Posts Tagged ‘Union Levy’

The Osborne Judgment and Tory Opposition to Trade Union Funding of the Labour Party

March 6, 2016

The modern Labour party was formed from a late-19th century and early 20th century alliance of the trade unions and early Socialist societies in order to raise the importance of working class issues in parliament. This was in opposition to the Tories, who represented the interests of the Anglican aristocracy, and the Liberals, who represented the Nonconformist middle classes. Corporately, the trade unions that fund the Labour party and the campaigns of individual MPs, are part of the Labour party.

And the Conservatives hate that with a passion and have been trying to drive a wedge between the two ever since. One of the means they have used to try to do so is through legislation intended to outlaw trade union funds going to the Labour party, if the individual members of the trade union contributing are not Labour party supporters. They were loudly advocating this in the 1980s, and they’re doing the same now under Cameron.

The tactic’s over a century old, and is nearly as old as the Labour party itself. It was first used in a ruling by the House of Lords in 1909 in what became known as ‘the Osborne Judgment’. Osborne was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, who objected to part of his union levy going to the Labour party. He therefore sought an injunction against the union, which was granted by the courts and upheld by the House of Lords when the union appealed. The Lords ruled that it was illegal, as there was no mention of political action as part of the objectives and functions of trade unions in the Trade Union Act of 1876. Pelling, in his ‘Short History of the Labour Party’, notes the devastating effect this had:

The decision crippled the party financially, and various attempts made by the unions to continue their support for the Labour Party on a voluntary basis collapsed in the face of the apathy of their members. The party with the support of the T.U.C. determined to secure legislation to reverse the decision. In the meantime, it had to fight the two general elections of 1910, and in both its dependence upon the Liberals was very obvious. In the January election, not a single member was returned against official Liberal opposition; the same was true of the December election except for two mining seats. (p. 24).

The judgment was fortunately eventually reversed, but the Tories have been trying to do the same ever since. This is the background for Cameron’s latest attack on the trade unions and their funding of the Labour party, and it too must go.

Vox Political: Jeremy Hunt Cancels Tory Fundraiser after Junior Doctors Threaten to Show Up

February 12, 2016

Jeremy Hunt’s parliamentary colleague, Ian Duncan Smith, has a long history of running and hiding from his critics. Faced with the prospect of meeting the victims of his wretched policies, the Spurious Major either runs and hides, or hides behind big men with guns. He’s hidden from protestors in laundry baskets in Scotland, run out the back door of a Job Centre in Bath, and scheduled his speech at a jobs fair run by his local Conservative party in Chingford for early in the morning, so he could get away before the proles arrived. And when he was called to speak to the parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee, he turned up surrounded by armed rozzers. And this idiot fancies himself as a leader of men.

Now, it seems, his habits have spread to Hunt. According to another article over at Vox Political, Hunt was due to appear at a fundraising event for Fairham Conservative Association. This was cancelled after news of the event and its location were circulated on social media, and junior doctors bought tickets. See

Mike points out that this clearly demonstrates how absolutely unpopular the new contracts are, even if it costs our junior medical professionals £15 a head to tell Hunt to his face.

This reminds me of the various incidents where teenagers have seen their homes comprehensively trashed after they made the mistake of telling the world they were holding a party on Facebook, and suffered an invasion of gatecrashers as a result. Except that this was an event that was open to the public, and the doctors bought tickets. They didn’t just turn up. For some reason, the Tories are putting on a lot of these fundraisers. They did one in the summer, where for a certain amount you could get to go on a nine mile run through the Pennines or the Yorkshire Dales with aIDS. I joked with a friend that I was prepared to go in for that, just to get the opportunity of pushing the dreadful man over a cliff.

But there is a more serious point underlying this: the Tories are clearly experiencing a problem with funding. The actual grassroots membership of the Tory party, easily the largest political party in the country at one time, has shrunk massively. Those that remain in the constituency party are angry that their views were ignored by the parliamentary leaders. This is partly due to Cameron, like Bliar and New Labour, taking the party’s ordinary supporters and voters for granted, and running around rich donors for funding instead. It’s bad for democracy, as it’s leading to the gradual withering away of political parties and their replacement by oligarchies funded and maintained by rich paymasters.

It’s another reason why the Tories hate the unions supporting Labour. They’ve always hated the unions and the union levy, but it means that Labour has a grassroots source of funding that they don’t. And it also means that they’re really afraid of Jeremy Corbyn. Apart from being left-wing, he’s also managed to bring tens of thousands more back to the Labour party.

Against this, the Tories put on cheese and nibbles parties, and hope the proles don’t attend.