Exclusive: 'New Labour' consigned to the dustbin of history as Progress drops the label

Political Editor

The last bastion of New Labour has fallen. Progress, a group of modernisers inside the Labour Party who tried to keep Tony Blair’s flame alive, has decided to drop its “New Labour” label.

The 2,000-strong pressure group is to be relaunched as the party’s mainstream grassroots body in a symbolic break with its past as the cheerleader for the Blair project.

“We have to move on,” said John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, who was elected chairman of Progress this week on a ticket to abandon its “New Labour” branding. He defeated Phil Wilson, Mr Blair’s successor as MP for Sedgefield and one of the “famous five” in the constituency who helped him win the nomination as Labour candidate and launch his political career.

Mr Woodcock told The Independent: “Moving on to call ourselves mainstream Labour shows the success of how New Labour changed the party. What Progress champions now represents the centre of gravity for our movement.”

It seems that Progress judged that clinging to the “New Labour” brand was damaging its growth prospects. Two years ago, the GMB and Unison unions called unsuccessfully for the group to be expelled by Labour on the grounds that it was a “party within a party”, like the Militant Tendency because it puts up candidates in Labour’s internal elections.

“We have been wrongly portrayed as a faction, not a proper part of the Labour family,” said Mr Woodcock. “It gives people a stick with which to beat us.”

The MP denied that Progress was distancing itself from Mr Blair, whose recent call for the West to fight radical Islam in the Middle East raised eyebrows even among some of his natural allies in the party. Others claim his standing has been damaged by his uncompromising defence of the 2003 Iraq War.

Mr Woodcock, a Blairite who worked as a political spin doctor to Gordon Brown in Downing Street, said: “New Labour is now part of Labour’s history. Its instincts are alive and well in the party. So much of what Ed Miliband embodies is what New Labour was always about. The world keeps moving. Progress has got to be seen to be about the future. We are being held back because we can be described as backward-looking.”

He added: “The whole point is to move on from a label which has passed into history. The instincts and values which drove us to win in 1997, saw us command the political landscape and win three elections are alive and well in Ed Miliband’s Labour Party. 

“Progress wants to be part of the future, not anchored in an illustrious part of Labour’s history. We have been wrongly labelled a faction by people who want us to be marginalised.”

The repositioning appears to be good news for Mr Miliband, and will be seen as a sign of the party uniting behind him with a year to go to the general election. He stood as the “not Blair” candidate when he defeated his brother David for the Labour leadership in 2010, and then distanced the party from New Labour by rebranding it “One Nation Labour.”

The main funder of Progress has been Lord (David) Sainsbury of the supermarket family. The former Science Minister has donated £650,000 since 2011 but has not given money to the Labour Party since Mr Miliband became leader. He donated more than £10 million to Labour in the previous 10 years. Lord Sainsbury has described Mr Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg as “pretty average” and not in the “top bracket” like Mr Blair or Margaret Thatcher. He insists he no longer funds Labour because he is involved in the cross-party Institute for Government think tank.

New Labour: The Birth

1989: Pollster Philip Gould floats the idea among Labour modernisers

1992: Concept gains ground after Bill Clinton’s “New Democrats” win US Presidential election

1994: Gould sends memo to Tony Blair headed: “New Labour; Right as Well as Left”.

1994: Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, embraces idea of making “New Labour” the party’s new identity

1994: “New Labour, New Britain” makes its public debut as slogan for Labour conference at which Blair announces plans to abolish the party’s Clause IV commitment to old-style public ownership. Left-wing critics claim party has been re-named without agreement

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor