Tuesday 15 June 2010

It's been a long time...

It has been a long time and when I retire I'll talk all about it, but I am back.

This post is about when to be reasonable and when it's best not to be. I think I move across the line of reasonableness sometimes but here's my views. I'm not particularly left wing - I used to be called "Son of Blair" in Yeovil Labour Party and at the time actually enjoyed the label. A few years later I was being called a Trot in Mabledon Place, headquarters of UNISON, again I wasn't offended in the slightest. What I do passionately believe in is serving UNISON, fighting for our members' rights and doing the right thing for my class. But in that I've always been pragmatic, going for what works rather than what the dogmatically correct path might be. I've always been happy to grab the half-loaf if that's the only thing that can be on offer.

So that brings me to Amendment 58.1 at UNISON's national delegate conference. Written by Tower Hamlets branch it condemns the waste of our money on PFI schemes and called for them all to be brought back under public ownership with compensation only on the basis of proven need. Is it realistic? Not currently, even Railtrack shareholders had to be compensated when they were forced to sell up to Network Rail. My good friend James Anthony called it a fantasy policy. But it's the right policy and here's why.

Everything that the union movement and the working class has ever achieved has at one point been called unrealistic. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were unrealistic when they thought they could form a trade union. Michael Sadler was unrealistic when he thought that children under age nine should have to go to school rather than be forced to work. Harriet Taylor was being unrealistic when she argued that women should have the vote. If everyone in history only settled for what's achievable then we would be still living in caves and explaining to each other why we shouldn't bother trying to make fire ourselves.

I think that we shouldn't be ashamed to say what we believe, we might have to settle for less, but if we don't try, we can't succeed. If we stop fighting now, the government will see us bit by bit back into being mere serfs and the sooner UNISON's leadership realises what a fight we're in the better.

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