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Monday, 08 July 2013 00:00

Labour must go to its roots

Ed Miliband hasn't yet learnt the first lesson of being a Labour leader - if you're applauded by the bourgeois media, look closely at what you're doing and stop it.

Does he imagine that capitalist newspaper editors are roaring him on in his ill-judged broadside against the Unite union because they wish the Labour Party well?

They understand that trade unions and their members are a more reliable basis for building a fightback against the current government than new-found media friends or new Labour's lingering remnants.

Miliband knows that Labour is no longer in office because the new Labour aberration alienated its working-class base.

Labour didn't lose five million votes during its time in office because of what the trade union movement did.

Unions could be faulted for accepting the new Labour yarn that they should keep their opinions to themselves for fear of unsettling nervous voters tempted to believe that the Labour Party had something to do with the working class and the labour movement.

Not so, cried the aberration's leaders. Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown were never happier than when cheek by jowl with seriously rich bankers and other City types.

Labour means business, Brown pontificated, alas truthfully.

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The party has a long way to go to persuade its lost millions to get back into the habit of voting Labour and that will require not only more Labour MPs who look and sound like them but policies that address their key concerns of jobs, homes, services and living standards.

New Labour has always prioritised establishing its credibility with business leaders and right-wing media opinion formers.

That's why, despite early success, it piled up popular resentment, refused to listen to its base and reaped the inevitable harvest.

Unite and its leader Len McCluskey want to see Labour back in government and understand the need for more working-class Labour candidates, which is why they encouraged their members to join the party in Falkirk.

The Labour leadership has reacted hysterically, setting up a secret inquiry, disqualifying party members from taking part in its parliamentary candidate selection procedure, smearing the union publicly and calling in the police

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Note the difference between what McCluskey told the Mirror and Miliband's comments in the Observer at the weekend.

"If Unite is found to have made mistakes, I will put my hands up and draw the lessons. Let the Labour Party say the same," wrote McCluskey, urging a proper independent inquiry.

Miliband simply demanded that "Unite must accept the results of the inquiry that has taken place and take responsibility for getting its own house in order."

Judge, jury and executioner in a courtroom where Unite was unrepresented - that says something for the grip new Labour still has on the party and its leader.

It beggars belief that Miliband should be led by the nose by political forces that did everything in their power - in stark contrast to the trade unions - to ensure that he didn't become leader.

These elements, together with the mass media big noises, tell him that winning the next election depends on cutting the unions down to size.

The opposite is true. Encouraging not only individual trade unionists to be politically engaged in the Labour Party but also the unions as collective voices for their members is essential to the party's hopes of forming the next government.

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