I’m all for people organising collectively to have a political voice, whether inside or outside formal electoral politics.
So the idea of organisations speaking up on behalf of their members, and organising their collective voice in an attempt to influence events is one I’m fine with.
Where many trade unions lose my sympathy (and why I’m an ex-trade union member rather than a current one) is the way their senior ranks frequently only contemplate supporting Labour, or occasionally fringe parties further to the left, despite huge numbers of their members vote for other parties. When was the last time you heard a trade union leader speaking up for their Conservative or Lib Dem voting members, for example?
Yet it’s not as if Labour voting is the overwhelming feature of trade union members. It’s the overwhelming feature of trade union bosses – but not of their members.
Even Unite has revealed, in that leaked paper for the Unite Executive Council in June 2013:
That probably 45% of our members are now indicating a voting intention for Labour.
Which of course means that the majority of even Unite members are not Labour supporters. When it’s talking party politics, Unite’s leadership isn’t leading the whole union, it’s leading just the 45%.