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12 September 2008updated 05 Oct 2023 8:08am

TUC drained of all life

Was the Large Hadron Collider responsible for sucking all life out of the TUC? Or did they do it for

By Paul Evans

Crow was Crow without fail…

The Large Hadron Collider apparently hasn’t matched speculation that it would generate a black hole capable of sucking in all light and humanity. But perhaps its effects were localised to Brighton – because a downbeat TUC, meeting this week, certainly seemed drained of all life.

Jon Rogers sits on the National Executive Council of UNISON. His unpretentiously named site, Jon’s Union blog, covered a number of the tastier resolutions hammered out by congress.

Commenting on the debate surrounding the Commission on Vulnerable Workers, he dryly noted:

“You would think that Alistair Darling could empathise with workers on short term contracts with limited security and few prospects for advancement…”

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Tory Iain Dale found himself in unfamiliar territory. “The natives are being very friendly, although I have to say there isn’t exactly a buzz here,” here noted, echoing the thoughts of others, who found this year’s congress a distinctly flat affair.

Newly launched (and anonymous) democratic socialist platform Centre Left wasn’t impressed by Dale’s appearance amongst the trade unionists, and irked by his post headlined “A Morning Wiv Da Bruvvers,” accused him of being “condescending”. Dale retorted:

“Can I direct you towards finding your sense of humour somewhere. You clearly seem to have mislaid it.”

NS political editor Martin Bright reported on the Morning Star’s lively fringe. RMT leader Bob Crow, the scourge of London commuters, was in characteristically firey mood, calling for the creation of a new party of the left. Bright wearied of the chatter though, concluding:

“But I came away thinking: set up this new political party, true to the values of socialism. Or transform the Labour Party along the same lines. But for goodness sake stop talking about it and get on with doing it.”

The ever-thoughtful Dave Osler reflected on popular comparisons between the current political and economic climate and that of the Winter of Discontent. He found such parallels superficial, writing:

“Unions are marginalised, and have become little more than one lobby among many others, with the auxiliary role of unpaid health and safety inspectors. Whatever the fluctuations in the statistics from year to year, two facts remain true in broad brush terms: union membership is at a multi-decade low, while there are fewer days lost through industrial action than at any point since the 1890s.”

With union leaders profoundly unhappy with the status quo but fearful of both a change in Labour leadership and of government, muted grumbling seems likely to continue. Attempts by the Conservatives to woo wavering shop stewards remain comically optimistic.

What have we learned this week?

Will the future of blogs lie in corporate hands? An American reader of Clive Davis’ blog thought so; observing that most widely read US political blogs are associated with NGOs or media groups. Yet the same day, Guido Fawkes was celebrating the Conservative party’s equal treatment of independent bloggers with the established media. The American reader in question is surely mistaken to equate the US with the UK in this respect.

British bloggers frequently best their salaried counterparts in the established press – and if only because of the headaches our strict libel laws bring – it’s questionable whether they’d find a happy home attached to the big media groups.

Across the pond

Palin: pit bull or pig? Do Americans really care? Either way, Matthew Yglesias (who recently left media group The Atlantic for think tank The Center for American Progress…) has been dreaming about her.

This week he also touched upon McCain’s healthcare proposals – noting that his reforms would push Americans towards health plans that offer less coverage – which would ultimately impact most acutely on women.

Video of the week

He might not be Pete Seeger, but he is a nice man. Billy Bragg sings ‘There is Power in a Union’.

Quote of the week

“This is a pathetically weak and uninspired administration, weaker than ever before. As ideologically rigid as it is, it does not have the horses for a big fight with the trade union movement, especially as it depends increasingly on the union bureaucracy for funding.”

Lenin’s Tomb, spoiling for a fight.

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