Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Don't mention the Labour leadership...!

I was intending to write my full report from Tuesday’s meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee just now – but as that was a meeting with a heavy and important agenda I think I shall leave it until later.

I will mention now just one surreal moment from that meeting, which I also mentioned later in the evening to the well attended meeting of trade unionists supporting John McDonnell’s campaign for the Labour leadership.

As previously reported on this blog the UNISON Greater London Regional Secretary had sought to rule out of order a sensible and inoffensive motion from the St Mary’s Paddington Health Branch which had been submitted to the UNISON Greater London Regional Council. This motion simply asked the NEC of the Union to encourage our Labour Link Committee (which has sole responsibility for administration of the relevant section of our political fund) to seek a candidate for Labour Leader who would support UNISON policies.

After some debate at the Regional Committee, including a meeting being closed early by the Chair, the Regional Secretary agreed to seek national guidance on the interpretation of the Union’s rules.

Therefore a reference was made to the Chair of the D&O Committee of the NEC who generally exercises this responsibility on behalf of the NEC. The Chair, recognising that there was a Committee meeting at the right time to consider this question referred the matter to the Committee as a whole.

I argued that the sensible motion from a branch with a commitment to fighting for socialist policies in the Labour Party should be seen as competent for discussion by the whole of UNISON’s membership. Sadly the only person to support me was a paid up member of the Socialist Party – my old friend Glen Kelly, about whom I agree with many things, but not the Labour Party!

This was a surreal moment. The lone ultra-leftist, who does not support the Labour Party, was joining me to criticise an ill-advised attempt to limit debate which can only harm our relationship with the Labour Party, whilst those ostensibly in support of our relationship with the Labour Party were backing a decision which places that relationship in jeopardy!

So the relevant Committee of the NEC has spoken. UNISON’s membership as a whole may not disuss the Labour leadership. That is to be left to the Labour Link.

Well, this would be the same Labour Link that has just omitted a picture of the only declared candidate for Labour Leader from a “rogues gallery” of other contenders for Leader and Deputy Leader?

Yes. It would. UNISON Labour Link is one of the least effective and useful parts of our trade union. It is an embarrassment to those of us who are serious about defending and developing the vital link between trade unions and the Labour Party.

I look forward to hearing justifications from Labour Link Committee members, both Regionally and nationally, about why we should support Gordon Brown – since that appears to be their position. Not a single member of the National Labour Link Committee of UNISON has yet expressed a clear opinion to me on this subject however.

I suppose I can see why there might be an interest in avoiding debate…


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's any great secret in the movement that Prentis privately backs a Brown-Johnson ticket. He will get Labour Link to go along with him and then refer all debate will simply be referred to them.

He may be prepared to back Benn or Hain for the deputy as a fall-back position but at the moment he reckons he can get away without even doing that.

But that's where it's all coming from - I suppose you can't really blame middle-ranking union bureaucrats for going along with the Gen Sec's instructions.

Bill King said...

Jon whilst what you say about Labour Link being useless may well be true but only in terms of England/UK level.

Wales may not be a socialist utopia but we do have a strong link and influence upon the Assembly. Ther UNISON Labour group contains 5 Ministers and the Chief Whip. Portfolios covered are Local Governm,ent and Finance, Social Justice and inclusion, Education and lifelong learning and until recently Health - deputy minister here, and Business manager.

No PFI, No Acadamies, No Foundation Hospitals, No Gershon, Free Prescriptions, Free bus travel anywhere within Wales, possibly free train travel.

Not the same as in England.

Shows what a good relationship between Labour Link and (devolved) Government can achieve.