Len’s big gamble

THE CON-DEM Coalition austerity cuts have made a dent in living standards for the vast majority of people in this country. They have unashamedly attacked the disabled and long-term sick. They are selling off our treasured NHS and our children’s schools to those who would run them simply for profit.

Housing benefits are capped, with threats of new cuts, while private rents continue to soar. The reappearance of sleeping bags of the homeless all along the Strand and throughout our major cities is turning into a flood.

Public sector jobs have been cut by thousands upon thousands and the quality of services is disappearing.

This government has failed to learn the lessons of Iraq and has taken a leading part in bombing Libya to smithereens and left it at the mercy of contending fascistic brigands. And it yearns to do the same to Syria. And it has used the money that should have gone into mending our hospitals and schools to do this.

Furthermore we are all being spied upon wholesale. In Britain, the US and all over the western world whatever can be spied upon electronically is being spied upon by forces who regard peace activists as more dangerous than terrorists.

You would think that come the next general election the irredeemably nasty party and its Liberal Democrat flunkies would be cast into the political wilderness. The Labour leadership would have to do very little except just exist simply to win by default. And yet we have the Miliband brothers debating as to whether they should plan for another coalition government or seek an outright victory.

Ed Miliband seems to be bent on seizing defeat from the jaws of a landslide success by not only refusing to defend the workers of this country from the vicious battering they are under — but saying he would continue with the murderous oppression that is throwing people out of jobs and homes.

If he would just promise a cap on rents; or pay rises for those who are working themselves ragged to try to cover the workload of sacked colleagues and to pay their own snowballing household bills — he could have the biggest landslide win ever without trying any harder.

You can understand why some union leaders are exasperated. And you can understand why Len McCluskey of the giant union Unite is calling Ed Miliband’s bluff. Miliband wants to change the link between Labour and the unions. He wants union members no longer to be affiliate members of his party, despite agreeing to pay the political levy, unless they take the trouble to register as associate members.

This will greatly reduce the voting power of the unions within the Labour Party. But it will also reduce the money they get from the unions. McCluskey has said let this go ahead. It means the Labour leadership will have to make Labour worth joining for working class people, one by one, or lose all its funding. McCluskey admits this is a very big gamble and could see the Labour Party collapse. He declared that Labour “has no God-given right to exist”. It must earn its money and earn its votes by defending the working class as it was created to do — or fall.

This will certainly put pressure on Miliband to wake up. But there’s no guarantee he will. We live in increasingly interesting times.