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:
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.
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.