Leaked Email Shows How BA Strike Union Is Campaigning For Labour

Charlie Whelan

(Telegraph) – THE UNION behind the British Airways strike is actively coordinating attempts to secure Gordon Brown another term as Prime Minister, a leaked email reveals.

The email, seen by the Daily Telegraph, is from Charlie Whelan, a long-time friend and ally of the Prime Minister, and it reveals the degree to which the union is helping Labour’s election campaign.

In the memo, which was sent last month, Unite regional officers are instructed on how they should rally Labour support in the workplaces and get supporters to make 10 calls a day to Unite members encouraging them to vote.

Mr Whelan boasts that the union – which claims to have 2 million members – has been active in key marginal constituencies for the last year.

He also urges his army of regional secretaries to get members to vote by post to ensure Labour’s vote is got out.

The disclosure of the way Unite is attempting to mobilise party support comes as the row over the BA strike escalates.

The airline last night said that four out of 10 flights would have to be cancelled for the first three days of the walk-out – due to start on Saturday.

Gordon Brown yesterday condemned the industrial action as “deplorable”. But he still did not directly criticise the union as Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, had done at the weekend.

Mr Whelan is the political director of the super-union that is orchestrating the looming strike action that threatens to cripple BA services over Easter.

The former spin doctor is now back at the heart of Labour’s operation and regularly speaks to the Prime Minister.

He writes: “With many of our members working shifts we’re also asking you to make sure as many of our members register for a postal vote.”

It is also clear – that like Lord Ashcroft with the Conservatives – Unite is heavily involved in the fight for votes in crucial marginal constituencies.

In the leaked memo Mr Whelan confirms: “We’ve been in touch for the last year or so with Unite members in the key parliamentary marginals. We’ve asked them their voting intentions and what issues matters to them.

“That has led to a dialogue to firm up Labour support.”

And he issues a rallying cry about what the Conservatives would do if they won the election.

Mr Whelan said: “Under the Tories deep, draconian ideologically driven cuts putting a million public sector workers and tens of thousands in the private sector on the dole.”

The spin doctor has admitted that Unite is actively taking part in the election fight in ways that previously unions – despite donating millions to the party – would not have done.

He said at the weekend: “Unions traditionally had a policy of bunging money to the party and saying ‘get on with it’, but we have taken a different approach.”

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Brown should immediately stop taking money from Unite.

He said: “This is a test of Gordon Brown and he is ducking that test. You cannot on the one hand condemn the strike while at the same time accepting money from the union orchestrating it.

“The Unite union is becoming a party within a party. It is selecting candidates and running the campaign in the marginal seats.

“Its political director has open pass to Downing Street and, as this email shows, he is directing Labour’s campaign and boasting about it. This is Labour’s new militant tendency.”

It comes as Gordon Brown finally condemned the planned BA strike as “unjustified.”

The Daily Telegraph has also established that Unite is using its multi-million pound political operation to “reclaim the Labour Party for the workers”.

A union document has disclosed that Unite has given Labour £11 million since it was created in 2007 by the merger of the Amicus and Transport and General Workers union.

Those two unions donated another £15 million in the six years before that. Amicus donated a total of £9.5 million and the TGWU gave £6.1 million.

The combined total of £26 million of donations makes Unite and its component unions the biggest financial players in British politics.

The Conservatives say the union is using its financial muscle to influence Labour policy. A report on the combined union’s financial strategy, prepared last summer, shows that Unite plans to use its money to enhance its political clout.

The document, drawn up by Unite leaders Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, says they are adopting “a policy of enhancing Unite’s influence politically.”

Mr Woodley and Mr Simpson oversaw the decision to install Mr Whelan as Unite’s political director.

The Unite operation includes a “virtual call centre” where union members canvass for Labour. Several Unite officials and allies have been selected for safe Labour seats at the general election, causing alarm among Blairite MPs.

In the strategy paper, Mr Woodley and Mr Simpson, make clear that Unite is seeking to expand its sway over Labour.

They say: “While a fair amount has been achieved already in terms of influence with the current Government, the upcoming General Election and the revival of the Conservative Party mean that the process of reclaiming the Labour Party for workers needs to be accelerated.”

They add: “If nothing else, the recession has proven that New Labour’s wholesale adoption of laissez faire, unrestrained free market policies was simply wrong.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, the report says Unite will “make sure that the Labour Party stands for fundamental re-regulation of the financial sector”.

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