IT is more than 30 years since former Labour leader Neil Kinnock began his attack on Militant – as a left wing ‘Party within a Party’ seeking to undermine core Labour values.
Within six years Militant had been proscribed by Mr Kinnock and banned from ever being part of the Labour Party.
Now in 2016, his son Stephen Kinnock is part of a sinister group known as Progress – a right wing ‘Party within a Party’.
More sinister and undermining than Militant ever was.
And Mr Kinnock Junior is now talking openly about a right wing breakaway from the Labour Party – working title: Continuity Labour (or should it be Incontinence Labour?) if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected Leader in September.
Progress is the Blairite power behind the core group of MPs plotting, since last year, to oust Mr Corbyn.
Progress runs on £260,000-a-year funding from Lord Sainsbury.
He used to fund the Labour Party, giving over £6.3 million between 2005 and 2010. But he stopped funding Labour when Ed Miliband got elected. Angry at Miliband’s shuffle to the left, Sainsbury went on a rich man’s strike.
But he didn’t just take his money and go home. Instead of funding Labour, he funds Progress, whose job is to keep Labour right wing and Blairite. Its income since 2010 is about £1.5 million.
Progress, through its website, its weekend school, its meetings at Labour’s conference and its activist network push the candidates and policies Sainsbury likes.
Tristram Hunt is a particular Sainsbury favourite — he was Lord Sainsbury’s personal spokesman before he became a Labour MP.
Hunt was working for Sainsbury when Progress was formed out of the money left over from the original campaign to make Tony Blair leader of the party.
Sainsbury originally got Derek Draper to run Progress.
He soon disgraced himself and Labour by claiming he could get influence with the New Labour government for corporate lobbyists.
Despite this early link to a lobbying scandal, Progress still relies on money and contacts from lobbyists, alongside Sainsbury’s cash. In fairness, Progress is more open about its income than it used to be. Its website advises that in 2014 it relied on money and support from Bellenden Public Affairs, a lobbying firm that represents privatisers like Serco and NHS outsourcer Care UK.
Progress also took money from Lexington, another lobbying firm whose clients include Interserve, another major privatiser, and the “Giant Vampire Squid” of banking, Goldman Sachs. The City of London Corporation put some cash into the Progress operation as well.
Progress is deeply committed to pro-privatisation and pro-corporate policies. It has also campaigned to reduce trade union influence in the Labour Party.
During last year’s Labour leadership election Progress supported Liz Kendall for Labour leader and Tessa Jowell for mayor of London.
Progress could not pick a candidate for deputy leader — which shows how deeply Progress is embedded in the parliamentary party. The three deputy leader candidates — Caroline Flint, Ben Bradshaw and Stella Creasy — are all Progress members, so they couldn’t choose which one to back.
Progress’s attempts to shift the party towards privatisation and other business-friendly policies favoured by their funders aren’t hard to find.
But they don’t get reported that much because most national journalists both rely on Progress members for their stories and agree with their Blairite arguments.
Only now are people waking up to the sinister nature of Progress’s coup attempt to unseat Jeremy Corbyn.
Paul Flynn MP (Newport) condemned the plotters as:
“Orchestrated treachery. Resignations on the hour by the future Blair Tribute Party. Self-indulgent party games as steel jobs are in new peril.”
Even former SNP leader Alex Salmond – a politician I know personally and someone steeped in honesty – called out the Progress plotters.
The mass resignation of senior Labour MPs over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is a “disgusting, organised coup”, he said.
But their plotting has been an open secret.
An article in the Telegraph dated the 16 June detailed that the Progress led
“Labour rebels hope to topple Jeremy Corbyn in 24-hour blitz after EU referendum.”
Further evidence that these Labour MPs have been plotting against Mr Corbyn and would have assailed his leadership regardless of the outcome of the referendum.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell described the MPs in Progress as a “narrow right-wing clique”, “conservative” and “hard right”.
“They all come from a sort of a narrow right-wing clique within the Labour Party based around the Progress organisation,” he said.
“I don’t think they’ve really ever accepted Jeremy’s mandate. I’m afraid they have to recognise that Jeremy got elected with the largest mandate of any political leader from any political party in our history.
“I’m afraid they haven’t respected that leadership election result.”
In 2012 the GMB openly accused Progress of being a “party within a party”.
It unsuccessfully submitted a resolution to Labour’s annual conference in September that year to try to “outlaw” the group.
The Labour Party said it would consider the GMB motion but stressed that it was “not in the business of excluding people”. A cruel irony considering what it is now doing to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
“We are a party that is reaching out to people, gaining new supporters and offering real change for the country in these tough times. The Labour Party is a broad church and we are not in the business of excluding people,” said a party spokesman at the time.
The GMB expressed concerns that Progress was operating to undermine the party, accusing it of attempting to sabotage Labour’s London mayoral campaign.
A motion passed at the union’s congress in 2012 accused “prominent members” of Progress briefing against Ed Miliband and said was responsible for persuading Labour’s front bench “to support cuts and wage restraint”.
It went on to say: “Congress notes that Progress advances the strategy of accepting the Tory arguments for public spending cuts.
“Congress believes that such factional campaigns to undermine Labour candidates, and to soften opposition to Tory policies, endanger the unity of the party and the movement in our fight against the coalition government.”
Progress hit back claiming there was “no evidence whatsoever” of its members briefing against the Labour leader, and that any attempt to suggest it had not backed Ken Livingstone for London mayor was “uncomradely”.
Detailed research carried out by Walking The Breadline adds more detail to just who is who within Progress:
Progress is chaired by Alison McGovern. Its vice-chairs are fellow Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Stephen Doughty, Julie Elliott, Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis, Liz Kendall, Seema Malhotra, Toby Perkins, Lucy Powell, Steve Reed, Jonathan Reynolds and Nick Smith. Its honorary president is former Minister Stephen Twigg.
Progress is constituted as a private company limited by guarantee, with a legal board of directors in 2012 consisting of Jennifer Gerber, Jonathan Mendelsohn, Robert Philpot and Stephen Twigg.
Prior to 2015, Progress was chaired by John Woodcock – the same MP who viciously attacked Jeremy Corbyn during the Trident debate last week.
Prior to 2012, Progress was chaired by MP and former Minister Stephen Twigg, and the honorary president was Alan Milburn, the former Secretary of State for Health. Jonathan Mendelsohn was its treasurer.
Current members of the Progress strategy board include: Baroness King of Bow, Gloria De Piero MP, Nick Smith MP, Phil Wilson MP, Cllr Florence Nosegbe (Lambeth), Cllr Claire Reynolds (Tameside), Cllr Rachel Hodson (Doncaster), Cllr Paul Brant (Liverpool) Cllr Mandy Telford (Cumbria), Hopi Sen, Joan Ryan and Joe Mann.
Since its inception Progress has had a number of operational directors: Derek Draper (former aide to Peter Mandelson), Darren Murphy (former Special Adviser), Patrick Diamond (former Special Adviser), Jennifer Gerber, Jessica Asato (acting director), Richard Angell (acting director), Robert Philpot (retired October 2014) and Richard Angell.
Progress donations and sponsorship since 2001:
Lord Sainsbury – £2,022,500
Lord Montague (trust) – £875,500
Pfizer/Pharmacia – £52,287.50 (Owen Smith’s former employer)
Sir Frank Lowe – £49,999.98
Lord Bhattacharyya – £20,000
John Mendelsohn – £10,000
Sovereign Strategy – £12,000
Network Rail Infrastructure – £5,875
Total donations – £3,059,673.16
It is also worth noting that Conor McGinn MP who alleged bullying against Jeremy Corbyn might have overlooked mentioning this fact.
Kate is Chair of the Young Fabians, the under-31s section of the Fabian Society and Political Adviser to leadership contender Owen Smith MP.
Seema Malhotra who last week accused aides of Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell of violating her security and effectively breaking into her office after her resignation, is also a member of Progress, as is Ruth Smeeth who accused Mr Corbyn of anti-semitism three weeks ago.
To sum up, these right wing Blairite plotters, who undermine democracy at every turn, must now be put on notice: We are watching you, have noted your actions and your time as a Labour MP is numbered:
- Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
- Alison McGovern (Wirral South)
- Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
- Ann Coffey (Stockport)
- Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)
- Caroline Flint (Don Valley)
- Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)
- Chuka Umunna (Streatham)
- Conor McGinn (St Helens North)
- Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)
- Frank Field (Birkenhead)
- Gloria de Piero (Ashfield)
- Hilary Benn (Leeds Central)
- Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East)
- Jamie Reed (Copeland)
- Jenny Chapman (Darlington)
- Jess Phillips (Birmingham Yardley)
- John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness)
- Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge)
- Julie Elliot (Sunderland Central)
- Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras)
- Kevan Jones (North Durham)
- Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill)
- Liz Kendall (Leicester West)
- Lucy Powell (Manchester Central)
- Margaret Hodge (Barking)
- Maria Eagle (Garston)
- Michael Dugher (Barnsley East)
- Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
- Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East)
- Phil Wilson (Sedgefield)
- Ruth Smeeth (Stoke on Trent North)
- Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston)
- Stella Creasy (Walthamstow)
- Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South)
- Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon)
- Stephen Twigg (West Derby)
- Steve Reed (Croydon North)
- Toby Perkins (Chesterfield)
- Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central)