Monday, April 26, 2010

What to make of Labour promises...

Unison members coming to the question of how to cast our votes next week (or sooner for those with postal votes) cannot vote for a major Party which reflects the broadly progressive policies of our trade union.

No one with a chance of putting a foot over the threshold of No. 10 Downing Street is outwith the neoliberal consensus that working class people and our public services must pay the price for an economic crisis engendered by a system inimical to our interests.

That said, it would be foolish to ignore such differences as there are between the major parties and - in particular - to fail to give weight to the limited commitments we have from Labour, whether over public sector pensions in general (http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=5989) or over pay and pensions in the NHS in particular (http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=6001).

Of course, these commitments - broadly to stick to existing Government policy - meet neither the aspirations of our members nor the requirements of the economic crisis.

Liam Byrne's letter to Dave Prentis on pensions did no more than affirm the 2005 Agreement.

Andy Burnham's letter to NHS staff was even woolier, but it did oppose the Tory plans for a pay freeze.

Therefore whilst we might hope for more from "our" Party, we have to judge Labour's commitments against the threats from the Tories.

We also have to be realistic about whether it is possible to trust commitments made by politicians seeking elected office.

It isn't.

That's not the point.

If we gave our votes to Labour on the basis of such assurances and somehow (against the run of play) there were a Labour Government we would be foolish to sit back and trust their words.

Any Government will face intense pressure from the financial markets to renege upon pledges which sustain public spending - and it will be our job to mobilise countervailing pressure on the streets and outside Parliament (working with the allies we will still have within the Palace of Westminster).

We would be in a stronger position to put pressure on a Government which had offered us commitments rather than one which had won an election offering us only threats.

More importantly perhaps - looking at the polls - we may need to mobilise to demand that Labour politicians refuse to join any Government in which they cannot keep the promises they have now made to public sector workers.

In short, promises from Labour politicians are not achievements but rather tools with which we may try to defend ourselves and whilst a Labour vote on May 6th is the best of our available options, it is in how we use such promises from May 7th onwards that we shall give them any real meaning or value.

For now, vote Labour - but socialism is for life, not just for an election, and the really hard campaign comes next, whatever the result next week.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jon,
Apologies for posting this here. It seemed the most appropriate place to ask.

I am a socialist, left wing union activist and supporter of Paul Holmes for GS. I am having a bit of a dilemma over the Labour Party. I will be voting for Labour in the election - it is a little more than being a default position as I probably still would even if TUSC or an alternative were standing.

I am opposed to the wars, oppose privatisation, cuts, foundation/trust schools, Trident etc. Despite all this for some reason I am considering joining the Labour Party. I would ally myself with the LRC. I think that attempts to build alternatives have failed dismally and believe that working as a Labour activist and strengthening the link and relations is a pretty important job for socialists.

Would this put me out of step with the majority of the party membership and would you recommend joining? I see myself as a revolutionary socialist however have read Lenin's 'Left Wing Communism' and am aware that we are not living in revolutionary conditions.

Any advice? (apologies again for posting this here!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Jon. I am still undecided and finding this a major dilemma at the moment and after all the advice I can get!

I am involved in a campaign at the moment which although is supported by UNISON and other unions is not by our local Labour candidate and also obviously by the New Labour clique. This worries me re. membership as I have no idea whether my involvement in the campaign would be compromised or even tolerated.

I am getting involved in some campaigning for the party this week in a key marginal seat so should gain an insight into party life that way I guess.

By the way, I have met you previously at a UNISON event which inspired me a bit re. the Labour Party as I heard you speak in a way that was saying the kind of things that the LP should be saying nationally!