Could a Hijack by the Unions Save Labour?

After the 42-day detention bill passed, I resigned my membership of the Labour party. At the time I felt disgusted at what the party that I grew up supporting had become, I honestly could not see myself supporting Labour ever again. A month later, the anger has cooled, but I still cannot support Labour until they change direction. The Guardian today reported that the unions, which now contribute around 80-95% of Labour's funding, have given a list of demands to senior party figures. For those of us who want our party back, is this not good news?

Since Gordon Brown's approval ratings dived, this government has been obsessed with running in a popularity contest with Conservatives. They've tried everything to get the public to agree with them, whether it be 42-days, tax screw-ups or begging dictators to pump more oil. The funding crisis that Labour sees itself in could herald change. It is an undeniable fact that Labour would go into bankruptcy or administration if the unions pulled funding. This gives them enormous influence over the party and, while organisations having influence over political parties is usually a bad thing, this could be just what Labour needs restore its fortunes.

According to the Guardian, the unions proposals include "scrapping NHS prescription charges, bringing all hospital cleaning back in-house, legal changes that would to allow councils to negotiate procurement contracts that include fair employment clauses, the right to five days a year paid educational leave for all workers, free school meals for all children in primary schools, and mandatory time off to retrain and all firms bidding to run public services to be required to give guaranteed apprenticeship numbers". Proposals like this are exactly what is needed to bring back supporters, members and voters to the Labour party.

The Conservatives repeatedly try to insinuate that the unions have de-facto control of government policy. While this is far from true, the reason they are spinning this line is because they are well aware that firm policy commitments like the ones listed above are far more attractive to both working and middle-class voters than BS about a 'broken society' but no clear plan about how to 'fix' it. The Conservatives biggest weakness could just be their lack of policy. Attacks about union influence can be easily countered by pointing out that the Conservatives rely not on democratically elected workers groups for funding, but instead on big (often, polluting) business and shady multi-millionaires and billionaires who pay little, if any, tax.

The Conservatives website has not one clear policy about anything, yes it has lovely rhetoric about a moral society with lots of nice values, but no plan how to get there. The demands that the unions are pushing may be expensive, may be opposed by business leaders, but they are undoubtably very good for society. More than that, allowing five days a year paid education leave may seem like not much to most people, but they could be extremely beneficial to the pooreest members of society. A single mother who works five or six days a week to put food on the table for her children can't afford to take time off to get a qualification that would enable her to get a promotion or a better paying job. This scheme, would enable her to get a qualification without losing money.

For too long those living in poverty have been forgotten by society at large, the new power bestowed in the unions could reverse that.

While I was writing this article, the BBC revealed that they had obtained a leaked copy of a new government plan for welfare reform. I don't yet know the detail of it, but from the outline, it would appear that Gordon continues to pander to Paul Dacre rather than those who are fighting in vain for him and his party, such as Polly Toynbee.

If Labour continues on the current path instead of bowing to the unions demands, it needs to be given an ultimatum, get left or get lost. The unions have the power to bankrupt Labour and several government ministers (including the PM) along with it, if Labour continues on the path to the right, they should use it. Better loose power for 5 years than a decade and a half.

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