Conference Report

19 August 2005





Train drivers’ union ASLEF’s annual conference unanimously reaffirmed the union’s link with the Labour Party at the weekend.


Delegates approved an executive committee report stating that the union is a “firm but critical friend of the Labour government.


“ASLEF is convinced that it is incumbent on affiliated trade unions to make their case vigorously within the Party, using the democratic avenues still open to do so. We do not believe that the cause of progressive policies and Socialism can be furthered by walking away from the Labour Party or engaging in gesture politics.”


General Secretary Mick Rix pointed to the successful rail unions’ campaign to persuade the government to “take back the track” as an example of what could be achieved by political campaigning. “But that is only the first step to returning to a publicly-owned railway,” he said.


Urging continued ASLEF support of the Labour Party, Mr Rix still slammed the “distasteful message” sent out by the government’s “flirting with Berlusconi and flirting with big business.


“But if we stop donating to the Labour Party then the Berlusconis and Mittals will have won. There will be state funding of political parties and the trade union movement will have no political representation.”


Mick Rix also criticised those trade union representatives who failed to support their union’s policies on Labour’s national executive, pledging that ASLEF representatives “will never go against our union policy” at the Labour Party Policy Forum or elsewhere.


Moving the endorsement of the executive report, Healey Mills delegate Howard Kaye said that the union would lose influence if it stood outside the Labour Party. “You have to be in it to win it,” he said.


Nigel Gibson (Bishops Stortford) warned that there was disillusionment with new Labour on a number of issues, including the PPP on London Underground and the privatisation of the NHS, but that ASLEF “has to

maintain involvement at all levels.”


Leeds delegate Nick Whitehead acknowledged unhappiness over privatisation and anti-union laws, but asked conference to consider what the situation would be if the Tories were in power. “I am confident that

ASLEF will continue to fight for socialism,” he said.


Bernard Kennedy (Bristol) praised the success of ASLEF campaigns to “take back the track” and limit train drivers’ hours, but Finn Brennan (East Finchley/Golders Green) warned against the government’s “give away the track” on London Underground.


“When a Hatfield happens on the tube, Stephen Byers and Gordon Brown will have blood on their hands,” he said.


Clive Jones (Port Talbot) said that “the take back the track campaign was a success by any definition. The only dissent was crocodile tears over small investors in Railtrack – but it was the fat cats they really cared about. If you invest in shares, you have to take the good days with the bad.”

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