LETTER : Labour's `Stalinist' approach to the unions

From Mr Geoff Martin

Sir: The attempt by Andrew Marr in his column "Blair can dump unions, but not the poor" (20 April) to link the mobbing of David Blunkett at the National Union of Teachers conference with the decision of the Unison political forum to oppose the revised Clause IV is unfair on the delegates who assembled at our special conference last week.

Labour's deputy leader, John Prescott, was given a warm welcome at our forum and our debate, which was the culmination of an extensive consultation exercise at branch and regional level, was conducted in a friendly atmosphere. The sticking point for the majority of delegates was the commitment in the new clause to "the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition". How could we, as a public service union which has seen wages slashed and tens of thousands of jobs lost on the back of just such a philosophy, be expected to sign up to it now just because it has come from the Labour leader's office?

Many of our delegates would have welcomed the opportunity to amend the proposed clause but that opportunity has been denied us by the undemocratic "take it or leave it" nature of the debate.

Andrew Marr does get it right when he points out the dangers of alienating Labour's bedrock supporters in the stampede to appeal to "middle England".

A core of MPs around Tony Blair now openly advocate a "once and for all" break with the unions. They would do well to note what happens to political parties without roots and traditions; after a brief period of riding high in the polls, they wither and die - just ask the founders of the SDP.

Yours faithfully,



Unison London Region

Political Committee


Morden, Surrey

20 April