A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, January 19, 2009

John McDonnell's odd taste in trade unionists

I didn't quite get the level of anger involved in John McDonnell's outburst about the Heathrow third runway decision.

I can understand that many of his constituents are concerned about noise polution and about the demolition involved in clearing land for the new runway.

But there must be just as many Hayes & Harlington residents who actually earn their living at Heathrow and who have a huge vested interest in it being able to compete with other European airport hubs.

Even if, on balance, McDonnell was going to decide he opposed it, surely it would have been prudent for him to present a more balanced (in every sense of the word) response, showing that he cared about the jobs of his constituents as well as the environmental issues, and had weighed up the pros and cons before reaching his position of opposition, rather than just slamming the whole idea.

As it is his position may end up looking as electorally sensible as Albert Booth's opposition to Trident submarines when he was MP for submarine-building Barrow-in-Furness. It would be as though the MP for a mining seat was saying they were against coal-mining because of the environmental impact.

There are very sensible leftwing reasons for backing a third runway:

- it's difficult to have a Keynesian fiscal stimulus if you object to the largest and most job-creating public infrastructure schemes in that stimulus on environmental grounds
- and the major trade unions such as Unite and the GMB are pushing hard for the scheme on the basis of it preserving existing jobs

I find it strange that McDonnell has not listened to the powerful case being put forward by Unite's London region, Labour's largest regional affiliate, who estimate they have 50,000 members dependent on Heathrow.

Instead the unions McDonnell is spending time listening to are the mysterious Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG), which he serves as Parliamentary Convenor of, and which is launching at the Commons on 21 January. The TUCG consists of BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, PCS, POA and RMT. Only BFAWU is affiliated to the Labour Party. FBU disaffiliated, RMT was chucked out for backing the Scottish Socialist Party, and the others have never been affiliated. All of them have very leftwing leaderships. the TUCG wants to give "unions a new and stronger representative voice in Parliament" - interesting wording as one reading of that phrase is i.e. not the Labour Party.

What is McDonnell up to acting as the parliamentary front man for a bunch of non-affiliated unions, and pretty much ignoring the large Labour-affiliated ones? Maybe Jon Cruddas was right to speculate at a recent IPPR event that McDonnell's LRC is a breakaway party in waiting, with its own union affiliates and conference?


Anonymous Shambolic said...

You have put forward a silly argument, Luke. You seem to have conveniently ignored the important fact that McDonnell's protest was not to do with a debate on the pros and cons of Heathrow's third runway but THE ABSENCE of a parliamentary debate and vote on the matter.

Still waiting patiently to hear your angle on this Hackney-based political issue.

12:25 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You'll be waiting a long time. I refer you to the Group Press Officer if you want to know Hackney Labour Group's collective position.

12:40 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"Maybe Jon Cruddas was right to speculate at a recent IPPR event that McDonnell's LRC is a breakaway party in waiting, with its own union affiliates and conference?"

I've always said that this incarnation of the LRC has nothing on the first. Maybe they're going to try to emulate it?

12:48 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous tim f said...

This isn't going to happen for a considerable amount of time. So linking it to the stimulus is a bit desperate.

Connecting unions who aren't currently affiliated to the Party with the process and, connecting them to part of the Labour Party, is surely a forward step. I can't see a downside. Affiliated unions aren't the only ones that represent workers and in the long term we should be looking to get more unions to affiliate/re-affiliate. Or do you think that only unions with loyalist leaderships should affiliate?

1:05 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Shamik said...

Yes, it really was the behaviour of someone detached from reality.

Maybe all those constituents of his that are employed at the airport ought to let him know exactly what they think of him...

We don't like flying, oh no, we love it!!

1:12 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Jules said...

No comments about the latest polls Luke? I wonder why that might be??

2:31 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Shawcross said...

It was another great decision by Brown, producing a massive boost in the polls - for the Tories!

2:39 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Luke, as a lay representative of one of the unions in the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, I can only assume you have no idea how difficult it currently is to argue for affiliation - or re-affiliation - within them. I'd love those that have disaffiliated to be back in the fold, but the sort of politics the Labour Right espouse makes this task somewhere between difficult and impossible.

And I'd like to know how the democratic mechanisms within unite worked - or didn't - to lead their leaders to back Heathrow expansion.

3:14 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

I think John's fully aware of the strength of feeling on one side of this argument in his constituency, and he has been involved in it since before the last general election.

As for a new party - get real. Surely we all support unions having parliamentary representation - that was the purpose of setting up the Labour Party in the first place - if some unions have been disaffiliated or their members don't wish to affiliate, we need other ways to get those workers represented, and personally I'm glad to see it done through Labour MPs and a Labour organisation.

So yes - the LRC in many ways is there to emulate the first, in terms of ensuring workers' representation, but it is very clear on our membership cards: we are 'committed to the election of a Labour Government...'

3:36 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Shambolic said...

"Luke Akehurst said... You'll be waiting a long time. I refer you to the Group Press Officer if you want to know Hackney Labour Group's collective position. 12:40 PM, January 19, 2009"

No. Don't just want to know "Hackney Labour Group's collective position" but your opinion. Surely you have one?

No change then on your comment: "Grow up.
It's a breach of council rules to use taxpayer funded premises for public meetings that are "political"?

3:48 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If I have a personal opinion on a council matter I'll express it in private in a Group meeting, not here.

3:53 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Shambolic said...

So the rumours that you have been gagged on this issue ARE true! Gotcha!!!

4:13 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Only if you think that I would like to "oppose party policy or attack other members of the group" or disclose "the proceedings, agenda papers and minutes of Labour group meetings" - on both of which every Labour councillor in the country is "gagged" by the Party rules. We also have a Standing Order which says that "the responsibility for communicating or making public the views and decisions of the group rests with the Mayor or his nominee". I'm not the Mayor or his nominee.

4:23 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Shambolic said...

Luke Akehurst said... I'm not the Mayor ....

Not yet Luke, not yet!

4:33 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger susan press said...

Luke, you are way behind on this one. And completely wrong.As was Cruddas several weks ago. The LRC has no plans to lave the Labour Party. Repeat. None.

7:06 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sooner they are out the better and more ellectable the Labour Party will be !


7:11 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

John McDonnel has had enough of New Labour Right wing extremists and all the Tory crap!

8:50 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bit desperate even by your standards Mr Akehurst

9:25 pm, January 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"John McDonnel has had enough of New Labour Right wing extremists and all the Tory crap!"

Which is why both he and Press are fighting for a Tory Victory.


10:03 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Charlie Marks said...

No one wants a Tory victory.

John's not calling for Heathrow to be closed, he's merely opposing the expansion, which will make meeting out climate change objectives very difficult.

10:23 pm, January 19, 2009

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Silly post Luke. If 3,000 people were to have their homes demolished, 10s of 000s to possibly see more noise, traffic etc etc, a cemetery and Gurdwara were to be killed off or otherwise affected etc etc in your patch you'd at least be calling for a debate.

I happen to support the 3rd runway - from afar - but I can see the arguments against and that avoiding a debate and vote is a hard sell politically, never mind the project itself.

The Tories may be digging themselves a bit of a hole on this one. But we'll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile this is just a knee-jerk sectarian attack on an individual and other comrades that you simply don't like very much. Which is unhelpful. Surely?

12:46 am, January 20, 2009

Anonymous James said...

The sooner they are out the better and more ellectable the Labour Party will be !

Yes, if there's one ideology that is appropriate for the times it is Blairism...

3:37 am, January 20, 2009

Anonymous Dan said...

The interesting question is why there is no much focus on Heathrow, when aircraft only cause 3% of greenhouse emissions (or 13% if you accept some rather dodgy science pushed by some environmentalists).

8:24 am, January 20, 2009

Anonymous Shawcross said...

Latest Mori poll has Labour 14 points behind:

LABOUR 30% (-5)
LIB DEMS 17% (+2)

I don't know why there's been no coverage of the great bounce following Brown's masterly decisions to ensure this country's prosperity... like ID cards, totalitarian surveillance, and splurging money away on an epic scale.

Looks like some people haven't seen an opinion poll since December... :~)

12:02 pm, January 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour now 15 points behind Tories, according to Mori.

Who's not singing now?

At what stage, when the currency collapses, when the IMF turns up in Downing Street, when people are being robbed on the street, will you tell us that Brown and co are a disaster?

12:46 pm, January 20, 2009

Blogger Merseymike said...

Think that there is nothing wrong with an MP having a view which does not place jobs above all other considerations - although I am ambivalent about the issue holding no strong views either way.

Of course, those involved in the murder industry (defence....so-called) are all in favour of having lots of people working on producing weapons to kill people.

1:40 pm, January 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't think McDonnell is entitled to be a little bit angry with the government making a decision that will, without any doubt, cost him his seat at the next election? Do you think the people who live in his constituency, who face new or greater airplane traffic going over them and the noise that brings, and whose homes are about to become completely worthless, will ever vote Labour again?

9:29 am, January 25, 2009


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