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Corbyn-sceptic think tank on brink of collapse

Funding crisis for Progress as director Richard Angell warns of "hard-left" take-over

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    Progress, the think-tank closely associated with Tony Blair’s New Labour project, is on the brink of collapse following Lord Sainsbury’s decision to stop funding political causes.

    Senior figures within the centre-leaning organisation, which held its annual conference at the weekend, have admitted that Progress has been left with a £120,000 hole in their budgets as a result of the main funder’s move way from financing politics.

    Progress was founded in 1995 as an organisation closely linked to Tony Blair’s leadership – and remained an outspoken supporter of Israel and the two-state solution, and has been critical of current leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism within the party.

    Lord Sainsbury of Turville has provided the bulk of funding for Progress since  its formation – but has announced that he now wishes to concentrate on charitable cause.

    Progress learned that Lord Sainsbury,  who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, was pulling his funding on the same day Theresa May called the 2017 General Election  - but the news only become public knowledge a few days ago.

    A well-placed source told the JC: “Lord Sainsbury has donated £250, 000 each year but Progress has a turn-over of £430 000.

    “We are facing a major, major problem – and it’s not certain we can resolve it.

    "Thankfully people have already begun rallying around and we have raised about a third of what we need.
    “But there really is a lot to do to replace the missing money.

    “Progress could close if nobody else steps in to plug this gap.”

    The think-tank has come in for increased criticism under Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership as left-wingers have attacked its link to the “old” politics of New Labour.

    In 2012 Momentum founder Jon Lansman’s Left Futures website called for an inquiry into the “organisation of the party-within-a-party Progress.”

    But then leader Ed Miliband blocked the move.

    Progress has also been regularly attacked by left-wingers for its links to pro-Zionist MPs. The think-tank has a long-standing link to Labour Friends Of Israel with Stephen Twigg,  Joan Ryan, John Woodcock and Rachel Reeves all linked to both organisations.

    Last year current Progress director Richard Angell wrote an open letter  Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol detailing an eight point plan to tackle the party’s anti-Semitism crisis under Mr Corbyn.

    Speaking at the weekend during the latest Progress conference, Mr Angell told the audience Labour “must repair the ties” with the Jewish community.

    He also said that Ken Livingstone’s Hitler and Zionism comments could well have cost the party crucial seats in Finchley & Golders Green, Hendon and Chipping Barnet.

    Mr Angell said: “I cannot help but think had someone not gone on a rant about Hitler, not only would we have denied the Tories three more seats – but the parliamentary arithmetic would be very different.”

    The source added that the threatened closure of Progress would leave “the politics of the Stop The War Coalition going uncommented on within and outside of the party.”

    They added: “If we are not careful it will mean The Canary ( the pro-Corbyn website) picks the next mayor of London, and not mainstream thinking.

    “That is the danger of where we are now with Labour. If that space goes totally unvacated we are in big trouble.”

    Mr Angell told the JC:"We are hugely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for his kind support over 21 years.

    "in the organisation's next chapter we need to find a new network of donors to continue our important work - promoting ideas, developing talent, stopping a hard-left take over of local parties and ensure Labour is inhospitable for antisemities - not Britain's Jewish community."

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