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Courage

Why unions can’t rest until Corbyn is elected PM
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Monday, September 11th, 2017


Courage can be contagious, Michelle Obama once observed.

 

She was right — we saw it over the summer when Jeremy Corbyn stepped over the smears piled up around him by the Tories, the media and, sadly, from within his party and powered on to almost, almost, a Labour victory.

 

One more week, many say, and he would have had those keys. Michelle Obama also said that “hope can take on a life of its own” and she was correct in that too.

 

Voters looked at Corbyn and saw courage, decency and dignity – qualities that they felt had been absent from our political life.

 

Jeremy gave them hope, hope that we could have a better Britain.

 

This was no summer of love feelgood factor. Our movement is not going to look back at the summer of 2017 and smile fondly. This is real.

 

I can see it when I am out and about, like at Burston earlier this month when thousands, including many young people, gathered on the village green to celebrate the longest strike in history.

 

But where do we go from here? In my view there is one mission and one alone for our movement now: getting these cursed Tories out of government.

 

It is not just because their mindless austerity has dragged our economy into perma-doldrums, imprisoned by low and falling wages, rising job insecurity and the lousy productivity that accompanies a lack of investment in skills and kit.

 

It is that their vision for our country never changes. Power and privilege are rewarded, profit is worshipped and public service and our services disparaged.

 

These are Tory touchstones and are as true as night follows day.

 

Our nations, regions and people now face the most profound change to their lives and futures since the second world war.

 

Never the same again

Brexit will change our relationship with the whole world. It will undoubtedly transform our economy and living standards. In fact, life will never be the same again.

 

The trouble is that these immense changes are being delivered by a hard right Tory Cabinet and a Prime Minister forced to bung a minority party £1 billion just to stay on life support.

 

We are fighting them all the way to ensure that they row back from a hard Brexit that will cause immeasurable harm to our jobs, rights and democracy.

 

But make no mistake, if they refuse to put the national good before party self-interest then this movement must mobilise.

 

The Tories and their friends in the elite echelons are never ones to let an opportunity to seize more power, privilege and wealth to their ilk go by.

 

We saw this with the global financial crash, where the high priests of big capital jumped at the chance to promote a new order.

 

Across the West, governments attacked wages, cut jobs and sold off services while bailing out the corrupt. And we’re still seeing it.

 

The universal credit programme rolls out over Christmas, certain to force working families to turn to charity to get by while big business powers on with poverty pay and piecemeal contracts.

 

Our low pay culture may please the bosses, but has created a US-style culture of mass in-work poverty. The answer, surely, is not to hound and harass the workers forced to eke out a Deliveroo existence dashing between part-time minimum wage contracts; it is to go after the fat cats getting obese on decent workers’ hard graft.

 

The social contract that underpins this nation, which keeps the evils of poverty and want at bay, is being destroyed by an obeyance to a US model where wealth is sucked ever up by fewer and fewer people, while food poverty is normalised.

 

Last week, Theresa May had the opportunity to condemn corporate greed. She was asked in the Commons to side with the workers of Sports Direct and McDonald’s against the bosses earning 1,000 times their wage packet.

 

May refused

She refused, point blank. She refused, not because she could not recognise the misery these workplaces are causing, but because her wilful submission to the creed of her party would not allow her to do so.

 

With everyone from the head of management consultancy McKinsey to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby agreeing that our economy is truly broken, it must be the case that the only ones who refuse to sniff the change in the air are the 316 MPs sitting on the Tory benches.

 

This week our job at Congress is to destroy the last shreds of credibility that this creed clings to.

 

There is no trickle down. We were never all in it together. There will never be any pain relief for the “just about managing.”

 

Enough of the Tory lies. We intend to challenge them head on in the Congress debates on Brexit and industrial strategy.

 

On the fringe we will be exposing the secrecy of the Tories’ shady backroom deals with Trump’s advisers as Trade Secretary Liam Fox pleads for a deal and his political life.

 

What is the Tory government offering up to the all mighty US administration if not our NHS, food standards and public services?

 

We will also turn the spotlight on the reality for the near 10 million workers in this country without rights.

 

Call it what you will — self-employment, bogus self-employment, agency work or the zero-hours gig economy — huge numbers of people now have no floor beneath them, and their numbers will only grow if austerity continues and our rights are thrown over in a cliff-edge Brexit.

 

Huge challenge

This is a time of huge challenge for our movement. We must find new ways to organise an increasingly fractured labour force, which needs strong unions more than at any point in recent history.

 

But it is also a time of courage and of hope. Under Jeremy Corbyn we finally know what Labour stands for and who it stands with — the working class, the poor, the young, those who aspire to a better world, those who are tired of needless cuts and raging inequality, and those who simply want to see a more just nation. Labour stands for the many, not the few.

 

It is our job to keep alive the mood of hope that swept the country in June. This Congress is where we turn and face the country to remind them that this movement will not let it fade and we will not rest until our common courage delivers Jeremy Corbyn to No 10.

 

This comment first appeared in the Morning Star, September 11

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