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Wednesday, 10 July 2013 00:00

No excuse for complacency

Lack of specific detail in Ed Miliband's speech about Labour and the unions allows for a certain amount of guesswork about the nuts and bolts of his proposed changes.

But there can be no complacency regarding what is clearly an assault on the relationship between organised labour and the parliamentary party.

The vitriol that Miliband and his backstage whisperers have directed at Unite specifically and the unions generally allows for no charitable interpretation.

The Labour leader has been supping at the poisoned well of new Labour, which is hell-bent on terminating collective working-class influence within the party.

Miliband has swallowed whole the whale served on a plate to him that telling the unions where to get off symbolises personal toughness and effective leadership.

He certainly will be buttered up in those terms if he persists in this dangerous direction.

But the capitalist media flatterers will, like the backbiters on his own front bench, still ditch him when his hostility to the unions brings its inevitable consequences.

If Miliband thinks that Tony Blair's lavish praise for his speech strengthens his position in the Labour Party, he needs professional help.

Blair has no loyalty to Labour or to its working-class base. He is a bagman for big business and is paid well for his services.

Communication Workers Union leader Billy Hayes was correct to describe Miliband's speech as a dog whistle to the Westminster political elite, signifying an intention to put a definitive end to working-class involvement and influence in parliamentary politics.

Labour activists have always understood the need for collective organisation to press their interests over those wealthy individuals and companies.

Trade union financial support for Labour has no equivalent to the Tories having a treasurer who raised funds by offering cash for access to the Prime Minister.

It in no way equates to the Liberal Democrats decision to keep £2.4 million of stolen money donated by a crook on the spurious defence that it was accepted "in good faith."

Nor is there a parallel to the systematic subversion of grass-roots democracy since 1994 when new Labour took hold of the party and secured victory for every national leadership-approved candidate in every subsequent by-election.

Miliband boasted earlier this week about the breadth of his one nation Labour candidates, citing among others former RAF wing commander Sophy Gardner.

This seems appropriate given new Labour's obsession with parachuting in its researchers and political advisers to safe seats in northern England.

"I have a responsibility to ensure that everything this party does in every place a candidate is chosen is done in a fair and transparent way," he told MPs this week.

But this doesn't mean tackling the Progress party within the party or Lord Sainsbury's involvement.

As ever, the target is the trade union movement, with one of his cheerleaders commenting that the leader had to "seize the time."

Labour voters have been dying for him to do just that by backing policies demanded by public opinion such as repealing the bedroom tax or taking rail and the utilities back into common ownership.

In contrast, turning on the unions gains him kudos from the lackeys of big business - Tories, Liberal Democrats and new Labour.

But it will cost the Labour Party dearly, not just financially but in political credibility and votes.

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