Just a few brief thoughts, as I’ve been watching BBC News and hearing about the Tories shabby attempt to misuse the proposed legislation for a ‘register of lobbyists’ – the Tories are trying to hijack the bill to – as the BBC puts it – ‘force Labour to defend its union paymasters’.
‘The unions’ are not some massive, monolithic power bloc that is trying to further shady political aims. The unions are you, and me, and millions of ordinary people – and for many of those people, the unions are the only voice we have that is in any way effective in influencing policy at a high level, and the only defence many of us have against exploitation and abuse.
When the Tories spout their usual dismissive, mocking line about ‘Labour’s union paymasters’, what they’re really saying is ‘Labour is funded and influenced by ordinary people. A ‘condemnation’ that all political parties should emulate.
Labour – and I have personal experience of this in various ways – is always operating on a shoestring. The money Labour receives from unions just about keeps it going. For all the uninformed accusations that Labour is just as much in thrall to rich corporate and private interests, Labour doesn’t receive massive private and corporate donations from unaccountable – and usually hidden – interests who expect those interests to be promoted even at the expense of ordinary people.
Contrary to what the Tories would love us to believe, Labour is not swimming in union money. When the party needs to fund campaigns and local or national action, it comes – because it has to – to its membership to seek donations for the fight. And it just about scrapes by.
If the Tories succeed in making it harder for unions to fund Labour, it’s only because they want to starve out the possibility of effective opposition to their plans – and as we’ve seen, those plans bode nothing but ill for ordinary people in general and for the most vulnerable in particular.
The fact that Cameron and co think that sneering remarks about ‘union paymasters’ are actually an insult shows how utterly detached they are from the lives of ordinary people. Used to lavish and usually at least semi-covert funding from their own paymasters – unelected, unaccountable smalls groups of extremely rich and self-interested people who expect repayment with interest for their support – the Tories have no concept of funding as a popular phenomenon. And they don’t care, because they get by just fine as things are – and we can all ‘eat cake’ as far as they’re concerned.
Which would you rather have running the country? A party funded by unions which represent the organised efforts of ordinary people to protect themselves from the powerful – or a party funded by and for the interests of shady individuals and companies bent on exploiting the rest of us ever more efficiently?
No-brainer. I applaud those ‘union paymasters’ for having the best interests of ordinary people at heart and trying to turn that into policy, as indeed they should.