Why Open Labour?

Exactly who are Open Labour?’ That is a question which has dominated much of my Twitter feed discourse in the last few months. The standard, accepted characterisation seems to be either ‘the factionless faction’ or ‘the faction of the ‘Soft Left’; however, both of these definitions have inherent problems in that no faction can truly be factionless, otherwise they would be unable to provide a clear and distinctive policy platform, and how we define the ‘Soft Left’ is also divisive and unclear, and is definitely the lead topic on my Twitter conversations almost daily. 

From my perspective, what Open Labour are, is a left wing faction of the Labour Party, who want to promote our left wing tradition as well as internationalism and encourage debate that is challenging but respectful of difference.  

So, accepting the fluidity of the concept of the ‘Soft Left’, what I can easily comment on is the clear positions and aims of Open Labour, which this piece seeks do address.


Starting with a list of things Open Labour stand for by discussing Brexit and the EU almost feels wrong, given that it is one of, if not the most, divisive issue of our time, however, I think that makes it important that our position on it is clear. One of the things that attracted me to Open Labour is that it is unashamedly internationalist, but were not absolutist in their approach, with members advocating for ‘remain and reform’ or a ‘soft Brexit’ approach. I liked that in a post-Brexit world, and particularly in a post-Coronavirus world, co-operation and conversations with our international allies is viewed as more important than ever, whichever side of the fence you sat on. Fundamentally, Open Labour believe that working with our sister parties to ensure good working relationships and ease of trade is key in the debate about our future relationship with Europe.


A further thing that Open Labour is strongly committed to is the fight against austerity. It is undeniable that 10 years of Tory austerity has devastated the country and been detrimental to many communities and families, particularly the poorest in the country. I support OL’s determination to make sure that Labour remains firmly anti-austerity but they have also been proactive in proposing a series of measures to replace austerity and encourage economic production and to combine this with fully funded public services, particularly our NHS.  

The coronovirus pandemic has highlighted that consistent cuts to public services and the welfare system is unsustainable, at best, and catastrophic in times of crisis. Decentralising and democratising our public services as well as investing in local incentives ensures more attention to detail in local areas as well as empowering communities by giving them control of the services that uphold their community.


Whilst being anti-austerity is an important position to hold, Open Labour believe that in 2020 being merely anti-austerity is not enough, that we need to guarantee that the Labour Party go further in aiming to undo the destruction austerity has caused. Austerity has allowed the power and monopoly of the wealthiest to grow exponentially, meaning that economic inequality has widened and become one of the greatest injustices of our time, and tackling it is also one of the greatest challenges facing governments and political Parties aspiring to government. Open Labour take fundamentally left positions on empowering workers as a necessity in closing the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, and propose tough, radical economic reform as the only way to do this. 

On my journey of discovery, the question I focused on in response to the last two points is, how? How do we go about empowering workers and ending austerity? Open Labour firmly believes that economic democracy is the answer. The U.K is an incredibly diverse country, and what is effective in one region may not be the best approach in another; therefore, they propose taking the lead on how to end economic inequality from the people themselves by extending public ownership models, promoting community interest companies and expanding workplace democracy to hand power back to workers. Many local initiatives are doing incredible things in their community, and Open Labour believe in investing in them and giving them the tools they need to support their community and tackle inequality. Also of note to someone like myself from the left, Open Labour are also completely committed to the outcome of these interventions as ensuring a more equitable distribution of wealth. 


Finally, but certainly not least, time to address the ‘Open’ part of Open Labour. For too long now, political discussions in our Party have been dominated by animosity, sometimes aggression and definitely a refusal of some people to listen to others. I was attracted to the ‘Open’ nature of discussion and debate, and the idea of engaging to to convince people of the lefts arguments in a positive manner. 

Open Labour are resolute in their belief that the best way for left wing politics to survive, and to become the dominant line of thought, we need to end centralism, sectarianism and ‘bad faith’ debates through education, discussion, and addressing concerns of the opposing sides. Education and discipline is the best way to rid our Party of the prejudices that have plagued us in the past, and I liked that they placed this within the context of calling on the Labour party to work closely with and listen to liberation groups such as those vocalising and working to promote the needs of all including women, BAME groups and LGBT+, working to eradicate the causes of inequality whilst ensuring we tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia. The Labour Party needs to be a space where everybody, particularly minorities who feel they have been excluded from the body politic, feel able to communicate and discuss their ideas, culture, beliefs etc free from toxicity, ridicule or backlash. 


In conclusion, I chose Open Labour because they are a dedicated left-wing faction, who are passionate about fighting the causes of inequality and promoting equality – both economic and social – internationalism and open discourse in a culture of trust and respect. There are those who seek to present Open Labour as a group with unclear positions and no real role to play in the Party; however, this is not the case, and hopefully this piece has clarified what attracted me to this organisation, what they stand for and how dedicated activists are to achieving our aims and policies. 

If you have read this and feel that you too align with many of Open Labours values, I cannot encourage you enough to join and be part of the fight for change.  

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