Working together or falling apart?

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party was undoubtedly controversial. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that under his tenure, membership grew to levels not seen for decades, the party was abuzz with new ideas and thinking and campaigners and activists gained a renewed sense of hope and optimism. 

Unfortunately though, amongst all of this enthusiasm a culture of tribalism, factionalism and rancour developed. In a new paper, former Parliamentary staffer and Labour Party member James Matthewson reflects on the successes and failures of Corbynism and outlines some of the possible paths forward to unify not just Labour but also the wider progressive movement. 

Without more concerted efforts to develop strategies that bring the different sections of the Left together, further Tory victories seem almost inevitable. 

Please let us know what you think about the paper and how you think progressives can work together more effectively. 

Read Progressive Pragmatism: How do we work together and what do we do next? here. 

10 thoughts on “Working together or falling apart?

  1. If Labour or probably a coalition do not get elected and change the electoral system for a seriously proportional one ( not AV), then a future split UK could see right wing government in perpetuity, where removing them would be somewhere between legend and impossibility

    A referendum on PR voting is not needed if a party ( or parties) put the policy in the manifesto. A referendum would turn into an intensive and desperate opposition by all right wing forces, using Cummings’s online propaganda techniques and for the full weight of Murdoch, the Mail, Express and Telegraph

  2. 12 pages of progressive alliance building from the top down; while acknowledging the total disinterest of the electorate in party infighting (or even political parties for that matter), nothing is offered in terms of creating greater choice than a five year barrel scrape between Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber. 12 pages on progressive politically pragmatic pacts and not one mention of electoral reform or proportional representation? The Labour Party’s position on this is what has killed the idea in the past and it’s continuance will do the same in the future.

  3. Its tough being Labour at the moment.
    Nothing is going our way. And he’s right we could face another 10 years of Johnsons Whitehall farce. Worse than Yeltsin worse than Belusconni. Its a comic opera. But the hard hit workers are not laughing at recession and austerity staring them in the face.
    But you could say, they’re the ones who voted thus Govt into power. So they deserve the Govt they get.
    Anyway no signs of a labour breakthrough in the near future.
    Can we really put up with this for another 4 years?
    The fault lies in the Labour Leadership, failing to act responsibly as an opposition. Allowing factionalism by momentum, as if the lessons if militant had not been learned.
    I agree that we need activists, but I don’t see the rise in membership as necessarily a test of popularity. Most of them were entryists, most of the new recruits not labour loyalists and most of them rebels without a cause …much like Corbyn.
    We need a grand alliance of opposition parties to bring down this awful govt.
    Compass is well placed to bring this about. A Moderate Alliance of Labour the the LibDems and Greens, which must sink their differences and work together.
    First priority is to change the voting system to PR. Second the abolition of the Monarchy and Establishment. Third the introduction of a Secular State where every citizen is treated equally and given the opportunity to succeed., and no exemptions for religious groups.
    This has to be the new order after Covid.
    And the new mantra of cooperation, not competition.

  4. Thanks for this.

    I voted twice for Corbyn, because I thought he was the most visionary and interesting of the candidates put forward by the PLP. Unfortunately I was wrong, and this led to Brexit and a big majority for the Conservative/Brexit party. He ended up with nothing, we ended up with Boris and Brexit. Sitting on the fence on such a major issue, as if he was the Queen, just made him look indecisive, to put it kindly. The red wall collapsed, he satisfied neither side and it is pointless to discuss him further. I put 70% of the blame for Brexit squarely on Corbyn’s shoulders.

    Now we must support the vastly more electable Starmer. And hope for a swift rejoining.

  5. Interesting. Not much with which to disagree,just interested in how this is to be done i.e. policy, strategy,tactic etc. For my part it is clear that the major way to get Liberal Democrats/Greens ,”on board” is to guarantee that the existing single plurality voting system , which simply sustains the only united bloc in existence i.e. reaction /Tory ism should be replaced on day one, morning one of a new government with a wholly proportional voting system. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  6. If we would like to continue under a Conservative government for the next few or more years, in-fighting and factionalism is the way to achieve that outcome. The very thought of it chills me. This government must have been the most damaging, divisive, dangerous, most Suharmful, unregulated, mean-spirited government we have had to endure for many years, if not ever!
    Please can we move forward with a more collaborative and cohesive approach to the good outcome and future we all deserve under a sensible Labour leadership.
    We also need people in Parliament who are fit for the job. The Tory’s have a cabinet of fools and charlatans and are an embarrassment to the parliamentary system, making a mockery of everything that has been fought and died for in the past.

  7. I have read your very honest document with interest. It documents some of the realisations of moving from “the blinkered enthusiasm of youth” to the pragmatism of greater age.
    But it still contains a muted tribalism in how it speaks of Conservatives – and you need to get past that, both personally and as a political party. It is unlikely I would ever vote for a particularly left wing candidate if that meant a government of that tone. In my view much of their understanding of human nature and motivation is flawed and this leads them to impossible objectives and actions as damaging as those at the other end of the spectrum.
    But I could vote with somebody of strongly left inclination to remove or defeat a strongly right wing candidate – and vice versa!
    The author seems to be, and is to be admired for, arguing for a system of government that focuses on seeking common ground rather than emphasising difference and divisions. They, and the Labour Party, still have a long way to travel on this. A sound starting point would be a formal commitment to some form of proportional voting in ALL elections – allied with an acceptance that Labour would never again govern alone. This would reveal a degree of pragmatism and humility sadly lacking in most politics, but very much needed.

  8. We have very few years left to tackle the climate emergency, and this is no time for progressive parties and factions within them to be playing tactical games with each other. The progressive parties jointly command the largest vote in our electorate, and it is a betrayal of the electorate not to cooperate and create a progressive government. Doing this
    allows reactionary governments not only to rule, but while ruling to change to laws in different ways in order to make progressive leadership even harder in the future. A progressive alliance sharing a pledge to create a PR democracy is vital not only for the sake of our country, but for the role we can play in tackling the climate emergency.

  9. There will never be a Labour Party – or any other party for that matter – where there are not differences of opinion about policy or principle. And, given that political parties are organised bodies, it would be naive to think that people within them won’t organise to promote their point of view and to get people elected who sign up to it.

    You cannot eradicate factions altogether, nor should you – debate and difference is how democracy functions. But you can eradicate toxic factionalism. What matters is how you manage debate and the culture around it. And that’s not a job for party leaders or party managers, it’s the responsibility of everyone who participates.

    If the only way you win a debate is by expelling or driving away anyone whose views aren’t identical to yours, you haven’t won.

    If your response to anything that’s said or any policy position that’s advocated is to ignore the content, focus on the person who’s saying it and just shout whichever one of “Corbynite” or “Blairite” you think is appropriate, you are politically bankrupt.

    But above all, whichever faction you might identify with, if your response to people in working class seats voting Tory is to insult their intelligence, tell them they’ve got what they deserved and that you hope they’re f’ing pleased with themselves, not only don’t be surprised when they tell you where to go, but also ask yourself this: if I have such contempt for the people I’m supposed to be fighting for, whose side am I actually on?

  10. I very much enjoyed and appreciated the tone and the objectives of James’s piece. I wholly concur with everything he is trying to achieve. His honesty about the shortcomings of and the poor outcomes from his previous position was remarkable. I hope any detractors can perceive his very fair and pragmatic intentions.

    It is the pragmatism and the support of a progressive alliance which I fully support. Additionally the macro objectives when in Government are spot on.

    For me we have to build from the individual up. As individuals we should obviously fully subscribe to diversity and, as James says, recognise that others with differing views bring much to the table. None of us have a monopoly on wisdom.

    The views of the electorate are diverse and must be listened to even when they digress a long way from our own. We only have to consider what is happening currently in the famous / infamous Red Wall constituencies to understand the extent of the gap to be bridged.

    I am confident that given the time we have before the next election we can demonstrate the potential value to voters of supporting a diverse policy platform which has their interests at its core.

    It will necessitate, as James indicates, for us all to be tolerant of others, to forget our egoism, and to come together as a community with shared interests. It will take considerable personal discipline.

    We do need to cultivate more friends in the media. Perhaps this could be assisted by evidence of PA working to the electorate ‘s advantage in the local elections next year.

    At the heart of this we all need to reflect on what those who are genuinely disadvantaged need and that it is only when we are in Government that we can seriously achieve change. As James iterates, there is no room for purity in terms of dogma. All through our lives we need to make compromises if we are going to be something more than an individual.

    Finally I just love everything Compass is doing, inspirational. Thanks.

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