Labour shies away from rail strikers and PR, but tacks left on bus ownership

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The unions continue to set the agenda today, and not just by paying their respects online on International Workers’ Memorial Day

PCS says more than 130,000 public sector members are striking today over pay, pensions and conditions. School leaders’ union NAHT has announced it will re-ballot members and teaching unions will start co-ordinating future industrial action. GMB and Unite votes by NHS staff end today on the government’s revised pay offer. And the right-wing press are predictably in uproar over ASLEF’s and the RMT’s decisions to announce fresh rail walkouts coinciding with Eurovision and the FA Cup final.

Louise Haigh gave an assured outline of Labour’s stance on rail strikes on Sky News this morning. She contrasted Welsh Labour’s success in avoiding such walkouts with rail operators’ warning the UK government has made it harder to resolve the dispute. The Shadow Transport Secretary may raise eyebrows on the left though by condemning “enormous failure, frankly, on all sides” given how long the dispute’s dragged on, albeit particularly emphasising government failure. It was no slip of the tongue either, with Haigh making similar remarks on Times Radio. 

Her pledge to let more local transport authorities effectively renationalise local bus services, reiterated overnight alongside Labour figures revealing the evaporation of thousands of routes, should please members more. Even bus firm chiefs didn’t condemn the plans.

Labour is in more serious hot water with proportional representation campaigners. Compass and Labour for a New Democracy spoke out after a party spokesperson said yesterday Keir Starmer’s opposition to PR is “longstanding” and he “isn’t looking to change the electoral system”. It’s a blow for USDAW too, the latest affiliated union to endorse PR only days earlier. The SNP and Lib Dems seized on it too, clearly hoping to peel off voters for whom PR trumps all else.

In other Labour news, Katrina Murray will stand in Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, and Frank McNally in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. In Newcastle, council leader Nick Kemp faces a leadership challenge only a year after replacing longstanding chief Nick Forbes. In Darlington, an ex-Tory councillor launched an extraordinary critique of his former party and defected to Labour, saying the Tories “sent the nation into decline”. Mair Penderry held a seat for Labour in a Swansea council by-election. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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