Socialist Worker

Nightmares for Blair?

Issue No. 1839

THERE ARE many things that stop Tony Blair sleeping at night. One of them is his fear that the union movement may be about to humiliate him again. Two of Britain's biggest and most influential unions, the TGWU and GMB, are about to elect new general secretaries. In both elections the candidates have not been finally decided.

But all the main contenders are playing up their opposition to Downing Street. They know that being openly supported by Tony Blair would be the kiss of death to their election hopes. New Labour has already been shaken by the rise of the 'awkward squad', a new generation of left wing union leaders.

Bill Morris has led the TGWU, Britain's third biggest union, since 1991. Nominations for candidates will be taken from 24 March to 23 April, with the election taking place in May. Jack Dromey is the contender most closely associated with Downing Street, despite recent efforts to sound militant.

He is married to the Solicitor General, Harriet Harman. Dromey also stood as a Blairite candidate against Bill Morris in 1995. Downing Street has quietly let it be known that it favours Dromey, creating an 'anyone but Dromey' backlash among some members.

Another likely candidate is the union's deputy general secretary, Tony Woodley. Woodley is to the left of Dromey and talks of the TGWU 'becoming once again a union fighting back for its members'. But some activists are suspicious of his record of throwing away opportunities for mass action against redundancies in car plants like Rover Longbridge and Ford Dagenham.

Another possible candidate is Barry Camfield, an assistant general secretary based in London. Camfield is favoured by many militants in the union.

He has spoken out against attacking Iraq, has opposed privatisation and addressed the May Day demonstration in London last year. The second major union election will find a replacement for John Edmonds, who is retiring as general secretary of the GMB. There are two main contenders so far.

Kevin Curran, from the northern region, is believed to have the backing of many Labour MPs from the north east. Paul Kenny has criticised the government's treatment of the firefighters' dispute.

He recently told the BBC, 'It is becoming increasingly difficult to explain to members why New Labour continues to bite the hand that feeds it.' The serious left in the union will be backing Paul Kenny.

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Sat 22 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1839
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