progress is not the elimination of struggle, but rather a change in its terms’ - Aneurin Bevan

low budget politics

The Tory leadership has recently allowed Shadow Schools secretary Michael Gove to launch a bizzare attack on Britain's largest trade union, a sign that the failure of the Tories to secure a commanding lead in opinion polls is making CCHQ turn to desperate measures. Gove can hardly proclaim his party's policy on schools - as they involve cuts to many school budgets for the sake of subsidising new private schools.

The trade union link is obvious in the name of the Labour Party. It was Britain's trade union movement that established the party and many - but not all - trade unions give financial support to all levels of the party. In a democratic society, there is nothing illegitimate about members of a trade union deciding to pay into their union's political fund.

Gove invokes the Militant Tendency, which was a Trotskyist party that practiced "entryism" in the Labour Party for decades until the early nineties when, its leadership having been expelled, it took an "open turn" and now exists as the Socialist Party of England and Wales.

Unite, on the other hand, is a trade union which exists to support its members and working people in general. Since the Tories introduced laws aimed at weaking the bargaining power of workers, trade unions have been the most regulated organisations at work in the UK economy. If only the strict rules that apply to unions had been applied to MPs and banks!

So, it is absurd to suggest - like Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary - that Unite's members at British Airways want to wreck the company or cause misery for the travelling public. The overwhelming vote for strike action reflects discontent amongst BA's staff - and should be an indication as to Willie Walsh's bullying style of management. The vote for strike action was actually the second - the first was stopped by BA going to the courts to get an injunction on technical grounds.

Willie Walsh and the BA management could have put their original offer back on the negotiating table and allowed Unite to postpone further action until staff have been balloted on a settlement. Instead of going to Acas to try and resolve the dispute, BA have decided to use the public backing of the Tories - and their newspapers - to launch an all-out attack on the union. Instead of treating BA staff and customers with care, he has behaved irresponsibly, spending money on a strike-breaking force that would undermine the airline's safety - his goal is to push the pay, conditions, and safety standards at BA down to the low level of the budget airlines.

Getting back to the Labour Party, Unite's organisational support in campaigning for Labour is annoying the Tories. Despite the millions that tax-dodging businessmen like Lord Ashcroft are giving to help Tory efforts in marginal constituencies, the outcome of the election is not expected to be a Tory landslide.

Labour's general election campaign is based on a "word of mouth" strategy, encouraging members to raise awareness both of the importance of stopping the Tories from winning control of Parliament, and of the need to keep up support for the economic recovery, create jobs in new industries and protect frontline services.

Far from shying away from the issue, Labour's leadership should be vocal in condemning the Tories for taking sides in this dispute. It shows not only their desperation but that they haven't changed, they are the same old Tories, determined to help out their friends in big business at the expense of ordinary people. The mask has come off David Cameron - he has given backing to a company attempting to slash the wages of staff in a race to the bottom.

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