A third of 108 Labour MPs backed by GMB, Britain's third largest union, are to have their sponsorship withdrawn. This is because they are perceived not to have done enough to support union policies. Those picked include a junior minister (Meg Munn at the Foreign Office), several ministerial aides and a vice-chairman of the Labour Party.
The move, which may be followed by other unions, is designed to increase pressure on Labour to support more union-friendly policies without triggering the nuclear option on disaffiliating from the party altogeher. However, the GMB is going to contact its 600,000 members to see if they want to cut the £1.2m in affiliation fees paid annually by the GMB to the Labour Party. The union provides another £400,000 in donations to local Labour constituency parties.
Labour has become increasingly reliant on unions for funds as donations from individuals have dried up after the cash-for-honours row and falling opinion poll ratings. It is facing a backlash over its failure to pay more heed to union demands on issues such as public sector pay and privatisation of public services. The Communication Workers Union has threatened to demand a fresh commitment from Gordon Brown not to privatise the Royal Mail in return for its continued financial support.