Sunday, October 4, 2009

End of an exhausting week - The general election starts here

Trains and hotel rooms have been a feature of this week, and I'm now on the train for the West & East Midlands Branch Officer Training Weekend. It's been a good weekend with great comrades all developing their skills in leading our Branches forward.

The exhaustion however come from earlier in the week at Labour Party Conference (as well as the hell of a shift I did at work on Friday when we were so short staffed I had the Matron working on the ward).

As I posted earlier this was a key conference it being the last one ahead of a General Election, and with public spending at the heart of the political debate UNISON needed to ensure our members' voices were taken right in there.

That's what UNISON's Million Voices For Change is about.

Speaker after speaker in the Conference, in policy seminars and fringe events spoke saying the were 'One of UNISON's Million Voices' with the clear message that a million voices is a million votes. Not just the UNISON delegation, but UNISON members from CLP delegations taking that agenda forward, challenging the spending cuts consensus and the privatisation dogma.

That message seems to be getting through, at least to the Health Secretary who reiterated his recent important announcement that the NHS would be the preferred provider, with other providers only being used when the in-house provision had failed to meet the requirements over a lengthy process of improvements.

But we've still got plenty to do especially on the cuts agenda. Labour's welcome commitment to protect 'front line' services is welcome - but the message needs to get through that our 'back office' staff are essential to allow those on the front line to do our jobs.

I pressed the Andy Burnham on who was a front line service in the health policy seminar, with loads of our delegates speaking up for the backbone of our NHS.

But a key message I got from the week was how important it is to keep a Labour Government after the next election. The Sun front page brought home to me how real the possibility of a Tory Government is, making me worried for my job, the services we provide, and the future of my family. We need to look at how we mobilise support for our public services and the Don't Wait part of the Million Voices Campaign is a brilliant start.

We need to make sure our activists know why this political work is important. Speaking to a fellow Branch Chair this weekend, who chairs a police staff branch, she told me how she's turned off by politics. So I spoke about the massive threats there are to Police Staff after the next election. The Tories won't want to be seen to cut police officers for fear of the public reaction so police staff will bear the brunt. We've already heard what the Tories think of PCSO's (Cameron singled them out for criticism in a previous Conference speech)will they survive a Tory Government?

It's these honest and frank conversations we need to be having with all our members, especially our activists. Not singing Labour's praises from the roof tops like they've done nothing wrong, we all know the deep disappointment and anger we feel at many Labour policies. But we need to make the choice clear - Do you trust the Tories with you job and your services?