At Leicester City Council’s most recent meeting (October 8), deputy city mayor, Rory Palmer, successfully moved a motion opposing the Government’s pernicious Trade Union Bill.
“The measures in this Bill,” Palmer explained, “are vindictive, malicious, and are designed to undermine one of the most fundamental rights that we have as people and as collective organisations, and that is the ability of organised Labour to organise itself.” All well and good.
Palmer then pointed out how “Our unions in this country already face one of the most regulated environments facing trade unions anywhere in the world”: but he remained silent about the fact that Tony Blair’s Labour Government didn’t even try to repeal these anti-union laws.
True to form, Ross Grant, the single Conservative on the Council, opposed Labour’s motion. And hot on the heels of David Cameron’s shifty Conference speech lies — which incorporated a massive whopper about Corbyn’s sympathy for Osama bin Laden — Grant even managed to centre his own short misrepresentation about trade unions around a lie: a lie which was quickly corrected by Councillor Andy Connolly.
Grant’s understandable slanders about against unions were then bizarrely echoed by longstanding Labour Councillor John Thomas. “Some of what Councillor Grant said” about the problems of unions “is true” Thomas explained. To be fair though, in many ways Thomas’s contribution actually meshed well with the Blairite consensus that presently rules the Council.
Having joined the Labour Party at age 39, in 1983, a time which coincided with Neil Kinnock’s anti-democratic purges against the Labour Party’s Left-wing, Thomas revisited tired Tory talking points about the horrors of militant trade unions.
“I’m old enough to remember Red Robbo and the Leyland strikes ruining the car industries in this country… and Derek Hatton in Liverpool,” Thomas reminisced. “And yes the unions certainly did need curbing, but they have been curbed far enough now,” he said.
In keeping with such red conservatism, rather than scrapping the Trade Union Bill, Thomas suggested that it just “needs to be redrafted into a simpler form.” Seven Labour Councillors, in short succession, then failed to counter Thomas’s nonsense within their own contributions. It was left to Palmer’s summation to disagree with Thomas and state that he believed the Bill “should be torn up and firmly abandoned”. Here, here!
But not one Labour Councillor took the opportunity to speak out about the need for their Labour Council to actively work with trade unions in order to build a mass campaign of resistance against the Bill, or even move to support the planned TUC rally in London next month.
Instead all that Leicester City’s Labour Council resolved to do was to write an angry letter to the Government, and “to participate” in any future consultations. Not the type of anti-austerity activism that will have the Tories quaking in their boots!
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 9th October.
An urgent public meeting will be held next week in Leicester in the Secular Hall at 7pm on Thursday 15th October: Protest to Defend the Right to Strike. The meeting is organised by the Leicester and District Trades Union Council and County Association.