Unions are propping up the Labour Party


2:48 pm - January 8th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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George Eaton at the New Statesman illustrates how dependent the Labour Party has become on money from the unions.

As donations from the rich have dried up, the party has become increasingly dependent on trade union money (see graph).

In the first nine months of 2009, trade unions accounted for 72 per cent of the total £10.9m in donations to Labour, up from 52 per cent in 2008. Back in 1994, when Tony Blair became Labour leader, trade unions accounted for just a third of the party’s annual income.

While such dependency is an issue for New Labour, it is also an issue for the trade unions who will increasingly ask whether it is worth their while to prop up the Labour Party when it is doing little to support workers’ rights, or build a broad membership base.

Eaton adds:

Meanwhile, the unions may begin to question whether they are getting value for money. The tightest squeeze on public spending since the 1970s and a cap on public-sector pay rises may lead members to challenge union heads over donations.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


It still amazes me that Unions are allowed to donate their members’ money to Labour without giving them the option to give to someone else.

The other interesting thing about that graph is the series of peaks.

2001 – 2005 – 2007. Seems even the Unions thought they were funding an election

Oooh, I dunno, I think the unions are getting a great deal.

Labour Party government, passes law to give unions money.

http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/trade-union-rights/modernisation/page16097.html

Unions then donate money to Labour Party.

Don’t forget folks, money is fungible!

Not sure why anyone should be ‘amazed’ that the unions are ‘allowed to donate their members’ money to Labour’. After all, the unions were fundamental to the founding of the Labour Party.

At least if you join a union you know the score and have a clear choice. Not so with the massive donations made by big business to the Tories; taken out of the money we all hand over to them in return for goods and services.

4. Shatterface

The Labour Party broke the political link with the unions – not us. It’s only common sense to cut the umbilical. Let those who profit from Labour fund the fuckers.

Jenni @ 3

the massive donations made by big business to the Tories

You mean the ones made by Bernie Ecclestone, the Hindujas, Lakshmi Mittal, Lords Drayson, Paul and Sainsbury, Ronnie Cohen, John Aisbitt, Stefanos Stefanou, Martin Littler, Bill Bottriell, Sonny Leong and by the friends of Michael Levy and Jon Mendelsohn?

…. oh silly me, sometimes it’s hard to remeber which side business is on.

It still amazes me that Unions are allowed to donate their members’ money to Labour without giving them the option to give to someone else.

Are you really amazed that a government formed by the Labour Party has not passed a law to make it harder for the unions to give their members money to the Labour Party?

Still, I suppose this makes it clear why the increase in public sector productivity under Labour has been nil.

The Trade unions represent 6-7 million people in this country, all who live and pay tax here.

The tory party is bankrolled by about 2000-3000 people. Forget the jam makers at the WI, the tory party relies heavily on a handful of business men, some of which pay no tax in this country.

All trade unions have to have edited accounts, and have to declare what money they have given to any political party. All their political positions are quite open a can be seen and read by anyone. Contrast that with the secretive tory party, and the shadowy figures that fund them.

By the way thanks to Phil Hall ,for once again pointing out that New Labour is basically tory with all those big business donations..

The Labour Party broke the political link with the unions – not us.

Who the frig is US?

9. Shatterface

‘Who the frig is US?’

I doubt it includes you.

Are you in a union? I mean a proper one, not a pretend one like a student union?

Ever been on strike? Ever put the interests of colleagues above your own? Forced managent to back down? Actually change working conditions for the better?

That’s who I mean by ‘us’.

Shatterface, I thank you for qualifying who you mean by us. But I think your tone is not needed. I am on your side with this one.

11. Andrew Phillips

What is meant by the Political Levy?

The political levy is a sum which is generally automatically deducted from a member’s Union dues (except in Northern Ireland where you have to opt-in). This money is generally used, directly or indirectly, to provide finance for the Labour Party. The present levy system is one which ensures that inertia and lack of knowledge by many Union members keeps Labour Party coffers brimming with the contributions of those who would not make such payments voluntarily. It is in the interests of Labour Party timeservers within the establishment Unions to keep things this way.

Must I pay the political levy?

Not if you don’t wish to. By law your Trade Union must furnish you with a form to ‘opt out’ of the political levy if you ask for one – but you must ask. Labour timeservers will try to discourage this.

Not quite sure why this is news. Trade Unions have been “propping up the Labour Party” since the Party was founded – large private sector donations have usually been pretty rare (the Blair years were exceptional) and (outside a few cities, London included) Labour was never established as a proper mass-membership party along the lines of the SPD. The tension between the interests of Labour-in-government and those of large numbers of (usually public sector) Trade Unionists is hardly a new development either.

Tories just hate the idea of lots of low income people getting together and raising huge amounts of money to fight them politically. They have been banging on about the unions for the last 75 years.

Because tories believe they have a divine right to rule, and if only rich people could fund parties, and those nasty little poor people would piss off then they would be able to govern for a thousand years.

We don’t know exactly who has funded the tory party for the last 60 years because most of it has been kept secret. I wonder why? Are these people so ashamed at being named as tories? Are they foreign? Are they crooks? We simply don’t know.

But what we do know is that tories will go on whinging about the unions.

All you tories attacking the unions……….

“The Tories have said they would investigate claims that they had failed to declare the true sources of almost £40,000 of donations.

A series of cash gifts between 2005 and 2008 were registered with the Electoral Commission as coming from a company called Unicorn Administration.

According to The Sunday Times, however, the money had been paid by Unicorn on behalf of a number of donors including Zac Goldsmith, now the party’s candidate for Richmond Park.

The other donors were said to be Mr Goldsmith’s brother Ben and property developers the Reuben brothers.”

Dear Tories, fuck you!

Tories just hate the idea of lots of low income people getting together and raising huge amounts of money to fight them politically. They have been banging on about the unions for the last 75 years.

More like 175 years.

Binny:
“It still amazes me that Unions are allowed to donate their members’ money to Labour without giving them the option to give to someone else.”

Except that this isn’t true.

1) Unions donate from the political levy
2) Members can individually opt out of the levy. On joining, and then either voluntarily, or once over few years when the union has to check members’ options, a member can decide to not contribute and, if they choose, use the money they save on their dues to donate to whichever political cause they like
3) Unions can, if directed by members through delegative democracy, choose to donate to whoever they like. Just as we’ve recently seen unions openly discussing dis-affiliation from Labour, they can – through a conference debate – mandate the direction of spending.

And as for the OP, it’s not really news. The Labour Party was always reliant on unions for money. The Osbourne Judgement of 1909 could have crippled the Labour Party.

At least if you join a union you know the score and have a clear choice.

When I joined a union no one told me the score and gave me a free choice.

First time I have ever volunteered for something without even knowing there was something to volunteer for, much less that I had volunteered for it.

I wonder if I have volunteered to give part of my income tax to Labour, too.


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