Friday, 19 March 2010


Is it dumber & dumber Derek or will it be Lord Simpson of Stalybridge?

WITH the UNITE union giving £11 million to the Labour Party since 2007, last Monday on Radio 4 it was astonishing to hear Derek Simpson, one of the joint UNITE General Secretaries, declare that the recent attacks of Gordon Brown on the union's decision to launch a strike at British Airways - only goes to show the Government is not in the union's pocket or words to that effect. £11,000,000 of UNITE member's money going to the Labour Party and nowt to draw?

Some say this money is allowing UNITE, through its Political Director and Downing Street groupie, Charlie Whelan, to place UNITE candidates in constituencies such as Stalybridge & Hyde; where the Labour Party is looking for a successor for James Purnell, former Work & Pensions' Minister. On Wednesday, Nick Robinson, the BBC's political correspondent on Radio 4, drew attention to UNITE's role in the struggle going on in that constituency Labour Party association. Purnell's entry in the Register of Member's Interests shows the Stalybridge & Hyde Constituency Labour Party got £2,000 from the UNITE union - or rather, from the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers as it then was, in 2001: it is not clear if this record is up to date and Purnell's local Party didn't receive anything after that date (see Northern Voices 11 - out shortly). At least one UNITE Branch Secretary in the North West has been seeking information about details of political payments from the union to regional MPs like Purnell and their constituency associations. Mr Purnell had displayed some wrongheadedness in his MP's expenses claims: most notoriously hundreds of pounds for some fridge magnets. As yet, this Branch Secretary has only been told that UNITE pays money to the Labour Party constituency associations, not the Labour MPs.

In the February/March issue of UNITE's 'The Workplace Reporter', the joint UNITE general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, say: 'The Tories will do nothing to help hard pressed communities.' What would those Northern folk who are right now having their houses bulldozed by New Labour's HMR Pathfinder Project in Derker, near Oldham, and in Toxteth, Liverpool, on the famous 'Welsh Streets' (see below and in Northern Voices 11, out this month), have to say about that? Then our dynamic duo, Simpson and Woodley, say hopefully: 'Of course, we also need positive reasons to back a fourth Labour term.' Then comes their act of faith: 'We believe that Labour's manifesto will offer them, and will make a shift towards the values of traditional social democracy.' One might like traditional furniture, or traditional music or even traditional food, but 'traditional social democracy' - well I don't know about you, Derek, but I can take it or leave it?

They'd be better off saying nowt, as to call upon us to fight for something as devoid of meaning as traditional social democracy. So why does UNITE keep throwing its member's money at the Labour Party? It can't be idealism or ideology; when it just amounts to managing and engineering social democracy. And the BA dispute seems to show that it's not about furthering our member's interests: after over 12 years in power the Labour Government shows no sign of getting rid of, what Simpson and Woodley admit, are 'the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe ...' Perhaps, in the end, it is nothing less than another case of 'cash-for-honours': Arise: Lord Simpson of Stalybridge! Don't forget that predecessor of yours - Lord Scanlon, who went from being a communist party fellow-traveller in Manchester to playing golf with the bosses on the South Coast of England.

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