Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unions and bosses: two cheeks of the same arse?

Nick Clegg is in overdrive at the moment in his anti-union posturing. Yesterday he came out with this little gem in the House;

"Charlie Whelan and Lord Ashcroft are exactly the same. One is the baron of the trade unions, and the other one is the baron of Belize. Both are bankrolling political parties, both are trying to buy seats."
Now, on one level, I wonder if this is part of a new strategy where he tries to diss everyone in society. First he does most of us by going for union members and the rich then perhaps he'll shout "And I hate cats too, bloody animals!" until he's slated every group with any support in the UK.

But more importantly, is it fair to say that Lord Ashcroft is just the opposite cheek of the same arse to Whelan? Are they "exactly the same"? It doesn't seem right to me.
  • Ashcroft made his money exploiting people, Unite gets it money from the people it helps.
  • Ashcroft is unaccountable to anyone, Unite is democratic and Whelan is accountable to it.
  • Ashcroft is anti-union, Unite is pro-worker.
  • Unite pays taxs, Ashcroft dodges them.
  • Unite is open about it's money, Ashcroft isn't.
  • Unite contributes to society, Ashcroft feeds off it.
  • Unite is unable to influence Labour policy, Ashcroft is Tory deputy chairman.
More than that, if either Unite or Ashcroft had offered to fund the Lib Dems he'd have bitten their hands off. Not much chance of that now though now he's made his badly aimed political cheap shot.

Of course, there are problems with rich people using their vast wealth to bankroll parties to ensure society stays just as unequal as it always has been. The problem with union donations does not lie in the principle however.

It seems to me that the unions give millions to Labour and have seen precious little return on their money. Last year there was a survey of Unite members (pdf) which revealed that most unite members did not think the union should fund Labour, nor did most members even vote Labour, only one in three did, not much higher than those who voted Conservative.

There is a question over whether the enormous donations from the unions to Labour represent the will of the members and/or value for money but it's hardly true to say that Charlie Whelan, who is simply following union policy, is "the same" as Lord Ashcroft.


Jennie said...

As an ex union member, I would say that unions DO make their money from exploiting, rather than helping people. Still, my union was USDAW...

David Cox said...

Hang on Jim, Nick’s words are a criticism of two people, bunging millions into a few swing constituencies. Nick didn’t diss union members or the rich (unless you count the mansion tax). You’ve said less than complimentary things about Alan Johnson, that doesn’t mean you are attacking the CWU. (BTW Johnson was the best leader we ever had)

Your comparison is between a person Ashcroft, with a trades union, Unite the Union (the other Unite is the posties’ pensioner organisation); surely a fair comparison would compare Belize to Unite the Union, or Whelan to Ashcroft

max said...

Personally I am greatly concerned by Labour and Tory's capacity to outspend the rest, by that respect they're the same indeed, and Nick Clegg said it as it is.
That's why we've had a two party system for so long, it's all about the money of the two parties that can outspend everyone else.

It's obviously undemocratic, an unmitigated con, and it doesn't look good on the unions to agree to basically join the likes of Ashcroft in skewing electoral results instead of joining the rest of the world in asking an end to this con.

Well said Nick Clegg, I feel about this as strongly as he does.
It's a crime against democracy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it signed automatically with my blogger profile. It was me.

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