Reflections on Open Labour

by: Emma Burnell on 29.01.19 | In: Comment
by: Emma Burnell on: 29.01.19 in: Comment

In Open Labour, we represent what has traditionally been called the Soft Left of the Labour Party. 


We are internationalists, rigid in our values, not our alliances. We work within multilateral structures – to reform them if needed and champion them too in their role in regulating and restraining capitalism and promoting human, workers, women’s and environmental rights.


We are socialists – determined to rebalance our economy at home, but not at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. We do not pit the worker against the immigrant. We also recognise the value of the vast swathes of unpaid labour – still predominantly done by women  – that ensures society functions and seek to redress this historic imbalance rather than champion it.

Soft left

I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘Soft Left’ a lot recently. It made a certain amount of sense as a descriptor once upon a time.

Soft should not be seen as a negative. We are soft only in that we seek to yield in compromise with our comrades without doing so on our values.

We are soft only in opposition to the rigidity of others. As such we do not seek to silence other factions or to break them. While we seek to convince others of the correctness of our ideas, we will listen to good ideas from whichever part of the Labour family they come from.

Open Labour

This is why ‘open’ Labour is a better descriptor for us than ‘soft’. We are not in opposition to the hard left – though we may disagree with some of their tactics. And we do not shy away from criticising anyone of any part of the party who falls down on tackling issues such as sexism and sexual harassment or racism and antisemitism. But we also work in alliance with others on the left of the Party to bring about the changes we all agree are much needed to the way our party, society and economy function.

This was part of the opening speech to the Open Labour Policy Conference.

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