Interview: Crowded Lives
Activists: Life With Brian
Industrial: National Focus
Unions: If These Walls Could Talk
Economics: Beating the Bastards
Media: Three Corners
History: The Brisbane Line
Trade: The Dumping Problem
Review: Frankie's Way
The Locker Room
Spicey and Tart
Tony and Pauline
PNG Bags Plastic
Fighting Words Craig Emerson
The Awkward Squad
The New Leaders of UK trade unions will attempt to fill the New Labour‚ vacuum with a constructive policy agenda for working Britain at the TUC and Labour Party conferences this month.
The confidence of these Leaders who want to Reclaim our Party‚ is buoyed by the belief they are far more in touch with public opinion than the Government, and far more trusted to represent citizens.
Awkward for Who?
'The awkward squad'‚ is the media term for the newly elected leaders to Britain's union top posts. Since the 2001 British election, the four largest unions, and numerous others have elected new leaders.
The story of these elections has all the successful candidates stood on a platform of asserting members' interests to government and employers The UK Media likes the story of conflict with the government but their tag, 'Awkward squad'‚ does not tell the story, but instead obscures it.
Rather than being throw backs to a prehistoric age that have nothing positive to offer, the new leaderships of the Unions putting forward an approach to policy that will attempt to re-engage their memberships and redirect government.
Reclaiming our Party
Kevin Curran, Secretary of the 700,000. G.M.B is one of the new generation of leaders that spoke at the recent Reclaiming our Party conference, and will play a pivotal role in the redefining the Union/labour relationship, dislikes the labels are given to the given to the new leadership
"I have only one label and that is secretary of the GMB and I am accountable to its members and seek to represent their interests."
The Union, which claims an ancestry back to 1747, has been affiliated to the party since its inception when its legendary figure Will Thorne played a important early role and Union currently sponsors over 80 Labour MP's. Eyebrows were raised when on election he said the GMB would "review‚ the GMB‚s relationship with the Labour Party".
Labour Relationship fundamental
However media talk of a break with Labour misses the point, as none of the leaders of the larger affiliated unions will seriously consider that option.
Curran describes the relationship as 'fundamental'‚ but if the Union is to represent its members then the relationship has to advance the interests of its members.
"We were delighted when Labour was elected in 1997 but also realised that difficult issues lay ahead. The GMB consulted it membership who decided at a special conference that supporting Labour to a second term was fundamental to their broader interests but we should review that mid way though the second term."
Membership led policy
"Our review is a member ship led review and it will be decided by the members, not by the unions leadership. The members are the ones who will decide whether they want to vote for a Labour government, work for the party, sit on their hands or look for an alternative."
For Curran the robust discussion will be a an opportunity to re-energise the relationship.
Curran contrasts the strength of the union's debate with the secrecy of New Labour.
Spin results from lack of policy confidence
Curran sees New Labour's obsession with spin and secrecy that is eroding confidence in the government as result of New Labour being the product of a "lack of confidence‚ in what it Labour stands for".
"It ironic that when many of things we argued for in the 80's are now supported by the majority of the public, it the Labour government that is set against the majority on so many issues.
"I have yet to here a coherent argument for privatisation yet they refuse to debate it with us."
Currans' view of New Labour is that they are a "minority
group centred around a very small group of people‚ who are afraid of broader discussion and prefer to rely on spin and secrecy because they are a minority."
A new citizens movement
Unions for Curran play a role not just as advocates at work, but as "advocates for its members as citizens."
"The unions September will be pushing for broad changes not just in policy but approach from New Labour.
"That will help the government reconnect with their members who as citizens are voters. They would do well to listen to us as we are their friends."
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