Ed's problem is not the unions but their leaders. Is he up to the long hard and bloody struggle?
9 Jul 2013 at 08:11
Sadly for Ed Miliband the Labour Party has no future only a present which is an ever recurring past. It is quite insane to try and break the link between the Party and the unions as their relationship is symbiotic.
The Labour Party was founded by the unions so that working men could be represented in Parliament. Their roots, their beliefs their very core is to represent the interests of working men and women. And there lies the problem.
The “working Class” is now such an abstract concept that, apart from in very small northern enclaves, it does not exist except in the mind of radical academics. Most people regard themselves as middle class.
Before Thatcher everyone knew their place. Working class people were easily identified. They lived in council houses. They worked with their hands. A steam whistle would tell them to have their breaks, their lunch and when to go home. They would wear mufflers, cloth caps and walk or bicycle to their factories. They deferred to authority. They knew their place and they accepted the patronising paternalistic, “we know best” attitude from successive Labour and Conservative governments.
And then there was the working class royalty. They still worked in factories, but were skilled, earned more money and could afford to put down a deposit on a mortgage.
Then Thatcher came along. She made it clear that any “place” that people had in society was not through birth but through hard work and aspiration. That education was the way out of poverty. That everyone, not the few could be property owners. She democratised the unions. No more strikes as a result of a few raised hands in a car park. There had to be a ballot. With union power came union responsibility.
But the Thatcher revolution was not without pain and suffering. So Tony Blair tapped into the national psyche and delivered Thatcherism with a heart.
And that is why the left hate him so much. He wanted to give people choice. He wanted public services which were accountable and delivered. He wanted to free people to live their lives as they wished and not be told by the governing classes how to live them.
And he was thwarted every way by Brown and his acolytes, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.
When Ed Miliband was feted by the left for giving them back their party and the beginnings of the genocide of all things Blair every sentient commentator knew that the party had shifted to the left. The first shots of the civil war had begun.
There is nothing new in entryism in the Labour Party. In the seventies and eighties Militant Tendency would send in their troops to take over moribund but safe constituencies. They were the cuckoos in the Labour nest. Frank Field bravely fought them for most of his political life. Eventually the party ventilated them. But not without one hell of a struggle.
No matter what Milband promises today it is too late. He should have stamped his authority on the unions to be responsible from the moment he was elected.
It has been the history of the unions that there has been a struggle. At first it was with unscrupulous employers exploiting their members and then it became a struggle for an ideology. Frank Chapple of the electricians union fought all his life to expel the communists. John Spellar, an old trade union fixer, could teach Miliband a thing or two.
But it is too late. The cuckoos are back. The entryists have not just entered, they have stormed the barricades. They pay for and run the sweet shop.
There is a way out, but it will be long, hard and bloody. The Trade unions are not the mischief that has to be cured, it is their leaders. The majority of trade unionists are not affiliated to any political party. They want their interests to be represented at the work place and not have their hard earned subscriptions frittered away on a political dogma that was becoming out of touch even in the sixties and has no place in modern Britain.
This is Ed Miliband’s challenge. Is he up to it?