The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 15th December 2006

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Threat to cut union link with Labour -


by Daphne Liddle

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 cash-for-honours scandal.

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 for parties.

 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 be jolly…

…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 minorities.

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 even today.

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 overturned.

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 happened.

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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