For many Labour MPs, the party’s general election defeat and Jeremy Corbyn’s victory were symptomatic of an absence of intellectual renewal. Corbyn’s opponents speak of how they lacked an alternative project and vision compelling enough to win over voters. After Ed Miliband declared the end of New Labour in 2010, it felt to many that the questions the party needed to answer were simply deferred.
As they adjust to the post-election landscape, MPs are looking for sources of renewal. It is with this aim that a new group, Labour Together, will soon be launched, I can reveal. Those involved 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. The group also has broad local government support. “New and Blue have to come together,” a source told me, in reference to New Labour and Blue Labour. “The group is aimed at achieving that.” The source added that to thrive its membership would need to be as broad-based as possible, ideally including supporters of “all four leadership campaigns”. Non-Corbynites are asking how the party’s hitherto disparate factions – Blairites, Brownites, the soft left, the old right – can be united around common aims.
Unlike Labour for the Common Good, the PLP body launched earlier this year by Hunt and Umunna, Labour Together will operate outside of Westminster. In a recent interview with the Spectator, Cruddas spoke of his intention to create a new group, remarking that “a lot of the old internal factions, the internal architecture, seems to belong to a different era, really, be they Progress or Compass or the Fabians”. Labour Together is the result. When I interviewed him in July, Umunna argued that the party needed new “incubators of ideas” to “reboot and rethink how we do modern social democracy in Britain in an era of globalisation”.
The group’s imminent launch follows the recent creation of the Corbyn-aligned Momentum, which some MPs fear will become a vehicle for deselection (a claim its directors reject). Labour First, the old right network founded in 1988, has increased its activity in an attempt to prevent the left achieving greater influence through internal selection contests and policy votes. Progress, the group founded by allies of Tony Blair in 1996, is also continuing to operate, declaring in a recent editorial: “A chapter has closed. The era of New Labour is over. It is living history to some, but history nonetheless. A Next Left chapter must now be written for Labour.”