Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comparing influence: Ashcroft vs Unite

For 13 years, Britain's unions have acted like a battered dog who keeps crawling back to its tormentor.

The acute observer may have noted that, whenever the scandal of multi-millionaire non-dom top party donor Lord Ashcroft is brought up, the Tories' default reaction is "yeah but the Unions too, they bankroll Labour".

Let's leave aside the long list of differences (technical, fiscal, substantial, ethical, practical, etc) between the two types of "donations". Let's leave aside "solemn and binding" promises.

The best way to gauge weight and influence as carried by Lord Ashcroft vs the Unions is to check the relationship between donors and political parties.

Not a single senior Tory has publicly said a bad thing against the Belize-based tycoon. They said a lot of things, but nothing bad. And how could they, given that the Baron has pumped around £5m into Tory coffers?

Now look instead at how Labour is actively laying into Unite the Union in the middle of a delicate industrial dispute with British Airways.

There's a trade union "proudly" handing around £3.6m a year to the Labour Party and publicly announcing that they made "tens of thousands of calls" to their members urging them to vote Labour at the forthcoming elections.

So what does the Labour Party do in return?

Public support would be too much, so forget that. How about neutrality and balance in the midst of the biggest industrial dispute of the year so far, that is the British Airways strike?

Fat chance. First, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis echoed BA boss as he called the strike "totally unjustified". "I absolutely deplore the strike", the unelected Baron told the BBC's Andrew Marr, adding that "it poses a threat" to the future of BA.

But Adonis went further. Sounding like your average Daily Mail column, he warned that "passengers should not be held to ransom by [Unite]".

Yesterday Gordon Brown joined in. Again, he slammed the strike as "deplorable and unjustified". Can you imagine David Cameron or George Osborne using those words against their biggest donor?

For 13 years, Britain's unions have acted like a battered dog who keeps going back to its tormentor.

With few exceptions, like the Fire Brigade Union (which, to their honour, disaffiliated in 2004), the unions keep getting the shit kicked out of them by the Party but then always crawl back, cheque in hand, to Master Labour.

1 comment:

Taronja said...

Very good point.
If you take the last 13 years into account the list of Labour-sponsored anti-union policies outnumbers pro-union ones by far.