Workers’ alternative to New Labour

John Ireland is the Communication Workers Union assistant divisional officer for North Wales and the North-West. He spoke in a personal capacity to Peter Manson of the Weekly Worker about his decision to join the Socialist Labour Party

How long were you a member of the Labour Party?

I was in the Labour Party since the age of 17 and was a member for a total of 11 years, with a break of two years. When I re-applied my application was refused by national headquarters. Then it was referred locally, but I was again refused. Finally I was interviewed by a panel, who let me rejoin, with the proviso that I agreed to abide by Labour Party rules - which I had every intention of doing anyway. Some of the people who interviewed me had been members for less time than me.

So after twice refusing me they eventually let me back.

How were you treated once you rejoined?

I was allowed no involvement. For example, I would receive no notice of ward meetings. I had the choice of either being a sleeper member or of getting out.

Why do you think you were treated like that?

I have no idea. I never came under Labour Party disciplinary procedures. I imagine it was because I had been involved in a number of industrial disputes, some of them illegal, but I never infringed any party rule.

So why did you join the SLP?

Basically it was because the Labour Party I’d joined no longer existed.

Does that mean that you think the SLP should be like old Labour, which always aimed just to make reforms within capitalism and never had the slightest intention of fighting for socialism?

My view is that the SLP should aspire to the complete socialist transformation of society.

How do you think the SLP will do in the general election?

By May the party will only have been in existence for 12 months and I am sure we will do a lot better than any other new party has done in such a short time. No doubt the results will be uneven.

Whether we keep our deposit is not the main issue. The issue is bringing the alternative. Allowing for financial constraints, we will contest as many seats as possible. That way we will get a solid base to gain new members. If we end up losing our deposit, so be it.

What is the position now with the CWU ‘teamworking’ dispute with Royal Mail?

The membership voted to accept the recommendation to go into joint working parties and try to reach agreement. Two main working parties have already been set up, but they are not due to report back until the end of April.

It is widely believed that this was only a holding operation to spare the Labour Party’s blushes.

I personally asked the general secretary if that was true and he flatly denied it, so I have no choice but to believe him. But looking at the situation independently, it is clear there has been a stand-off to allow both sides to save face, waiting for the Labour government. It has the result of making it more difficult for us to take industrial action.

I have total faith in the working party members, but if the deal they come up with is not satisfactory, then I believe we should not hesitate to take industrial action again.