Rather than pay too much attention to some Tory with apparently genuine libertarian leanings, trade unionists should be supporting and congratulating those Labour MPs who stood up for what was right on Wednesday, rather than what was expedient.
Labour MPs who stood by the best traditions of our movement and did not vote to increase the powers of the state to deny people their liberty faced considerable pressure from the whips. While some serial rebels are pretty much immune to this pressure (or are ignored by the whips now!) others deserve our particular respect for sticking to their guns – and speaking up.
I sent the following message yesterday to members of the UNISON group of MPs who voted against the Government on Wednesday;
I am writing to those members of the UNISON group of Labour MPs who voted last night to oppose the extension of detention without trial to thank you for your courage and determination in doing the right thing for the country, the Party and the labour and trade union movement.
UNISON and the other trade unions have clear policies in support of civil liberties. It is shameful that our Government has acted as it has.
It is only because we can point to principled Parliamentary representatives such as yourselves that those of us within UNISON who believe that the trade unions should continue fighting for our policies within the Party can hold our heads up.
If you agree that the business of the labour movement should not be to empower the state to restrict our freedoms, why not send a message of support to those of our Parliamentary representatives who stood by us?
If it were not for people prepared to stand up and speak truth to power we would not have a trade union movement – and then all the UNISON delegates on our way to Bournemouth would be going for no more than the beach.
(Although of course if we did not have a trade union movement we wouldn’t have enough time off to go to the beach in the first place…)
And as for those UNISON-linked MPs who thought it more important to try to breath life into the political corpse that is Gordon Brown rather than defend the rights of ordinary people, well perhaps they should be detained in the Conference Centre after we all leave – for 42 days perhaps?