‘Uncomradely’ row threatens Labour unity

By Cassie Chambers

Labour's autumn conference is set to be the battleground for another internal fight between the party's left-wing and centrist wings, developments this week suggest.

The GMB union, one of Labour's biggest supporters, has announced it will submit a "long overdue" resolution at the party's annual conference in September to "outlaw" the pressure group Progress from being part of the Labour party.

The union's attack on Progress alleges that the pressure group is "a party within a party", comparing it to the Militant Tendency in the 1980s. It alleges that the Blairite group has worked to undermine Labour party goals and questions the nature of the group's funding, much of which comes from large corporations.

In a motion passed by the union's congress this week, the GMB claimed "prominent Progress members" of briefing against Ed Miliband and said Progress was responsible for persuading Labour's front bench "to support cuts and wage restraint."

The GMB resolution continued: "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 has reacted strongly to the GMB announcement. It said although it is "deeply disappointed" by the move, it will not allow itself to "be distracted by attacks or threats".

"At a time when Britain is led by a government which appears unable to recognise, let alone overcome, the enormous challenges facing it, Labour needs to be outward-looking, united and engaged with the issues that matter to voters," said Progress.

It called the GMB's comparison of Progress to the Militant tendency "absurd", arguing: "Progress is an organisation of Labour party members for Labour party members; we are open, pluralist and proud of the last Labour government and what it achieved for working people."

Progress also responded to a number of other GMB claims, calling accusations about the group’s funding "misleading" and questions raised about its loyalty to Labour party candidates "uncomradely".

Progress, founded in 1996 by Peter Mandelson, is seen as being on the right side of the Labour party. It holds a variety of events throughout the year; Ed Miliband spoke at its most recent annual conference.