OUR UNION REAFFILIATED TO THE LABOUR PARTY in November last year. We first affiliated in 1927 and broke the link in 2004 following our bitter dispute in 2002/3 with the Blair government. The disaffiliation was a very genuine reflection of the huge anger our members felt about being attacked so bitterly by politicians we were helping to fund.
Nevertheless, we maintained strong links with a number of Labour MPs, especially through our FBU Parliamentary Group. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were founder members of this and have been staunch supporters of firefighters and of the FBU throughout the difficult period of the past 15 years.
Indeed the link is so strong that early last year (before the 2015 leadership campaign) we presented Jeremy with a long service badge to mark his long relationship with our union.
When our service has been under attack we have always been able to rely on Jeremy and John. They stood by us when we fought on pay and pensions. They have consistently challenged the cuts to our service, including the terrible job losses we have seen since 2010. But they were also prepared to stand by us when the Labour government of Blair and Brown got it wrong - as it did many times on public services and workers’ rights.
When our conference debated reaffiliation, we were clear that we would be joining Labour to fight for trade union policies – for radical anti-austerity policies and for workers’ rights.
Corbyn has already shifted the debate in the Labour Party significantly in that direction. But we need to go further and we need to consolidate those gains. A Corbyn re-election will give us the chance to deepen Labour Party democracy and to carry on with building a genuine mass party – a million members is now entirely possible.
We have been appalled at the behaviour of many in the PLP. They have significantly damaged Labour’s position at a crucial time and they should take full responsibility for the mess they have created. The anti- Corbyn faction have money, power and the media on their side. Indeed they are backed by the entire political establishment.
When we have had to take action, the FBU has been on the receiving end of horrible media attacks. So I am sure FBU firefighters will see through that - although we can now expect two months of endless media attacks on Corbyn and his campaign. We have nominated Jeremy and now we are urging FBU members – and all affiliated trade union members – to vote Corbyn.
Let’s build a mass democratic Labour Party with workers’ rights, solidarity and socialist values at its heart. Photo: Summer Dean
is General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union