Diary: Labour's losing (its £2m a year union top-up, that is)

 

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The Independent Online

June could be a very expensive month for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. The GMB, Britain's third biggest union, will take a vote at its annual conference on whether to cut its ties with Labour altogether, which would reduce the party's already depleted income by around £2m a year.

Labour's biggest backer, the Unite union, has published the agenda for its June conference, including three resolutions from union branches suggesting that the union withhold 10 per cent of what it would normally donate (it has given Labour around £5m during Ed Miliband's leadership) and use it instead "to directly campaign for union freedoms".

The reasons that union activist might want to inflict this punishment can be found in another resolution which says: "Balls and Miliband have endorsed the public sector pay freeze that is slashing living standards for millions of workers. Unite general Secretary Len McCluskey has denounced the statements as 'discredited Blairism'... The statements from Len McCluskey and others attacking Balls and Miliband are welcome."

So, too many tweets do make a t***

It amazes me what people in public office or running from public office will write on social media such as Twitter, seemingly oblivious to the offence they are likely to cause. The SNP has suspended one of its candidates in North Lanarkshire, Lyall Duff, who shared with his Twitter followers his thoughts on two midwives who lost a court battle with the NHS in Glasgow after refusing to take part in abortions or provide care for patients during the process. "Sack the money-grabbing old witches and make them pay back every penny they earned in disgust doing their career choice," he suggested.

Now the Labour Party is considering what to do about Janette Williamson, one of their council candidates in Wirral, who contributed to a Twitter discussion about Prince Philip's health with the charming thought: "Why the f*** hasn't he died yet?"

She also described Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, as "a Tory" and complained that Ed Miliband is "losing us the next election." She observed: "I'm standing for election in May, and door-knocking tells me people aren't liking Ed. At all."

Paxman takes a Pottinger pasting

It is a rare moment when Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight's formidable interviewer, concedes defeat, but he did so, on air, and with reasonable good humour on Tuesday night after a studio guest had argued him into the ground.

Tim Bell, of Bell Pottinger, was invited on to discuss whether there should be a register of lobbyists. He dismissed the idea as "rubbish and claptrap put up by people who want to prove that something unpleasant is going on, that – as you so charmingly put it – we smell."

He also took a swipe at this newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, claiming "they are in fact lobbying for a state register for lobbyists."

Paxman let pass unchallenged Lord Bell's denial that his company's past clients included the former military dictator of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet. The firm was, in fact, acting for the Pinochet Foundation.

After several minutes in which Lord Bell gave no quarter at all, Paxman remarked ruefully: "We don't see you very often. I begin to see why. We rather regret inviting you, in fact."

Driven to Labour by the Budget

I note that Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, is on paternity leave. His wife, Lucia, felt contractions on the evening of Budget day and their daughter Anna was born the following morning. It reinforces those opinion polls that there has been nothing quite like George Osborne's Budget for driving people to Labour.

Knighthood by post for 'Sir' Tim

Tim Montgomerie, who runs the ConservativeHome website, says he was delighted to receive an invitation to a reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Samantha Cameron, in aid of Save the Children – and even more delighted that on his smartly embossed invitation someone had written in beautifully scripted handwriting "Sir Tim Montgomerie".

Does someone in Downing Street know something we do not know?

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