Following Labour’s electoral defeat in 2019, hard-working activists in the Labour Party have had their meetings cancelled and powers curtailed in the midst of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill looks set to criminalise protest movements and the organisation of ordinary workers. It has been a difficult time to believe in both democracy and socialism but, behind the headlines, my union Unite has quietly kept up the fight for both.
Over the last few months, I have been inspired to watch Unite members at Rolls Royce Barnoldswick save 350 jobs. I’ve been proud as tens of thousands of London bus drivers have defeated controversial workplace plans and as precarious workers at universities have organised to protect their jobs. These fighters are people we need in the Labour Party; they know what is needed in our country and they’re already struggling to win it. Unite is determined to get workers like these involved in the party intended to be the political arm of the trade union movement. That’s why the UK-wide union launched a campaign to get more members affiliated to their local Labour parties.
Thousands of people all over the country are already Unite representatives at Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and they play a crucial role in the Labour Party. Unite MPs like myself, Sarah Owen, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Zarah Sultana and Ian Lavery backed Unite’s push to get more workers in these roles. I’m thrilled to be told this week that it has led to a 70% increase in Unite representatives at Labour meetings.
Unite rep and maintenance worker Mark from Yorkshire helped promote the campaign and wrote to Unite members to say: “By being a Unite rep, I succeeded in getting the council to bring the majority of maintenance work back under the local authority. I changed the lives of local people.” I’m pleased to have thousands more like Mark involved in their local parties because they can help create change in our communities and keep the party the voice of ordinary people.
This pandemic has shown us the threats we face. A government of out-of-touch elites interested in helping only their friends. Corporations willing to send so many to the already gargantuan queues for job centres and food banks. It has shown us that we must have a united strategy to defeat these threats and build a Labour Party that has the power to win – in the interest of the working class.
When thousands organised against the police bill, the government delayed it. When those bus drivers and manufacturing workers built a movement of workers, they defeated their bosses. We know that organising and empowering people works – and with a cruel and callous Tory government, people from Lanarkshire to Luton are depending on us to prove it. Unite will proudly use these thousands of new representatives to organise and win, both inside and outside the Labour Party.
With more than one million members all over the UK, Unite’s members can have a truly game-changing influence on UK politics. The thousands who’ve signed up to be involved prove that these members want their say in politics – and Labour should be ready to listen. If you’re a Unite member and you’d like to become a CLP affiliate, attending meetings and voting on policies and campaigns, you can still join now. It’s simple to do and Unite will support those that take up the role. Because whatever threats are thrown against us, we will stand in solidarity together in our workplaces and communities. That is how we will win.