No platform ... for Charles Clarke
I am a big fan of the work Progress does in providing a space for debate in the Labour Party, though I've always regretted that the cash generously provided to it by Lord Sainsbury has gone exclusively on these kind of think-tanky activities. The original concept floated to me by its founder Derek Draper (are we allowed to mention him anymore?) in 1995 when I was a humble NOLS representative on Progress' initial politburo or whatever it was called, was that it should be a fully fledged faction, throwing Sainsbury money and phonebank calls etc. at parliamentary selections to back ideologically pure New Labour candidates. Unfortunately it ended up run by folk who find ideas more exciting than head-counting at their local GC. I think there was room for it to do policy debate and factional organisation. Oddly Compass manages to do both while Progress never gets its hands dirty, leaving the heavy lifting to us in Labour First.
I do wish they would stop providing a platform for former Hackney Council Chair of Housing Charles Clarke though. We all know what he is going to say, he keeps saying the same thing. Progress hosting his speeches diminishes their reputation and influence and implies to the media that he represents some current of Labour opinion wider than his own, admittedly vast, ego. Tonight they've hosted him again and again he's tried to undermine the PM just days before a vital pre-election conference.
We can't stop Charles talking guff but he should do it from across a restaurant table by himself, not with the illusion of credibility provided by Progress' platform, or with them doing the legwork to find him an audience.