‘Time for a period of silence’ from Lord Mandelson of Foy

28th June, 2013 12:20 pm
I have noticed over the years a general rule of thumb that governs part of the historic relationship between the trade unions – and the party they founded. It is that over the decades millions of workers have paid into and voted for their union’s political levy. In the case of most of the unions, a great deal of that money goes into affiliation fees paid to the Labour Party.  It has been paid through thick and thin, when the party was seemingly in endless opposition, to when it seemed to prefer the money it was getting from ‘high value donors’ . Over those decades, hundreds of thousands of trades unionists will have worked for Labour Party candidates at local and at national level. Until fairly recently, a reasonable number of those same trades unionists, experienced in the real World of work, became members of parliament themselves.
I have also noticed over the same period that many of those who become the loudest critics of the trade unions would never have been in any position to become so without the support of the trade unions in getting them into Parliament in the first place. I have also noticed that many of the loudest and persistent critics of the unions ended up setting up their own parties or crossing over to others. I have also watched as many end up going to the House of Lords, being rewarded with assorted honours and like Peter Mandelson draped in his ermine robes, becoming latter day corporate oligarchs into the bargain.
Lord Mandelson of Foy, Sherriff Garter of the City of Hull etc, has today grandly set aside higher things and waded into the row over who the Labour Party might be allowed to select as a candidate at the next election in Falkirk. The selection is taking place because the sitting MP, who was parachuted into the Falkirk seat in a classic act of chicanery over a first rate sitting Labour MP, Dennis Canavan , has persistently been found to be drunk and disorderly. This particular paragon of virtue also appears to making a great deal of running in various newspapers over the Falkirk row.
The Falkirk row has now become extremely serious. But unless Lord Mandelson has seen a copy of the investigation into the selection of the candidate – something I understand that Unite the union has not, it would be very wise of him to follow the advice famously given by Clement Atlee to Harold Laski, when he said; ‘A period of silence from you would be most welcome’.
Last week a Parliamentary selection took place in Enfield North, London. The victor was former MP and Labour whip, Joan Ryan, who had earned herself the title of ‘the expenses queen’ in the previous Parliament. In the weeks running up that selection, there were repeated efforts by local party members and elected officers to try and get the party nationally to investigate claims of mass membership recruitment – and not by affiliated organisations such as Unite who are entitled under party rules to do so. There were claims – as there have been in other places – that an outside private consultancy had been hired to help organise the vote for one candidate. These were all very serious allegations, but no one in Enfield seems to think that anything has been done to investigate them. In fact, when a member of the Unite union turned up to observe the Enfield North vote, she was barred from attending.
Selections aside, in a party short of activists and members, and in a party where American recruitment techniques have yet to prove themselves, renewed efforts by some unions to recruit members to the party must on the whole surely be seen as a good thing.  Equally as good would be to see fewer professional politicians, and more nurses, teachers, firefighters and train drivers.
It is also high time that the trade unions were treated with a little more respect and dare I say it, gratitude.  Only in Britain and America in the democratic World are union as demonised in the media and by the political establishment to such a degree. Their loss of influence and confidence has manifested itself in the increased polarisation, pauperisation and privatisation of Britain. In the past the unions were often seen as valuable whipping boys for some in New Labour to prove their political virility and for a while there were even plans by some in the party to break the link altogether.
The relationship between the unions and the party has withstood all of this, and I don’t expect a row, serious as it is over Falkirk, to necessarily change it. But something is afoot and unless handled with due care and diligence, could yet turn a fissure into potential rupture.

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  • Daniel Speight

    From Mandelson, the man that organized the putsch that put his acolyte, Tristram Hunt into the Stoke seat. He didn’t worry about the local CLP so much back then.

    • JohnPReid

      in all fairness, Tristian stood in Leyton first put up a good campaign, but we prefered John cryer.

      • AlanGiles

        Oh well, TV personality goes slumming in Leyton E10. I am just surprised they didn’t make him a Lord as well for you, Mr Reid. 🙂

        AG 28/6/13 1310BST

  • JohnPReid

    Why the dig at Mandleson beign a lord, The Lords do a fine job, the second time Mandleson resigned he hadn’t doen anything wrong, why sohuldn’t he come back a few years ago to help Gordon out by becoming a minister as A Lord,
    as for those who pay the Levy,are you aware that lots of people who pay union levy’s dont vote laobur but elesewhere,
    Didn’t understand the Joan Ryan thing,
    Quoting Attlee, is very low, and as for unions beign Labours whippiong boys, from Scargill not ballting his members siding with the unions since 1984 has hardly been sucsessfull
    It reminds me of the uinion boss who said after the 1992 election ,this is the forth election we’ve funded Labour on the trot, this is the forth one we’ve told them what polcies to have, this is the forth one, we’ve lost, Without even bothering to spend a seconds thought ,to think that it may have been the policies that The unions had insisted on Labour having was the reason we lost 4 times on the trot.

  • Mike Homfray

    Could we set a time on the silent period – say, ooh, 50 years?

  • Monkey_Bach

    The fact that Mandelson was MP for a constituency like Hartlepool for twelve years is a masterpiece of sustained irony. I wonder how much time he spent living there?


    • JohnPReid

      He did order gwakamarly ,when it was mushy peas, there,

      • Monkey_Bach

        Washed down with a glass of Domaine Ramonet Montrachet Grand Cru no doubt. Eeek.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas


        Please, try not to mangle a noble language quite so horribly. British people are not very good at speaking foreign languages, but even so, that is a dreadful attempt. Not only is it grossly misspelt, but that mangling implies an acute accent on the final “e”, which does not exist, as evidenced by the fact that the proper word – guacamole, has no accent.

        • postageincluded

          Lordy, talk about po-faced, Jaime. JohnPReid’s approach to English spelling is always, let’s say, “creative” so to expect him to get to grips with Spanish is a tall order – though I wonder here if he was making an orthographic joke. In either case: lighten up!.
          And in all fairness the Reid spelling doesn’t implies an “acute accent” at all. If you’re accenting English words like “holy”, “fairly” or “rainy” with an accent of any sort on the final syllable, you’re getting it wrong, and sounding quite comical while doing it. If he’d spelled it “gwackermerlee” you’d have cause for complaint about the accent, but you’d still be unsufferably pompous.

    • postageincluded

      Ah, Hartlepool! Best not go there, Monkey. You know what they do to Frenchmen there.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Devront tout d’abord de me rattraper! Eeek.

        • postageincluded

          Ha! I missed this. You’ve raised the tone of the place a bit with all that French, but surely it should be spelled “Ique”!

  • brianbarder

    I don’t think this is fair to Peter Mandelson. As I recall it, he didn’t “make a false declaration” on his mortgage application: he followed legal advice in not declaring in his application that he had been lent money by a parliamentary colleague. The mortgage company made no complaint about this omission, I think, and no legal action was ever taken against Mandelson over it. In some kind of inquiry afterwards I believe he was effectively, perhaps explicitly, exonerated. (I may have some of the details wrong but I’m confident that I’m broadly correct and I don’t have time to do the research required for confirmation.) Tony Blair acted in excessive haste in sacking him, out of sheer cowardice. He did it again when he dismissed Mandelson the second time, equally prematurely and equally unjustly. (More recently Cameron slavishly followed Blair’s example by sacking Andrew Mitchell first and holding an inquiry later — by which time Mitchell had already been effectively exonerated by the media.)

    I don’t know Mandelson personally but someone I know who does tells me that he is personally friendly and unpretentious. He was an excellent and effective minister both for Northern Ireland and Business, and also an outstanding EU Commissioner. I blame him for his role in the creation of New Labour but that’s no justification for an unwarranted personal attack.

  • JohnPReid

    Yes. But none of those things have anything to do with him being a lord

    • rekrab

      Well, he is the political Kleptomania of wealth, you know, he’s got to have the big house, the big job and the wealthiest friends and if he can’t get them well? like the obsessive magpie he just snatches those material things.

      • aracataca

        Not the only one. What about Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas (both are loaded) and have you ever seen a poor Socialist Worker?

  • JohnPReid

    Quoting the Telegraph, good bit of socialism there Alan,

    • No doubt you have to check with the political commissar before you are able declare how true the truth is.

      • aracataca

        Come off it Dave- The Daily Telegraph tells the ‘truth’ does it?

    • aracataca

      Well spotted – It’s usually The Mail he relies on to support his opinions.

  • postageincluded

    He’s not Lord Mandelson of Foy. He’s Lord Mandelson of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the County of Durham. Or he’s Lord Mandelson for short.
    But why do so many writers omit Hartlepool and emphasise Foy? Could it be a litle joke based on the similarity of “Foy” to “Fay”, perhaps? I’m sure you are just disingenuously following a trend, Mr Seddon, but to avoid the suspicion that you might be part of that little joke (or homphobic slur as it might be more reasonably called) it might be best in future to add the Hartlepool or leave out the Foy.

  • aracataca

    That stalwart organ of independent and unbiased political thought- The Daily Telegraph eh Alan? It’s usually The Mail.

  • Ian Young

    If anyone should understand the need to get behind the leader a show a united face it should be Mandelson. He is a party foot soldier now and should start acting like one.


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