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Big lies from the Tories

Conservative lies

Grant Shapps reacted to Ray Collins's interim report by asserting that "Ed Miliband has given in to his union paymasters and backed down over reform."

The Tory Party chairman's comment was probably set in stone before Collins released his document.

The Tories are in the pockets of big business and benefit from the most lavish and least transparent donations of any party.

In contrast, trade unionists' contributions to Labour are rigorously monitored and controlled by the law of the land and by unions' internal democratic processes.

Yet Shapps persists with his Goebbels-style big lies that the unions control Labour and that Len McCluskey personally wields extensive power within the party.

Some might believe that the Labour Party would be better served if either of these propositions held water, but neither individual unions nor their elected leaders seek such a situation.

They want Labour to have a larger individual membership and for unions to have a collective voice within it.

The Tories, whose individual membership continues to plummet, all but halving to 134,000 today from 253,000 when David Cameron became leader in 2005, want neither.


Their prime concern has always been to weaken the unions, both to prevent workers from maximising their share of profits that their labour power produces and to starve Labour of finance.

They reduced Labour's affiliated union membership from 3.2 million in 1927 to barely two million the following year by forcing trade unionists to opt in individually.

Premier Stanley Baldwin's vindictive ploy was reversed in 1946 by Clem Attlee's Labour government, bringing a surge in affiliated membership from 2.6 million to nearly 4.4 million.

Individual Labour membership at the time stood at around 600,000 rather than today's 187,500.

It beggars belief that trade unionists or other supporters are holding fire on individual membership because of concerns about supposed excessive union power in the party.

Most people will be gobsmacked that the party leadership remains gripped by this matter when the police and an internal party inquiry have pronounced it a non-issue.

Labour membership stood at such a high level in the postwar period because working people believed that they had a party to prioritise their concerns and legislate in their interests.


Miliband claims today that it would be "financially irresponsible" to pledge repeal of the Tories' bedroom tax if Labour were elected, while shadow Treasury secretary Chuka Umunna declares that committing the party to return Royal Mail to public ownership if the conservative coalition succeeds in privatising it would be "completely irresponsible."

Thank goodness Attlee, Nye Bevan and company weren't as scared of their shadows as their successors and didn't hide behind the widespread bomb damage and huge national debt incurred in defeating fascism to avoid committing themselves to radical policies.

Far from being irresponsible, it would be the height of responsibility for Labour to warn Royal Mail speculators that they will be stung.

It would also put meat on the bones of Miliband's "cost of living crisis" rhetoric if Labour pledged to end the privateers' grip on the natural monopolies of rail, water, gas and electricity that is holding working people to ransom.

Labour members should take Diane Abbott's advice to express their backing for the "historic connection between the trade unions and the Labour Party."

They should also tell the leadership to put pro-working class policies before Tory media-dictated constitutional flim-flam.


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