Go left Labour, or face a new party, says union boss
Christine Buckley and Helen Rumbelow
TRADE unions could break away and create
their own party unless Labour delivers on their demands by the middle of
a third term, one of the "big four" union leaders threatened last night.
A re-elected government must raise the
minimum wage, renationalise the railways and restore the right to
secondary strike action, as well as allowing new Labour finally to be
laid to rest, Kevin Curran, the general secretary of the GMB general
union, told The Times.
Mr Curran said that if Labour did not change
its values, "we would have to look for a political partner that would
advance the interests of people we represent. It really is as simple as
that." He appeared to be hinting at a new union-based party of the Left
to challenge Labour.
He said that Labour needed the unions'
regional network to ensure election success and that there were no safe
"Just imagine if a disaffected,
disengaged trade union movement decided to concentrate on 300 seats with
independent candidates. The difference we would make in national
politics would be enormous," he said. The GMB leader, who works closely
with leaders of the T&G, Amicus and Unison, said the idea was
hypothetical at present but there was no question that the unions could
make the move.
"If the Labour Party turns round and says
we don't want the unions any more, we are not going to go away." Mr
Curran's words are clearly intended as a warning shot to Tony Blair and
Gordon Brown after last weekend's harmonious outcome to the party's
national forum, when the unions hailed advances on workers' rights.
They will cause some concern because the
main union leaders now tend to plan their strategy together and the
others may sign up to the threat. But Labour leaders believe that the
unions are coming to terms with their reduced influence as shown by
figures showing that the party secured £9 million in individual
donations last year.
One minister said privately this week
that the unions had understandably made a lot of last weekend's deal.