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Ed Miliband shows why we need a new workers’ party

This year’s Labour Party conference saw what has become an annual ritual: the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor trying to steal the Tories clothes and “standing up to the unions”. Bernie McAdam looks at what happened in Manchester.

This year Labour’s message was plain enough. Workers should wait quietly and patiently for another two and a half years, and then vote out this cabinet of Tory public schoolboys. And then? Then we will get a cabinet of comprehensive school (and Oxbridge) graduates that will not undo the Tory-Lib Dem cuts or the privatisation of the National Health Service, that will not raise public sector workers’ pay, and that will stick to the Tories’ spending cuts for at least one or two years.

In opposition over the last two and a half years, Labour has repeatedly spurned the opportunity to mobilise working people’s growing anger and disillusionment. No turn to the left there. It has hardly even dared to defend our NHS – the crown jewels of Labour Party history. The wretchedly unoriginal Ed Miliband modelled his speech in Manchester on David Cameron’s fake unscripted speech to the 2009 Tory Party Conference (just as Cameron copied Tony Blair, and he in turn copied Bill Clinton).

 His speechwriters even rummaged through the Tories’ costume set for a Victorian outfit, Benjamin Disraeli’s “One Nation” Toryism, with only the party label changed. The Daily Mirror duly proclaimed it was “like seeing a footballer written off as a donkey score a hat-trick.” Similarly cringe-making stuff has been said about Ed Balls’ speech, in which he made it clear that there would be no reversal of the cuts and no return to “tax and spend.” This time, one of the gushers was Unite’s Len McCluskey, who on the eve of conference had spoken of “kicking the New Labour cuckoos out of our nest.”

But after the show he was a tamed man declaring, “Ed’s speech was a good one. A really, really good one.” Neither Miliband nor Balls will pledge to repeal the Tories’ NHS legislation. Miliband says he will not waste £3 billion re-re-organising the health service. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne actually pledged to cut the welfare budget. And to show how strong a leader he is, Miliband paraded his credentials for standing up to the union leaders by supporting cuts to public sector workers’ pay.

In fact, any politically astute person could see through Miliband and Balls’ performances. The real keynote message was summed up in the former’s claim that “we are not a party of any special interest group” – by which he means the working class. So why are the union general secretaries spending tens of millions of pounds of working class members’ money on getting Balls and Miliband elected to carry out Tory policies?

McCluskey heads Unite, which with 1.5 million members is the UK’s largest union. It is Labour’s biggest donor, handing over more than £6 million in the past two years, almost a third of the party’s total donations. And what does he get in return? Only put-downs. Has the man no pride? Once again Lenin and Trotsky have been proven correct. Labour is indeed “the bourgeois labour party” and “the party that leans upon the workers but serves the bourgeoisie.” And we pay them to do it!

With the millions the unions pour into Labour’s election war-chest, we could, almost at a stroke, have a party in Britain that stands in solidarity with workers in struggle, that pledges to reverse all the cuts to health and education, that is ready to take back the billions given by Brown and Cameron to the bankers.

We could have a party that chose as its leaders men and women who are not afraid to march shoulder to shoulder in a fight by the unions, and not afraid to call for mass direct action to kick this gang of wreckers out of power, rather than pledging, a la Blair, to safeguard the Tories’ legacy of destruction.

But this will never happen as long as Len McCluskey, Dave Prentis and Paul Kenny lord it over Unite, Unison and the GMB, keeping their members locked up in the Labour holding cell. That is why their grip on the unions must be broken by organising their rank and file, not just in militant defence of our economic and social gains but for a political fightback: one that once again emblazons on its banner, “the common ownership of the means of production”, but that this time both means it and knows how to bring it about.

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