Last night’s by-election results show UKIP have been exposed, Copeland was a bad loss for Labour and the Tories are getting away with murder.
Despite this, if Labour’s message prioritises the need to take back real control of services people rely on and the labour market, then it’s entirely possible to turn things around.
This is a defining time for the labour and trade union movement. I cannot recall a period when the future seems so uncertain and potentially divisive and where the challenge to reassert labour values industrially and politically, appears so complex and difficult.
Brexit, Trump, the future world of work and a whole generation set to miss out on decent jobs, homes and pensions – these are very different times. Simultaneously, we are seeing the public services we rely on – hospitals, care, schools and housing – being dismantled through cuts and no plan for the future.
And as in-work poverty grows, through an explosion of insecure employment models, the beginning of March heralds a whole new set of restrictions on workers’ ability to stand up for themselves as the Trade Union Act takes effect.
Yet for all of the obvious failings of the government and its inability to address the issues working people face, the labour movement has to confront some hard truths.
Labour is not cutting through with a simple vision and a clear alternative to the path the country is on. Nor is the trade union movement doing enough to mobilise our members to deliver a fairer deal for workers.
From the economy to the NHS, from the railways to housing, what truly defines this government is crisis. But the Tories are dodging responsibility for this and are being allowed to present the debate about the future as nothing more than Leave or Remain.
The decision to exit the European Union has been made. The debate now is how we build a progressive country. We must take our stand by bringing workers together and make greater demands for jobs that provide higher livings standards, radical solutions to housing and for investment in the services that the vast majority of people rely on.
Internally, Labour must continue to reject the phony Blair and Mandelson axis of power without principles. Externally, it must develop fresh demands and a radical agenda for working people, whilst continuing to vigorously denounce the politics of division and hate. This combination will ultimately give Labour the credibility to expose the Tories failings on Brexit.
Whether its insecure employment, pay, pensions or relentless performance targets, what workers everywhere have in common is increasing pressure to work harder, faster and cheaper for less. But this is also what unites us - I am convinced that fighting for a new deal for workers will be the catalyst for a new political settlement and a fairer and more equal society.
Labour cannot do this alone – the entire trade union movement must accept its share of the responsibility and come forward with a clear vision for the future world of work and a unifying call against all forms of discrimination.
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