Ed Miliband has had a dramatic clash with Len McCluskey, calling comments by the leader of the Unite union "reprehensible" and "disloyal".
Nothing has really changed since I left the Labour Party, or to be more accurate, since the Labour Party left me, when the “Blairites” assumed control and led the Labour movement to the barren desert of the “centre ground” of British politics. There they found that the Tories had already squatted in the area, and the Liberal Democrats were frantically scurrying around trying to find a home for their “all things to all men” policies. Now, in a country where the main political parties essentially preach the same message, where a Tory government, supported by a rag bag collection of Libdem MP's eager to maintain their new found cabinet positions, passes draconian and divisive austerity measures under the guise of “welfare reforms” and where Labour acquiesces, albeit by default, to these assaults on the ordinary people in the country, can anyone really be surprised that fewer and fewer people actually bother to vote. “You are all the same when you get elected” is a common and accurate criticism.
The latest clash between the Labour Party and the Trade Unions is very reminiscent of the differences between the Leadership and the Labour movement as a whole back in the 1980's when any criticism was considered to be disloyal and any views or opinions other than those expressed by “the leadership” were dismissed as subversive.
Today we have the media full of the Miliband McCluskey altercation and the clichéd references to disloyalty and attempts to divide the Labour Party.
How many of the commentators I wonder, will actually bother to read what Len McCluskey said?
The “New statesman” article can be see at http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2013/04/len-mccluskey-if-ed-miliband-seduced-blairites-hell-be-defeated
and in my opinion represents fair comment on a matter which should be of concern to all who consider themselves to be part of the wider Labour movement.
Boris Johnson has called for a new law banning strikes from taking place unless they are backed by at least 50 per cent of those entitled to vote. In response McCluskey said. “It’s slightly hypocritical, because on that basis Boris Johnson wouldn’t have been elected Mayor of London; only 38 per cent of Londoners took part,” he points out. “It amuses me on the one hand and angers me on the other, the hypocrisy of Tory leaders. Here we are, at a time of enormous crisis within the economy and all they want to do is attack workers’ rights.”
Very true Len and it is worth remembering that in the 14 years of the “New Labour” government, nothing was done to repeal the anti trade union legislation imposed by the Tories during their period in office. In fact, Blair even introduced even more restrictions on working people. The minimum wage was only ever lip service to a long held Labour party principle.
McCluskey's remarks in respect of the Thatcher years, the Thatcher legacy and the arrangements for the funeral are views held by many people in this country and can hardly be open to criticism.
The main sense of outrage from the “establishment” and their supporters seems to stem from the fact that the shadow of Blair remains over the Labour Party and many people now sitting on the front bench would dearly love a second coming of their messiah. The remarks in reference to Byrne, Murphy, Alexander and others are again fair comment and it is noticeable that Labour is maintaining that in government, they too would be offering austerity cuts but differently from the way that the Tories are cutting. There is no commitment to reverse the welfare “reforms”,or repeal any of the legislation introduced by the ConDem Coalition. There is no commitment to reverse the privatisation and resultant destruction of the NHS. No reform of the banking free for all, no sign of any transport policies, nothing other than a rehashed and warmed up serving of the same old Tory mess but in a different wrapper.
McCluskey closes with the comment “If he [Miliband] is daft enough to get sucked into the old Blairite ‘neoliberalism wasn’t too bad and we just need to tinker with it a little bit’ . . . then not only will he fail but I fear for the future of the Labour Party.”
On this point alone, I think he (McCluskey) is absolutely right.