Ed Miliband’s decision to use tomorrow’s speech to the TUC conference to stick to his guns over union links with Labour is an act of supreme folly.
He originally announced this own goal as a knee-jerk reaction to false allegations that the Unite union had broken party rules in the run-up to a by-election in Falkirk.
Now that an internal investigation has revealed that neither the union nor two of its members did anything wrong, Miliband ought to have drawn a line under the issue.
He should also have stopped to wonder why he reacted in such a hasty and ill-thought-out manner to an allegation by mischief-makers.
His deputy Harriet Harman rejects an apology, insisting on the leader’s responsibility to investigate serious allegations.
He could have done so while refraining from comment during the investigation, but he treated the allegations as proven and floated a self-defeating “solution” that he passed on to general secretary Ray Collins to flesh out.
Collins has the unenviable task of cobbling together a rule in line with Miliband’s obsession with individual trade unionists joining the party that doesn’t cost the party millions of pounds and put it at an electoral disadvantage.
It’s an all but impossible job, bearing all the hallmarks of, as GMB leader Paul Kenny puts it, something that someone dreamed up after a bad night out.
There is no doubt that what lies behind the individual membership for trade unionists proposal is anti-union spleen.
New Labour has always been hostile to the role played by trade unions in the party they set up. Tony Blair sought alternative funding from big business to sideline the unions.
Blairite sycophant John Rentoul spelt out the new Labour agenda in the Independent on Sunday, insisting on the abolition of collective union influence at annual conference, on the national executive committee and in the national policy forum.
His hostility to trade unions, describing them as “hollowed-out unrepresentative structures” run by the hard left, is matched by his vile characterisation of Kenny as a “mafioso.”
He realises that carving the unions out of the Labour Party will make a dent in its finances for the next election, “which is a brave gamble that deserves to be rewarded.”
Rewarded how? Presumably by Lord Sainsbury and other corporate types resuming their financial handouts to a tamed and house-trained Labour Party.
Unite leader Len McCluskey has already warned that his members are not champing at the bit to join Labour as individual members and who could blame them?
Not only is there scant democratic input within the party over political priorities and selection of working people as parliamentary candidates but the leadership has made no effort to speak out on the issues affecting workers and the poor.
There is no contradiction between trade unions being affiliated to Labour, providing clean, transparent and democratically accountable finance, and individual union members joining the party.
Miliband ought to question why such a traditionally unquestioning supporter of Labour as GMB has been driven to reduce its affiliation contribution.
He might also ask why Labour’s natural supporters who hear nothing about the bedroom tax, higher taxes on big business and the richest in society, public ownership of the railways and utilities, anti-union laws or any proposal at all to reverse the transfer of wealth from poor to rich should feel enthused to join his party.
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