Who will represent the interests of Labour?

Jon Lansman’s rhetoric in the conclusion here just about sums it up really: “Yesterday on Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics (viewable for  just 6 days), in response to the suggestion that union influence was not really being cut, Chuka Umunna demonstrated little understanding of (and even less respect for) the collective decision-making structures of trade unions. Whilst claiming to “show some respect to individual trade union members“, he showed contempt for the leaders they elect, for the policies and aspirations of their unions, for the very idea of collective representation and action and most especially for the notion that they might collectively have any influence over the Labour Party, in spite of the fact that they will, collectively, retain just about 50% of the votes at Labour’s conference.

Those of us who have always opposed Ed Miliband’s proposal to switch to opt-in, always argued that cutting affiliation levels and then expecting much larger sums to be given as donations would be a hostage to fortune. Yesterday, Andrew Neil predictably argued that the effect of these changes was that the unions would continue to raise money for the Labour Party, but, since affiliation fees would ultimately be reduced, they would provide finance in the run up to an election only if they liked the policies, Chuka Umunna insisted Labour’s policies would not be swayed by the unions’ financial clout:

Well, they won’t ‘have us’, as you put it, but let’s show some respect to individual trade union members. The idea that individual trade union members don’t have their own view and have their own voice and just, say, do what their general secretaries do is completely absurd. They will decide what they want to do and make their own decision and the idea is we want them to make that and not let the leadership of the trade unions decide for them.”

In relation to manifesto commitments, he chose to rubbish the policies of Unite in particular:

Let me go to the money. I mean, first of all, the Labour party manifesto will be an offer that reflect the broad interests of Britain, of the British public. Now, the idea that somehow, you know, people can say ‘well, we’re not going to give you this kind of money unless you do this and that’, we will come up with a policy agenda which is appropriate for the British people, regardless of what, you know, implications that may have financially.

They [unions] won’t be the determining factor on policy. Let me just give you an example – let’s look at Unite, for example, Unite’s advocating a 75% rate of income tax, there is no way we will have that in our manifesto. Unite are advocating taking back in-house PFI contracts on a no-compensation basis, there’s absolutely no way we would agree to that.

Unite are proposing that we unilaterally, say, adopt a Financial Transactions Tax, there is no way we will do that. We will come up with an agenda that is appropriate for the British people.”

Presumably, had Chukka Umunna been able to influence the Trade Union Congress of 1898, he would have urged rejection of the very idea of “securing a better representation of the interests of Labour in the House of Commons” as being contrary to the interests of One Nation.” (http://www.leftfutures.org/2014/02/if-chuka-umunna-shows-contempt-for-trade-unions-who-will-represent-the-interests-of-labour/)

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