By Jack Haslam
The Hayden Philips inquiry into party funding may not now be proposing drastic cuts to trade union funding of the Labour Party. The idea of putting a £50,000 cap on donations and affiliations looks to have been shelved. According to reports a new deal will be based on voluntary self-regulation of party finances.
But what are the implications of such a deal? Voluntary self-regulation of donations could be an ideal excuse for the National Executive of the Labour Party to set up a review into party organisation, finances, and the union link.
Such a review could become a mechanism for pushing through all kinds of anti-democratic proposals like, for instance, a reduction in the union vote at conference.
In the last issue of Solidarity we noted calls for a cut in the union vote from Alan Johnson MP, ex-TGWU General Secretary Bill Morris and former Blair messenger boy Jon Cruddas MP. Gordon Brown has also hinted at the same thing to senior union leaders. The fear in Brown’s camp is that the changes that have been made to Labour’s structure under Kinnock, Smith and Blair, might still not be enough to stabilise the party if the economic situation deteriorates and a Brown government has to push through severe attacks on working class living standards.
The fact is the union ranks do not need to be on the defensive in the Labour Party. The cash for peerages scandal and the Iraq war, not to mention PFI, hospital closures and a thousand and one other things should put the leadership — including Brown — in a weak position. Some of the Deputy Leadership candidates have started a bidding war aimed at the trade union vote. The completely unprincipled Peter Hain has pitched in with an article in the GMB Southern Region magazine which took up the same limited pro-union agenda that is associated with Jon Cruddas, but without Cruddas’s explicit call for a cut in the union vote at conference.
In this climate any attempt by the leadership to set up a review into party structure should be met, not with a cautious defence of the status quo, but welcomed and responded to with a determined and self confident joint union and CLP-based campaign to restore the rights of conference, unions and CLPs.