A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, December 10, 2007

LabourHome floats wrecking of the union link

Labourhome seems to rapidly be becoming a repository for ill-thought out ideas.

Last week Alex Hilton was naming - when they have no right of reply as they are staff - party officials he thought should not be allowed to become General Secretary.

Today he and commenters are in this thread - http://www.labourhome.org/story/2007/12/10/34955/147 - casually floating the mutilation of the Trade Union link by halving the number of union reps on the Party NEC. Some idiot bizarrely calling themselves "TrueLabour" wants only 3 union places.

Why would the unions as a whole bother affiliating to the Labour Party if their voice on the NEC was hacked in half? Particularly why would the smaller unions stay affiliated when only the big 3 or 4 would be sure of getting any representation?

Most Labour Party members at least pay lip service to the union link. But this post shows that in practice too many people don't get that it's a two way street - no taxation without representation.


Blogger Merseymike said...

I think the issue is, though, that the recent funding matters have turned attention back to the union link, and that the Tories are certainly keen to remove it as much as possible.

It is certainly the case that labour needs union dues just as the Tories need the funds of big business to pay the bills.

I don't have a problem with a wholesale look at funding politics in the UK. But I think the danger is that the Tories will want to preserve their 'scams' - Ashcroft, faceless consortia - and labour will want to preserve current union funding.

Both will have to be open to change if there is to be a solution. Otherwise, we just leave ourselves open to unilateral action should the tories get back into power. ideally, we need some sort of cross-party agreement.

I think that those who are making suggestions are being practical - and if you think things can carry on as they are for either party, that is being naive.

12:27 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous James said...

There has been a marked increase in this type of bizarre behaviour from the top of the party down.

The idea that we should turn on the unions, whether by slashing their representation on party bodies, or by restricting their ability to donate to the party, is utterly idiotic.

The party faces a number of problems, whether it is over donations, falling membership, disconnection with core or swing voters, or whatever. It's not just that these problems are nothing to do with our relationship with the unions, but they'd actually be markedly worse were it not for the link.

And besides this, it's hardly the time for navel gazing - doesn't LabourHome have any tory bashing to do?

1:35 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous Alex Hilton said...

I'm not attacking the union link at all - though I will concede that there are those who will use the thread to do so.

What I have said is that it would be logical for the make-up of the NEC to reflect the make-up of our electoral college. 1/3 Unions and affiliates; 1/3 Members; 1/3 PLP/EPLP

Most of all, I wanted to stimulate some discussion over how we can get the NEC to provide a better standard of governance of the party so we don't find ourselves again facing a merde-ridden fan due to bureaucratic obfuscation.

But pressing for the party to be more member-focused does not necessarily mean attacking the TU link. Personally, I'd like to see the RMT and the FBU affiliating again.

Come to the site Luke and chip in your thoughts.

all the best


2:09 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

I don't want to break the union link at all.

I'd just like to turn the argument round and say that CLPs are chronically UNDER represented on the NEC. Just six out of thirty-three seats are directly elected by party members. How on earth can that be fair?

While we should all acknowledge the financial support of the unions and be proud of the historic link, we are the MEMBERS, and we’re the ones who actually do the hard work in keeping the party functioning. Surely we should be able to directly elect more than 18% of members of the party’s governing body.

Also, while we’re on the subject, the youth rep should be elected by OMOV amongst young members, not that rather small and not very representative number who can find the funds and the time to trek to Spring Conference.

2:59 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous John said...

It makes me so angry that the Tories are using the funding fracas as a cover for attacking the union link - there is all the difference in the world between low-paid public-sector workers, cleaners and train-drivers paying into their political fund (out of choice) with small amounts which together cumulate into large quantities of money, and a small number of millionaires giving away their fortune. A party which represents the masses should be able to benefit from the financial support of the masses, and while it clearly shouldn't be in hock to millionaires, that's an entirely separate issue. The fact of the matter is that the Tories know they can never have the kind of support Labour has because their supporters have no sense of solidarity, and they're desperate to rid us of ours. I truly hope we don't walk into the trap, as it would be the end of Labour as we know it. you are not often right Luke, but if you support the union link, I'll be happy.

3:03 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous Penny said...

Frome the Hackney Gazette 07/12/08
Hot on the heels of Lone Star Hackney Homes the council has been awarded a lowly "one-star" rating for its leisure centres, parks, libraries and museum by the government's financial watchdog.

The town hall was given one out of three stars when its cultural services were inspected for the first time by the Audit Commission, which checks that public money is spent effectively.

Slap on the back for you Luke. Well done comrade

4:12 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous James said...

Ian G - levy paying members of Trade Unions are members of our party too, and trade unionists do as much at election time as people who are direct members of the party. That's not to say your wrong about the composition of the NEC, but we mustn't get drawn into an "us and them" approach to the unions.

4:20 pm, December 10, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


watch this space in I think February for a rather more positive announcement about the Audit Commission's overall rating of Hackney Council.

4:28 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous lord london fields lido said...

Labourhome seems to rapidly be becoming a repository for ill-thought out ideas.

Bit like your blog then, Luke?

8:42 pm, December 10, 2007

Blogger John Gray said...

Hi Luke
While I think it’s a bit unfair to shoot Alex for some silly comments that have been posted on his thread. Your point about the importance of trade union representation on the NEC is well made (admittedly I am a regular trade union Labourhome contributor).

I’m sure that you did not mean to upset anyone.

10:22 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous Alex Hilton said...

I think Luke was actually referring to my comments on Labourhome, but it's a bit naughty to suggest increasing the number of CLP delegates would destroy the union link.

Luke, would you support or oppose a doubling of the number of CLP delegates to 12, to equal the Trade Union delegation?

A specific distinction is the the Union officials are appointed by their Unions and not elected to the task by their members. They are not independent voices but are instead tasked with negotiating thei bodies position.

The CLP delegates on the other hand are independent voices who have to campaign to be elected and to merit their seat at the table.

I value that.

11:31 pm, December 10, 2007

Anonymous Anj said...

Did anyone see Matthew Parris's article in The Times the other day attacking the union link...

"You will see at once that the connection between the individual union member and the Labour Party is a convenient fiction. However ancient, the situation is scandalous; but its antiquity has created difficulties for all the opposition parties in raising awareness and exciting the indignation that the circumstances merit. I've seen fellow commentators describing it as “an old chestnut” or “something the Tories have been going on about for about a hundred years”. How can opposition parties challenge these world-weary sighs?"

"But for Labour this is a terrible debate to get into, not least because there's reason to think union practices may already be illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000; and, if not already illegal, may be outlawed by EU-inspired legislation coming into effect next year, according to which it will be an offence to induce anyone to enter a contract by “omit[ing] or [hiding] material information, or [providing] it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner”."

"I feel a twinge of sympathy for Labour traditionalists. It is difficult making the case in 2008 for what in the context of 1908 was perfectly logical, even noble."

12:20 am, December 11, 2007

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

"A specific distinction is the the Union officials are appointed by their Unions and not elected to the task by their members."

That is an internal matter for the trade unions to reform, surely?

As it happens, my union has two seats on the NEC, both of which are elected positions: President and Deputy General Secretary.

11:34 am, December 11, 2007


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