Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Savers across Europe will look on in horror at the Troika's raid on Cyprus (Guardian)

It's now become clear: the threat to European savers and banks isn't anti-austerity parties but the Troika, writes Michael Burke.

2. Western meddling in Syria will only fuel the Sunni insurgency (Independent)

British efforts to arm 'moderate' rebels reveal a lack of understanding of this complex civil war, writes Patrick Cockburn.

3. Leveson vote: no cause for hyperventilating (Guardian)

There is much less at stake than anyone might guess from some of the discourse, says a Guardian editorial. Royal charter plus is a reasonable solution.

4. Only a gutter press can keep clean the gutters of public life (Daily Telegraph)

Legislation to control newspapers threatens our global reputation for honest dealing, says Boris Johnson.

5. Europe cannot allow unfinished business to fester (Financial Times)

In economic policy what is good for one is not good for all, says Lawrence Summers.

6. The Arab world must act – or face disaster (Times) (£)

Unless the Gulf states stump up their share of aid, the refugee problem will fuel extremism across the region, says Tim Montgomerie.

7. If MPs seize the presses it is you who will lose out (Sun)

We will suffer more bureaucracy and undiscovered corruption in public life without a free press, says Trevor Kavanagh. 

8. If Iraq taught us anything, it's this... (Independent)

Only when four vital tests have been met should we intervene in another state's affairs, but we can always help other than with arms, says Nick Clegg.

9. Is George 'too toxic' to survive the storm? (Daily Mail)

Senior Tories say Wednesday’s Budget is his last throw of the dice  as Chancellor, writes Peter McKay.

10. Dangers lurk in US permanent campaign (Financial Times)

The journey from idealist to insider is now complete, writes Edward Luce.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.