Progress (organisation)

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FounderPaul Richards, Liam Byrne and Derek Draper
Legal statusCompany limited by guarantee
HeadquartersProgress, Third Floor, 11 Tufton Street, London, SW1P 3QB
Nathan Yeowell
Alison McGovern
WebsiteOfficial website

Progress is a political organisation associated with the British Labour Party, founded in 1996 to support the New Labour leadership of Tony Blair. It is seen as being on the right of the party.[1]

Progress publishes a monthly magazine of the same name and occasional pamphlets, and organises conferences and other events. It provides training and mentoring for likeminded candidates seeking selection as Labour MPs.


Until 2014 Progress stated it was "the New Labour pressure group which aims to promote a radical and progressive politics for the 21st century."[2] From late 2014 Progress stopped using the "New Labour" label and rebranded itself as "Labour's new mainstream, aim[ing] to promote a radical and progressive politics".[3][4]

Its aims are:

Progress is an organisation of Labour party members which aims to promote a radical and progressive politics for the 21st century.

We seek to discuss, develop and advance the means to create a more free, equal and democratic Britain, which plays an active role in Europe and the wider world.

Diverse and inclusive, we work to improve the level and quality of debate both within the Labour party, and between the party and the wider progressive community.[5][6]


Progress was founded in 1996[7] by Paul Richards, Liam Byrne and Derek Draper, the former aide to Peter Mandelson, as an organisation to maintain a dialogue with Labour's new leadership under Tony Blair. It has organised many events and conferences, and hosted several important speeches by senior party figures. Its annual conference has become a staple of the political calendar with many cabinet ministers and other leading politicians attending.

In May 2014 Progress dropped using the "New Labour" label, introduced by Tony Blair, for the Labour party.[4]

In February 2019, a group of MPs left the Labour Party and founded The Independent Group. All seven founding members of this group were members of Progress and regularly contributed to the work of the organisation.

Links with Labour First[edit]

Historically, Progress had little connection with Labour First, an older Labour party factional organisation on the right of the Labour party.[8] The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum in the Labour Party saw Progress and Labour First, while remaining distinct organisations with different traditions, carry out more joint activities, including joint endorsement of candidates in internal party elections.[9][10]

During the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, Labour First formed a joint venture with Progress called Reclaiming Labour, holding meetings around the country analysing why Labour lost heavily in the 2019 United Kingdom general election.[11]

In April 2020, immediately on the election of Keir Starmer as party leader, Labour First and Progress launched jointly a new umbrella organisation called ‘Labour to Win’, with goals including 'to bring about fundamental change in the party’s culture and organisation '.[12]

Labour to Win endorsed candidates in the 2020 Labour National Executive Committee elections, however owing to the newly adopted Single Transferrable Vote nature of the elections, and in the spirit of electing a pluralisitic NEC, the organisation chose only to endorse six of its own candidates and also to endorse three candidates politically more to the left than Labour To Win but who had a commitment to broad church Labour politics. [13]


In 2012, Progress was at the centre of the debate over the direction of the Labour Party under Ed Miliband, after a widely circulated anonymous report called for Labour's national executive to "determine the organisational nature of Progress, and whether or not this form of organisation is acceptable inside the Labour Party."[14] Criticism of Progress had concentrated on the generous funding that Progress had secured from external donors, and on its positioning, regarded as being on the right of the Labour Party. Following circulation of the report, the GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny led calls at the 2012 Labour conference for Progress to be "effectively… (outlawed)…as part of the Labour Party."[1] In response, a Labour Party statement said, "We are a party that is reaching out to people, gaining new supporters and offering real change for the country in these tough times. The Labour Party is a broad church and we are not in the business of excluding people."[1] Labour leader Ed Miliband was also clearly in support, telling The Independent that "I believe in an open and inclusive party, reaching out to people, not for pushing people away. That certainly does not mean excluding or proscribing organisations like Progress which contribute to the debate."[15]

In 2013, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, claimed Progress was manipulating the selection procedures for Labour parliamentary candidates to get its candidates selected. Progress responded: "Progress helps to train and mentor candidates going for selection, to whom we do not give money. The details are open, plainly explained on our website and approved by a strategy board elected by our members."[16]


Data from the Electoral Commission shows that between 2001 and August 2019, Progress received almost £4.7 million in donations.[17] Of this £3.5 million came from Lord Sainsbury, who stopped funding Progress in 2017.[18] Another source reported that Lord Sainsbury had contributed £2 million of the £3 million of donations and sponsorship to Progress from 2001 to 2011.[19] In 2014 Progress was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission for accepting donations of £390,000 from Lord Sainsbury while he was not on a UK electoral register, between December 2011 and April 2013.[20][21] During 2016 he had donated £260,000. After the 2017 general election Lord Sainsbury announced he will no longer provide financial backing to Progress.[22]

The second largest donor to Progress during this period is listed by the Electoral Commission as a 'Permissible Donor Exempt Trust'' set up in the name of Lord Michael Montague, which made donations to Progress for two years following his death.[23]

The British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association has given Progress £57,000.[24]

It was reported in 2012 that Progress had received more money than both the Green Party and Plaid Cymru, and that it had received more than 122 times more funding than any other members' association within the Labour Party. This level of funding has led to accusations that Progress is operating as a "party within a party".[25]


Progress publishes a monthly magazine and a large number of political pamphlets.[26]

Progress also published The Purple Book, in September 2011, exploring fresh non-statist policies for Labour. Authors included: Alan Milburn, Peter Mandelson, Jacqui Smith, Tessa Jowell, Andrew Adonis, Caroline Flint, Douglas Alexander, Frank Field, Liam Byrne, Ivan Lewis, Rachel Reeves, Tristram Hunt, Liz Kendall and Jenny Chapman. There were ideas such as foundation trusts providing GP services, a school voucher system, crime commissioners, directly-elected mayors and 'hasbos'. The Labour Party leader at the time, Ed Miliband, wrote a foreword to the book.[27]

Chairs and board members[edit]

Progress is chaired by Alison McGovern.[28] In 2014 its vice-chairs were the Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Stephen Doughty, Julie Elliott, Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis, Liz Kendall, Seema Malhotra, Toby Perkins, Lucy Powell, Steve Reed, Jonathan Reynolds and Nick Smith.[29]

Progress's honorary president is former Minister Stephen Twigg, previously the organization's chair.[29]

Progress is constituted as a private company limited by guarantee, with a legal board of directors in 2012 consisting of Jennifer Gerber, Jonathan Mendelsohn, Robert Philpot and Stephen Twigg.[30]

Prior to 2015 Progress was chaired by MP John Woodcock,[28] and prior to 2014 by former Minister Lord Adonis.[31] Prior to 2012 Progress was chaired by MP and former Minister Stephen Twigg, and the honorary president was Alan Milburn, the former Secretary of State for Health. Jonathan Mendelsohn was treasurer of Progress.[32]

Strategy Board[edit]

Progress announced the creation of the first strategy board in July 2012, to enable the organisation's 'growing membership to feel a true sense of engagement'.[33] The first elections were held in August 2012. The most recent elections were held in 2016.

Current members of the Progress strategy board are:[34]


Since its inception Progress has had a number of operational directors:

  • Derek Draper (former aide to Peter Mandelson)
  • Darren Murphy (former Special Adviser)
  • Patrick Diamond (former Special Adviser)
  • Jennifer Gerber[35]
  • Jessica Asato (acting director)
  • Robert Philpot (retired October 2014)
  • Richard Angell (2014–2018)[36]
  • Nathan Yeowell (August 2019 –)


  1. ^ a b c "New Labour group Progress rejects GMB union 'outlaw' threat". BBC News. 15 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Who we are". Progress. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014.
  3. ^ "Who we are". Progress. Archived from the original on 22 October 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Exclusive: 'New Labour' consigned to the dustbin of history as Progress drops the label". The Independent. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  5. ^ "About us – Who we are". Progress. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007.
  6. ^ The Politics of Solutions (PDF) (Report). Progress. June 2013. p. ii. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  7. ^ About Archived 25 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Progress Online (official website). Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  8. ^ "The problem with the Labour Right".
  9. ^ "Joint NEC slate with Labour First announced". Progress.
  10. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (23 October 2015). "Labour's warring factions: who do they include and what are they fighting over?". New Statesman. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  11. ^ "Reclaiming Labour".
  12. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (5 April 2020). "Progress and Labour First launch 'Labour to Win' umbrella organisation". Labour List. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  13. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (1 July 2020). "Labour to Win unveils "pluralistic" set of NEC candidate recommendations". Labour List. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  14. ^ Jon Lansman (20 February 2012). "Call for Labour inquiry into the organisation & activities of party-within-a-party Progress". Left Futures. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Labour leader calls for rivals in party to end their squabbling". The Independent. 23 June 2012.
  16. ^ Rajeev Syal (8 July 2013). "'Blairites manipulating Labour selection process' – Len McCluskey hits back". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Search - The Electoral Commission". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  18. ^ Stewart, Heather (23 June 2017). "UK's biggest political donor, Lord Sainsbury, to end his contributions". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  19. ^ Kayte Rath (15 June 2012). "New Labour group Progress rejects GMB union 'outlaw' threat". BBC. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  20. ^ "Sainsbury-backed Labour groups fined by Electoral Commission". BBC. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Electoral Commission fines Progress Ltd and Movement for Change – failure to return impermissible donations". Electoral Commission. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  22. ^ Stewart, Heather (23 June 2017). "UK's biggest political donor, Lord Sainsbury, to end his contributions". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  23. ^ "Progress has become a party within a party". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  24. ^ "Search - The Electoral Commission". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  25. ^ "Progress has become a party within a party". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Pamphlets". Progress. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  27. ^ "The Purple Book". Progress. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  28. ^ a b Sally Gimson (30 October 2015). "No one can sit on their laurels". Progress Online. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  29. ^ a b "Chair and Vice-chairs". Progress. Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  30. ^ "Companies House WebCHeck – PROGRESS LIMITED". Companies House. Company No. 03109611. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Chair and Vice-chairs". Progress. Archived from the original on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  32. ^ "Labour appoints election director". BBC. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  33. ^ "Progress Strategy Board Elections". Progress. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  34. ^ "Strategy Board". Progress Online. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  35. ^ Marcus Dysch (7 September 2010). "New strategy for Labour Friends of Israel". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
  36. ^ Angell, Richard (3 December 2018). "10 years and a new chapter". Progress Online. Retrieved 7 December 2018.

External links[edit]