Figures from the Electoral Commission show that on December 14 last year Unison gave the Labour Party an early Christmas present of £368,045. There were a few other smaller donations on top – £6,000 for the London Region Labour Party, £3,000 for the Rugby Labour Party and so on.
Unison has 1.34 million with only 1.3% opting out of the Political Levy. However for reasons I don't quite follow they affiliate 883,562 members to the Labour Party. This gives the union a significant chunk of the votes – around 5% – in electing Labour leaders. The unions altogether have a third of the votes in the Electoral College. They also have huge clout when it comes to candidate selection in constituencies – not just Parliamentary candidates but also council candidates. Under the rules each Constituency Labour Party is supposed to have a Local Government Committee to choose Labour council candidates. Each committee has a membership which "include representatives from trade unions."
In my borough the approach isn't particularly subtle. Scaremongering leaflets are being put out on estates telling tenants with the headline "Be afraid" and carrying the claim that a Tory Government would mean them being given "just two months notice to leave." With both the Unison and Labour Party logo it says itt is published by "Unison Labour link." Readers are urged to visit a website run by New Labour PR firm called Game Changer.
The problem that Unison represents for the Labour Party comes in policy terms. When Labour councillors and Council candidates go out canvassing they must be aware of how unpopular Council Tax rises are and how they hit the poorest hardest. Many must also have become aware of misspending and inefficiency within Town Halls. Often the ideological baggage many of them have of supporting tax and spend is so heavy they would disregard such matters. But there is also the further reason that they are beholden to Unison who demand Council Tax rises. Their Head of Local Government has denounced seeking Council Tax cuts as "macho" and part of the "male-domiinated world" of local government. Curiously I am yet to encounter a female Council Taxpayer in my borough who has raised this objection to a lower Council Tax bill.
Unison may provide Labour candidates with lots of money for glossy leaflets and support from PR firms. But they also impose the electoral abatross on them of hiigh Council Tax policies.