FBU votes to remain affiliated but source says “real discontent” remains

Katie Neame
© Mark Thomas/FBU

Delegates at the FBU conference have voted to remain affiliated to the Labour Party, but a source told LabourList that there remains “real discontent” within the union.

The firefighters’ union voted this morning on a motion that said Labour under Keir Starmer has “seemingly attempted to purge itself of socialists, actively distance itself from working men and women and sought to align itself with big business”.

It added: “Conference is no longer convinced that the aims and objectives of the Labour Party reflect those of the FBU. With this in mind the conference demands the FBU disaffiliate from the Labour Party nationally with immediate effect.” A source confirmed the motion was rejected by roughly 75 votes to 25 in a show of hands.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told PoliticsHome ahead of the vote: “Any union with a healthy democracy will constantly be having debates on what the union supports and who it is affiliated to.

“This is no different. In the FBU executive council’s view it makes sense for unions to be fighting for ideas that will make workers’ lives better inside a party rooted in worker representation.

“But I want to be clear that we will fight for these ideas. Starmer needs to start wholeheartedly backing policies that will radically make lives better, like public ownership and a full repeal of anti-union laws, or risk losing support from many quarters.”

The motion was proposed by the union’s Merseyside branch, and supporters told PoliticsHome it had been motivated primarily by Starmer’s decision to write an article for The Sun last year. The newspaper is widely boycotted in the area over its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) announced its decision to disaffiliate from Labour during its annual party conference in September 2021. The organisation accusing Keir Starmer of waging a “factional internal war” instead of focusing on “real change”.

ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, will also vote on a motion to disaffiliate from the party at its conference, which begins on May 16th. LabourList understands the outcome is very uncertain, with key people within the union expecting a narrow result.

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