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Priti Patel is MP for Witham, and an elected Member of the
Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public
Administration Select Committee

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is meeting this week for their

2013 Congress
. As usual, we will hear union leaders and delegates
reel off the same old dogmatic speeches demanding more public spending,
higher taxes and an end to austerity. Their
agenda and list of motions for debate
offer nothing original. Sounding like a 50 year old broken record,
Unite is demanding “mass industrial action to oppose the cuts”, the PCS
wants “a co-ordinated
programme of industrial action and civil disobedience”, and the RMT are
pushing for a “general strike.” The fantasy of millions of workers
refusing to work and losing money is an addiction that some just cannot
kick.

Union
barons who love the sound of their own voice will take to stage and
erupt with emotion and passion as they call for workers to rise up
against the Government and
crush capitalism. They will turn a blind eye to the 1.3 million new
jobs in the private sector in favour of demands for more equalities
officers, NHS managers and other wasteful non-jobs in the public sector.

There
are also motions opposing the Government’s much needed health,
education and welfare reforms as well as demands for an end to Royal
Mail privatisation and for the
railways to be re-nationalised. The vested interests of individual
trade unions are also clear for all to see. The Society of Chiropodists
and Podiatrists, for example, believe that the nation’s economic, health
and poverty problems can be addressed by more
spending on podiatrists, while Equity want more money ploughed into
local theatres. In addition, we will hear claims from union leaders
about companies and the wealthy dodging taxes. But when the PCS union’s
own

financial report
discloses that they hold equities in Vodafone while their leader, Mark Serwotka, hypocritically 
backs the UK Uncut anti-Vodafone protests, and the GMB’s tax affairs are being looked into by HMRC, their arguments on tax-dodging have no credibility.


Without
doubt, this week we will be entertained with a vision for this country
which will leave Britain transformed not into the socialist/communist
utopia they dream of,
but a bankrupt and barren country, crippled by high taxes and excessive
public spending. Fortunately, few will take the TUC seriously and the
halving of trade union membership numbers since the late 1970s is a
testament to the way that many unions and their
leaderships have become detached from the real world and the workforce.

But
behind all of the rhetoric on cuts, austerity and nationalisation, the
real story to look out for will be the future of the relationship
between the Labour Party and
their trade union paymasters. Last week the GMB, Labour’s third biggest
donor, announced it was cutting £1 million in funding to the Labour
Party by reducing its
current levels of affiliation from 420,000 to 50,000
in 2014. Although this is a sizeable amount of money, the move should not
be viewed as a game-changer in the relationship between Labour
and the unions. Nor should it be viewed as the GMB weakening its
influence on Labour Party decision-making and candidate selections.

Last
week’s decision was made by the GMB’s Central Executive Committee (CEC)
and although there has been much fanfare with this event, they could
easily reverse it. Earlier
this year, the CEC increased the affiliation number from 400,000 to
420,000. The ‘private and confidential’ minutes of their February
meeting stated that the “General Secretary…proposed that this
affiliation number be increased to 420,000 which would better
reflect real membership figures.” Should the Labour Party adopt more
GMB-friendly policies, the affiliation level could rise again.

What’s
more, the decision will not prevent the GMB from making donations to
the Labour Party and it will not stop them from using GMB money to
influence Labour MPs and
candidates. A central tenant of the
GMB’s political strategy
is to use its financial leverage to
influence individual Labour politicians and constituency parties. This
strategy boasts of the introduction of:

 “…annual
evaluations of the work of those MP’s whose constituency received
financial or organisations support from GMB. We have ended our
relationship with some and strengthened
it with others…we want to provide support to those who share our
values politically and this should be done at the expense of those who
seek our financial and organisational support yet fail to grasp the need
for social justice in any context other than
words in a game of scrabble.”

It
is clear from this that regardless of the GMB’s affiliation level with
Labour, they will still use their financial clout to threaten and bully
Labour MPs they sponsor
to do as they command. It is astonishing that for so long the GMB’s
efforts, along with other unions, to exert control on individual
politicians through what could be described as a combination of bribes
and blackmail has not been prohibited by the authorities.
In a report
I produced two years ago I called for the links between trade unions
and the Labour Party to be considered within the context of the Bribery
Act, and feel that this is something that
the Government should give serious consideration to doing. The last
Labour Government dropped policies to part-privatise Royal Mail after
unions threatened to cut off their funding and also introduced
union-friendly policies through the Warwick Agreement in
exchange for donations. Never again should a Government have its tail
wagged by the organisations whose donations the governing party’s MPs
depend upon.

Aside
from holding Labour MPs to account through their financial muscle,
along with the Unite union, the GMB is determined to stitch-up
parliamentary candidate selections.
‘Private and confidential’ minutes from the CEC’s April meeting state
that: “GMB was looking at MPs who were not standing in the 2015 General
Election and were targeting an increase of GMB membership in those CLP’s
in order to influence who is selected as
candidates.” What’s more, the Labour Party’s National Executive
Committee (NEC) has reportedly been favourable to pro-union candidates
winning selections.

When
a trade union candidate was not selected or shortlisted for the
Rotherham by-election, ‘private and confidential’ minutes from the GMB’s
CEC meeting of 4 December
2012 reveal that the NEC were going to review arrangements as they were
unhappy with the process which lead to this outcome. They state:

“The
NEC debated at length the selection process for the Rotherham
by-election. The NEC were unhappy with the process which had a selection
panel with a majority of MP’s
with no CLP representation. Consequently no Trade Union candidate was
short listed, even though all TULO [Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison
Organisation] affiliates had backed the same person. The NEC is to
review the arrangements for by-election short
listing and a more evenly balanced selection panel must be guaranteed
in the future.”

Despite the Falkirk whitewash,

Ed Miliband did claim
that there were “serious issues” with the
Falkirk selection and declared that “all of our parliamentary candidates
must be and will be selected in a fair and transparent way”, Labour
cannot hide from the fact that they are complicit
in the rigging of seats. Come the next General Election, whatever
reforms Ed MIliband talks about introducing, Labour will remain
dependent on the trade unions for money, unions will still select their
candidates and unions will still determine Labour Party
policy.

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