Making a stand…..
Another day of Conservative attacks on Labour and the Trade Unions and another day of little response from the leadership. The more this persists the more the Conservatives will keep chipping-away and the worse our tangle becomes. Incapable of doing what should be basic and defending both ourselves and unions properly we look weak and all the old doubts about the leadership we are being given resurface. Unable to take the front foot we are perpetually on the back foot and it’s bad. It’s not union bashing that wins elections but weak leadership loses them; after all the Conservatives have already successfully played this card over the election that never was. If Brown thinks he looked tough yesterday he is sadly mistaken.
Scenting blood; even sympathetic papers like The Guardian have joined-in. Look at this story about ‘Unite filling safe seats’. This is a blatant attempt to soft-peddle the same line that the Conservatives are taking; that Unite are a new ‘Militant Tendency’. Loaded words like ‘suspicscion’, ‘concern’ and ‘covert’ (all of which imply some shady dealing) mix with the bare minimum (ie, none) hard fact all nicely rounded off with a quote from a leading Conservative.
It really should come as no surprise to people that union officials get selected as Labour candidates since there is a likely commonality between that position and having been a long-standing member of the Party. However, the media use this as evidence of some grand conspiracy and we let them; on the one hand they call our leaders out to denounce strikes and on the other say we can’t (even when certain people do) because of how we are in hoc to the unions.
It’s almost enough to make you wish the ‘King of Spin’ (Lord Mandleson) was back in situ because frankly this is becoming embarrassing. We have totally lost control of the media narrative and it was all going so well; meanwhile, a new poll shows that Labour is only 3 points ahead of the Conservatives amoung Unite members. This is not surprising given the leaderships antics this week.
Unions impact in the Labour Party has been limited by their failure to adapt to the realities of One Member One Vote (incidentally, this failure to adapt has been mirrored in the outside world in their inability to gain strength in local communities by reaching out beyond their boundaries). One of those realities is they have to build broader coalitions with other Labour Party members who may not be in a union for one reason or another. A gap exists for an organisation to bridge the divide between individual Labour members and the unions; working together in a fraternal way to advance common goals and also see the successes, failures and limitations of the party and its historical parents as being intrinsically linked.
So, with that in mind my proposition is this; that Labour members who see the commonality of our struggles with those in the unions form an organisation. Let’s call it ‘Labour friends of the Union’s’ and start to go onto the front-foot.