The question of who leads Labour has opened up a debate in the unions. The leaders of the largest unions are focusing on putting pressure on Gordon Brown to sign up to another Warwick Agreement.
The Warwick Agreement of July 2004 sealed union support for the 2005 elections. It was supposed to provide the basis of Labour’s pro-union third term.
But Labour has attacked jobs, pay and pensions and hasn’t brought in the promised Corporate Manslaughter Bill.
In the deputy leadership election the unions are being more proactive. Unfortunately, most of the contenders back the war in Iraq and are set on keeping Blairism alive.
These include Alan Johnson, Hazel Blears, Hilary Benn, Harriet Harman and Peter Hain.Hain is backed by one union – the train drivers’ Aslef.
Jon Cruddas, the one left of centre candidate, initially backed the war in Iraq but has at least changed his mind. He is also pro-union.
That has been enough for Unite (the newly merged T&G and Amicus) to back him.
Debate in Labour, however muted, is welcome. It opens a space to argue over the unions’ relationship with the party.
But they need to aspire to more than another Warwick Agreement. At the very least they could throw their weight behind the Stop the War petition calling for troops out of Iraq and encourage a fight over pay.
See also the editorial The issues John McDonnell raises won’t go away