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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
New union boss fires election warning
Tony Woodley
Mr Woodley made his name fighting for car workers
The gap between rich and poor is growing and the Labour Party is losing the confidence of its natural supporters, according to the new left-wing boss of the TGWU.

Tony Woodley - who on Saturday won the race to succeed Bill Morris - said the government had not done enough to improve the lot of British workers.

He argued that the net effect would be a loss of support at the ballot box.

"It's really important that my party ... starts to realise that they are losing confidence and they're losing support from those traditional Labour voters," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Woodley, a self-confessed member of the "awkward squad", a new generation of radical union leaders such as Amicus boss Derek Simpson and ASLEF's Mick Rix, said he was "genuinely grateful" for some of the government's achievements.


"There is no doubt that the government put in place many things that we are genuinely grateful for, including the rights to recognition for trade unions," he said.

"But that doesn't mean, with respect, that they've done enough.

"They are clearly still wedded to the rich and the powerful and to big business and they're not listening to core voters such as myself, who are saying to them 'Please don't forget your roots'."

What we don't want to see is adversarial labour market politics which is only going to worry the boardrooms of the big overseas investors
Digby Jones
Mr Woodley also confirmed he was planning a union summit in an attempt to galvanise efforts on improving conditions for workers.

"Where we can't do that via bargaining we want to pressurise our government to make sure that a minimum wage is not a poverty wage."

In a separate interview with the Times newspaper Mr Woodley added: "If Labour and Tony Blair don't listen to Labour Party activists and trade unions my party could face electoral disaster.

"The awkward squad are a reminder of what Labour should be doing, of the values which some union leaders and politicians have forgotten."

Reinstate Galloway?

Mr Woodley also called for George Galloway to be reinstated - the Glasgow Kelvin MP was suspended by Labour over remarks he made in relation to the Iraq war.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we should have a Labour Party that is tolerant, that allows people to express their views and ideas, without witch-hunts and without being victimised," the new union boss said.

Bill Morris
Mr Morris is to retire from his job
"In Mr Galloway's case, I do find it incredible, and excuse me if I sound a little bit cynical here, we can't find weapons of mass destruction that were on every corner in Iraq supposedly, but we can find one piece of paper that incriminates a person in our country."

Mr Woodley's comments in relation to industrial relations drew a cool response from CBI director general Digby Jones.

He told Today: "It has to be said that what you hear him saying he's going to do, doesn't sort of fill you with confidence that we're going to have a moderate look at the labour market.

"What we don't want to see is adversarial labour market politics which is only going to worry the boardrooms of the big overseas investors.

"Because actually at the moment, business in Britain is doing better than anywhere else in Europe, but we've got to keep it that way.

"And that's a responsibility of him just as much as anybody else."

Car industry

In the ballot to choose the new T&G boss Mr Woodley took 66,958 votes with main rival Jack Dromey garnering 45,136 votes on a turnout of 20.9%.

Two T&G assistant general secretaries were also in the running - Labour Party Treasurer Jimmy Elsby who got 13,336 votes and eurosceptic Barry Camfield who received 28,346 votes.

Mr Woodley, who lives with his wife and children in Ellesmere Port, is currently the 800,000-strong T&G's deputy general secretary and has won plaudits as a negotiator for saving car workers' jobs on Merseyside and in the Midlands.

Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney welcomed the T&G appointment and said he would "look forward" to working with Mr Woodley.

Labour backbencher Alan Simpson said it was "great news".

"This is of enormous importance in that it marks the return of Labour to Real Labour."

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