Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, has called for a “united front to win the next election” between the New Labour leadership and the trade unions.
He admitted that New Labour has “pro-business and warlike tendencies”, but insists that the only “realistic” alternative to backing Blair is a Tory victory.
Billy Hayes of the Communications Workers Union has joined the chorus, assuring his members that after Labour’s policy forum last month:
“We have established a basis for ensuring that, if Labour secures a third term in office, it will adopt radical policies that will ensure economic stability and social justice for all.”
Just weeks ago these union leaders were desperately trying to assure us that Labour could be “reclaimed”. Now the argument has degenerated to negotiating the price of their support for Tony Blair’s re-election.
Blair is arrogant enough to push on regardless with his “pro-business and warlike” agenda.That is summed up by the decision to invite Iyad Allawi to address the Labour Party conference.
An accord between the government and the unions means letting Gordon Brown carry out the biggest cull ever of public sector jobs in the civil service. It means avoiding confrontation over the assault on pension rights, with implications for every worker in Britain.
Blair still requires union funds for his election campaign. But his instincts are to insult the unions again and again.
He calculates that the Tories cannot possibly recover in time to win the election, and that the Liberals and other parties cannot deny him victory.
Those union leaders and left wingers who cling to New Labour’s coat-tails cut themselves off from swathes of people across Britain.
They are spurning those who hate the war and occupation of Iraq. They are pushing away the ordinary working class people who New Labour increasingly sees as anti-social scum who should be locked up or quarantined.
Like Woodley we want unity. But unity against the occupation of Iraq, against the attack on civil liberties gathering pace each day, and for basic justice in a society in which the gap between rich and poor widens each day Blair is in office.
At the ballot box the best way to build unity is to vote Respect. But preparing for the election also means keeping up the fight on the streets and on the picket lines.