We need to invent a new word for cynical. It just doesn’t seem strong enough to describe the breath taking audacity it takes for yesterday’s political manoeuvring by this scheming, desperate government. To take a situation where once again elected and appointed politicians have been caught compromising their integrity and use it to disenfranchise organisations designed to represent the interests of working people is opportunism of the worst kind.
It is this kind of stunt that increases the sense by the public that politics is a game between nasty individuals out for themselves. And of course, that’s just what the right wants, as they benefit from that apathy. It also shows their fear of losing the next election and desperation to cling to power by any means legitimate or illegitimate.
The lobbying scandals happen across parties. I make no claims that Labour are any better than the other parties on this. And there are measures that can and should be taken to stop this abuse of power and access. Some of these will be included in this bill. A bill that should have had cross party support. But instead of acting like grownups, instead of remembering their highfaluting promises about a “new politics” the Tories and Lib Dems have instead opted for the bullying politics of the playground. They want what Labour has, and if they can’t have it no one will.
It is, frankly, a disgrace. Union donations to Labour are made up of the small donations of thousands and thousands of members who understand the importance of working people having their own political voices. We may not always agree with what they have to say – God knows I don’t often enough – but they have a right to this form of political contribution. To write a bill that specifically excludes only unions and not the contributions of millionaires like Lord Ashcroft disenfranchises the many without curing any of the problems this Bill was supposed to deal with.
We already have some of the most restrictive union laws in Europe. The importance of the union contribution to the workplace, the economy and to fairness and safety at work is indisputable. Countries with strong unions are fairer and have stronger economies that reward the many not a few oligarchs. Alternatively, countries without a strong union movement are far more unequal and their economies suffer as a result.
We shouldn’t expect the parties that cut tax rates for millionaires to care about wealth inequality. But they should care about the health of our democracy. I’m no great fan of either David Cameron or Nick Clegg, but even I have been shocked by just how low they will stoop. A Bill that is so flagrantly partisan and so clearly aimed at disenfranchising one party’s supporters and one section of society is an insult to the name of democracy. It shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Mother of all Parliaments. This measure should be dropped from this Bill today. It is a scandal that it was ever even mooted in the first place.