Aug 2010 - It’s nice to be popular

01 June 2013

No question about it, it’s nice to be popular.


We’ve had two recent instances of old chums unexpectedly getting in touch.


First, the Famous Five candidates for the Labour leadership all remembered where Arkwright Road was located and called in to see the executive.


It was heartening to hear some common themes.


They all said they wanted the unions more involved in the Party. They all wanted to see more democracy and debate in the movement and at conference - and suddenly no one was afraid to use the ‘s-word’: socialism. It was rather as if the last 13 years hadn’t happened!


I don’t want to be cynical about Labour, a party of which I’ve been a member most of my life. I sincerely hope that this does signal the re-birth of Labour as a modern, open, transparent party, focussed on what matters to working people. I hope we will see more ordinary working people becoming MPs. But hope’s not enough: we’ll have to fight to ensure it happens.


The executive will recommend that our members back Diane Abbott because she was the only candidate committed to a publicly run, publicly owned railway and who saw the need for a radical overhaul of trade union laws.


The other unexpected callers were the RMT. It seems their conference this year voted for a single union for the industry, despite a debate in which several of their delegates accused ASLEF of being ‘an elitist craft union’.


I can’t find it in me to apologise for our craft and our particular skills; nor for the industrial strength that comes from our pivotal role in the industry; nor for the unique sense of solidarity that comes fromall our members sharing a common professional occupation.


So while I welcome the message that Labour can change, my reply to the RMT will be the same as last time: no thanks, comrades. Still, it’s nice to be popular!

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