Following five years of Tory austerity, the political landscape changed in ways previously deemed unimaginable – 100/1 unimaginable according to bookies’ odds on Jeremy Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader.
New Labour was dead, the middle ground – Ed Miliband – flopped in the 2015 general election, and there was a new direction in the Labour Party. Rebel left-wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn beat the odds and, after scraping onto the Labour leadership nomination shortlist following Ed Miliband’s resignation in May, was elected to become the next Labour leader in a landslide victory in September.
Barely two months later, and just over a decade after the FBU withdrew support for Labour, the union reaffiliated to the party at a special conference in Blackpool on 27 November. The union was keen to back Corbyn’s leadership campaign, and was one of the first unions to do so.
The Labour leader and shadow chancellor John McDonnell co-founded the union’s parliamentary group, and McDonnell, who has chaired the group, has been a staunch supporter of the FBU’s many campaigns and a regular speaker at its conference.
The union noted that under five years of Tory rule thousands of firefighters, hundreds of fire appliances and more than 40 fire stations had been given the chop. The best chance of protecting the fire service, the union argued, was to support and elect an anti-austerity party to government.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:
“Firefighters recognise that the Labour Party has changed for the better since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, who has given our members and supporters hope that we can shift the political debate in favour of working people. We have a Labour Party leader and shadow chancellor who are vehemently opposed to austerity, who are ready to fight for a fair alternative that doesn’t attack the living standards, livelihoods and the hard won rights of working people."
The FBU made history by becoming the first ever union to reaffiliate to Labour.