The gold I want to go for

7th March, 2012 11:02 am

My call for civil disobedience around the time of the Olympic Games caused a media storm last week.  Nick Clegg was “gobsmacked”.  David Cameron called me “unpatriotic”. I couldn’t care less about their criticism.  Clegg is busy dismantling the legacy of those great Liberals Keynes and Beveridge, the architects of the welfare state and full employment. Cameron’s patriotism is of the sort that Samuel Johnson had in mind when he warned of the “last resort of the scoundrel”.

And in just thirteen days the two of them could have steamrollered the Health Bill into law – flying in the face of overwhelming opposition from the public, health professionals and supporters of all parties.

With the very soul of our NHS at stake, ordinary people will be lobbying MPs and rallying in Westminster today. Their message will be simple – we want a health service that is based on the needs of the many, not the profits of few. But I know that some taking part today will be confused by last week’s hype around my remarks.

Let me be clear – I want a successful Olympic Games in London.  But I want much more than just a “feelgood” fortnight.  I want a country to be proud of the whole year round with a decent NHS. Because Britain today is two countries.  It is the nation which will welcome the world to a magnificent Olympic Games. And it is also a country with a greedy corporate elite and a government assaulting everything it took generations of working people to build.

A country of lengthening dole queues, with more than a million young people jobless – another “forgotten generation”. But it is also a country where those who caused the crisis – the speculators and bonus-drunk bankers – still carry on business as usual. It is a place where a Unite community activist had to stop a meeting on a housing estate because one person there was overcome for lack of food.

So if I sound angry, it is because I am.  We all should be.  The time for quiet words and relying on reasoned argument alone is past.

Because we are fighting for our heritage.  It was our parents and grandparents who, after defeating the evil of fascism, came home and built a welfare state and a National Health Service to banish the spectre of the “hungry thirties” for good.

Now the greatest of that generation’s achievements, the NHS, is on the point of privatisation.  American corporate vultures are and ready to pounce.  We know where this leads to – the millions in the USA without health insurance. We are fighting for the very soul of our NHS against a government who arrogantly ignores the will of the people. This is why we need to come together for one last push to kill this disastrous bill before it is too late. I want working people to feel confident in their own strength to make Olympics Britain a world-beating society. With an NHS offering better care and treatment.  An education system which allows everyone the chance to reach their full potential. Dignity for our pensioners.  Investment in our homes, industries and communities.

The super-rich and big business – if they only paid their taxes like the rest of us – could help fund this future. Those are the gold medals we should be aiming for.  And no Olympian ever won without standing firm, working hard and conquering fear.

That message is the torch I want to see carried around our country.

Len McCluskey is the General Secretary of Unite the Union.

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  • GuyM

    “If the super-rich and big business …. paid their taxes like the rest of us”.

    They both pay far far more tax than “the rest of us”, what you mean is pay ever more tax as dictated by your extreme left agenda.

    The biggest danger to the UK’s future is old left wing union dinosaurs like yourself. A block on modernisation, efficiency, productivity and competitive advantage.

    You have little or no education, you supported Militant Tendency in the 1980s and still believe they were right. Your Union gave you a nice cheap loan to fund a love nest with your mistress when you walked out on your wife and child and you’ve led strike after strike after strike, so great ethics and morals eh Len?

    Nick Robinson quoted you saying the following “what’s wrong with Greece? they have good food, good weather and lots of general strikes”

    You are exactly the sort of left wing militant that the country needs to see the back off.

    • Could you provide a link to the Nick Robinson quote, Guy? Thanks.

      • GuyM

        Was on the DailyPolitics (Wednesday) last week I think, the day McClusky made his comments about the Olympics in the first place.

        Have a look on the iplayer.

    • AnotherOldBoy

      “If the super-rich and big business … paid their taxes like the rest of us”.  Woudl that include someone who pulled in over £300,000 a year and put his earnings into a limited company?

    • Dave Postles

       ‘little or no education’
      He’s 61.  Opportunities were different in those days.  Is there no place for people who take advantage of opportunities denied at an earlier age?  Is the age of autodidacts dead?  Could he teach you to spell consensus?

      • AlanGiles

        Dave you have to forgive Guy. He is a self-deluded fantasist who imagines he  is the only one with intelligence, and that the rest of us are beneath him.

        He dislikes the working class (or what he perceives to be their “lifestyle”, which he imagines consists of reading celebrity gossip magazines and eating chips), he doesn’t like young people, or it seems, older people, or anybody that doesn’t agree with his own selfish view of the world.

        He is the type of man who would be too snobbish to ride in the same car as his chauffeur.

        I am not sure if it is an act or if it is for real, but I’m afraid I have lost all patience with him now.

        • Chris Cook

          Leave him alone, bless him.  

          I love dropping by to see his latest Pooterism.

        • GuyM

          I did reply but it seems censorship of views is back as the in thing.

      • GuyM

        I dislike rabid left wing dinosaurs like McCluskey. A man openly supportive of what Militant Tendency stood for and Hatton in particular.

        A man who is happy to threaten disruption to the Olympics, waxes lyrical about general strikes and has revelled in as much industrial unrest as he can get.

        Listening to him it’s clear he is not that bright, a scouse bruiser promoted way past his value level on the back of your typical left wing union problem making.

  • Excellent post for Len.

    And good to see a Unite community activist get a mention. Unite’s community membership scheme* is a welcome innovation that will help the powerless find a voice.

    *http://www.unitetheunion.org/community

    • treborc

      It would be nice, sadly when labour brought in Welfare reforms I  wrote to Unite, to be told the country could not go on expecting hard working tax payers to pay the bill for people who can work and should work.

      where have I  heard that before.

      we also wrote to the TUC to get the same quote word for word.

      • AnotherOldBoy

        Au contraire.  Mr McCluskey is source of great amusement.  And every time he opens his mouth he helps the Conservative party.

  • AnotherOldBoy

    What utter rubbish!  The NHS is not about to be privatised and the welfare state is not about to be dismantled.  The only thing that is correct in this piece is that Mr McCluskey is not relying on reasaoned argument, either at all or alone.

    But, please, please, please maintain a high profile Mr McCluskey!  It can only do good.

    • treborc

      Tories getting annoyed, must be right then…..

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  • Solid post by McCluskey. He said most of this at Unite’s Equalities Conference in Eastbourne towards the end of last week, after a fellow delegate asked Len what he meant with his Olympics comment that disappointed so many, including within the Union movement. I’m glad Len has clarified his comments certainly and his points are valid ones.

    The Olympics will be a brilliant couple of weeks for Britain, and hopefully it’ll attract a tourism boom & subsequent economic boost that’s so desperately needed, but after all of the athletes, pundits & tourists have gone home we need a Britain that is still proud of itself, that’s still proud to be a fantastic place to live & a place that offers an enviable quality of life. Under this Coalition Government Britain is becoming less of a fantastic place to live & it isn’t those in Government that are suffering from that, but us ‘ordinary’ people desperately trying to find work & trying to work out how to pay the bills. This Government is failing us & failing Britain, and that’s what Len was trying to highlight with his somewhat misjudged words on the Olympics.

  • Solid post by McCluskey. He said most of this at Unite’s Equalities Conference in Eastbourne towards the end of last week, after a fellow delegate asked Len what he meant with his Olympics comment that disappointed so many, including within the Union movement. I’m glad Len has clarified his comments certainly and his points are valid ones.
    The Olympics will be a brilliant couple of weeks for Britain, and hopefully it’ll attract a tourism boom & subsequent economic boost that’s so desperately needed, but after all of the athletes, pundits & tourists have gone home we need a Britain that is still proud of itself, that’s still proud to be a fantastic place to live & a place that offers an enviable quality of life. Under this Coalition Government Britain is becoming less of a fantastic place to live & it isn’t those in Government that are suffering from that, but us ‘ordinary’ people desperately trying to find work & trying to work out how to pay the bills. This Government is failing us & failing Britain, and that’s what Len was trying to highlight with his somewhat misjudged words on the Olympics.

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  • Dave Postles

    Remploy being run down.  I find that sad.  We used to buy shelving from Remploy and it was excellent. Treborc/Robert: what is your view on these closures?

    • ovaljason

      Let me predict the future:

      In the next 24 hours LabourList will publish an article about the disgusting closure of Remploy factories by this evil “Tory-led Government”.

      This article will specifcally exclude the fact the Labour (Peter Hain specifically) closed 50% of Remploy factories in 2007.  At the time there was, rightly, utter outrage from the unions.  This also will not be mentioned.

      The only role of any decency left in politics today is to point out the hypocrisy and self-serving nature of all political parties.Instead, Mark Ferguson will no doubt choose to publish an article which lets Labour off the hook and says only the Tories are to blame. And so the whole vicious cycle continues.Mark, you have a choice.

    • Guest

       Eight years ago I was at meetings with my Union, the BBC asked me to appear on a TV show week in week out in Wales.

      Hain stated he would ensure that every single disabled person would be found work, he would ensure it, they would be better off in main stream employment.
      The TC Labour and the Tories had all been involved in meetings, in eight years not a single disabled person laid off by Remploy in my area of Wales has found employment.

      What will the Tories do well to day the minister stated people would be better off in main stream employment, but she did say these are hard times money cannot be wasted.

      Remploy of course use to make Poppies for the appeals these are now made in China, it was formed to give work to severely disabled soldiers, the days of care are long gone it’s all about cuts and labour did these cuts when the times were called good.

      I keep saying it the differences between the parties these are are paper thin

      • And in response to yesterday’s closure announcement Labour’s Liam Byrne said “People with disabilties will never trust a word they [the Tories] say again.”

        It’s a funny old world.

        But at least we’ve got unions like Unite and groups like 38degrees, UKuncut and Avaaz who don’t mind taking the fight to the Tories.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    There is a colossal intellectual dissonance in this article:

    ”My call for civil disobedience around the time of the Olympic Games…”

    ”Let me be clear – I want a successful Olympic Games in London.”

    How can you have a successful Olympic Games if parts of our society are waging a focussed campaign of civil disobedience?  Strikes, demonstrations, walkouts, whatever else?  Britain will be hosting an enormous amount of visitors from overseas, the world’s eyes will be upon the country, and the vast majority of those visitors will be trying to use the Tube or buses, and in addition to watching the Games, probably also being tourists in London and elsewhere.

    Len McCluskey’s comments to me only make sense if he believes that it is in the service of a greater cause to wreck the Olympics in order to heap embarrassment upon the country.  I do think that is what he is trying to do, but his statement of wanting a successful Olympic Games is the opposite of that.

    To me, it would be more intellectually coherent of Len McCluskey to exercise his personal rights and use his leadership position to call for civil disobedience if that is his judgement for the other 50 weeks of the year, but call a ceasefire during the Olympic fortnight.

    I say that without agreeing with him in any way whatsoever.  I think he is both wrong on the substance of his argument in and the tactics of pursuing it.  It seems to me that all that his calls for this sort of action will achieve is to damage the cause he upholds.  In other words, there is already only a tiny minority who support calls for civil disobedience, and that minority will be smaller still if he chooses to focus the action on the time of the Olympics.  His opponents and most reasonably minded people will blame him personally, and reject his cause more vehemently.

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  • Roger

    Mr McCluskey’s threat to disrupt the Olympics, and that is exactly what it was even if he is back-tracking now in the face of public revulsion, is utterly horrible: loutish, arrogant, unpleasant bullying. It persuaded me to e-mail my resignation from his union after thirty years’ membership. 

  • Chrisstiles10

    Well said Len, the country agrees, big businesses should pay their way like the rest of us have to, the bill paves the way for our NHS to be privatised. The Tories were sponsored by private health care companies in the election campaign, in return for pushing this bill through. Time for us to take direct action to stop it.

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  • markfergusonuk

    My my, you have a chip on your shoulder don’t you. Sue Marsh is writing something. I have no idea what it will say, and whatever it says, I’ll be posting it. How’s that?

  • markfergusonuk

    No, moderation of people trolling is the “in thing”…

  • Dave Postles

     O.k., thank you, Robert.  I knew you would have some interesting comment. 

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