Socialist Worker

Labour candidates booed at GMB conference after refusing to condemn benefit cap

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans in Dublin
Issue No. 2457

Labour leadership hustings at GMB union conference

Labour leadership hustings at GMB union conference (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Labour leadership candidates held their first trade union hustings at GMB conference in Dublin yesterday, Tuesday.

Silence greeted Blairite candidate Liz Kendall. Left winger Jeremy Corbyn won rapturous applause. This summed up the mood of the 500 delegates towards the Labour leadership election.

Kevin Green from Southampton told Socialist Worker, “Jeremy's the one that’ll win the hustings. He’s articulate and knows what he stands for–and says what he stands for.”

Meanwhile the other candidates jockeyed for position. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Mary Creagh tried to appeal to a trade union audience but without committing to anything. They wriggled around the most basic questions.

Delegates jeered Burnham and the other candidates when they refused to give a straight answer on benefits. When asked “Yes or no, is the benefit cap fair?” Burnham claimed the question “wasn’t fair.”

He is being touted as the left candidate and heir apparent. But he didn’t always manage to pull it off and not everyone was convinced.

Nor is Burnham a left winger. His opening remarks included disgraceful remarks whipping up scapegoating against migrant workers.

Immigration

Burnham claimed a Ukip-supporting trade unionist in his constituency told him that they sit alone during their lunch break because no one else speaks English. And he said that politicians saying immigration is good just don’t get it.

In contrast, delegates voted in favour of a motion which opposed the scapegoating of migrants.

When it came to the European Union referendum campaign, Creagh was the only candidate who said they’d share a platform with David Cameron.

“Yes, it’s in Britain’s interests,” she said.

Throughout the hustings Corbyn got the loudest cheers, but most big union leaders are piling in behind Burnham.

Most delegates would probably back Corbyn. Jimmy said, “Jeremy’s the most genuine and he’s from the grassroots. I think we need a leader from the grassroots.”

Mike said, “The media and the state will put up a lot of opposition, if they aren’t already, because of Jeremy’s stance on nuclear weapons.

“He did extremely well, but the question with Jeremy isn’t if he can win here, but if he can win in the country.”


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