Steve Richards

Politics | 26 July 2008

Steve Richards reviews the week in politics

The political year ends with a sequel. Labour leaders, trade unionists and party members gather at Warwick university for what is billed as Warwick Two. The original version took place at the same location shortly before the last election. Like many sequels the outlines of the narrative for Warwick Two are precisely the same as the original.

In essence here is the familiar story being played out for a second time. Desperate for cash, the Labour leadership needs the unions’ money. In return for their cash, the unions want policies that benefit their members. Thank you and good night.

Of course the actual story is far more complex and multi-layered. Some important and worthwhile reforms were implemented as a result of the first gathering in Warwick. The unions have a right to put the case for more changes now. After all, business leaders do not need the equivalent of a Warwick gathering to get a hearing. When they murmur, the government responds like a frightened rabbit. In the case of the unions the opposite applies. The government becomes a frightened rabbit if there is any sense that it is responding to union demands. Brown is as fearful as Tony Blair of a perception that Labour is returning to the old days. Do not forget his paralysing caution over taking Northern Rock into public ownership. Brown will do nothing that looks as if he is returning to the 1970s. As an added twist, the unions have no desire to make the return, even those shouting most loudly at the moment.

But this is no time for multi-layered stories. As far as Labour is concerned, voters notice only the outlines and are inclined to think the worst. They are being given some reason to do so.

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