Angell’s NEC manoeuvering shows Labour unity depends on Progress expulsion

A couple of weeks ago, the SKWAWKBOX covered the shameful, anti-democratic attempt by the right-wing, Progress/Labour First faction to rig Labour’s National Executive Council (NEC) against leader Jeremy Corbyn by crowbarring additional, unelected members onto the Council to cancel out Corbyn’s democratically-achieved majority on Labour’s principal steering body. This move amounted to a second, silent coup.

The attempt was temporarily successful, primarily because the Conference Chair ignored party rules to prevent a proper ballot on how the rule-change would be voted on. The SKWAWKBOX article closed by highlighting the step that Corbyn needed to take to undo the coup attempt:

If the measure passes a Conference vote, Jeremy Corbyn must take any actions necessary to negate it, whether that be shuffling people like Jon Ashworth, who has voted against Corbyn in every NEC vote, out so that they are removed from the equation and replaced by a better MP, or by withdrawing the whip to disqualify right-wing members so that the post-Conference NEC can overturn it or bring in rules that negate this deeply, shamelessly anti-democratic tactic.

It will go against the grain to take such steps, even to correct such an egregious and underhand wrong – but turnabout is fair play and the anti-democratic faction in the Labour party must not be allowed to succeed. They have underhandedly exploited the rulebook to open this door, so they can’t complain if the rules are used to firmly close it again (though without question they’ll bleat like goats).

It turned out to be a prescient observation on both counts. Jeremy Corbyn is said to be moving to remove Jon Ashworth from the NEC – in a masterstroke that involved promoting him to Shadow Health Secretary where, perversely, he can’t do much harm. And the ‘bleating like goats’ by the Progress ‘party within a party’ followed instantly.

Luke Akehurst, the poster-child of Progress awfulness, gave the game away in typically hubristic fashion by tweeting to calm his faction’s fears that Corbyn might undo their ‘hard work’ with a single decisive move:


with ‘Labour First’, the Progress ‘front’ he runs, following hard on his heels:


So the fact that the Conference gerrymandering and, subsequently, keeping Ashworth on the NEC were all about wresting control of the NEC away from Corbyn are explicitly on record. ‘In the interests of unity’ – yeah, right.

Which makes today’s article by Progress head Richard Angell simultaneously even more laughable and more heinous.


In an astonishingly ludicrous article, Angel:

  • calls Corbyn’s widely-lauded Conference speech ‘shrill demands for followership
  • complains that removing Ashworth from the NEC would ‘ride roughshod over the all-important Labour rulebook’ (no sense of irony, these people, when his allies did exactly that to rig the NEC only a couple of weeks ago)
  • claims that Corbyn has little respect for those ‘willing to return’ just a day after Corbyn appointed 21 further ministers to his shadow cabinet, of which no fewer than 10 were ‘returners’
  • calls Ashworth ‘loyal’ in spite of a 100% record of voting against Corbyn on the NEC (clearly Ashworth didn’t resign because to do so would mean leaving his position on the NEC)
  • accuses Corbyn of ‘sticking up two fingers’ at those who voted for Owen Smith in the recent leadership election
  • then caps all this by claiming that wanting Ashworth to remain on the NEC is about unity

Anyone with two braincells can see that Angell’s and Progress’ interest in unity is thinner than paper, but to remove all doubt he kindly contributed a telling tweet that demonstrated beyond doubt his disdain for any idea of uniting behind the twice-democratically-elected Labour leader by promoting a completely unfounded, despicable smear without regard for appearance or consequence:


Angell’s antics were so nauseatingly bad that even the normally-affable MP and Shadow Secretary of State Barry Gardiner – who is far from an out-and-out Corbynite – felt obliged to stage an intervention:


All this, along with Tom Watson’s scandalous ‘Project Anaconda’ to attempt to squeeze the life out of Corbyn’s leadership, the scandalous gerrymandering to rig the NEC, the appalling, barbed, self-justifying speeches at Labour’s Conference by Watson, Khan, McNicol and others, shows clearly that, while the right-wingers may talk of ‘unity’ as an expedient cover for their attempts to undermine the party’s leader and frustrate the democratic wishes of its membership, they have not the slightest intention of actually uniting.

In this, they show themselves to be guilty of exactly what they tried to frame Corbyn and his supporters as – interested only in control of the party, regardless of the cost to Labour’s electoral chances and the awful consequences for the people of this country. They don’t care how bad the damage is – and in fact may be consciously trying to increase it – as long as they can bring down the ‘new politics’ and restore the status quo (and status) they crave.

This being so, there can only be one real resolution. Unity is crucial – but it can only be achieved by removing the most intransigent saboteurs and provocateurs from the party altogether.

The shadily-funded, unaccountable Progress and its bastard child Labour First must be proscribed as what they love to accuse others of being – a ‘party within a party’ – and at the very least its ringleaders expelled for unquestionably bringing the party into disrepute and acting ‘against the aims and values of the Labour party’ in the most literal sense.

Only then can there genuinely be unity. And, like ripping off a sticking plaster, it’s best done quickly and without hesitation.

Not just the Labour party, but the country, depends on it.



  1. Did you know that “During the last parliament Progress held 66 events, in 35 cities, engaging 3,000 members across the United Kingdom.”?
    That’s an average of 45 people attending each event over 5 years or about one event per month.
    The figures are on the Progress web site.
    Not exactly popular with Labour Party members are they. Not very energetic or enthusiastic about engaging with Labour Party Members at all. Totally unrepresentative but dangerously divisive.
    3,000 members engaged over 5 years. That’s about one half of one percent of the current Labour Party membership or one tenth of one percent of Party membership for each year of the last Parliament.
    You are right to challenge, expose and condemn them.
    Keep up the good work!


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