15/08/2017 12:40 BST

Hard-Left 'Trying To Brand Labour Centrists As Racist Sympathisers'

Campaigner says discrediting centre-left is no way to beat the right.

Evening Standard
Progress director Richard Angell 

The hard-left is on a new mission to paint UK centrists as terrorist sympathisers in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, according to a senior Labour campaigner. 

Blogging for HuffPost UK, Richard Angell, director of Progress - a group on the New Labour wing of the Labour Party - said “a concerted effort” is underway to discredit the centre ground of British politics.

He was responding to claims by writer Laurie Penny that those responsible for unrest in the USA, which left three people dead, are the same people who “centrists” say have legitimate concerns around immigration. 

“Penny is wrong to argue that those of us she calls centrists, who know there are legitimate concerns about immigration and think if you sort them out it is the best way to help cohesion and reduce racism, are the what gives an open door to the populist- and racist-right,” Angell said.

“Pressures on public services, wage pressures and the impacts of changing communities can all be managed, supported and put right through politics. If we play into some right-wing argument that we are too ‘politically correct’ to talk about immigration, it is that what leaves the space open for the far right.”

He said the definition of the centre-ground was “being in touch with the British public” and that political parties should seek to be part of, and lead, the same conversations.

He added: “It has to be making the case for our values and competence. With both we can successful prosecute the argument we know to be true; that diversity strengthens, not weakens Britain.

Barcroft Media via Getty Images
A march for the victims of the Charlottesville violence was held in London.

“But Penny’s tweet, and the similar ad hominem attacked on centre-ground politics, is not about specifics. It is a general smear job that modernisers in the Labour party have continually faced through our more than 100-year history.

″‘Centrist’ has simply become a polite way of saying ‘red Tory’.  It sounds more academic, but simply aims to discredit.”

Angell, who was caught up in the recent London Bridge terror attack, said by ignoring the impact of change in society, left-leaning movements risk shutting down debate.

“So let us move on from the recriminations, the random ideology tests and focus on the ideas that can ensure we can win again,” he added.

“When there is a real right-wing to attack in politics these days, let us not use the label on our own side. Bunching together the centre-ground and ‘the right’ to discredit politics that is in touch with the public is precisely the sort of strategy that will have the real right-wingers rubbing their hands with glee - from their offices in government.”

Jeremy Corbyn this week condemned Donald Trump for failing to criticise white supremacist groups behind the protests in Virginia.