UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Lib Dems crash but we still need to get the message across

YouGov’s daily polling for the Sun has topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, Others 10%. It’s the first time YouGov have shown the Lib Dems dropping into single figures, and the first time any pollster has shown them at such a low level since 1997. But the 40% backing for the Tories still means there's a lot of organising work to do.

It can be a hard slog working away at showing there is a better way - and it was made all the harder by the lack of opposition during the Labour leadership campaign. Even now the insipidity of some of the party political opposition to the cuts is hardly inspiring. That makes the role of the unions even more important.

Educate, organise and agitate is not a chronological process. They are all part of the one thing. But with the strength of the ConDem propaganda success, the work needed on the 'educate' aspect is all the more crucial. At some point union members are going to have to vote with their feet but that won't come until the hearts and minds are convinced of the cause and that they can do something about it.

For many union members, the size of the challenge is unprecedented. But the tools to back up activists in facing that challenge are also unprecendented. We now have instant access to vast tomes of information online. We can communicate instantly through the web, blogs and social networking. Yet the very availabilty of all that information can ironically make it even less accessible. The trick is to distill it into accessible bites - a trick the right wing media are expert in.

But we won't build a sustainable campaign on 'bites' alone. We are not campaigning just for one vote to go one way on one day. We are campaigning to build confidence to resist, to take action and to hand the principles and philosophies on to the next generation of activists and members. We need the 'bites' to start that process but we also need to open the door for those who want to delve deeper - to rebuild informed political debate in our movement. Trade unions, as Michael McGahey said, must be 'a movement, not a monument'.

UNISONActive has been part of trying to pull some of that information together and providing facts and analysis in a range of forms from contributers. See the range at http://unisonactive.blogspot.com/search/label/NeoLib%20mythbuster We also need branches and regions to share their materials so we don't all go reinventing the wheel. See East Midlands and Edinburgh for just some examples. Why not send your links to UNISONActive?

On the organising front UNISON HQ, Branches and Regions are showing the way. Imaginative events around the country are not only focussing on demonstrating there is a better way, they are also getting back to basic organisational skills, trade union history and political education. UNISONScotland's 'Mobilise' event in a couple of weeks is one example where a range of techniques, entertainment and engagement will try to build that organisation in a modern context.

The turnout at Central Hall, the growing numbers at rallies around the country, the 20,000 hitting the streets in Edinburgh and Belfast and the response to the joint campaign in Northern Region are just some examples where that organisation is starting to pay off.

But there is a long way to go. Perhaps when the phoney war develops very shortly into people seeing the real effects of cuts, the campaign will get easier. But the trick then will be to move at a speed that members can sustain. As Gen Sec Dave Prentis told National Conference, "We will not take our members down dead end alleys. We will not exhaust ourselves in the first few months. But we will organise".