Monday, February 16, 2009

Tower Hamlets Mayor speaks to UNISON Labour Link AGM

At lunchtime today I was invited to speak at the AGM of Tower Hamlets UNISON Labour Link (APF) which took place at the Town Hall.

I use to be the UNISON Labour link branch officer for the branch for many years. I was asked to speak today by the current post holder Fazlul Chowdhury in my capacity as the London Labour Link Committee Joint vice-chair.

There are about 1,000 UNISON members in the branch who have chosen to pay the Labour Party political levy. UNISON is constitutionally a part of the Labour Party. In recent months I have come across more and more UNISON members who recognise how important it is that the Unions back the Labour Party. Things are never perfect in any “family” relationship and in the Labour Movement Family it is no different. But I think that the prospect of a “do nothing” and “recessions are good” Tory Government led by Old Etonions has concentrated minds. We must take a deep breath at times and remember the manta “The worse day under a Labour Government is better than best day in a Tory Government”.

The meeting went very well. The Labour mayor Councillor Muhammad Abdullah Salique spoke in his capacity as Mayor rather than as a Councillor. There was a really interesting Q&A.

I spoke about the importance of the June European Union Elections and how we must support Labour MEPs and stop the BNP from having any MEPs. Being a Newham Labour Party activist I also called for greater co-operation between Tower Hamlets and Newham Labour Parties. I asked if we could form a Tower Hamlets UNISON canvassing team to help out in the by-election in Royal Docks in Newham. This went down very well and hopefully such a team will be formed.

The meeting agreed to support mainstream centre left candidates in the UNISON Labour Link Forum and Conference elections (after I left to drive up to Hertfordshire to represent members facing redundancy). All in all a good meeting.

BTW - The Tower Block in the background of the photo is for any students of public housing history the famous Balfron Tower designed (and lived in for 2 months on the 26th floor) by Ernő Goldfinger.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like your saying..the worse day under a Labour Governemnt ... because its the nearest you will ever come to a clear admission of how dreadful things really are! Where are all th boasts about the economy now? The Iron Chancellor, no more boom or bust? According to Brown we are "well placed" to survive the recession...indeed better placed than most other major economy's!..what a hollow claim that is proving to be. Now Brown brings Lloyds crashing to its knees through his pushing of a bad merger with HBOS. The UK economy is headed for a major depression and labour have mired the country with appalling debt levels. Well done...very competent! Brown should be joining Tessa Jowell's husband.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon
Wake up matey - It is suppose to be rhetorical! The “worse day” is with regard the government not doing enough on trade union issues. Don’t worry yourself now; "it's the beginning for the end" Remember your tory economic policies have been totally discredited. Brown is dealing with the economy fine. After all remember – things can only get better!

Anonymous said...

Sorry but it's Thatcher's children that has f####d up the banks not labour. no one see this coming apart from the greedy bankers....

Anonymous said...

Tell that to the Mini workers sacked with on hours notice - or the GKN workers -Brown has made the mess a lot worse. Wake up matey.

Anonymous said...

So it's not with the bank's then, Sorry if i got it wrong, Your right, It's the car industry and brown.
You better ring Obama to tell him the news. In the mean time if i see snow white i'll tell her

Charlie Marks said...

Anonymous is being a unfair on John - he's making the point that the labour movement would be in a worse position under the Tories. This is undoubtedly true. Who can honestly say that the Tories were warning about a crisis in the global economy?

John Gray said...

Hi Paul
Give my regards as well to Snow white!

Charlie to the rescue! – there are things you can take issue over with Gordon, but being personally responsible for a World Wide recession isn’t one of them.

Greed, theft and corrupt practices by a fairly wide section of our financial “elite” seems to be a better target.

There needs to be a new way of thinking as well.

Anonymous said...

Hold on blue sky in the pie dreamers...we just had a decade - yes a DECADE - under Labour. During which time Stalin was the Chancellor. Whether you like it or not the facts are that the UK is in a worse state that the rest of the industrialised world. Who says so? The chief economist at the IMF, the head economist at the EU, Chancellor Merkel, Sarkozy, etc etc.. Brown has run the country into debt - not the bankers? He was asleep at the wheel. Blaming it on John Major just won't wash. The electorate can see this why can't you. Oh and Charlie Marks..tell the mini workers they would be worse under the Conservatives, or the next wave of redundant workers. It doesn't matter if you work in a bank or manufacturing Brown has made a bad situation appalling. Fact.

Anonymous said...

You are in Labour La La Land...the one where Brown tells us we are well placed to survive the recession?

Anonymous said...

It is a pity that Gordon Brown has decided to substitute truculence for calm reason when confronted by his critics. For my guess is that when the history of the Brown era is written, he will realise that his defensiveness; his unwillingness to admit a single error; his dishonest effort to paint the Tories as a do-nothing party, despite the fact that some of their ideas were so sound that he filched them, detracted from his real accomplishments.

After all, this is the man who kept Britain out of the euro, membership in which is bringing Spain, Ireland, Italy and other countries to the brink of financial disaster. This is the man who presided over a rather long period of economic growth: had he not boasted that he had eliminated the business cycle, he could claim that the current recession was inevitable in any capitalist system. This is the man who provided the protection Tony Blair needed to consign Clause Four to the dustbin of history. And, yes, this is the man who first sensed that one aspect of any recovery programme would be the recapitalisation of the banks – somehow.

Why, then, is it that, absent a miraculous recovery in the economy and in his own performance, Brown seems doomed to go down to defeat when he finally faces the electorate he has avoided confronting for so long? His experience in America is instructive. Soon after stepping into Tony Blair's shoes, Brown travelled to America to meet George W. Bush. The Prime Minister managed to insult the President by keeping his distance, refusing to reciprocate when praised, and scorning the President's gift of a bomber jacket. All to appease his Left, which was anyhow irritated with him for consorting with the hated Texan warmonger.

Brown then proceeded to try to play it both ways in Iraq. A quick visit to support the gallant troops – during the Tory party conference, by strange coincidence – before ordering them to barracks and leaving the fighting to the Americans and the Iraqis. The electorate knows a stunt when it sees one, the soldiers who were confined to their barracks fumed at having their mission aborted, and we Americans learnt that the Britain of Gordon Brown is not the ally we would want at our backs in a bar-room brawl.

Then there was the Lisbon Treaty. Break an electoral promise to hold a referendum, and sign the unpopular document. But not in the full glare of television lights or within the sound of popping champagne corks; sneak down and sign Britain on as if no one would notice so long as the pomp and ceremony were avoided. Result: furious European allies, already irked at Brown's habit of taking off his headphones at meetings when they were saying their piece, and angry voters who had been denied the promised referendum. Brown's decision to write books that admire the courage of others only highlighted his lack of it.

Which brings us to the economy. This recession will end: there is indeed boom and bust, or with proper reforms, ups and downs. That's why we call it the business cycle. Brown will be remembered for his refusal to accept any responsibility for the prior period of excessive credit and undetected excesses in the financial sector, for his insistence that his blameless management of the economy had been nullified by the Americans, for some ineffectual anti-recession measures such as the cut in VAT, and for the genuine accomplishment of preventing a complete collapse of the banking system.

The chapter still to be written will cover the Britain that will have emerged from the recession. We already know certain things. It will be a country in which faith in the political class is at its nadir. Brown, with a well-deserved reputation for personal probity, and for being in public life in order to accomplish goals we all consider admirable, presides over a cabinet that includes fiddlers who claim payments for expenses that meet the rules, yet not what I believe to be the Prime Minister's own sense of what is right. But, as with the aborted general election, he bottles out of confronting those in his party who do not meet the standards he applies to himself, leaving a sceptical public that wishes a plague on all politicians.

It will also be a country suffering from the Blair-Brown flirtation with a form of multiculturalism that has brought to Britain millions who openly reject its values. Properly managed, immigration adds a healthy zestiness to society, as well as productive workers. But immigration that requires natives to adapt to the customs of the newcomers, rather than the other way around, fragments society and creates social tensions that in their extreme manifestation result in the bombing of the Tube and an attempt to blow up Glasgow airport.

Brown's legacy will also include a bloated public sector that has reduced portions of the country to complete dependence on public-sector jobs, and that will so burden the wealth-creating private sector that economic growth will be stunted for decades to come. Worse still, the nation will have learnt to look to the Government to provide child credits, pay its fuel bills, see to its health care and education, protect it from falling conkers, support it in its old age, provide increasing amounts of its housing, supply millions of jobs – all paid for with its own money, which passes from earners through the Government, which skims enough to support its lawmakers in style long after the voters have retired them from public life.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon 20.20
No, I think you are wrong. The UK will face major problems but it will also be the UK economy that powers itself out of recession the fastest. Yes, there have been mistakes by this government but this is an international recession not a product of the “British disease”. If the Tories had been in power the last 5 years then it would have been far, far worse. We need to change regulation but also empower the owners of capital to take their responsibilities seriously and exercise their rights. Our debt levels are far below many of our competitors thanks to Gordon’s careful stewardship.

Hi Anon 20.56
The Tories are in la la Land since they have no intellectual answer to the current crisis.

Hi Anon 21.11
We will wait and see I suppose. I think he has admitted that with hindsight (that wonderful thing) he would have done things differently. I really do think that the Tories are in a bind. Many of them are bonkers and do believe that we should do nothing and that “recessions are good”. The invisible hand will sort things out - so don’t worry. Yeah.
How anyone, no matter how bitter and twisted they are, does not think that the Atlantic alliance is at its closest for decades is frankly bonkers.

You are quite right that Brown’s personal probity is very good. What “intellectual laziness” to claim that the public hate GB for not calling an election. What meaningless nonsense! Fair play you have taken time over your comment but why bother with such conclusions? Do you think that it will change anyone’s mind? Well, no, I don’t think so.

How ironic that you attack immigrants for being in some way as “unbritish” when survey after survey shows that the overwhelming majority (despite people like you) are very patriotic and feel more British than most. On a more serious note we can see the increasing numbers of Brit BME servicemen and women killed in action in the service of their country.

Just to whine and whinge “I don’t like Gordon Brown...” may result in me saying “well just don’t f______g vote for him them” and we can all move on...

Thanks for your contribution mind..

John Gray said...

Hi Cousin Anon - I didn't realise that I had replied to your comment. So here is another one I wrote tonight.

Apologies for not responding sooner. An interesting critique in many ways but I don’t think you land any real blows. Your accusations of anti-Americanism are not true I think. Brown has been the most consistent pro-Atlantic leader we have ever had. TB was far more European minded. Brown is not as you rightly point out. I don’t think that anyone can accuse those who brought about the New Labour project of a lack of courage. They may have got certain things wrong but that is another matter. Politics is a dirty business at times and I have no doubt he has people around him he would rather wouldn’t. But I think that goes for every Political Party, every Council, every trade union and even in every school governors committee. Even I am sure, in President Obama’s cabinet.
We live in “interesting times” – unchartered waters in many ways. There has been a complete and utter failure of the market system. He is dealing with a failure of the accepted economic norms. It’s a time for bold action. If we could pay for the 2nd World War (with our cousin’s help) then we can pay to stop and turn around an economic depression. To do nothing would be criminal.