1 May: Bring unions out against Police Bill

Submitted by AWL on 27 April, 2021 - 6:12 Author: Sacha Ismail
Police Bill protest

The labour movement is still not a force in the anti-Police Bill struggle. For us to win, it needs to be. The Tories’ delaying of the Bill shows they are vulnerable to pressure; so do repeated retreats on their Overseas Operations Bill (part of the same authoritarian-nationalist agenda).

The Labour leadership whipped its MPs to abstain on Overseas Operations, with opposition mounted by left-wing MPs and members of the House of the Lords. Labour planned to abstain on the Police Bill until the pressure of demonstrations pushed it to vote against.

However its “opposition” was politically weak, focusing on the Bill being “ill-conceived”. Since the last parliamentary vote, it has gone quiet.

Some left-wing MPs have been better. Nadia Whittome attended the Sarah Everard protest on Clapham Common, spoke out about the police violence there, and spoke at the first big rally outside Parliament. She has promoted anti-Police Bill actions in Nottingham and generally.

Whittome was joined at the first Parliament Square rally by three other women MPs of colour, Zarah Sultana, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Apsana Begum. All three have attacked police repression and promoted action against the Bill. So have Clive Lewis, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, and Richard Burgon.

The Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs which Burgon convenes has put out a statement signed by 29 Labour MPs and six members of the Lords.

Most unions have now made statements against the Bill. NEU’s national conference passed an emergency motion from Bristol NEU.

Following the clashes in Bristol, South West representatives of eight unions, Bristol trades council, and the regional TUC made an anti-Bill statement. However, the statement condemns protesters who engaged in provocative actions, while saying nothing about police violence in Bristol or elsewhere. (Bristol trades council itself took a better stance.)

Unions have said very little about the threat the Bill poses to rights to strike and picket — let alone used the opportunity to denounce existing anti-strike laws. Most seem to have made one statement and not done much else. There has been very little in the way of mobilising members for demonstrations.

To build pressure for the leaders of our movement to be better and do more, we must mobilise at the grasroots, drawing in as many labour movement activists and organisations as possible. There is a lot of good work being done across the country. It needs to be generalised and its links with the labour movement strengthened.

• Trade union and Labour activists should join the Kill the Bill protests on May Day (see @SistersUncut), take banners and take workmates and comrades.

• Hold labour movement-sponsored organising and discussion meetings for your area, workplace or industry.

• Activists have produced a motion for labour movement organisations to mobilise against the Bill, and raise wider demands about the right to protest, policing and criminal justice here. Put in your union, Labour or other organisation.

We need motions on these issues to Labour Party conference. If we don’t push to change the labour movement’s policy, we allow Starmer and his team to continue their conservative “pro-police” position without challenge.

The movement to stop the Police Bill needs the labour movement’s social weight, strategic position in society and politics, and resources. Organised labour needs the movement’s radicalism and grassroots militancy. Both need clear ideas about how we not only Kill the Bill, but reverse the decades-long trend to restrict protests which it deepens (see here on earlier anti-protest laws).

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