Class war and Party funding….
So, the Conservatives have raised more money in the last quarter of 2009 than both Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined. Que predictable comments from both Labour and opposition commentors either questioning Lord Ashcroft’s contribution or that of the trade unions to Labour depending on whether your party loyalty is tinted red or blue.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives not content with having the advantage want to cement it according to a report in the Daily Telegraph:
Under the Tory plans, union members would have to choose to contribute to the political fund every time they pay their annual subscription.
The argument that there is something inherently democratically wrong with the political levy is a class-war idea if ever there was one. It’s entirely possible to opt-out of the political levy at any time as it is possible to separate a trade union from the Labour Party. Why should the political levy for union members be subject to annual renewal when a properly passed resolution can give the board of directors of a company four years free hand when it comes to political donations?
Looking at the recent figures from the Electoral Commission the possible effects of the Conservatives desire to undermine union funding for Labour are pretty obvious. Donations from companies contributed slightly over £2 million to the Conservative war-chest compared to just over £200,000 to Labour’s. Trade Union funding accounts for 11% of funding to all parties compared to 17% for companies and 64% from individual donations. A reduction would see the unions already marginal influence decline and give the edge to corporate and wealthy individual donors who largely favour the Conservatives. Not only does Cameron want to marginalise the unions but in a rather sneaky, underhand way he wants to terminate the Labour Party not by democratically winning political debate but by depriving it of finance.
However, Labour can and should fight-back rather than relying on the union funding by establishing a much-needed grassroots network of small donors. This would not only pay dividends for the bank balance but would also politically in increased engagement by its supporters and a feeling of ownership and belonging which would make Labour a truly grassroots party.