Labour party leader Ed Miliband tried to pitch last week’s special conference as a great historic moment in Labour’s history.
His speech invoked great achievements of the past including the founding of the NHS, equal pay for women and gay rights.
He said these had come through great movements and he wanted delegates to vote “for Labour to be a movement again”.
But such talk cannot disguise what the conference and the overwhelming vote to back Miliband’s proposals really means.
The Labour leadership has succeeded in making yet another shift away from the organised working class in the trade unions.
Miliband wants to continue the job that Tony Blair started.
He called for a “one member, one vote” system for leadership elections and an end to the automatic affiliation of union members.
And he won it with hardly a whimper from the Labour left and the trade union leadership.
The vote went through by 86 percent to 14 percent. Unison union leader Dave Prentis spoke at the conference. He said a conference changing internal party rules was “the biggest turn-off ever for those we want to vote for us… This report is not going to get food on the tables of those queuing at food banks.”
Yet he and all the union leaders—except in the Bfawu bakers’ union—obediently voted for Miliband’s proposals.
Miliband won 96 percent of union votes.
Labour will no longer receive bulk affiliation fees from trade unions, which will mean a substantial drop in funding over the next five years.
The unions claim this will give them greater control and say they can insist on results for any money paid to Labour.
But that would mean union leaders putting up a fight and exerting real pressure on Miliband.
The special conference showed no vision of the possibility of building mass, collective resistance to the Tories from the organised labour movement.
We are living under a vicious government that is inflicting misery on millions of working class people.
More and more people are relying on food banks to survive.
And a coroner determined last week that a disabled man denied benefits died partly of starvation in Oxfordshire last year (see page 20).
There should have been a conference to express outrage at the shocking state of people’s lives and discuss what Labour and union leaderships will do about it.
Instead we got mealy mouthed talk from Miliband of the rules change being the key to building a “movement”.
The change was made to distance Labour from ordinary workers—the very people who could build a powerful movement, and who Labour should represent.