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It’s a progressive link between the unions and our party

It’s a commonplace that few, if any, of our sister parties in the Socialist International have the remarkable and enduring federal structure that our Labour Party has constructed and defended for the best part of a hundred years.

Membership of political parties is both historically and currently low as a proportion of the population but membership of trade unions, if under the cosh from the anti-union laws and an unfavourable economy, still takes in one third of the working population. The relationship with the unions gives Labour an organic link with working people virtually unique among Socialist International parties.

From time to time that link comes under sustained attack from our ideological enemies.

For New Labour the unions were and are a drag anchor on the lurch to the right. No surprise that Oona King’s mayoral bid team felt it OK to criticise the unions and little wonder that Blair set his face against repealing the anti-union laws brought in by Thatcher.

The link is now under attack from the Con-Dem coalition which has picked up on proposals made by Sir Hayden Philips under the last government, allegedly to clean up party funding.

The unions’ link with Labour is much more than a financial transaction although our organic links are underpinned by affiliations. Union branches affiliate to local CLPs, our regions affiliate to the Party regionally and of course the national unions affiliate to the Party nationally, at all levels arguing the case for working people from within the Party.

Having got their feet under the table of government for the first time in 80 years, the Cleggites are seeking to break the link, using party funding as their staking horse, to make sure that there’s no effective opposition and they don’t have to again wait 80 years for their next taste of power.

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