UNISON backs Corbyn


UNISON’s National Labour Link met Friday in Newcastle. This is a gathering of UNISON delegates that pay into the Labour Link that will decide the unions policy in the Labour Party. Whilst most of the packed agenda was already set weeks ago there was only really one topic on people’s minds, namely the prolonged coup. Members at the forum were nearly all supportive of Jeremy’s leadership and unanimous in their belief that the actions of those in the PLP that were plotting was wrong.

The key note speech by Dave Prentis left the hall in no doubt that our union stands right behind Jeremy’s Leadership.
Dave Prentis stated that “last year our Labour Link committee voted to support Jeremy Corbyn for leader – it was the right choice for our members, our party and our country.” This gained huge applause from the delegates. Dave went on to praise Jeremy for repositioning the party as an anti-austerity party opposing privatisation and cuts and also supported his position on scrapping Trident. Continue reading

On austerity, the Labour-union link and the threat of state funding political parties

billy hayesThis is an abridged version of the speech by Billy Hayes to yesterday’s conference and AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD)

It is a privilege to address your conference. CLPD gives coherence to everything the left stands for inside of the party – to be practical, effective and principled. There is no difference amongst us, I’m sure, on the need to return Labour government on 7 May but at present, if the situation in Scotland remains unchanged, the best we maybe saying is Labour is the largest party.  Continue reading

Have the trade unions given up on Labour?

francesogradycongressA slimmed down Trades Union Congress meeting this week on the banks of the Mersey has an air of unreality about it. It’s not quite that no-one cares what the TUC says – trade union leaders care enough about speaking with one voice that there is even less public debate and dissent here than there is at Labour’s conference. But there is simply no mechanism to make the very good policies agreed here translate into a political reality.

It is 115 years since the TUC decided to initiate what became the Labour Party, “to establish a voice for working people within parliament“. If the trade unions affiliated to Labour, who still have almost half the votes at its conference, could propose the policies agreed here in Liverpool at Labour’s conference in Manchester the week after next, they would be carried  with little dissent. There is no need for trade unions to dictate to Labour; the party membership would welcome them just giving voice and their votes to what they believe.

But that isn’t what happens. Continue reading

If unions simply vote for what they believe, Labour can present a bold popular programme

United-we-bargain-Divided-we-begDoubts about tomorrow’s meeting of Labour’s national policy forum have already been raised by Jon Cruddas’s comments (£) about the “dead hand” of central control, which I argued remained a problem because of mistakes by Ed Miliband. Of course, party managers have ensured that Cruddas and policy forum chair, Angela Eagle, attempt to present a picture of Labour “united by a single desire” for “big reform, not big spending.” Today, press commentators at the Independent and Guardian reveal the truth – that party managers are set on preventing commitments to necessary, financially prudent and popular reforms like taking railways back into the state sector at the end of current franchises. As Patrick Wintour puts it:

Ed Miliband is facing a weekend of battles behind closed doors to persuade Labour party activists to back his manifesto, which faces grassroots challenges over railway renationalisation, welfare caps and labour regulation.

Note the reference to “party activists” and “grassroots challenges“. In spite of all the rows in recent years about the “power of the trade unions”, reaching a climax in the Collins report earlier this year, the pressure for a radical bold programme comes not from ‘union barons’ but from party activists. And there is every prospect that the trade unions will this time, as on almost every occasion in the party’s history, allow Labour’s leadership to get its way.

In the aftermath of the Collins report, Progress director Robert Philpot, ever eager for further attacks on the influence of trade unions, opined that “decades of ingrained cultural behaviour by the fixers and factionalists of machine politics do not just end with the passage of a rule change.” Too right. Except the truth of machine politics thoughout the history of the Labour Party is that ‘union barons’ have been not the fixers but the instrument of Leaders’ own fixing.

It needn’t be like that this weekend, nor in the future. Len McCluskey may have said to his union’s policy conference that now is not the time “heated arguments within the Labour Party about policy” but we don’t need public rows. If only trade union representatives would vote for the policies agreed through their own democratic  structures alongside their comrades from the constituency parties, we would be guaranteed also the opportunity to vote for progressive policies at the September party conference in Manchester. Continue reading

What is the future of the Labour-union link?

CLPD logoAfter Collins, what of the future? Of the collective link between the Labour Party and the trade unions as organisations representing the organised working class? The composition of the implementation committee is quite encouraging, and its actions may avert our worst fears in the immediate future. For example, Labour Uncut have suggested that the implementation committee  might change the basis of the London mayoral primary, and any early leadership election so that union members can be fully involved. They, of course. wish to prevent that. So the battle continues to preserve effective union involvement in party decision-making. Continue reading