Labour reliant on union funding and election support

One result of the left-wing’s gazing too long on Lord Ashcroft’s contributions to the Conservative party is to bring about a similar gaze on Labour’s main source of funds and helpful political support – the unions.

And that has now happened.  An excellent article in the Times by Rachel Sylvester – In the Red Corner: Labour’s answer to Ashcroft, uncovers the role of the Unite union and Charlie Whelan, its political director.

Although as Iain Martin notes in Shining a light on Whelan and Unite, it’ll be interesting to see the extent of press and media coverage on Labour’s union ties, especially the Unite union. Unions have contributed over 60% of Labour’s income over the last nine years, with almost one quarter coming from the Unite union.

It may be tough for the Conservatives to do this, but one necessary job is to continue to highlight Whelan’s discredited tactics and that Labour are in thrall to the unions. It needs to be in the electors minds when they come to vote. Worryingly, Peter Hoskin in the Spectator says don’t bother. Couldn’t disagree more.

Well done Iain Martin and Rachel Sylvester. Vital work.

LATE UPDATE: Spotted that Labour supporting Financial Times says of course Labour is supported by the unions, and now move along please. Sorry, won’t wash Jim Pickard. It is a problem.

The cynicism about politics

In part 2 of my analysis on The parties and election prospects, I looked at the public’s expectations, and concluded that the public at large is cynical about politics and politicians.

How pleasing, therefore, to find the ever perceptive Daniel Finkelstein, chief leader writer of the Times, express the same view in his article today – Westminster chatter won’t change the result. Here’s where Daniel says this,

“The cynicism about politics is so pervasive that it embraces almost all political activity. Use a statistic? It’s a lie. Cry on television about your dead child? It’s an election gimmick. Attack your opponents’ policy? You would say that, wouldn’t you. And this cynicism extends to the media and our coverage. So not only politics, but news about politics, is seen as a fiction inside an untruth wrapped in a piece of spin.”

Daniel doesn’t explain why this has happened. But I’m pretty sure I know why. After 18 years in office the Conservative government lost the will to fight the extraordinary bile, character assassination, half-truths and lies from Labour in opposition, and also for the whole parliament that followed Labour’s election victory in 1997. 

Instead of leaving campaigning tactics behind them, Labour saw these tactics as the way to hold on to power. The low ethical standards of Alistair Campbell, Charlie Whelan, Ed Balls, Damian McBride, and even Gordon Brown is what has polluted our body politic.

I always come back to Michael Howard’s stinging rebuke of Alistair Campbell in a Newsnight. In my view it’s the only direct attack on Campbell’s malign influence that has occurred on-screen, and even that almost didn’t happen, because it was at the end of the programme. Watch it here again. Cleaning up our politics will only happen when these poisonous people are our of our political life, entirely.

Still not quite done on character

Andrew Rawnsley, political commentator and author of a book on New Labour – The End of the Party, writes in the Guardian about his Lessons from my 15 rounds in the ring with the forces of hell.

I watched a Newsnight discussion panel last week, where Andrew Rawnsley faced criticism from John Prescott, and others on his new book about Labour. Prescott turned puce while disparaging the book. I stopped watching after a while, as this was an uncomfortable blood sport, where out of the four panelists, three were looking for blood. Didn’t seem too balanced to me. Don’t like an unequal fight, although Rawnsley was holding out at the time I gave up.

Anyway, in his article, I’m pleased to read his way at getting back on John Prescott, with this choice paragraph,

“Gutter journalism” was the abuse which spat from the mouth of John Prescott, a man whose infidelities include having sex with a junior civil servant in a hotel room while his long-suffering and oblivious wife, Pauline, waited downstairs to have dinner with the treacherous and hypocritical toad. Her recent memoir describes how he slunk back to their home in Hull to confess to his adultery before it became public. His security staff preceded him into the house to dump a bag of his dirty smalls for Pauline to wash.I know which of us is better acquainted with the gutter.

The wash and spin cycle hasn’t got rid of sleaze

You’d have, quite reasonably, imagined that the focus on the Labour’s Downing Street press briefing machine, that it’s spin, spite, and bullying actions might’ve been washed out by recent revelations.

Appears not, if Tim Walker’s report in the Daily Telegraph is correct. He reports that Wheels of No10 spin turn on Samantha Cameron, saying:

“Briefing against her has already begun,” discloses my man in Gordon Brown’s bunker. Astonishingly, Labour officials claim that David Cameron’s wife, who transformed the fortunes of the Mayfair stationer Smythson while raising three children, is “lazy”. The plan is to compare Mrs Cameron, 38, unflatteringly with Sarah Brown, 46.

“Much will be made of Sarah’s charity work and journalists will be encouraged to make comparisons with the amount of work that Mrs Cameron does for charity,” says my mole.

Reorder: spots, change, leopards. Seems sleaze can’t be washed out of Labour in the spin cycle.

Truth, lies and Alastair Campbell

It gives me no pleasure to write about Alastair Campbell. But following his appearance at the Iraq Inquiry yesterday I thought it worth providing a collection of press articles about the event. Each in their own way identify Campbell as a villain in the Iraq affair. Some of the words used in these articles include: unscrupulous, brazen, evasive, unrepentant, stubborn arrogance, laddish, bruising, and cocky. Mostly dancing around the big word, liar. 

Now, I can’t leave a review of Alastair Campbell’s mendacious and malign influence on British politics with reprising Michael Howard’s wonderful skewering of him in 2007.

The Baroness’s attempt at public rehabilitation

Baroness Scotland, of employing illegal immigrant fame, is looking for public rehabilitation. She is this week’s guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Disc’s.

Don’t know whether it’s her initiative or others, but, I remain highly sceptical of her motives. Appearing in a non-threatening interview environment, where expressions of atonement can be offered without harsh questioning. It’s a chance to reprise her impressive back-story as a way of excusing her breaking the law.

My view remains, if we can’t expect our highest law officers to maintain the dignity and integrity of our highest offices, then there’s little chance of expecting less senior office holders to do the same. I agree with Chris Grayling’s opinion, quoted in the Daily Mail,”To dismiss this as an administrative error is utterly unacceptable.”

More on Spain and truth

My blog post yesterday of Spain’s economic woes was prompted by a chart on Guido’s blog. Today Gordon Brown, at Prime Minister’s Questions, said in deflecting a question about the UK’s comparative performance, that the UK was not the only country in the G20 in recession, Spain is in recession too.

Spain is not listed in the membership of the G2o. Gordon currently chairs the group. One of his senior advisers – Shriti Vadera – has been seconded to the group. So Gordon Brown used trickery to deflect criticism on his handling of the UK economy. This is a typical Gordon Brown ‘mis-truth’, ‘mis-speak’, ‘porky-pie’, or plain lie. Take your pick. It has caused a bit of a rumpus.

At issue here is a debasing of our political culture. Arguments about differing interpretations is the stuff of political discourse. But, what mustn’t be allowed is for untruths to go unchallenged, and that the deliverer of the untruth be allowed to continue without apology or regret.

I know it’s a small point about Spain not being in the G20. It’s one of the things about Gordon Brown that annoys. One can accept his standpoint on many things, though not agree with them. Political chicanery behind closed doors is one thing, but, we must believe that the Prime Minister speaks the truth about facts, even though we disagree on their interpretation.

It’ll be interesting to see if this is a case where he apologises, as he’s failed to do so in so many previous instances of mis-truths.