26 Sep 2016

Labour leadership angers GMB union with fracking announcement

The GMB, Labour’s third largest affiliate, has asserted its power at this Conference… with what it might decide are mixed results.

Jeremy Corbyn is desperate for GMB support on the party’s governing National Executive Committee where votes can be on a knife edge.

In full knowledge of that, the union has warned him off attempts to get rid of the party general secretary (not regarded as a Corbyn supporter but a GMB member) and other Labour Party officials (likewise suspected of disloyalty but likewise often GMB members).

Just before the Conference, Jeremy Corbyn appears to have called off his more zealous troops from a redundancy round, splashing Labour subs around on pay-offs.

The GMB also has a lot of members involved in the defence industry, Trident specifically and the support industries.

It’s a firm defender of the nuclear deterrent being recommissioned. It’s been working behind the scenes to get the Labour leadership to back off from attempts to change party policy and back a ban on Trident renewal.

Britain's shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, speaks during the second day of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples - RTSPGBH

It got that deal and in Clive Lewis, the ambitious Shadow Defence Secretary, had a particularly enthusiastic partner in the transaction. Mr Lewis was ready to announce to conference that he would not be seeking to change party policy.

Labour sources say the deal was that in the medium term, believed to be two years, the leadership signed up to a self-denying ordinance. It wouldn’t change policy.

But someone, believed to be the leaders’ Communications and Strategy chief, Seamas Milne, decided the pledge not to seek to change policy was just too much. Mr Lewis seems to have learnt about that line being deleted when he was on the stage about to speak.

It is reported that Mr Milne himself made sure the autocue machine had the offending sentence deleted just before Mr Lewis spoke.

Supporters of Trident insist they’re not bothered and the agreement has been shaken on behind the scenes.

But as if that wasn’t unsteadying enough, the Labour leadership infuriated the GMB by announcing party policy had become a total ban on fracking.

The GMB has jobs in that sector, didn’t feel there had been a proper consultation and was fizzing with fury.

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