UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Political rights of union members under attack‏

Back in May the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement included a reference to pursuing ‘a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics’. This was widely seen as a veiled reference to curtailing union funding for the Labour Party. Subsequently the Committee on Standards in Public Life has commenced a new inquiry into political party finance http://unisonactive.blogspot.com/2010/11/political-party-funding-under.html

Yesterday another line of attack was launched on the union labour link. The Times reported on an investigation into ‘the fall of New Labour’ which involved talking to over 40 key figures from the Blair and Brown eras.

The Times report is not available on line without a subscription but it contains unprecedented anti union vitriol from former Cabinet Ministers, bitter at the defeat of David Miliband in the leadership contest:

- Margaret Hodge says ‘Ed got the job, David won the contest – that’s terrible’. A view echoed by Alan Milburn ‘the Labour Party electorate voted for the new Labour candidate’. Both rejecting the democratic legitimacy of the political levy paying trade unionists that collectively have been a life support machine for the Labour Party since its inception and remain so today.

- Peter Mandelson says if Labour had been in power the country would not have worn the result being determined by ‘a small minority of union members’

- On the same theme an unnamed creep who was a member of the last Labour Cabinet says ‘Tony should have imposed changes in 1997 and there should have been mass lobbying of trade union members to become individual members. He didn’t. And that’s how we’ve ended up with a situation where five trade union leaders meeting in a telephone box can decide the leader..’. a contemptible analysis straight out of a Daily Mail editorial.

Hodge goes on to show her hand by wishing that Tony Blair had ‘cut the umbilical cord’ with the trade unions that are ‘becoming increasingly irrelevant in British society anyway’.

There are indications that Ed Miliband will use his leader’s speech at next week’s Gillingham National Policy Forum to launch a commission on party reform. The irony is that any Labour Party internal review will take place parallel to the Committee on Standards in Public Life inquiry where the unions (and the Labour Party?) will be extolling the virtues of Labour’s broad church constitutional arrangements. Judging by the pre-emptive strikes of the Blairites, it will require a massive effort by the 15 affiliated trade unions to retain the democratic rights of those union members who pay the political levy and in doing so sustain the Labour Party as a viable nationwide political organisation: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/labour/8142072/Ed-Miliband-urged-to-loosen-Labours-ties-with-trade-unions.html

Meanwhile the right rub their hands with glee… http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6474398/ed-miliband-has-a-choice-to-make-about-the-unions.thtml