THE RMT railworkers union delegation demonstrated and walked out in protest at the presence of Tony Blair at the TUC Congress in Brighton yesterday.
They were joined in the walkout by other delegates, while other delegations remained inside with their placards opposing Blair’s policies, particularly the UNISON delegation and PCS civil servants.
When Blair arrived on the podium, RMT delegates held up placards saying ‘Go Now!’ ‘Public Service not Private Profit!’ ‘Afghanistan Iraq Lebanon – Time to Go!’ ‘No to Rail Privatisation!’
Tony Donaghey, RMT President told News Line: ‘This is the third Labour government. When the first Labour government came in in 1997, they said they would renationalise the railways as a priority – and we’re still waiting.
‘In fact, privatisation has been continuing. The latest example is the plan to privatise the East London Line.’
When Blair reached the issues of foreign policy in his speech, he was jeered and a number of delegates shouted ‘Troops Out!’
And when he started on the theme of ‘the war against terror’, saying ‘there is a large part of the western world inclined to believe the true threat is George Bush not Islamist extremism,’ he was subjected to more jeers and shouts and had to stop his speech, saying ‘yes you’ve made your point’.
Trying to make a further point on the achievement of ‘democracy in Iraq’, Blair was interrupted again, forced to stop his speech and appeal saying ‘look, just listen to the argument, you can ask your questions afterwards,’ but he never took any questions on foreign policy.
The first delegate in the question and answer session, from UNISON, was cheered when she asked: ‘Why revert to the old Tory policies of internal markets and competition in the NHS?’
Janice Godrich, PCS President attacked Blair over the ‘£171 million spent on private sector consultants’.
She asked: ‘How do you think it feels for workers to sit opposite such a consultant, paid seven times more than they are earning, while they face the threat of dismissal?’
Graham Henderson asked: ‘Why is the government so committed to privatising public services?’
In his answers Blair referred to the PCS question first, saying: ‘The change is because of changes in policy.’
He claimed: ‘We have increased the workforce in the past few years.’
As he was leading the RMT delegation out of the conference, Bob Crow said of Blair: ‘He’s had three illegal wars, he’s killed thousands of servicemen which he didn’t have to. As far as we are concerned we aren’t going to be party to something like that.’
A reporter said: ‘Well if he can take questions afterwards you could put this to him.’
Crow replied: ‘You wouldn’t be able to get the questions in, they’ve all been vetted.
‘The questions had to be in by 12noon yesterday and there’s no way they would accept questions of our nature and why should we sit down for someone who has spent millions of pounds, if not billions of pounds on illegal wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.’
Crow was then asked: ‘What impact do you think your protest has made?’
Crow replied: ‘Why should we sit down for someone who kicked us out of the Labour Party? He threw us out. We formed the Labour Party 103 years ago, it’s not my party, it’s not Tony Blair’s party, he threw us out so why should we stay in?’
Crow was asked: ‘Who do you think should take over from Tony Blair?’
He replied: ‘Well, we don’t even know who’s standing, but as far as we’re concerned we want someone who’s going to repeal the anti-trade union laws, stop the privatisation of the railway network, stop the destruction of the seafaring network, won’t spend billions of pounds on unjust wars, and starts looking after working men and working women.’
Crow was asked: ‘Is Gordon Brown that man?’
He replied: ‘I don’t think so because he’s the person who turned round and said he wants a new Trident.’