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Whose party is it anyway?

By Jeremy Dewar

9 March 2015

The latest figures for party funding in the run-up to the election are revealing. Tory and Labour incomes are fairly equal at £29 million and £26 million respectively in 2014.

Looking more closely at the last quarter, when funding for all parties increased, in anticipation of the election campaign, the Tories received £8 million and Labour £7 million. Neck and neck, you might think. However, their sources are different as chalk and cheese.

The Conservatives rely almost exclusively on large donations from the big bourgeoisie – the capitalist A-listers. Their most generous contributor last autumn gave half a million; their third biggest donor, David Rowland, coming in with a respectable £322,000, is a property developer, who registered as living abroad for many years as a tax dodger, er, I mean exile.

Another large chunk of Tory party’s recent funding came from hedge fund managers: £2 million worth. Not a bad investment – as you’d expect from people who make a living from asset stripping and sacking whole workforces –considering hedge funds received a £145 million tax break in 2013.

So what about Labour?

They received relatively little from private donations. Most scandalously, the party accepted £400,000 in the form of writing off staffing costs from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. As Margaret Hodge has pointed out, PwC makes millions advising on “tax avoidance on an industrial scale”. If Labour cannot resist the allure of big money in opposition, then what will it be like in office?

Others? Tony Blair gave £100,000 last month. But he can afford it; he’s amassed £70 million since leaving the Commons in 2010.

In reality, however, it is the unions who finance Labour. In particular, the big three: Unite, Unison and the GMB, who gave £1 million each to the party at the end of the year. It is certain that more will follow.

On top of that, thousands of union activists will be pounding the streets canvassing houses, staffing banks of telephones cold-calling voters and leafleting shoppers in High Streets. Millions of union members will receive pro-Labour propaganda in union magazines and stalls in workplaces up and down the country.

Even though Labour remains the biggest party in Britain, with 190,000 members, its paid up support is falling compared with ‘radical ‘ newcomers to the big time like the Greens, SNP and UKIP, who are all dramatically on the rise. So the mass of associate members affiliated via their trade unions enormously increases the reach of Labour.

This is significant. It is why millions of workers – millions of the more class conscious workers – continue to support Labour. It is why Labour, even today, after the illegal and immoral wars it propagated for British imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq, after introducing Private Finance Initiative hospital deals, free-standing Academy schools and student tuition fees, even after its pernicious decision to join with the Lib Dems and Tories in a popular front campaign to “save the union” – despite all this, Labour remains for millions of workers “their” party.

But what do working class people get from “their” party? In particular, because it is through the affiliated unions that this relationship is most clearly manifested, what do the unions receive from Labour?

Not enough.

The anti-union laws, crafted by Thatcher and Major, will remain in place. Council housing, the most secure, most affordable and most democratic way to resolve the housing crisis, will not be revived. Every privatised industry, sector and company will be safely protected from the threat of renationalisation. And the minimum wage will be pegged to the floor, with the aspiration of a living wage lingering in the ether, just an aspiration.

Most damning of all, Labour repeats its mantra: no reversal of any Tory cuts; stick to Coalition spending limits for the first two years.

The saying about whoever pays the piper calls the tune certainly holds true for the Tories. But with Labour this does not hold true. Those who pay the Tory piper get to call Labour’s tune as well.

The Tory press continually attack Labour because of its “union paymasters”. But what do they actually get for their members millions? A repeal of the anti-union laws? Taxing the rich to pay for the public services? Reversing the cuts and Privatisations? Upping the minimum wage to a living wage?

You must be joking.

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One Response to Whose party is it anyway?

  1. Stevie Rev

    May 16, 2015 at 8:57 am

    what’s this article for?
    I was hoping it’d be an insightful piece about the Labour-Unions Link but it barely mentions the trade union bureaucrats, and certainly not any “reality” of the Link which is that it is thoroughly rotten and serves only the bureaucrats of the unions and of Labour. Is anyone in WP still in the Labour Party? perhaps you can tell us what else there is, outside of Labour…!? probably I should spend more time looking at Workers Power, but I thought I’d better comment as I did share this article on my facebook

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