ASLEF: Why we’re backing Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner

Mick Whelan

My trade union ASLEF believes that Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner have the vision and the determination to deliver for all the people of this country, and understand what Labour has to do to win back the hearts, minds and votes of hard-working people in Britain.

We have a wealth of talent at the top of the party, and it wasn’t easy for our executive committee members to choose between the candidates standing for leader and deputy leader. But, having listened to them all, we decided that Rebecca and Angela were best-placed to rebuild our party in parliament and lead Labour to victory at the next election.

They are committed to bringing Britain’s railways back into public ownership. This is not just the policy of ASLEF, but a policy that is popular with passengers who suffer from all the problems of our privatised railways. One important reason for our endorsement was the way that Rebecca, when she launched her leadership campaign with an article in Tribune, went out of her way to embrace the green new deal.

For many years, climate change, for far too many, was a peripheral issue. A hobby horse for a certain type of activist. Well, no longer. Climate change must be a priority for us all because it is now affecting us all. And, like so many crises, it will be working people, the poorly paid, and the most vulnerable, who suffer first. That’s why we need an industrial strategy, fit for the 21st  century, that focuses on green infrastructure. Because with all crises come opportunities. New jobs. Skilled jobs. Unionised jobs. We want a just transition.

Transport is the largest polluter in terms of CO2 emissions. The latest figures show that 33% of carbon dioxide emissions are from the transport sector. But rail accounts for less than 2%. Because rail is far cleaner, and far greener, than road and air. If more people travelled by train and bus, rather than in cars or planes, and if we moved more freight onto our railways and waterways, then we would live in a cleaner, greener world.

We need a system that recognises transport modes should not compete with, but complement, each other. The railway must be electrified, so we must reverse the Tories’ broken promises and call for an even bolder programme of electrification. And we must recognise that our railway is at capacity – that’s why we must re-open old lines and build new lines and, yes, that includes HS2.

At ASLEF, we were also impressed by the work Angela has done in reshaping party policy on education. She has produced some really powerful work on the education agenda to ensure that when Labour is in government we can reshape the education system for real equality of opportunity. Everyone, whatever their background, must have the chance to scale the heights, achieve and make a contribution.

Whilst we hope Rebecca and Angela will be successful, we will be fully supporting whoever wins – because we now need to unite the party and turn our fire on the Tories for the good of this country.

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