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Bakers' union cuts ties with the Labour Party

BFAWU's vote to disaffiliate from the party after 100 years caused by Sir Keir's ‘factional war’ against the left

THE Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) voted to disaffiliate from the Labour Party during a special recall conference today.

The union, a founding member of the party in 1902, said that Labour “has travelled away from the aims and hopes of working-class organisations like ours” under current leader Sir Keir Starmer, who it said has been too focused on waging an “factional internal war.”

The union called the conference after Labour made threats to “auto-exclude” its president Ian Hodson. The party cited his links to left-wing campaign group Labour Against the Witchhunt, which Labour has banned as part of its ongoing crackdown on the left.

Only one delegate voted against disaffiliation, the Morning Star understands.

Mr Hodson, whose union was addressed by the newly elected MP Keir Hardie in 1893, said that Sir Keir should “hang his head in shame that he has ended our long relationship with the Labour Party.”

General secretary Sarah Woolley said that delegates to the union’s virtual conference saw the attacks on Mr Hodson, whose political activities were carried out on members’ behalf, as an attack on the union itself.

“A trade union cannot allow smears to be put out about one of its officers, and about the union as well,” she said. 

“Lies were being spread about Ian, and Labour allowed them to build up and build up.”

Mr Hodson said that BFAWU members were “tremendously disappointed that they’ve been put in this position and had to take [the decision to disaffiliate].”

He said that Labour “has moved even further away from working people” during the week of its annual conference.

“I was very upset about the Sun being allowed into the conference hall, very upset that a shadow minister [Andy McDonald] has to resign because Keir Starmer doesn’t think workers deserve £15 an hour — especially after he attended our picket line in 2019 and then a Fight for £15 rally we held right after that.”

In a statement confirming its disaffiliation, the BFAWU noted that it had “levied its poorly paid members to build a party that would bring about real change” in 1902, but slammed Labour’s “failure to deliver those changes during our 119-year relationship.”

“The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians,” the statement said. “When you pick on one of us you pick on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.”

The union asserted that it would now “become more political” and  use its political fund to ensure that its members’ voices are heard.

Mr Hodson said the union would continue to work with left MPs including Labour’s Ian Mearns and Richard Burgon, and that any decision on alternative political vehicles would be decided on democratically.

“But we’re not going to be restrained by a Labour Party that wants to be in the bosses’ pocket rather than standing with workers,” he said. “We’re not interested in a party that’s not interested in us.”

Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns, who chairs the BFAWU parliamentary group, said it was “sad and regrettable” that the union had decided to leave — “but I’m not at all surprised.

“It seems it is no longer allowed within the party to disagree with an outdated leadership. The suspension of the union’s president was a step too far for a union that defends its members, unstintingly, in very difficult circumstances.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery told the Morning Star that Labour should treat the “terribly disappointing” move from a union with a “fantastic history of struggle” as a wake-up call.

“The leadership should look to rebuild those political bridges that have been dramatically and deliberately burned to the ground in such a short time. Let’s hope we can develop the policies that can encourage and welcome the bakers’ union back.”

Mr Burgon, who chairs the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said the bakers were “a fantastic union that has been at the forefront of fighting for fair pay.

“The Labour leadership must not take working people or their trade unions for granted.”

The Labour Party has been contacted for comment.

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