Tony Woodley, the left candidate for general secretary of the 800,000 strong
(British) Transport and General Workers’ Union, opened his election campaign by
launching a bid to "reclaim the Labour Party", which was at odds with
the union in a number of important policy areas.
He told a press conference that if elected he would call a summit of
like-minded unions to start a fightback "to reclaim our party and put the
labour back into the party." Such an initiative would be "the biggest
co-ordinated challenge" ever undertaken to the current party leadership.
"Tony Blair is so blind to what he has done, he cannot see the wood for the
trees", said Woodley.
He went on to say that Blair and his leadership had "lost the support
and confidence of working people in this country. It is our party and it has
been hijacked." The unions needed "to discuss how to get Labour back
representing working people." He said he was happy to be a member of the
so-called awkward squad of union leaders because it was time to fight back
against New Labour.
This call comes at a crucial time when other left general secretaries have
come out with the same position, including Derek Simpson (Amicus), Billy Hayes (CWU),
Mick Rix (ASLEF), Bob Crow (RMT), Andy Gilchrist (FBU) and Jeremy Dear (NUJ).
We welcome Tony Woodley’s call. But it is now time to transform words into
deeds. If the unions were to send in 50 members into every Constituency Labour
Party, they could take it over. They could ensure the deselection of Blairite
loyalists and put in their place those prepared to fight for union policy. As a
first step, they should clear out all those so-called union representatives on
the NEC of the Labour Party who have continually sided with the Blairites in
defiance of union policies.
It is clear that the unions can defeat Blairism, which has only a shallow
basis of support within the Labour Party. It is clear for all those who want to
see that the time to reclaim the Labour Party is now! There has never been a
better opportunity. Don’t contract out – contract in! Since its formation, Socialist
Appeal has consistently argued for this position as the only way forward.
Those who think they should set up phantom armies outside of the Labour Party
are barking up the wrong tree. Breaking links with Labour is "a rightwing
agenda", said Woodley. That is absolutely true. Experience has shown that
you have to fight inside the Labour Party to get anywhere. This must be linked
up to the fight for socialist policies as the only answer to the problems of
working people, including the renationalisation of all privatised industries,
the repeal of all anti-union legislation and a minimum wage of not less that £8
per hour. It also means the restoration of Clause Four, the party’s commitment
to socialism, which was ditched by the Blairites in 1994.