The Glasgow East by-election result was a disaster for Gordon Brown. Thousands of ordinary people decided that they had enough of a Government that told them the solution to soaring food prices was to ‘not waste food’. How many of those thousands were NHS or other public sector workers facing pay cuts forced through by this Government? One commentator accurately described the ‘hatred’ of Labour. Voters in Glasgow East were no longer willing to accept a Government that seems to be in bed with the bosses, but couldn’t care less about the rest of us.
It’s bizarre, but Brown just doesn’t get it. Immediately after the humiliating Glasgow defeat, in his speech to the Labour Party Policy Forum in Warwick, Brown boasted there would be no return to ‘Old Labour’ policies and values. You start to wonder if Gordon Brown’s in the pay of the Tories. There’s never been much difference policy-wise, but he’s now doing everything he possibly can to make sure Labour loses the next general election.
Brown’s leadership has been a straightforward continuation of Blair’s vicious policies. The destruction of the public sector, the war mongering, the anti-union laws… Brown picked up where Blair left off; Blair in turn inherited the mantle of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Our union leaders were wrong to back Brown for Labour Party leader, and to support the manouevures that meant there wasn’t even a contest.
Labour isn’t just in a mess politically. Labour Party finances are pretty creaky too, with debts now at about £18 million. Corporate and individual donors have melted away, and trade unions now provide around 90% of Labour Party funding. Unite is by a long way the biggest donor.
It really is time to ask what we’re getting for our money. Trade unions have gone to Warwick with a list of 130 demands for changes in Labour Party policy. The 130 demands aren’t particularly radical. They don’t call for the complete repeal of the Tory anti-trade union laws. They don’t even call for a complete stop to the privatisation of the NHS. Many of us would have liked to see a set of much tougher demands. My view is that accepting anything less than the 130 would be a betrayal – of our own members and of everybody who had some hopes that Labour was ‘their party’, the party of ordinary working people.
The issue now is how strongly our union leaders will stand up to Brown. It will be an absolute disaster if Unite or any other union accepts the line that ‘we can’t rock the boat’, or that the media will exploit it of Brown is seen to ‘cave in to union barons’.
I don’t think we should accept any more excuses. The Warwick agreement last time round was weak, and even then the Government refused to implement most of it. If Labour wants our money, Labour should start delivering on some pretty basic policies. A commitment to halt the destruction of the NHS would be a pretty good opener. It won’t be good enough to say that our unions have to make compromises to save Brown and Labour. Glasgow East shows the result of that line of thinking. When your enemy’s weak, that’s the time to go in hard. The reality is that Gordon Brown is our enemy. Let’s go for the jugular.