Saturday, March 20, 2010

A few facts about Unite

Tories appear to be thrilled that BA has pulled out of talks with Unite, which means a three-day strike will go ahead. They are in full cry against Unite, convinced it's just like 1979 and bashing the unions will mean they soar in the polls again.

However, it's 2010 and some things are different. For instance, in 1979, most union members voted Labour. That's decidedly not the case now.

Populus did a poll of Unite members between 10th March 2010 and 16th March 2010 [update: that should have said 2009 - but the rough proportions should be correct, give or take a few percent, the point is that only about a third of Unite people vote Labour]. Here's the voting intention:

Con 31%
Lab 34%
Lib 19%
SNP 6%
PC 1%
other 9%

And 79% of Unite members said they were either very satisfied or reasonably satisfied with how Unite represented their interests (amongst the Tory Unite members, this was 74%).

Tory union bashers should ask themselves why Tory and LibDem voters have voted in favour of this strike: and the answer is that they have a predatory employer, they don't want a pay cut and they are frightened. These union members are also taxpayers who helped bail out the Tory bankers (many of whom are now trying to become Tory MPs).

The smart thing to do would have been not to politicise the dispute - after all it is taking place in the private sector. All aristocrats like Cameron prove when they attack them is that they are out of touch with people who work.

The 31% Tory Unite members on the receiving end of the Tory venom (probably for the first time in their lives) will also be rethinking their vote. Nobody likes being singled out and attacked by a political party when all you are doing is legally defending your job.

As the Tories found when the Sun endorsed them last autumn and they promptly plummeted in the polls, this is not 1979. Heroes of that era such as Murdoch, are now villains. Villains of that era such as union workers, are now weary taxpayers who are bailing out the bankers, while trying to defend their pay and prospects against demands made on the management by those very same bankers in the City (who then rewarded themselves tax-payer funded bonuses).

Update 22nd Mar 2010. Latest YouGov poll shows:

Con 36% (38%)
Lab 32% (31%)
Lib 20% (19%)

The figures in brackets show the YouGov figures from 19th March, just before the strike. Look at the direction of travel. And no wonder - the Tories went straight from defending Ashcroft's tax evasion to attacking taxpayers earning considerably less, some of whom had been intending to vote for them just a few weeks ago.

When Thatcher attacked the unions in 1979, it was risk-free for her as she knew union members didn't vote for her in anycase. The situation is completely different now. If Tories can't even recognise what century we're in, let alone how different things are now compared to 30+ years ago, they arn't fit for governing.


DevonChap said...

Snowflake, the Populus poll was from 2009, not 2010, so a year old.

Also of course the strike ballot was not among all 1.64 million Unite members but solely the BA Cabin crew. Many of those 1.64 million members are in the private sector and will have accepted pay cuts to keep jobs so will be as cross with the BA strikers, and the Unite leadership, as most non members are. I doubt they feel Tory attacks are aimed at them personally.

I'd be surprised that the majority of Unite members who didn't last year plan on voting Labour are happy with their Union having such influence in Labour and it paying for blantant party politicking from Charlie Wealan. The fact most Unite members aren't dyed in the wool Labour voters makes the party political side even less acceptable.

Post election I think £50k cap on donations from any organisation and opt political donations to a named party are in union subscriptions are the only way to clean up party funding of the Lord Ashcrofts, Michael Browns and Charlie Whealans of this world.

snowflake5 said...

You are correct that the poll was from 2009, but the portion of the Tory vote will be the same, give or take a few percent.

Second, BA is PRIVATE SECTOR - I'm not sure you fully grasp that from your comment!!

Thirdly, only those who choose to pay the political levy to Labour, are financing the Labour party. If you are Tory and have opted out, then it's none of your business frankly what your Labour colleagues do with their after-tax money. If they want to support Labour, why not? Not sure you realise this, but it's perfectly legal to give money to a political party from your after-tax income. If you haven't given money, it's unacceptable to make a fuss about what other people are doing with their after-tax cash. As long as you've paid your tax you can do whatever you like with the remainder! Or don't Tories subscribe to this freedom anymore?

Finally, I refer you to tonight's YouGov poll. With polls it's the direction of travel that counts - The hysterical Tory bashing of people in unions has undoubtedly caused some of them to rethink their Tory allegiance.

Your side seem incapable of understanding Britain as it is today.

DevonChap said...


Have you ever been in a union? It doesn't say "politcial levy to the Labour Party", it says "Political Levy" and it is decided at conference who to give it to.

Is Charlie Whealen paid for out of the Unite political levy? I bet not. So he is taking money from all Unite members, not just the Labour supporting ones. Many non aligned Unite members will be concerned that the union is being so partisan in regard to a party that hasn't done much for unionists in the last 13 years and for fear of what revenge an income Tory government might take for that blatant support.

I think you will find many millions of union members did vote for Thatcher. Union membership was much higher then and she still got 44% of the vote. If unions are seen as out of control then many of their own members want then brought to heel.