THE MAJOR trade unions put loyalty to Labour before loyalty to their members’ policy at the Labour Party conference last week.
Last year union leaders allowed Blair to bury the debate on Iraq. This year they went one better and supported the party leadership’s motion.
The leaders of the “big four” unions—TGWU, GMB, Amicus and Unison—have all criticised Tony Blair, and some have called for him to go. Their decision to buckle has caused anger inside the unions.
Unison national executive member Jon Rogers has written to general secretary Dave Prentis saying, “On the central question of the illegal, unjustifiable and bloody war in Iraq we have just witnessed an abject and shameful failure to take our policy into the Labour Party.
“The traditional deference of the trade union leaders to the party leadership on foreign policy questions appears to have reasserted itself—but surely at the wrong time.
“I look forward to an explanation of why our Labour Party delegation decided to support the continued occupation of Iraq in breach of Unison policy.”
The trade union leaders missed a great opportunity last week to add to Blair’s problems at home and to support the people of Iraq.
Their loyalty to Labour has also stopped them calling action in support of the PCS civil service workers’ union in its fight against job cuts and over the battle to save jobs at Jaguar.
Exit the carrot, enter the stick
The union leaders were promised that Gordon Brown would have replaced Blair by now. This expectation underpinned their enthusiasm for a third Labour victory.
But just a few hours after they bailed him out, Blair snubbed the unions by announcing that he would be staying on as prime minister for a whole third term.
Blair’s announcement, along with his purchase of a £3.6 million retirement home and his operation, has fuelled the fevered sense of crisis at the top of the party.
Tories hit by-election blues
New Labour scraped home the same day in the Hartlepool by-election.
It beat the Liberal Democrats by 2,033 votes, down from a majority of 14,571 in 2001.
The UK Independence Party humiliated the Tories by beating them into fourth place.
There is deep disillusion with the Labour Party, but people are not turning to the crisis-hit Tories.
Instead the Liberal Democrats were able to pick up votes by posing as an anti-war party. Respect candidate John Bloom finished fifth with 572 votes.