Many of us hereabouts don't routinely think about unions, have anything to do with unions (pace, E-K), nor expected ever again to be troubled by unions. Last time I personally dealt with a union delegation, was when they were begging (I think that's the word, really) to be allowed to come onsite at a shiny new plant I was responsible for in the North East in the '90s. Rather cruelly, I replied: why would we? All our non-managerial technical staff had been recruited from traditional unionised backgrounds in the locality, and were delighted to be under training to be multi-skilled. As they (our staff) would tell us, if you'd volunteered to become multi-skilled in their previous employment "the union guys would break your legs".
Anyhow, it would be foolish not to recognise that there's a bit of a seachange underway, if only in the morale of these dinosaurs. Here's some disparate thoughts on a union resurgence.
1. They're actually a bit nervous
Well, after the beatings they've endured over the past 35+ years, wouldn't you be? And they are of course deeply cognisant of how dependent they are on the policies and handouts of our dynamic new Covid Chancellor, who has basically "outflanked them on the left", moving faster and further than they were even asking for! They'd like to be telling him what to do: but they are also pretty grateful for the substantial crumbs cascading from his table. Could we please, errrr, just have a seat at this table? Please? They know where all the initatives are coming from. And the £££. And who's in charge for the next several years.
2. Green Deal to be unionised - really?
Now Rebecca's "Green Deal" was for a fully unionised new industrial revolution, of course - and it was green in name only. The noteworthy central plank of this policy was the "just transition", which meant, well, anything really, provided unionised industrial jobs were front and centre - new car factories, plastics factories, steel works, you name it.
I'm sure we can easily envisage Boris going for a massive Keynsian splurge. And cars, steel & plastics may well feature - along with even easier quick-wins like roadbuilding and infrastructure renewal. He may even call it a Green Deal, to steal Labour's thunder and give the pudding a bit of a spurious theme. But: unionised? No more so than normal-for-2019, I'd guess. The big advocates of this kind of green Keynsianism, all the way to Ed Miliband (remember him?) are quite keen to be non-partisan (see 'nervous' above).
3. Unions & Starmer: is he particularly keen?
Some say not, nay, they fear not. You could see why. What's less attractive than Unite, the Union and bad-boy McCluskey and his bad-old-days fixer reputation?
Keir Starmer is pivoting Labour away from the support it has given to trade unions in recent years ... leading figures in two Labour-affiliated unions – the Fire Brigades Union and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union – released statements condemning Starmer’s favoured [and of course successful] candidate, David Evans, for party General Secretary as “divisive.” The former Blair-era fixer is deeply unpopular with many of Labour’s affiliated unions and seen as likely to diminish their influence.And never mind Starmer and his pivoting: there are plenty on the purist Left who despair of the undemocratic, unrepresentative machinations and general corruption (not to mention conservatism) they see amongst the ranks of the dinosaurs.
4. Good news for the rest of us
However, it is I think to be expected that they do elbow into a few more seats at a few more tables in the coming months and years - including various organs of the Peoples Party. The great thing about this is, they are really incompetent. Any board or body with heavy union influence is going to be that much more dull and leaden-footed, not to mention conservative - at a time when agility and sharp-sighted radicalism is what's needed. The best you ever get is when some relatively bright union research-department wonk comes up with a load of incredibly well-researched, detailed, earnest, but essentially wrongheaded "roadmap" which may accidentally contain a nugget or two, but which nobody ever reads (case in point: Rebecca's bizarre 2019 energy policy which I believe I might be the only person on the planet ever to have gone through to the very end).
Boris has always been lucky.