After the events of this summer, being a Progressive can feel a lonely place. Seeing long standing friends from across our movement post photos of their shredded membership cards has been heart breaking. This is not only because people who have contributed so much to the party feel they are no longer welcome, but also because leaving is exactly what those who are intent on taking Labour as far away from government as possible want us to do. Yes, we may have lost the leadership campaign but it was hardly a resounding success for the Corbynistas either.
Given the influx of new members, and the perceived weakness of Owen Smith as a candidate, for Jeremy Corbyn to only increase his vote by two per cent is hardly impressive. After the outcome of the leadership election those on the hard left want us to believe that progressive politics rooted in the centre ground is dead, but, friends, this is simply not true. 40 per cent of our party membership voted for change this summer. An overwhelming majority of members who had joined before the last general election voted against Corbyn’s leadership, as did the 16-24 age group, by a margin of 55-45 per cent.
We must of course have unity but not by our submission, and we cannot let the leadership rule supreme. We must stand up for the significant voice of Labour party members who want change, and that can only happen if we are proud of who we are. In the conversations I have had with fellow young progressives over the last few weeks, It has been disheartening to hear some are worried about being vocal in their support for Progress and what the organisation stands for. You too may be nervous sometimes to admit your political views – ‘Progress’ has become a dirty word in some corners of social media and university politics. But standing up for and celebrating Labour in government is nothing to be ashamed of. Our victories maybe of the past but the country gave them to us, now lets focus on how we can learn from and adapt them to win again both in the party and the country.
We, as young progressives, therefore have to start debating openly and confidently the solutions to the problems we face. We must dispel the myths, conspiracies and outright lies about Progress. We need to engage with the wider Young Labour membership, providing a safe and respectful environment for them to explore our politics and even challenge at times. Crucially we need to take on board their views, seriously. I am tired of attending endless youth based events and being told that we ‘are the future’. With the current electoral trajectory of the Labour party, we absolutely are. But the task is to ensure we can make a difference now and that starts by having just as much of an input into everything Progress and the Labour party does, as everyone else.
It’s time for all young progressives to roll up our sleeves, clear our throats, and be proud to be Progress.
Tom Jennings is a candidate in the 23 and under section in the Progress strategy board elections. He tweets at @ItsTomJennings