Tony Woodley, the new head of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, intends to make sure that Tony Blair suffers. His plan is to call a meeting of top union guns and instigate a new form of entryism that will select left-wing, union-friendly parliamentary candidates. After this, he will concentrate on ousting Blair from the union.
Woodley’s antipathy to Blair is such that he is to instigate a review of all 91 MPs on his payroll to determine which ones are ‘too close to the gaffer’ (a wonderfully evocative phrase, this, rarely heard since the high old days of the three-day week). Anyone whose loyalty is doubted could find that their union days are numbered. So Blair, who only last year opened the new Transport House, the union’s London HQ, faces the sack.
Although the nearest the Prime Minister ever came to manual work as a barrister was untying the red ribbon of his generously paid briefs, he is, still, ludicrously, a member of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and it is very valuable for him to remain so. The association helps finance his election to Parliament, as well as giving him something to talk about when he swings by his club, the Deaf Hill Working Men’s.
Officially unions no longer ‘sponsor’ MPs – Lord Nolan objected as the term implied that politicians were for hire – but in practice MPs remain compromised. Remember how embarrassing it was for John Prescott when he was invited to leave the RMT, along with his grace-and-favour flat, after it became apparent that his integrated transport policy amounted to little more than changing from one chauffeur-driven Jaguar to another? Well, being PM, Blair will find his sacking far more humiliating.
‘We are not going to support a person if he is totally pushing policies contrary to ours,’ says Woodley.