Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The boy Miliband done good

So, Ed got boos and catcalls at the TUC - as it happens, catcalls which are, rightly or wrongly, likely to be very useful indeed for his standing in the country, as Jack McConnell points out, showing as it does that he is standing outside of what is likely to be a very unpopular and widespread program of strike action.

In fact, although the media has tried to make a big deal of this, as usual, in the end 
it seemed almost uneventful. What they didn't really focus on is that the heckling largely came from non-affiliated unions, which have chosen not to take any part in the Labour Party's structures, and the fact of the heckling may have had as much to do with an increased militancy on the part of  these non-affiliated unions as it has to do with any serious falling-out between Labour and unions.

It's notable that in this BBC coverage, the Beeb interviews someone from the PCSU, who has the nerve to be outraged about not being supported by a party that they, er, can't even be bothered to pay affiliation fees to. Subtext: the media are trying to create a story where there isn't really much of one.

The big
 unions, which are affiliated to the Labour Party, seem to have given a much more muted response - the GMB's Paul Kenny sounded almost relaxed about Ed's speech, although TUC chief Brendan Barber managed ill-advisedly to mention direct action group UKUncut in his response to the BBC's Andrew Neill here, a group who I'd say are doing very nicely at alienating most of the public. Neill then rather easily takes him apart, both on their and the TUC's support for civil disobedience and on the TUC's undeniable links with the hard left. They really need to do better if they want to get the public on side for the strikes: at the moment this kind of carelessness by Barber is making unions look much less credible than they used to in the days of his predecessor John Monks.

So, Ed has set out his stall: he will not back these strikes, as he did not back the strike in June (although in that case, again, it was by non-affiliated unions only).

But it's not over yet. The affiliated unions are the ones to watch, and this may just be the calm before a party conference storm. Union leaders not at all pleased about the potential downgrading of their power in the proposals for reformed party structures (although it is right that this should happen).

In three weeks' time we'll know if Ed's strategy has paid off. But still all to play for, and that will be the real test. If, as Peter Watt and others have argued, he has overplayed his hand, it could be a rather ugly conference. In any case, I'm not sure he has had much choice.


  1. I tried getting Unison to leave Labour - as for Miliband he is merely a continutaion of Blair/Brown a charge he refutes without conviction. I'm off to Iran soon anyway;)

  2. Continuation of Blair/Brown? Hmmm, don't think he's a continuation of either, really. Especially not Blair.

  3. You know, the more he denies it the more it sticks to him.

  4. Rob,

    Miliband is useless.

    About half of Labour's own voters seem to think so.

    I know there is a laudable tendency to hail *whoever* is the LP leader as marvellous but it ain't cutting ice outside of the Westminster/LP bubble, he's useless.


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