Civil war brewing between Progress and Labour First?

The SKWAWKBOX has long treated Progress and Labour First as virtually one and the same – as indeed they are, as far as their antipathy toward Jeremy Corbyn and his vision for the Labour Party are concerned.

But it appears that all is not peaceful behind the scenes, with the key area of conflict centred on different underlying attitudes toward the EU and Brexit – and toward deputy Labour leader Tom Watson.

Tom Watson centre-stage at last year’s Labour First conference

The SKWAWKBOX had an astonishing telephone conversation today with a senior member of the Progress 100 club – the Progress ‘inner circle’ of wealthy supporters who pay substantial additional membership fees for privileged access.

The caller – who not surprisingly did not wish to be named – launched into a diatribe against Watson, then switched his fire unexpectedly – and brutally – to Labour First:

We’re taking the party back from the Corbynites but rest assured we haven’t forgotten about Watson and the Labour First hillbillies. That battle’s just on the backburner at the moment.

When all this dies down and regular scheduled programming is back, there’ll be strong questions to ask of Tom Watson, like why he’d been working behind the scenes for years prior to the EU Referendum, trying to turn Labour in to a pro-Referendum party and why he was one of the most prominent movers in ensuring Labour’s support for the Referendum Bill. There are scores to settle.

Quite why a senior Progress member would contact this blog, which was recently the target of a ‘hard-left brietbart’ [sic] attack by Progress director Richard Angell, this writer has as yet no idea – and until this phone call I had been unaware that Tom Watson was involved in pro-referendum moves, although this was not hard to locate once I knew to look for it:

watson ref.png

It is, of course, well known that Blairites are no fans of Watson – he referred to it himself in his resignation letter to Ed Miliband – and that their current co-operation is just a ‘marriage of convenience‘ born out of a mutual determination to bring down Corbyn.

Similarly, Labour First are more naturally aligned with Watson’s ‘old right union’ tradition of Labour thinking than with the more business-oriented and socially liberal Progress.

So perhaps Watson’s current weakness, after his Lansman debacle last week, the massive popularity among members of a mooted challenge by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry for his deputy leader position and the failure of an attempted ‘Twitter storm’ to rally support for him, has the Blairite Progress sharpening the knives for their own challenge for his role.

If so, then since Progress‘ interest in Watson’s downfall coincides with that of this blog, perhaps they also found it convenient for what may turn out to be the opening salvo in a civil war between Labour’s principal right-wing factions.

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  1. They could of seen that you have the rule book and don’t want to get engaged in another court case so are distancing them selves from it. Never trust a TORYlite

  2. Someone said that a senior member of the Labour Right, had said that (to my surprise) they would prefer Lisa Nandy or Rachel Reeves to Corbyn. Lisa Nandy of course they’d expect to be able to bully as they did Ed Miliband but I’d assumed that Rachel Reeves was Progress… but it seems from the distain (and the conference delegate rigging) that she is a Labour First hill-billy after all.

  3. Reblogged this on Sid's Blog and commented:
    “the Progress ‘inner circle’ of wealthy supporters who pay substantial additional membership fees for privileged access.”
    What’s the difference between this and belonging to Trump’s golf club?

  4. A very useful piece. I’ve been wondering for a while about whether there’s been at least tensions in the relationship between Progress and Labour First, which as the article points out, share a common enemy (that I’d define as anything worth doing politically) but don’t share a common ideology. I tend to pircure Progress as a “sauve” villian from a cheesy 60s or 70s spy film, all Saville row suits and a habit of not getting one’s own hands dirty while Labour First is the henchman who greets you with a sawn-off in the face.

    Okay, I’m flattering both immensely but I do think Progress have used Labour First as a blunt instrument, and, as the Skwawkbox articles about Watson’s huge miscalculation make very clear, the level of screw up from Watson’s part of the Labour right won’t be forgiven very easily. I also think that relations between the groupings have been strained by Jeremy Corbyn’s very astute decision about backing the triggering of Article 50. While the MSM and other fools focussed on Clive Lewis’ resignation, they didn’t -and woudn’t – deign to notice how Corbyn’s decision split the pack, and will be a source of trouble for the right factions throughout the Brexit process. Corbyn’s was a principled move but it was also a very astute one.

    Given that Brexit is now something that festers between the right groupings – it seems symptomatic that Progress have fixated on Waton being “pro-referendum” – and it’s worth wondering how even low-level civil war will impact on the Labour Party hierarchy – possibly leading to open feuding between Labour Party staff – and whether Progress versus Labour First would have an impact on the position of the right-wing (mis)led unions USDAW and Community, as well as GMB, in relation to any future challenges to Corbyn’s position. A right-wing civil war is obviously a potential left opportunity, yet it’s an index of Progress’ overwhelming hubris to think that Labour First will sit stay tame while waiting to be done over. We could soon be living in some very interesting times.

  5. Let’s hope they damage each other.

    Certainly a deputy leader contest would be welcome

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