Supporters of the national “Kill the Bill” campaign called a public meeting on Thursday night to build the movement against the Tories hated Trade Union Bill. Unfortunately local Labour MP Jon Ashworth had to pass on his apologies to the gathering, as he was otherwise engaged, while tragically deputy mayor Rory Palmer was struck by illness. Nevertheless the meeting went on.
How things change. Just a week earlier, our Council of 52 Labour members unanimously supported a motion to oppose the Trade Union Bill, but none showed up to the packed meeting that was organised by the very trade unionists that the Bill will be victimising. It is fair to say that the dearth of Labour Party councillors is indicative of their political priorities.
Ironically, the nearest the public meeting came to seeing a Labour councillor was marked by the presence of former city councillor Wayne Naylor – though one must remember that Wayne left the Labour Party last year in order to join the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), on the basis of promoting an unstinting opposition to austerity and the already existing anti-trade union laws.
Leicester’s Labour councillors are clearly a breed apart from their Party’s resurgent grassroots membership. Apparently our councillors don’t have the stamina for a fight, as is also demonstrated by their collective no-show at the previous night’s protest against education cuts.
This is not to say that Labour councillors do not take their duty of public service lightly. For example, at Wednesday’s (October 14) Licensing Enforcement Sub-Committee meeting, five Labour councillors dragged themselves out of bed to approve the opening of a new lap-dancing club in the city.
Licensing panel chairman Councillor John Thomas excitedly informed the Leicester Mercury: “We believe a vibrant night-time economy is vital to the regeneration of our city centre” (October 15).
One can only dream of the day when our Labour councillors will be so enthralled by the vital task of building a vibrant and powerful working-class movement that can regenerate the Labour Party’s commitment to contributing towards the class struggle.
All the same, we are living through exciting times. Inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s straight-talking opposition to the 1 per cent’s continuing attacks upon the 99 per cent of us, people are now flooding into Labour’s ranks and signing up to join their newly minted Momentum action group.
Only united political action can succeed in defeating the Trade Union Bill. And certainly expanding and solidifying powerful networks full of active trade unionists through bodies like Momentum and the National Shop Steward’s Network will be an important part in harnessing the groundswell of anger that is being expressed in response to the savagery of Tory austerity.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 15th October.