The Socialist Unity Network

FBU cuts Labour link

Jim Jepps

The Fire Brigades Union has voted to disaffiliate from Labour.

At the union's conference in Southport delegates voted to disaffiliate by about 5 to 1. Thereby following the RMT in making the historic jump to cut ties with the party that they helped to set up.

The decision will deprive the party of £50,000 a year as well as practical support, especially useful in the run-up to the next general election. But more than this it is a sign that the flood gates may be opening and for those of us who want to see a genuine and united socialist party not just in Scotland but all over the country this is a massive step forward.

The union exec had hoped to stave off this resolution for yet another year, but it was no longer possible. One suggested compromise was to slash funding, but after the bitter fire fighters dispute compromise was not a viable option.

The Guardian reported that "Mr Maguire [Northern Ireland FBU] said he “despised” the Labour party and said it was “trampling” on the aspirations of workers.

“I find it impossible to see the difference between Labour politicians and extreme right-wingers. New Labour is not listening and we have been drowned out of the big conversation.

“Are these bastards our bastards or just bastards?” he asked to huge cheers from most of the 300 delegates. There was more bad news for Labour today as the Communication Workers Union warned it will suspend its £300,000 a year funding of the party if the government does not give a commitment to keep the Royal Mail under public ownership. ""

Much has been made of FBU leader Andy Gilchrist being absent from the conference, supposedly ill. It was pointed out by one of the right wing papers that he was not too ill to fly to Portugal and watch the football though. Clearly Gilchrist knew that he was going to lose this vote and did not wish to be seen to be defeated by the membership of his own union who have been somewhat dissatisfied with his performance so far.

June 2004


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