Tuesday, April 07, 2015
On being a political dinosaur?
I think I was first accused of being a political dinosaur in Lewisham Labour Party in the late 1980s, so I'm naturally pleased with the news that the brontosaurus may once more be recognised as a genus.
Those of us on the Labour Left who continue to believe (in the words of the old Clause IV) in the "public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange" are frequently described as dinosaurs, and I now take it as a compliment.
After all, dinosaurs ruled the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, whereas Blairite dominion over the Labour Party didn't last twenty years.
As the elections to UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) open this week and I find myself once more part of a slate critical of our current leadership I imagine that some may see this as further evidence of my sauropod tendencies.
The "Reclaim the Union" slate (of which I am part) brings together Labour lefts, independently minded activists and members of left-wing political parties (notably the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party).
There are other members of our NEC - and candidates in the election - not on the slate whom I respect and with whom I have many agreements, and there are, on the slate, those with whom I have profound disagreements.
In particular, I remain strongly opposed to the way that members of the Socialist Workers Party have excused the failure of their leadership to deal adequately with allegations of rape within their ranks - and I profoundly disagree with the misconceived approach of the Socialist Party to trying to replace the Labour Party with ever less credible vehicles at each successive election.
However, these matters are not the issues before UNISON members in these elections for our NEC. The choice we face is between a "steady as she goes" approach from supporters of our present leadership and a more combative and challenging approach from the "Reclaim the Union" candidates.
The past five years have seen a strategy of steady retreat interrupted by occasional bursts of activity, ostensibly intended to confront the Government and employers but really intended to recruit and retain members to maintain our finances and institutional stability.
This approach has failed to save jobs, failed to increase pay and failed to defeat privatisation. A different approach is needed and an NEC in which candidates from the "Reclaim the Union" slate commanded a majority would at least try to provide that different approach.
I stand in these elections alongside those who want to change UNISON for the better and to challenge the leadership which is taking us nowhere.
If that means that I am still a political dinosaur then I'm entirely happy with that, and am sure that the right-wing in London, run from Congress House will do their best to secure my extinction.
UNISON needs to be shaken up if it is to rise to the challenges which will face us under any future Government. If a few "thunder lizards" can help in this task I'm sure we'll be very happy to do so!
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.