Delegates at ASLEF’s annual conference will vote this afternoon on a motion to cut ties with the Labour Party, after almost 120 years of affiliation. The train drivers’ union has considered disaffiliation before (at last year’s conference, a motion to remain affiliated was carried by 55 votes to 25) but LabourList understands that it will likely be closer this time around. General secretary Mick Whelan has made clear that ASLEF is a “democratic union” and the decision is therefore a “matter for members”.
Where is the move to sever links with Labour coming from? The groups in favour of disaffiliation within the union make for a pretty broad coalition, including: those on the left and to the left of the party; those in Scotland either supportive of or sympathetic to the SNP; members who are not political and do not see why the union should be funding any political party; and those who are not progressive and support the Conservatives or UKIP/the Brexit Party. The vote today follows hot on the heels of the firefighters’ union FBU conference last week, during which delegates rejected a motion to disaffiliate from Labour. According to one source, ASLEF’s comrades in the FBU deciding to stick with Labour for now should bolster the case for the train drivers’ union to do the same today.
Members in two Constituency Labour Parties have had a busy weekend. Labour selected its parliamentary candidates for Gedling and Wakefield on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Gedling will be contested at the next general election by Nottinghamshire County councillor and Gedling Borough Council deputy leader Michael Payne. And NHS worker, Labour national policy forum and Yorkshire Labour regional board member Simon Lightwood will be the party’s candidate in Wakefield.
The Wakefield process proved controversial. As revealed by LabourList last week, the local executive has accused the party of breaching its own rules on the handling of selections – specifically that the party had not acted in accordance with a rule change passed at the last Labour conference, which stated that three local reps should participate in longlisting and shortlisting rather than the one involved in the Wakefield process. The members of the local party exec resigned ahead of the hustings and walked out of the room before the final vote on Sunday, and sources have told LabourList that at least one individual has threatened legal action.
Elsewhere over the weekend, Progressive Britain held its conference on Saturday. The pro-Keir Starmer network kicked off its annual gathering by releasing new polling suggesting that Labour can win the next election by focusing on the cost of living and avoiding the ‘culture war’. David Lammy used the conference to accuse the government of starting a row with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol “at the worst possible time”, and Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson set out Labour’s ambition for children while arguing that “children don’t even register in the Chancellor’s thinking”.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.