Why Charlie Whelan is not the monster Cameron wants him to be….

In Politics on March 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Pssssst! Hey you!, yes you. Come over here. Can you keep a secret? I’ve got something to tell you. Ready for it?


Shhhhh – don’t tell anyone, the Tories are hoping to use it as a big campaign tactic and scare voters.

Really, this is puerile stuff, even by today’s political standards. The key is in the name – Labour – geddit? Ok, ok,  we all know the party has been trying to shed the “beer and sandwiches” image of meetings with “union barons” in the 1970s, but it’s no secret the unions have been funding and sponsoring MPs even under the reign of New Labour.

Clearly Dastardly Dave Cameron and his crew of posh wannabes think news that Unite provide 25 percent of Labour’s funding (a serious amount of wedge and leverage, granted), is a poll booster, and their first opportunity to hit back in the class war that has been bubbling away for a while now.

Quite how this will play remains to be seen. Someone giving money to a political party and then expecting something in return is hardly the scoop of the century. What’s the problem here? Trades unions, by and large, are not gun-toting mafiosi extorting people. Their general existence revolves around getting their members better terms and conditions and a little more money each year. They also protect those who can’t protect themselves from the workplace bullies or box-ticking managers and HR types who have all the people-managing skills of a labour camp guard.

Granted, Unite political director Charlie Whelan is not everyone’s cup of tea. There is a long, and we mean lonnnnnng, list of people who would love to see the back of him, but he is a survivor with good political radar and more than happy to get his mits dirty when the big fight starts. He wasn’t Gordon Brown’s bagman for nothing. Old Grumpy Gordon tries to appear to be above the fray, but he picks his loyal lieutenants carefully and they carry out their mucky work with his blessing – I guess we could call him The Gordfather.

What Labour don’t want right now is a damaging internal bitch fight between the dregs of the  Blairites and Brownites. Standing in Whelan’s way is one Peter Mandelson. The hate between those two is no secret, not least because Whelan leaked the details of Mandelson’s undeclared £373,000 interest-free home loan from Geoffrey Robinson in 2000 that cost Mandleson his Cabinet post. Hell hath no fury like a lender not invited to the housewarming, Peter 😉

It should also be remembered that Whelan worked for one Ken Jackson, the old electricians’ union boss who was as right of centre as they come. As with Ken, Charlie likes a taste of power and loves to play politics, so a suggestion we’ll all be singing the Red Flag soon is absurd. The excellent Michael White of the Guardian has a great take on this.

Contrast this with Dastardly Dave’s lot. They’ve been taking Michael Ashcroft’s shillings for years. They gave him a peerage, and allowed him to be non-domiciled for a decade so he didn’t have to pay his full whack of tax in the UK – the jury is out on whether the party knew or not – and their funding history is a hardly a “how to do it right” guide for everyone else to follow. Compare the aims of the trade union movement with the aims of Michael Ashcroft if you really want to make a distinction on which is the more sinister.

Don’t let all this bluff and bluster  cloud the main issue. All it’s telling us is that both sides are testing the water to see how nasty they can get during the main event. It’s going to be a dirty fight, but play your part and vote.


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