Friday, July 08, 2011
UNISON Labour Link National Forum: Day 1
The UNISON Labour Link (APF) National Forum started today in Liverpool. This is the annual meeting of the UNISON affiliated political fund. UNISON members have a choice whether to pay a voluntary levy to the Labour Party or to a non-aligned General fund (or none). Elected union lay representatives from all over the UK met to debate policies and campaigns, take part in workshops and meet Councillors, MPs and MEPs. The first speaker welcoming us was newly elected Labour Liverpool Councillor Jake Morrison, who is a UNISON member and local hospital steward. Jake is 18 and in May this year he was the youngest ever Liverpool Councillor defeating a former Liberal Council leader.
The keynote speaker was Ed Balls MP, the shadow chancellor. Ed received a fairly tough reception due to his remarks and that of the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, about the recent pension strike. His argument that he was trying to stop the Tories blaming the unions for the poor performance of the economy was not accepted by the meeting. Ed did argue passionately that he wanted a real partnership with the trade unions and the Labour Party based on our “shared commitment to social justice, equality and fairness”.
Next was UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis who reminded the forum that the former Labour Leadership were wrong to introduce the profit motive into the NHS and public services while at the same time not regulating the Banks. Labour lost 5 million supporters between 1997 and 2010. Most of them are “our people”. Labour has to offer an alternative economic policy that will attract back these voters and it is the job of Labour Link to argue and campaign within the Party to help bring this about.
After lunch there was a series of workshops available on “influencing elected reps”; “campaigning with councillors and members” and “Refounding Labour”. Followed by a meeting and Q&A with Arlene McCarthy MEP and Linda McAvan MEP. The Tories and their right wing allies act even more appallingly in Europe than they do even here. Next was a serious and detailed debate over national issues with former UNISON official, Lillian Greenwood MP and Angela Eagle MP. Amongst the topics discussed was Libya, trade union rights, arguments against the cuts and the book “The Spirit Level”. This was followed by more workshops before finishing at 5.30pm.