CROYDON COMMENTARY: Trades unionist BOB HEWLETT suggests that blame for his party’s defeat in the General Election is being placed too conveniently on one or two individuals
Well, well, well. Summer has not even arrived but already hairy old chestnuts are aplenty.
As the Labour hierarchy plunge their collective knives into stabbing Ed Miliband in the back (without any irony) and charge the now former party leader for being the reason for Labour’s failure to win Thursday’s General Election, they purposefully omit to charge the real culprit, Ed Balls.
Let us turn to John Braggins and his post on May 9. In his view, three people were to blame for the defeat. First up is Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, “for using his trade union, Unite, to override the wishes of Labour MPs, Labour members and Labour supporters to impose the wrong Miliband on us.” McCluskey, this latter-day Svengali, by using his dulcet tones and hypnotic eyes, mesmerised thousands of Unite members into subverting the Labour leadership process. Wave upon wave of Unite members arose on that fateful day and, zombie-like, entered their vote for Ed Miliband.
Errr, not quite. A cursory look at the voting figures of the Labour leadership election seems to disprove John Braggins’ theory.
David Miliband increased his vote from the 3rd round to the 4th round as follows: Labour MPs and MEPs: 3rd Round 125 … 4th Round 140, an increase of 15. Labour members: 3rd Round 60,375 … 4th Round 66,814, an increase of 6,439. Affiliates (trade unionists etc): 3rd Round 66,889 … 4th Round…80,266, an increase of 13,377.
Ed Miliband increased his vote from the 3rd round to the 4th round as follows:- Labour MPs and MEPs: 3rd Round 96 … 4th Round 122, an increase of 26. Labour members: 3rd Round 46,697 … 4th Round 55,992, an increase of 9,295. Affiliates (trade unionists etc): 3rd Round 102,882 … 4th Round 119,405, an increase of 16,513.
If we concentrate on the affiliate figures, Unite members did not turn out in their droves at the behest of Len.
On the contrary, the figures show that, given the membership of Unite, let alone the membership of other affiliated Trade Unions, many trade unionists did not vote at all. In fact, Ed Miliband increased his vote in all three groups far greater than David Miliband. Therefore, unfortunately for John Braggins, Ed Miliband got elected because of increasing his vote in all three groups; the increase in the affiliate section included Unite members, together with other trade unionists and affiliates. It was not because of Unite members.
Next up in John Braggins’ list of those to blame is Ed Miliband himself, “for thinking it was the right thing to stand against his brother and, as the media put it, stab him in the back”. John is most upset that Ed Miliband had the effrontery to allow his name to be nominated and seconded and then be entered in a democratic election for the Labour Party leadership.
As far as Labour Party rules go, there is no bar on candidates who are related to other candidates. The fact that John Braggins appears to have sided with the right-wing media and the right-wing elements in our society, including the Tories, is illuminating.
Next up is Arnie Graf, “for giving legitimacy to the idea that if you have an unpopular leader all you need to do is organise in the community to spread your message and people will vote for you”. Poor Arnie, he is blamed, but not Douglas Alexander, Labour’s head of election strategy. Arnie is blamed, but not “austerity-lite” Ed Balls. Of course, unpopular leaders do not include Neil “ever-popular” Kinnock, who lost the 1992 General Election when John Braggins was working for the Labour Party.
John Braggins’ post does have support from David Callam. I agree with David that John has “hit the nail on the head”, but the nail in question is John’s thumbnail.
David Callam, in his supportive comment, vents his spleen against democratically elected trade union leaders, specifically in this case Len McCluskey. I have to inform David that trade union leaders are in their place because they have been elected there. Trade union-bashing is really bashing the working class for having the temerity for organising into a coherent industrial and political voice.
Of course trade unions’ first responsibility is to their members’ working conditions. That is why and how workers organised into unions and were outlawed for this activity, such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. When trade unions were recognised in law, they assumed that the then Liberal Party would be their ally in Parliament. The reality soon dawned on them that they needed their own political voice in Parliament and so set up the Labour Party.
But it is not just John Braggins and David Callam. In the past week, one member of the Labour Party hierarchy after another has tramped along to the television and radio studios to denounce the same policies that they campaigned on. Huh? They complain that the campaign was not business-friendly and was too left-wing.
Not business friendly? No policy on increasing the Corporation Tax to US levels. No policy on a ceiling on dividends. No policy on repealing trade union legislation. Not taking back control of the Bank of England. The list goes on and on. I contend that the campaign was too corporate business friendly.
As for being too left-wing, the mind boggles. How is it “too left-wing” to abolish the Bedroom Tax, to increase the number of nurses and doctors, and to extend free child care?
Are these Progress group members, these Blair Fan Club members, these Mandelson zealots, now advocating the keeping of the Bedroom Tax?
I remind them of this quote from George Lansbury, the Labour Party Leader from 1932 to 1935: “The workers must be given tangible proof that Labour administration means something different from Capitalist administration, and in a nutshell this means diverting wealth from the wealthy ratepayers to the poor. Those who pretend that a sound Labour policy can be pursued nationally or locally without making the rich poorer should find another party.”
The Labour Party is a democratic socialist political party. We will gain power on firm democratic socialist policies that will not only inspire people but also to which the people will aspire.
- Bob Hewlett is writing in a personal capacity. He is a Unite member, the branch secretary of Unite Central London Taxi Section and he is the chair of Croydon Central Labour Party, and Croydon Trades Council delegate
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