Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 02:31:02 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Unions Warn British Labor Party
/** labr.global: 284.0 **/
** Topic: Unions Warn British Labr Party **
TRADE union leaders said yesterday that the Labour leadership would be committing political suicide if it went ahead with plans to sever the party's links with the unions.
Tony Blair is now bracing himself for a backlash at the
party conference this month when trade unions may seek
revenge for his repeated attempts to undermine them.
John Monks, the TUC General Secretary and an ally of Mr
Blair, delivered his second attack on the leadership
this week when he said the conference in Blackpool had
been dominated by
confusion not clarity and demanded
surer touch from Labour.
Mr Monks is said to be furious that Mr Blair's plans to curb union power had overshadowed the TUC conference. But union leaders reserved their sharpest attacks for Stephen Byers, the Shadow Employment Minister, who identified himself as the source of the reports in several newspapers, including The Times, that Labour would break the union link.
John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union,
called on the Labour leader to move Mr Byers from his
post as industrial affairs spokesman after the shadow
minister discussed the issue with journalists over a
dinner in Blackpool on Wednesday.
Stephen Byers should
carry a black box recorder so that after each accident
we can all analyse exactly what happened, Mr Edmonds
Mr Byers had damaged his credibility with Labour and
the unions, he added.
After a decent time, it would be
wise to consider that he be moved sideways.
John Prescott, the Labour deputy leader, who was
unaware of the proposal when he arrived in Blackpool,
shrugged off the row, suggesting:
This is massive
speculation by a press looking for a major story.
Mr Byers told four political journalists of a contingency plan to ballot the entire party membership on ending the link with the unions if there was a wave of strikes in the first summer of a Labour government.
Yesterday the Labour leadership tried to distance Mr
Blair from the reports, saying that no such plans were
being drawn up by him. Mr Byers said that the
journalists' version of the events would win the
Booker Prize for Fiction. But the four journalists,
from The Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mirror
and the Daily Express stood by their story. In
interviews later, Mr Byers conceded that the historic
links with the unions which founded the Labour Party in
1900 could be severed within five years.
The Tories immediately capitalised on the confusion,
saying that Mr Byers held the briefing
in a shameless
attempt to win votes from Middle England. John Major
said that Labour seemed to be in an almost daily state
What seems to be happening is their
spindoctors have whispered something in private and
when it becomes public, it is denied by the
Lew Adams, general secretary of the train drivers'
union, Aslef, said that Labour would be committing
political suicide if it cut the union link.
We are not
looking for confrontation with any government, he
I am fed up to the teeth with the way in which
this TUC conference has been persistently hijacked by
the politicians. These statements seem designed to
achieve some form of popularism with the voters by
kicking the trade unions.
Publicly, union leaders accepted the firm disavowal of the reports by Tony Blair's office and by deputy leader John Prescott but privately many remain suspicious that the reports do indicate the direction of Labour's thinking about the trade unions.