7 May is now looming large. Only six weeks to go until the most important election in a generation. A couple of events in the last week have shown the clear dangers not only to our union, but also to British society of any endorsement of the last five years of Tory misrule. Cameron’s BBC interview from his Witney mansion exposed a man who feels he has a divine right to rule. He has the arrogance of a man who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and networked his way to power through his Bullingdon club chums.
Despite Cameron and his oligarch supporters crowing about more attacks on the poor and working people, despite their public statements pledging more draconian anti- union laws, many trade unionists still refuse to accept that the only option to defeat them is to vote Labour.
A number of recent meetings I have attended just confirm how flawed and counterproductive this view is. At a recent South East region TUC executive meeting a very good comrade from PCS moved an excellent motion deploring the attacks by the Tories on union organisation in central government and the Department of Works & Pensions, especially on the Tory decision to scrap “check off”. The motion concluded with a call for the Labour party to reverse this attack if elected. A very good motion; except PCS does not support Labours election campaign and in some cases actively opposes it. Labour has already pledged to restore check off.
I attended another meeting at the RMT HQ at Unity House where we were discussing attacks on London cab drivers from Uber. The RMT has laid an Early Day Motion in parliament calling for defence of cab drivers terms and conditions. Unite fully supports this initiative. Other than one Tory and one Green all signatories were Labour MPs. When I asked the RMT researcher present, as was an AGS, which party was more likely to support our unions demands the answer was unequivocally- the Labour party. Yet RMT is backing candidates in marginal constituencies which may lead to the return of many Conservative MPs, enough to make a real difference if we have a hung parliament after 7 May.
The most counterproductive comments I have heard were by the RMT president, Peter Pinkey, at a recent Ron Todd Memorial Lecture in our regional office in Moreland Street. Gordon Lean who chaired the meeting on behalf of Unite was astounded to hear Peter say he wants to see Labour lose this election and he couldn’t care less if the Tories get re-elected. Quite why Peter thought this was a fitting comment at a Lecture to commemorate one of the TGWU's finest general secretaries I cannot work out. Despite Ron’s fall out with Labour I could never envisage him calling for the return of one of the most anti working class governments since the Second World War.
The Tories are not hiding their intentions to smash our movement this time, unlike in 2010. Check the report of the recent mayor’s question time in City Hall on 25 March. In response to a question from a Tory MLA, Richard Tracey, Boris Johnson wasted no time to state that an incoming Tory government will move quickly to attack our members existing right to strike. His comments would make it virtually impossible to legally strike.
Last week Miliband attempted to put some substance on policy into the debate with Paxman on the BBC. It may not be a full blooded socialist alternative, but it was an attempt to distance Labour from Blair and put policies that will slow down and reverse the “Greed is good” madness of both Thatcher and her successors, including Blair. It may be too late to change the minds of some trade union activists, but Unite must continue to encourage our members to vote for a rejection of the Tories and a return of a Labour government which will contain many more left MPs than the final years of the Blair/Brown debacle and more than the last period when Labour were in opposition.