Labour MP Chris Hipkins pours cold water on UK Labour's surge in popularity under new leader Jeremy Corbyn.

LABOUR'S WHIP CHRIS HIPKINS has just returned from Britain where he checked out what was happening with UK Labour.

But instead of looking at Labour's exciting change of political direction under new leader Jeremy Corbyn, he showed up at a meeting of Progress -a group that is actively opposed to Corbyn.

Although Progress describes itself as 'an organisation of Labour party members which aims to promote radical and progressive politics for the 21st century', it is a pro-market lobby group. It was founded in 1996  with money left over from Tony Blair’s campaign to become Labour leader.

The majority of Labour's right-wing MPs belong to Progress.

In 2014 Progress was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission for accepting donations of £390,000 from supermarket mogul Lord Sainsbury while he was not on a UK electoral register, between December 2011 and April 2013.

Progress is largely funded by Lord Sainsbury. Business organisations like the British Private Equity Association add a few more thousand quid to the kitty.

In 2014 Tristram Hunt, a member of Progress and then Labour's shadow minister of education, told the Labour Party conference that he was 'delighted' with the work Progress was doing. Earlier this year
he warned that it would be a mistake to allow Jeremy Corbyn to become leader.

But the times are a-changing and Progress is in danger of being consigned to the dustbin of history as Corbyn's transformation of the party gathers pace.

So its curious - but revealing - that Hipkins has chosen to identify with this group. Indeed not only did he attend one of its meetings, he also wrote an article for its website.

It is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn. Despite the fact that Labour under Corbyn has attracted thousands of new members, many of them young, Hipkins can only grump that 'greater party activism does not necessarily translate into greater support among the wider electorate.'

He writes:

"I have been a Labour MP in New Zealand for seven years and we have been through two leadership contests that involved the wider party membership. As in the United Kingdom, those contests triggered an increase in our membership, although that has not necessarily proved lasting, and an increase in activist activity. Despite that, we achieved our worst-ever election result in 2014 – just 25 per cent of the popular vote."

Conspicuously missing in Hipkins article is any recognition that the principal reason his party is a three time election loser is that it continues to promote and defend the same old tired neoliberal policies that the electorate have rejected. Given his lukewarm response to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, this is a lesson that Hipkins still hasn't learnt - and probably never will.


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