Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Deputy Leadership and the influence of the unions...

I was pleased (as I said here) when UNISON and GMB jointly agreed to try to push union issues up the political agenda in the context of the Labour leadership election.

Now of course, all we have is a choice of six candidates for Deputy Leader, a job with no clear job description and no obvious influence. To make matters worse, it appears that there is no coherent union view on which candidate to support in order to advance our interests.

The joint General Secretaries of UNITE have at least been consistent in their open support for Jon Cruddas, even if he may not have been their first choice as a standard bearer for the trade union cause. However they don’t seem to have remembered to lobby other unions to form a united front. (I can see the problem in getting enthusiastic for someone who supported the Iraq war, even if they have recanted, particularly since Cruddas also backed foundation hospitals and the Government’s draconian anti-terror legislation which threaten our civil liberties).

The CWU are reportedly backing Alan Johnson, former CWU General Secretary in spite of his having floated the idea of part privatisation of the Royal Mail and the fact that his right wing backers within the Party love his plan to reduce the union vote at Conference.

Shop workers union, USDAW are backing Hazel Blears, on the slightly odd basis that her strange views will help Labour win the next election.

In the mean time construction union UCATT are reportedly backing Peter Hain, as are the Bakers’ Union and rail union ASLEF – who backed John McDonnell.

Hilary Benn has attracted some support from the left in Parliament but his campaign website does not yet boast of any union support. Harriet Harman has a long list of endorsements in Parliament but is very light on union support.

The GMB will make a decision on Monday 4 June but having been giving Hain some positive coverage on their website and he reportedly has support in some GMB Regions, with two GMB Regional Secretaries endorsing him on his campaign website.

UNISON’s Labour Link Committee meets again on 31 May to make a decision about whether to make a recommendation for Deputy Leader. Given the number of replies I got when I wrote to members of the Committee urging support for John McDonnell I won’t even bother to hazard a guess about the outcome!

UNISON and GMB have produced a worthy little leaflet with questions to ask candidates at the hustings meetings.

But having missed the chance to back a challenge for the job with policy responsibilities it is difficult now to get worked up about a contest in which the union leadership are facing in different directions about a choice between six candidates who are now desperately trying to differentiate themselves from each other.

We can ask all the good questions we want, but without an organised push by the unions to get the vote out for the candidate who gives the best answers it is difficult to see what good we will have done. And in any case it doesn’t matter what the individual views of the Deputy Leader of the Party happen to be.

There seems to be a need for a debate about how to build political influence for progressive policies such as those supported by our Unions…


jim ennis said...

I have done an admittedly not very scientific search on "they work for you .com" on the voting records of the various candidates and on all the major issues, top up fees, ID cards,Foundation hospitals, Iraq invasion, Investigating the Iraq invasion you can't put a fag paper between em. All voted strongly for each. Bog standard Blairite right wing all of em, won't give Gordon 'pay cut' Brown much to worry about.

Nick H said...

So 'Mad Hazel' has the backing of USDAW eh? I always had an inkling that Shelf-stackers, Shopgirls etc. were behind the anti-liberal conspiracy, but nothing I could ever put a finger on until now. You know, I just knew the looks I was getting from the Greeter at the Abercrombie store was not to do with the fact I was wearing Superdry...
To be fair to Hazel, she did say when quizzed on possible military action in Iran that she could not give an opinion on a hypothetical situation; after all it's not fair to expect her to give an opinion on a foreign policy issue when the White House hasn't decided what it is yet...

Kevin F said...

It is incredible that there's not someone who voted against the war standing for Deputy Leader, but I'd say there were 5 clear reasons for sociliasts to back Jon Cruddas:
There are five main reasons I would recommend voting for Jon Cruddas:
• He is the only (until recently) candidate to call for an inquiry into Iraq and recognise it was wrong to go to war;
• He is passionate about party democracy and has refused to take up the trappings of Deputy Prime Minister if elected;
• He has prioritised affordable housing, probably the key issue in reengaging working class voters;
• He has led the fight against the BNP, including getting the Daily Mirror on board with the ‘Hope not Hate’ campaign for the May 2007 elections;
• He could be the parliamentary focus for the fight against renewal of Trident;
And UNISON's going for anti-union man Johnson! (sorry, I posted a bit of this in a later section, hadn't seen this posting)
What's your call Jon?

Kevin F said...

Benn and Hain still support the war, Cruddas doesn't ...