As the TUC’s 150
th anniversary congress opens in Manchester, the trade unions are once again facing the challenge of the 1930s and 1980s – can they nudge Labour to a place where they can springboard to power?
Labour was gifted a pleasant surprise by Theresa May with last year’s election but has not been able to build on that success as opinion polls stay stubbornly lower than that which is required for victory.
Trade unions are based on the principle of mutual solidarity and democratic loyalty. They have offered that to Jeremy Corbyn since 2015 but now are beginning to demand a say in Labour’s next direction of travel.
This is similar to the 1930s when the unions hauled Labour back from pacificism to a clearer sense of the need to defend European democracy. In the 1980s Labour under the influence of Tony Benn and his aide, Jon Lansman, officially endorsed
Brexit – leaving Europe – in its 1983 election manifesto. Unions pulled Labour back from this vote-losing dead end to supporting Jacques Delors and Social Europe against the Tory vision of economics and society in which employees had no voice or weight.
Last week’s NEC decision to put to bed the unnecessary summer horribilis for Labour happened because the unions told Corbyn it was
time to adopt the international definition of antisemitism.
Now the decision of Britain’s second biggest private sector union, GMB, to support the call for a People’s Vote on Brexit allows Labour to get control of the Brexit debate instead of tailing behind Theresa May. The GMB has 640,000 members and sponsors 80 Labour MPs mainly in Labour industrial heartlands far away from London.
The GMB’s 80 Labour MPs join the 20 Labour MPs sponsored by the steel and textile workers’ union, Community and eight Labour MPs including John Cryer, the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party sponsored by the transport union, TSSA, which also urges a new vote.
And now the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, has said
the electorate should be consulted again over Brexit as more and more employees worry about their future of their jobs, which rely on just-in-time deliveries to and from the EU.
UK news in pictures
1/50 8 September 2018
Greg Rutherford after his last ever long jump competition as a professional athlete during the Great City Games in Gateshead. Rutherford announced his retirement plans earlier in the year
2/50 7 September 2018
The poppy sculpture Wave by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper at IWM North, The Quays, Manchester. This is the final presentation of Wave as part of a four year UK-wide tour, and the sculpture will be on site until 25 November
3/50 6 September 2018
The aftermath of a house fire, which broke out in the early hours of the morning, where a woman died in Centurion Square, south-east London.
4/50 5 September 2018
Counter-terrorism police have released images of the two suspects in connection with the Salisbury attack in March. The suspects Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, are Russian nationals, and approximately 40 years old. They travelled on a Russian passport and it is likely that they were travelling under aliases and that these are not their real names. The CPS has issued European Arrest Warrants for the extradition in connection with the Novichok poisoning attack on Sergei Skripal
5/50 4 September 2018
Pro Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, protesters demonstrate outside the Labour party headquarters in London. Labour's NEC (National Executive Committee) is expected to approve the international definition of anti-Semitism into Labour's code of conduct
6/50 3 September 2018
Chris Evans surrounded by media as he leaves the Radio 2 studio in London after he announced he is quitting his breakfast show which he has presented since 2010
7/50 2 September 2018
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks during the 'Jewish Labour Movement Conference'
8/50 1 September 2018
An inflatable caricature balloon of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan floats, near Parliament Square in London. Organizer Yanny Bruere raised more than 58,000 pounds ($75,000) through the Crowdfunder website for the 29-foot (8.8-meter) blimp as part of a campaign to oust Khan from his post. Khan angered some people in the British capital and elsewhere last month when he allowed a balloon caricaturing Donald Trump as an angry baby to float above the city while the U.S. president was in England.
9/50 31 August 2018
A can of Coca-Cola next to a cup of Costa coffee, as Whitbread has struck a deal to sell the Costa Coffee chain to Coca-Cola for £3.9 billion
10/50 30 August 2018
Frank Field MP in Westminster, London, after resigning from the Labour party over the anti-Semitism crisis. Field, who has represented Birkenhead from almost 40 years, revealed in a letter to party chief whip Nick Brown that he could no longer serve the party as the leadership was overseeing the "erosion of our core values"
11/50 29 August 2018
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex meeting 'King George' and the cast at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London after attending a gala performance of the musical Hamilton, in support of Sentebale. The evening raises awareness and funds for Sentebale's work with children and young people affected by HIV in southern Africa
Dan Charity/The Sun/PA
12/50 28 August 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May meets students and staff at I.D. Mkize Secondary School in Cape Town, which is twinned with Whitby High School in Yorkshire. The two schools are part of a British Council funded teacher exchange scheme called 'Connected Classrooms'. The prime minister is on day one of her trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya on a trade mission designed to bolster the UK's post-Brexit fortunes
13/50 27 August 2018
Performers take part in the main Parade day of Notting Hill Carnival in London. Nearly one million people are expected by the organizers over Sunday and Monday in the streets of west London to celebrate Caribbean culture, which is considered the largest street demonstration in Europe
14/50 26 August 2018
The crowd pauses for 72 seconds silence in remembrance of all those lost in the Grenfell Tower fire at the Red Bull Music Academy Sound System at Notting Hill
15/50 25 August 2018
Comedian Rose Matafeo is congratulated by Steve Coogan after winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award at the Dovecote Studio
16/50 24 August 2018
British Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, attends a signing ceremony for memorandums of understanding between British and Chinese firms and institutions at the British ambassador's residence in Beijing
17/50 23 August 2018
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hugs her daughter Gabriella, in Iran. She has been allowed to leave an Iranian prison for three days. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested during a holiday with her toddler daughter in April 2016. Iranian authorities accuse her of plotting against the government. Her family denies this, saying says she was in Iran to visit family
Free Nazanin Campaign/AP
18/50 22 August 2018
Anti Brexit activists protest as they deliver a pile of medical supplies in cardboard boxes to the Department of Health and Social Care in London. Our Future, Our Choice (OFOC) Pro EU campaign group wants get its message to the public surrounding the predicted costs of Britain's "No Deal Hard Brexit", exit from the European Union
19/50 21 August 2018
Families enjoy rides on the dodgems during an Eid in the Park celebration marking Eid Al-Adha at the New River Sports ground in Wood Green, London. The traditional four-day celebratory festival marks one of the holiest days in the Islamic religious calendar
20/50 20 August 2018
Jeremy Corbyn campaigns on Labour's 'Build it in Britain' policy at Alexander Dennis bus manufacturers in Falkirk,Scotland. The Labour leader will spend the next four days in Scotland in an attempt to revitalize the party there
21/50 19 August 2018
Manchester United women's side walk out alongside Liverpool ahead of their first professional game since 2005. United disbanded their senior women's team thirteen years ago and returned with a win, beating Liverpool in their Continental Tyres Cup match clash at Prenton Park
22/50 18 August 2018
Great Britain's Reece Prescod, finishes second, to USA's Christian Coleman, centre, in a photo finish after they both ran 9.94. With USA's Noah Lyles, left, finishing third in the men's 100m final during the Muller Grand Prix at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham
23/50 17 August 2018
Paul Elliott, right, carries the coffin of his brother Barry, 73, at the New York Stadium, Rotherham, for his funeral following his death on Sunday August 5. The veteran entertainer was one half of comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers with Paul
24/50 16 August 2018
Students react as they receive their 'A' level results at Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form in London. Universities accepted thousands fewer students as pass rates hit lowest level since 2010
25/50 15 August 2018
People gather on Market Street, Omagh, for the ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing on 15 August 1998. The worst single atrocity of the Northern Ireland conflict killed 29, including a woman pregnant with twins
26/50 14 August 2018
Police arrest a man after he crashed a car into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament
27/50 13 August 2018
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire today launched a £100 million pound government fund to end rough sleeping in England within the next decade. Brokenshire is pictured here at the central London headquarters for homelessness charity the Passage, where he launched the scheme
28/50 12 August 2018
Police officers stand guard at the scene of a shooting at Claremont Road in the Moss Side neighborhood of Manchester, Ten people were taken to hospital on August 12, 2018 after shots were fired in Manchester in northern England, police said.
29/50 11 August 2018
Great Britain's Dina Asher-Smith reacts after she won gold in the women's 200m final at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin, completing the sprint double after she won the 100m just days before
30/50 10 August 2018
Pedestrians walk past the entrance of the retail store House of Fraser in central London. The Chinese-owned UK department store chain, entered administration on August 10 only to be swiftly snapped up by retailer Sports Direct for £90 million ($115 million, 100 million euros)
31/50 9 August 2018
Local people protest outside the Hillingdon Conservative Association office on August 9, 2018 in Uxbridge, England. Today's protest is being held following comments made by former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, against the wearing of Burkas by Muslim women in the United Kingdom.
An independent panel will investigate complaints made regarding Mr Johnson's comments and possible breaches of the Conservative Party code of conduct.
32/50 8 August 2018
Britain's Prince William, right, and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, walk past a German flag, left, and a Britain's flag as they leave the Amiens cathedral, northern France. Prince William and Theresa May are marking the somber centenary of the Battle of Amiens, in France, a short, bloody and decisive battle that heralded the end of World War I
33/50 7 August 2018
Great Britain's Jack Laugher and James Heatly pose with their Gold and Bronze medal's respectively won in the 1 metre springboard men's final at the European Diving Championships in Glasgow