Backlash grows on the shop floor

BY BARRIE CLEMENT

Labour Editor

Any idea that Tony Blair's constitutional reforms would attract a ringing endorsement from the party have been dashed.

Such a prediction by senior Labour figures, was severely undermined by Unison, the public service union on Thursday when it voted narrowly to retain the pro-nationalisation Clause IV.

There is little doubt that Mr Blair is experiencing a growing backlash against his vision of New Labour among active trade unionists. The more union activists hear about Tony Blair's politics, the less they like them.

Mr Blair will need as much backing from unions as possible because they will command 70 per cent of the vote at the special constitutional conference on 29 April. The bigger the vote in favour of his new "mission statement" for Labour, the greater will be his power and authority over the party and the less will be the scope for Conservative disdain.

In the wake of the Unison decision the new version of Clause IV is unlikely to attract more than 60 per cent support and it could be considerably less. Some left-wingers argue that the new constitution could now be voted down.

The initial view among Mr Blair's less committed opponents was that he should be backed, albeit reluctantly, in order to secure a Labour government.

There is now a feeling that Mr Blair and his senior colleagues may be going a touch too far.

It was the Labour leader's perceived equivocation over a national minimum wage which concerned delegates, many of whose members are low paid. His keenness to "see the Treasury books", before setting a rate was seen by some as the first step towards an abandonment of the principle.

A statement by David Blunkett, the party's spokesman on education, that ineffective teachers would be dismissed under a Labour government, added little to unions' enthusiasm for New Labour.

The pro-Clause IV lobby has gained considerable confidence from Unison's narrow 55 to 47 vote. Some members believe there is a chance of persuading MSF, the white collar union, to take the traditionalist line. Activists in the GMB general union may also be persuaded to oppose the Labour leader. MSF will wield around 5 per cent of the vote at the special conference, while the GMB, the second biggest affiliate, will command 12 per cent.

Unless there is a last minute conversion, the Transport and General Workers' Union, with 14 per cent of the vote, is likely to oppose the reforms.

Both sides will now be attempting to maximise support among smaller unions, with 2 per cent of the vote and less, and among the constituencies, with a 30 per cent share.

The Unison decision has guaranteed a fortnight of backstage battles in the labour movement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review