Analysis Breaking News

Unison’s vital ‘Labour Link’ group comes out against robbing party members of leadership vote

Committee presiding over union delegates’ vote at Labour conference set to vote against power grab even if right-winger McAnea makes deal with Starmer

A majority of Unison’s ‘Labour Link’ committee has come out publicly against Keir Starmer’s bid to rob Labour members of their say in future leadership elections. Starmer, who campaigned on a promise of more democracy, wants to return to the old ‘electoral college’ voting system that would give a handful of MPs as much voting weight as the whole party membership.

The ‘Time for Real Change’ Twitter account, which represents the union’s left caucus that now holds a majority on both the Labour Link committee and the union’s national executive despite Unison’s right-wing management, tweeted the news this morning:

The full statement reads:

We the undersigned are the majority of elected delegates to UNISON’s National Labour Link Committee.

We wish to make clear our opposition to rule changes that could be put to the Labour Party Conference to abolish One Member One Vote in Labour Party leadership elections.

It is unthinkable that a member-led union like UNISON would approve rule changes designed to disenfranchise many thousands of Labour Party members and to institute an unequal franchise.

Moreover, UNISON voted for One Member One Vote in 2014 – after the National Labour Link Committee agreed democratically to make it UNISON policy.

The National Labour Link Committee is the sovereign body for Labour Party-related matters within UNISON, according to the UNISON Rulebook and Labour Link Operational Rules. It is not permitted under UNISON Rules for the UNISON Conference delegation to overturn established National Labour Link Committee policy and the delegation would have no mandate to do so.

We support Christina McAnea’s call for more time for consultation as relayed to the TULO meeting on Wednesday. We call on Christina McAnea to consult with the National Labour Link Committee before any decision can be made to overturn established UNISON Labour Link policy.

Dan Sartin, Andrea Egan, Jane Wilcox, Tony Wilson, Libby Nolan, Lilly Boulby, Andrew Berry, Carl Greatbatch, Billy Stewart, Steve Milford, Mark Fisher.

Despite the clear majority on the committee, the situation is not a simple one. Unison’s management has ‘declared war’ on the union’s elected left, according to left-wing insiders, and has ‘conjured rules from nowhere’ to block democratic votes on other union positions to be taken at Labour’s conference.

Nonetheless, this is a major development. If even some of Unison’s delegates heed the voice of their elected representatives then even if the managements of the right-run USDAW, GMB and Unison back Starmer’s power-grab, his chances of getting it through conference are greatly reduced.

Starmer is reported to have ‘doubled down’ after a meeting of the Labour-union liaison group (TULO) this week rejected his appeal to back his manoeuvre – after saying he would give them more time to decide, he is said to have then decided to press ahead regardless.

But if Starmer tries to change the voting rules and loses, his clear lack of authority will become the dominant theme of the conference, making his speech next week an irrelevant sideshow that even his dwindling band of media supporters will struggle to sell as anything else. It remains on a knife-edge whether he will press ahead and risk humiliation. His and the Labour right’s desperation is clear in the escalating suspensions of members’ delegates on the left to bar them from the party’s conference.

The left slate’s combined vote share on the committee in the recent Unison General Secretary election – grassroots favourite Paul Holmes, now the union’s president and under shameful attack by the management, would have become general secretary had senior Labour left-wingers and the Socialist Party not ignored calls to pull their candidates and unite the vote.

Unison delegates are sent by branches and so tend to be relatively reflective of the ‘rank-and-file’ of their union – so despite the Labour Link being unable to pass motions on the electoral college and other matters when they last met because the right-wing vice chair blocked motions from being heard, many are likely to have noted the expressed wishes of their representatives on the committee.

The union’s ‘operational rules’ state that delegates should meet and agree their positions for Labour’s conference:

in accordance with UNISON Labour Link policy, and taking into account the policies agreed at the UNISON conference as set out in the attached statement.

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  1. Good decision, Unison’s ‘Labour Link’ ! These people agreed with you – once upon a time :

    What they said…

    When Ed Miliband changed the rules, in 2014, this is what Blair said :

    “Ed has shown real courage and leadership on this issue. It’s a long overdue reform that I should have done myself. It puts individual people in touch with the Party and is a great way of showing how Labour can reconnect with the people of Britain.”

    Tony Blair, 28 February 2014.

    and McTernan :

    “I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Ed Miliband is more Blairite than Blair on Party reform.”

    John McTernan, Blairite advisor, 31 January 2014.

    and Rentoul :

    “Miliband’s reform is the real thing, and it will have real and welcome consequences – whatever the result of the next General Election. If Miliband loses, it means the next Labour leader will be a Blairite.”

    John Rentoul, Blairite journalist, 2 March 2014

    And, finally, Tristram Hunt :

    “One of Ed Milibands great legacies as leader of the Party was the reforms to Party organisation, which means that, actually, lots of people can be involved in picking the new leader.”

    Tristram Hunt, one-time Blairite MP, 8 May 2015

    What none of them factored in was – Jeremy Corbyn. As we, now, know, Corbyn stormed to the Leadership, not once, but, twice.

    Blair, Rentoul, McTernan, Starmer, Mandelson et al. Have now decided that democracy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and are doing their best to stamp it out

    Democracy is not for The Labour Party!


    * The above quotes are taken from – The Candidate – written by Alex Nunns. A former Corbyn researcher and speechwriter.

  2. “It remains on a knife-edge whether he will press ahead and risk humiliation.”

    What, in the long run, will cause the most damage to the Labour Party? Whatever it is, Sir Keir will take this route. He will prolong the civil war as far as he can without risking his seat. “Humiliation” is off the equation. His aim is not power, but destroying the party and keep it from power for a generation.

    What do we do from there?

    1. Oh, thanks, Richard, but Alex Nunns deserves all the credit.

      He did the hard work, I, simply copied and pasted.

      Brilliant book, by the way, if you haven’t read it. From JC’s struggle to get on the ticket, in 2015, up to 2018.

      All the shenanigans, viewed by an insider.

  3. We should confront Stammer and co with them. Their hypocrisy is staggering.

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