Unison has joined with the GMB in attacking Progress as Dave Prentis, Unison’s general secretary, confirmed that the public sector union would support “attempts to exile New Labour pressure group Progress from the party”.
According to the Guardian Prentis said: “Progress seems like a party within a party. Our affiliation is to the Labour Party. We don’t expect an organisation to be allowed to grow within it.”
Apparently, it isn’t only misery that likes company. Stupidity too is more comforting when there is a crowd as the unions join together to throw their weight around on this issue in an effort that is not only divisive, but self serving in designed to drown out voices that do not agree with the party’s trade union backers on issues of public sector pay restraint.
With GMB and the Unision backing the motion Unite is likely to support it as well. It was that union that drew up a strategy document last year said that said “Progress promoted old thinking and neo-liberalism”.
For the unions to accuse someone else of “old thinking” seems a touch ironic. The important thing about Progress and some of the other groups that exist legally within the Labour Party is that they contribute to a wider canvas ideas. It might be a cliche, but the party has always been a broad(ish) church.
At the weekend Lord Mandelson hit out at the GMB and said that the Labour party would “be led down a blind alley if trade unions succeed in banning Progress.
Mandelson, who is a strong supporter of Progress, told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1: “Trade unions need to rethink and remake themselves for a new century. If they become in a sense more representative of their membership as a whole they would not be leading either themselves or the Labour party down what I regard as a pretty blind alley.”
Ed Miliband also spoke out against the GMB led move. He told Labour’s national policy forum on Saturday: “Progress is a good organisation, and I spoke to a Progress conference a few weeks back. I’m for a Labour Party that’s reaching out to all people and all organisations, not having fewer associations.”
The well regarded Jon Cruddas, who is now the party’s policy chief, told the Observer that he hoped to involve leading members of Progress in his policy review. Cruddas spoke of “reforming the band” as he said he would make contact with David Miliband and James Purnell who worked with him in Downing Street during Tony Blair’s first term in office.