Its almost as if some amongst our ranks want to send our credibility into the air with their placards. Much fanfare was made by some Labour members last week when Unite, one of the largest unions, voted to back the November 30th public sector strikes over pensions. Much fanfare, much noise from the noisy left – but no common sense.
Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, said back in September that many of their members would ‘never forgive’ the party unless it backed strike action. Dave, I am positively quaking in my boots. The trade unions need Labour more than Labour needs the trade unions, and they are desperate to turn around their waning influence. I for one – a member of a democratic socialist party – will not be held to ransom by a man who claims to stand for the workers, but still takes home a salary most would kill for.
And remember that turnout – no more than 30% bothered to vote for the Unite vote; which gives those on the picket line about as much of a mandate for their action as the Tories have for their cuts.
As for those Labour members who believe Ed should back the November 30th strikes, and the (as ever) socialist-extremist Owen Jones, a simple thought should pass your mind. Whose side are the voters on?
Whilst public opinion has shifted from that working class core so many still crave to appeal to (it no longer exists), trade unions have stubbornly refused to modernise in the way the party has. We made moves as a party in the 1990s to appeal to a broad coalition of voters; the unions still call for the workers to rise up. We won 3 elections; their support is disappearing.
That is why they desperately cling to us. Their influence over the Labour leadership contest system is utterly archaic when clearly union members don’t speak for the public. At a time where left-wing parties are showing tremendous modernisation across the globe -such as the primaries in France – the Labour Party here is still dictated by outdated unions.
And before the charge of not knowing our history is laid at my door; yes, we were born out of the labour movement, with trade unions by our side. But that requires an equal relationship, and it is one to which they have not adhered to. Where is the modernisation? The balance of power? When they call strikes, it is not in my name.
My Labour Party membership card claims that power must be in the hands of the many, not the few. I trust the British voters; it is to them, and not trade unions, we must speak to. The power of the many must mean power for the people – not those affiliated to a union. Like it or not, this coalition was voted in. They have a mandate. Do the unions speak for the electorate? Of course not. When they do, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights?