Thursday, 4 July 2013

Unite and Falkirk, Again

Who needs to talk about Egypt* when the fallout from the Falkirk stitch up has cast light on the shoddy state of Labour's selection process, and brought down Tom Watson? It's like the Blairites' christmases have all come at once. Shadow ministers closely linked with the ancien regime have been popping up and down stirring the pot. Unite have been forced into the untenable position of saying their grossly incompetent fix was within the rules, and the party has announced the 'Union Join' membership scheme is getting binned. Indeed, not a few champagne glasses will find themselves raised tonight.

But not here. I like Len McCluskey. I like it that Tories - of whatever party - find him terrifying. I like that he makes no apologies for Unite as a union that defends the interests of working people, whether it be in the workplace or in politics (because, in case some folk have forgotten, working class people have political interests too). And I am glad that Unite is committed to participating fully in the Labour Party to ensure more trade union-friendly working class candidates are selected, and to remind Labour that it exists to to fulfil a social democratic agenda as opposed to being better managers of the deeply dysfunctional and lopsided capitalism Britain is lucky to be home to.

All these are reasons why I'm bloody annoyed. This clumsy, stupid Falkirk intervention has damaged the standing of the union - my union - and handed the Tories a gift-wrapped stick they can beat us with between now and election day. Our enemies will use this idiocy, for that is what it is, to attack the very idea that working people should have an input into politics. It has damaged the reputation of the party and could hurt the standing of unions generally. It's a shambles, it was unnecessary, and is simply not good enough.

As a Unite member and proud trade unionist, I want to know why the powers that be tried to "weight" the constituency selection in Falkirk, who authorised the badly-bungled operation, and who carried it out?

Did our would-be fixer think Mandelson and co. would be too embarrassed by their own shameful record of selection chicanery to cry foul? Was this farce left to the work experience boy to organise? I've honestly seen stitch-ups of classroom window monitor elections carried out with more aplomb. Whoever is responsible clearly lacks an ounce of political sense and needs to be removed from whatever position of authority they occupy in the union. Not just because what they did was wrong - even if they were "only following orders" - but because they're clearly not cut out for the job.

In Unite's defence, it is right to call for an opening of Labour's investigation into the sorry episode, especially as nearly the world and its dog appear to be party to them.

But the scandal of course is that this kind of crap happens routinely, and the unions are by no means the worst offenders. Because real power and serious money is at stake seats will forever be fought over by fair means or foul. What is to be done? There's all kinds of solutions on offer, from the open primary to selection administration by the Electoral Commission, but whatever the case, those who live and breathe the stitch-up will bitterly oppose anything that curbs them. That's why I fear when the dust has settled and this disappears down the memory hole, crap like this will come back to damage us time and time again.

*Well, I do intend to. Tomorrow perhaps.


Anonymous said...

The problem wether we like it or not is that the calibre of the people doing the fixing does not come close to those in both the Blairite past and even the Kinnock era trade union and Labour Party the brightest and most able are not found in either Unite or in local parties .
Would you have a open supporter of North Korea high up in any modern trade union or political organisation .
Unfortunately Unite cannot win in the real world for its dwindling membership and has to throw its weigh around in the kindergarten that is the modern Labour Party machine .

If this weeks PMQs is anything to go by expect Unite to out balance UKIP to the totes advantage in 2015. Five more years
Thanks to Unite

Howard Fuller said...

The situation has just got worse. According to this just published on-line Milibands gone to the police:

Alex Dawson said...

There are so many agendas at play here it is impossible to know where this will all end. Getting the police involved and invoking the spectre of Murdoch as Ed has done is adding more fuel to a fire that would otherwise burn out by itself.

It's a clear win for the many (non-Unite) Labour MPs terrified of being held properly to account over such trifling matters as employment law being shredded in the name of enterprise or welfare benefits being removed from those who need them most. So the likes of poor-bashing Dakuncz, sell-off-the-schools Twigg and the pious moral arbiter Frank Field will all be enjoying the bonfire.

That said, we're in early silly season. Question Time has ended, Wimbledon is nearly over, and by the time any serious politics are going on again, this issue will be beyond chip-wrapping and in the bottom of a bin on a windswept pier. Further references to this will be no more than murmers within the Westminster Bubble.

There is a tendency for those of us in politics to get overexcited these days. Remember that huge scoop about six months ago that was going to "bring down" Gove? Remember being told by hyperventilating commentators in the aftermath of phone-hacking that Murdoch's empire was finished? How many times have we heard that *insert contentious issue* was the alter upon which the Coalition woud be sacrificed?

I agree, this whole saga does nothing to arrest the dangerous anti-politics sweeping the country. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not a massive deal.

Phil said...

I might write about it again tomorrow. It shouldn't be a massive deal but, in a way, both Ed and Len have a bit to gain from this unseemly spat.

Chris said...

Erm, Labour are always 'fixing' the selection process, in Rotherham we had some photogenic drone parachuted in from whatever lab the central office own. The preferred, local candidate didn't fit the profile.