Ed Miliband has decided to play Neil Kinnock with an attack on Len McCluskey (http://m.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/24/ed-miliband-union-leader). Miliband has to cast McCluskey (somewhat implausibly) as a "Scargill" figure in order to appease the very Blairites (in the Shadow Cabinet and beyond) against whom McCluskey was warning him (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2013/04/len-mccluskey-if-ed-miliband-seduced-blairites-hell-be-defeated) - one of whom has apparently claimed that our largest trade unions have been taken over by a new "Bennite tendency" (which will doubtless come as news to many at the UNISON Centre!)
In a sense neither McCluskey nor Miliband are addressing the other at all, each are actually addressing constituencies standing behind them (in one case the Blairites and in the other activists who saw a strong showing for the grassroots challenger in the recent General Secretary election).
Whereas Len McCluskey sees the need for radicalism and imagination to rejuvenate our movement, however, Ed Miliband appears worryingly close to the caricature of a prisoner of those sad people in and around "Progress" who will never stop fighting the inner Party battles of the 1980s.
McCluskey was right - and not at all "disloyal" - to be sharply critical of the Blairites whose vision of a Labour government is of continuity with the thirty-five year old neo-liberal consensus. It's not just that such policies are unlikely to win - even if they did they wouldn't fundamentally change the fact that we are under attack from the Government.
It's nonsense to characterise the leaders of the big trade unions as "Bennites" (and I should know, I am one)(a Bennite that is, not the leader of a big trade union!) - but we do need a much more assertive approach from the trade unions to the Party.
In particular, we don't need to see votes and energy from UNITE, UNISON, GMB or any unions being expended in support of candidates in Parliamentary (or other) selections unless those candidates can be relied upon to back policies in support of working people.
There is, unfortunately, no evidence of the sort of concerted and effective joint union work that could make a positive difference to the composition of the next Parliamentary Labour Party.
That's the real shame. It's not the 1980s and we need to move on.
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