TUC Leader is spot on over May’s failed Brexit ‘Deal’

That Teresa May’s failed Brexit (and now withdrawn) ‘deal’ would have been bad for jobs, the economy, employment rights etc. etc. is a given simply because it’s a poorer deal than we presently have as EU members. Here’s what the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady had to say about it:-

www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/deal-will-threaten-uk-workers%E2%80%99-rights

But of course, every form of Brexit deal will only deliver a worse outcome than we presently have so no one can ever promise one that will meet, never mind better, our present situation as EU members. The TUC knows this better than most because it’s the millions of trade union members across the UK who are at risk from us leaving the EU under ANY deal.

However, I fear that Frances O’Grady has to be careful what she says with TU leaders like UNITE’s Len McCluskey trying desperately to stop Labour from adopting a pro-EU stance. Sadly there’s always been a wing of the trade union movement who have been anti-EU despite it being a really positive force for good on things like employment rights and protections. How on earth they can call themselves trade unionists beats me. As a life-long supporter of the TU movement, I’m ashamed that it has Little Englander’s in its ranks.

When the Right is controlling British politics – That’s most of the time!

It really is the majority of the time whether we on the left are willing to admit it or not.

There have only been 4 General Elections since the 2nd World war when the the left has had a significant majority in the House of Commons. Then again it could well be argued that whilst Tony Blair had a huge majority his was hardly a government of the left and probably it was only just left of centre. Could the same or similar be said of Harold Wilson’s Government?

What started this line of thought was that I happened upon a lecture by Vernon Bogdanor being shown on the BBC Parliament Channel recently. It was actually about the history of the Conservative Party. Now whilst I don’t care to be told about the regular electoral success of the Tories Bogdanor is always interesting, impartial and factual in his work.

One thing he mentioned has long been a matter of great interest to me and that is the working class Conservatives who have regularly helped put a Tory government in power. You could be forgiven for thinking that the working class (not a term a personally subscribe to but one that is widely quoted) will usually be voters of the left and therefore for Labour, but up to a third of them are not. What’s more many of them may be conservative (with a small c) or simply right wing whilst at the same time tribally aligned with the Labour Party.

I have regularly been fascinated by the group of Labour MP’s (and there have always been a fair number of them in each Parliament) who come over as reactionary, right wing, anti progressive politics or just Tories wearing a Labour rosette. I saw similar people in the trade union movement in my time as well. They must come from families that are loyal to Labour yet their stance on things such as equality issues, gay rights, crime and punishment, immigration etc. are firmly based on the politics of the right. Often these MP’s and trade unionists will be from the industrial midlands and the north and they will be utterly loyal to Labour, no matter what it stands for.

That loyalty will stem from the early days of the trade union movement and the need for trade unionists to stick together through thick and thin. It will have been inbred into them through families, trade unions and the Labour Party, yet often these people will be as far away from progressive politics as you can find. Sticking together is the most important thing, backing their leaders almost come what may is also big for them and I think it is what is in part driving the cult of Corbyn.

He’s either a very, very late political developer or he really is a second division politician of the left who has, almost by chance, found himself leading a political party. If you look at his history prior to being elected as Labour Leader he had pretty much no positions of responsibility in public life much at all. The Labour left will say that was because he had always been down-trodden by the right wing of the Labour Party (the Social Democrats) and held back and that he was always going to be a working class hero of the left one day. Well it’s a view but hardly a credible one I would venture to say.

Corbyn’s big problem is that he has some right wing tendencies and Brexit is the one that really stands out. Brexit has always been about internal battles within the Tory Party. UKIP was set up as those within the Tory Party who could not get the Tories to back leaving the EU felt they had to take a different route. Of course they succeeded in turning the Tories into a Brexit Party and they won over many people within Labour too. Remember the successes of UKIP electorally have often been in areas of England that are working class and where they won council seats they were often in Labour areas. Now UKIP has all but expired its supporters have drifted back to the Tory Party or indeed Labour. That Corbyn backs Brexit is bizarre to many of us on the left of British politics but he does and the Labour Party is backing him despite, we are told, the vast majority of Labour voters not backing Brexit.

But Corbyn is loyal to his right wing working class supporters who of course were the part of the Labour vote that helped the Tories/UKIP give us our Brexit. His party prides itself, or at least it used to do, on being a very broad church. At one end true socialists looking to break up the capitalist system and at the other people who would be at home in a Bluekip type Party if only it was called the Labour Party. That is indeed a very broad church, you could say so broad that internal power struggles would be almost impossible to to stop. The Social Democrats within Labour have gone very quiet these days (with a few exceptions) especially those in elected public positions as their stance is particularly unwelcome in Corbyn’s Labour Party and they need to be seen to be complying with the wishes of Momentum if they are not to be deselected.

So at face value Labour is presently seen to be a party of the hard left under McDonnell and Corbyn but, with Brexit in particular, they are peddling a Bluekip line. Also the party is having more than its share of infighting over racial issues at present and this is another indication of people of the left holding what seem to be intolerant right wing views.

Across Europe in many counties Social Democrat and Socially Liberal Parties have been a part of the mainstream. Labour has tried to be that in the UK but the drag of having illiberal and far left members in the same party has meant that it has struggled far more more than it has succeeded. Many thought that the victory of Tony Blair signaled a new (or New) Labour Party with broad center ground and moderate appeal but the medicine did not work and now Labour is in the hands of both the socially illiberal and hard left at the same time!

The point of all this? To show that the right has a huge influence on UK politics and that’s not just in the UKIP and Tory parties. Labour has it’s right wingers too and it can be quite easily argued that even the Lib Dems all but ceased to have a Socially Liberal leadership during Nick Clegg’s unfortunate time as Leader. Thankfully and even slightly surprisingly, under Cable, it seems to be regaining its radical and socially liberal edge though.

Which ever way you look at it the right usually predominates in UK politics and its because, in my view, there’s no electorally successful Social Democrat/Liberal Party at the heart of our mainstream politics and I say that as someone who looks upon some Social Democrats as being too right wing.

Cameron’s Government is destroying all the good in the UK

I increasingly despair about the present Tory Government. Just look at all the massive down sides of Cameron gaining an overall majority:-

* Social housing to be sold off when there is a huge shortage of affordable rented housing.
* Cutting back on sustainable green initiatives and putting future generations at risk from even greater climate change problems.
* Attacking trade unions who brought about many social advances that we all (including Tories) now take for granted.
* Trying to reduce your and my rights and in doing so making the state less accountable to us all.
* Hitting the most vulnerable in society with massive welfare cuts whilst the official Labour opposition stood back and abstained!.
* Taking food from children in our schools who otherwise may not get a decent meal at home.
* All but ignoring the appalling refugee crisis across Europe

This is an appallingly selfish Tory Government.

The Trade Union Movement is dying & needs urgent reform

The trade union movement is, I fear, slowly slipping away and becoming irrelevant to modern day life and I say that as a committed trade unionist. It was taken into a nursing home a few years ago but is now slowly day by day slipping away.

The modern world is all about individual freedoms far more than it is about collectivism. It probably started in the 1980’s and Thatcher probably started it. But the mistake trade unions make is to assume that individual freedoms are always trumped by collectivism – they aren’t and until unions can really grasp this they will continue to be on the slide.

As a Liberal who understands why collective action can be vital for the common good but who also sees why individual freedoms are just if not more vital this is not a concern but a change that has to be addressed by a trade union movement that does not cope with change at all well. Indeed, it is that inability to modernise, until it is too late, that has bedeviled unions for years.

Just cast your mind back to the 1970’s and 80’s, trade unions were headline news day in day out, maybe not always for the right reasons, but they were a force to be reckoned with. Now trade unions are in the news far less often because they are becoming less relevant to the lives of ordinary people.

Trade unions are also in financial difficulty too. Falling membership, feeling that they can’t charge the level of membership fees they would like to/need to and having to merge with other unions are all big issues driven by money worries. My own union, PCS, has even cancelled democracy recently by deferring internal elections to save money.

But why post this piece now? Well it came to mind because of a number of unrelated conversations and newspaper/internet articles that I had read in recent months. They seemed to form a common thread for me and that thread was that UK unions seem to struggle these days to back individual members who are in difficulty. One of those conversations was with my old chum Roy Connell, a committed trade unionist all his working life.

I must have heard and read about half a dozen cases where members with difficulties were not backed by their union and either had to fight their case on their own or were not able fight at all. A common issue seems to be ‘the union will not fund the legal battle’ and this is often down to a risk assessment by union bean counters of how much money a case may cost. Again, the tightness of money means that unions are far more picky these days about which legal cases they will back.

But now it is getting out that unions are effectively backing out of backing their members when they are in trouble can only make folk less inclined to join a union. A vicious circle indeed.

Fighting high profile social justice campaigns is of course bread and butter to trade unions. However, if they are channeling scare resources into this collective/political work whilst leaving their members high and dry when they need legal backing then the wrong balance is surely being struck.

Many of the freedoms that we all take for granted these days (even by those who vote Tory/UKIP) were gained for us by the trade union movement but as society has changed our unions have been slow to react and at times unwilling to react.

It’s no use union executive committees and general secretaries being up for the next internal fight for the Labour Party’s soul whilst their members see them (and the Labour Party) as being out of touch with their world, because I fear that is what’s happening. Collectivism is not now king and maybe it is only on a par with if not behind the individual issues that folks join trade unions for. They want their union to back them when they are in difficulty above all else. Fighting the political battles of the day usually passes them by whether union leaders like it or not.

So the challenge for trade unionists is to reinvent a trade union movement that is very much stuck in a rut and has found the rut a comfortable place to be except for the lack of money flowing into it of course!

Another new teaching union!

A new trade union aimed at teachers in primary and secondary schools who have become uncomfortable with the National Union of Teachers is to be launched. The new union, NAHT Edge aims to recruit 5,000 members within two or three years and will act as a sister union to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), which represents about 28,000 heads.

I have always looked upon the Teaching profession as having too many trade unions already yet I can understand why a new one is being created.

It all goes back to the way public sector trade unions, in particular, operate and the fact that they can often be led by people who have a bigger political agenda than the terms and conditions of their members.

Active trade unionists and particularly trade union leaders have always seen a wider picture than their ordinary members have. This means that at times the members of trade unions get used to fight big social and political battles that mean so much to trade union executive committees but are of little, if any, interest to their members.

I would not be surprised if some of the wider political and indeed party political objectives of the NUT’s leaders are beyond what some of its members want to be a part of fighting for.

Such battles and rivalries are a long tradition of the trade union movement, which I worked for for 30 odd years, but when the members are being taken where they do not want to go the cause of the activists is already lost. Sticking to the real issues, as seen by the ordinary members of a trade union, is the key but the activists are all too keen to pull away from these to bash the Government of the day. When that goes too far the members simply turn off and potentially walk away.

With thanks to the LGiU

Bob Crow – Doing the trade union movement a favour?

www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/07/bob-crow-interview-nothing-to-defend

The Guardian has the story surrounding this hugely controversial trade union Barron and his recent troubles.

As a long-time trade unionist who worked for PCS Trade Union for many years as a lay official I think I understand what true socialists are all about but I must say Mr Crow makes me scratch my head.

Yes he lives in a house that belongs to a social landlord so that fits with his beliefs, I assume, about common ownership of property. But he earns an arm and a leg as a trade union leader which puts him in an income category that his embers can only dream of. Yes, but hang on, surely a socialist, representing the working classes, should not be earning such huge wages – £145,000 (according to the Guardian newspaper)? How can you truly represent the interests of the workers if you can afford a lifestyle very different from theirs?