12 March 2014

Bob Crow, Labour, Referenda and NO2EU

I thought about doing a post on Bob Crow yesterday but many people wrote far better than I could have about the contribution he made. All I will say is that it was a shock. He will be missed in the Trade Union movement and my best Bob Crow quote was after he led a walk out on Tony Blair in 2006:

"What is the point of listening to someone when you can't believe a word they say?" said Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, which represents 73,000 workers in Britain's rail, bus, road freight and shipping industries.

"Blair promised us a publicly owned railway, an ethical foreign policy and fair labour laws," Crow said. "But we've been delivered privatization, illegal wars and the boast that Britain maintains the harshest anti-union legislation in western Europe."

Under Ed Miliband, who was elected ahead of his brother largely because of union support, Labour isn't exactly setting the Trade Union movement at ease. Unite has halved its donation, GMB have vastly reduced theirs too, so now Blair himself is offering financial support.

Today Miliband looks set to announce that Labour will not give the UK public a referendum on EU membership unless there is a new treaty or the transfer of more power to Brussels. Meanwhile, with the exception of Michael Meacher, it looks like Labour are likely to still swallow a whole camel though, by backing or at the very best, failing to oppose TTIP. To quote his analysis:

"...TTIP would grant foreign investors a new right to sue sovereign governments in front of ad hoc arbitration tribunals for loss of profits from public policy decisions over health, safety, workplace standards, chemicals use, etc. This investor-State dispute settlement mechanism effectively elevates transnational capital to a status equivalent to the nation-State itself. That would undermine the fundamental principles of democracy in both the EU and USA."

So why are we debating a referendum on Europe without talking about TTIP? If signed, this treaty will remove far more power than the Lisbon Treaty did, yet there is little mainstream discussion. As usual, the Green Party is the only political force in opposition, and the Liberal Democrats want to use this as a platform to attack us (they really haven't thought this out have they).

Which brings us back to Bob Crow and NO2EU. His argument was that the EU had taken away worker rights. I disagree with that analysis. On balance, I think the EU has given us better rights in the UK than we would have had if Britain had experienced the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments outside of the EU. He also wanted Britain to leave the EU and was the lead candidate for his NO2EU list in London in 2009. I don't agree with that either. I think the best way to tackle Climate Change is to work within international institutions.

What we do stand for is a 3-Yes strategy:

- Yes to a referendum
- Yes to reform
- Yes to Europe

Keith Taylor, our MEP in the South East, has pointed out that even the democratic and accountable EU Parliament is being kept in the dark about this. There would be outrage across the media if it was suggested that national governments give up these powers to the EU, so why not a peep about TTIP? I think the EU is the right place to be and I think we can expose the appalling nature of TTIP in the European Elections, even if Labour, the Lib Dems, Tories and UKIP want to line up behind it.

While I don't agree with the NO2EU line that Bob argued for on the basis of our current situation, if the EU was to sign up for this it would for me be a game changer. Signing up for TTIP would be appalling, whether that is done by a British government or the EU. We must fight against it. It's what Bob Crow would be doing if he was still here.

No comments: