Another View: Don't shoot the messenger

Share
Related Topics
The Independent addresses the messenger rather than the message in its leading article yesterday on my contribution to Labour's Clause IV debate at the weekend. This reflects the increasingly curious nature of the debate and, alas, a growing strain of intolerance within the Labour Party. A proposal is made to redefine the party's most basic values; a debate is called for; then, anyone who contributes views different from the prevailing orthodoxy is abused, not for what they may have said, but for having said anything at all.

Labour's MEPs advanced their position and were castigated for their pains. I make a speech setting out issues which my trade union would like to see addressed. First I am described by unnamed (but readily identifiable) "senior Labour sources" as "confused, muddled and pusillanimous"; then the Independent argues that I should not be speaking in my capacity as general secretary of the T&G.

I believe that the debate on Clause IV needs to be broadened, not constricted further, in the weeks leading up to the special conference in April. The Independent alleges that the T&G is not consulting its members on their views, and that there is no time to discuss the exact resolutions to be put to the conference.

Wrong. We have asked all our branches for their opinions. We are responsible for neither the very tight timetable which has been laid down for deciding this important issue, nor the absence of the new draft Clause IV from the debate. Its early appearancewould certainly be helpful.

More fundamentally, the Independent challenges the inescapable character of trade unions as collective organisations and, unavoidably, political ones. The T&G has its own democratic procedures for deciding policy, including our long-standing support for the principle of public ownership. Indeed, we probably engage more actual and potential Labour votes in the debate (and recruit them to the party) than any other organisation. Once our policy is agreed, we argue for it, vote for it and then accept the result, win or lose.

Questions of public or private ownership are not academic issues for us. They affect vitally the job security, working conditions and pay of our members, as the experience of the past 16 years amply demonstrates. That is certainly one of the reasons T&G members voted overwhelmingly last year to retain a political fund, which ensures that the union has a political voice. They are the "we" on whose behalf I speak publicly - lest their voice (the voice of ordinary Labour voters) goes unheard amid the spin-doctors' cacophony.

Bill Morris is general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

We welcome contributions to `Another View', which will appear on a regular basis. They should be faxed to the Editor on 0171-293 2022.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project