22 Sep 2013

Ed side-steps unions to focus on the ‘cost of living crisis’

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, spoke on behalf of all the unions affiliated to Labour and described the proposed reforms as an “electoral gimmick”  and an exercise in “navel-gazing.”

The leadership only permitted what Harriet Harman called a “taster” debate – barely 15 minutes of floor debate was allowed. Paul Kenny was adamant that the collective voice of the unions in the Labour Party was not up for discussion.

The Labour Party Annual Conference

What he meant was that trade union delegates would continue to come to Labour Conference and vote in policy discussions.

When I caught up with him after his speech, Mr Kenny said he felt  the leadership had moved towards the unions’ position since Ed Miliband’s speech in July, triggered by the Falkirk selection row.

He said the leadership had realised that some of its original thoughts “weren’t practical” and he echoed Harriet Harman’s pointed reference to how reforms could be “phased.”

David Anderson MP complained about the other side of “machine politics” that saw candidates with no roots in a local community being parachuted in by top level supporters in Labour’s leadership.

Ed Miliband – parachuted into Doncaster – looked on impassively. His brother David was, of course, parachuted into South Shields.

‘Cost of living’

Ed Miliband side-stepped the trade union reform issue here in order to get the focus on to the “cost of living crisis.” He’s announcing what he insists is a much better apprenticeship programme held to higher standards and there will be more announcements all week aimed at trying to show voters he gets their pain.

His pollsters insist that they’re not worried by the dip in some of the polls because their readings have been more stable and never went into a double figure Labour lead in the first place.

What does worry them is that the British people might be unreachable on any message of hope, convinced that politicians are out of touch and corrupt and that the Labour holiday from the national economic debate, as it turned inward in 2010 to elect a new leader, gave the Tories an enormous opportunity to define Labour as the villains of the economic piece from which Labour has not recovered.

Follow Gary Gibbon on Twitter.

Read more

Ed Miliband: ‘reprehensible’ McBride is ‘of the past’

Chuka Umunna: Labour is ‘fit to run the economy’ – video

Ed Miliband has his work cut-out on economy

‘Trust me – I’m a politician’: polling and credibility


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