The Guardian's trade union blunder

The Guardian accused us of ignoring trade unions in the week we published our trade union guide

An otherwise unremarkable leader in Saturday's Guardian took a passing swipe at this publication: "This week's New Statesman is more interested in the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers than next week's TUC; trade unions, and trade unionists, have almost vanished from mainstream political debate."

Apparently neither the Guardian's leader writers nor its sub-editors noticed the inclusion of our annual trade union guide in the same issue. The guide, which was flagged up on the cover, featured interviews with nine trade union leaders including the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, Unite's Derek Simpson, Unison's Dave Prentis and the CWU's Billy Hayes, as well as a comprehensive trade union directory.

But when was the last time the Guardian published an interview with a trade union leader? I called up the subject page and couldn't find one in the past two months. Even the Times managed a two-page interview with Comrade Crow on Saturday.

On the opening day of the TUC conference, today's Guardian is more interested in hearing from a prospective Tory candidate than a trade union leader.

 

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.