Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. There's no need for all this economic sadomasochism (Guardian)

If Reinhart and Rogoff's 'error' has discredited the prevailing policy dogma, now is the time for an alternative that works, says David Graeber.

2. Our shameful hierarchy - some deaths matter more than others (Independent)

Why is the slaughter in Boston more shocking or newsworthy than the deaths in Iraq, asks Owen Jones.

3. To beat the Left, Tories must aim for its heart (Times)

It is not enough to win the policy argument, says Tim Montgomerie. Conservatives need to show their thinking has a moral dimension too.

4. Case for a Little England stance on Syria (Financial Times)

Heed the lessons from interventions that turned bad, writes Max Hastings.

5. Atrocities such as the Boston bombing are hard to tackle, but gun crime isn't (Guardian)

The greatest threat to US citizens is not one-off terror attacks, but the menace that comes with mass gun-ownership, says Gary Younge.

6. It’s hard to tell jihad from immature rage (Times)

The Boston bombers may have been driven more by a warped desire for notoriety than by real fanaticism, writes Gaby Hinsliff.

7. We can’t afford to ignore our dynamic friends in the East (Daily Telegraph)

The Gulf is booming, its people love Britain and they want to invest here, writes Boris Johnson. Let’s encourage them.

8. Labour and Scotland: a tie that binds (Guardian)

If the rhetoric of one nation is to mean something, much is to be said for caution over cutting such a strong link, says a Guardian editorial. 

9. IMF boss turns on the Chancellor to hide her own sins (Daily Mail)

Lagarde and the IMF are engaged in a huge effort to play down, or at least distract attention from, the catastrophic state of economic affairs in France – and indeed the eurozone as a whole, says Alex Brummer. 

10. The wrong way on child poverty (Independent)

More discussion about definitions of poverty would be welcome, says an Independent editorial. But it must not become an excuse for cynically moving the goalposts.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

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.