The left must work with trade unions not against them

gmb-trade-union-living-wage-campaign

There is an unfortunate tendency for articles nowadays to have sensationalist “click-bait” headlines, but by any standards the aggressive spin put on Michael Chessum’s latest piece in the New Statesman is highly unfortunate.

The headline screams “It’s time for Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters to take on the trade union leadership”. Nothing could be more counterproductive than seeking to mobilize supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party to intervene in internal union politics.

Trade unions are organizations that have their own rule books, decision making structures and autonomous interests. The lay activists who participate in the decision making processes, and who are elected and delegated to conferences and to sit on committees, are the same lay activists who represent their work colleagues in disciplinary and grievance hearings, who negotiate with management, who recruit to the union on a daily basis, who hold the participatory branch, sectional and regional structures together, and campaign on industrial and political issues.

Many thousands of these lay member activist in trade unions also support Jeremy Corbyn, and it is highly mischievous and irresponsible for Michael to misrepresent such activists as potential agents of disruption within their own unions.

From my experience the deliberations on policy issues within trade unions are serious and well informed, based upon the expert opinions of those with experience in the industries or sectors whose interests are at stake, and informed by other expert opinion commissioned by or researched by the unions themselves.

Michael Cheesum seems to be suggesting that pressure should be applied to unions from outside to subvert the outcomes of such democratic decision making. This is a fundamental breach of the well established protocols whereby the political and industrial wings of the party operate in a spirit of mutual restraint. As Lewis Minkin describes in his magnum opus “The Contentious Alliance – Trade Unions and the Labour Party” the development of unwritten “rules” governing the relationship between the unions and the party have arisen over many years, and effectively derived “from fundamental values of trade unionism”

Trade unionism is inherently based upon collectivism, and preserving the autonomy of collective organisation from constraint. It is collective organisation which counterbalances the disparity of wealth and power between employers and individual workers. As Minkin describes

“Through their collective capacity, the liberty of the individual worker was enhanced via-a-vis the employer. Through the collective, workers increased their control over the work environment. Through the collective, workers advanced living standards without which a simple “absence of restraint” was often the freedom to go without, to grow sick or starve. This view of collective capacity involved minimizing impediments to the operation of the industrial collective, whether they were external or internal to the organisation. By its nature, this involved restricting individual rights in relation to the collective (albeit a democratic collective). Whatever libertarian views trade unionists might hold about individual rights in a wide social and political sphere, they recognized the necessity in industrial life to accept some diminution of choice in one relationship in order to enhance it in another”

This concept of liberty as being a mediated one through respect for the collective is one that dovetails with the moral underpinnings of labourism as associated with thinkers as diverse as R H Tawney and Tony Benn. For example, the astute observation of RH Tawney is that liberty is related to equality. If freedom is defined as absence of restraint, then liberty promotes inequality, because the more powerful in our society have less constraints upon them, and the majority of the population will always be unfree.

For Tawney, true liberty is the freedom to act positively for the benefit of the community, and being empowered to resist the tyrannical demands of the rich and powerful. Trade unionism is therefore inherently virtuous through being founded upon collectivity and mutual support, rather than individualism and personal acquisitiveness.

It is worth looking at Michael’s views in more detail. He writes

The logic that drives unions to support projects like Heathrow expansion – and which drives the GMB union to support fracking and Trident renewal – is grounded in a model of trade unionism which focuses not on transforming the workplace, but on the narrowly-defined interests of workers – job creation, economic growth and a larger share of the pie. It views the trade union movement not as merely antagonistic to employers, but as a responsible lobbying partner for business and industry, and as a means of mediating workers’ demands in a way that is steady and acceptable to the state and the economic system. This model, and the politics that accompanied it, is why, historically, trade unions were a conservative influence on Labour’s internal politics.

The description of the unions as a “conservative influence” is spookily close to that of Tony Blair, who used to rail against unions as the forces of conservatism because unions resolutely advocated economic growth and good, well paid, high skilled jobs, and resisted his deregulation and privatization. Of course Michael Chessum has different objectives to Blair, but in his case he considers unions to be conservative because they advocate economic growth and good, well paid, high skilled jobs in the face of sometimes ill-considered and knee-jerk policies from parts of the fashionable left.

It is hard to know what Michael means by “transforming the workplace”, which he thinks trade unions don’t currently do. Let us look at the premium that workers in organized workplaces enjoy. According to a 2014 booklet by the TUC.

In the public sector, for every £10,000 that a non-member earns, a union member on average earns around £1,690 more; in the private sector it’s around £580 more.
Over the period 2001–2013 union members were on average a third more likely to have received training than nonunionised employees.
Union membership brings the greatest financial benefits for young workers: 16- to 24-year-old union members earn 38 per cent more than their non-union counterparts.
Union members also have more paid holidays, with 3.8 days more paid holiday than non-members (25.5 days compared with 21.7 days).
Workplaces with unions have far fewer accidents, according to a 2007 study.

To take two examples over the last couple of weeks, the solicitors Leigh Day won the first stage of a legal campaign to force ASDA to give equal pay to the mainly female retail workforce compared to mainly male workers doing similar work in distribution.

With the same employer, GMB national negotiators recently gained agreement from ASDA that they would cease the individual monitoring of scanning rates in stores, which colleagues were finding oppressive and demeaning.

These are both examples of trade union organization making a real difference. The workplace is transformed when workers have a strong independent organization which allows employees to redress injustice, and gain greater respect.

Michael seems to believe that unions are failing their members if we are not involved in ceaseless class warfare. However, while recognizing that in the final analysis employers may have potentially antagonistic interests to their workforce, it is also true that employees do have a material interest in their employer’s business prospering: there is no point is advocating higher wages if employers don’t have the means to pay them. Where an employer treats their workforce with respect and dignity, then trade unions do have a legitimate interest in advancing the business prospects of such good employers, thus benefiting their members.

Currently, with perhaps the exceptions of Community and USDAW, every British trade union has a leadership that historically could be regarded on the centre left; and the claim by Michael that trade unions mediate “workers’ demands in a way that is steady and acceptable to the state and the economic system” is nonsense. The constraint on militant industrial trade unionism in the modern world is due not to timid nor bureaucratic leadership, but deep seated difficulties of organizing workers in workplaces blighted by casualization, bogus self employment, low union densities and not enough experienced lay activists.

Indeed it is worth reflecting, as Gregor Gall did in his recent Huffington Post article, that far from being unimaginative, unions – especially Unite and GMB – have been very innovative in combining political, legal and media pressure on employers, such as Uber, Asos and Sports Direct.

The challenge for such campaigning tactics is ensuring that they are financially sustainable for the unions in the longer terms by both recruiting and maintaining paid membership. Ultimately, however innovative trade unions may be at using our political and campaigning leverage, the foundation of union power is industrial strength.

This is why Michael Chessum’s article is so disappointing. Whereas the locus of purely political campaigning is constantly pulled towards Westminster, and a schedule of elections that is dis-empowering for activists, trade unionism is geographically dispersed and workplace injustice happens every day, giving activists an opportunity to make real change for the better. The biggest opportunity for building a powerful campaigning left is not to encourage Corbyn’s supporters to challenge the leadership of the unions, as Michael rather foolishly does, it is to encourage activists to join and recruit to the unions where they live and work, and to help us all together to build the strong industrial organization that can empower working people to improve their own lives.

 

115 comments on “The left must work with trade unions not against them

  1. brianthedog on said:

    The sub-headline in the New Stateman is “The union support for expanding Heathrow reflects a certain conservatism.”

    Like it or not the decision by Unite which is the major union at Heathrow is based on reality.

    In fact, two realities.

    1. Keeping Heathrow as a hub airport is vital of UK PLC, even more so post Brexit.

    2. Our members who work at Heathrow demand expansion time and time again through the democratic structures of the Union.

    From Heathrow workplace branches, to the Regional Industrial Sector Committee, to the London & Eastern Regional Committee, to the National Industrial Sector Committee and finally to the Executive Committee.

    These are all made up from elected lay members so good luck Michael Chessum trying to call for an outside coup and interference. Personally I don’t fancy his or anyone else chances.

    But there you have the nub of it, out of touch hacks who have little or no experience of workers and/or trade unions telling them what to do.

    Whether its this issue or unlimited free movement of EU labour it appears more and more that parts of the labour movement either don’t understand workers or don’t like them.

  2. UK PLC? A Thatcherite formulation if ever… The TU’s have allowed themselves to become almost irrevalent and need challenged. When was the last time a TU leader was on QT that was not LMcC? Who watches Pointless? Their quiz show asked a couple of years ago to nane a TU leader and with the exception of Arthur Scargill (56% I think) no other TU individual made double figures – LMcL included!

  3. Andy Newman on said:

    J.,

    Well I am not sure that name recognition of GSs on a daytime quiz show is that significant, but the situation is much more complex than the unions “allowing themselves to become irrelevant” , the problems organising are difficult to solve. What are your solutions?

  4. Andy Newman on said:

    http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/gmb-welcomes-heathrow-expansion

    Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for Transport and Distribution, said:

    “GMB has a long standing policy of support for Heathrow expansion for the best part of a decade. Heathrow expansion has a clear cut case.

    “The airport needs expansion if it is to retain its world class status as a global hub airport. In recent years because of this long standing process work has slowly drifted to European competitor hub airports. Heathrow expansion is not reliant on public money. It will be built to stringent environmental standards. Heathrow must now mean Heathrow.”

    “This not only protects the 80,000 jobs directly employed at the airport but will increase to a further 114,000 jobs that will be needed, and 10,000 local apprenticeship schemes. The boost to the economy, and the earnings potential for the surrounding boroughs in West London, can also be measured with the boost it guarantees to our regional economies. Expansion also means that the delays people experience in their current Heathrow travel experience, will be severely minimised.

    “The majority of people who live and work near the airport, business, and all major trade unions, and the TUC who have members employed by the airport are supportive of expansion. Heathrow expansion is a win, win for everyone. The time for dithering and political expediency has to stop, there is a clear cut case for Heathrow expansion, Heathrow expansion and the economy desperately needs decisiveness not delay

  5. Karl Stewart on said:

    It’s really odd to read an article which criticises unions for focussing on “the narrowly defined interests of workers”.

    Acting in the interests of their members is entirely, 100 per cent, the whole purpose of unions.

    To criticise organisations for carrying out their essential purpose seems peculiar.

  6. Brianthedog on said:

    J.,
    I am so sorry I have dared deal with the reality of the nature of businesses and the impact on growth and jobs in the UK expansion of Heathrow would bring.

    If only I had known that UK PLC was a prescribed word and how upsetting it would be for you to hear it uttered.

    No we have cleared that up we can now move on to the much important topic of the relevance of day time TV quiz shows. However can you check that the production company is not a PLC as I don’t want you or I to be tainted.

    J.,

  7. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Cheers Andy, I’ve been a refugee over on Left Futures for a while, but it’s great to be back home on SU.

    I’m particularly interested in discussing how the left should respond to the current debate over the pros and cons of single market membership, and also the linked issue of how we can win substantiation for EU nationals who settled here before the vote.

  8. Andy Newman on said:

    Karl Stewart: the linked issue of how we can win substantiation for EU nationals who settled here before the vote.

    For me this is quite clear, the Labour movement needs to demand the right to stay, after all tens if not hundreds of thousands affected are union members. Letting them stay is the prerogative of the UK government, needing no permission from the EU.

    On single market, we do need to have a discussion and debate, though I am inclined to think on balance Better in than out. But open to persuasion

  9. brianthedog: it appears more and more that parts of the labour movement either don’t understand workers or don’t like them.

    The thing about “workers” is that we are not politically homogenous. It is not the job of the left to trail after the most reactionary and ignorant section of the class, and throw other workers under the bus in order to do it.

  10. brianthedog on said:

    JN,

    No they are not politically homogenous or pasteurised but the workers at Heathrow do have a clue about what is not only good for the economy but also about the need to have decent unionised jobs.

    In recent posts you were moaning about lack of trade unions in the work place and the need for unions in every workplace. Well at Heathrow there are trade unions in work places, almost all of them and more often than not strong ones. Their political positions are also democratically recognised through their respective unions.

    You are coming across as workers that are non unionised are progressive and lack of rights are the unions fault and workers that are unionised are reactionary and its the trade unions fault.

  11. brianthedog,

    I never said any such thing. What I was referring to was the anti-immigration issue that you’d shoe-horned in directly before the lines I quoted. That some workers support that does not make it any better.

  12. brianthedog on said:

    JN,

    I didn’t mention immigration, shoe-horned or not. I am talking about EU free movement of labour. Different thing.

  13. jim mclean on said:

    Lansman has lost London to AWL and Teeside to 14 blokes called Dave, Scottish Momentum keep on sending me emails about meetings that do not take place with people they do not name and the Union membership love Jackie Bailie

  14. Andy Newman on said:

    jim mclean: Jackie Bailie

    I had to google her. As a rule of thumb politicians in Scottish Labour are unlikely to be recognised by anyone except their close friends and immediate family.

  15. John Grimshaw on said:

    jim mclean:
    brianthedog, I get bored telling people not to say immigration when they mean migration, to be fair the usually tell me to fuck off politely

    I thought immigration was the bit where one comes in and emigration where you go out. There are a recognised 750,000 British people living in Spain. Probably more.

  16. John Grimshaw on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    It’s really odd to read an article which criticises unions for focussing on “the narrowly defined interests of workers”.

    Acting in the interests of their members is entirely, 100 per cent, the whole purpose of unions.

    To criticise organisations for carrying out their essential purpose seems peculiar.

    Hi Karl. The problem with Trades Unions is that they function to ameliorate the worst effects of capitalism on workers. They are not revolutionary organisations. Often but not always they are motivated by their own sectional interests. Concretely in the case of Heathrow expansion the union should be defending the rights of it’s members. If the union then moves to supporting expansion then it is implicitly involving itself in a political process. That means for example addressing the issues of climate change or the needs of local people who’s houses are to be taken away. For what it’s worth I have no great view either way, but these are issues that’s trades unions need to take into account.

  17. John Grimshaw on said:

    jim mclean:
    Andy Newman,

    Basically she defends defence jobs which are the last major employers outside Public Services, think Greggs are next

    Their not going to take away my pasties? Right that’s it now. It’s war.

  18. John Grimshaw: but these are issues that’s trades unions need to take into account.

    There are already plenty of people taking those into account.

    John Grimshaw: Concretely in the case of Heathrow expansion the union should be defending the rights of it’s members. If the union then moves to supporting expansion then it is implicitly involving itself in a political process.

    The interests of members in expanding Heathrow are wider than those who already work there, they include the thousands of workers who would be involved in the construction of the expansion, and the hundreds of thousands who will benefit from the economic stimulus.

    If Heathrow’s new runway is not built it will not mean less air travel, it will just mean that more of it goes to Frankfurt.

  19. DoctorDaley on said:

    Michael Chessum’s only involvement in frontline trade unionism was supporting his AWL mates in the IWGB/Cleaner’s Branch v. UNISON shitstorm at UCL a few years ago. The role of the AWL was, surprise surprise, to drive a wedge between the organised trade union UNISON and the migrant cleaners they were organising, who then left in droves to join a non-TUC affiliated ‘union’ who promptly got a quarter of them sacked. No wonder he doesn’t have a clue about what trade unions are, how they work, or what their role is in a left-wing movement.

  20. brianthedog:
    JN,

    I didn’t mention immigration, shoe-horned or not. I am talking about EU free movement of labour. Different thing.

    Yes. Something understood quite well by people from places like Pakistan, Jamaica or Nigeria . Not to mention Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

  21. unclealbert on said:

    Andy Newman: If Heathrow’s new runway is not built it will not mean less air travel, it will just mean that more of it goes to Frankfurt

    This is precisely why we should continue selling weaponry to the Saudi regime. As Boris Johnson has said: “It we didn’t sell the Saudis weapons someone else would.”

  22. Andy Newman on said:

    unclealbert: This is precisely why we should continue selling weaponry to the Saudi regime

    No it is different. Heathrow currently does not have the capacity to meet anticipated future demand as a hub, if it cannot expand the trade links go to Frankfurt, imperilling tens of thousands of UK jobs.

    There is a difference between safeguarding jobs and killing people.

  23. Andy Newman on said:

    Evan P: Yes. Something understood quite well by people from places like Pakistan, Jamaica or Nigeria . Not to mention Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.

    I don’t follow you. The difference is very well understood, hence the difference of patterns of migration to the UK from EEA and non-EEA countries

  24. Evan P on said:

    #31 I was agreeing with Brian that there is a distinction between the general issue of immigration and the specific one of free movement in the EU.

    However I don’t wish to get into the business of re-fighting the arguments of the referendum campaign.

  25. Richard Farnos on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I think you miss the point Andy. Selling of weapons to the Saudi regime and 3rd runway at Heathrow have been justified on the grounds that they creates work . I hope, however, you agree that both are not in the long term interest of the working class. The weapon for obvious reasons and the Heathrow expansion because it undermines the battle against global warming.

  26. Andy Newman on said:

    Richard Farnos: the Heathrow expansion because it undermines the battle against global warming.

    I am not convinced that is true. The anticipated expansion of air traffic will happen whether or not Heathrow is expanded. The difference will be whether London or Frankfurt ( for example) is the hub.

    Any agreement to cut back on air traffic emissions requires international cooperation

  27. Richard Farnos on said:

    Andy Newman,

    The anticipated expansion of air traffic will happen whether or not Heathrow is expanded. The difference will be whether London or Frankfurt ( for example) is the hub.

    Quite. But as Unclealbert #29 points out this is the same sort of argument used to justify selling weapons to Saudi regime.

    Surely we should oppose all weapon sold to the Saudi government from wherever and airport expansion throughout Europe including Heathrow and Frankfurt.

  28. Andy Newman on said:

    Richard Farnos: Surely we should oppose all weapon sold to the Saudi government from wherever and airport expansion throughout Europe including Heathrow and Frankfurt.

    I don’t think you will get many takers for the proposition that selling cluster bombs to drop on children is the same as stimulating the economy with a major infrastructure project that will create tens of thousands of well paid, skilled jobs.

  29. unclealbert on said:

    Andy Newman: There is a difference between safeguarding jobs and killing people.

    Recent research commissioned by Transport for London indicates that nearly 9.500 people die in London each year as a consequence of air pollution.

  30. Richard Farnos on said:

    unclealbert,

    And this is before we try to work out the number of livilhoods and lives lost due to global warming.

    Although of course Andrew is be being obtruce. No one is comparing arms trade to the Heathrow expansion only that the arguments used to justify them are the same. Whether one is worst than the other would have any reverence if there counterpoised. However both are not in the long term interest of the class and both should be opposed.

  31. Andy Newman on said:

    unclealbert: Recent research commissioned by Transport for London indicates that nearly 9.500 people die in London each year as a consequence of air pollution.

    Of which road traffic is the main culprit,

  32. Richard Farnos on said:

    Andy Newman,

    And of course the TUC has never got it wrong!

    Perhaps we should introduce a new stanza in the Red Flag:

    “The Inuit can kiss my arse,
    we got the third runway at last!

  33. brianthedog on said:

    Richard Farnos,

    Not sure what the Inuit or selling arms to Saudi Arabia has got to do with Heathrow airport.

    Let’s put thousands of British working class people out of jobs and divert the planes and commerce that go with it to Charles De Gaulle, Schiphol and Frankfurt Airports instead. At least it will teach them a lesson for voting Brexit.

  34. unclealbert on said:

    Andy Newman: road traffic is the main culprit

    Indeed. Heathrow’s contribution works out at approximately 5% of London’s are pollution. This means Heathrow’s body count adds up to more than 450 people a year. And, according to a prediction in a recent report, a three-runway Heathrow will contribute an increased percentage of pollution as electric vehicles become more numerous. Therefore Heathrow’s kill rate will rise and will be sustained over a number of decades.

    Clearly, protecting jobs in this instance does involve killing people.

  35. Richard Farnos on said:

    brianthedog,

    May I refer you back to #35 and #38 – the Inuit are a largely working class community likely to be among the hardest hit by global warming.

    Also there will be no job losses – no one is proposing to close down Heathrow, just not build another runway. And like I keep on pointing out we should oppose all European airport expansion for the sake of the planet. Or does the British working class not live on earth?

    I don’t see the relevance of Brexit.

  36. unclealbert on said:

    Richard Farnos: Whether one is worst than the other

    Deaths by both causes are avoidable – that is the tragedy. Of course, whichever kills you – weapons manufactured in in the U.K or pollution produced in the UK – you’ll be just as dead. And there is one culprit: the privileging of profit over people.

  37. Andy Newman on said:

    unclealbert: Indeed. Heathrow’s contribution works out at approximately 5% of London’s are pollution. This means Heathrow’s body count adds up to more than 450 people a year.

    That really isn’t how it works. There are different types of air pollution, and the worst impact for health is the PM10s. (I used to work in this field), particulates from aircraft tend to make ground fall some hundreds of km from the airport’s. The big problem in London is road traffic, with too many idling diesel vehicles and street canyon effects.
    With regard to Nox and Sox from burning aviation fuels the health effects kick in when thresholds are exceeded. Again, the easier win is to reduce road traffic emissions.
    The simple causality you imply is not really there. And yes, as a society we do trade off pollution for economic growth

  38. Andy Newman on said:

    Richard Farnos: I don’t see the relevance of Brexit.

    Brexit will create a growing serious shock to the economy , now is not the time to delay a huge economic stimulus

  39. jim mclean on said:

    Growth is unsustainable at its present rate and such is the impact of the destruction of the environment it is seen as a major reason behind the 30% growth in depression among the young.

  40. Richard Farnos on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I don’t think that was the point Brian was trying to make. However I agree that Brexit will be bad for the economy and a bit of stimulation would be good. But Heathrow expansion is not only environmentally damaging, it will only help the south east economically. A better stimulus would be to build more houses which could be more evenly spread around the country.

  41. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: If Heathrow’s new runway is not built it will not mean less air travel, it will just mean that more of it goes to Frankfurt.

    I understand this point Andy. My earlier point was however that TUs are not the same as socialist activists. We should not just soley be interested in job creation. We have bigger issues to fry. Obviously more good jobs (if they are?) are important, but it’s not our job to run the capitalist state is it?

  42. John Grimshaw: I understand this point Andy. My earlier point was however that TUs are not the same as socialist activists.

    It depends, my view is that trade unions in creating communities of solidarity and democratic institutions of collective power are the bedrock of socialism. Of course they do not substitute for the need for politics, or ultimately for political power.

    John Grimshaw: it’s not our job to run the capitalist state is it

    It is our job to pressurise the government and the corporations to act in the ways that we see as most beneficial. In this case, the economic stimulus given by Heathrow trumps the other arguments and concerns, IMO.

  43. This debate has some similarities to the one that we tried to have on a number of occasions about the role of the PCS in the context of the attacks on welfare claimants.

  44. #55 Note I say “in the context of”, precisely because this is a relatively complex issue.

  45. Andy Newman on said:

    Evan P: This debate has some similarities to the one that we tried to have on a number of occasions about the role of the PCS in the context of the attacks on welfare claimants.

    I was thinking the same thing.

  46. brianthedog on said:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/schiphol-airport-goads-heathrow-with-consolatory-gateaux/

    “Every time decision on expansion is delayed, Amsterdam airport sends Heathrow a consolatory cake”

    This about sums it up.

    Its not about the Inuit working class where ever they maybe. Although I also note they upset some environmentalists when they carry out their traditional culture of hunting and killing seals, whales and polar bears.

    Its about whether the UK is still going to have a hub airport or let Heathrow dwindle into spoke airport. It about thousands of jobs and decent unionised jobs. Its about the wider economic benefits that Heathrow expansion brings to the UK.

    If not we can hand it all over to the likes of Schiphol who then can have their cake and eat it.

  47. jim mclean on said:

    As European Manufacturers and Service providers prepare for Brexit they are willing to simply asset strip the UK with the collapse of the pound and and with the implemention of tarrifs cargo will divert to the EU., The figures and forecast supporting the third runway are meaningless and they may as well be shredded.

  48. John Grimshaw: How does it?

    Because it is the job of trade unions to represent the sectional interest of their members.

    Then people who have opposing views think that the unions should be articulating a broader social perspective. But that isn’t their job.

  49. brianthedog on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    More like pie and mash.

    Actually have you seen in the news the latest hysteria as to why we should not leave the EU?

    According to ex deputy prime minister Nick Clegg Melton Mowbray pork pies and Stilton cheese are under threat as they might they might lose their Protected Geographical Indication. The Guardian bourgeois hacks clearly don’t know what a Melton Mowbray pork pie looks like and post a picture of any old pie.

  50. #66 I once threw a slightly out of date pork pie (it didn’t smell bad or look bad, just didn’t want to take a risk with it being pork) onto my dad’s lawn for a seagull.

    It broke into its two consistent parts. The seagull examined both the crust and the meat, and turned its beak up at both.

    I’ve never ever seen a seagull refuse to eat food thrown for it before or since.

    And I used to love pork pies as well 🙁

  51. Karl Stewart on said:

    brianthedog: More like pie and mash.

    Prefer eels ‘n’ mash myself – always worry about where exactly the filling for ‘pie ‘n’ mash’ pies actually comes from.

  52. Evan P on said:

    #68 Dame Edna Everidge once said she didn’t like to eat doner kebabs because she didn’t know who the donor was.

  53. brianthedog on said:

    Karl Stewart: Prefer eels ‘n’ mash myself – always worry about where exactly the filling for ‘pie ‘n’ mash’ pies actually comes from.

    Hmm my mum and dad loved eels and mash. I remember looking on in horror as I tucked into my lovely pie and mash.

  54. Richard Farnos on said:

    Evan P:
    This debate has some similarities to the one that we tried to have on a number of occasions about the role of the PCS in the context of the attacks on welfare claimants.

    I dont think this analogy stands up – the PCS is critcal of the welfare reforms that their members are forced to implement, where as the GMB, Unite and TUC seem happy to become cheerleaders for totally unsustainable expansion of Heathrow Airport.

    But to move the debate on. Could those who are supportive of the 3rd runway explain how we should tackle global warming?

  55. Andy Newman on said:

    Richard Farnos: how we should tackle global warming?

    International treaties committing to binding targets. Making UK local authorities responsible for a proportion of carbon reduction targets. Building Severn barrage. Expansion of nuclear. More research on carbon capture and storage

  56. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog: Hmm my mum and dad loved eels and mash. I remember looking on in horror as I tucked into my lovely pie and mash.

    Tripe. My grandparents loved it. I on the other hand…?

  57. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog: as I tucked into my lovely pie and mash.

    I take it that that’s an East End giveaway family guy? As long as I have lived round here I can never get used to pie and mash, in fact it’s mostly died out and moved to Essex, if anywhere. I much prefer my native meat and potato pie with mushy peas, chips and gravy.

  58. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog: Thank you but I had previously checked out the Inuit on Wikipedia before my post, which in today’s world now makes me an expert.

    Okay. But my point was that eating whales etc. was/is not a “cultural” thing, rather it was a way that people survived.

  59. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Because it is the job of trade unions to represent the sectional interest of their members.

    Yes clearly. But the complexity of the modern capitalist world inevitably mean that to succeed in that job trades unions have to address broader issues. There is the tension.

  60. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: International treaties committing to binding targets. Making UK local authorities responsible for a proportion of carbon reduction targets. Building Severn barrage. Expansion of nuclear. More research on carbon capture and storage

    I agree largely. But have serious reservations about nuclear fission based on plutonium. What about thorium reactors? Also there is a first stage start up project for a tidal barrage/energy generator in Swansea which if it works will possibly lead to others.

  61. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: On what grounds?

    Waste disposal. Co-existence with the military. Complicated security issues. Obviously we would prefer fusion but still no one’s made it work….allegedly.

  62. brianthedog on said:

    John Grimshaw: Okay. But my point was that eating whales etc. was/is not a “cultural” thing, rather it was a way that people survived.

    You were originally talking about the working class Inuit (why I still don’t really know) who if this is the case would have little or no reason to survive in 2016 by hunting and killing polar bears, seals and whales as the local supermarket in Canada, Greenland etc should suffice.

    Also it is still part of the Inuit culture to hunt the local wildlife and is seen as keeping alive long held traditions. I personally do not take a view them killing whales, seals or polar bears. The British working class have a culture of killing and eating cows, pigs and chickens to survive but now days they just get some else to do the butchering.

    Your point is?

  63. Karl Stewart on said:

    John Grimshaw: …meat and potato pie with mushy peas, chips and gravy…

    Despite being a soft southerner, I have to agree with you there John. Northern pies are the best by far.

  64. brianthedog: You were originally talking about the working class Inuit (why I still don’t really know)

    I saw something a few years ago with this old Eskimo woman saying that when she was a girl, they lived out on the ice, and were fiercely independent, hunting seals for food, making their clothes out of seal fur,and tools from bones, and they were self reliant and proud people.

    Nowadays, she said we live in heated cabins, get our food from supermarkets,and all the young men are on welfare, and spend all their time drunk or on drugs.

    Then she said .. it is so much better now there are no words that can do justice to it.

  65. Andy Newman on said:

    Omar: Err, see the still-present after-effects of the Fukushima meltdown for an answer to THAT question.

    It could be argued that the degree to which utter catastrophe was avoided faced with a tsunami shows the safety measures worked ?

  66. Andy Newman on said:

    Omar: Is that Wikipedia link supposed to bolster your argument, Andy ?
    It doesn’t.

    I didn’t post the link

  67. James McD on said:

    “How many die in coal mining… etc etc” The perennial argument of the pro nuclear lobby. If there is a mining disaster in China it is catastrophic for that mining community. If there is a nuclear disaster inChina it is a disaster for the whole world. That is not to mention the toxic reality for hundreds of generations to come. Over and above that is the fact that nuclear is hugely expensive and inefficient and inextricably linked to nuclear weaponry.

  68. John Grimshaw on said:

    If you read the links then you will realise that there is some debate about the effects of Fukushima. I was trying to be balanced. Although I haven’t changed my overall view about plutonium based nuclear fission.

  69. John Grimshaw on said:

    Evan P: Or they could pop down to Iceland

    There’s no Inuit on Iceland. Or not many. Most of the population of Iceland are of Irish decent.

  70. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: surely they are Vikings?

    The advantage of the Iceland population is that it has been static since the early middle ages, although that has presumably changed in the modern era to some extent. Iceland was uninhabited by humans until the Viking era and the Norse were doing a lot of slave raiding and trading largely from Ireland. Mitochondrial DNA I believe shows that most women in Iceland are of Irish descent. Although their culture and language is Norse-ish.

  71. John Grimshaw on said:

    brianthedog:
    John Grimshaw,

    My local Iceland doesn’t appear to have many Irish in it.

    My local Iceland is on Bethnal Green road and there aren’t many obvious Irish in it anymore either. There are I think complicated but obvious reasons for this.

  72. John Grimshaw on said:

    Dublin was founded by the Norse in the ninth century but was primarily a slave trading city at first.