The Unions have been much in the news this week. There has been debate in the Commons about the government’s proposal that there should be some independent check on the accuracy of their membership lists used when balloting members on industrial action and other matters. There has been discussion of Mr Miliband’s attempts to negotiate a new settlement with the Unions for the Labour party.
I welcome Mr Miliband’s proposal that Trade Union members should have to opt in to the Labour party political levy if they wish to do so. It will give everyone a clearer view of the true level of individual member support for Labour. It is a pity members cannot choose to opt into membership of other parties if they prefer, if the movement stays with a political levy at all. It should be up to the members to decide this matter.
If a large number of people currently paying the political levy to Labour no longer opt to do so, the Unions will be richer and the Labour party poorer as a result. The one advantage of the old system of the levy was it gave Labour money direct without the Union leadership deciding on the gift. Under the new system Mr Miliband will have to negotiate with or at least talk to the Union leaderships about sending him larger lump sums from the Unions themselves.
I would be interested in your views on whether you prefer the new system to the old, and what you think should happen about large grants from Unions to Labour. In the interests of fairness it is also important to discuss the receipt of money from rich individuals and companies, something which all 3 main parties enjoy. Money these days mainly comes from entrepreneurial companies where the owner/Director is in effect giving his own money. Large quoted companies tend to be international, avoid making UK political donations, and understand if they wished to they would need wider shareholder support.
I strongly favour private money from volunteers rather than state money from taxpayers to fund political parties. Clearly there have to be rules, and each party has to ensure it cannot be said to have traded policy for money. If a rich person gives money because they like a policy you have adopted and generally agree with your stance, that is fine. If a rich person says I will give the party money if it changes its policy in a way which clearly benefits the donor that is wrong and probably illegal.