Unite’s Conference confirmed our new Political strategy today. An open and honest debate by delegates passed an open and honest strategy aimed at reconnecting our membership with politics and the Labour Party.
This matters because our 1.5 million members, mainly in the private sector, are a good reflection of working people – the very four million working class voters lost by Labour between 1997 and 2010 – who began to feel that Labour wasn’t on their side.
They will be those who applauded the minimum wage and increased NHS expenditure, but were appalled at the Iraq war and privatisation, and deeply frustrated that over 13 years the chance to change unfair trade union laws was squandered. They felt that politicians were all the same.
We became disengaged – spectators while New Labour dominated our party.
Now we are back.
It was music to our ears when Ed Miliband spoke about the crisis of working class representation, when he talked about reconnecting with working people, when he talks positively about trade unions, when he recognises the errors of the past. He has made it clear that he wants to put the New Labour years behind us, to embrace a new and more radical approach.
We will be working hard to win the battle of ideas – in these momentous times, we need radical, alternative policies. The 2015 election will be more like 1945 than 1997, and we need the policies that reflect this.
Growth not austerity is Unite policy and the policy of the Eds. But we have yet to fully win the argument with the public, and we have not yet fleshed out in detail what it means.
To move this along, Unite with other unions has established a new trade union based think tank (Centre for Labour and Social Studies, CLaSS) which will act both to develop alternative ideas and policies for our movement, and, crucially, to popularise them.
Together, we are creating a new, progressive common sense that will be the essential backdrop to future victory, underpinned by a new economy with a fair framework for working people.
Winning a progressive majority and winning the battle for the future direction of our party go hand in hand. This right wing coalition government and the New Labour remnants represent a conservatism that harms British people. It must be left behind.
Our passion is winning for working people, bringing them back to Labour. While Unite is pioneering new methods to interact with our members on politics, including interactive texting and intensive phone banking, our task will be easier if we are presenting a convincing and radical programme.
Effective, modern member to member communication and campaigning can make a real difference. I am proud that Unite was in touch with thousands of members in London during the recent campaign, and that on polling day, 200 Unite members were still pressing the case for Ken.
Our political strategy sits the centre of Unite’s work because we know that if we succeed, we will have made giant strides towards reconnecting Labour with working people.
The grounds are shifting in Labour. A more progressive party, more democratic and closer to working class aspirations is beginning to emerge under Ed’s leadership.
We will be unashamedly working to accelerate these changes because only a changed party can be convincing. Only a changed party can win.
Steve Hart is Unite’s Director of Politics. This post forms part of our coverage of Unite Conference 2012.