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By Simon Fletcher and republished with permission
Simon Fletcher is a left wing political strategist and campaigner who has held senior positions working for socialist politicians including the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and organising Jeremy Corbyn’s successful leadership election. He has fought against Boris Johnson on a number of occasions and knows a thing or two about how Johnson will operate aLabout can go about defeating him.
These notes consider some of the questions facing the Labour Party as Boris Johnson prepares to become Prime Minister, in part based on my own experiences. They are intended to be a contribution to how Labour operates in this new political environment.
I am in the somewhat unusual situation of having been the director of campaigns both against Boris Johnson and for Jeremy Corbyn.
I was the then-mayor’s chief of staff when Boris Johnson declared his ultimately successful candidacy for mayor of London in 2007 and we headed into a bruising electoral battle. I was then London Labour’s director of campaigns and research for the general election of 2010, in a role that worked up Tory attack lines in London and aimed to reduce Johnson’s role as an electoral asset for the Tories. I ran Ken Livingstone’s selection campaign to once again be Labour’s candidate for mayor, and was his campaign’s chief of staff for the 2012 London mayoral election. That is quite a few years studying — and fighting — Boris Johnson.
There are a number of lessons from all the time in the trenches against Boris Johnson. One crystal clear lesson is that far too many people underestimate him.
Many good people inadvertently participate in the creation of Boris Johnson’s political persona, laughing along with one tousle-haired stunt and gaffe after another, believing that these things are damaging to him. They are not. Johnson thrives on being a figure of fun because people like fun. His antics shield him from the reality of his Tory politics and his multiple failures as a political administrator. Far from ‘buffoon’ being a term that causes him trouble, it is an asset, a smile-inducing diversionary construct.
As recently as this leadership election he demonstrated that he is still very much at it. Just as serious questions were being asked about his character following reports of a startling row with his partner, he embarked on a bizarre discourse about painting buses on the side of cardboard boxes. His ramblings elbowed aside other stories and softened perceptions once again. Only this week he was waving kippers around to make fatuous points about the European Union. Still at it.
No one on the left should assume a Johnson-led government would automatically deliver a Labour victory. One, because Labour will not win only through negatives. It must galvanise on positives, which themselves contain the dividing lines with the Tories. But two, because to beat Johnson it is first necessary not to underestimate him. Boris Johnson has always fought brutally hard in his self-interest and he is not going to stop now.
It was reported this week that Johnson is gearing up the Conservative Party for a general election. “There’s a desire to get this done while Corbyn is still around,” the Times reports of one senior member of Johnson’s team. “Labour is utterly divided — Brexit is killing them. Labour is in no fit state to fight a general election.” Another member of Johnson’s team is reported to have said: “Jeremy Corbyn being opposition leader is a positive for us.”
Labour supporters will conclude from this that some in the Conservative Party learned very little from Theresa May’s disastrous 2017 miscalculation in calling a snap election. Certainly, Jeremy Corbyn’s critics and opponents have regularly fallen foul of not taking him seriously enough, very often at their direct cost.
Nonetheless, it is necessary to be sober about the challenges we will face in the coming period and — in turn — not to make the mistake our opponents have made about us: underestimation of the other side.
Boris Johnson’s incoming administration will come to power with a precarious majority. MPs have already tied his hands by stopping any attempt to prorogue Parliament. The new Cabinet will have to turn its attention immediately to Brexit, which has now seen off two Tory Prime Ministers. Bubbling underneath are all the problems of an increasingly fragile-looking economy.
The objective situation he inherits presents very clear opportunities for the broad progressive left of British society to strike hard and to speak for the majority of the country in doing so.
All of these factors may have contributed to one view currently doing the rounds in Westminster that Johnson’s elevation to Prime Minister is a net positive for the Labour Party. One New Statesman cover story this summer reported figures from very different strands of opinion within the party who believe that “someone is running to save them: Boris Johnson.” The Statesman’s Stephen Bush reported the remarks of one Labour leadership ally who believes that a Johnson-led Conservative government would “put things into perspective” for disaffected Remainers. The view is not confined to supporters of Jeremy. “Jess Phillips,” Stephen reports, “the outspoken backbencher, has described a Johnson leadership as ‘a gift’ to Jeremy Corbyn.”
It is absolutely right for Labour to relish any opportunity to fight the Tories in an election. That does not diminish the task of defeating the incoming PM. There is no inevitability that Boris Johnson will defeat himself for us; or that there is an inevitable electoral backlash to him that in all circumstances will fall into Labour’s hands.
If we look again at the reports this week that the Tories are preparing for an election, they may well favour an election before 2022, but they also certainly prefer a general election after Brexit has been imposed, not before. The Times reports that Johnson “has made clear that holding an election before Brexit has been delivered would be an ‘absolute folly’. Senior allies said, however, that planning was under way to go to the polls by the summer of next year.” Johnson’s team are reported as planning for the eventuality of being forced into an election earlier, but their preference is for something later, and there are very sound reasons from their point of view for such thinking. Including one rather big reason, the Brexit Party.
Tory MPs do not have any desire to go back to the electors with the threat of the Brexit Party hanging over them. Hence a preference for a post-Brexit election. By removing the Brexit Party’s threat, the Tories will feel emboldened to press ahead with an election. While Farage’s party is a firing squad aiming directly at Tory MPs, it can be removed, if a hard Brexit is delivered.
Johnson will have an early ally in the US president for a hard Brexit. Trumpwants a hard Brexit as a means to weaken the European Union, to strengthen the USA in Europe, and to pursue his own trade deals. Trump’s political assassination of the British ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, was in large part a warning sign about his impatience with Britain and May over Brexit. Nigel Farage is Trump’s principal British minion. He is considerably less likely to cause the Tory party mayhem if Trump’s ally Boris Johnson has successfully delivered the hard Brexit each of them wants. Clearing the Brexit Party out of the way would remove a major electoral headache for Johnson.
It is not only with regard to his ruthlessness towards Brexit, the British economy or a general election that Johnson must not be underestimated. His style and brand and his willingness to switch to any and all positions in order to protect himself and advance will also present a change from Theresa May.
Boris Johnson’s methods cannot be considered without recognising his long-term alliance with the political strategist Lynton Crosby. Amongst the many things Crosby has brought to Johnson’s campaigns and activities, he has imposed message discipline — or rather, Johnson has submitted himself to discipline in pursuit of his own self-interest. After Johnson was first selected as the Tories’ London mayoral campaign he initially ran an underwhelming campaign. As Sonia Purnell noted in her biography of Johnson:
One of the ways in which his 2007/08 campaign was put on a more serious footing was the introduction of Crosby. Much of Johnson’s subsequent record as a campaigner was established in this period.
Let us take the matter of debates. Boris Johnson has been heavily criticised for refusing to participate in leadership debates. For Johnson, evasion is not new: as a mayoral candidate he was equally willing to take brick bats for not taking part in debates, in order to secure what he saw as other benefits. Once he became mayor he ducked the accountability of mayoral press conferences, once a weekly event but quickly downgraded. Any general election campaign assumptions must be based on the fact that Johnson will play hardball over formats and timings or simply refuse altogether, and he will obviously not be the first Prime Minister to do so. But Johnson will surely apply the same avoidance tactics to general matters of accountability outside elections.
Johnson’s campaign teams under Lynton Crosby have pursued front-runner tactics in this regard for a long time. Rationing debates can help dictate the terms of when and if debates take place. If debates go ahead without him he is able to cement the sense that he is ahead of the rest of the pack and does not demean himself with free-for-alls — and he is able to sit back whilst his opponents inflict blows on each other. Through his refusal to debate, he sets his own agenda on his own terms, heightening interest in his personal appearances. And of course this all has the added advantage of minimising scope for errors.
As a debater, when he does finally appear, he goes on the offensive, speaking over his opponents to totally impose himself on the proceedings and avoid probing questions.
Johnson’s persona is of a free-wheeling figure but he is more than willing to submit himself to campaign discipline in order to extract advantage over his rivals. Labour will have to work hard to find imaginative ways to make him accountable. And the party will have to ensure that when Johnson does refuse to debate, Labour can make him pay so heavily in the minds of the voters that it outweighs any of the benefit he believes he can amass.
Parliament provides many more opportunities to hold Johnson to account than were available in the London Assembly. The dogged scrutiny of Johnson by Assembly members was highly creditable. Nonetheless we know that the Assembly’s position within the Greater London Authority arrangements is weak in relation to the mayor’s powers. Crucially, the opportunity of a weekly PMQs and all the other mechanisms that parliament provides — from votes to statements and urgent questions — can make it harder for him to evade his critics. It is easy to see the appeal of proroguing Parliament to this particular politician. If he sticks to his established game-plan, Parliament would provide one of the biggest challenges to the way he likes to govern.
As PM Johnson will not be a fool when it comes to seeking ways to weaken Labour’s position. He is quite barefaced about it. This is the man who famously composed opposing articles on Brexit before opting to go for Leave. On one occasion, in the 2012 mayoral election, his team got wind of Ken Livingstone’s forthcoming campaign slogan and bus logo and adapted them themselves — rushing out Better Off With Boris, morphed from Better Off With Ken. While that might have showed a lack of clarity and thinking on their own side, it also exemplified the pure brazenness of their method.
In the capital his team did not simply develop attack lines on the perceived weakest points for both Ken Livingstone and Labour. They also tried to muscle-in on stronger cards, in order to seek to reduce them as strengths. Thus the promise of a ‘new routemaster’ bus was a way to get onto terrain that was seen as a massive strong point for Ken Livingstone, create an attack line, and to insert something to say on the matter that actually sidetracked from bigger issues.
Downing Street’s new occupant will want to open up big, understandable dividing lines but he will also want to shut down any effective Labour attacks on him. Free travel for under-18s was a flagship Labour policy in London which the Tories on the London Assembly helpfully opposed and gave us a solid difference to go after. Year after year they walked into it. Yet Johnson rapidly ditched Tory opposition to the concessionary scheme so that he could was not tarred with the same brush. What he learned in London will not be forgotten — a Tory general election campaign under Johnson and Crosby will be less susceptible to a Nick Timothy-style dementia tax fiasco this time round. He will be the extreme opposite of the inflexible leaden-footed Maybot.
It is not yet fully clear how Johnson will position himself: whether he will seek to pose as socially liberal but fiscally prudent, for example. Some of his recent announcements do not imply a great deal of fiscal prudence — but whether that is carried over into office will be interesting to see. The new Tory Prime Minister might well consider that his own party is a threat to his own brand. If he seeks to escape the image of his party, Labour will have to try relentlessly to tie him back to the Tory Party. We know from his time as London mayor that his party was a problem for him: Labour had to seek to ‘Toryise’ his brand wherever possible. This was distinct from calling him a ‘toff’, which the voters will see as name-calling and is unlikely to work. Better to lash him together with the wider Tory party in all its awfulness and demonstrate the extent to which they are all out of touch.
Labour is going to need to be alert to Johnson’s team willingness to say anything, including openly stealing our clothes, and we will need to hold to clear, galvanising policy dividing lines that are impossible for Johnson to nullify.
There is no question that Johnson has a rich seam to be mined for attack stories and which can be used to define him very clearly away from the ‘buffoon’ and in more negative terms. His writings are one source of this. From inflammatory language about Picanninnes and letter boxes to very clearly homophobic terminology and wildly pro-war arguments the next Prime Minister has accumulated a big dossier of negatives for Labour to pursue.
To deploy these however we must be aware that Johnson has advanced all the way to Downing Street with many of these statements already widely reported. He has calculated that they are not doing him a great deal of damage. Of course the appalling views in his writings must be held to account. They undoubtedly harden and galvanise opposition to him in many quarters. To some they are already ‘priced-in’ as part of the package, and they are even appealing to many voters as an example of someone who speaks his mind.
Johnson’s provocative oeuvre is most likely to be salient when linked to wider questions of character, ability to lead and to a sense of being out of touch.
Aside from his writings, Boris Johnson has another type of record: as an elected politician holding high office. Again, by the time he becomes Prime Minister most of the negative aspects of his time as mayor and as government ministers will have been aired — although of course anyone with such a long time in public office may well have further revelations to be exposed. Johnson’s scandalous profligacy over the garden bridge, his other hare-brained schemes such as the Thames Estuary Airport or the failings of his ‘new routemaster’ are all quite rightly now being revisited and should continue to be part of the armoury as he becomes Prime Minister. They are at the very least a reminder that his record in London is not at all as his Tory supporters would have us believe.
Yet Johnson’s bigger failures as mayor are what he did not do, as opposed to what he did badly. It is in this territory that we find a sign of where he is most likely to fail the country.
London, a huge metropolis, is constantly shifting and changing. It must be led or it will go backwards. It felt scratchy, dirty and hard to get around in by the time the Labour government created the mayoralty in 2000 because colossal cities of this nature require intervention. Left to the market, things started to fall behind. London needs planning ahead — ten, twenty, thirty years ahead and more. It is a treadmill that you cannot afford to get off. Thus it has been the left, not the right, that has always been the modernising force in London politics.
A requirement to intervene and plan explains why the first phase of the mayoralty was such a blizzard of activity: a massive expansion of buses, congestion charging, record police numbers and neighbourhood policing, bidding for the Olympics, the development of the London Overground, securing Crossrail and so on.
The city had to get in front of what it needed in order to continue to be a decent place to live and work. But, as a Tory, Boris Johnson does not particularly see the virtue of planning, intervention and investment. Johnson preferred showy, wild and largely undelivered new schemes, rather than initiate ones that would ensure that the city was in good shape in the future. He did not take the long term decisions London needed. In addition to making the wrong decisions, such as a hard Brexit, it is in this failure that Johnson’s politics contain major weaknesses and can unravel. It will be necessary to define him on that question early on.
Most importantly, Labour’s approach will need to separate Johnson from the public on the question of who stands most in the material interests of the overwhelming majority of people. That will be difficult given the current climate but it will be essential not to be deterred from it.
Boris Johnson does not like being challenged with popular positions that starkly demonstrate that his rivals stand more for the material interests of the majority than he does. He was on the back foot being pressed over the question of soaring transport fares. Indeed, he himself said that Labour’s policy platform to reduce the cost of living to Londoners in the 2012 campaign “was a very tough thing to fight against.” So it was — constant pressure on that weak point gave Johnson poll scares in which he slipped behind.
Boris Johnson is a Tory who will always find ways to help the richest. In London he most defensive when he found himself having to defend his own actions that cost people more — such as the rising cost of living — or which undercut his own appeal as a Tory, such as reducing to the number of police officers. This also becomes toxic for him where it can be tied to the sense that he is out of touch with real people.
Labour will do best with a clear, simple, easily understandable offer to the public that contains the sharpest possible dividing lines, drawing out the truth that Labour, not Boris Johnson will ensure you and your loved ones will have a higher standard of living — and that Labour will take the long term decisions that will benefit you; whereas Boris Johnson and the Tories are out of touch and will not act to protect your prospects and those of the country.
Underestimate him at your peril. What we may think of as his weaknesses can be strengths. His established way of working predicts future behaviour. He will obfuscate, avoid accountability, brazenly steal policies, play to the gallery and close down as many attack lines as he can. But once these characteristics are absorbed and factored in it will be possible to defeat him.
Oil and gas workers in Longford, Victoria, Australia, have dismantled their picket line after a mammouth 742 days, following an agreement ending a long-running dispute with ExxonMobil and its maintenance subcontractor, UGL.
The victory against the world’s sixth biggest company, ExxonMobil, by workers who refused to give in, has had a global and nation-wide impact.
The union campaign has exposed billions of dollars of tax evasion by the energy giant and played a major role in pressuring the government to increase taxation on resource companies. It will see the Australian public receive an extra US$4 billion in revenue, with more to come.
The protest, which is one of the longest in Australian modern history, began on 22nd June 2017, when a number of the 230 maintenance workers at ExxonMobil’s Esso subsidiary in Longford refused to accept a new contract from UGL. The agreement slashed wages by 40 per cent, proposed gruelling anti-family rotas and left workers unpaid if they had to stop work due to technical problems.
The new sham contract had been signed by five people thousands of miles away in Western Australia, without any knowledge of local workers or unions.
Workers belonging to the Australian Workers Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electricians Union have reached an agreement with ExxonMobil and UGL which will ensure that the sham contract is not used on any other site in Australia.
Furthermore, unions have forced UGL into agreeing to re-negotiate for a union-ratified collective agreement where the sham agreement has been used to date.
The campaign has received solidarity support from unions across Australia and all over the world, including Unite, the United Steelworkers, Workers Uniting and IndustriALL Global union
Troy Carter, a leading union rep at the dispute, visited Unite in 2018 and met members and officials in England and Scotland and did a a number of press and media interviews to highlight the dispute and one of the nine remaining workers on the picket line, said:
“The power of the union is strongest when it is up against the biggest. ExxonMobil is one of the biggest companies in the world, yet it couldn’t get rid of a picket line of nine trade unionists. This is a very important moment for unionists worldwide in demonstrating that we are ready to stand up and fight multinational companies against union busting.”
As the campaign grew, unions successfully lobbied the government into re-opening a Senate enquiry into corporate tax avoidance, during which ExxonMobil were forced into admitting they are owned by a shell company in the Netherlands. The Dutch company is in turn owned by another company in the Bahamas (a known tax haven) where ExxonMobil has a further 575 registered shell companies.
Unite officials are proud to have worked with Troy when he visited the UK. He did a fantastic job for his members giving interviews to the media and on TV notably in Scotland where he met oil workers and officials with retired Unite officer Tommy Campbell in Aberdeen. When the dispute reached 700 days the Morning Star did a major piece on the long running dispute. We also reached out to companies connected with the dispute.
International solidarity works! This small group of members are a credit to the global trade union movement and we can be proud we stood shoulder to shoulder with them.
The Electoral Reform Society and Politics for the Many are launching a major conference on the 31st August in Manchester to inspire the next generation of trade union campaigners for a fuller democracy in the UK, 200 years on from the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester.
The day will cover topics such as how poverty locks people out of power, missing voices, empowering our regions and towns and energising local democracy.
This is what democracy looks like will bring campaigners together to discuss the battle for a better democracy and set out a vision to build upon for the many. As for too long, Westminster’s political system has been for the few, and by the few.
Tickets are available here https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/event/this-is-what-democracy-looks-like/ and find out more about the Politics for the Many campaign here https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/.
Scotland regional union Tommy Campbell who is retiring from Unite as a regional officer speaks to the Morning Star’s Conrad Landin about a life of political and trade union struggle
“CAN you imagine what it would have been like offshore if there weren’t unions, how bad it would have become?”
Tommy Campbell has reached a crescendo as he speaks with pride of his work organising oil and gas workers over the last five years.
Today, labour movement activists from Aberdeen and across Scotland will gather to celebrate Campbell’s 50 years of campaigning for a better world, as he retires as an official of trade union Unite.
But fighting injustice was never alien to this man who cuts a serious if unassuming figure. Growing up in Enniskillen in the north of Ireland in the 1960s, it was hard to get away from it, after all.
And though this wasn’t confined to the region’s political conflict, protests took their lead from the civil rights demonstrations of the day.
Campbell organised a demonstration against corporal punishment at his Christian Brothers’ school, where “if you stepped out of line you always got six of the belt.”
The thousands-strong civil rights demos against anti-Catholic gerrymandering had the slogan “one man, one vote.” For Campbell and his teenage comrades, it was “one boy, one slap.”
I met Campbell and his partner Alison for a curry in Aberdeen a few weeks before he clocked off for the final time. He told me his life could have taken a very different direction — had he fulfilled his grandmother’s wish for him to become a priest.
“I’d been an altar boy for three years. My granny wanted me to be the first Irish pope. But by that time I was beginning to feel the violence of the priests. I organised a protest to refuse to hold out your hand for the strap, and of course I got a battering for that too.”
He and fellow school students also joined factory workers at the civil rights protests. When he was finally transferring to a mixed-faith education, his headmaster told him: “You’ll not do well at that den of iniquity called the technical college.”
What Campbell witnessed and experienced — both antagonism and solidarity — would serve him well over his decades to come in the trade union movement.
“All those acts of defiance taught me about standing up for yourself, but also standing up for others.”
It was some years yet when he would have his first experience of workplace conflict. He’d been employed by Enterprise Ulster, a public-sector organisation set up to provide work for young people on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Campbell started a job working on building sites in 1978, on the same day workman Patrick Fee, a Catholic civilian, was shot by a Provisional IRA sniper.
It is thought Fee’s assassin had intended to kill the van’s driver, an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment volunteer.
Like Fee, Campbell was expected to travel in an unmarked van at a time when it was known that such vehicles were being used by SAS operatives in Northern Ireland.
The young worker told his gaffer: “I don’t want a bullet up my arse and I don’t want you to have a bullet up yours.”
He was initially met with resistance, but when it became clear the workforce could resist collectively, “by Thursday those vans were getting sprayed.”
Campbell ended up unemployed and blacklisted a few years later. But in a path that will be familiar to many in the movement, it was this which led him to a period of intense activity as secretary of the Fermanagh Trades Council.
Some comrades were not just taken aback by his youth, but by the fact that a man from Enniskillen was taking a leading role in the trade union movement across the north of Ireland.
“I used to say: ‘You’re street-wise in Belfast, but we’re country lane-wise in Fermanagh,” Campbell chuckles. He was also responsible for the only trades council newspaper in the six counties.
“All those acts of defiance taught me about standing up for yourself, but also standing up for others”
Before long, however, he was back in work — now as a development officer for the Ulster People’s College, a community project which put him at the heart of early efforts towards peace.
He was still active in the trade union movement, and now secretary of Northern Ireland Trade Union CND, and a key player locally in Medical Aid for Vietnam and the Communist Party.
But two brothers had moved to Aberdeen to work offshore. This was both a symptom of how hard Thatcher’s austerity had hit Ulster, and an embodiment of the latest chapter in Scotland’s social history.
After successfully applying to be a development officer at an unemployed workers’ rights centre in Aberdeen, he too made the move across the Irish Sea.
It was a four-year contract, and under Campbell’s stewardship saw huge growth in staffing levels and, more importantly, in the number of unemployed workers that it serviced.
He continued his union activity and threw himself into organising the anti-apartheid movement in Aberdeen, co-ordinating the first march for awarding the Freedom of the City to Nelson Mandela.
During the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Campbell co-ordinated solidarity exchanges between pitmen in Ayrshire and workers in Northern Ireland.
“Most of them were Orangemen,” he recalls of the colliers, “and I had to ask them to wear long-sleeve shirts.”
With paramilitary tattoos on both sides of the meeting — and the Troubles — it made sense to not begin on a note of antagonism. But then Campbell asked the men to roll up their sleeves.
“Once in conflict [with the boss class], people can realise actually we have so much in common,” he comments now.
When his contract finished at the centre, Campbell moved to the Transport and General Workers’ Union, where his primary responsibility, until five years ago, was representing council officers.
“One senior officer referred to me as ‘that Irish nightmare’,” he recalls, saying it was a moniker he adopted as a badge of honour.
In almost 20 years in this role, he has overseen dozens upon dozens of disputes, from the profound, such as winning significant equal pay settlements, to the truly bizarre, like the council’s issuing of “diddymen hats” to female city wardens.
But Campbell is clear that it’s the shop stewards who are the “real heroes” of Aberdeen’s labour movement, “and the workers who support them in that role.”
He thinks it’s crucial that the movement shows young workers it is there for them, even if that means being open to workers in dispute who may not have previously even been aware of unions.
“There’s no point giving them a lecture saying: ‘You should have been in the union in the past few years’.”
That he himself started so young has also taught him the importance of mentoring others. Aberdeen has Britain’s youngest trade council president, Sasha Brydon, and Campbell is proud of this.
All the while through his time in the movement, Campbell has been a daily reader of the Morning Star — and in recent years, a prime contact for me, first as the paper’s industrial reporter and Scotland editor.
“There’s not a lot in that paper,” Campbell recalls various newsagents saying over the years as he puts it on the counter. He always replies: “But it’s good quality news in here.”
I first made contact with Campbell at the tail end of 2014, my first year working at the Star, when a collapse in the global oil price was leading to attacks on terms and conditions in the North Sea.
After 14 years working in local government, the retirement of Unite colleagues led his seniors to ask him to take up the offshore brief.
Relations between Unite and the other unions which represent oil and gas workers — the GMB and the RMT (since the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee merged into the transport union) — have not always been easy.
Campbell was crucial to the establishment of the Offshore Co-ordinating Group of trade unions, which includes the main trio, along with maritime union Nautilus and Balpa, which represents helicopter pilots flying workers out to the platforms.
“I’m very proud of the legacy I’ll leave behind,” Campbell says. “Over the last five years, I along with others have worked very hard to create unity between the unions working offshore. The reason membership has increased is workers see us working together for the common good of the offshore worker.”
Tommy also was instrumental in helping build trade union solidarity with the Norwegian oil union Industry Energi who organise oil and gas workers on the Norwegian shelf on the North Sea. In 2018 Tommy was key in generating support for and getting media coverage in Scotland for the 700 day long strike at Exonn Mobi/UGL/Cimic in Longford, Australia.
Cross-union activity will also keep Campbell busy in retirement: he intends to stay active in the Aberdeen Trades Union Council.
But he also plans to devote more time to two long-standing interests: photography and writing poetry. And with Alison, he plans to learn to salsa dance ahead of a holiday in Cuba.
Campbell can head into retirement, however, knowing he stood up to be counted. “I knew what side of the fence I was on — the workers’ side, I always was, and I always would be.”
Please click here to read a model on Palestine for consideration for CLPs to submit to Labour Party Conference this year.
The focus of the motion is on how Labour should respond not only to the proposals in Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century.’ but also to the everyday actions by the Israeli Government in breach of international law.
The 2019 Conference will have more scope for discussion of motions. Instead of the contemporary motions procedure, both unions and CLP’s will be able to vote on 10 motions for discussion – although each CLP can still only put forward one motion. For this reason, wards and CLPs will start discussing shortly what motion to submit to Conference this year.
If you wish to try and take forward this motion in your CLP, it would be very helpful if you could keep L&P in touch with how you plan to use the motion, when meetings are taking place and the outcome of any discussions by replying to this email. The intention is to offer support and help to delegates from CLPs who submit – or are considering submitting – the motion.
The motion has been drawn up in consultation with sponsoring unions and others campaigning for Palestine within the Party, and a briefing for speakers to use to introduce and answer questions about the motion should be available before the end of May.
With Donald Trump’s proposed ‘deal of the century’ proposing that Palestine will literally be carved up and distributed in an imposed ‘deal’ above the heads of the Palestinian people, it is particularly important that Palestine is a key issue within Labour’s ethical foreign policy, and that support for Palestine is shown at Conference.
Thank you for your support in helping make this happen,
Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine
A major advertising campaign aimed at boosting voter turnout to stop the far right in this Thursday’s (23 May) European elections is being launched today (Monday 20 May) across towns and cities in the North West of England.
The campaign by Unite, will see billboards in 44 locations across Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool, in addition to full page advertisements in the Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News and Metro newspapers.
A major national Facebook campaign potentially reaching millions of voters will also be launched.
The union fears that a low turnout on in the EU elections could allow the likes of far right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka as Tommy Robinson, to sneak in and get elected to the European Parliament.
Turnout in the last European elections in the North West was 33 per cent and in 2009, with turnout just below 32 per cent, Nick Griffin, the former leader of the far right BNP was elected with little more than 8 per cent of the vote.
The ‘Keep Them Out. Get Out And Vote Labour,’ adverts feature various slogans, including “We will fight them at the ballot box” which invokes Winston Churchill’s famous “We will fight them on beaches” quote.
There will be a photo opportunity at Unite’s Liverpool office, Jack Jones House, 2 Churchill Way, L3 8EF at 10:30 today (Monday 20 May), where the adverts will be unveiled on a giant ad van.
Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The only winners of a low turnout in this week’s European elections will be the likes of Yaxley-Lennon and those that seek to divide our communities.
“Don’t wonder ‘if only I had voted’ when the results are in. Make sure the tolerance and respect that runs through the communities of the North West is the winner by using your vote.
“Stop those seeking to use these elections to gain a platform to spread their message of fear and hate by getting out to vote to stop the far right and voting Labour this Thursday.”
By Rosa Crawford First published by the TUC, May 16th
Trading with the EU only on the WTO’s terms would have serious repercussions for the economy, public services and the Good Friday Agreement.
Brexiteers like to promote the idea that the UK leaving the EU single market and customs union, ditching any trade deals, and trading with the EU only on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms would be a viable alternative to a Brexit deal with the EU.
But trading on these terms would pose serious risks to jobs, workers’ rights, state aid, public services and the Good Friday Agreement.
Threats to jobs
If the UK wants to trade independently outside of the EU customs union, it will be required to lay its own set of ‘schedules’ at the WTO. These schedules are a list of commitments setting the terms of the UK’s tariffs, quotas and limits on subsidies.
In February, the government announced plans to lay schedules that would mean that in a no deal situation, tariffs would be lowered to zero on many imports.
The plans would allow cheap imports of goodssuch as ceramics, cement, glass, tyres and steel to flood the market, particularly from countries such as China that are already overproducing goods and dumping them in the EU and UK markets at artificially low prices. Further dumping would decimate the UK’s manufacturing base, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The TUC condemned these plans for zero tariffs with Unite, GMB, Community and a number of manufacturing employers in February.
Operating outside a customs union with the EU, and trading only on WTO terms, would also make things a lot trickier for UK companies exporting goods to the EU. Exporters would need to complete customs paperwork and undergo ‘rules of origin’ testing to establish where components in products were made. The Institute for Government estimates that custom checks would affect 180,000 traders, potentially imposing £4 billion in extra costs on businesses.
Dangers to jobs in services
Unlike the single market, WTO rules do not provide a guarantee that trading partners will have the same standards for trade in services (like banking, insurance and shipping) that are needed to allow barrier-free trade in services.
Given that services make up 80% of UK GDP and 37% of total UK exports of services go to the EU, barriers to trade in services would threaten millions of jobs across the country.
This risk is increased by the fact that in today’s integrated economy, it’s difficult to separate goods from services. For example, for every car manufactured in the UK there are a myriad of related services from logistics to sales.
Trading only on WTO terms would also severely threaten workers’ rights. Unlike the EU single market, which requires members to adhere to EU social and employment standards enforced by the European Court of Justice, there are no obligations for WTO members to respect labour standards. There are also no penalties if rights are abused. Thus, there have been no consequences when WTO members such as China or the Gulf States abuse workers’ rights.
Dangers to Good Friday Agreement
Leaving the EU customs union and trading only on WTO terms would require customs checks and collection of tariffs between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, leaving the single market would require checks on regulatory standards of goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The TUC has been clear that such a situation is unacceptable as it would mean the establishment of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This would violate the Good Friday agreement that is essential for peace and economic and stability.
Trade unions have long campaigned for WTO rules to be reformed to allow governments more policy space to provide financial support to key industries and agriculture.
WTO members are bound by the obligations in the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. These rules also allow WTO members to challenge other members if they can demonstrate that a member’s financial support for certain sectors unfairly disadvantages them. This could limit the UK government’s ability to support, regulate or renationalise key industries.
Trading only on WTO terms would also expose public services in the UK to the threat of further privatisation. WTO rules contain an exemption that ‘services undertaken in the excise of government authority’ will not be bound by commitments members take to liberalise other sectors. However, legal experts have established that this exemption does not prevent part-privatised services such as the NHS being opened up to further privatisation through trade arrangements.
In a no deal scenario, the government has also signed up to follow the WTO’s General Procurement Agreement (GPA), the key aim of which is to open government procurement markets covering goods, services and workers to the bidder that can provide the cheapest services, regardless of the cost to workers or conditions. By contrast, EU single market public procurement rules allow for public procurement to promote social objectives such as decent jobs and living wages.
A good Brexit deal
Instead of trading on WTO terms that would be disastrous for workers, manufacturing and public services, the government must guarantee a Brexit deal that guarantees rights, jobs and upholds the Good Friday agreement. At this stage in negotiations, we believe that membership of the single market and a customs union is the best way to achieve this.
Asrin Law Office lawyers held a press conference today on the meeting Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan held with his lawyers on May 2. Lawyers Faik Özgür Erol, Newroz Uysal and Rezan Sarica were present in the conference.
Faik Özgür Erol said:
“Esteemed journalists, the press statement we are about to release today is on the lawyers’ visit to the Imrali Island to meet with Mr. Abdullah Öcalan on May 2. Four lawyers applied to visit the client, but only two of the lawyers were allowed and those two lawyers were the ones to hold the meeting.
The two lawyers who held the consultation were Newroz Uysal and Rezan Sarica. They will read two texts to you, one of them is the Asrin Law Office statement in relation to the consultation and the other is a public announcement and a call by Mr. Öcalan and 3 other clients of ours who are also held in the Imrali island prison.
It took until the weekend for the statement of our clients to reach us, so the announcement had to be postponed until today.
With that said, it is significant to share these statements on May 6, an important day for the struggle for democracy in Turkey. Now I leave the microphone to my colleagues.”
The statement read by Öcalan’s lawyer Rezan Sarica on behalf of the lawyers is as follows:
A lawyer-client consultation was held with our client, Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, who is held in İmralı F Type High Security Prison on 02 May 2019. This is the first lawyer-client consultation held since 27 July 2011, after 810 applications. The Bursa Assize Court, which decided on an application made by the lawyers about two weeks before this consultation took place, has notified us that the ban on lawyer-client consultations for all our clients at İmralı has been lifted.
The application we made to hold the lawyer-client consultation also included requests for meeting with our other clients, Mr. Veysi Aktaş, Mr Hamili Yıldırım and Mr. Ömer Hayri Konar, who are also in the İmralı Prison. But we were not allowed to hold consultations with them. In addition, the application was made on behalf of four lawyers as per usual but only two lawyers were allowed to hold the lawyer-client consultation. Exchange of notes and documents were not allowed during the consultation. In the aftermath of this consultation, the family / guardian application for Monday (May 6th) was not accepted although there were no legal obstacles.
In İmralı Prison, Mr. Öcalan has not been able to hold a lawyer-client consultation with his lawyers for almost the last 8 years. We have not held a single lawyer-client consultation with the other three clients. In addition, the fact that the request for consultation of some of the lawyers making the application were rejected raises concerns in relation to the continuity of the right to lawyer-client consultations and family visits, and the attainment of related legal security. Neither we nor our client have any information or foresight in relation to whether the lawyer-client consultations will continue periodically.
In addition, during the consultation we learned from Mr. Öcalan that he does not receive the daily press delivered to the administration to be given to him. The fact that the correspondence, such as communication with his lawyers, has been blocked confirms the limitations placed on the right to communication. We invite the authorities to duty and the public to awareness so that the legal rights of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan are established immediately, who insists on his peaceful position despite all the impossibilities under absolute isolation conditions.
The duration of consultation on 02.05.2019 was approximately one hour. Mr Öcalan requested a document signed by him and the other three clients to be given to his lawyers; the document was delivered to us on the weekend. The document, which is like an announcement to the public, is as follows;
There is a need for a deep social reconciliation in this historic process we are experiencing.
There is an urgent need for a method of democratic negotiations, away from all kinds of polarization and culture of conflict in the solution of problems.
We can solve the problems in Turkey, and even in the region — first and foremost the war — with soft power; that is with intelligence, political and cultural power instead of tools of physical violence.
We believe that within the scope of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the culture of conflict should be avoided in relation to the problems in Syria; they should aim to convey their own position and situation to a solution based on a local democracy perspective that has constitutional guarantee within the framework of Syria’s unity. In this context, there should also be awareness of Turkey’s sensibilities.
While we respect the resistance of friends inside and outside of prisons, we would like to emphasize that they should not take it to the level where they will endanger their health or result in death. For us, their mental, physical and spiritual health is paramount. We also believe that the most meaningful approach is related to the development of mental and spiritual stance.
Our stance in Imrali has the determination to continue what we expressed in the 2013 Newroz Declaration by further deepening and clarifying it.
For us, a dignified peace and democratic political solution are essential.
We pay tribute to all those who have been concerned and took a stand in response to our stance in İmralı, and we would like to convey our immense gratitude.
The Turkish-imprisoned political prisoner and founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, received a visit by his lawyers on May 2nd, for the first time since 2011, a law bureau representing him said in a statement today.
Ocalan lawyers’ visit to the Imrali Island in the inland Marmara Sea, where the Turkish government holds the high-profile prisoner, comes as hundreds of politically-jailed Kurds are on a hunger strike to break a policy of isolation on the PKK leader.
The Istanbul-based Asrin law bureau did not provide further details regarding the visitation, nor did it explain why they informed the public almost four days later, as the hunger strike goes on.
The visit also comes at a time of rising death toll in recent Turkish army-PKK clashes, as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pressure on the country’s supreme electoral board to renew the March 31 local elections in Istanbul, where the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) urged its voters, roughly 12 percent of the population in the megalopolis, to vote for the opposition candidate, triggering an end to Islamist-rooted rule in the city.
“A statement regarding this meeting [with Ocalan] is to be made at Taksim Hill Hotel at 15:00 [GMT 13:00]. All the media workers are invited. Please take note no questions will be taken after the statement,” the Asrin bureau said.
It will be seen if Ocalan has called for an end to the hunger strike, led by the HDP lawmaker, Leyla Guven.
Ocalan was last visited in January this year by his younger brother, Mehmet, a farmer from the Sanliurfa province.
“Mr. Ocalan’s health condition is fine, and we will be informing the public in more detail in the coming days,” HDP’s Co-chair Pervin Buldan said in a brief online statement about the brother’s visit.
The family visit Ocalan had was the first since September 2016 as the PKK and HDP call Turkey’s limitations on his rights as a political prisoner “total isolation.”
The PKK is locked in a nearly four-decades-long, on-and-off war over Turkey’s suppression of Kurds’ culture, language, and demands for self-rule as Ankara and its Western allies label the latter a “terrorist group.”
Although convicted of charges of “high treason” by Turkey after his kidnapping with the help of CIA in Kenya in 1999, Ocalan was instrumental in initiating 2013-2015 peace talks between the PKK and the government of the then-Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Unnamed Turkish state officials and HDP lawmakers, including the now-jailed Selahattin Demirtas, regularly sat down with him dozens of times to end the cycle of violence between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army and come up with a political solution.
The negotiations and a period of ceasefire eventually collapsed when the HDP emerged with a sweeping victory in the Kurdish-majority provinces in the June 2015 general elections to deny Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) a single party government for the first time since 2003.
Despite his imprisonment for two decades now by the very state it is fighting against, the leftist PKK continues to highly revere Ocalan as a central and unifying figure for the movement.
Editing by Nadia Riva