When open and transparent Tom Watson quit the Shadow Cabinet he pretended he wanted the Falkirk report to be published, whinging that “I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.” Well with the report leaked this morning, for some reason Watson is keeping quiet, spending the day tweeting about Led Zeppelin. Could that be anything to do with it containing damning evidence that “a batch of approx 40 application forms was received by the party with a letter from Len McCluskey stating that Tom Watson said they were OK”, and that, crucially, regarding Unite’s “recruitment work”, “Tom Watson had given it the go ahead”. The conclusions of the report have Unite bang to rights:
Finally confirming what we knew all along. No wonder Miliband wanted to keep it secret…
Ed’s proposals are being briefed out. At first glance they seem a sensible attempt to reduce control of the Labour Party by union vested interests. As always the key factor is money. Here it doesn’t look so good. The unions seem to keep control of the purse strings:
“…for too long we have operated with structures which were laid down in a different era which did not anticipate the new forms of communication and community activism available for a modern political party.
And, in a 21st Century political party, it is no longer acceptable or fair for people to give money to it without having made an active choice as individuals to do so.
So every individual member of an affiliated trade union will be given a straight “Yes or No” choice about whether they want to pay a small sum to ensure their union’s voice is heard within the party.
Trade unions will continue to affiliate collectively to Labour but, for the first time, the payment of affiliation fees will become a wholly transparent process based on individual positive consent.
These reforms will be introduced during 2014 and will apply to new members of affiliated organisations first. It will be fully implemented for existing members of such organisations within five years – which is the time frame recommended by successive reports into the future of political funding by Sir Gerald Hayden Phillips and Sir Christopher Kelly.
During this period, affiliated organisations will be encouraged to help the party maximise the number of people who agree to pay an affiliation fee.
At the end of this period, the affiliation of each organisation will be determined by the number of members who have consented to the payment of affiliation fees. Only those who have made a positive choice to pay affiliation fees will be counted.”
These reforms are a good start, unfortunately it is still the case that he who pays the piper calls the tune…
UPDATE: Source says “it’s a five-year plan. And anything political phased in over five years is unlikely to come to pass.”
Dozens of Labour MPs are expected to quit before the next election yet even before they’ve gone the stitching-up of seats has begun. Ed Miliband claims he wants to weaken the union hold over his party, yet he’s happy to play their games when an ally is involved. Guido is expecting an announcement that Labour MP Austin Mitchell isn’t going to be running again in Grimsby and all the stops are being pulled out to secure the seat for former Labour HQ staffer Melanie Onn. Miraculously Onn was given a cosy regional campaigning role with Unison. Labour insiders say she got the gig at Ed’s personal request. That must be Ed’s promised ‘new, more open politics’ in action.
Back at Labour HQ, increasingly isolated General Secretary Iain McNicol does not enjoy the confidence of Ed Miliband. Since the arrival of Spencer Livermore, McNicol has been further sidelined. Bored of spending lots of his time touring constituency branches to keep him out of harm’s way in Labour HQ, he is now insisting on being involved in campaign planning meetings. This has proved somewhat irritating to Livermore who wants him out, something to which Miliband is sympathetic. McNicol, who owes his appointment to union votes on the party’s National Executive Committee, is now calling in favours from his union friends to make sure his position is secure against him being pushed out. Given the unions pay Labour HQ’s wages this means Ed Miliband may not get his way. So much for redefining that relationship…
The Department for Education have cracked down on taxpayer funded pilgrims. Launching new guidance for schools, David Laws has declared that “no teacher funded by the taxpayer should work full time on union work” and “the Department for Education expects all trade union representatives to spend the majority of their working hours carrying out their school-based jobs”. “We believe that it should be possible for local union representatives to fulfil their main union duties in one day a week or less”. Gold star.
The ‘Family and Childcare Trust’, a so-called charity made up of union-backed Labour luvvies, has been warned by the Charity Commission over its surprising inability to remain politically neutral. The Trust’s chief executive Anand Shukla is a former Labour candidate, and it used to be run by Bad Al Campbell’s missus Fiona Millar. By their own admission, this definitely unbiased charity “has worked with Unison to provide support to local campaigning groups against cuts”. Hardly a shock then that the Charity Commission warns that “public perceptions of its independence could have been adversely affected”. They are taking action, confirming to Rob Wilson MP that they will: “contact the charity trustees to raise this issue and provide regulatory advice on the need to maintain the charity’s independence”. Tut, tut.
Richard Burgon is a classic example of a union-backed carpet bagger. Endorsed by Unite, the GMB, the CWU, ASLEF and UCATT, Burgon will be the candidate for anywhere that will take him, already trying and failing in Rotherham and Barnsley Central. This week, with Unite sponsoring him all the way, literally providing the free beer and sandwiches, he will host a Q&A session alongside Leeds East MP George Mudie, who he now hopes to succeed.
According to the website of the Communist Party of Britain, Burgon is a regular attendee of communist events across the North. He was the guest speaker at the annual Yorkshire Communists’ Red October meeting, which apparently consisted of “celebrations of the Russian Revolution of 1917 by declaring ‘Red October’ throughout the region”. Back in 2011, Burgon was a tutor at the self-described “Communist University of the North”, where among other things students paid homage to military dictator Fidel Castro. If he ever manages to win a selection, Burgon might just become the looniest loony left in parliament…
Miliband’s “Spokesman on Trade Unions & Industrial Relations” Ian Murray will be forced to apologise to the House this afternoon by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner after he failed to declare his interests regarding his union paymasters while legislating on, ironically, the Transparency in Lobbying Bill. Whoops.
The Collins review into Labour’s links with the unions has evoked a response from Len McCluskey. Guido has the official response of the Unite Executive Council. In summary it is “Sod Off Mililband”.
- Unite refuses to accept any reduction in the 50% union conference vote.
This letter delivered to MPs’ offices this week is just plain weird. Claiming to be from the special few who remain at Britain’s ill-fated Socialist Party, and also representing the militant PCS trade union, their plan to “support the Co-op” is quite something:
“Here is the battle plan agreed by the PCS, the Socialist Party, the trade unions and the unemployed.
In the Guardian Patrick Wintour is reporting that Labour are going to shelve any idea of reforming trade union control of the Labour Party before the general election for fear of losing funding. Jim Kelly, chair of the London region of Unite, is blunt:
“Our executive has got to keep a collective voice and that collective voice has to be expressed through the block vote at a decision-making party conference where unions keep 50% of the vote.
Full marks to Labour foghorn Tom Blenkinsop, who is missing no opportunity to line the pockets of his paymasters with taxpayers’ money. Blenkinsop is a classic ‘re-renter’, he claimed £4,000 last year for constituency office rent in a building owned by his own local Guisborough Labour Party.[…]
Miliband did not have time to make the short journey from Edinburgh to Falkirk last week, but he couldn’t have been clearer about where he stood:
“I think it’s important we look at anything that is said to be new evidence.”
Five days later and that “new evidence” of which Ed spoke has arrived – three different, damning pieces of new evidence, in fact.[…]
It’s donations day again. The top ten donors in Q3 were:
Unite the Union : £777,740
Mr John Griffin: £500,000
The Co-operative Group (CWS) Ltd: £389,723
Mr Michael S Farmer: £250,000
Mr James R Lupton: £250,000
Communication Workers Union (CWU): £186,409
Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd: Liberal Democrats £167,667
Ed still happy to take Lennie’s dirty dollar.[…]