by the Labour National Executive Committee as a “Mandelson ask”.

    A number of good local candidates were blocked from standing. A scion of Progress, he was the epitome of the decline of the UK political system into a choice between two groups of Tory, with the New Labour Tories being more right wing than the Conservative Tories.

    Thank heavens we’re no longer Tory-lite. Tristram Hunt? Good riddance!

  • And by the way, has Tristram ever competed for a job in his life. It seems from today’s papers that He was given the Stoke constituency as a safe seat and has been appointed to the V&A in some secret way. He has certainly never managed a museum or worked in one.

    How the 1% live! A life of easy appointments to jobs others have had to strive and work hard for.

  • Alf, on the contrary it is ‘really sad’ to see an intelligent ,well educated , experienced shadow minister of education , a London University historian of Victorian working classes and Friedrich Engels and very popular MP leave the Parliamentary Labour Party. The FT correctly mentions his telegenic performances , his communication skills, his centrist beliefs so in common with millions of recently gone ex-Labour voters and members and how he has campaigned to save national pottery heritages.

    Alas the Corbynite supporters ‘ smears about his background are another example of the isolated hard left who can not comprehend how Labour has always been a socially mixed and a broad church elected by working class and middle class voters when they have Labour politicians as competent, articulate and persuasive. At shocking 24% voting figures he is the last type of politician we should lose.

  • Peter, we didn’t lose him. He walked away into another sinecure. If only his constituents in Stoke could so easily find new jobs when they tired of their present labours.

  • Tristram Hunt said that he couldn’t see the lot in Waitrose voting for Jeremy Corbyn. There was, and is, no Waitrose in Stoke-on-Trent. UKIP has a lot riding on this by-election. It was only 5,179 votes behind in 2015 (like Jamie Reed, Hunt turned a safe seat into a marginal), and Stoke voted heavily Leave. If UKIP can’t win there, then it can’t win anywhere.

    There is no limit to how posh or how right-wing a Conservative MP can be. Some of them have been staggeringly left-wing while staggeringly posh, while some of them have been staggeringly common while staggeringly right-wing. Therefore, the condition of being a very posh Labour MP, and there have always been some, should be that you were firmly on the Left. The condition of being a very right-wing Labour MP, and there have always been some, should be that you were not posh at all, nor even all that middle-class.

    No one who was both working-class and left-wing would ever be allowed to become a Conservative MP, even if they wanted to. Likewise, no one should be allowed to become a Labour MP who was both right-wing and upper or even middle-class. For example, the extremely posh and extremely right-wing Tristram Hunt.

    Remember, bringing back entrance fees for museums and art galleries would entail reversing a measure that was put in place by Tony Blair. The present Government has no policy of effecting any such reversal. But in the full knowledge that Hunt wanted to do so, the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum have appointed him to a position that does not appear to have been advertised, and for which he has no apparent qualification in the ordinary sense of the word, but which is lavishly remunerated at public expense.

Sign up to our daily roundup email