A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Delusions of victory

Winging its way through the ether comes an invite (not addressed to me) to the next meeting of the Hackney branch of the John McDonnell campaign.

This breathlessly announces that "So far, we have been endorsed by all the main grassroots organisations of the Labour party and trade union movement". Actually I was unaware that Labour First, Progress, or even Compass had endorsed McDonnell, who doesn't seem to be the undisputed candidate even of his PLP colleagues in the Socialist Campaign Group.

But as his website says "another world is possible".


Anonymous HenryG said...

He has picked up support among the broad lefts of the union movement -Amicus Gazette for example. I've never thought of Labour First as 'grassroots' before, but I suppose it is. How can party members join Luke?

3:22 pm, January 03, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Labour First is not a membership-based organisation - it's a mailing list of supporters. You can ask to be on it by writing to Maggie Cosin, Labour First, 30a South Hill Park, London NW3 2SB.

4:52 pm, January 03, 2007

Blogger Peter Kenyon said...

You omitted Save the Labour Party among those organisations not endorsing John McDonnell, or any other candidate for that matter. We will be proposing a small number of pledges to rebuild the Party as a democratically-run mass membership organisation and seeking endorsement from all candiates for Leader/Deputy.


BTW Thanks for the invite to join Labour First's mailing list.

5:15 pm, January 03, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

Any decision by Compass would come after a ballot of members.

I think it's highly unlikely we'd end up backing McDonnell - I've got nothing against him personally but I don't think his policies are the right ones to win us a fourth term.

3:09 pm, January 04, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

is luke akehurst the NUS git i used to know

4:28 pm, January 04, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I expect I am the same person, though whether I was a "git" would be a subjective viewpoint depending on whether you were a supporter of the National Organisation of Labour Students or not.

4:54 pm, January 04, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

Not necessarily... ;o)

8:15 pm, January 04, 2007

Anonymous Eric Blair said...

Progress, aka Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn, and chums, hardly grassroots, Luke. The very name reminds me of those awful positively Orwellian slogans the Blairites dreamt up for last election ie Forward ,Not back. Might as well have been Animal Farm's "two legs good, four legs bad" for all it meant to the electorate
Beyond the great metropolis, ie MOST OF THE UK, most Labour members don't have a clue what Progress is (or Compass for that matter) but they do know that New Labour is costing us membership/votes etc etc etc. We need policies, not pressure groups.That's what McDonnell is braving the rigours of hundreds of draughty meeting rooms for.To win support for IDEAS , win new MEMBERS, and not satisfy the egos of tiny little CLIQUES.

12:21 pm, January 05, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

"Eric Blair" - actually if you go to Progress events you would find that most of the attendees are not from London or members of the chattering classes. Whatever the nature of the people who founded it, the fact it produces a fairly informative magazine means quite a lot of ordinary members join it.

As for Labour First, its strongest levels of support in the party are in the most working class bits of the West Midlands.

Most of the bonkers wing of the party who might actually vote McDonnell live here with me in the great metropolis you deride.

If McDonnell is about policies not pressure groups, why are all the people running his campaign from CLPD, AWL, Briefing, Campaign Group, Socialist Action, etc.

1:36 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

The "bonkers wing"? Well I seem to have been at some well-attended meetings of John4Leader events up here in the North of England Luke - and while the vast majority seemed pretty sane to me (certainly compared with your average mid-90s Labour Students bean-feast!) I suspect they fall into that category for you...

I guess the point is, Luke, that 'grassroots' has tended to be used, in recent years, to denote activist groups as opposed to groups that support the leadership (!) and therefore are definitively located towards the left (the grass-roots alliance, the various Union broad lefts, etc.) Certainly Save The Labour Party, as Peter Kenyon pointed out, might reasonably fall into that category and therefore is an example of one such organisation yet to endorse John. Personally I'm sceptical about considering Compass in quite the same way; it always strikes me as a home for disgruntled New Labour one-time-luminaries. By suggesting things like Compass and Progress aren't 'grassroots organisations' in the currently-understood meaning of the term is not to question their value or their legitimacy, but I would suggest they are internal pressure groups that seek a membership or supporting network as a secondary purpose, rather than representative groups. One could suggest that the parliamentary Campaign Group is the same, even though the Network is a grassroots group.

3:21 pm, January 05, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Oh, I see! Grassroots as in "Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance" (sic).

I was completely unaware that the Hard Left considered the phrase "grassroots" to include only their supporters. You learn something new every day.

How insulting to all the moderate Labour Party members who work hard at branch and CLP level i.e. at the grassroots and are not on the Hard Left.

My dictionary defines grassroots as "of, pertaining to, or involving the common people" NOT as "of, pertaining to, or involving the Hard Left minority faction in the British Labour Party".

3:42 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous Luke Akehurst said...

why do we bother?

4:15 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

Yes, I not only find Dunc's definition of grassroots slightly bizarre, I think it renders any information about McDonnell's position within the grassroots fairly meaningless.

Effectively he's saying a grassroots organisation is an organisation that actively supports John McDonnell or - as is the case with STLP - doesn't actively support anyone at all.

I'm slightly baffled as to how the CLGA could be considered more easily accessible and under the control of ordinary members than Compass.

Compass is a democratic membership organisation.

5:35 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous eric blair said...

Up here, Luke, the "common people" to use your dictionary reference, have had rather enough of this Govt and trying to speak up for it.
As far as I know, I am the only Labour Party member in my Yorkshire constituency to belong to Compass/CLGA. There are no members of Progress, which isn't to say they're not lurking out there somewhere of course.Most are fed-up but resigned to the current status quo.
Others express their discontent by not attending anything, not leafletting, some say they are "on strike" till Blair goes.
Some gamely soldier on, though frankly I find it increasingly hard to contemplate banging on doors. About 25 active CLP members from a list of 500. Not good, is it?
The "grassroots" once suggested the ordinary members,the trade unions,the tea-makersand envelope-stuffers.
that's what I meant when referring to bodies like Progress which in my experience are largely comprised of middle-class Fabian types who seem mystifyingly still in love with New Labour ideology.
No offence intended to anyone who's middle-class or Fabian but, as John Cruddas has recently said, there are swathes of people out there we're just not reaching.
If you actually bothered to go along to a John McDonnell meeting instead of stereotyping the "left" you would hear him praise Blair's investment in the NHS and education (tuition fees notwithstanding) , work in Northern Ireland.What is making him/us angry, why people want a contest, well you know all that.The point is that disaffected grassroots people are turning out in decent numbers to hear him speak and that has to be a good thing.
The bottom line is we are currently haemorraging members because of unacceptable policy decisions made by this Govt. We have a well past sell-by date Leader who's seemingly more interested in hanging out with pop stars and going John Travolta impressions than doing the decent thing, quitting, and letting us get on with renewing the party.
It's not acceptable.As Party members,however much we disagree on certain aspects of policy, we should at least try and work together and get some kind of modus vivendi so we CAN have a leadership contest involving all strands of opinion and an honest debate on the future of the Party.Without that, I fear many more of the "grassroots" will leave in disgust.And I don't blamethem.

6:31 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous HenryG said...

I see that McDonnell is being a bit tetchy towards Cruddas for highlighting the importance of activists contact with the voters.


Apparently his concern that this is a 'policy free' approach! Personally I don't remember people accusing Cruddas of being 'policy free' when he was helping the rebellion against top-up fees, defending the trade union link or questioning trident renewal, but there you go.

6:54 pm, January 05, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I am sorry "Eric Blair" but I want to scream!


You offer no objective political critique of the government just unspecific whinging and personalised jibes about the PM.

You fail to offer one because there is very little for any reasonable Labour supporter to complain about.

If you stopped complaining and put your energy into organising and motivating the other 475 members of your CLP there would be more than 25 activists.

The only chance of there not being a contest is because your wing of the party (which is so pathetically small that you admit to being the only organised member of it in your CLP) has so few MPs and such a weak candidate in McDonnell that you are struggling to find the 44 nominations you need.

Are you in one of the 350+ seats where despite the "unpopularity" of the Government, strangely the actual voters elected a Labour MP only 18 months ago?

7:39 pm, January 05, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

Well if you will wilfully misunderstand me, there's not a lot I can do, is there. I did - you failed to note - question whether the Campaign Group was a grassroots organisation as well, so it was actually nothing whatsoever to do with whether it was left-wing or not.

A better definition of grassroots would be precisely those people who belong to no organisation other than the Labour Party and keep our party going up and down the country - but that obviously isn't an organisation either. So if I were forced to define such a beast as a grassroots organisation, I would have to go for organisations that have been formed as a counter-balance to the New Labour hegemony, and therefore tend to be on the left. It is not bizarre or exclusive, it is just the commonly-understood meaning of the word. I did not attack, criticise or rebuke Progress, Labour First or Compass or any other New Labour grouping, I merely suggest that - as their existence is primarily to justify the dominance of a particular set of centre-right ideas within the labour movement, they are a little different, and nobody would expect them to back a candidate which challenged the Blair/Brown 'common sense'.

The only people/person I can envisage being offended by such an assessment is 'Compass' who - after all - presents itself as a group on the left. I may concede to possessing a prejudice against Compass, as I find Neal Lawson's historic contribution to the labour movement so utterly deplorable that his personal involvement blinds me to any positive contriubtions the organisation may offer.

3:04 pm, January 06, 2007


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