Martin Mayer, chair of Unite’s political committee, offered a heartfelt plea to Socialist Worker readers last year to come and help advance the cause within the Labour Party.
He offered this cheering thought:
We know that barely a dozen left trade unionists can turn around poorly attended constituency Labour Parties up and down the country.
We have sharp new political education courses and we are creating a network to keep them in touch with Unite policies and give help and assistance. There is a new Unite councillors network to push our policies—particularly against the cuts.
One of the most basic requirements for a credible, responsible, local authority is to set a budget. It can avoid cuts by proposing a huge Council Tax increase and seeking to convince their residents of the case for this via a referendum.
This is not proposed by Unite. Instead their preference, as I understand it, is for not setting a budget. Any council doing this would still face cuts but would have them imposed direct from Whitehall. The Unite union thinks this sounds rather a good idea – lots of agitprop opportunities. There are 18 Labour councillors – that is Labour councillors retaining the whip – who are signed up to this proposition.
The recent Unite National Political Committee, Political Director's Report shows how the union will use its clout to keep extremist councillors within the Labour Party.
We read how the union is intervening on behalf of Cllr Kingsley Abrams in Lambeth, and Cllr Kevin Bennett in Warrington, arguing for them to be re-admitted to their respective Labour Groups.
There are some in Unite who don't feel that Len McCluskey is left wing enough. They fret that he is a bit too soft on those Labour councillors who huff and puff, but then set a legal budget. I would remind you of a piece in Socialist Fight. It is from a couple of year's ago. The strapline: "The fight against the cuts and against Imperialism’s war on Libya is one struggle" gives the period feel. But the general theme is still relevant. It laments:
Six ‘left’ Labour Councillors in Hackney, Barry Buitekant, Michelle Gregory, Linda Kelly, Deniz Oguzkanli, Ian Rathbone, and Patrick Vernon signed a statement against the cuts. They would, “support a campaign to defeat the policies of this government through public protest, opposition and defiance. We would like to see local Councils across London leading the charge and refusing to adopt cuts budgets as a result of government enforced policies.” All voted for the cuts budget.
Unite is so cut off from reality, so out of line with their membership that their Marxist leader is under attack for selling out. This is the state of play inside the Labour Party's biggest paymaster.