The annual conference of the TUC opened yesterday in less than sunny Bournemouth. The far-left started the ball rolling through a rally held by the so-called National Shop Stewards Movement which in reality is just the Socialist Party under another name. The purpose of the meeting addressed by regulars Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary and Janice Godrich was to call for a General Strike, albeit one of just 24 hours duration.
The rest of the TUC was probably more concerned with the fallout between Unite and the Labour Party in Falkirk which was dominating the media over the weekend. Miraculously this has seemingly been resolved on the eve of the TUC bash, but remains an open wound despite the public reconciliation that has apparently taken place.
So as more "coordinated strike" action is promised support by the assembled TUC worthies for "those unions that want it", the TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady speaks of the need for the Labour link without actually naming the party:
..trade unions, once respected across the political spectrum for our role in fighting fascism and as a pillar of any free and democratic society, now treated with disdain.......
In many ways it is a testimony to the enduring strength our trade union values of care, compassion and fairness that the Right has chosen to put us in the firing line.
It explains why this week they are debating a Lobbying Bill that, far from dealing with the real dirt in politics, is designed to deny us a political voice.
Now, debating the internal arrangements of the Labour Party and the role of its affiliated unions is not the business of Westminster, nor, indeed, of this Congress. And in the hall today we also have unions who are just as proud of their party political independence.
But one thing is for sure. We are united in defending the basic democratic principle that ordinary people have the right to a political voice. That union money - the few pence freely given every week, by nurses, shop workers and truck drivers - is the cleanest cash in politics today. And that whether unions set up a political fund is a matter for members, not ministers.
Because for too long, politics has been controlled by those who already have far too much money and far too much power.As a member of a trade union that is not and has never been affiliated to the Labour Party but will be encouraging people to vote Labour at the General election this is an issue I sometimes have to find balance over. The reason for this is the desire of the PCS leadership under Madame Godrich to orientate, if not directly affiliate the PCS to the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition run by the Socialist Party and the RMT.
As a civil servant and a trade unionist I believe political independence of the union from all political parties, but am open to developing working relationships with all of them in the interests of members. However the PCS union is continuing in a direction that will undermine the necessary nonpartisan nature of the largest civil service union.
The continuing demand for a 24 hour General Strike also remains a concern. Political activists like Janice Godrich and others at the top of PCS always puts the interests of the Socialist Party above that of ordinary members. There is little desire for continuing action in the PCS union but members probably can't wait for the next General Election to see the end of the coalition Government, though they are realistic enough to realise the world isn't going to right itself just because of a change of Prime Minister.
There will be much discussed over the coming week at the TUC Conference which will be overlooked by the media who will always look to the hotheads for newsworthy stories. Yet much of what the trade unions calls for is simply a better deal for the working man/woman.
Frankly the political activists who have come to dominate some sections of the trade union movement are themselves part of the problem. There will always be debate and disagreement in a democracy as to the solutions to the problems we as a society face, but the time has come to remove those that put their narrow sectarian interests before those of ordinary working people.