Labour centrists hit back vowing: ‘We are going nowhere’

Stella Creasy MP at a Progress event at Labour Conference 2018. Photograph: Richard Porritt.

Stella Creasy MP at a Progress event at Labour Conference 2018. Photograph: Richard Porritt. - Credit: Archant

Moderate MPs are using conference to send a defiant message to the hard-left of Labour: 'We are going to stay and fight for our party.'

At a rally held by Progress, the centre-left Labour movement, Stella Creasy, Wes Streeting and Luciana Berger all gave speeches attacking the hard-left of the party.

But they were clear that the answer to the centre's problems was not to abandon Labour but to stay and fight.

Illford North MP Streeting, an outspoken critic of Jeremy Corbyn, said: 'Centrist parties are like buses – you wait 30 years and three come along at once. We in this room should be clear, these buses are on the road to nowhere.

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'As much as we have allowed the Skwawrkboxes and the Canaries and the Rachels from Swindon to set an ugly tone of debate … but here is something we know that we have yet to convince the rest of Labour about: If Labour is to be in government again it needs its centre left traditions. It has never won without us.

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'We believe in the market economy not the market society, we are democratic socialist who want the state under the feet of the people not over the heads of the people, we don't want to tackle poverty we want to eradicate it.'

He added: 'It starts by taking on the toxic political culture that calls people like us Red Tories … The Labour party can govern again as soon as we decide we want to do so and start acting like it … this introspection is killing the hope and promise of our party and keeping this truly awful Tory government in power. I am not going to surrender this country to another generation of Tory rule. And I am not about to be pushed out of the only party that has the ability to replace them.

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'We stay and we stand up for what we believe.'

Walthamstow MP Creasy told the rally: 'Labour has been coasting for decades on the hope of the offer of past glories: The NHS, equalities legislation, the Good Friday Agreement … the belief that that in itself is justification enough for us to limp back to power.

'If you want Labour to truly be a force for good then stop being hung up on Momentum's time wasting antics or arguing for a past when the word has changed. This isn't about taking the party back, it is about taking the country forward.

'There is nothing moderate about minimum wage for those people who depend on it, there is nothing centrist about Sure Start for the families who need it …

'In a world with Trump and Bannon and Boris if you want Britain to have a left-wing future rather than be in their clutches then it is the battle of ideas we have to win – and no one at this conference is winning.'

In a clear message to the leadership she added: 'You want to make change happen? Stop pointing at stuff and trying to ban it, nationalise it … and make no difference at all. Start being the change-makers this country needs you to be. Fight Brexit for goodness sake … When you can see the damage no-deal will do you can see the damage any deal will do. Don't tell me that is good for Britain.'

Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavetree, has been forced to have armed security at this year's conference after speaking out over anti-Semitism. During a rousing speech she said Labour needed to focus on defeating the Tories and stop in-fighting.

'Democracy remains the best system of government. Democratic socialism – not left populism, not protests, not student insurrection – remains the answer to the problems of humanity,' she said.

'But we haven't done the work to modernise ourselves. There must be a better answer than 70s-style nationalisation. And we must present the answers to the challenges our nation faces in the 21st Century if we are to win back the centre ground of politics, and win in areas currently lost to the Tories.

'It's a tough job – especially if you're dealing with a tsumani of anti-Semitic hate every day. If we have to spend another six months like we have spent the last six months patiently explaining to new Labour Party members (and some old ones) that Hitler didn't want to help the Jews, or that the Rothschilds don't run the world's banking system, or that the Jews didn't finance the slave trade, or that me and other Jewish Labour MPs are not Mossad operatives or that it's not cool to desecrate the mass grave at the Warsaw Ghetto with 'woke' slogans, then we shall be no further forward.

'But modernise we must, drawing on our solid values and our rich tradition, learning from the co-operative movement, and from Labour councils in power delivering every single day, and presenting an exciting, radical message of hope.'

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