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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Should the link between Labour and the unions be severed?
The Labour Party was created by the trade unions, and is still largely funded by them.

But under New Labour, Tony Blair has embarked on a new course of "fairness not favours".

And the unions are upset that Mr Blair is determined to reform the public sector, and in their view privatise it.

As the TUC conference opens in Blackpool, do you think it is now time to sever the links between Labour and the unions?

Should the unions still fund the Labour Party? Should they back the government if there is a war in Iraq? Send us your views.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Anyone, either individual, union or business, who gives money to a political party, is probably not acting entirely altruistically. There wouldn't need to be any debate on this subject if political parties were state funded.
John, England

New Labour should completely sever its ties with the unions. Also, it is about time the trades unions stopped trying to interfere with the government of the country and acted in a more mature manner.
Barry, UK

If they had any sense they would abandon it and choose something like the Green Party

R Sobrany, UK
I can't understand why trade union bosses stubbornly stick to the Labour party. If they had any sense they would abandon it and choose something like the Green Party as they have policies more in line with what grassroots union members want than Labour. At one time the trade unions supported the Liberal party. They moved to Labour as the Liberals were ignoring the wishes of the working class. The time has come to make the move again as Labour blatantly ignores the working class and panders to the interests of those with money.
R Sobrany, UK

It's no surprise that Labour is 9million in debt. Its supporters call for state funding and the unions impose their financial muscle and ask for favours. They are both as bad as each other.
Dale Heenan, UK

As ever, a few vocal union leaders are shouting without thinking. They should learn that they will achieve nothing by direct confrontation. Negotiation is the only way to achieve anything. Do they really want Duncan Smith and co. to run the country? Have they any idea how grim that would be for their members? The difference between Labour and Conservative is that Labour want public services and the Tories don't care if we have them or not and will willingly close them down.
Ian Bartlett, UK

Whatever next, MPs with company logos embroidered across their suits like footballers?

Steve Harrison, UK
I was astonished when I realised that unions are allowed to sponsor MPs. If a union can do it, what's to stop a company doing the same? Whatever next, MPs with company logos embroidered across their suits like footballers?
Steve Harrison, UK

Take note Mr Simon Crean (Labour Party, Australia). The only place for trade-based unionism is in the social chronicles of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Arthur Chan, USA / Hong Kong

Yes, then maybe we can get work done apposed to all these strikes.
Guy, England

Why not sever the link? The so called new Labour Party is just another Thatcherism party and has betrayed its founders and working people in general. If the unions want representation put up independent candidates in all of the Labour heartlands where there is strong union support. If they are elected they will have a say in the running of the country
Andrew White, Brighton, England

I think we should simplify the funding of political parties. Fund them from the public purse - but re-empower back benchers by giving funding money to individual MPs to allocate to the party as they like. Backbenchers would find they got listened to if the party depended on them for money.
Charles Taylor, UK

The unions are constantly trying to interfere in the course of British democracy

Rosamund, UK
The unions are constantly trying to interfere in the course of British democracy. The majority of the British public did not elect these individuals and they have right to dictate policy to the elected government.
Rosamund, UK

Why should a trade union member have two votes ? His or hers own vote and the pressure from the union on the government? Trade unions should concentrate solely on issues relating to workers' employment and conditions and not make forays into the political arena, however well-intentioned.
Al, UK

To 'Eric, UK', The Labour Party was created by the union movement to secure representation of working people in Parliament, something which is not to me the same as "seeking favours". It's all very well to say that Labour and its affiliates should become independent of each other, but does he propose the same course of action for those big businesses who continue to subsidise the Tories?
Robert Crosby, Nottingham, UK

Trades unionists who argue that Labour is no longer the party they wish it to be are living in cloud-cuckoo land. The reason why Tony Blair's Labour party has won two massive landslides is because he made it electable. Blair and the other modernises who, through democratic votes in the party, brought the party face to face with itself and the country.
Randy, UK

That will be the time for people to decide whether to vote for or against it

Bob, UK
Whether people like it or not it could be that the new generation of trade union leaders are leading the way towards the resurgence of a socialist Labour Party. If and when we get one, that will be the time for people to decide whether to vote for or against it. Perhaps real Conservatives and Liberals might like to consider reforming their parties as well. Then perhaps we'll have a choice other than the single party Blair/IDS/Kennedy central block.
Bob, UK

I believe that Labour and the trade unions should become independent bodies. I think it would be healthy for both of them. The government would be seen to be not held to ransom and the trade unions would become stronger campaigners for employees' rights.
Eric, UK

This is all a plot by the Tory press to try and destabilise the opposition. I wish there was some way of getting back at them. I say that stopping big business funding the Tories would ease the way for better employee rights and thus reduce the need for unions. Why not try and tackle the "situation" that way?
Andrew M, UK

It's Blair who is out of line!

Dave, England
I can understand why people are calling for the link to be severed. But that is exactly what the "New Labour" clique wants. One of the features of British politics that distinguishes it from other European countries is that there is one party of labour and one trade union movement - one having been set up by the other. This organisational weight has been able to make substantial social gains. So - no to a split. It's Blair who is out of line!
Dave, England

It's the unions who are out of touch with reality. They'll get the Conservatives re-elected, and then we'll see what misery was like. I remember their 20 year reign, with high unemployment, etc. Tony Blair's New Labour has done what was needed to be done to get Britain back on its feel. Employment rates are high, interest rates low. But that's not enough for some. So, thanks to their greed, we'll see a return to the 100-applications-for-every-job days, no doubt.
NotASheep, UK

Unions still have a place in society even today. But the financial link with the Labour Party stinks. I've never understood how on one hand Labour can accept their money and then say that it does not influence their policy making. And who do the unions think they are when they criticise the government on its policy with Iraq? Their job is to represent workers rights and get the best deals with employers for their members, not to take a position on the world stage.
Toby Butler, UK

it's about time we all woke up to the fact that unions are no longer needed

Jason, Manchester, England
As the trade union's grip on the British workforce has got weaker, the British economy has got stronger. As workers own employment rights get stronger with each year, it's about time we all woke up to the fact that unions are no longer needed and put their highly paid leaders on the dole queue.
Jason, Manchester, England

The Unions should form their own Party and call it "Real Labour". The current "New Labour" bigwigs have betrayed all of us to whom the prospect of a Labour government was a beacon during the dark years of Thatcher.
Steve Robey, UK

From my point of view, there should never have been a link. A union is there to represent its members regardless of who is in power.
St, UK

Of course Labour should sever links with the Unions

Kev, England
Of course Labour should sever links with the Unions. Far from being representatives of the UK workforce they have revealed themselves, as nothing less than radical Socialists, Collectivists, Communists powered by greed.
Kev, England

The breathtaking and almost haughty lack of concern that Tony Blair and the grandees of New Labour show for their core voters and the Trade Union movement is exceeded only by Iain Duncan Smith and the right wing of the Conservative Party. Rather than New Labour dumping the Unions, they should dump Blair and his arrogant government.
Matthew, UK

In the past I worked for part of a large trade union and whatever links they had certainly weren't with the real world. The whole set up seems to be more about union leader's egos than worker's rights.
Peter, UK

It seems there are still too many Unions stuck in the past

R Brown, UK
It seems there are still too many Unions stuck in the past, I would say modernise or you will have a nasty shock at the next election. Painful memories of the seventies are still there, when the Unions held the country to ransom and destroyed much of British Industry, never again.
R Brown, UK

Other countries will laugh all the way to the bank, as Britain will price itself out of the world markets and British trade union members will be on the unemployed scrap heap! I remember the days of misery and turmoil, and rolling black-outs all too well. Great for us in the USA, as we will take your jobs and your business any day!!
Rod Garr, USA

It is no coincidence that we have more industrial action than at any time since the last Labour government. Let us all remember that government was brought down by the unions. Labour will always be called to account by the unions at some point and the unions will always want something in return for their money.
Gordon, England

Let MPs get back to basics

Phillip Holley, UK
What's the difference between a large company giving to a party and a large union giving to a party? Both are frequently done to help their own agendas, so stop it. Let MPs get back to basics, and pay more attention to their constituencies rather than their party and its 'supporters'. Maybe then the turnout at the polling stations will rise again as people feel that their vote actually counts.
Phillip Holley, UK

The growth of self-employment and smaller businesses has seen unions lose their relevance to the majority of the workforce. The only places unions still have much presence are in the older manufacturing industries, and the public sector. Personally I think Labour should ditch its relationship with the dinosaurs of the union movement, they're just not relevant to the lives of most people these days except when they go on strike.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

It's all a question of taking personal responsibility for ones actions. Who today ever wants to that?
R Steward, Great Britain

The unions should not fund any political party

Tim, UK
No, the unions should not fund any political party, but encourage their members to contribute on an individual basis to whatever party they believe best serves their interests.
Tim, UK

Blair does more damage to the unions with his ill conceived talk of 'wreckers' etc than Thatcher ever did. At least with Maggie, everyone knew exactly where they stood. It is time for the unions to withdraw both funding and support from this 'Labour' party which is a disgrace to its name.
Jonbo, England

I am in favour of parties to be funded from public funds and not be dependant on either unions or individual donations.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, United Kingdom

New Labour should sever its ties to them

Guy Hammond, England
The unions have demonstrated themselves to be greedier than any "fat cat". New Labour should sever its ties to them and bring them under control, like Thatcher did.
Guy Hammond, England

The unions need to realise that the only reason a Labour government was electable in the 1990s was that the crucial extra 10% of the electorate they needed only voted for Tony Blair because they believed him when he said that there would be no return to the 1970s and no return to union dominance and militancy. Endless strikes and pay demands divorced from any form of economic legitimacy were the biggest cause of the failure of the UK's industrial base and the catastrophic decline of our economy in the 1970s and early 1980s. 'Swing voters' do not want to return to that, quite rightly.
Jon Cooper, UK

It would be a shame for the relationship between true Labour and the unions to be destroyed because of the current government who really don't care about the country who they are supposed to be governing.
Eileen, UK

The labour movement and the Labour Party are two different things

Neil, UK
Yes, with regards to justice for workers, there is no room for sentimentality for the historic link. The unions should get behind the "real" labour movement which is still strong and growing but in an arena away from parliamentary politics, namely the Socialist Party and the Socialist Alliance. The unions shouldn't fund a party of business or one that uses peace as a last resort in areas such as Iraq. The labour movement and the Labour Party are two different things and hold different values.
Neil, UK

Labour should never forget its roots. The party is supposed to represent the silent majority in this country, the working classes, those who actually make this country run.
Vish, UK

It is about time the unions severed links completely with a political party that not only has nothing in common with trade union organisation in modern society, but also is as far removed from the reality and struggles of working people's lives as it possibly could be.
Mick, UK

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See also:

06 Sep 02 | Business
05 Sep 02 | Politics
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