Unite members expressed frustration in a vote at conference today (July 14) in which they debated the policy of reselection of Labour MPs. Examining the conduct of some within the party and the challenge to the elected leader, they confirmed their desire to see Labour fighting the Tories, not among themselves.
After a robust debate they supported a motion that called on Labour MPs to be held accountable to their Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
To achieve this democratic accountability, conference supported the need for mandatory reselection of Labour MPs in each Parliament as essential.
The motion comes against a backdrop in which current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced a rebellion from his Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) against the wishes of many lay Labour party members.
Unite delegate Kevin Parslow of the London and Eastern region put forward the motion. He criticised the recent behavior of many in the PLP in what he called “a coup” and “sniping” that’s plagued the Labour leader “since day one.”
“MPs who put themselves up for re-election should be accountable to people they serve, not to Murdoch’s press,” Parslow said.
Parslow conceded the idea that MPs are of course accountable to voters. But, he added, MPs “wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t go through the CLP selection process.”
Unite delegate Mike Hedges supported the motion. “Four weeks ago I would have spoken against this motion but after the treachery of 172 MPs we must support it,” he argued.
“The way they have tried to break Jeremy Corbyn is disgusting,” he said. “They should be ashamed.
“But those of us who know Jeremy Corbyn know he hasn’t buckled in 30 years. He’s going nowhere except into No 10.”
Unite delegate David Williams of the North West region agreed with the spirit of the motion but urged conference to oppose it based on its wording.
Williams argued that not all MPs in the PLP who resigned are “right wing” with malicious intentions.
“Lisa Nandy resigned but she is not a right wing Labour MP,” he said. “Some MPs have resigned because they’re doing it from the heart.”
Both Hedges and North East Unite delegate Bryan Kelf enjoined Unite members to become involved in support for Jeremy Corbyn, since he is the only politician who truly reflects and promotes the values of trade union members.
“How do we know Jeremy Corbyn can’t win general elections?” Kelf asked conference. “He hasn’t yet been in one. They all said he couldn’t be elected Labour leader and he was – by a large majority.”
Hedges said that Corbyn “speaks our language”.
“The establishment are scared of him,” he argued. “They’re scared of a real socialist running the country. It’s up to us to encourage everyone to become affiliated members. It will be a dirty fight. The establishment will stop at nothing.
“This will be the fight of our lives,” he said. “The battle lines are redrawn. Together we can win.”
The motion was carried by a wide majority.