The Labour party has inflicted two bad strikes upon itself this weekend.
First of all, its Leader, Ed Milliband [and only the desperate would imagine that David would be any better], reacted to the GMB union’s reduction of its funding to Labour by over £1 million by informing the public that a Labour government would legislate for public funding of political parties.
Wonder what drove him to commit to that action just now?
The public will be very wary of such a move, should either party attempt it. All three of the major parties have run up black marks on the probity of their funding. No one has reason to trust any of them not to carry on harvesting as much money as they can – beyond any public subsidy they may simply take for themselves – because they can.
Funding political parties ought to be a national referendum issue.
This method of political organisation is already an anachronism. Who sees any rational process in voting for or against an issue on the basis of the party you belong to? iI would be unwise to leave the very seat of vested interest in this matter free to command public funding. The Labour Leader’s sudden surge of interest in this is born of party need, not of any principle.
Then the Labour Leader announced that no one had done anything wrong at all in the Falkirk vote-rigging scandal. Yet he had had enough evidence to call in the police and suspend from the party a candidate for the Falkirk Westminster seat who was supported by the Unite union – Karie Murphy; and suspend the Chair of the local Falkirk party, Stevie Dixon.
The pair have now been reinstated and pronounced blameless.
This curious state of affairs is explained by a Labour spokesperson as being due to:
- ‘key evidence having been withdrawn’
- with ‘further evidence provided by individuals concerned’.
No one appears even to have asked exactly what ‘key evidence’ has been withdrawn, by whom and for what reason; or what new evidence has been supplied by whom and to what effect?
It was evidence of a sudden surge in the enrolling of members by the Unite union to the Falkirk Labour group in the run up to local members voting for the candidate to represent the seat that led to Milliband handing the matter over to the police.
Unite had been registering new members and paying their membership fees, with some of them allegedly unaware that they had become members and therefore having given no consent to what had happened.
This, of course, gives rise to the question of who would have operated the votes of the members who didn’t know they were members?
Unite is simply saying it has the right to enrol members; and no one is saying anything at all about those who were enrolled and subbed without their knowledge.
This incident stinks – and no claims of the universal absence of any wrongdoing will make that rose smell sweet.
This sort of thing is intolerable in decent politics. Until – not by words but through quiet and visible change – Labour can be seen to have walked away from its Tammany Hall traditions, it will not be a party that anyone of objective principle could support.
The Labour party, which was once was the possessor of a philosophy that was a non-negotiable element of civilised society, appears to be hitting a crisis.
The GMB’s withdrawal of funds, Unite’s facing off the initial and perhaps ill-judged type of challenge from Milliband over Falkirk, is to be complemented today, 8th September, by the RMT Union.
At a pre-TUC Rally in Bournemouth at lunchtime, its General Secretary, Bob Crow, will ratchet up the call to the trade union movement to support the creation of a ‘new party of labour’ to ‘challenge head on the pro-business, anti-worker agenda of the three main political parties, Tory, Labour and Liberals’.
The trouble is that the Unions have long become every bit as feudal as the social system they came into being to resist.
What some cast as ‘reform’ under the belatedly discredited Tony Blair was no more than political botox, stopping the Labour party frowning and making it seem fresh and youthful, while it decomposed within.
If the country is to be able to interrogate and refine its values and its ambitions, it is vital that a refocused and honourable Labour party is in a position to be a trusted part of that process.
The majority of the electorate are bored with tribal politics, sick of spin, fiddles, shiny young ‘political advisers’ – and of seeing politicians they need to be serious and committed people wittering on Twitter. This isn’t ‘modern’. It’s simply lightweight.
Can any of it change – can the Labour party change – or is it already too far gone?