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Monday, 15 March 2010

Back to the '70s with Unite-Labour?

The Unite-Labour party (and it's fair to call it that; Unite sponsors 60 Labour MPs and the coming election will see scores of union officials standing for safe Labour seats) will probably not return to beer-and-sandwiches at Number 10. Co-op own brand mineral water and Polenta Patties, maybe. But the fact is, Brown's Labour are trying like mad to distance themselves from the unreconstructed 1970s union. Too late. They pay the piper, they call the tunes.

Looking at Unite's website, one really does get a feel for '70s retro. "Media as a political weapon", "Sisterhood, solidarity and socialism" (with Sister Joyce Moloi-Moropa MP [ANC]) and the evergreen "Free Columbian political prisoners". Jack Dromey, soon to be Jack Dromey MP after successfully passing Unite-Labour's all-women shortlist requirement, is shown leading a mob of demonstrating strikers. All that's lacking is Nanny Ashton leading a "Wombs against the Bomb" sit-in at the LSE.

But don't be misled. Union power is very different now from the clout they wielded in the 1970s;

UK Union membership
1970 - 45%
1990 - 39%
1998 - 30%
2009 - 25%

There are several reasons for this including globalisation, Mrs Thatcher, immigration and a shift from Fordist to post-Fordist employment structures. Perhaps the greatest impact in recent years has been the deregulation of the legal services market. An aggrieved employee with an ounce of nous these days goes straight to an employment law specialist solicitor who can take the case under a Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA), at frightening cost to the employer, far worse than any approach from the Comrade District General Secretary of the Amalgamated Arseshufflers Union.

Still, we're seeing a little demonstration by Unite to make clear to the NEC who will actually run the new Unite-Labour party. So BA will strike at Easter, and Bob Crow will take his RMT members out at the same time. The Civil Service has already been on strike for two days, but no-one noticed.

I think I'll sort through the old vinyl this evening to pull out some Bread, Hall & Oates, some vintage Steely Dan, and have a look on eBay for some black velvet loons and cheesecloth shirts. I rather liked the late '70s ....


Letters From A Tory said...

I saw the number of current and former union activists who are now primed to become MPs as more like 100.

Scary numbers.

Anonymous said...

"Life on Mars" was a drama not a documentary...
Mind you this is the lot who thought "1984" was the instruction manual.


Anonymous said...

Guido calls the Labour Party the political wing of Unite.

An apt description.