Imagine if you found yourself on the same side as UKIP at every protest and picket line. Well, that’s what happened to me the other week. In the course of three days, I found myself standing or sitting alongside £-badge wearing UKIP members. And I’d love to know how the left is supposed to respond in such situations beyond shouting “RACIST” repeatedly.
Monday – Stopping Gove in Hove. The head wanted to turn the school into an academy. After a brilliant campaign involving parents, teachers and support staff (both groups won strike ballots against the academy proposal) and the Green council balloting parents since the school wouldn’t, we won our second victory against academy schools in the city.But it was a shock to see UKIP on the lobby. Most people ignored them, and they seemed to be most keen to talk to Unison! (Why were UKIP there – perhaps because mainstream Tory and Labour weren’t)
Wednesday Morning – On the picket line! And once again UKIP are there, supporting approved mental health workers striking against a Green Party council. Once again, they’re not a big force, but why the hell were they there? Do they love Unison? Or is it because it pits them against our city’s main non-establishment party, the Greens? And once again, should we have chased them away, chanted “Racist!Racist!”, ignored them , or discreetly moved the picket and forget to tell UKIP?
Wednesday Evening – Defending The NHS Sussex Defend The NHS has been an excellent grass roots campaign drawing activists and unions together. So when it organised a 150 strong meeting to put election candidates on the spot , UKIP are there. Perhaps this time its so they can pit themselves against Tories and Lib Dems. This time the audience don’t ignore him as UKIP announce their presence. Chants of “racist” don’t deter him. The opposite as, almost satirising themselves, the response to heckling is to ask one of his friends to stand up, so we could all see his dark skin!!! No one objected to the heckling and slow hand clapping in an audience of people most of the left activists had never seen. Unison’s speaker responded to UKIP’s “support” for the NHS (and opposition to TTIP apparently) by citing their own statements.(left)
Quite what left-led event UKIP will appear at next is anybody’s guess. We even thought they might turn up for the coach to Doncaster a few days later, just so they could relate to the Brighton left heckling their conference!!
How Unison are helping UKIP
Nobody really knows why our local UKIP seem to be so keen to support events involving Unison. They do claim to be neither Left nor Right. Perhaps it’s because the unions here have ended up opposing Labour, Green, Tory and Lib Dem versions of austerity and privatisation. UKIP came 4th in the Euro elections in Brighton, so perhaps they’re making a left turn. Or maybe they’ve found their Strasserite wing………..
Anyway, Unison seem to returned the support by handing UKIP hopelessness and despair on a plate.
By calling off the strike of local government workers, Unison (along with the GMB and Unite)have demoralised every workplace activist . I’ve been embarrassed explaining to members before why we didn’t win very much, but now we have to explain that our strike resulted in us getting an even worse pay cut!!
We all know that members will leave Unison.
We all know that the next time we need to ballot for strike action it could be even harder to convince members to vote for and take part in strike action.
The one force capable of giving hope to the millions who are still opposed to austerity has been weakened. The force of despair, of no hope, of turn on your migrant neighbors and workmates as if they caused austerity, have been strengthened. It’s always easier to attack people even less powerful than you when those with real power seem unbeatable.
So thanks Mr Prentice. Keep on giving money to Stand Up To UKIP, while taking away the only hope many of us have of resisting the establishment’s politicians and their racist mates.