Union leader calls for Blair to quit now

The head of one of Britain’s biggest trade unions has today called for Tony Blair to step down immediately and for Gordon Brown to take over by Christmas.

Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson condemned the “ultra Blairites” who have been attacking the chancellor over the past few days, saying they were obsessed with carrying on a policy more suited to the Conservatives than Labour.

“These ultra Blairites should keep their own council and allow sounder minds to work on the development of new politics that will reconnect with ordinary people,” he said.

“Policies to tackle job security, the pensions crisis and policies to ensure key services remain in the public sector and deliver for ordinary people.”

He added: “If Blair goes now and Brown takes over, working together we can win the elections in May and go on to win the next general election.”

His comments, which come on the eve of Mr Blair’s speech to the TUC in Brighton, follow a day of attacks by union leaders at the Labour leadership.

Unison this lunchtime announced a strike among its members working at NHS Logistics, the firm responsible for supply hospitals with syringes, linen and stationery, which has recently been sold off to a private German firm DHL.

The union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said the action was a warning shot to Labour that it had “ridden our back for too long” and could no longer take the support of either Unison or any other trade union for granted.

“You’ll have to earn it. And it starts with the NHS – let’s see a Labour leadership that abandons the ideological assault on the NHS,” he warned.

During his conference address earlier, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber gave his analysis of the “critical juncture” that Labour now found itself in, which was a “defining moment for progressive politics and all of us who believe in social justice”.

“Now I’m always careful to give ministers praise when it’s due.but it’s also right that we act as a critical friend to this Labour administration and tell them when we think they’re getting it wrong,” he said.

“What pains me are the self-inflicted wounds. An autopilot foreign policy that has tied Britain to the US, regardless of whether our national interest is being served or whether it is the right thing to do.”

He also attacked a “laissez-faire approach” to manufacturing that has seen one million jobs lost since 1997, and a “disturbing faith in flexible labour markets” which left British workers among the cheapest and easiest to sack in Europe.

On public services, Mr Barber added: “On the health service and much besides, we expect better and we demand better.”

The government “need to get your act together,” Mr Barber declared. “Voters need to see a new sense of purpose. Not just competent management, not just policies that people can identify with – but a clear vision. “