INFLUENCE peddling or using one’s political connections to obtain favours for others in return for similar favours or money may not be illegal but it is generally regarded by the public as little short of bribery, even in the United States where it is sanctified as “lobbying”. It’s the sort of sharp practice one would expect from the Tories whose last government was wracked with allegations of sleaze. It’s not something that any Labour government should tolerate — least of all in the current climate of austerity and cuts.
The fact that the four prominent Blairite MPs, including two former ministers, who have been exposed touting for hire by the Sunday Times and Channel 4 are now claiming that they complied with the parliamentary code of conduct comes as no surprise to us. Three of them have now been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party but that mustn’t be the end to it.
The Blairites didn’t hesitate to kick George Galloway out of the Labour Party for his outspoken words against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Galloway did nothing wrong and his words proved to be prophetically true. But these four Labour MPs, Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt, Margaret Moran and the Trotskyist turncoat Stephen Byers have all clearly brought the entire Labour Party into disrepute. They should all be expelled.
BA CABIN CREWS walked out last weekend in a protest strike that grounded most of the airline’s operations over the past three days. The strike was inevitable after BA management tabled proposals worse than those offered at the previous round of negotiations. A further four-day stoppage is set for the end of the month unless management responds positively to the union’s call for realistic negotiations on job cuts and pay.
Unite has bent over backwards to reach a negotiated settlement but BA management seems set on confrontation in a bid to break the back of BASSA, the cabin crew union which is a branch of Unite. But management hopes that they could smash the workers’ resolve were dashed by the solid response to the first strike and the growing support for the next one amongst those waverers intimidated by the employer’s threats.
John McDonnell MP, the chair of the Labour Representation Committee said:
“This dispute is a prime example of the current industrial relations climate, with the employer not only seeking to win but to break the union too. This is an indication of the coming disputes, and requires maximum solidarity. We need to learn the lessons and co-ordinate industrial action across the economy if we are to ensure ordinary people do not pay for this crisis.”
The BA cabin crews are defending their jobs, working conditions and the safety of the passengers. Across the world ground staff have responded to the call for solidarity. Unions in France, Germany and America have pledged their solidarity for the strike including the giant International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the biggest unions in the United States with 40,000 members working in the aviation industry.
Teamsters’ leader James Hoffa has said “Whatever we have to do, we will do” following talks with the Unite leadership. That’s got to be the call throughout the British trade union movement as well to ensure that the BA dispute is brought to a short and successful end.