Unions declare for Corbyn

by Daphne Liddle

BALLOT papers for the Labour leadership contest were sent out last week and leaders of seven major unions that have nominated Jeremy Corbyn in the current leadership contest last Wednesday wrote to the Guardian to explain their position.

Mick Whelan general secretary, ASLEF, Ronnie Draper general secretary, BFAWU, Dave Ward general secretary, CWU, Matt Wrack general secretary, FBU, Manuel Cortes general secretary, TSSA, Brian Rye Acting general secretary, Ucatt, and Len McCluskey general secretary, Unite, said:

“As general secretaries of unions that have nominated Jeremy Corbyn to remain as leader of the Labour party, we are writing to explain why the millions of members in our unions and the millions of workers beyond should vote for Jeremy.

“We have all known him for many years. He has supported us, stood on our picket lines, celebrated our successes, and campaigned alongside us for trade union rights.

“Jeremy’s pledge is to rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and no community is left behind. His commitment to introducing sectoral collective bargaining, and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with more than 250 employees would transform and rebalance industrial relations to make them fit for the 21st century.

“For more than three decades Jeremy’s track record and socialist credentials make him the choice for leader of the Labour party. We need a Labour government committed to workers’ rights, social justice, government investment in our manufacturing sector and public sector and good quality jobs. Jeremy campaigns for all of these and is the person to lead the Labour party into government to make them a reality. He is the only choice to get the job done.”

As Corbyn’s phenomenal support grows this has not led to any abatement of the attacks on Corbyn from members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the media.

The PLP plotters tried to use Green MP Caroline Lucas to attack Corbyn but she set the record straight.

Heidi Alexander MP, the former Shadow Health Secretary, tried to say that Corbyn was “unprofessional” and “shoddy” because he supported Lucas’ NHS Reinstatement Bill.

The Private Members’ Bill would roll back the internal market in the NHS and return it to fully public provision. The PLP was to abstain, but Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell backed the Bill from the beginning to the end. Hence, Alexander and her aides argue that the Labour leadership undermined them by supporting the bill.

But the Green MP herself soon stepped up with a more pressing question, turning the anti-Corbyn bashing on its head in a letter to the Guardian: “Perhaps a more interesting question is why the rest of the Labour Party didn’t join their SNP, Plaid and LibDem colleagues in giving it their backing too.”

With a few honourable exceptions, they chose to abstain instead. Considering that the Labour Party is supposed to be committed to a fully public NHS, Lucas argues that it is abstaining on bills like this that has undermined the movement.

Alexander is now co-chairing Owen Smith’s leadership campaign, which claims to support 100 per cent public funding for the NHS as an “absolute red line”.

They are continually contradicting themselves as they grow more desperate.

Virgin’s billionaire owner Richard Branson, known for buying up privatised utilities that attract a lot of Government subsidy, selling off assets and then selling them on, weighed in against Corbyn.

His intervention followed a post on social media showing Corbyn travelling on a Virgin East Coast train sitting, amongst other passengers, on the floor because there were no free seats that had not been marked as “reserved”. Corbyn used this to back his call for the renationalisation of the railways.

Branson weighed in with a video of that train showing plenty of free seats and Corbyn sitting in one of them.

His claims were blown out of the water when other passengers backed Corbyn’s version of events and pointed out that Branson’s filming was done much later in the journey after a lot of people had left the train.

Corbyn himself praised the staff on the train for moving passengers around (upgrading some to first class) in order to make more seats available.

It all points to a very interesting Labour conference to come next month as the PLP and the other remaining Blairites twist and turn and try to dam the oncoming flood of genuinely socialist and working class members who are retaking the party — not by bullying or underhanded tricks but by sheer weight of numbers — active, organised and class conscious.