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FBU Conference 2022 Union votes against Labour disaffiliation but condemns Starmer's ‘leftist witch-hunt’

FIRE BRIGADES UNION (FBU) members voted against disaffiliation from the Labour Party today, but they condemned Sir Keir Starmer for spearheading the “worst witch-hunt against leftists” in the party’s history. 

On the final day of the union’s annual conference, many delegates expressed grave concerns about Labour’s lurch to the right, but a motion calling on the FBU to sever its formal ties with the party failed to attract majority support.

The union had disaffiliated in 2004 over New Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s participation in the Iraq war, which general secretary Matt Wrack branded a “betrayal,”  but it returned to the fold in 2015, when Sir Keir’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader.

The Firemen’s Trade Union, the forerunner to the modern FBU, first affiliated to Labour in the 1920s, soon after its foundation in 1918. 

Today, several members at the conference in Brighton’s Grand Hotel blasted Sir Keir for writing an opinion piece for the Sun newspaper. 

Referring to the Hillsborough disaster, Merseyside delegate Ian Hibbert said: “For years, the people of Liverpool have suffered through the lies and hatred fuelled by [Rupert] Murdoch and his utter right-wing rag of a paper.”

The former shadow Brexit secretary’s decision to write for the Sun suggests that he wants to “pull back the Union Jack bed covers and jump into bed with Murdoch,” he charged. 

Mr Hibbert, who supported disaffiliation, attacked Sir Keir for removing the Labour whip from Mr Corbyn and bringing back the “stench of New Labour by returning the party to one of abstainers, fence-sitters and Tory enablers.”

Speaking against the motion, FBU black members committee chairman Amit Malde argued: “Starmer is temporary, but the future is socialist.

“We’ve been here for 104 years. Don’t forget, the Labour Party is the political arm of the trade union movement, not the other way round. They don’t control us.

“We shouldn’t let other people make us feel uncomfortable in our own movement.”

Mr Wrack hit out at the current Labour leadership for expelling scores of leftwingers since 2020, but he said that he backed continued affiliation because members would have “less of a political voice outside the party.”

He added: “We need to fight to make Labour worthy of the votes of working-class people. 

“[It] remains a terrain on which we organise. It’s a battleground and we don’t back away from the fight.”

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