RMT protest in Dover against P&O fire and rehire in 2022. Photo: Isai
RMT protest in Dover against P&O fire and rehire in 2022. Photo: Isai

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party

Disbelief, fury, dismay and then despair from sections of the workers’ movement in Dover met the news that Natalie Elphicke, the turncoat right-wing Dover MP, had been accepted as a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The decision, approved by the Labour leadership nationally and presumably by local party officers, represents all that is odious about the Labour Party apparatus today.

As the recently retired Secretary of South East Kent Trades Union Council, a few hours after the news broke I received an email from a young RMT activist and Labour Party member. He expressed his class anger at the news with these words:

“Hi Eric,
Given the shameful crossing of the floor by Natalie Elphicke today, I wondered if you had a contact for the Dover and Deal CLP?
The Labour Party Rule book clearly states: ‘Every Labour MP must be a member of a trade union.’ I would be extremely curious as to what trade union Ms Elphicke has joined? Once I find out this information, I will be writing to the union in question asking them to condemn Ms Elphicke’s previous voting record, and looking at expulsion options.
I will of course keep you and all at Maritime House in the loop as this progresses.

Meanwhile, working people in Dover are represented by:

  • An MP who defended her husband after he had been convicted of three charges of sexual assault, and was then suspended from the House of Commons because she tried to influence the judge in her husband’s trial
  • An MP who, from the safety of parliament, verbally attacked militant trade unionists, including members of the South East Kent Trades Union Council who called her out at the first demonstration against the illegal sacking of 786 P&O workers for supporting ‘fire and rehire”
  • An MP who is a rabid opponent of people seeking asylum

I replied to the young RMT member to suggest that the workers’ movement in Dover and Deal should be selecting its own candidate to contest the general election, independently of the Labour Party.

I made it clear that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), set up by then-RMT general secretary Bob Crow in 2010, is an umbrella body set up to bring together trade unionists and socialists to contest elections.

Trade unionists and workers in South East Kent cannot stand by whilst our rights are trampled into the ground. Time to join the fight for a workers’ list of candidates in the general election.