Gordon Brown’s notice of resignation was a last-ditch attempt to enable the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition with Labour and keep his party in government. It presents many questions to trade union leaders.
Many of them spent the election campaign pouring money into Labour’s coffers.
Some threw their weight into campaigning for Labour.
The Unite union ran a huge operation, organising phone banks for its activists to ring other members and argue with them to vote for the Labour Party.
Many union leaders say that electing Labour is the way to defend workers’ interests and that the unions still have influence over the party.
So how will they use this influence now? Are they going to fight for a left wing leader of the Labour Party? Or will they fall in behind yet another neoliberal candidate because, somehow, they’re “better than the Tories”?
Union leaders should not throw their members’ money at Labour and get nothing back. They should only back Labour candidates who stand up for workers.
Unions should oppose any candidate who wants to keep the anti-union laws, refuses to bring the troops out of Afghanistan, and wants privatisation and cuts in public services.
As the economic crisis deepens, the key question for union leaders should be increasing the level of resistance.
But they should not be allowed to duck the question of who runs the party that they claim represents them.