Daily Archives: September 13, 2010

All change at Britain’s biggest union, not only with a new general secretary to be announced at the end of November. I’m also told that Charlie Whelan, the Brownite ultra, is set to leave in February to move on to new pastures – possibly of a media nature.

The story is somewhat complicated by the fact that the former spin doctor says it is nonsense and that he will be in the job until his death. But my sources are good enough to report it anyhow. We’ll find out in the next half year who is telling porkies. Read more

It’s the only question that matters up here at the TUC conference. And weirdly, no one is quite sure. For all the headlines about taking to the streets, mass protests, winters of discontent and so on there is still huge uncertainty.

This may sound contrarian given some of the bald statements of intent emanating not only from the usual firebrands such as Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka but also some relative moderates. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said this morning that “when the call is there, we will move to co-ordinate industrial action to defend all we hold dear”. Brendan Barber of the TUC meanwhile said that the TUC stood ready to co-ordinate “democratic decisions for industrial action”.

So far so clear. And yet. Most union officials realise that striking without public support could be a huge mistake. Read more

Interesting to see Andy Burnham this morning criticise union influence on the selection process for the next Labour leader. (UPDATE: Burnham has denied the BBC’s report). Especially given that only recently he told a website called Unions Together that he wanted to maintain union influence within the party.

Here is the quote he gave that organ:

“Trade unions, like the Labour party, have a proud past and a bright future. They are at the heart of the labour movement and under my leadership I want them to be at the heart of the Labour party too….That means closer ties to the trade union movement, not just at the top of the Party, but from constituencies up.”

Except now Burnham wants to give the unions less influence over the party and its selection process. (UPDATE – or perhaps not.)

Where Burnham does have widespread sympathy is his contention that MPs nominations should not have to be made public. This, he rightly argues, means that ambitious members are more likely to back whoever is in the lead near the end of the race in order to stay in favour with the next leader. The rule making nominations public goes back decades and is to prevent MPs backing one candidate while telling their constituency they are backing another. Read more