Right of Reply: John Edmonds

On Wednesday, our leading article argued for a divorce between the trade unions and the Labour Party. Here, the General Secretary of the GMB union responds
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THE INDEPENDENT'S argument that the trade unions should end their "relationship" with the Labour Party starts from a false premiss. Trade unions have never been "partners" in the Labour Party. We are the Labour Party.

The people who trudged the streets, knocking on the doors and delivering the leaflets that helped rid this country of the most divisive and incompetent government in living memory, are the same people who gathered this week at the TUC congress in Brighton to press the case for a fairer, more tolerant society.

The MPs, ministers and cabinet ministers who are working to repair the damage wrought by the grotesque excesses of Thatcherism and pitiful indecision of Majorism, in many cases learnt their political skills and honed their social consciences working in the trade union movement. And even Tony Blair, the man described by The Independent as a "political philanderer", has joined the noble ranks of trade unionism.

Of course, there are conflicts between the interests of unions and a Labour government. Of course we should like to see a higher minimum wage, more comprehensive employment protection, greater social urgency. But, make no mistake, the conflicts are negligible when placed alongside the stark reality of the alternatives that face us. Try new relationships? With whom? The Conservative Party? Rely on their sense of social justice to provide a rise in the the minimum wage? Depend on William Hague to redistribute wealth on behalf of the many rather than the few?

The Labour Party may not, as The Independent points out, be in power for ever. But if power is relinquished it will not be through a lack of commitment by trade unionists. The Independent says our interests would be best served by placing our trust in "new relationships". Thanks, but no thanks. We'll place our trust in ourselves.

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