Friday, June 20, 2008

UNISON Conference affirms Labour Link (Trots seen off!)

Just a quick report about the last day of UNISON NDC conference. Sorry this post is out of date sequence.

This afternoon we spent nearly 2 hours discussing (motion 63) on whether or not we should review UNISON’s link with the Labour Party. I am very glad to report that after a somewhat “heated” debate, Conference decided in a card vote by a clear majority not to review the principle of a constitutional link.

Deputy General Secretary, Keith Sonnet, gave a blinding speech, the best I have ever seen him, tearing into the Socialist Party (SPEW) who had moved the motion and exposing their true aim of wanting to divert union money into their fantasy “Workers Party”. There were so many delegates queuing up to speak against any review that they had to stand up to wait their turn.

I was really pleased with the result and very proud of UNISON delegates.

This is not to let the Labour Government off the hook.

To be fair (I am a bit jaded and partisan at the moment) there were a number of fairly mainstream delegates during the week who had been rightly very critical about Labour government policies.

At the risk of being a little bit patronising I felt that the union demonstrated once again its political maturity today by realising that even considering disaffiliation is an own goal. It would be an empty gesture. The Labour government knows that turkeys after all do not vote for Christmas. There is no alternative to the Labour Party for all its faults. Standing on the outside trying to shout in is a waste of oxygen. There is no use us pretending otherwise.

The real issue today is that at this moment, it appears that Labour is failing to deliver. What it is failing to deliver on is its raison d’être for the Labour movement, which is to defeat the Tories. My fear and that of many delegates is that of another 18 years of Tory misrule, not pointless betrayal politics.

I’ll try and write up the rest of the conference in sequence over the weekend.


Charlie Marks said...

In England, it's easy to argue that there's no alternative. But Plaid Cymru in Wales are open to union money, and the SNP mightn't mind the cash - both are parties with a bettter record than New Labour on the kind of issues the labour movement is concerned with.

It might be opportunistic, but in an effort to win support for greater devolution / national independence, the nats are portraying themselves as opponents of PFI, privatisation, and the pay freeze.

Disaffiliated unions continue to fund pro-union Labour MPs. It would be a mistake if Unison did not consider carefully which Labour MPs are funded.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie that UNISON must make our labour link more effective, more accountable and more combative. Also promote better the outstanding work of our general political fund which is one of the best kept secrets of the labour movement. When the union had its back to the wall during the political fund review ballot it produced excellent material highlighting the excellent range of progressive political work and partnerships forged by both sections of the fund. Yet apart from an anodyne insert in the monthly stewards magazine from labour link next to nothing is communicated on political action other than local reports of regional/national level activities in Scotland, Northern region etc.

The challenge for the mainstream in UNISON is to ensure that never again the abusive, crude, mediocre and sectarian rabble of the Socialist Party - a group who actually called for a NO vote in the 2005 political fund review ballot [a breathtaking fact] - can almost succeed in pushing our union into the political wilderness.

To do so will require all sections of the union but in particular its lay leaderships at branch, regional and national level to very quickly raise our game.

More political education, more political action, new political relationships in the devolved parts of the UK and, not before time, political rebuttal of the bankrupt arguments and unrepresentative presence of the ultra left.

The succcessful NEC amendment provides a mandate to do all of these things.

ian said...

Comments like 'Trots seen off' are clearly a bit childish and old fashioned.
The are a huge amount of Unison members who are not in any 'trot' group but are clearly anti Labour at the moment. This is clear when the vote with the amendment is analysed and we get the amendment passed 511,302 votes for, 450,471 against.
A majority of only 60k, 6% of the vote.

For Labour unfortunately, outside the conference hall, power is slipping away.



Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately power is slipping away?"...this is the under statement of the year! The most unfortuante thing for Labour is that Brown bottled the elevction when he did. We will now have to fight an election against rising unemployment, spiralling inflation, house prices in free fall and the prospect that the economy will worsen sigificantly. No more Boom nor bust? We just had a boom and guess what we have now. What a dreadful mess.

John Gray said...

Hi Charlie
Apologies to everyone for not responding sooner to comments. Still trying to catch up on domestic chores after conference.

Apart from the fact that the Labour would (in theory anyway) expel UNISON if any region gave money to Plaid or the SNP (like they did with the RMT), I would be very doubtful that either Party would actually bring about a socialist nirvana for Wales or Scotland. Being Welsh/Scots and despite having relatives who are sincere Plaid activists I am very suspicious of the “blood and soil” wing of the separatists parties. As far as I am aware the SNP have simply come up with what amounts to a new version of PFI which they are trying to get way with calling it something else.

I was not aware that disaffected unions fund some “pro-union Labour MP’s”? Interesting.

Finally, UNISON currently gives the responsibility for whose Constituency Labour Party (not directly the MPs) are supported via Constituency Development Plans to the elected regional lay committees. I can assure you that a lot of care and thought is gone through about whom we support and regions have stopped supporting CLP’s in the past and will no doubt do so in the future.

John Gray said...

Hi Mark
Very well put – I haven’t really mentioned all the positive stuff that was in the successful NEC amendment. Particularly the potential threat posed to the unions funding any political parties by the Hayden report.

John Gray said...

Hi Ian
I take your point and maybe I am being a little bit mischievous – but this was what many delegates were saying at the end of Friday. Even those who voted against the amendment because they were fed up and wanted to give Labour a fright thought that the behaviour of most of the different Trotsky Party supporters was simply appalling.

Despite everything I haven’t given up hope at all that things will swing round again. I think (and expect) that there will be a “change” in policies and approach, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because Labour has to do something to win. The next election will be lost not won. Given the many successes I think that Labour should win. It needs to get rid of its failures and some of its caution of upsetting the middle classes. If the Government and the Party is still hungry for power then it will have to take some risks (without upsetting the horses too much).

Anonymous said...

John you are totally bonkers! Labour is currently running at 23% in the polls...some put the Tories on 49%? ...We should win it? After ten years in power you need to wake up and smell the coffee mate...Labour are quite simply sleep walking towards total annihalation under Brown.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

Never,say never in politics. I don't think the Party is sleep walking. It will get very lively if the polls don't improve (which I think they will).