Last year, Jeremy Corbyn spoke to the NUT (National Union of Teachers) annual Conference and received a rapturous ovation. Teachers know that he ‘gets it’:
What McDonnell told the Conference was no less popular:
Yet, just a short time later the Conference voted by the narrowest of margins – 50.63% to 49.37% – against exploring affiliation to the Labour Party.
Unions affiliated to Labour play a major role in developing the party’s policies. The FBU (Fire Brigades Union) re-affiliated to Labour in 2015, shortly after Corbyn’s election as leader, with FBU chief Matt Wrack saying,
Firefighters recognise that the Labour party has changed for the better since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who has given our members and supporters hope that we can shift the political debate in favour of working people.
We have a Labour Party leader and shadow chancellor who are vehemently opposed to austerity, who are ready to fight for a fair alternative that doesn’t attack the living standards, livelihoods and the hard won rights of working people.
So why would the NUT – albeit narrowly – reject exploring such a move?
The answer can be summed up in one word: Blairites.
The main reason given during the debate for not doing so was the fear that the agitating Blairite faction might succeed in regaining control of the party via its machinations at the Labour Conference in Brighton this autumn.
One NUT delegate told this blog:
The main reason for the caution was Blairites. The argument was if progress and the Blairites took over again. They had refused to speak to the NUT in the Blair days, calling us ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘enemies of promise’ because of our stance on PFI [the hugely expensive Private Finance Initiative] and academies.