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What capitalists realise, but the Labour front bench does not

Who said: “Politicians of the right need to understand that a more constructive relationship with union members is necessary both economically and politically”? Not a Labour big-wig, nor Len McCluskey, but the former director of Policy Exchange, a favourite think-tank of the Right.

He added: “There is an alternative, much more constructive role for unions, particulary in a society that has increasing concerns about low pay, the cost of living and economic security”. When did you last hear a member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet advocate a constructive role for the unions or even mention the working class (though they still amount to half the entire population) or demand fair and proper collective and individual rights in the workplace?

It shows how far Labour has now descended into playing it safe at all costs, not risking ritualistic barracking from the Tory tabloids, and letting the Tories get away with it time and time again – over austerity, taxation of the rich, welfare reform, employment rights, as well as a positive role for the unions both in the workplace and in economic planning.

It’s not as though this is about currying favour with the unions because Labour needs their money, whatever the Tories say. In fact it’s the Tories (who get half their annual donations from the banks) who adjust their policies to keep the City of London and the CBI bosses sweet, whereas Labour notoriously has kept the unions marginalised on a short leash, has not reversed the crippling impediments imposed by the most extreme Thatcherite anti-trade union legislation, and has made virtually no concessions to the unions to assist their membership or strengthen their role.

Nor is this just a plea for a pro-union ideology. It’s rather simply a recognition that the most dynamic economies in emerging markets (the East Asian tigers, China, India, Brazil, etc.), which are forging ahead while the neoliberal free market West is falling behind, have a very different view of economic success – that it is based on partnership not hostility between State and markets, that unions are not the ‘enemy within’ (as Thatcher would have it) but rather co-managers of productivity and competitiveness, and that strong employment rights are the foundation of economic security and a sense of joint participation and commitment.

When is the Labour Party going to stand up and say these things? They are not only the right things to say, but also essential if Labour is to recover the 5 million votes lost between 1979 and 2010, the vast majority of which did not desert to the Tories or LibDems but rather simply stayed at home and refused to vote because they believed New Labour didn’t represent their interests (and as it turned out, they were right). It is memorable that it was Disraeli who legalised picketing. When did Labour last support that?

4 Comments

  1. Alan Frances says:

    At the next General Election it is likely we will face the Tories, the Orange Book LibDems and New Labour/Blue Labour. I won’t be voting for any of them.

  2. I DONT THINK THE WORKING CLASSES HAVE A HOPE IN HELL OF ANY FAIRNESS UNDER MILIBAND WE HAVE GOT ONE PARTY IN THIS COUNTRY.WHY CANT WE GET RID OF MILIBAND AND PUT A REAL LABOUR MAN IN

  3. Bill 77 says:

    Labour can’t bare to say the word “union” or refer to the working classes – I don’t see any change coming.

    We’re going the way of the USA – a one party state. People still vote there, the big question is – why?

  4. John p Reid says:

    Blue labour isn’t new Labur, when Blair said his piece about Ed being on the wrong track appealing to disillusioned Liberals,Lord Glasman defended Ed.

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