Families and members of the TUC attend an anti-austerity demo in Westminster. Photo: Getty Images
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Labour must defend the trade union link

A group of Labour MPs write in defence of the party's trade union link. 

There has been much discussion in the wake of the disastrous general election result about the future direction of our party. A full and frank conversation must take place, involving all parts of our party and country – that includes the millions of people in trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party.

The trade union link is the umbilical cord connecting a party of a few hundred thousand to a coalition of trade unions with a membership of over six million.

The whirling cesspool of some of the British right-wing media continues to smear trade unions, their leadership and their links with the Labour Party. While millions of people in the UK face huge hardship, the gutter press keep the stories off the front pages, replacing them with crackpot tales of ‘Red Him’, ‘Red Her’ or ‘Red Anyone’.

Shamefully, there are many in our own party who see the aims of the unions as alien to their own and hurl around the lexicon of our enemies willy-nilly. The phrases trade union ‘barons’, union ‘bullying’ or ‘sabotage’ should have no place in the vocabulary of Labour politicians. Perhaps some of those from the nouveaux wing of the Party should read their history and understand that the unions created the Labour Party and not the other way around.

We can never forget our responsibility towards working people, the people that the Labour Party was created to represent. It is trade unions that give a voice to those people, and it is our obligation to respectfully engage with them and their elected representatives.

Unions will participate in the leadership election under rules agreed just last year to broad approval. It would be ludicrous to suggest any further revisions at this stage could be warranted. Our affiliated trade unions should be encouraged in their endeavours to engage and sign up their members as affiliated supporters of our party, and to treat this with suspicion is absurd. 

We must also be clear that elected union leaders have a right and a duty to express their views on policy and on candidates on behalf of their unions. Those who seek to silence such contributions to open debate within our party only create an impression of intolerance and a desire to limit discussion to a charmed parliamentary circle.

 

 

Ian Lavery MP

Jon Trickett MP

Jo Stevens MP

Roger Godsiff MP

Marie Rimmer MP

Angela Rayner MP

Pat Glass MP

John McDonnell MP

Grahame Morris MP

Ian Mearns MP

Harry Harpham MP 

Rachael Maskell MP

Ronnie Campbell MP

Dave Anderson MP

Richard Burgon MP

Stephen Hepburn MP

Alan Meale MP

David Crausby MP

Dennis Skinner MP

Clive Lewis MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Jess Phillips MP

Liz McInnes MP

Kate Osamor MP

Kelvin Hopkins MP

Louise Haigh MP

Rebecca Long-Bailey MP

Paula Sherriff MP

Chris Matheson MP

Catherine West MP

Getty
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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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