Union leaders declare war on nobody… that’s Progress!

18 06 2012

I don’t pay much attention to Labour Party politics, for 13 years worth of reasons. But I do keep a loose eye on the unions, and in recent days this has caught my attention:

Union motion compares Progress to Militant

Progress, for those with better things to do, is a well-funded organisation on the right of the Labour Party. Essentially a think tank, it has lots of Lord Sainsbury’s money, few members, and a bit of profile as ‘outriders’ for diehard Blairites. Every so often they churn out predictable tripe about privatising everything and supporting cuts.

So far, so Labour government.

Image

(l-r) Ed Balls, Lord Sainsbury, Ed Miliband. Supposedly.

But trade union bigwigs have now rolled their tanks onto Progress’ lawn. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the moderate GMB union, is supporting moves to “outlaw Progress as part of the Labour Party”. Last week the GMB endorsed a motion to “monitor” Progress’ activities, essentially on the grounds that they support right-wing policies, oppose left-wing policies, and somewhere down the line the party leadership ends up agreeing.

In the nicest possible way – what a load of bollocks.

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t agree with anything Progress says – and nor will I defend to the death, nor even to mild inconvenience, its right to say it. But for union leaders to be wasting their time on this guff is laughable.

Labour is a heavily centralised party. There is minimal democracy. Power vests with a tiny number of people at the top. Policies are decided on by the leader and selected acolytes.

If the unions have a problem with Labour policy, they need to target the people who decide those policies. Progress, a fringe group of well-funded think tank junkies, does not decide policy. They may suggest and press for certain policies. They do not decide them. If Labour adopts Progress’ policies, it is purely because the leadership chooses to do so. Nothing else.

The man who ultimately decides policy is, of course, Ed Miliband. Perhaps they should aim their fire at him? Except that would put the unions in an awkward spot, having backed him in the leadership election under the mistaken idea that with him in charge they’d “get their party back”.

The GMB conference did see a number of motions expressing “concern” and “disappointment” at the Labour leadership, and questioning the union’s funding of Labour MPs – but there’s not much action flowing from those.

Instead, we are left with the ludicrous scenario of one of Britain’s key trade union leaders waving his willy at windmills and going to war with a motley crew of corporate lobbyists and policy wonks for supposedly brainwashing the party leadership.

Because admitting that the party leadership actually chooses these policies of their own volition – admitting that the bollocks that currently passes for Labour policy is what Balls and Miliband actually believe in – is a truth too inconvenient to take.


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3 responses

18 06 2012
Robert

Well my branch called for the GMB to leave move on, it was stated nothing in the Labour party for Unions or members and that is what the people at branch decided.

It’s time to let Labour go it alone stand alone, and then either demand state funding or kiss the butt of Sainsbury and his mob.

18 06 2012
athousandcuts

I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that.

It’s interesting that of the various motions on Labour that were brought to the conference, the GMB leadership seems very fixated on this Progress business, and not terribly interested in the rather more fundamental motions such as the one your branch passed.

I’m not a GMB member and would never lecture GMB members on how to vote – but if they’ve voted for a motion to quit Labour, that’d seem to be rather more urgent for the leadership to address than chasing after a think tank!

9 07 2013
Rejoice, rejoice! The first step in the death of the Labour Party | A Thousand Cuts

[…] expected, party funding from the unions will plummet. The pro-Labour union leaders will stay loyal (whilst pointing more fingers at Labour’s Blairite faction, Progress) but their members will want away. Membership will not rise significantly, and any small rise will […]

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