Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Trade unions4 john - Report

More than 130 trade union activists met at Friends Meeting House for the Trade Unionists 4 John rally initiated by the London Region of the AMICUS Unity Gazette and chaired on behalf of the Gazette by Ted Knight.

Speakers from the platform started with Gill George from the AMICUS NEC, speaking in a personal capacity, who explained why she supported John from the perspective of being a trade union activist outside the Labour Party but nevertheless part of the Labour movement. This point of view was repeated by a minority of later contributors from the floor of the meeting.

Gill was followed by Gary Heather speaking on behalf of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Broad Left, who explained the work being done in that union to build awareness of and support for John’s leadership challenge. Gary explained how, as a Labour Party member and union activist, he was pleased to be able to support a leadership candidate who not only opposed privatisation but also supported public ownership of privatised industries such as telecoms.

I was the third speaker, speaking on behalf of UNISON United Left and I echoed support for John’s opposition to privatisation and explained the impact which John’s campaign was having in mobilising young trade unionists.
While nearly one in five of the workforce are young workers only one in twenty trade unionists are young, with young people focusing on single issue politics.
I went onto say how, John’s campaign had led to the formation of the Socialist Youth Network of young Labour Party and trade union activists which would provide a continuing platform for organisation and campaigning.
I spoke about the need for us to organise through the broad left groups because the leadership of the bnig4 are too timid to get on board for a serious challenge - Dave Prentis (General Secretary of UNISON) told Tribune at christams that what he hoped for in 2007 was a smooth transitionto a new labour leader!

I was extremely pleased to see no less than 15 SYN'ers in the meeting with more i am told in the meeting downstairs on Palestine - so well done us :)

Geoff Martinof Health Emergency was the next speaker. Geoff focused upon the impact of Government policy on health workers and the anger and hostility which this was provoking. He pointed out that morale in the health service was now lower even than under the Tories but that John’s campaign could provide a focus for this anger.

The final platform speaker was John McDonnell himself, who warned that the departure of Tony Blair could be hastened by the activities of the Metropolitan Police. John spoke about his campaign but in particular focused upon the strong support he was receiving from rank and file organisations in the trade unions, which he contrasted with the downright opposition of some General Secretaries. He had just come from a meeting of the UNISON Parliamentary Group at which he had been given a UNISON Labour Link magazine, which had a story on the labour leadership showing pictures of leadership and deputy leadership candidates but excluding himself - referring back to my point that the leaders of the big 4 are too timid to get on board for a serious challenge! John said some MP's and leaders of Trade unions are living in Cukoo land not in the real world - we need to make them come back to reality!

In a theme that he returned to in his closing remarks, John pointed out that the reason for this hostility was the same as the reason for the media blackout on the campaign – which was that a socialist challenge for the Labour leadership was a threat to all sections of the establishment (including within the Labour movement).

Wide ranging contributions from the floor were started with two contributions from PCS activists concerning the strike action due for 31 January. Other speakers came from AMICUS, CWU, UNISON, PCS, RMT and the POA (whose delegates brought greetings from General Secretary Brian Caton who was facing possible imprisonment for standing up for his members’ rights).

Paul Mackney, retiring joint General Secretary of UCU spoke from the floor and to much amusement set out the reasons for not supporting John – “He doesn’t accept the modernisation agenda, he doesn’t support neo-endogenous growth theory and he isn’t even corrupt. You won’t get any seats in the House of Lords from him!”

The meeting was concluded by impromptu greetings from Tony Benn, who had arrived without expecting to speak but rose to the occasion, expressing warm support for John and warning that if Labour MPs failed to allow a contest for Labour leader it could come to be the final act in New Labour’s destruction of the Labour Party.

John McDonnell closed the meeting with a reminder to activists to lobby MPs to use their nomination rights to ensure that we have a candidate on the ballot paper for Labour leader who will support trade union policies

All in all a very impressive meeting people seem really fired up and ready to go - all of us now need to put as much pressure on members of the PLP to nominate John - and not just your own MP - as Unionists you can legitimately contact those MP's that have links with whichever union your in and put pressure on them to back John as well.

I've heard John speak a lot over the last 6 or 7 months but I must say that was one of the best from him - i've never before seen him so angry and so up for this challenge.

The meeting concluded at 9.30 and John had to run straight off to do News at 10 *which sadly I missed cos I was in the pub by then having a vodka!)

So SYN'ers this is it the fight for our labour party and movement is on!


marshajane said...

Meant to also say there is now a TU4John blog

I've stuck a link to it from the side bar

James said...

Great report, although I would say there were over 150 people there.

Geoff Martin was on great form too, and Paul Mackney had me in stitches - onwards and upwards!!

Sham said...

Hi guys! The New Statesman interviews have been published - here

Thanks once again for putting my name forward! ;)

Jeff said...

I hope SYNers will also be attending the upcoming LYL social (I can't, I'm too old!)

Thursday 15th February - Curry Night
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Downstairs room at City Spice, 138 Brick Lane, E1 6RU
Speaker: Leadership candidate John McDonnell

John McDonnell is so far the only declared candidate for the labour party leadership when Tony Blair stands down later this year. We're happy that he's going to speak to us on 15 February so why not come along and hear what he has to say and ask the questions you want answers to over a curry at City Spice.

For £18 you'll get a starter, curry, half a rice, half a naan and a popadom. last time I popped down there I had a great time and you can find more information on the restaurant here You can pay on the night - but make sure you RSVP to Adam Herriott at

a very public sociologist said...

Genuine question: what do SYN'ers not in the Labour party do? If at the moment SYN is basically a youth group in support of McDonnell, what do comrades not in Labour get out of it?

All the best comrades.

Adele said...

Come and question the man who would like to replace Tony Blair as Labour leader and the next Prime Minister. Everyone welcome, student or otherwise. It is on Monday Febuary 12th, 7-8:30PM at Man Met Students Union. Check out John 4 leader for more info.