Over on Channel Twitter…the Über Blairites gather for #pac13

PROGRESS-NOVEMBER-2011-e1339706359378

By now, you should know who Progress are. For those of us in the Labour Party unfortunate enough to have been engaged in ideological warfare with the Blairite pressure group, the battle lines are clear. However, for the uninitiated, it’s by no means so obvious. Jon Lansman did an excellent job on the Left Futures blog in summarising their “project” back in 2011. Not long after that, in February 2012, Progress were dealt a seemingly knockout blow when a 20 page dossier was circulated amongst Constituency Labour Parties, calling for an enquiry into their activities, funding and attacks on Ed Miliband’s leadership. Since then, they have been denounced by union leaders and been the subject of much scorn amongst ordinary union members. However, they weren’t to be deflected either by the report or by the increased scrutiny of their activities and merrily carried on as if nothing had happened.

The people involved in Progress are not stupid, however. They are fully aware of the unpopularity of much of their core programme and their ideological framework. They’re equally aware of how few Labour members actually want to continue or resurrect the New Labour project, so they blur the lines between their Blairite values and Labour loyalism. They do this with the sophistry of language. Nobody can miss the fact that their name, Progress, is a misnomer, but listen to the way they describe themselves:

“Progress is the New Labour pressure group which aims to promote a radical and progressive politics for the 21st century”

Impressive stuff, but what could it possibly mean?

Well, let’s see. Would an organisation set up (in 1996) by Paul Richards, Liam Byrne and Derek Draper really be interested in developing a radical and progressive politics, unless you skew the meaning of those words beyond recognition?

In the introduction to their ‘Purple Papers’, tantalizingly subtitled ‘Real Change for Britain, Real Choices for Labour’, we have this:

“We seek to discuss, develop and advance the means to create a more free, equal and democratic Britain, which plays an active role in Europe and the wider the world. Diverse and inclusive, we work to improve the level and quality of debate both within the Labour party, and between the party and the wider progressive community.”

If you were a teacher, you would simply have to get your big red pen out and scrawl all over it: “define this”, “don’t waffle” and “and….”

I thought it would be an interesting and possibly comical exercise to read between the lines of the excited Progress twitterati as they gathered for their Annual Conference last Saturday, the 11th of May, at Congress House in London. For full comedic effect, imagine that this is an episode of ‘The Thick of It’. You never know, I thought, they may even let their guard down and let us in to the (purple) heart of darkness, if only for a second or two:

Early doors, and new Progress MP Steve Reed, fresh from winning the Croydon by election, seems pretty excited about cutting, sorry, I mean reforming public services:

@SteveReedMP Looking forward to @progressonline conference today – will be speaking about reforming public services by empowering users #pac13

Progress die-hards always use very positive sounding phrases like “empowering users” when we all know that they mean outsource, privatise, sell off and take away people’s universal rights to free health care, welfare etc.

The amount of times a “Labour Majority” is mentioned is truly astonishing. Why bother? Surely it’s pretty vacuous to go on about a “Campaign for a Labour Majority”? What’s the alternative position? A “Campaign for a Labour Minority”? However, you see, Progress are like those awful managers who think that we’ll all be impressed by their jargonising. Of course, it’s also important for Progress to project the image that they are the hardest working, most loyal part of the party (unlike those lefties). What would we do without them? I think the hashtag from Stephen Twigg may have been gilding the lily a little though:

@StephenTwigg Heading to #pac13 to hear @Ed_Miliband & speak in closing plenary to promote Campaign for a Labour Majority http://prog.rs/53j  #LabMaj

No populist, rightwing-sounding policy must ever be off the agenda – especially “the anti social behaviour agenda” (TM Hazel Blears). Conjure up images of lager swilling yoofs as much as you possibly can. Apologies from Gloria De Piero’s spelling by the way. I blame the parents:

@GloriaDePieroMP Off to #pac13 to listen to Ed Miliband. Afterwards ill be talking about why the anti social behaviour agenda is crucial to Labour’s success

And Richard Angell, who has done much to build up the organisation from a collection of Blairite MPs and councillors to, well, a collection of Blairite MPs and counillors, loves this one from Ed – straight out of the Progress Bible.:

@RichardAngell No issue can be a ‘no go’ area for Labour. If the voters are talking about it, Labour is talking about it’ says @Ed_Miliband #pac13

No no go areas is a mantra for the average Progressite and it of course has the added benefit that it can be used as a catch all for any anti-immigrant, anti-welfare rhetoric:

Of course, Tory switchers are manna from heaven for the true believers. We must reassure them, the story goes. We must not challenge middle England. Repeat ad naseum (check out the hashtag, making another appearance):

@FelicitySlater Peter Kellner: We need to convince those Tory to UKIP switchers tht they have nothing to fear from an Ed Miliband premiership #pac13 #labmaj

Even John Denham gets in on the act. Prog pluralism, he says:

@JohnDenhamMP Real progressive change depends on active support of millions of people not all of whom vote for the same party  Prog pluralism. #pac13

However, is that the mask finally slipping? Yes, we want a #LabMaj, but let’s face it, we need the Lib Dems and the Tory switchers to scare the left in the party a lot more.

And just in case you thought this was about politics and an agenda to push the party back to a discredited Blairism, it isn’t. It’s a technical thing about credibility (Read: cut hard and cut fast):

@owenalunjohn Bang on from @andrew_harrop. It’s not about how left or right we go, it’s about how credible we are #pac13

Sorry, I meant “realistic spending”:

@JoshNewlove Impressed by @PCollinsTimes as always. Vital words on realistic spending met with indicative policies based on resources available. #pac13

Indicative policies, by the way, are ones that don’t really exist in the run up to the election, or at party conference, but are made up on the hoof by Special Advisers linked to Progress once in Government. Thank the Sun Tanned One for that!

This one is a real treat for all of our Newcastle based readers:

@Joe_Dromey Just heard from @nick_forbes, leader of Newcastle at #Pac13. Sounds like great things going on there. He’s one to watch

Yep, great things are happening in Newcastle. Great things, like closing libraries, youth services & swimming pools. ‘One to watch’ in the next safe selection in the North East, I would presume. With a record like that, what could possibly go wrong for speed boat enthusiast Forbes?

Ed Miliband is politely tolerated and whatever Blairite treasure can be dredged from the whole One Nation thing is pounced upon, but the real excitement is reserved for the entrance of the Dark Lord, Peter Mandelson. Stephen Bush even tells us (the whole darn Twitter universe) how we feel about the man:

 ‏@stephenkb I love Mandy – who doesn’t?

Mandy’s opening remarks occasions one of my favourite tweets from the whole of the Progress conference. What makes it even more beautiful is that it was tweeted by the official ProgressOnline account and that it was retweeted by 5, presumably sentient, adults. Genius:

@ProgressOnline ‏Peter Mandelson: we shd simply aim to win outright in 2015 #pac13

Delving into the murky world of Progress should come with a health warning. If this is what they’re saying on their iPhone’s to millions, imagine what they are saying in Pret a Manger! It’s not all bad, though. Just by searching the #pac13 hashtag, you do come across some healthy cynicism about the management double-speak of Progress. This one is my favourite, only let down by the fact that the offending statement is not attributed to anyone:

@SohoPolitico “@ChrisMasonBBC: Where else but at a political conference could you hear the phrase ‘proofing our narrative’?? #pac13” <In hell, maybe?

And on that bombshell…

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9 thoughts on “Over on Channel Twitter…the Über Blairites gather for #pac13

  1. Thanks Ben. Good article.

    Progress worries the hell of out of me. For someone who only recently joined Labour, discovering this pressure group has been deeply depressing. It’s no wonder that we’re seeing the emergence of new groups like Left Unity on the outside of the party – disillusioned, angry socialists… the very people who should be inside, influencing and shaping the future.

    Whenever Labour fails to speak up for the working people, I blame Progress.

  2. Guy Nolder says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that the ‘left’ always feel they are right and the voters are wrong. That is why we spent so many years in opposition. I’m no uber Blairite, but we can’t listen to ourselves. Introspection will lead to another upteen years in the wilderness!

    • Marty says:

      Oh yeah? And the electorate will happily elect into a power a bunch of divided, xenophobic, swivelled-eyed loons. Yup. Just pull out all the old ones – that is a classic Blairite response.

    • David says:

      The reason we spend so much time in opposition is due to the Labour leadership consistently neglecting the very people it is suppose to represent. With the exception of Clement Attlee every Labour Prime Minister has failed to implement socialist policies, preferring an attempt to run capitalism better than the Tories.The job of Blair and his followers is to make the Labour party so right wing that even when the Tories loose an election they win with a Labour government implementing their ideology.

      • Guy Nolder says:

        Seriously – the way Labour will get elected is to move further left? The voters said what they thought of that in the 80s. I for one don’t want to spend my entire life just opposing things. There is so much to be proud of during the 13 years of the last Labour government, I for one would have the past Labout government over this shower any day!

      • Ryszard Konietzka says:

        Progress are the rightwing equivalent of the Militant Tendency – without the donkey jackets and the fake Cockney/Scouse accents. Policy-lite; vacuous in terms of politicial analysis; Insidious in the extreme; well-provided for in terms of human and financial resources; and single minded in their pursuit of power, they will hollow out and consume the party into a pale shadow of its former self if not extracted and disposed of – just as the Millies were.

        They are, for the most part, the despicable high flying graduate then MP’s researcher and/or Spad types, without any exposure to the harsh realities of Labour’s core vote’s living conditions, both personally or professionally. Their antipathy towards the party as a whole and to the trade union movement in particular speaks volumes. They don’t do compromise or building partnerships. Their train, encourage, and ease their own into easy positions of power or Council seats with large majorities.

        Beware Progress, they will oust us if we do not oust them

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