I’ve decided to stand for the Progress Strategy Board elections, which will be happening in the next month or so. You can join Progress here, if you’d like to vote, (Vote either for or against me. I encourage you to join anyway)
I thought quite carefully about doing this. Like anyone sane standing for election, I have a greater fear of losing than I have joy in the prospect of winning.
Losing an election is personally annoying. When you have a party badge, though, at least you can blame someone else – the electorate, your leader, your agent. Anyone will do.
When standing for an internal election just under your own name, losing is even more embarrassing and humiliating. People sometimes say politics isn’t a popularity contest, but in elections where it’s you and a few other people who basically agree with you on most things, elections precisely are popularity contests. Popularity contests you stand a great chance of losing. Sometimes to people who make you go, “wait, I’m less popular than that guy? The one who mutters all through meetings?” Trust me. I’ve been there.
Plus, losing an election is much more annoying then winning is enjoyable, because once you win, your prize is usually the chance to work really hard, for nothing. Hooray!
So why do this? Because I think it’s important.
Partly, I want to risk losing because I want to show where I stand in a big, and important debate in the Labour party. After all the attacks on Progress over the last few months, I wanted to nail my colours to the mast and say that I think that what Progress does is good for the Labour party, important for our internal political debate, and far more often right than wrong.
One of the most important things about this election is that it will show that there are lots of people who feel that Progress is a major contributor to their feeling a part of the Labour party, that it’s a place where Labour members can feel welcome, contribute to the debate, and develop their political ideas, beliefs and, yes, political activism and careers.
For that reason, I want to promote the candidacy of everyone running for the Progress elections, even if it means I suffer the humiliation of losing. After all, maybe they’d be better for Progress than I would.No shame in that, as long as they don’t procced mutter all the way through the board meetings. So since this Blog is reasonably popular, and my twitter feed is reasonably well known, I’d like to use both to link to blog posts, facebook pages by other candidates. If you’re a candidate and would like me to RT a post or article of yours, or even do a guest post here, just let me know.
So that’s one part of it. I want to show I stand with Progress. Of course, that’s a reason for me to stand, but not much of a reason to vote for me.
The main reason I want people to vote for because if Progress is important to the future of the Labour party, and that means Progress must be the very best it can be, and arrogantly, I think I can help a bit with that.
Naturally, Progress should be as inclusive as possible, involving more women, more young people, more people from different parts of the country and different ethnic backgrounds. The staff and members of Progress do a great job, but things can always be better there.
Just as importantly though, Progress must be as persuasive as possible, and I think I can help in that.
How come? I am after all, one of the people most often called a Zombie Blairite. I am a fiscal conservative. I support candidates who almost always lose Labour party internal elections. Great bastions of the liberal left in Britain go out of their way to be rude to me. How come I reckon I can be in any way persuasive?
For one simple reason. I’m interested in the future of the Labour party, not our past, and the next decade is going to be incredibly difficult exciting and challenging for anyone on the left.I want Progress to be totally focused on that.
Sure, at the moment it feels like we can win by pouring bucketloads of richly deserved manure over the enormous planetary dome filled that is David Cameron’s head. Maybe we even can win like that.
Unfortunately, that won’t be good enough. To succeed as a left wing electoral and governing project in an era where there is little growth, little extra money available for state spending that is raised through the pain of tax increases, and a constant battle for the resources of the state between competing and urgent priorities, the left needs to understand exactly what it’s essential purpose is, and how to make choices about what it can and cannot do, without that becoming a tawdry argument about betrayal, purity and true radicalism.
This is where Progress can make a unique contribution, by building an economic, policy and electoral argument that shows that one can be radical, reforming and progressive under such circumstances, without running into the Scylla of electorally fatal impossibilism or the various Charybdis of impracticability, vagueness, or social democratic defensiveness, paths which ultimately lead Labour governments to do little, reform less and change far less than they could.
The one thing Progress must not be though, is what it’s detractors want it most to be: a fan club for a great party leader of the recent past. After all, if Tony Blair was one thing, it was restlessly focused on Labour’s future, not concerned with hallowing it’s past. I can say that, because, dammit, I’m a Blairite fanboy of the highest order, and proud to be so. That doesn’t mean ignoring our history, by the way. From the interwar period, to Gaitskill, to Crossland to Blair there is much to learn from our past. It’s just our job should be to interrogate our past and learn from it, not worship and genuflect to it.
I want people to vote for me because I want Progress to help lead that next revision of moderate Labour thought and to help popularise it within the Labour movement, from CLPs to Unions to afilliates. I want Progress to be an organisation focused on creating a radical Labour government, rooted in the centreground of peoples beliefs, hopes, aspirations and fears in a time when resources are limited, change feels risky and governments can appear alternately weak, incompetent or overwhelmed. I want Progress to help Labour to be that party, and to persuade Labour people that doing so is the fulfillment of Labour radicalism, not a rejection, or deviation of it.
So, yes, vote for me. After, all, I’m great.
I think, with my record in activism, in writing about the future of the Labour party, in working for the labour party and yammering on about the labour party, I can help a bit with that.