Labour faces revolt over links to union

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The Labour Party is expected to provoke a union revolt over plans to expel today one of the party's founding organisations.

The Labour Party is expected to provoke a union revolt over plans to expel today one of the party's founding organisations.

An emergency meeting of the RMT rail union, which helped to establish Labour in 1906, is set to confirm its policy of allowing branches to affiliate to other parties which would mean expulsion from the party.

If Labour insists on expelling the RMT, other unions could follow a similarly rebellious line. Branches of the Communications Workers Union - another leading Labour affiliate - have warned they would back other parties if the RMT is thrown out. One of the CWU's largest branches, with 4,300 members in the Edinburgh and Lothian area, has said it would endorse the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) - the party chosen by RMT rebels north of the border.

The leaders of the CWU have passed a resolution which "deplores, condemns and regrets" the decision to expel the rail union. Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will be urged to follow a similar path to the RMT at their annual conference in May. Some FBU branches are calling for "disaffiliation" from Labour. It is thought that other union conferences will be holding debates on the issue.

Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, has warned Bob Crow, the leader of the RMT, that his union will be expelled within 24 hours if today's meeting in Glasgow fails to overturn its decision of July last year. The RMT's national executive has since allowed five branches to back the SSP.

Mr Crow has threatened Labour with legal action on the grounds that his union has not breached the constitution and has not been allowed to make its case if the RMT is expelled. Under Mr Crow's leadership the RMT has reduced its financial contribution to Labour from £112,000 a year to £12,500.

It is thought that today's vote will be closer than last year's 46 to 5 decision to forge links with Labour's opponents. Labour loyalists believe they could muster about 20 votes.

A Labour spokesman said: "They will stand outside the constitution of the Labour Party and one of the products of that will be disaffiliation."

Mr McCartney said: "The decision for the 50 or so delegates is this: do they walk away from the Labour Party into the arms of the SSP or do they remain in the Labour family."

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