Oona rejects call she’s dismissive of unions


4:21 pm - August 12th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Oona King’s London Mayoral team strongly pushed back at accusations today that her campaign is dismissive of trade unions and their role.

The controversy arose when blogger Jess Freeman wrote a short piece about Oona King’s event yesterday.

She quotes someone from Oona’s team:

“The problem with the trade-union system is that it is rather outdated,” replied one person on Oona’s team. He continued: “Unions don’t really do anything except give money… I shouldn’t say that.”

The remarks were quickly pounced on by Ken supporters and have been circulating Twitter since.

When I asked Oona’s team for clarification, a spokesperson said they were “astonished” this had become an issue.

The campaign has put out a statement today saying:

As a former Trade Union officer, Oona King knows better than most the positive impact that trades unions make on the lives of ordinary working people in Britain.

Oona is proud to be supported by Usdaw and Community, not to mention thousands of ordinary trade unionists across London.

The spokesperson added: “We are prepared to accept those things have been said, but it’s not an official campaign view.”

He said it was a “sloppy, ill-thought out piece, many of who’s assertions we’re challenging”.

Jess Freeman lashed out at critics by posting another blog earlier today:

To just confirm my journalistic integrity and that of Total Politics, I will confront any criticisms right now. I have not misquoted a team member, I did not mishear and nor am I blatantly lying. And, to clarify, to assume that I can forget two brief lines about trade unions is a little bit rich. In fact, I held sustained conversations about unions all night.

But Oona’s campaign spokesperson rejected Jess Freeman’s assertion earlier that the event yesterday “could only muster around 30 supporters”, and that Oona King had “only just found an office”.

“[The event] was meant to be a low key affair… we were happy with the turnout” (which they put at 50 people).

He also said the campaign had an office since June in Heron Quays and had just moved into a bigger office a couple of weeks ago.

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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


1. Chris Larus

Oona’s campaign might say they are ‘astonished’ this has become an issue, but what will astonish many mainstream Labour supporters is that she hasn’t specifically condemned the remarks.

It’d be one thing if this quote had come from a random person at a hustings who was going to vote for Oona (these ultra-Blairites are out there), but regardless of the exact numbers, this was a very small event which one imagines encompassed much of her core campaign team.

We know these views exist in the party: that trade unions are some backward 1970s institution we should be rid of, but they horrify most ordinary Labour Party members, especially when the union link will be attacked by the ConDems. If these are the sorts of people who make up Oona’s core team, then that’ll be a big turn off for many who aren’t committed to either candidate yet.

In fairness, nothing but consistent. Jim Fitzpatrick, her campaign chair, had earlier called for unions to be excluded from the election process, while she defended the union link (albeit in vague terms).

Her campaign as a whole is effectively playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ with the labour movement in London.

Why Labour people should think unions need copping, now of all times, is more difficult to understand. Completely wrong priorities…

Her campaign should be focussing on policy, not bashing unions out of their place in Labour’s federal structures.

“Unions don’t really do anything except give money…”

Not true. They organise strikes, which never work. They put out press releases, which are rarely read by actual workers. They make speeches on picket lines and demonstrations, which fail to save jobs.

So they do lots of things, beside give their members’ money to Labour in return for zero influence over Labour government policy. But none of those things work.

Someone needs to remind the unions that to most people they are an irrelevance.

When unions understand the power of technological change and globalisation and ensure their members have the education and the skills, either set up their own companies or obtain well paid jobs, then they will become a force for good.

Richard: ‘Someone needs to remind the unions that to most people they are an irrelevance.’

Does that include the six million people who are members of them?

In fairness to Jim Fitzpatrick, he did come up through the union movement. Other than being a government minister, the only other job he’s ever had was as a fireman.

How do think they got their coffeee machines?

I didn’t know that Oona had been a Trade Union officer.

Any of her supporters care to list her achievements whilst in that role ?

OK and what about Livingstone’s attitude to trade unions? Perhaps someone might ask people in RMT and other unions about his conduct when he ran the tube.

10. Peter Cole

Charlie 2
I think they do , the union I belong to is for ever imploring employers and their own members to advance their own skills.
Also they do provide legal employment advice and backing which most people cannot afford.
I agree there are the Bob from RMT types who does not do the union movement any favours.
Blanco what would you replace unions with, nothing ?
Who would look after your rights as a worker ?
Blanco also try to answer without the predictable right wing rant.

11. Peter Cole

As for Ms King
Why does she have to show unions any favour ?
It would be good to have some distance between the left and the unions.

She may well fit in better with the Tories anyway.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Oona rejects call she's dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/bC0Nnm

  2. sunny hundal

    Oona King's team strongly push back at implication she's dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/bC0Nnm

  3. boomnoise

    RT @sunny_hundal: Oona King's team strongly push back at implication she's dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/bC0Nnm

  4. sdv_duras

    love this 'Oona King’s London Mayoral team' in http://bit.ly/bC0Nnm via @libcon it's to be read as read oona king get a secret collective…

  5. House Of Twits

    RT @sunny_hundal Oona King's team strongly push back at implication she's dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/bC0Nnm

  6. Jess Freeman

    RT @libcon Oona rejects call she’s dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/aItaYC

  7. Jess Freeman

    My post's been clocked by @sunny_hundal >> RT @libcon Oona rejects call she’s dismissive of trade unions http://bit.ly/aItaYC

  8. Kate B

    Stick to yr guns, Jess. http://bit.ly/cMNiMb. Like the way Oona's campaign team tries to blame the journalist.

  9. SOCIALIST UNITY » OONA KING CAMPAIGN: YET ANOTHER COCK UP

    […] Hundal has done very well in following up the story up by checking with Oona King’s team. He reports: [Oona’s] spokesperson added: “We are prepared to accept those things have been said, but […]





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