Democracy Under Pressure

John Cooper - Vauxhall Motors Unite Convenor; Labour Party Member

Everyone can see the UK is broken and needs fixing.

Labour’s National Executive Committee has put forward a number of proposals to Conference that constitutes a direct attack on the democratic rights of Labour members. 

One of the proposals, shamefully, includes the decision to scrap mandatory equality roles on CLP executive committees, including the disabled, BAME and LGBT+ positions. 

This rule change must be voted through Conference before it comes into force. We must stop this from becoming Labour Party policy

Coming hot off the heels of Labour’s decision to downgrade Women's Conference, alongside the abolition of the democratic structures for BAME members, it forms a series of alarming attacks on the rights of women, disabled, BAME and LGBT+ members across the party. This entirely contradicts the recommendations of the Forde Report, too.

Minority communities need real representation to organise and make their voices heard - it is worrying that Keir Starmer is attempting to silence them across the country. Therefore, Labour Conference should reject these anti-democratic and centralising measures. 

What is the point of the Labour Party?

John Cooper - Vauxhall Motors Unite Convenor; Labour Party Member (at Present)

Everyone can see the UK is broken and needs fixing.

We are living in an era of crisis: climate change, the cost of living and the spread of war.

Our democracy is under attack daily with every parliamentary bill the Tories dream up.

The manufacturing sector in the UK is in dire need of investment we are falling behind every other nation’s manufacturing sector, steel, automotive, Petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

We urgently need an answer. But ashamedly while the Tory party perpetuates these crises, Kier Starmer and the shadow front bench of the Labour Party are failing to provide a genuine alternative. Instead, they try just peddling Tory light policies.

The right wing has regained control of Labour.

Labour now opposes strikes sacks MPs who join picket lines, rejects re-nationalisation of the water industry, refuses to defend refugees, and will not scrap student fees.

Labour has a chance to bring thousands of children out of poverty by scraping the two-child benefit cap introduced by the Cameron government. Kier Starmer's view is that Labour will maintain the cap, what is the point of the Labour party when it refuses to pull kids out of poverty.

Unite's General Secretary is correct to say the “there will be no more blank cheques from Unite”.

Keir Starmer has overseen the driving out of tens of thousands of Labour members including many Unite the Union members. The many trade union members who supported Labour politics in the past are now denied a political voice.

We need an organisation that offers a real solution: one that challenges the system in the workplace the community across the whole country.

The trade union movement gave birth to the Labour Party, let us as trade union members of Unite begin the fight back now and ensure the Labour party returns to its roots and starts to represent the people whose votes they crave.


Statement - John Cooper, Democrat

At the opening meeting of the new electoral period of the EC a group calling themselves “Members First “totally disregarded one of the main pillars of our great Union “Equalities”.

They completely ignored the fact that the Civil Air Transport (CAT) sector elections had not been concluded in time for the three delegates to take their seats, a sector with a large membership identifying in the equalities structures.

This behaviour clearly demonstrated an obvious lack of or any resemblance of democracy.

As a result, the following statement was read out at the executive and entered into the minutes.

I read this statement on behalf of a group of 27 members of the Executive Council so that our position is recorded in the minutes.

Every representative on this Council should be deeply concerned about the anti-democratic decisions taken yesterday. 

The group of members who call themselves 'Members First' and who currently hold a tiny majority on the executive took the shameful decision to press ahead with the election of a Chair and membership of the Finance & General Purposes Committee (F&GPC) against the wishes of an almost equal number of executive councillors. In fact, the Chair was elected by a minority of the Council.

The objection of the 27 was based on the fact that the Civil Air Transport (CAT) currently has no representation on the Council, and that one Passenger sector seat is empty pending the outcome of further elections.

An alternative, perfectly workable, interim arrangement was offered by concerned executive councillors in line with standard democratic practice but was rejected.

The 55,000 strong CAT electorate is not only of significant size but has one of the highest concentrations of women and LGBT+ members of any sector within the union. Passenger Transport has one of the highest concentrations of BAEM members found anywhere in the union. 

Our fears in relation to the exclusion or reduction in representation from these highly diverse sectors were immediately given concrete expression in the election of just one BAEM representative, onto a 16 seat F&GP Committee. This demonstrates a blatant disregard for our union’s proportionality rules. 

The Chair also took an executive decision to disregard representations from two disabled members on the difficulties caused to them by the sudden change in order of business. This was never even put to the vote.

For a union that is campaigning to secure statutory recognition for equalities reps, and whose activists consistently challenge undemocratic and discriminatory practice, that is a shameful and regressive step. 

It is one which will send completely the wrong message to our members, to our employers, to law makers and to the wider public.

In the intensity of the moment, is easy to see the executive council decisions solely within the narrow context of the council chamber. However, we all know that the shockwaves will echo far beyond these walls.

We urge this council to take a few minutes, rescind the controversial decisions on Chair and F&GPC, and agree to interim measures that will allow us to harmonise and regroup when our Council is whole.


Trevor Vaughan - Chair Unite North West Freeport Combine

According to the Government they are intended to be national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK. The promise of job creation and regenerations as part of the Governments so called levelling up scheme to help communities that have been left behind and the potential to develop them into hotbeds of innovation seems to be somewhat lost in all the recent work done on them so far. Announced freeports in England: East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe& Harwich, Humber, Liverpool city Region, Plymouth &South Devon, Solent, Teesside, and Thames. Five have received final government approval (Plymouth, Solent, Teesside, Felixstowe, and Liverpool) The most Recent Freeports created are in Scotland and Wales, Milford Haven and Port Talbot and Anglesey in Wales and Two in Scotland Cromarty Firth Green Freeport and Forth Green Freeport.  

So far so good, however if we look at what is happening so far, we already see some cronyism in the development of these sites Rishi Sunak has already handed over the first Freeport to Ben Houchen Tees Valley Mayor close friend of his, no coincidence there. And already there has been widespread condemnation in the press over the site being handed over to two local business men for next to nothing in the scheme of things for £0.5 m to lease 70 acres at the site of the old Redcar Bulk Terminal Port. No other opportunities for bids were given, this was unbeknown to the public at the time. As a response we have developed a Freeports Combine where we intend to reach out to all the areas affected by the threat of Freeports we want to get a foothold in the development of these places we want a seat at the table. We want these places to succeed but not at any cost. We want access to well paid jobs, safe jobs, permanent jobs, when the government talk about “light touch regulations” they are called regulations for a reason we do not want any regulations diluting or any of our hard-won rights removed. We need to get in on the ground floor and start developing a joined-up approach across the country, we have now started to gather momentum with Meetings to develop our strategies. Mapping out who is coming to these Freeports? Is something we are in the process of doing. Who is getting contracts, are they Union Friendly?

 Our next steps involve reaching out to Reps and activists to make them aware of what is going on in their respective areas, it seems that the public is not as aware as we would like, there are publications such as By-line times and Private eye that do speak up on this subject but we as a Union need to get it out across our Union and to a wider audience. If only the main stream media would help. We are planning a SharePoint to put all our lessons learned and any information that can be used to negotiate, bargain, or get any other significant foothold on the conversations that may have not happened yet, can we develop a blueprint for a recognition agreement? reach out MPs, Councillors, Mayors in the areas that will contain Freeports. We have spoken to the TUC who are happy that unite are leading the way. Who the key players on the Freeport Boards are, this is something we have already achieved in Liverpool, ask for minutes of the meetings, we can get these but sometimes they are heavily redacted, but any information can be useful. We can also spread the word on our Reps courses and already a timetable of how we do this is being developed with the education department, speak up at Trades Council meetings, take the Information to your CLPs. we will have a presence at the upcoming Policy Conference this year and hope to garner more interest from this. We are also directing people to the available videos that we have done on YouTube and on our own site.

“We want Freeports not Fleece ports”


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