Socialist Worker

Labour set to bow to McCluskey demand to drop free movement from its manifesto

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2681

A mass canvass for Labour in west London - but will the partys manifesto include the radical policies that members want?

A mass canvass for Labour in west London - but will the party's manifesto include the radical policies that members want? (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Labour Party looked almost certain to ignore party members’ demands to include defending freedom of movement in its manifesto, set for publication this week.

Delegates at Labour’s conference in September voted to maintain and extend free movement rights.

Freedom of movement allows people from European Union (EU) countries to live and work in Britain.

Yet in an interview on Sunday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to say that freedom of movement will feature as one of the party’s election promises.

It comes after Len McCluskey—leader of the powerful Unite union—said he would block the policy from being included in Labour’s manifesto.

Labour’s manifesto was set to be released on Thursday of this week. The party’s national executive committee—which includes delegates from Unite—met on Saturday to agree on what should be in it.

McCluskey insisted ahead of the meeting that freedom of movement shouldn’t be included. Senior Labour politicians—including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott—failed to challenge him.

He claimed that people living in “forgotten towns and cities” want a cut in immigration.

Poll

Yet a recent YouGov poll found that 56 percent of people would back continuing freedom of movement with the EU after Brexit.

Labour politicians want to claim that their party supports migrants. Yet they also claim that bosses “exploit” migrants to lower wages—and that there must be “stricter regulations”.

In practice “tougher regulations”—such as work visas or a “skills-based” system—mean restricting migrants’ rights.

It’s not true that migration lowers wages. Studies—such as the most recent report from the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory—have repeatedly shown that migration “has small impacts on average wages”.

And restrictions on migrant workers makes it easier for bosses to underpay them.

Migrants in Britain on a work visa are at the mercy of bosses as their right to stay depends on whether they have a job.

The real solution to low wages is to organise all workers in unions to fight for higher wages.

Those struggles are made harder by claims that a section of workers cause the low wages of another. It is a concession to racist myths.


A backlash over broadband

Labour Party plans to nationalise parts of BT and provide free broadband to everyone in Britain prompted outrage from bosses and the right.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced the proposal in a speech on Friday of last week.

Under the plans, the government would take control of the broadband and telephone network, and provide free superfast internet to every address by 2030.

Labour should go much further—and renationalise the whole of BT, along with the energy and water industries.Yet even its modest proposal prompted a fierce backlash.

Prime minister Boris Johnson outlandishly called it a “crazed communist scheme”.

And the top bosses of Internet providers, including Virgin media and TalkTalk, threatened nearly 200,000 job losses if Labour dares to try and implement its plan. It’s a sign of the resistance a Labour government would face if it dares to touch the companies that run public services for profit.

Taking on the utility companies, making sure Labour keeps to its promises—and pushing it to go further—will need struggle by working class people.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.