Letters

Submitted by AWL on 12 February, 2020 - 11:50

In an otherwise excellent piece in Solidarity 534, ("Blaming 'the intellectuals'), Len Glover is much too kind to Ian ("white working class") Lavery, saying that he "has, in many respects, a worthy record and before becoming an MP was President of the National Union of Mineworkers."

Indeed he was; but the Certification Officer reported the following on the National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] (Northumberland Area) (below: "the Union"), of which Ian Lavery was General Secretary.

This organisation reported 240 members each year from 2002 to 2012, and 10 members in 2013 and later years.

"The Union’s [returns] for the years 2010 to 2012 which recorded payments under the description ‘redundanc’” to the General Secretary (or former General Secretary) as follows… Total: £147,424…

"The Union’s then General Secretary Mr Ian Lavery ceased to be General Secretary when he was elected as the MP for Wansbeck on 7 May 2010 and [complainants] questioned in what way this was redundancy…

"As a result of our investigations the Union established that they had overpaid Mr Lavery. The Union and Mr Lavery subsequently reached an agreement with regards to this overpayment.

"The Union was not adequately able to explain why they should have taken full responsibility for the under-performance of the endowment policy taken out by Mr and Mrs Lavery [set up to cover money advanced by the Union for Mr Lavery to buy a house]… It is far from clear why the Union should have made an arrangement with the Provident and Benevolent Fund to write off the whole of Mr and Mrs Lavery’s £72,500 debt to them".

Jessie Ramsey, Birmingham

Mark Osborn’s call to get Labour out on the streets (Solidarity 533) describes some clear, radical policies we should push for the party to campaign around – on schools, the NHS, housing, nationalisation...

Fairly detailed left-wing policies on most of these issues have already been agreed by Labour Party conference. Those conference policies are a source of useful demands, and an at least somewhat raised platform from which to campaign. They can also aid the fight to democratise Labour, through the demand for a sovereign party conference.

For instance: the 2017 manifesto promised the biggest council house-building programme “for at least thirty years”, which implies building 15,000 council homes a year – a step up, but far short. But last year’s conference voted for building 150,000 social rented homes a year, of which 100,000 must be council homes, £10bn annual funding for councils to do it, and ending “right to buy”.

If Labour had argued for this kind of policy for several years, let alone campaigned properly, the political situation would likely be much better.

Since 2016, conference has passed policies on immigration, climate change, union rights, the NHS, schools and other issues which, while not radical by our standards, are miles better than what the party leadership has advocated (though, as Mark says, actually campaigning is a whole other matter). Versions of some of these (for instance on housing) appeared in the 2019 manifesto – but generally watered down, and in any case conference decisions are surely a more solid basis for campaigning than manifesto policies announced last minute.

Obviously socialists should not limit our demands to what Labour conference has passed. Apart from anything else, we need to continue to take the initiative in strengthening conference policy. But where we can hang demands on policy passed in the broad labour movement, that helps.

Trade union policy, often ignored by the unions themselves as well as Labour, is also important. Take Mark’s demand for nationalisation of the banks. This was passed by the TUC Congress in September 2019, on the initiative of the Fire Brigades Union, but who talks about that?

Daryl Leon, London

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