The snap general election on 8 June is an opportunity to kick the Tories out in favour of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. And trade unionists are urging a fight to back Corbyn’s campaign.
Delegates to the Scottish TUC union federation conference on Monday heard Corbyn pledge to work with the trade union movement and “stand up to the rich and the powerful few”.
One of the first things a Labour government would do, he said, would be to repeal Tory anti-union laws.
He attacked the Tories as “the party of privilege and the richest” and pledged to challenge the “rigged system” against the working class.
Messages like these are striking a chord with workers.
Anger at the Tories’ assault on the NHS ran deep among delegates to the Unison union’s health conference in Liverpool this week.
Pauline, a health worker in Lancashire, summed up the feeling among many.
She told Socialist Worker, “It’s time to lay the blame for the problems in the NHS where they belong—it’s not bad staff but bad government.”
Carole, a Unison member from Chorley, agreed. “I looked at my wages slip from four years ago and I was better off—I was earning more and had less going out,” she told Socialist Worker.
“If we don’t get the Tories out, I don’t think there will be an NHS left in four years’ time.”
Many delegates were enthusiastic about Labour’s pledges, such as to renationalise the NHS.
Carole said, “If you look at the policies Labour is putting forward now, it’s what we need.”
There are some people who argue that Labour should distance itself from “protests and placards”. But Mark Ladbrooke, who brought the Oxford Labour banner to the BMW picket line at Cowley last week, disagreed.
“The Labour Party was born out of the trade union movement, and its links with working people are absolutely crucial,” he said.
“We’ve got a membership of half a million people, plus even more affiliated members in the trade unions.
“We need to reach out to them, to give them confidence to go and talk to their neighbours and workmates—and if we do that we can win. This election is all to play for.”
The polls are still stacked against Corbyn and few are under any illusion that Labour will have an easy ride. But putting forward socialist policies with an insurgent campaign could help Corbyn win.
Delegates to the postal workers’ CWU union’s conference in Bournemouth this week recognised that Labour faces an “uphill struggle”.
Des Heemskerk from Essex Amal branch told a fringe meeting, “It’s an uphill battle. I have people in my office saying that they voted all their lives but this time they’re voting Tory because they want a hard Brexit.”
One delegate, Phil, argued that Labour could win if it was seen to offer a genuine alternative to the Tories, on issues such as housing.
“If people believe that Labour will actually build genuinely affordable social housing that will make a difference,” he said.
He added that Labour councils also had to change for Labour’s alternative to seem credible. And Labour councils continue to push through cuts and privatisation in social care.
Theresa Rollinson sits on Unison’s health service group executive. She spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
“I think people are so used to Labour being the way Labour has been before—attacking workers—that some aren’t ready for change,” Theresa said. “Some are saying they’re not going to vote. But I’m saying we’ve got someone like Jeremy Corbyn with proper socialist values.”
Unison’s leadership has been equivocal—and many among it would prefer a “soft left” leader.
Theresa said, “Unison has got to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. We’ve got to do anything we can—we’ve got to protest and we need to organise a national strike.”