The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 15th December 2006
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to cut union link with Labour -
by Daphne Liddle
FURIOUS Labour MPs last week accused Prime Minister Tony Blair
of a malevolent parting shot at the Labour Party and its trade union
links as he gave his support to proposals that would outlaw union
funding of the party.
These proposals come from Sir Hayden Phillips, an elderly
Whitehall mandarin, hand-picked by Blair, to conduct an inquiry – the
independent party funding review – into the cash-for-honours scandal.
It was supposed to be a clean-up of party funding to eliminate
secret backhanders and bribes.
Phillip’s proposals include a cap on all donations to political parties
from individuals and organisations – including trade unions – could be
£50,000 or as high as £250,000.
The Labour Party was created by the trade unions to give workers
a voice in Parliament. Every member of a union which is affiliated to
the Labour Party is in effect an affiliated member of the party, and
the union donations to Labour Party funds are made on their behalf.
Currently trade union members donate millions to the party. This
gives union leaders a powerful influence on Labour policy – a fact that
has angered and frustrated Blair throughout his premiership. Some
unions, like the RMT, have baulked at continuing to fund policies that
have harmed their membership.
During the 1980s the Thatcher government introduced – among many
anti-union measures – a compulsion on unions to ballot every 10 years
for the membership to agree to the political levy. Union members could
also, as individuals, opt out of paying that levy.
The annual union levy on the 3,300,000 union members who pay it is now
£3 each. Phillips suggested that each one of these affiliated
union members could be registered as an individual donor. Even then
there would be a limit on their union’s total donation.
The Labour and Tory parties last year ran up record debts of
nearly £30 million. Both leaderships tried to alleviate some of
this through secret “loans” from rich businessmen which led to the
Blair and the New Labour clique have been cultivating this source of
funding as a way of making the party independent of the unions. Now,
among the Phillips proposals is the introduction of Government funding
This would have the effect of forcing taxpayers to support
parties they do not agree with and freeing party leaderships from any
real accountability to their own memberships. Furthermore it would be a
barrier to fringe parties’ chances of ever becoming mainstream. A
closed Labour Party meeting in the House of Commons last Monday vowed
to fight the plans that would reduce the Labour Party to a mere
bourgeois social democrat party.
Veteran Labour left-winger Dennis Skinner said: “What an irony
that trade union money is the only clean money in politics and it’s
under attack because of loans-for-lordships.”
Eccles MP Ian Stuart promised to “fight it to the death”. Durham
North MP Kevan Jones said: “The money paid by trade unions to the
Labour Party is the most democratic and transparent money of all.
“Why Hayden Phillips is concentrating on this when his inquiry
was prompted by cash-for-peerages is mind boggling.”
But there is a real danger that Blair could squeeze these changes
through the Commons – in the teeth of opposition from his own party but
with backing from the Tories and Liberal Democrats, who would be only
too happy to help the Labour leadership murder its own party.
Tis the season to
…or not if you happen to be in
that tiny band of bible-punchers and their Tory friends who are raging
at the apparent disrespect shown to the Prince of Peace at the time of
his supposed birth. A Tory columnist in the Daily Telegraph threatens
to trash any greetings card that omits the word “Christmas” while the
Daily Mail and the Sun have been banging on about employers who
have banned Christmas decorations and councils, invariably Labour or
Liberal Democrat, that have sought to rename the winter holiday
“luminos” or “winterval” for fear of offending other religious
The focus for these latter-day religious reformers is the “Campaign
Against Political Correctness” which claims to be defending traditional
British values, whatever that means, against its wholesale assault by
hordes of Muslims, liberals, atheists and other enemies under the bed
during the season of good will.
Now that all the media pundits are joining in the fun it appears that
most of these scare-stories are grossly exaggerated or simply urban
myths. But the real point is that the “traditional” British Christmas
has very little to do with Christianity and the fact is, it never had.
Exchanging gifts and cards, dancing round the mistletoe, gorging
oneself on turkey and drinking oneself silly has nothing to do with
Jesus’ teachings – a fact our Puritan forebears knew when they sought
to ban all merry-making on Christmas Day.
Nobody knows when Jesus of Nazareth was born, least of all the early
Christians who never celebrated their founder’s birth, preferring to
uphold the day of his crucifixion, which has never been in doubt. The
early Christian theologian, Origen, condemned “Christmas” as an idea
worthy of a Pharaoh, contending that only sinners, not saints,
celebrated their birthdays – a principle upheld by some Christian sects
Christmas is a pagan festival to mark the winter solstice that was
known as Saturnalia in Roman times or Yule-tide by our Anglo-Saxon
ancestors, while 25th December was sacred to Mithras, the Persian deity
adored by many in the Roman legions. It may have been marked by solemn
rituals but it was also accompanied by orgies of feasting and
indulgence, when slaves became masters for the day and all rules were
The early Christian Fathers, who realised there was no point in trying
to compete with the Invincible Sun God on his own day, simply
appropriated it for their own Master and the celebrations continued
under the blessings of the Church.
And why not? Most workers in Britain now get paid leave for one or two
weeks over the Christmas and New Year breaks. For one brief moment in
the year they can put their feet up, enjoy themselves and live the way
the rich live every day of their parasitical existence. Unfortunately
we pay for it when the decorations come down and the relentless pile of
bills mounts up in January, while the rich carry on as if nothing has
These “re-born” Tory fundamentalists would be laughable if they weren’t
so hypocritical. Public holidays and statutory leave entitlements are
not gifts from benevolent bosses. They were wrung from the necks of
grudging employers over the years by the unions.
Nor are these Tory pundits well-suited for the role of religious
reformers. If they were they should campaign for the return of the
Sunday laws that the Tories abolished in the 1990s, which would not
only restore the “Lord’s Day” but guarantee workers a fixed day of rest
and ensure that those who have to work on Sunday get double-time-plus
for doing it.
Now that really would be something to celebrate.
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