I have spent today held captive by a ballot box. I was appointed as a scrutineer for the General Council election, which entails sitting next to a box all morning, counting votes for about an hour-and-a-half, then being banned from Congress floor and penned in by bodyguards for four hours to prevent you telling anyone the result (which you will have to read to the end of this blog entry to find out).
The big news today was Tony Blair's (thankfully) last visit to Congress. I woke up to watch Brendan Barber on BBC TV news going on about all the good things that Tony Blair has done for workers and trade unions. It was enough to put you off your breakfast.
Brighton was swarming with security for the visit of an anti-working-class fake-Labour Prime Minister who no self-respecting trade unionist would want to be there in the first place. Helicopters, SAS, armed police, ... At least I found out that the titanium plate in my eye doesn't set off metal detectors.
Peter Hain was lurking around the Brighton Centre pressing the flesh of any union big cheese willing to have his or her flesh pressed, which included a photo-opportunity with Mark Serwotka at the PCS stall.
The first debate that I missed was a session with David Milliband, Environment Minister. RMT youth delegate Priscilla Dada got up and put the point to him that any serious environmental strategy must include reducing emissions by improving public transport to make it cheaper and more attractive and accessible. Priscilla was sh*tting herself about speaking and we are all well proud of her that she did. Now she's done it once, it'll be much easier for her to repeat the performance. Milliband's rather unimpressive answer was, apparently, "Dunno a lot about transport".
Due to my aforementioned captivity, blog readers may know more about Blair's speech that I do, but I did manage to catch bits of it on Congress TV. The RMT delegation walked out in protest. I'm aware that various people didn't like this as a tactic, but it sure beats sitting there clapping like a lot of union delegations did. Blair did get some heckling an placard-waving when he talked about the war, and some pointed questions about privatisation, education and other issues. Generally, he seemed to think it was funny that trade unionists don't like him, but I suspect what he really finds amusing is that despite everything he has done, their leaders are still so polite and deferential. Brendan Barber effusively thanked him for gracing us with his presence.
Dogs have this trait that no matter how hard their owner kicks them, they still come back and lick their face. It's endearing, if a little sad, in dogs. But trade unionists are not dogs, and when the likes of Tony Blair kick them, they should kick him back rather than lick his face.
If you want just one small example of how New Labour treats workers, check out the GMB's campaign to save Remploy factories, which was debated and supported this afternoon. You might not have heard about that, since the press circus had left by then.
That General Council result? The headline is that Bob Crow and Matt Wrack were both elected, despite the right wing's efforts, which is good news for those of us who think that the trade union movement ought to fight. You will doubtless also be pleased to know that Maria Exall was elected unopposed to the LGBT seat. I'll post a link to the full results once the TUC posts them on its site.