THERE WAS a real taste of anger at New Labour at a conference in Liverpool last weekend. Some 200 people attended Saturday's 'Keep public services public' conference organised by the Liverpool joint trade union committee.
The committee brings together unions representing workers in the local council. Representatives of trade unions, tenants' federations and the Merseyside pensioners' association packed the conference held in the city's town hall. Two of the main speakers in the morning session were George Brummell, the general secretary of Ucatt, and John Edmonds, leader of the GMB. Edmonds bitterly denounced the attacks on the working class started by Thatcher and continued by New Labour.
He declared, 'I was never New Labour.' 'The trains might not run on time but the gravy train does and we've had enough,' said Edmonds, attacking fat cat bosses. To great applause he also spoke of the option of cutting union affiliation fees to the Labour Party and using the money to fund campaigns against privatisation. Edmonds called for increased taxation for those earning £50,000 and over.
'There are limits to how much of our members' money we are prepared to pass to this Labour government to put our members out of work.' The mood of the delegates was combative.
A representative of the local Liberal Democrat controlled council got a roasting from the audience over the attacks on council housing and the closure of nurseries and old people's homes.
The conference also voted to back the Defend Council Housing campaign's response to the government's white paper on local council finances. This statement argues the case for public investment in council housing. Plans are now being drawn up for public meetings in Liverpool around the ballot over council housing in March.