Unions & party members kept out of Labour leadership election

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TWO of the largest trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party, unions that pay millions into its funds, said they were ‘looking to the Labour leadership contest as an opportunity to push for real change within the party – to policy as well as personalities’.

The 1.3million-strong UNISON trade union and the 575,000-strong GMB, representing a third of the trade union vote in the Labour Party, published this statement on Tuesday.

The two unions are issuing a list of issues to be addressed to candidates for the Labour leader and deputy leadership, covering ‘privatisation, equal pay, employment rights, the NHS, and pay and pensions for public sector workers’.

This challenges all the major policies of Chancellor Gordon Brown, but it has been endorsed by John McDonnell MP, the only potential challenger to Brown for the Labour leadership.

However, the vast majority of Labour MPs are lining up behind Brown to prevent an election for the next Labour leader, blocking any discussion about policies, and preventing both the unions and Labour Party members voting in an election.

Late yesterday afternoon, 297 MPs were backing Brown, 29 supported John McDonnell MP, Chairman of the Socialist Campaign Group, and 27 still had to make their nomination.

Brown, who has served loyally in the government under Prime Minister Blair for the past 10 years, is the architect of economic policies like the 2.5 per cent public sector pay rise for staff in the NHS, education and local government, which is a pay cut. He is also axing 100,000 civil servants jobs.

In addition, Brown went out of his way to speak in support of the war against Iraq when Blair was in deep trouble during the 2005 general election campaign.

As Chancellor, he has been the staunchest advocate of the Tory Private Finance Initiative (PFI), that is a disaster for education and the NHS, and has emphasised this week that he will forge ahead with NHS ‘reforms’, that is privatisation.

More than that, millions of workers organised in trade unions like Unite, UNISON, the GMB, the Union of Communication Workers (UCW) that fund the Labour Party, find themselves in struggles against pay cuts, job losses and the privatisation of the public services in which they work, as a result of the policies of the Blair-Brown government.

Coming on top of the onslaught on the working class carried out by the government, the disenfranchisement of the trade unions and Labour Party members in the leadership election raises point blank the question of whether the unions should continue to support the Labour Party.

Already unions like the RMT railworkers’ union and Fire Brigades Union have either been expelled from it, or have disaffiliated.

The trade union movement is at a crossroads, similar to that which led to the formation of the Labour Party in 1901. Then anti-union laws were crippling the unions and they were not represented in Parliament by the Liberal Party that they had traditionally supported.

Today the Labour government rejects the policies advocated by the trade union movement.

It is carrying out a programme in the interests of the capitalist class by attacking the working class, through redundancies and wage cuts, and the privatisation and destruction of public services, like free state education and the NHS.

It is urgent that the trade unions, organised through the Trades Union Congress (TUC), form a political representation committee, fund it and stand candidates in elections to fight for the interests of the working class and its unions.

This cannot be a repeat of the history of the TUC’s Labour Representation Committee that formed the Labour Party, because the Blair-Brown regime is the result of 100 years of Labour reformism.

The building of a new revolutionary leadership in the unions and throughout the working class, that will organise its struggle for a workers’ government and socialism, is essential for the political struggle of the working class now.

This is the struggle pursued by the Workers Revolutionary Party to provide workers and their families with a future. So join the WRP today!