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

Monday, 13 June 2011

Labour must decide who it represents

The Labour Party is now officially at war again. From Polly Toynbee in Saturday’s Guardian, through the 2revelations” in the Sunday Telegraph, to Rawnsley in the Observer or Rentoul in the Independent, comes the news that the Miliband brothers are officially NOT TALKING while Ed Balls’ private papers have been splashed over the media.

Why is the speech that David didn’t give in the headlines? Reports in the Press do not in any way suggest to the average trade unionist that this was a Martin Luther King “I had a dream” moment, rather a run of the mill, rather pedestrian restatement of all that Miliband, D stood for - a platform that the majority of the Labour Party at that point had rejected for good reasons, particularly as “business as usual” was not what was necessary? Yet it is widely noted that the PLP treated it as a Sermon from the Mount from the lost prophet.

Does anyone need reminded that there was enmity not just between Blair and Brown but that it seeped into relationships between other members of the cabinet? Too many people at that time were manoeuvring for position, forgetting why they were in Government and indulging in petty feuding instead. That is why the Labour Party lost the election. Why does the Telegraph feel that the fact that Ministers chose to not use civil servants advice is a revelation? Isn’t that why we elect a government to take political decisions rather than simply allow the so-called experts to rule?

Why are the commentariat so delighted that Ed Miliband has rejected an invitation to speak at the Durham Miner’s Gala “because he won’t be associating with Bob Crowe”? Miliband is a northern MP, representing Doncaster. The Gala is the largest labour movement event in the North of England, representing an honest, working class, long-standing tradition. Miliband, E is the leader of the Labour Party.

What is wrong with the leader of the Labour Party addressing such a gathering? Why did a previous leader of the Labour Party representing a constituency just up the road never deliver a speech there? (One called Tony Blair) And why has the MP for South Shields (Miliband D), whose constituents flock to the event never spoken? Maybe Durham is a bit too wedded to values of solidarity, equality and socialism?

Here’s a thought. Those who wanted a Labour Party that rejected its traditional voters, that sees no problem with a pro business, pro private sector bias, for whom political office was a stepping stone to personal wealth and a larger income are fighting back. For convenience sake let’s call them Blairites. The need for a Party that articulates the values represented by the Durham Gala escapes them.

Miliband E has a simple decision to make. Who does he represent?

It’s a decision that he needs to make quickly, and more importantly, start to publicly articulate. Whether that will be a decision that the trade union movement will support remains to be seen and if it is not a direction that speaks to our values as trade unionists we will need to reassess our support for Labour as a Party. It is a condemnation of his leadership so far that the best speech made by the opposition to the Tories comes from the Archbishop of Canterbury.