Unions should back Corbyn for Labour leader

Submitted by Matthew on 15 July, 2015 - 1:10

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Labour leader is getting a strong response.

In addition to being the only campaign with national trade union support (Unite, BFAWU, ASLEF, TSSA, as well as RMT and FBU), Corbyn is now clear second in terms of nominations from Constituency Labour Parties, with 36 to Andy Burnham’s 47; Yvette Cooper is on 28 and Liz Kendall on only 5. CLP nominations have no direct impact, but they do indicate strength of support among Labour activists.

It is now pretty standard for meetings addressed by Corbyn to be attended by hundreds. 400 turned out to hear him speak in Merseyside; 40 to a campaign planning meeting in Newcastle and, not long, after 250 to a short-notice public meeting he spoke at in the city.

Over 50 volunteers helped organised activity at Durham miners’ gala, where they gave out over 20,000 leaflets, stickers and beermats, sold t-shirts and badges, held meetings and signed people up to the campaign. Corbyn himself got an enthusiastic reception.

Campaigners in various parts of London have been organising street stalls; the campaign in Newcastle is planning stalls outside workplaces organised by Labour-affiliated trade unions (local government, health, Royal Mail).

At the 5 July Unite executive the decision was taken to back Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election.

In the run up to the meeting there had been some doubt as to whether Len McCluskey would support the call to back Corbyn. There had been a statement circulated calling on Unite to endorse him and the United Left had voted to support him. However, despite the United Left having a majority on the EC, in the past this often hasn’t been enough to win decisive votes. This time the vote was passed.

The Unite decision to back Corbyn is a significant one. It has meant that amongst Labour Party and Trade Union members the campaign is now considered serious. It is not just a token left candidate standing in an election but a candidate who could potentially win a large amount of support. Union resources are being given to help organise the campaign and Unite’s members are actively being encouraged to vote. It has strengthened the Corbyn campaign considerably.

It is also significant because it will mean that more Unite members are being encouraged to think about and engage in politics, it opens up Unite’s political strategy to scrutiny and will make the debates about how we build a party that represents the interests of the working class have a clearer understanding of why that means having an orientation to the Labour Party.

In Unite, as a result of this decision, we have an opportunity to involve new people in the political life of the union. Union branches need to contact all of their members, encourage them to register as Labour Party supporters and organise local meetings. Socialists in Unite need to be explaining why we need socialist politics and what sort of political strategy we need to build a movement capable of achieving them. This is a point at which it could be possible to convince many people of the sort of politics we need to transform the labour movement.

We need to make the most of this opportunity.

Student and youth supporters of Corbyn have initiated a statement of support, already signed by many prominent student, NUS/student union and Young Labour activists.

The response so far to the campaign is a reminder that there is a large constituency in society hungry for left-wing ideas.

Socialists need to throw ourselves into the campaign, organise activity in the labour movement and on the streets, and engage as much as possible of that constituency in debate and discussion.