I am delighted to have received an invitation to speak at the next branch officials meeting of the Communication Workers Union [CWU] here in Edinburgh on March 5th. Willie Marshall, the branch secretary has asked me to come along to explain why the union should end its affiliation with New Labour.
I know this union branch very well. I was asked as their SSP MSP to provide a regular column on my work in the Parliament for their member’s newsletter. The branch has one of the finest records of any in the country in defending its members from attack these past 20 years. It proudly defends the public postal service for us all and it promotes wider trades union solidarity.
And the branch has consistently and proudly supported the Edinburgh May Day and the Edinburgh Peoples Festival.
The CWU branch in Edinburgh knows well that it was the trade’s union movement who established the Labour Party one hundred years ago. James Keir Hardie, the first leader of the Labour Party and its first MP, was, like me, born in Motherwell. I know quite a bit about Keir Hardie. He was famous, for example, for his tireless efforts in touring the country from top to bottom to persuade working people to stop voting Liberal, as they did then, and build a party of their own.
‘You see they Liberals?’ he would say ‘They don’t give a damn about working people. What we need is a party of our own.’ And he went on to establish just such a party.
Today Keir Hardie would be horrified by New Labour. He would be touring the country again to say ‘You see New Labour? They don’t give a damn about working people. What we need is a party of our own.’
The Scottish Socialist Party has shown it is that party.
The Royal Mail is just one of the public services New Labour has privatised. The NHS and education services have been privatised via the odious PPP/PFI deals. Edinburgh knows all about Labours privatisations. Our new Royal Infirmary at Little France was built and owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland [at least we know why it was called the ‘Royal’]. Our schools saw all but the teaching staff transferred to private companies in New Labours shameful dash for private cash. They privatised roads, bridges, leisure centres and even our prisons for goodness sake.
The Royal Mail has suffered greatly under New Labours long privatisation onslaught. First they encouraged private companies like TNT, DHL and Business Post to cherry pick the most profitable postal services. This is the reason for the deterioration in our domestic mail delivery service. Now Peter Mandelson, ‘the Prince of Darkness’ who became a Lord, as Industry Minister suggests that TNT and the others be allowed to run further portions of this key public service.
I have written earlier in this blog about Mandelson’s privatisation plans. My intention at the CWU branch meeting on March 5th is to discuss how the union can stop funding this slaughter of its industry and its member’s jobs. It is incredible to me that the CWU nationally continues to give more than £1million a year to New Labour. In return it gets privatisation. By anyone’s standards this is clearly an ‘abusive’ relationship.