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Tory plan to scrap automatic funding of unions could "bankrupt" Labour

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 09.13.09 The unions may be planning to "unleash hell" on an incoming Tory government - and yesterday's Sun noted how the unions are currently on a big recruitment drive - but the Conservatives are determined to fight back.

Yesterday's Telegraph reported that David Cameron plans to end automatic funding of the trade unions:

"Under the Tory plans, union members would have to choose to contribute to the political fund every time they pay their annual subscription. Asking individual union members to tick a box supporting Labour every year was a key sticking point in talks to reform party funding which collapsed amid acrimony two years ago. Mr Cameron has pointed out that many union members are not Labour supporters and yet are often unwilling contributors to the party."

An ICM survey quoted in today's News of the World finds that nearly three-quarters of union members do not want their money handed over to Labour:

"Last year the unions pumped £14m into keeping it afloat... Labour currently has debts which top £11.5m and would go bankrupt tomorrow if the unions cut off their funding levy which fills the party coffers."

An end to automatic funding of Labour by the unions would need to be spelt out in the Tory manifesto if it was to be sure of passing the House of Lords. The Lords is now controlled by other parties and constitutionally the Upper House is only expected to pass manifesto commitments (see what I wrote last week on this).

Ending Labour's dependence on big union funding would be part of a wide measures of reforms planned by the Tories to make politics cheaper and more transparent. A £50,000 cap on all donations is still on the table and the Conservatives plan a 10% cut in the number of MPs. On today's Parliament blog we note how equalisation of constituency size is likely to happen.

Tim Montgomerie 

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