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23 October 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 11:42am

Labour’s warring factions: who do they include and what are they fighting over?

A guide to the different groups and divisions within the Labour party.

By Anoosh Chakelian

As the party reconfigures itself after Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding victory, new factions have emerged – and previously powerful forces in the party have faded away. Here is your guide to the main contenders jockeying for position alongside Momentum:

Labour First

Labour First, founded in 1988, is a pre-Blairite pressure group seen as the voice of the party’s traditional right. Headed by campaigner and former councillor Luke Akehurst, this faction supported ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) in the leadership election, while Akehurst himself backed Yvette Cooper. In the deputy race, it emphasised its ties to Tom Watson. The group made headlines during the leadership contest by urging fellow centrist group Progress to promote the other non-Corbyn candidates as well as its first choice, Liz Kendall. The groups have since held events together espousing moderate Labour values. Labour First says it “exists to ensure that the voices of moderate party members are heard while the party is kept safe from the organised hard left”.

Labour for the Common Good

A new moderate pressure group, Labour for the Common Good is wryly referred to in Westminster as “the Resistance”. It was established when Jeremy Corbyn began pulling ahead in the Labour leadership contest by the modernisers Chuka Umunna (pictured) and Tristram Hunt – former frontbenchers who both ducked out of the contest. It aims to bring together the soft left, old right, Brownites and Blairites to counter the Corbynite wing; it is open to MPs from “the right to the soft left of the party”. The group stresses “an urgent need for moderates in our party” to mobilise and regain Labour’s political and intellectual edge. The businessman John Mills, Labour’s biggest individual donor – who stopped funding the party after Corbyn’s victory – has said he is ready to “funnel” cash into Labour for the Common Good.


Founded in 1996, Progress is the original Blairite pressure group. Dedicated to New Labour values, and supported by Labourites associated with that era – its chair is Alison McGovern MP who recently replaced John Woodcock MP, former aide to John Hutton and Gordon Brown – it has never been further out of step with the party’s leadership, and its influence is waning. Three years ago, under Ed Miliband, it landed at the heart of a debate about Labour’s soul, when the GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny called for the group to be ”outlawed. His comments were dismissed by both Progress and the Labour party. Politicians from the Blair years, like former Home Secretary David Blunkett, might now warn about Momentum being a “party within a party”, but Progress has attracted the same criticism in the past. In 2012, the veteran Labour leftwinger, the late Michael Meacher MP, compared what he saw as the group’s undemocratic nature to that of Militant Tendency. Progress supported the “neo-Blairite” candidate Liz Kendall for Labour leader. David Sainsbury, the Labour peer and supermarket billionaire, is a major Progress donor.


The soft-left think tank/pressure group hybrid Compass started out as a letter to the Guardian in 2003. Numerous prominent leftwing think tanks warned that Tony Blair’s administration had “lost its way”, and announced their decision to form a new group within the party, led by Labour commentator and writer Neal Lawson. The moderniser Chuka Umunna rose through Labour’s ranks via the Compass flank, and the group should have come into its own when he and Ed Miliband were at the top of the party. Instead, it lost power and members during a row in 2011 when it opened up membership to people from other political parties. Compass called this decision a “huge cultural and political step”, but it has stopped it having any voice in internal Labour elections.

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The National Executive Committee

The Labour party’s ruling body is not as all-powerful as it was before first Neil Kinnock and then Tony Blair clipped its wings, but it still remains a hugely important part of the party’s constitution, overseeing administration and disputes. The leader, deputy leader and leader of the party’s MEPs always sit on the NEC, while trade union delegates elect a further 12 members at the party’s annual conference, with MPs and councillors electing two representatives to sit on the body. Six members of the 33-strong committee are chosen by members every two years, with the 2016 elections expected to further bolster Corbyn’s narrow majority on the NEC.

The National Policy Forum

The National Policy Forum meets two to three weekends a year to set policy, in a role previously reserved for the NEC and annual conference. The 186-strong body is made up of representatives from the parliamentary parties in Europe, Westminster and the devolved legislatures, as well as local government, affiliated trade unions and individual party members. Members of the NPF are elected every two years, with the next election in 2017. The results in 2015 saw the right’s control eroded but not destroyed.

Left Futures

“The best that’s Left in Labour,” is how the leftwing blog Left Futures describes itself. Although it is billed as an “independent online network”, it is mainly a repository for sincere comment pieces about Labour from those on the party’s left. It was set up around five years ago, and joined Twitter in May 2010. Its editor is the veteran leftwing campaigner Jon Lansman – his dedication to the Labour left stretches back to working on Tony Benn’s 1981 deputy leadership campaign. He worked for Meacher.


Praised as a “grassroots network” by its members and decried as the renaissance of 1980s Labour Trotskyites, Militant Tendency, by its detractors, Momentum is a new campaign group associated with Jeremy Corbyn. The group – organised by Lansman (see above) – calls itself the “successor entity” to Corbyn’s triumphant fight to be Labour leader. Its mission is to transform Labour into a “more democratic party”. Labour moderates warn against creating a “party within a party”, and fear the organisation will trigger purges of moderate MPs. Read Stephen Bush’s report on Momentum here.

Labour Together

The latest Labour group to be formed (at the time of publishing), Labour Together is a collection of high-profile Labour politicians from different political wings of the party aiming to bring New Labour and Blue Labour together. Members include former policy review head Jon Cruddas, former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy, former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, peer Maurice Glasman and Croydon North MP Steve Reed. Unlike Labour for the Common Good (which is a PLP body), Labour Together has the intention of operating outside Westminster and becoming a general party movement. It’s seen by some as an anti-Corbynite reaction to Momentum.

A number of Labour MPs are openly attacking their party’s new leadership on social media – particularly taking issue with its aggressive online supporters, whose abusive behaviour has been condemned by Corbyn himself. They include:

Mike Gapes

The usually amiable Ilford South MP, has been in all-out war with his Corbynista detractors on Twitter. After one long exchange where they called on him to resign from the party, he ended up typing: “I AM LABOUR.  I AM LABOUR. Get it?” Another tweet claimed: “There is now no collective shadow cabinet responsibility in our party. No clarity on economic policy and no credible leadership.”

John Mann

The Bassetlaw MP has accused some activists of sending him anti-semitic abuse, including 40 emails and tweets during the leadership campaign that referred to him with epithets such as “Zionist stooge” and “utter filth”. “I have very serious concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters,” he said in August.

Simon Danczuk

The outspoken Rochdale MP, known for his attacks on Ed Miliband, has transferred his frustration seamlessly to Corbyn. Often writing in the Mail on Sunday, he most recently described Corbyn’s reign as a “farce”, comparing it to a “Carry On” film. His unfettered attacks on Corbyn have led to a “Deselect Danczuk” campaign on Twitter, which hasn’t quelled his activities one bit.

Jamie Reed

In the most pointed Twitter move of the Labour leadership contest, the then shadow health minister resigned from the frontbench during Corbyn’s victory speech. The MP for Copeland tweeted his resignation letter, which warned: “No amount of well-meaning protest will protect the NHS, drive up standards, recruit more medical professionals or improve the accessibility of world-class healthcare to the British people. Only an elected Labour government will do this.”

> Now read our report on Momentum, and how it’s affecting Labour.

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