Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. This is a farcical new low and David Cameron is losing control (Observer)

Geoffrey Howe accuses the Prime Minister of presiding over a nervous breakdown in his party.

2. Tory self-harm over Europe has buried the good news (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew D'Ancona would like to see green shoots of economic recovery but there's a Eurosceptic carnival obscuring his view.

3. The Tories held it together in the past. This time it's different. (Observer)

A formal split in the party is no longer unthinkable, says Andrew Rawnsley.

4. The Conservatives are mired in arguments with themselves (Sunday Telegraph)

Taking a cavalier approach to party management may be David Cameron's biggest mistake, says Iain Martin.

5. Stop the panic and plots, PM, or kiss No10 goodbye (Sunday Times)

Adam Boulton smells decay at the heart of the government.

6. Farage showed his true colours (Scotland on Sunday)

Euan McColm thinks the Ukip leader's chaotic trip to Edinburgh will not deter his ambitions to find voters in Scotland.

7. Offer voters the EU pizza and they spit it out (Independent on Sunday)

John Rentoul looks a little closer at the opinion polls and finds them not as bad for David Cameron as at first they seem.

8. At Google, we aspire to do the right thing (Observer)

Chairman Eric Schmidt on the defensive about his company's alleged tax avoidance.

9. Why Tories won't play follow my leader (Sunday Times)

Leader column starts to despair of David Cameron without mustering much enthusiasm for anyone else.

10. The media talks in stereotypes but misses the big picture (Independent on Sunday)

Paul Vallely thinks Muslim community activists deserve more credit for challenging distorted notions of masculinity.



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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.