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9 September 2008

Having Gordon for dinner

The argument against striking is that we will help bring down the Labour government – frankly they d

By Jeremy Dear

Oh the drama – a card vote over whether we back the TUC organising strikes over public service pay – today’s hot topic. The drama dissipates as unions change their mind, trade and in at least two cases lose their voting card – and the proposal is defeated by more than a million votes.

So we’re ready to threaten the government with a series of leaflets and angry newspaper articles – but no TUC-led industrial action. The argument is that by striking we will help bring down the Labour government – frankly they don’t really seem to need any help there’s doing just fine on their own.

TUC conference is that most frustrating affair. The most radical speeches – the Prison Officers’ Association call for a series of general strikes over trade union freedom or Mark Serwotka’s call for action over public sector pay – receive the loudest cheers, the most enthusiastic applause – and then delegations vote against them.

But for the NUJ it’s a good day. Usually relegated to the graveyard slot on Thursday all our motions come up at once on the first afternoon – I move the call for the TUC to lead a fight to defend and extend civil liberties to help defend journalists against attempts to force them to reveal sources, other delegates win support for calls for action against neo-Nazi website Redwatch, for the expulsion of homophobe Joel Edwards from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and in defence of public service broadcasting.

With conference over it’s off to the fringe – I find myself in a freezing church hall arguing against ID cards followed by an atmospheric cellar bar, with the legendary Don Letts DJ-ing, introducing a fantastic film about the unions’ work with the Glastonbury Leftfield. Seeing the power of thousands of young people united, campaigning for social justice it’s the first time today I actually feel we really can change the world. Now, I must get back to those composites…

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You know those days when you wake up and think what have I got on at work today and then think – ‘oh no’? I imagine Alistair Darling is having one of those mornings as the knives are sharpened in Brighton and then we’ll got Gordon Brown for dinner. Not literally you understand…

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