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.