Monday, May 18, 2015
The General Election result, trade unions and politics
Oh dearie me "senior Labour figures" are worried that "modernisers" may be squeezed out of the premature election for Labour's next Leader (in which we can enjoy hasty and unconvincing explanations for electoral failure).
The real omission from the field of potential candidates is that of a socialist (surely the truly "modernising" tendency within the Party, since we want to work for a better future, rather than to make the Party over in the image of Blair). I remain of the view that a socialist MP should put themselves forward - but that doesn't look likely.
Most amusing of all the complaints from "senior Labour figures" is the suggestion that the trade unions (and UNITE in particular) are somehow responsible for the nomination decisions of Members of Parliament.
Hang on a minute.
Thanks to the poor negotiating skills of those who tried to deal with the Collins Review for the trade unions, we - as trade unionists - have less influence than ever before over this leadership election.
The power of the Parliamentary Labour Party to exclude candidates has increased just as the possibility of any collective intervention in the election by one or more trade unions has diminished.
The whining from the far-right of the Party (Progress) about union influence (or what little is left of it) shows just how determined they are to eradicate any political presence for the organised working class.
The challenge to the trade unions is not - surely - whether we abandon our relationship with the Labour Party (the electoral performance of TUSC shows if nothing else that this would be futile in England at least). This is precisely what Progress seek and, in completing the political project of Blair, would also crown the hideous achievements of Thatcher.
The challenge must be whether we can get anything out of the relationship for our members. There being no likelihood that a candidate genuinely deserving of the enthusiastic support of trade unionists will get nominations from 35 MPs (and how I wish that were wrong), we need to find a way to organise around demands upon the Party and upon the candidates who do reach the ballot paper.
These need to be demands about Party policy for a future Government, but also (and - in the short term - more importantly) about what the Party does now, as the Parliamentary opposition, as the Welsh Government, as the administration of many local authorities and as (we wish) a campaigning organisation.
These demands - and not whether Len McCluskey likes Andy Burnham more than Dave Prentis likes Yvette Cooper - are what trade unionists should try to focus on.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.