THE SCOTTISH Labour Party conference revolted against the war last week. The rebellion was remarkable coming just weeks before the Scottish Parliament elections. The Scottish Labour Party's top officials had tried desperately to prevent a debate on Iraq.
As proceedings opened in Dundee, delegates were offered a question and answer session with the Scottish secretary Helen Liddell. But there was to be no debate and no vote. Delegates rebelled. TGWU union secretary Andrew Baird said the proposals were 'demeaning and insulting for an issue of this importance.'
Delegates showed their disgust with the leadership by throwing out the entire conference agenda by an overwhelming 90 percent for the trade union section and 85 percent in the constituency section.
The Sunday Herald commented, 'This was Labour's version of shock and awe. This is a hugely significant moment for Labour. It may have been a vote on a technical motion, but it was no mere technicality. Everyone in the conference realised it was a decisive blow against stage management and synthetic politics. It may not have been a conscious repudiation of Blairism, but the party has made a clear statement that, after this war is over, things will not be going back to the way they were.'
The rebellion forced party leaders to have a two-hour debate. But trade union officials conceded that it should be in private and with no vote. This did not prevent speeches against the war. The Glasgow Kelvin constituency said the case for war had not been proven. The CWU, Aslef and other unions backed them.
RMT union delegates called on the party in Scotland to declare itself 'totally opposed to the war'. In the end there was a deal over the tone of a Scottish Labour Party executive statement on Iraq. The statement originally 'regretted the inability to achieve a further UN resolution'. This was changed to 'regretting military action has commenced without the explicit authorisation of a further UN resolution'.
The deal angered some delegates who thought the unions should have had a real confrontation with the leaders. The revolt was a sign of the depth of the anti-war mood. It means at May's election the party leadership will be hailing Blair's policy in Iraq while many of the rank and file think he is a murderer. Such a mood should give further impetus to the Scottish Socialist Party which has campaigned strongly against the war.