Honest Musicians Union members taxed but disenfranchised

Posted on June 8, 2007. Filed under: Life, Music, Politics |

It’s not only members of New Labour that can vote for the Deputy Leader of the party – and therefore the Deputy Prime Minister. Members of several Unions can also vote. I am not going into the knotty problem of people, therefore, having two or more votes but about  statements and clauses in at least one Union’s ballet paper.

The Musicians Union has just issued its ballot paper with full supporting candidate blurb. Hilary Benn, Hazel Blears, John Cruddas (who he?), Peter Hain, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson are the usual suspects that have been rounded up for potential voters. So far all as expected…

However, three things caught my attention.

The ballot paper has a ‘unique number’. Nowhere on the voting form is there an assurance that this number is not tied up to the voter’s name. However, I am sure – hopeful at least – that this is not the case.

The following, however, did give me pause for thought, then pause for concern:

‘To ensure your vote is counted in the election for Deputy Leader, all members of the affiliated trade Unions eligible to vote are required to agree to the following pledge. “I support the policies and principles of the Labour Party, am not a member or supporter of any organisation opposed to it and pay a political subscription to the body that issued this ballet paper.” please note if you do not tick the box [agreeing to the pledge], your vote will not be counted in this election.’

Is the request for this pledge acceptable? Is it fair?

Consider recent elections for Tory parliamentary candidates. Members of the public were invited to hear candidates standing in their consistency at a public meeting. They were then invited to vote for the candidate of their choice. This vote was taken, counted and a result declared on the night. No one was asked to pledge their support for the Tory Party and the meeting and the vote were open to all who attended the well publicised events.

The third thing that pricked my ears was the following statement;

 ‘As a contributor to the M[musicians] U[nion] political fund, you are entitled to vote in the Labour party leadership ballot.’

For starters, as the rest of the ballot paper makes clear, this is a ballot paper for the Deputy Leadership – as it appears the Leadership is more of a glorified handover or coronation rather than part of a democratic process. Secondly, it points out that all members of the Union pay into the coffers of New Labour, through the MU’s ‘political fund’ – whether they want to or not.

MU members therefore, all pay toward the Labour Party’s running cost, but cannot, unless they agree to a prescripted ‘pledge,’ vote for what they pay for! In essence, the members are being forced to vote – or not vote – for a party, not an individual whose ideals are the closest match to their own.

The proportion of a MU member’s subscription that is given to the Labour Party is a tax. The tax payer can only participate in a so called democratic process if they pledge that they support ‘the principals and policies’ of the Labour Party’ to the extent they exclude all opposing principles, policies and parties. So, Labour sceptics or members of say, the Tory party, or  forced either to be less than truthful in order to vote, or suffer the fate of so many American so long ago….. taxation without representation.

I call upon all members of the MU who disagree with their Union’s demand for a pledge for a vote, or, who do not want their ‘tax’ paid to New Labour, to return their ballot paper without the pledge box ticked. I challenge the MU to publicise figures of all eligible and non-eligible ballot papers received.  If the majority of MU members return a non-pledge ballot paper I challenge the MU to review – maybe even put to a membership vote – their political funding policy.

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