By Peter Brown
The war has exposed once again the lack of accountability of the trade union representatives on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee (NEC).
The trade unions still have power in the Labour Party - if they choose to exercise it. But overwhelmingly the trade unions in the party toe the Blair line, even when it is against the line of their own union. Every single union rep on the NEC has backed Blair on the war!
At the 28 January NEC meeting an anti-war motion fell without a vote, because a bland pro-Government statement had been carried: "The NEC believes that the authority of the United Nations will be undermined, unless it is enforced and recognises that in the last resort this could involve military action. Accepting the widespread concern within the Labour Party and the country at large, the NEC confirms the position passed at Conference on Iraq where it stated that military action should be taken only in the last resort and within the context of international law and with the authority of the United Nations."
That was before it became clear that those conditions were impossible.
The 25 March NEC meeting heard a statement moved by Diana Holland in the chair: "The NEC deeply regrets the failure of the diplomatic path to peace, and affirms its support for British Armed forces and their families and other staff involved in the military action including those in civilian roles who will expect and must receive the support of the British people."
"We strongly support all efforts to: prevent civilian casualties while protecting the safety of British armed forces; rebuild a unified approach at European and international levels..."
You wouldn't know they were sitting in the HQ of the government party that's waging the bloody war!
Tribune editor Mark Seddon presented an emergency resolution to instruct the General Secretary of the Labour Party to seek immediate advice... as to what steps need to be taken by HM Government to ensure that Britain is once again in compliance with the United Nations Charter." A roundabout anti-war motion! It fell without debate.
How have the union reps voted, and are they representing their unions' policies?
On 28 January meeting only four members voted against the pro-Government motion, none of them trade union reps.
The 25 March meeting decided not to take a vote on the statement or motion. The chair (a TGWU sponsored member) moved next business, and the trade union reps did not object.
The RMT opposes the war; assistant general secretary Mick Cash has not stood up for RMT policy. If he is to be replaced on the NEC in the future, however, the RMT will have difficulty, since few of its executive members are members of the Labour Party. Perhaps they will select from lower down the ranks. No bad thing.
Nancy Coull of Unison, a union which is strongly anti-war, on 25 March said her 17-year-old son supported the war. Might be the only teenager in the country who does!
John Keggie of the Communication Workers' Union, which has very strong anti-war policy, was not at the meeting, but backed the Government on 28 January.
The representatives of the GMB are far from reflecting the stance their unions have taken.
All these "representatives" must be pursued in their unions for not representing the union's position on war, as on many other issues.
The 12 trade union reps on Labour Party NEC: 2 AEEU (John Gibbins, Cath Speight), 1 GPMU (Michael Griffiths), 1 USDAW (John Hannett), 1
RMT (Mick Cash), 1 T&G (Diana Holland), 1 CWU (John Keggie), 2 Unison (Maggie Jones, Nancy Coull), 2 GMB (Mary Turner, Steve Pickering), 1 MSF (Margaret Wall).