Labour expels RMT over links to far left

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Indy Politics

One of Labour's founding organisations will be thrown out of the party at noon today, creating one of the most serious splits in the movement since the establishment of the breakaway Social Democratic Party.

One of Labour's founding organisations will be thrown out of the party at noon today, creating one of the most serious splits in the movement since the establishment of the breakaway Social Democratic Party.

The ejection of the 55,000-strong RMT rail union was inevitable after its leadership defied Labour's high command by confirming its decision to allow branches to affiliate to other parties.

An emergency meeting in Glasgow yesterday voted by an overwhelming 42-8 to ignore the threat of expulsion from Labour and decided to allow the whole of its Scottish region to link up with the Trotskyist Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Ian McCartney, the Labour chairman, has warned the union that the decision, taken by "such a small number of people" would cast the organisation out into the cold. He said the union would no longer be able to participate in the party's decision-making processes on behalf of its members.

Bob Crow, the hard-left general secretary of the RMT, threatened High Court action over Labour's decision. He told the emergency meeting that the party had deserted the working class.

RMT's decision will encourage rebellion in other Labour-affiliated unions. The Edinburgh branch of the Communication Workers' Union, one of the organisation's biggest sections, is expected to affiliate to the SSP next Monday. The Fire Brigades Union will come under strong pressure at the annual conference in May to renounce its relationship with the party following last year's bitter nine-month dispute. It is thought, however, that the leaders of other major unions will be able to resist left-wing attempts to join an exodus from Labour.

Speaking to RMT delegates, Mr Crow tore into Labour's leadership for refusing to meet a delegation from the union to explain its case. "Dr Shipman got better representation. The German cannibal got better representation," Mr Crow said.

Arguing that RMT branches should be allowed to back organisations which field candidates against Labour, Mr Crow said: "We should send a message that we are not going to be dictated to by the Labour Party."

Under Mr Crow's leadership the union has cut contributions to Labour from £112,000 a year to £12,500. Mr Crow said the union would still have representation at the highest level through a newly formed all-party group of MPs in Parliament.

Glen Burrows, a delegate from Bridgwater, said: "We are not leaving the party, they are telling us to go." She said the grassroots increasingly regarded government policies with "disgust and contempt".

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