What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Labour and the Unions – branches of the same tree?

As we get ready for Conference and to finally find out who our new Leader is, one thing is sure to crop up in the media.

Like the silly season in August, the ritual attack by the media on Labours “links to the trades unions” has become an established part of our national calendar, almost like The Queens Speech (although only one of these is taking place this year…).

It is high time that we moved beyond our ritual flinching on this issue, and restated the fact about this organic link with organised Labour:

  1. The Labour Party was founded by the coming together of Trades Unions, Co-Operatives, and Socialist Societies and smaller Parties.
  2. Unlike business donations, Trades Union contributions are strictly controlled at source (the individual member) by law.
  3. Businesses do not even have to identify which Parties the contribute to at shareholders meetings, although parties themselves have to make donations of a certain size public.
  4. Political funds of Trades Unions are part of their open accounts.
  5. Lord Ashcroft effectively bought The Conservative Party as a going concern, even though he is a non-dom.

Now there are issues as to internal Democracy within some Trades Unions, and signed off accounts must be clearer and open to all members at all times, but compared to the backing that some other parties receive from shady sources, our trades union sponsors often come out as paragons of virtue. After all, when did your boss last tell you “Thank you for all your hard work this year, you don’t get a pay rise,but instead we are giving £100,000 to The Conservative Party, £20,000 to the Liberal democrats, and retaining an MP from each party as a non-exec Director at £5,000 per year.” ?

Unlike money from, say, the Hinduja brothers, or Formula One, Union money is not only more transparent, but if it comes with strings, they are at least open and honest strings.


The next issue is much more vital. As this coalition’s cuts bite, Trades Unionists will be at the forefront of resistance to the promised butchery of services. It is vital that Labour help to move public opinion both locally and nationally against these measures. This is not simply a matter of MPs on Picket Lines – we have to quickly develop a credible economic alternative to cuts that the public can easily understand. we have to stand up for those who are trying to defend communities, and we have to involve Trades unionists in political battles, such as the Yes campaign on AV. this has to be done at grassroots level to have any chance of being effective.

We must strongly defend the organic link between Unions and Labour, and recognise that , unlike Dave & Co,we really are all in this together…


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