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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Well done to Plaid Cymru

It is unusual for this blog to praise Plaid Cymru but today I am going to make an exception. The occasion is the little Valentine's Day gift to their Labour coalition partners - an easy to use website which enables trade unionists to stop making contributions to Labour-affiliated political funds.

It has certainly been the case for too long that Trade Unionists paying into a political fund have, in many cases, been unwittingly subsidising the Labour Party. A great number of them are not aware of this fact nor of how to navigate the red tape that has often been put in place to deter them from opting out.

Certainly, when I was a member of NUPE in the 1980s it took months for me to successfully execute what should have been a relatively simple opt-out procedure, largely due to inertia on the part of branch officers. Things may well have changed since then but that does not mean that the opt-out process is any easier.

Meanwhile, in the same article Rhodri Morgan declares war on the Welsh Liberal Democrats. His assertion that the four councils we lead in Wales cannot be 'regarded 'as a byword for good governance over the last four years' does not ring true for me or the many hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the work we have done in Swansea, Cardiff, Bridgend and Wrexham.

In my view we have a good story to tell in each of those four councils of achievement, good governance and major improvements in services without the sort of punitive Council Tax increases characteristic of Labour Administrations. In many cases we have had to put right decades of Labour incompetence first. We are ready for the battle and Labour should be warned that they will not take back these areas easily.

Update: On Radio Wales this morning Martin Eaglestone accused Plaid Cymru of staging a pre-Conference stunt. That is not the sort of activity that Martin himself would ever get involved in. Oh no!
And why is the government not willing to take TU members' contributions to the Labour Party into account in legislation on political donations?
In my younger days, I worked in both the Coal and Steel industries in manual and technical capacitites and was a Union Member of appropriate Unions at the time. I always remember the day some decades ago when I started work in the Steel works Cold roling Mills. Several of us started together and we had an induction day of talks with a Personnel Manager and Safety Officer etc.. We were then escorted through the plant to the Union Office where the Management encouraged us to join the Union. We all did willingly, but I was the only one who rather timidly asked for a Form to opt out of the Levy the union took for the Labour Party. It shocked and annoyed them all. They were quite nasty about it and said I was the first worker out of thousands in thirty years to opt out of payin money to the Labour Party. This hostility was not nice on one's first day of work amongst strangers. However, I stuck to my principles. I've always thought back to that instant - how the Labour Party men in flash suits in Westminster rely on the real workers Union levies. This seems to be the only good thing Plaid Cymru has done for a while after sucking up to Labour for so long in Cardiff and Swansea!
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