Unite policy conference backs re-selection of Labour MPs
Delegates to Unite conference
The Unite policy conference took place in the midst of the crisis in the Labour Party. As the Socialist reported in its last issue, the first two days were dominated by Trident and whether Labour councils should set legal no-cuts budgets. On both issues, executive council statements were carried which blurred the union’s position to avoid controversy.
But on the last day, the attempted Blairite coup against Jeremy Corbyn was brought centre stage as conference overwhelmingly passed motions firstly backing Corbyn and then committing Unite to campaign for mandatory re-selection of Labour MPs.
The drama within Labour played out throughout the week and undoubtedly hardened the position of the union.
As delegates got to Brighton on 9 July, they were met with the news that Tom Watson had called off a planned meeting the next day with Len McCluskey and John McDonnell to try and resolve the situation. This caused a real sense of anger and betrayal at his role, particularly because of his connection to Unite.
Initially, the executive council was going to ask Unite LE1228 branch to remit their re-selection motion. But this changed as the executive council convened to evaluate their attitude to the motion just as Labour’s NEC was meeting to decide how the leadership election was going to be run and specifically whether Jeremy Corbyn would be automatically on the ballot paper!
Coincidentally, the Socialist Party was holding a very successful fringe meeting as both were taking place with delegates listening to Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe introduce a discussion on the aftermath of Brexit and the right-wing attack on Corbyn.
There was a real sense of euphoria among delegates when news filtered through that Jeremy had got on the ballot paper and a determination that the conference had to send a firm signal that Unite was behind him.
Conference later heard speeches from Corbyn and McDonnell. Socialist Party member and Unite LE1228 branch secretary Kevin Parslow then moved the re-selection motion.
He said, “Unite reps have to put themselves up for re-election every three years, why shouldn’t Labour MPs every Parliament? They must be accountable to Labour’s membership, not Murdoch’s press. They say that they are accountable to voters but where would they be without the Labour ticket?”