Usdaw 2024 ADM fringe. Photo: Usdaw Activist
Usdaw 2024 ADM fringe. Photo: Usdaw Activist

Socialist Party members in Usdaw

The Activist bulletin, produced by Socialist Party members in retail and distribution union Usdaw, hosted its biggest fringe meeting yet at Usdaw’s Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM). Over 25 delegates and conference attendees came to discuss “What can Usdaw members expect from a Starmer-led government?”

Iain Dalton, a Socialist Party member and conference delegate, introduced the discussion.

The impending general election and the likelihood of a Keir Starmer-led Labour government has been the backdrop to the ADM, with numerous propositions placing demands on such a government.

These include calling on a Labour government to enact policies which Starmer has retreated on, such as free school meals, removing the two-child benefit cap, and tackling the climate crisis.

There is a lack of confidence that Starmer would be prepared to take on profiteering bosses, including the private equity owners of Asda and Morrisons, reflected in the various strikes taking place at Asda, GXO in Swindon and potentially Morrisons.

One delegate reported that Tory defector Dan Poulter was his local MP. He found out Poulter had been welcomed into Labour while at the conference, and was shocked, given Poulter’s record as a health minister implementing the Tory Health and Social Care Act.

Some delegates who were Labour Party members reflected the desire of many trade union members just to see the back of the Tories, stating we had to get them out first, then worry about what sort of Labour government we would get.

But others pointed out that voter turnouts have been low and that creates space for other political forces to fill the vacuum, including the right-populist Reform UK. This is one reason why the Socialist Party argues for trade unions to back candidates who support their policies.

Iain concluded that we have to fight for Usdaw to adopt the policies our members need and place demands on Starmer now, in advance of a Labour government. If we are clear we are prepared to back those up with action we will be in a stronger position.  

And if there were trade union-backed candidates, such as Jeremy Corbyn, other banned Labour MPs, and trade unionists, standing in the elections, that would also be an important lever on a Starmer-led Labour government.