James Forsyth

Unite: Labour can’t function without our money 

Unite: Labour can't function without our money 
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With the TUC conference coming up, Derek Simpson, leader of Unite, flexes his muscles in an interview with The Independent. He tells Jane Merrick that Labour couldn’t fight a proper election campaign without Unite’s financial backing:

"What are the consequences of us not giving Labour money? That will really impair, fatally damage, any chance of Labour winning a general election. We give money to allow the Labour Party to function."

Considering that the unions gave Labour £11.4 million between the first quarters of 2008 and 2009, Simpson is probably right. (Worryingly for the party one of Simpson’s most likely successors is standing on a platform of ending the union’s donations to Labour). But by stating the case so baldly, Simpson is giving the Tories ammunition to claim that Labour can’t get serious about public spending because it is in the pockets of the union.

Simpson also seems keen to pick a fight with the Blairites to demonstrate the power shift in the party. He slams them as “thick” and “Tories” who would rather “have a Tory government than a proper Labour government”.

There is no repeat of Simpson’s call for Brown to stand down if he is not prepared to change tack but the praise for Brown is hardly fulsome. Simpson contents himself with saying that he is “as satisfied with Gordon as I can be with any of them” and argues that Brown should move radically to the left because “He's nothing to lose because he's going to lose anyway.” His line that “Gordon is very often shuffling and hesitant” is also unlikely to go down well with the Prime Minister.