On Sunday (May 16th 2021) Keir Starmer and his merry band gathered at a (virtual) conference under the reactivated Progress banner to inelucidate what Labour doesn’t stand for and what its plans aren’t.
Starmer revealed his Bystander strategy soon after being elected leader and he reaffirmed that strategy every time he spoke or wrote on his lack of vision and lack of policies. The Progress event was an opportunity for him, MPs and advisers to present a variety of ways of saying nothing.
Immediately after May 6th elections this year Starmer proclaimed proudly that “I will change the things that need changing and that is the change that I will bring about.” Similar empty drivel was emitted on Sunday.
“We know we have shared values, but we need to explore exactly what they are.” – Henna Shah
“Moving forward in life really is most people’s focus.” – Peter Kyle
“We are very sincere about what we believe in. But we don’t pay sufficient scrutiny to why we’re losing. We too often define what Labour isn’t, not what it is.” – Jon Cruddas
“We need to sell a positive vision of Britain’s future rooted in the reality that people can accept. We need to get this clarity right centrally.” – Peter Kyle
Peter Mandelson said “[there is] a need for a truly national UK party with aspirational voices.” “Aspirational” is not a real word. He continued:
“What progressives believe is that it is time for change. Time to turn defeat into a catalyst. It is not our leader that needs changing, but our party that needs to change. Keir must go further faster. People are looking for instrumentality from Labour.”
On Scotland Jackie Baillie said “we need to offer people hope and empathy that demonstrates we are on their side” and Russel Gunson said “Scotland wants to be a place of big ideas.”
I didn’t select the quotes above. They are quotes that organisers of the conference chose as highlights.
Unashamed nothingness was the theme. Empty statements about “connecting” and “listening” but no policies, no vision and no clarity of political position.
The conference was hosted by a new made-up group called Progressive Britain (PB). Self-described as “imaginative thinking to rebuild Labour and the nation” PB was invented to “to provide the spark and challenge that is missing from the Labour Party.”
PB’s launch statement included a cacophony of meaningless hollow cliches.
“revitalisation of the centre-left.”
“stimulate fresh thinking.”
“We believe there is a once in a generation opportunity for Progressive Britain to become the intellectual driving force for political change and reconciliation.”
“We need a sustained effort to reimagine our policies and the battle for a Progressive Britain.”
Inbetween the cliches was a claim that PB wants Labour to not be as bad as the Tories. PB said it will “tackle deep-rooted structural inequalities” but the same people from PB campaigned vigorously and extremely nastily against Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues who had genuine workable solutions to “deep-rooted structural inequalities.”
PB is Labour To Win (LTW) with a different name. LTW was invented by Progress and Labour First in June 2020. It claimed it “aims to bring members together who share the belief that the party must change radically if we are to return to being election winners.” Its focus was defined as eradicating socialism from Labour. “[LTW] will provide a space in which old members, new members, rejoiners and those let down by Jeremy Corbyn can find support and encouragement.”
PB, LTW and Progress exist to stop Labour moving leftward and to launch attack after attack if Labour does take an interest in socialism. Waffled cliches and platitudes by PB are as sincere as similar rhetoric from Change UK mob most of whom are now in lucrative business “consultancy” roles that they obtained as thank yous for helping to stop Corbyn’s Labour from being in government.
Sunday’s conference charged “attendees,” otherwise known as online viewers, five pounds. The attendance for most of it was pitifully small, often barely over twenty people. Such low interest was a snapshot of how irrelevant PB’s stated philosophy is. Garbled indecisive odes to “progressive” politics are a sideshow in Britain right now.
Cohesive support for socialism is a real challenge to Tories’ fraudulent government and to its promulgation of extremism and pseudo-patriotism but socialism is anathema to Progress/PB and to Starmer and Mandelson. In May’s elections Labour succeeded where it retained adherence to Corbyn’s socialist tendencies – in Wales and in Preston; Labour failed where it adopted a woolly, ultra-centrist, vacant approach – in Hartlepool. PB’s launch statement said “consolidation of power in Wales” showed how “Labour in power changes lives” but success in Wales was because Welsh Labour did not reject socialism. Progress’s political perspective is opposed to guiding principles of Welsh Labour.
(The main protagonist of Progress and LTW, Luke Akehurst, lost his seat on Oxford’s council in May’s elections – the seat was gained by the Green party.)
The purpose of Progress (and of Progressive Britain and Labour to Win) is to ensure there is no real alternative in British politics. They do not care whether Labour is in government or not. What they do care about is preventing a challenge to exploitative capitalism.
The blandness, the emptiness and the hopelessness of the Progressive Britain conference were not accidental features. Professional “progressives” enjoy soaking up opposition to the Tories and then suffocating that opposition. Starmer’s Bystander strategy, observing, commenting but offering nothing, fits neatly into the “progressive” programme.