Much more will come out this weekend as the annual TUC conference kicks off in Bournemouth, but it’s telling that no one from any of the major unions was willing to make a statement on BBC World at One today. Only Ronnie Barker from the Bakers Union came on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if other unions follow suit.
There’s a tendency for many within Labour to see their relations with Trade Unions as a battle of wills rather than an equal relationship. So many will interpret this as a ‘warning shot’ from GMB that requires a ‘robust response to show we’re not weak’ etc. But I think they forget that there are far more Britons who see their union as more relevant to their lives than the Labour party.
As George Eaton points out, the GMB has decided to slash its funding in advance, rather than seek to recruit members to the party. And they’re not even bothered about picking a public fight over this.
This is bad for the Labour not just because it deprives of the money, but because it indicates relations are so bad the unions are largely unwilling to work with Labour to make it a mass-membership party. They’re essentially saying: ‘if you’re going to treat us like this, then don’t expect us to help you‘.
If that attitude among unions hardens and becomes entrenched, especially if the Labour leadership decide to take it as a personal attack, then expect more unions to follow and eventually look at disaffiliation.
Written by Sunny Hundal who blogs at Liberal Conspiracy