UK | Union ‘buys’ Labour safe seats

9 03 2010

With so many donations from the various alphabet unions, Labour had to cede something.  Cash for peerages is one thing but donations for a position in the Houses of Swines?

Another reason NOT to vote Labour.

Safe seats for union backers prompt fears that Labour will turn Left after election

Tom Baldwin, Chief Reporter, Times, March 9, 2010

Labour’s big trade union backers have secured a series of prize seats for senior officials and favoured candidates in the coming general election.

Their selection has prompted concern among some ministers who say that it threatens to tilt the party towards the unions and the Left just as cuts in public services are looming.

Four of the most recent selections by constituency parties in winnable seats have led to senior trade union officials becoming parliamentary candidates.

Jack Dromey, the deputy general secretary of Unite, will fight Birmingham Erdington despite controversy over why the seat did not have one of the all-women shortlists championed by Harriet Harman, his wife.

John Cryer, a political officer at the same union and a former member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, received organisational support to win selection in Leyton & Wanstead against strong competition. A third Unite official, Chris Matheson, is said to have an eye on the Liverpool Walton constituency being vacated by Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister.

Ian Lavery, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, who has declared the new Labour project an abject failure, was selected last month for Wansbeck. He was backed by the GMB despite disclosures in The Times that he had once been convicted of a public order offence at a football match.

Cheryl Pigeon, a TUC organiser, won selection in Erewash ahead of Fiona Twycross, a long-time Labour staff member who was supported by figures close to the party leadership.

The unions, who are providing most of the funds for Labour’s £8 million election budget, are also exerting their influence directly over the campaign. Charlie Whelan, the political director of Unite and a former press secretary for Gordon Brown, is widely expected to be prominent within Labour’s team of strategists at this election.

His presence is one reason why Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications chief with whom Mr Whelan has had a sulphurous relationship in the past, has turned down a formal role in the campaign. Although Mr Campbell is offering regular advice to both Mr Brown and Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, he is understood to be doing so on “more of a bilateral than multilateral basis”.

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has nominated a long list of candidates and often backed them with its considerable muscle. Among those who have found potentially winnable seats are Jamie Hanley in Pudsey, Carl Morris in Thurrock, Kate Green in Stretford & Urmston and Julie Cooper in Burnley.

Last week they were joined by another, Ian Mearns, in Gateshead. The union has also pushed hard — but failed — to get others, such as the former MP Barbara Roche, selected in safe seats elsewhere.

Michael Dugher, Downing Street’s chief political spokesman and a former Unite official, is seeking selection in Barnsley East, a seat close to his Yorkshire roots. He is strongly supported by several unions, including Unite and Unison.

Several ministers are privately critical of what they regard as an ageing and left-leaning crop of new candidates. They have highlighted a contest last week in which Mary Glindon was selected for Tyneside North, where Stephen Byers, the Blairite former Cabinet minister, is retiring. The 53-year-old councillor edged out two candidates who had strong support in the Labour hierarchy — Polly Billington, an adviser to Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, and Tracey Paul, a longserving national party official.

Others, however, point out that being middle-aged or working for the unions “have never been regarded as marks of shame in the Labour Party”.

A member of Labour’s National Executive Committee said: “We have lots of young, talented candidates coming through. Look at Stella Creasy in Walthamstow, Lucy Powell in Manchester Withington and Rachel Reeves in Leeds West. Labour remains more diverse than any other party.”

Although Mr Dromey is alleged to have been promised a seat in return for a union cash injection for Labour’s campaign fund three years ago, some warn that he may not be a reliable foot soldier for Unite. The leadership is said to have been keen to get him into Parliament so that he “would not complicate” elections for the general secretary this year by splitting the TGWU’s section of the union.

All that power in the mother of all Parliaments sold to the mother of all ‘special interest’ groups, the workshy Admiralty of the Union Establishment.  Not happy with infecting the civil service with thousands, possibly hundreds-of-thousands of  ‘non-job State employees’ who no doubt will vote Labour but also roping in the Unions.




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