Unions move behind Corbyn

THE GIANT union Unite last week decided to back Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest — a move of enormous significance for the whole political arena in Britain. Other Labour affiliated unions: the train drivers’ union Aslef, and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) have also backed him, along with the non-affiliated RMT and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

But affiliation status is no longer quite so crucial in this contest because the Labour Party’s leadership selection rules have changed. The unions no longer have a bloc vote but all members of affiliated unions have an individual vote. The union leadership can only advise its members how to vote.

But members of non-affiliated unions and any other member of the public who can be bothered can easily register with the Labour Party as a supporter for just £3 and have a vote in the selection — and in the selection of the deputy leader. Those who live in London will also be able to vote in the selection of Labour’s candidate for London Mayor.

Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to stand has motivated a lot of left-wing activists who have grown cynical and angry over “New Labour”, Blairism, the Iraq War and the current Labour leaderships abject failure to challenge the Tories on austerity and welfare cuts to register as supporters, bringing a huge swathe of genuine socialists and peace activists back into the mainstream political arena.

The big public health sector union Unison has yet to commit though there is a vigorous Unison4Corbyn campaign going on inside the union. Unison’s National Labour Link Committee will meet on 29th July under strong pressure from the active membership to support Corbyn

And since Corbyn is backing the unions and the very policies that Unison claims to support in a way no other Labour leader has done for more than half a century Unison leaders will have problems finding an excuse not to back him.

Now Corbyn winning the leadership is a realistic possibility. A pundit in the Telegraph last week put Corbyn’s chances as a probable “close second” — a long way from the rank outsider he was reckoned to be a couple of weeks ago. Blairite Liz Kendall is now the outsider. The bookmakers’ favourite Andy Burnham is losing ground.

Second choices could play a big role in the selection process.

A spokesperson for the Unite said: “The backing for Jeremy Corbyn was in recognition that his policies were most closely aligned with those of Unite.” The union remains Labour’s biggest donor. In the first three months of 2015 it gave £3.5 million. There has been no decision yet on whether to donate to any individual campaigns for the leadership or deputy leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn welcomed Unite’s endorsement, saying: “It is a great honour to receive Unite’s nomination for the Labour leadership, and it underlines that this is a serious campaign that has growing momentum.

“The leadership election is about one issue above others: whether we accept another five more years of a race to the bottom based on cuts that destroy services and damage living standards, or whether we invest our way to growth and fairness.

“I thank Unite for this backing, not just for myself but for all those people who have already committed time and effort to my campaign. Unite support will inject yet more momentum to our growing movement.”

Media pundits are now being forced to recognise that there is a left wing in the political arena in Britain and the pendulum that has been swinging to the right since 1979 is now coming back to the left.

The union leaderships are moving behind Corbyn because they are being pressured by their members. The members are gaining in political confidence.

In spite of the web the media try to weave where the need for austerity and savage welfare cuts are portrayed as the only option reality keeps breaking out. Jeremy Corbyn cannot win real socialism through Parliament but he has started the pendulum moving in leftwards and workers are responding.