Blair’s legacy: a break with the unions?

December 13, 2006

If reports in the Guardian (twice), Times and Telegraph are right, Blair’s Christmas present to the Labour party is set to be a proposed break with the trade unions.  Hayden Phillips – the man asked to looked into funding issues surrounding big businessmen buying peerages – seems to have gone off on one and come up with radical proposals on all aspects of party funding. 

Reports have dribbling out of Westminster like undercooked fat out of a turkey’s backside this week, but piecing everything together, Hayden Phillips looks set to propose:

* Capping trade union and corporate donations, lumping collective organisations of millions, with democratic structures and accountability, in the same boat as the spivs and fat cats in the city.

* Ending collective affiliation of trade union members to the Labour party, replacing it with individualised membership for levy payers, direct with the party – not through the union.

* Forcing unions (or the party itself) to check in with members every single yearif they want to continue their new indivdualised membership of the party.  (Unions currently have to consult members in a ballot on continuing collective membership every ten years.)

* BUT – cleverly, Phillips will allow individual members of unions to give “up to £50,000”, just like rich businessmen.  Which is, we’re sure, a huge relief to dinner ladies in UNISON and bus drivers in the T&G.

The proposals have the “sympathy” of the Prime Minister and according to the Guardian, “Mr Blair and Mr Cameron discussed the inquiry during a private meeting last month”.  Labour MPs are apparently up in arms and – the Telegraph tells us – held a meeting on Monday night to discuss the issue.

If MPs are “ballistic” about these proposals, they might want to do something about it.  Someone in the government or in the unions is telling the Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph what is going on — but from where party members are sitting, it looks like all MPs have done so far is having a bit of a meeting.  MP Kevan Jones, in the Telegraph, stuck his head above the parapet, calling TU donations “the most democratic and transparent money of all”.  However, Nick Palmer busy commenting on politicalbetting.com, tells us that the rumours are so bad that they can’t be true. 

That’s not good enough.

Labour people don’t agree on every issue, but there is real consensus across the whole party on the importance of the party-union link.  The bottom line is that if we end the union link – which these proposals would do – then the party is over.  

Since 2003, reports have suggested Blair has been worried that his legacy will the disasterous mess which is Iraq.  But Blair now has a cunning plan to erase that from memory – instead, he is going to leave us a disastrous mess of a Labour Party in meltdown.

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The short straw

December 8, 2006

One of the daily’s trained chimps got the short straw and attended yesterday’s House Magazine conference on the Queen’s speech. The key note speaker was Jack Straw (see what we did there?)

Straw was interviewed on stage by Jon Craig of Sky. At one point, a member of the audience asked Straw about post office closures – Straw scoffed and exclaimed “come on, hands up who’s used a post office in the last few months?”. At a quick count, just over half the audience stick their hands up – putting Jack back in his box.

Craig then asked the audience of about 250 if they wanted Straw to stand in the deputy leader election. About 3 put their hands up. He laughed but according to our man on the scene “it was a bit embarrassing to be honest”.


President Blair goes nuclear

November 29, 2006

Some people talk about Blair being a bit too presidential, but the DTI have just given him a bit of a title bump.

A press release about an upcoming meeting known as the “Franco-British nuclear forum” says that it arises from the: “Franco-British Summit in Paris on 9 June 2006, at which the two Heads of State confirmed their common will to set out their energy policy”.

Here at the Daily, we believe that if Her Majesty wants to be head of state, she should stand in an election, which she would certainly win, however, we would be interested to know how she takes the news that she has a competitor for the ceremonial top spot.


Alan Johnson and the ghost of scandals past

November 25, 2006

As Benjamin mentioned in the last post, rumours have started to circulate about Alan Johnson and one Karl Milner, one of the key players in the 1998 lobbygate scandal. This was half picked up by Jon Henley at the Guardian diary, who posed the question, could this be the same person?

The lawyers no doubt stepped in on that story, but looking around, it certainly seems like Alan Johnson’s donations are being handled by the scandal-ridden lobbyist.  As the site explains, “Paypal account is in the name of the Johnson for Deputy Campaign Trustee K Milner”. It gives the email address K.Milner@Leedsmet.ac.uk.

A bit of a search throws up a PR week article from January 27th 2006, which talks about Karl Milner, Leeds Business School lecturer and Finsbury lobbyist. The Finsbury site, reveals that “Karl worked for Rt. Hon Gordon Brown MP, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer and before that as a Labour Party organiser and assistant to a number of Labour MPs.”

You may remember that Milner was forced to applogise after it was found that he passed confidential parliamentary reports to journalists ahead of publication.

It certainly looks like the same Milner. Anyone out there know for sure and want to tell us?


What is the cost of Hoon?

November 23, 2006

Following the revelation that Europe Minister Geoff Hoon’s new office door plaque now reads, “Minister for Europe – Attending Cabinet”, the
Independent
reports that a Parliamentary Question has been tabled asking to know the cost of the new plaque.

A previous question asked, “What is the point of Geoff Hoon”.


‘Name the date, or we’ll take you out’

November 21, 2006

Michael Connarty MP has an idea in the House Magazine out this week.  It’s a pretty tough proposal:

“Blair will have to name the day he is going and clear up the leadership transition or the unions will have to take him out – they’re the only ones with the muscle”.

The opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect the views of The Daily’s writers.  Well, not all of them anyway.


Hoon do you think you are?

November 1, 2006

The Times has one of the most amusing stories The Daily has ever seen.  Apparently, Geoff Hoon got a right royal ticking off from Margeret Beckett at the FCO pre-meeting for Question Time on Monday.  Beckett is said to have told Hoon he would not be answering any questions on Europe.  After arguing about the fairness or otherwise of that, he was told “I am the Foreign Secretary and that’s it”. He then replied, “Margaret, you can’t stop me from coming to Foreign Office Questions.” She is said to have replied: “Well, I can’t physically stop you.” 

The Daily isn’t a big fan of boxing, but Margeret – we think you could physically stop him.

As an aside, an impeccable source informs us that Hoon, still smarting at his demotion from Secretary of State grade, insisted on the name plate of his new ministerial door saying, “Geoff Hoon, Minister for Europe (entitled to attend Cabinet)”.  Amazing.