Two stories in today’s Times examine the shock revelation that the trade unions, instrumental in the formation of the Labour party, are due to play a prominent role in the forthcoming election. Left Foot Forward looks at the evidence.
Rachel Sylvester in the Times writes that:
Like Lord Ashcroft, Unite has been generous financially, contributing £3.6 million to Labour last year, nearly a quarter of the total donations the party received. Since March 2007 it has given more than £11 million.
The latter is clearly a big number but put in context it looks rather smaller. According to a written parliamentary answer from 2009, 1,291,408 Unite members contribute to its political fund – working out at under £3 per member per year since March 2007. Rather less than the average of £1 million a year donated by Lord Ashcroft’s company Bearwood Corporate Services over the same period.
Meanwhile, Tom Baldwin reports that:
Four of the most recent selections by constituency parties in winnable seats have led to senior trade union officials becoming parliamentary candidates.
But although it may be shocking to those who wish to see the destruction of the trade unions, Unite’s parliamentary group already has 156 members. Indeed, a number of senior Labour politicians of the past and present had prominent trade union backgrounds. These include
• Jim Callaghan – Assistant Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation before going on to become Prime Minister
• Ernest Bevin – General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union and later foreign secretary
• Alan Johnson – General Secretary of the Communications Workers Union and current Home Secretary