The General Election on June 8 saw Labour gain ground in our region and across the country. As a UNISON member who pays into our political fund, I wanted to write to you on behalf of the South West Labour Link committee to report on our work and say thank you to everyone who contributed to this encouraging result.
Neil Guild, South West Labour Link committee
Lots of progress made
Labour won three new MPs in the South West, taking their total to seven, more than at any time since 2010. UNISON worked closely with their campaign teams and it is good news for our members that we now have Labour people in Parliament who we can trust and co-operate with to put UNISON priorities on the agenda. UNISON has always had a strong working relationship with Jeremy Corbyn and his team and this is something we can build on to hold the Tories to account for their incompetent and wrong-headed policies.
Even where Labour did not win, the party made substantial ground which bodes well for public service workers as your union continues to fight for fair funding and better services. In many areas Labour is back in contention and well placed to mount a challenge at the next General Election – which could be very soon. Given the weakness and instability of the minority Tory government your union will remain on an election footing in anticipation of another General Election in the near future.
Thanks to our UNISON candidates
The whole committee is proud of the UNISON members who ran for Parliament. This includes both Thangam Debbonaire and Karin Smyth, who were re-elected as MPs in Bristol with greatly increased support, and others fought strong campaigns on the issues that really matter to our people – jobs and pay, homes, education and the NHS.
Still lots to do
We should not forget that the Conservatives remain in government – just about – and still hold 47 seats in the South West, and so can attempt to continue their harmful programme of cuts and running down our public services. This is not the time to rest on our laurels but to campaign twice as hard to get a Government that respects the vital work of everyone in public services. For anyone who wants to get involved with the South West Labour Link, there has never been a better time to do so.
Through the election, UNISON SW carried out the following work:
- Putting the focus back on public services through our Public Service Champions campaign
- Registering members to vote, particularly young workers and student members
- Financial support to Labour campaigns
- Organising two campaign days in Bristol and Plymouth
- Campaigning on Trade Union Tuesday
- Supporting members to get active in their local Labour Party
- Holding phonebanks for Labour
- Getting Labour politicians to make videos about supporting public services
- Supporting the NHS rally in Bristol
There is much else that we would have liked to have done, but given the short notice of the election I am particularly grateful to all the members who got stuck in – many having never been involved with political activity before. I’ve been involved in many previous Labour campaigns, but this one felt special, with a real surge in participation, and genuine enthusiasm during the campaign from people motivated to take part by the optimistic change that Labour represented.
While the Labour movement may lack the funds of the Tories and their backers we do have the people on the ground having the conversations with voters on the issues that matter to them. The Tories cannot match us in that – for we are the many not the few.
Again, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your branch, myself, or UNISON regional office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to get involved now.