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.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In praise of "helpful factionalism"

Alex Smith at Labourlist has had a good old whinge about a recent speech by John Spellar to The Black Country Labour First Group.

He accuses John of “unhelpful factionalism”.

Now at this point I declare an interest in that my partner Linda works for John and I run the Labour First email list.

Some context:
· The speech was given to people who already know where they stand within the party to give them confidence that the next election is winnable.
· It was circulated with an appeal for help in the Norwich North by-election.
· Labour First isn’t a policy discussion group or think tank – if you want policy debates you can (and I do) go to Progress or Fabian meetings. Labour First is a network of activists united by wanting to avoid a re-run of the lurch to the hard left in the 1980s and to see Labour stay in power, delivering mainstream policies for our supporters. Many of us in Labour First debate policy at great length in other forums, often disagreeing, but we come together to organise to keep Labour sane and electable. Not everyone in the Labour Party wants to formulate policy – some are too busy with practical politics as campaigners or councillors.

Anyway, here’s John’s speech, which I think is a helpful and positive one:

“Message from John Spellar MP - based on a speech given to The Black Country Labour First Group

All To Play For

Labour First and its predecessors have always been in conflict with the defeatist tendencies in the Party. The formation of the SDP was based on the proposition that Labour could never win power again and could not change. That heresy was proved overwhelmingly wrong at the 1997 General Election. Meanwhile, elements of the Hard Left have always gravitated towards the easy attractions of opposition and would far prefer to pass resolutions than legislation.

Once again we are facing twin pronged defeatism from within our ranks. Some would seem to prefer to lose power than win under Gordon Brown, while the Hard Left seem to have taken satisfaction in resigning themselves to a return to opposition. They both share the view that Labour has its turn in government to try and rush through progressive legislation before running out of steam and public support, leaving the natural party of government, the Tories, to resume control. We have always rejected that pessimism believing that Labour can and should be a party of government not just of insurgency. We also reject the delusional view that what is needed is a ‘New Workers Party’.

We are particularly concerned because both tendencies seem to accept the inevitability of defeat at the next General Election which is not based on the data. We should firstly remember that the Tories currently have less MPs than the Labour Party under Michael Foot after the 1983 General Election – 193 v 209.

So let us look at the arithmetic of the next election – there are currently 647 seats in the Commons, so to have a majority requires 324 MPs (Labour currently has 351) and the Tories 193. So, for the Tories to have a single seat majority they need to win 131 seats. It’s fair to make an assumption that the boundary changes that are coming into force in the next Election will give them an extra 10 seats so we can make a working assumption that they need 120 seats for a majority.

That’s where their problems start. Even in 1997 we only gained 147 seats across the whole of the UK, 132 of them in England. In Scotland the Tories only have one MP and they have little expectation of making gains there. In Wales they have done a bit better, but only have four MPs out of 40. In Northern Ireland the Tories have entered into a bizarre alliance with the Ulster Unionists whose sole MP, Sylvia Hermon, doesn’t go along with the arrangement and there is little realistic prospect of it making gains there.

As a consequence the Tories have to make nearly all their gains in England. That is against a background of stickiness in the polls. In the European elections while the Labour vote dropped the gains were made by minor parties, the Tories only went up by 1%. This is clearly not 1997 territory. It would appear the Tories realise this and are becoming increasingly desperate. We have the demand for an instant General Election and now Cameron is predicting riots on the streets if Labour win.

The danger is that we defeat ourselves, particularly if we become a divided party and an undisciplined rabble. The fault will not be in our stars but in ourselves. History shows us that the public heavily punish divided parties. The reality is the next election is all to play for. We have a good record to fight on and can point to real changes and improvements in our constituencies. At the same time the Tories and Lib Dems have incoherent polices and are making mistakes. These are the messages we have got to get across to the public. At all levels of the party we need to focus on winning by pulling together and putting Labour First.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This LP from 1997 has really been very similar to the Tory one between 1979-1997. Privatisation continues and savage attacks are made on the workers. Labour are now in the pockets and ownership of big business and its time you all started to support the likes of John McDonnell before its far to late!

9:45 pm, July 11, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Labour party are actually factional as they broke off working class links! The trade union membership rate have been abolished, Labour is another party belonging to the rich pig scum!

11:24 pm, July 11, 2009

Blogger Bob Piper said...

Very typically Spellar. Strong on rhetoric, devoid of substance, which is presumably why you prefaced it with the warning that it contained no thinking or policy.

Labour First, as typified by John Spellar, is just a leadership fan club. Back my party leader who feathers my nest, whether they are right or wrong.

The easy options are not opposition. The easy options are about sucking up to the millionaires, luvvies, pop stars and the rich and famous. The easy options are about backing Bush/Blair's misadventure in Iraq whilst sitting back casually whilst the IDF bomb the shit out of Palestinian people.

As ever with the likes of John Spellar, there is the myth that only the hard right in the Party actually want to win. Yet much of the current malaise is brought about by self indulgent right wing Blairites like Clarke, Milburn, Blears, Purnell and the rest of their hopeless crew. All people that Spellar, Akehurst and Labour First told us were the solution, when we really knew they were the problem.

The only reason Spellar's mathmatics make one ounce of sense is because the Tories are pathetic. Our vote has fallen consistently since 1997 as the electorate have grown increasingly disillusioned with a Labour Party that they don't identify with.

12:36 am, July 12, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think the problem is that we have rather settled into a pattern of governments staying in power until they are exhausted and out of steam. The public then gets fed up with them and turfs them out.

I'd certainly agree that there is no enthusiasm for the Tories. But similarly, there's not much for Labour either. And whether you happen to agree or not, there are enough dissatisfied people who won't vote at all who may well let in the Tories.

Thing is, they won't vote because they are not happy with what Labour has become. And offering 'more of the same' won't do the trick.

That doesn't mean a wholesale swing to the extreme left, but it does mean looking critically at whether the directions being taken are the correct ones

1:58 am, July 12, 2009

Blogger ian said...

What will defeat Labour at the next election is the continuation with the very same policies that Messrs. Spellar and Akhurst support.
It really is that simple and Luke you are clearly delusional if you think otherwise. I am a lefty who fought long and hard for a socialist manifesto during the 80s and I seem to remember it was the SDP who caused the split when they tried to take their ball home. Spellar and the 'ejits' in Labour First want to impose their vote losing manifesto on the rest of the Labour Party and it seems to be them who want a long period in opposition.

3:08 pm, July 12, 2009

Blogger Left Lib said...

I have to laugh at the reference to the Tories and Lib Dems making mistakes. Compared to who, the Labour party???
"New" Labour is now old and the party has to start again, because for now it is heading to oblivian

9:22 pm, July 12, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spellar was just another Tory fascist careerist in the LP, as he tried to take away workers democratic right to strike!

9:26 pm, July 12, 2009

Blogger Falco said...

"the inevitability of defeat at the next General Election which is not based on the data"

Have you sought help to treat your delusions? I don't mean to sound cruel but bar Gordon revealing himself as a cunningly disguised second coming there is no hope whatsoever of the LP remaining in government past the next election.

11:13 pm, July 15, 2009

Anonymous Neil F said...

I thought it was a good speech and made some important points. I really see it as factional.

3:26 am, July 16, 2009

Anonymous Neil F said...

Sorry that should have read 'I DIDN't see it as factional'!

3:27 am, July 16, 2009


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Free Hit Counters
OfficeDepot Discount