By Daniel Knowles
From the Swindon Advertiser
LABOUR leadership contestant John McDonnell called on Swindon unions to join rolling national strikes he predicts for next year in a bid to overturn privatisation and job cuts. Mr McDonnell addressed a meeting of the Swindon Trade Unions Council at Broadgreen Community Centre on Wednesday night as part of a series of visits to Labour and trade groups across the country.Mr McDonnell said while he was being written off by the “Islington New Labour” set, there was no reason why he could not be Tony Blair’s replacement with the backing of rank and file party and union members.
He warned the party was “sleep walking in to losing the next election” if the policies of privatisation pushed by their “architect” Gordon Brown were not overturned. Mr McDonnell, the MP for Hayes and Harlington, said he was a “declared contender for the Labour leadership”.“You are either in favour of privatisation or public services,” Mr McDonnell said. “You can not have it both ways. We are on the edge of losing the welfare state. We are on the edge of losing our public services. We need to wake up and wake up very quickly.”Mr McDonnell labelled New Labour “absolutely Thatcherite in some respects” for forcing through privatisation since they came to power in 1997.
“We have privatised more jobs in nine years than the Tories did in 18 years,” Mr McDonnell said.
Mr McDonnell said the weakness of the Labour organisation was shown in the turn out to yesterday’s NHS protest in London.
“We should have been marching in tens of thousands,” Mr McDonnell said. McDonnell said union members and the wider public had the chance to turn privatisation around.
He said opposition was growing more vocal, united against vanishing public services, nuclear power and weapons spending and the war in Iraq.
He expected the turning point to be a ballot going to civil servants soon to decide on industrial action early in the new year.
If other unions joined it, they could reverse the New Labour policies and save the party from electoral defeat, Mr McDonnell said.
“It’s not one day but continuous action,” Mr McDonnell said.
“We need to be balloting our own members to see if we should coincide with that action.
We need to share information and look at joint campaigns.”
Mr McDonnell’s address won applause from the more than 25 people at the meeting, including representatives from postal, transport, health council and general unions.