Tag Archives: Unite the union

Some thoughts about Falkirk

The Labour Party has enjoyed a lead over the Conservatives since the coalition was formed over three years ago. Recently, Labour extended its lead over the Tories by more than 10%. This must have alarmed those at Tory high command, because such a consistent lead in the polls contradicts their deeply held and delusional belief that they’re doing the ‘right thing’ for the country. The Tories so desperately want to win the 2015 election and will do anything to get themselves re-elected. This includes using dirty tricks. Indeed when it comes to dirty tricks, the Tories have plenty of previous.

Last year, Lynton Crosby was hired as the Conservative election campaign ‘consultant’ after winning the London mayoral election for Bozza. The contest was marked by a massive smear campaign against Ken Livingstone. This is Crosby’s modus operandi: use dirty tricks to scupper your opponent’s chances of winning fairly.

Yet, Crosby hasn’t always been successful. The 2005 general election was a disaster for him and led to defeat for Michael Howard, whose semi-racist “are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan failed to deliver the goods. Howard was kicked upstairs, replaced by a younger and equally incompetent leader in the form of David Cameron.

When I first heard that the Unite union had allegedly been involved in ballot-rigging, I thought “this has Crosby’s fingerprints all over it”. This was confirmed when Dan ‘Hatchet-job’ Hodges was invited to various television studios to offer his apparently ‘expert’ view. Hodges, as many of us know, pens blogs for the Daily Telegraph where he is described as “The Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest”.

Here’s Hodges with Crosby at Bozza’s victory celebrations last year.

Hodges and Crosby1

On Wednesday, Hodges wrote in his blog:

There is fierce anger among Labour officials at the arrogant – and cack-handed – way Unite have been conducting themselves. “What did they think they were doing?” asked one. “They weren’t even trying to be subtle. They were openly bragging abut what they were up to.” Another points out that in a constituency like Falkirk, many of the trade union activists Unite were trying to hoover up were in fact nationalists. “Unite were basically letting the SNP fix a Labour Party selection,” he said.

Did you see what he did there? He’s insinuating that the SNP, through Unite, has taken over the local branch of the Labour Party. Those are Crosby’s words.

In this blog he manages to tie this story to Ken Livingstone, one of the Right’s favourite hate-figures:

This is Ed Miiband’s Yellow Trouser moment. Just as the government was trying to get agreement on the Leveson report, David Cameron sent Oliver Letwin – resplendent in canary yellow cords – to the Labour’s leaders office to try and negotiate at deal. The fact he was going cap in hand to the leader of the opposition communicated the extent to which No 10 had lost control of the situation. It also demonstrated they have no idea of how power relationships in politics work.

Ed Miliband’s late-night phone call to Ken Livingstone is similarly revealing. It shows how vulnerable he feels politically, not just about this issue but his position in the party generally. And it again shows – as I wrote this morning – that Miliband has a gaping hole in his political management. If you’re running a serious political operation you don’t get the leader scrabbling around firefighting stories like a junior press officer

Now, I’m not a fan of Miliband or the Labour Party but there’s something about Hodge’s blog that looks suspiciously like a dirty tricks campaign that’s been initiated from deep within Crosby’s foetid brain. This final paragraph says it all:

Forget the ins and outs of who did what in Falkirk. This issue is indeed about who runs the Labour party. And Ed Miliband needs to show it isn’t Ken Livingstone.

The Tories have always complained about Labour’s relationship with the trade unions, whining that the party is ‘in hock’ to them. Unlike the shadowy networks and pressure group that support the Conservative Party, unions are made up of ordinary workers. This is a point that’s lost on the Tories and their friends in the press. The Labour Party was founded by the trade union movement. The Tories represent the interests of big business and the landed classes, which are unaccountable and unelected. By contrast, unions are democratically elected and accountable.

The Tories are past masters of dirty tricks. Their close relationship to the security services was brought into sharp relief with the production of the infamous forgery that was the Zinoviev Letter, which contributed to the fall of the first Labour government in 1924.

The Zinoviev letter – one of the greatest British political scandals of this century – was forged by a MI6 agent’s source and almost certainly leaked by MI6 or MI5 officers to the Conservative Party, according to an official report published today.

New light on the scandal which triggered the fall of the first Labour government in 1924 is shed in a study by Gill Bennett, chief historian at the Foreign Office, commissioned by Robin Cook.

It points the finger at Desmond Morton, an MI6 officer and close friend of Churchill who appointed him personal assistant during the second world war, and at Major Joseph Ball, an MI5 officer who joined Conservative Central Office in 1926.

The exact route of the forged letter to the Daily Mail will never be known, Ms Bennett said yesterday. There were other possible conduits, including Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6 who, according to MI6 files, admitted sending a copy to the Mail.

My bold. This behaviour was repeated in the 1970s when groups like the National Association for Freedom (later renamed The Freedom Association) were launched with the intention of destroying organized labour under the rubric of ‘freedom’. This was vividly demonstrated in the year-long Grunwick dispute of 1977 – 78 when John Gouriet, one of NAFF’s founders, used volunteers to break the strike. The police also stood by and watched as strike leader, Jayaben Desai’s foot was run over by one of Grunwick’s managers. He was not prosecuted. NAFF or TFA has a very close relationship with the security services.

In 1995, the satirical and investigative magazine Scallywag was driven out of business by the Major government when it alleged that the Tories were involved in a dirty tricks campaign against Labour that was orchestrated by the Conservative Research Department, headed by Dr. Julian Lewis. Oddly, Scallywag wasn’t sued for libel. Instead, its distributor and anyone who handled the magazine was prosecuted. Lewis had previously stood as a moderate Labour candidate (sic) with funding from NAFF during the Reg Prentice deselection case in 1976. Prentice later joined the Tories and was made a life peer. If this wasn’t a perversion of the democratic process then I don’t know what is.  I can’t think of many countries in which one political party actively works to undermine the internal workings of its opposite number. There’s the Watergate scandal in the United States, of course and the various banana republics that are propped up with money from the US and UK. Yet, if this is supposed to be a democracy, I find it difficult to fathom how Lewis, NAFF and the Tories  could have avoided prosecution without support from the state’s more shadowy elements.

So you think you live in a democracy? Think again.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour Party Conference 2012

Len McCluskey’s article and the predictable Tory backlash

Well said, Len!

Well done, Len McCluskey, for his article in yesterday’s Guardian. MCluskey the recently elected general secretary of the union Unite penned this blog on the paper’s Comment is Free section.

The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss “general strike now” rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle. It is our responsibility not just to our members but to the wider society that we defend our welfare state and our industrial future against this unprecedented assault.

Early in the new year the TUC will be holding a special meeting to discuss co-ordinated industrial action and to analyse the possibilities and opportunities for a broad strike movement.

The paper produced an editorial which was quite possibly written by Matthew Parris’s partner Julian Glover (not the actor).  The piece, titled “Trade unions: leading nowhere” is nothing short of a vicious sub-Thatcherite attack.

It may not be a bad rule of thumb that anyone who thinks the term “Con-Dem” is a clever description of the coalition, who uses “Blairite” to dismiss all those on the left who think winning elections is important, and who describes strike ballots as “anti-union”, is someone with nothing interesting to say about any of them.

Groan. But it gets better

But the public does not want an unreformed welfare state, a lame duck industrial sector or trade unions that seem more concerned with overthrowing governments than representing workers’ interests democratically. It wants welfare, work and industrial democracy that are relevant to today’s world, not that of our grandparents.

So the author of this article thinks that the welfare state and everything that goes with it is what? Not modern? I find it irritating the way some writers will make great claims to modernity only to be revealed as dogmatic reactionaries who would like to see us return to the 19th century with its notions of deserving and undeserving poor.

It isn’t clear what Glover is saying here. He’s in some sort of funk

The labour movement is now in a minority. A large majority of the public are not in unions and do not vote Labour. There are millions in this majority who nevertheless feel threatened by cuts, who fear for the future of the economy and who think the government is too doctrinaire – but who do not approve of increasing deficits, who accept that sacrifices have to made (and shared fairly), who approve of the trade union laws of the 1980s (even if not of Mrs Thatcher), who think Labour can learn positive as well as negative lessons from Mr Blair, and who are not excited by battling the police or a new wave of strikes. Mr McCluskey’s priority ought to be to reach out to these people, showing he understands their lives and looking for innovative ways of addressing their anxieties. Instead, like a true Bourbon, he sadly sounds as if he stopped thinking in 1979. What a waste.

I think Glover has missed something here. In fact, he seems to have been living out in the Kuiper Belt for the last couple of months. The anti-cuts movement is united and is growing.

There is a letter of support for McCluskey here.

The Labour Party leadership also slapped McCluskey down. The Tory press, meanwhile, printed the usual mixture of bile and spittle,

The Daily Mail advised the unions that they faced a “threat of anti-strike laws”.

David Cameron is being urged to draw up plans for emergency anti-strike laws to prevent militant trade unions holding Britain to ransom.

It adds,

Senior members of the Government are now understood to be urging the Prime Minister to draw up contingency plans for a crackdown on reckless industrial action.

Mr Cameron held a historic face-to-face meeting with union bosses in Downing Street yesterday over mince pies and coffee, at which he told them he wanted a ‘constructive dialogue’.

Rest assured, this wasn’t beer and sandwiches. Accompanied by a photo of Charles and Camilla’s chance encounter with republicanism, James Kirkup’s article in the Torygraph says,

Mr McCluskey’s rhetoric may raise tensions between the Coalition and the unions, but there was little public response from ministers.

Privately, several Cabinet ministers are pressing for action to toughen trade union laws. But the Coalition is determined not to be seen as instigating conflict with unions.

Rather than making public statements, the government will simply leave any public brickbats to their lackeys in Fleet Street.

Meanwhile John McTernan’s says that “Christmas has come early for Ed Miliband”,

Miliband must be truly grateful for this opportunity to stand up to the unions just before the political season enters its holiday hiatus. It won’t be to McCluskey’s taste, but he’s done the Labour leader a real favour.

McTernan seems to have forgotten Miliband’s speech to conference. Labour’s leadership won’t be supporting the anti-cuts movement any time soon.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, Government & politics, Media, Neoliberalism, Public spending, Trade Unions