Saturday, March 24, 2012

UNISON International Seminar 2012

The seminar is taking place in York. It actually started Friday evening which I missed due to work commitments. This morning the first presentation was by  local Labour MP Hugh Bayley (former junior minister) on "International Development and the UK Parliament". Isobel McVicar, Community NEC and member of the UNISON international Committee chaired.

Hugh reminded everyone that York itself use to be an Italian and Danish Colony. While he in a former life was a NALGO district and national officer and can remember the "incredibility" he use to face (I suspect he is being polite) when he first tried to get NALGO to take international trade union solidiarity seriously, especially with regard to the staff pension fund and a boycott of investments in Apartite South Africa. Nowadays it is also widely accepted that the purpose of international aid is to eliminate poverty not promote trade. This is a victory for progressives. He remembers the howls of protest by the Tories in the Commons when he first suggested this. It is also a victory that the Tories have agreed to honour the Labour Commitment to 0.7% of GNP to international aid (even if they have cut this with a £1.2 billion delay). You can be cynical that they are just pretending not to be "the nasty party" anymore but there has been a sea change in views. The same with Gay rights.

Hugh sees himself and the Labour Party as very much the "political wing of the wider Labour movement".  Which may I suppose be the reason why he was sacked as Pension minster by Tony Blair!
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