Diary: Militant tendencies resurface in Left's 'Abba generation'


Labour Party veterans remember the great Militant war of the 1980s, as members of a secretive Trotskyist sect who denied being a party within the party were hunted down and expelled, one by one. Eventually, they gave up on the Labour Party and now function openly as the Socialist Party. Their leader, Peter Taaffe, was a guest speaker last week at the Oxford Debating Union.

Suddenly, yesterday, there was a strange echo of that old war when an essay went up on the Left Futures website, denouncing the well-known Labour pressure group, Progress, as a sort of modern version of Militant.

But there is a difference. Militant's battle cry was to nationalise the top 200 multinational companies as a prelude to abolishing capitalism. Progress does not believe in nationalising anything. Its mission is to steer Labour back on to the course set by Tony Blair. Progress's current chairman is Blair's old adviser, Lord Adonis, and on its website there is a message from the man himself saying: "I believe Progress deserves all our support."

The writer's beef is that Progress has access to large sums of money which it uses to try to influence party policy and that it takes sides in internal party elections, for instance by supporting David Miliband in the 2010 election contest, but its internal decision-making is opaque.

The essay was such a blast from the past that the blogger Dan Hodges wondered if it was a spoof and questioned whether its author, Jon Lansman, really existed. He does. But such ignorance is forgivable because though Hodges is an old Labour leftie, he is only Abba-generation old, whereas Lansman is Very Very Old Labour. He was part of Tony Benn's "kitchen cabinet" during the deputy leadership of 1981, the only member of that circle, apart from Benn himself, below, to have stayed unswervingly true to the Bennite cause down the passing years. The call to have Progress investigated is probably not going to get anywhere.


Dorries gives peers' resistance a boost

As the House of Lords, including much of its Tory contingent, digs in its heels against the government's attempts to reform it, their resistance will be stiffened by this, from the incorrigible Tory MP Nadine Dorries. Yesterday she tweeted: "If Peers allow the trio of Clegg/Cam/GO (George Osborne) to shape the future of the Lords on the back of shoddy deals then they deserve to be kicked out."


Mayoral campaign needs site more help

Siobhan Benita resigned from the civil service to run as an independent candidate in the contest for the London Mayoralty. She has a reception this evening to promote her campaign and will appear on Channel 4 with Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone tomorrow. She also has a Facebook page, on which there is an eloquent statement of what it is like to be an independent running against the party machines. Click on the "Friend Activity" link, and up comes the message: "No friend activity found."


Ken and John – still in tune with times

Talk about seeing double. Those old bruisers, Ken Clarke and John Prescott, appeared together on BBC Question Time last week, and the very next night BBC4 re-screened a 1989 documentary about Ronnie Scott's Jazz club, featuring those two slightly younger bruisers, John Prescott and Ken Clarke.


The best way to annoy a Tory

An unusual double faux pas by the presenters of the Today programme yesterday provided an insight into the best way to insult a Tory. Just before 8am, the Health Minister, Simon Burns, was introduced as a "Liberal Democrat minister" – an accusation that he immediately and crossly corrected.

Not long afterwards, John Baron was described as a "backbench Labour MP", but waited politely until the presenter had finished his spiel before he gently pointed out that he is in fact a Tory MP. "It doesn't matter," he added.

So that's how you can really annoy a Tory – call him a Liberal Democrat.

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