Labour must defend trade unions place in politics…
Every time the Electoral Commission favours us with one of its insights into where precisely political parties get their money from a rash of headlines run like rabies across the right-wing press ‘revealing’ the ‘shocking’ fact that alot of Labour Party funds come from the trade unions. Accusations and implications are made about what exactly this money buys them. The truth, an occasional pat on the head and if they are really lucky sometimes a flirty wink, is a story that is rarely told. Hardly surprising because that wouldn’t fit the meme of those who want to claim that the trade unions are somehow buying alot more.
Before you shrug your shoulders and say well ‘oh those scamps at Torygraph HQ, whenever will they learn’ consider the fact that it’s not just the right-wing press that goes in for this kind of thing. So-called ‘progressives’ writing from the ivory towers of the New Statesman have a go as well. George Eaton argues that while there is ‘no comparison’ between this and ‘big money’ donations to the Conservatives from the City (perish the thought);
it remains unhealthy for the party to be so reliant on only a few sources of income. Widening Labour’s funding base remains a critical challenge for Ed Miliband – one that he must now address.
Unhealthy for whom precisely? You see, underlying all this is a rather sinister, democratically speaking at least, implication that the trade unions simply have no right to be involved in politics in any way shape or form. Obviously, the likes of Mr Eaton would much prefer it if trade unionists knew their place and practised their politics in private. Forget the fact that politics shapes our entire world; including the world of work and run along and play ball nicely.
I am sure Eaton was much happier when Labour was the apple of the City’s eye and as the money rolled in the Party lost every last marble in the set and gleefully paved the way directly, though its laissez faire attitude, for the current mess we find ourselves in. However, those of us who treasure democracy think the unions have a right to actually be involved in politics and the political process. They are actually entitled to a voice and to be heard. Imperfect and democratically flawed though this process is, the exclusion and marginalisation of the unions and the silencing of their political voice would be yet another blow for capitalism and against democracy.
You might expect the Labour leadership to articulate this sentiment however you would be wrong. They act like a guilty child caught with their hand in the sweetie jar. Witness this pathetic effort:
A Labour spokesman said: “It would be wrong to suggest unions are the sole source of our funding.”
Stuff like this raises less questions about the unions ‘influence’ over Labour and more about the wisdom of the unions showering the Party with cash in the first place. Apparently, a generous deed should not be chaffed with cold counsel. If that is the case then, amoung other things, the leadership, as well as being rather lame, is also downright rude in its lack of gratitude. Democracy enshrines the right for the unions to have a voice and a place in politics. Labour should remember its roots and have no qualms about saying so.