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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Union puts its big boot all over Labour leadership contest

Frankly, the Labour leadership contest has been so boring and such a non-event that I doubt if even an attempt by old-style union boss muscle to influence the result could make many people sit up and pay attention.

Nevertheless, that is what appears to have happened, with the GMB, a major financial backer of both the Labour Party and Ed Milliband, threatening to take its toys home if it does not get the result it wants.

The GMB union, which gave the party almost £1.5 million in the first half of the year, has said that other unions could follow its lead and withdraw funding if the younger Miliband brother is not elected next month:

When questioned over whether a victory for any candidate other than Ed Miliband could prompt the union to withdraw its funding, Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said: "If the new leader offers us more of the same, many unions — including our own — would have to consider where we are at.

"Ed Balls and David Miliband represent where we’ve been. They are not without talent. I would not rubbish them. But if the direction of the party went off chasing some right-of-centre ground ..."

He added: "Ed Miliband is not ashamed of Labour’s core values. It’s not about a big society. It’s about a fair society.

“Ed Miliband is not the finished product. But David Cameron was not the finished product when he was elected leader of the Conservatives either.”

Speaking about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's relationship with the unions, he said: “We were smiled at like we were elderly relatives sat in the corner with a party hat on. Access was never a problem — the question was the outcomes.

"The fundamental difference between Ed and his brother is that when David said ‘Let’s reach out to the middle classes’ he made the same mistake as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Labour can’t function without its grass roots.”

Many in the Labour Party's electoral college will express dismay at this attempt by a major donor to effectively blackmail them into doing its will. However, it is likely to play worse with voters, most of whom will not want to see a return to the bad old days of a Labour leadership in thrall to Union bosses.
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