Tribune

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Group.png Tribune  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Tribune.jpg
MottoThis is my truth. Tell me yours
Formation1937
Founder• Stafford Cripps
• George Straus

Tribune is a democratic socialist magazine, founded in 1937 and published in London. It was independent but usually supported the Labour Party from the left. It appeared fortnightly as a magazine, and appears online, under Aneurin Bevan's motto, "This is my truth. Tell me yours".

Tribune changed hands a few times in recent decades, with former owner Kevin McGrath closing it down in 2011, only two years after he bought it from a consortium of trade unions including Unite. In the autumn of 2016, Tribune was owned by the businessman Owen Oyston, who acquired its parent company London Publications Ltd. Oyston filed for bankruptcy and stopped publishing Tribune in January 2018.[1]

In May 2018, it was announced that Tribune had been sold to the American democratic socialist magazine Jacobin.[2] Tribune editor Ronan Burtenshaw, formerly Jacobin’s Europe editor, said acquiring Tribune was a “big challenge” because Jacobin is “not by any stretch a wealthy organisation”. In August 2018, Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara confirmed the purchase of Tribune in media reports, stating that he aimed to relaunch the magazine ahead of the Labour Party Conference in September.[3]

At the official re-launch in September 2018, Tribune was announced as a bimonthly magazine with a high-quality design, concentrating on longer-form political analysis and industrial issues coverage, so differentiating Tribune from other UK left-leaning media outlets such as Novara Media and the Morning Star. Tribune had 2,000 subscribers, with an aim of reaching 10,000 within a year.[4] The magazine is currently published quarterly.[5]

Tribune Group of MPs

The Tribune Group of Labour MPs was formed as a support group for the newspaper in 1964. During the 1960s and 1970s it was the main forum for the left in the Parliamentary Labour Party, but it split over Tony Benn's bid for the deputy leadership of the party in 1981, with Benn's supporters forming the Campaign Group (later the Socialist Campaign Group). During the 1980s, the Tribune Group was the Labour soft left's political caucus, but its closeness to the leadership of Neil Kinnock meant that it had lost any real raison d'etre by the early 1990s. It ceased to promote a list of candidates for Shadow Cabinet elections.[6]

The Tribune Group was reformed in 2005, led by Clive Efford, MP for Eltham. Invitations to join the newly reformed group were extended to backbench Labour MPs only.[7] The group, which included former cabinet minister Yvette Cooper and former Labour policy coordinator Jon Cruddas, relaunched themselves in April 2017 aiming to reconnect with traditional Labour voters while also appealing to the centre ground. They supported "opportunity and aspiration" being central to the party’s programme, with policies supporting the "security of its people at its heart". While not critical of leader Jeremy Corbyn, it was considered as a group of centre-left and moderate Labour MPs who would resist a left-wing successor being selected.[8] The group has no connection with the current incarnation of Tribune magazine. In 2018 it listed more than 70 MPs as members, including Jonathan Ashworth, Yvette Cooper, Anneliese Dodds, Nia Griffith, John Healey, Stephen Kinnock, Tony Lloyd, Jim McMahon, Ed Miliband, Ian Murray, Lisa Nandy, Keir Starmer and Nick Thomas-Symonds.[9]

Leaked Labour report

On 13 April 2020, Tribune published an article entitled "The Leaked Labour Report Is Shameful – It’s Time for an Urgent Investigation" in which Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery called for an immediate investigation:[10]

Casual snobbery. Sexist and racist commentary. Clandestine plotting. Contempt for democracy. A sense of privilege and entitlement.

This is not the Bullingdon Club, it is what runs through the messages revealed in the leaked document which found its way online yesterday.

Many of its revelations are truly shocking.

It shows that some of the most senior employees of the Labour Party held its elected leadership in contempt, despised their own party members and even acted in a conspiratorial manner that undermined our 2017 General Election campaign.

These were people at the top of the party with extensive knowledge and experience of elections. Their jobs were paid for with party funds. Yet, they entered the 2017 election hoping we would lose and setting up a shadow operation to protect their chosen sons and daughters.

We worked with them. We were the National Campaign Co-ordinators for the Labour Party for some time. We attended every meeting of the strategy group with the party leader up to the day of the election itself.

We vividly recall the Sunday night meetings during the 2017 election. The country was turning towards the Labour Party and, as election day approached, the possibility of denying the Tories their majority was palpable.

But we, as elected members and campaign co-ordinators, could not obtain vital information from the party apparatus, not even the feedback from the thousands of conversations which our members were having every day as they went out campaigning.

This information – together with opinion polling – is a tool in the hands of party managers. It determines where we put our resources, it influences our messaging and it helps to direct our activists.

It is sometimes hard to recall, in retrospect, the excitement which the manifesto release produced. It changed the landscape of that election. As campaign co-ordinators, we needed to know what impact it was having on the electorate, and which demographics were turning towards Labour.

It quickly became clear that Labour needed to move on from a defensive strategy of just protecting our own seats and go on the attack to target increasing numbers of Tory seats. But when we asked where the data was, the party managers met us with blank faces.

Instead, we were presented with a paper which suggested that we pour resources into seats with large Labour majorities which were never under threat. We were astonished to see the candidates’ names who it was suggested should be the beneficiaries of those resources. They almost exclusively belonged to one wing of the party.

The leaked document makes clear that this was a deliberate strategy. It appears to reveal the existence of an "Ergon House Project", where party resources to the tune of six-figure sums were secretly reassigned during the election for factional purposes.

This revelation poses enormous questions. Who was involved? How much money was spent without sign-off by elected representatives? Who signed the cheques? Where was the money spent and on what priorities? Was the expenditure ultra vires?

Did the undermining and obstruction stop with this "Ergon House Project"? Maybe not. To what extent did scheming and malfeasance stop us winning the Copeland by-election, the Birmingham or Tees Valley mayoralties?

In the end, we lost the UK/2017 General Election by just a handful of votes. It is possible that the actions of these party staff denied us a Labour government that would have transformed millions of lives.

Clearly, there are also disciplinary implications to the report. It suggests there are cases to answer on bullying, harassment, sexism and racism. It implies that the battle against antisemitism in the party was undermined by a factional obsession with fighting "Trots".

If a party member on the Left had engaged in any of these behaviours, they would have been suspended subject to an investigation. The same rules must apply here.

Four requirements

The most important question is what should happen now.

First, the report needs to be published officially by the Labour Party. It will almost certainly be requested by the EHRC, so the party should also get out in front and submit it.

Second, we need an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to discuss its contents.

Third, that meeting must establish a transparent process to investigate the conduct alleged in the leaked document, with the terms of reference set by the NEC officers.

Fourth, this process must produce a report, available to the public and not tucked away in a drawer, which restores faith among Labour members in the practices of our party.

This report must be presented to both the NEC and to party conference itself.

No going back

After this weekend’s revelations, there can be no going back. We must never again allow a permanent aristocracy of party managers to overrule democratic decisions. We must never again allow our members and their efforts to be treated with such contempt.

For all those socialists in the Labour Party, there is one final lesson: don’t let this demoralise you. Stay in the party and seek justice. As this document makes clear, the very worst elements of our party would be only too happy for you to leave.[11]

 

A document sourced from Tribune

TitleTypeSubject(s)Publication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:How Keir Starmer Sabotaged Rebecca Long-BaileyArticleRebecca Long-Bailey
Keir Starmer
2020 Labour Party leadership contest
Maxine Peake
26 June 2020Ronan BurtenshawRebecca Long-Bailey’s approach to schools reopening had been entirely vindicated: she backed teachers and their unions as they changed the political terrain and forced the Tory government into a concession. This was politics in the best traditions of the labour movement but was anathema to Sir Keir Starmer.


References

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