Union to 'fund Labour MPs directly'

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Leaders of one of the country's biggest trade unions today decided to switch financial support directly to Labour MPs, costing the party £750,000.

Leaders of one of the country's biggest trade unions today decided to switch financial support directly to Labour MPs, costing the party £750,000.

The GMB said it will stop giving Labour money centrally to spend on elections and campaigns.

The funding will instead go to MPs and candidates who support the union's policies.

The move was agreed almost unanimously by a meeting of the executive of the GMB, the fourth biggest union in the country.

The move deals another huge blow to Labour's links with unions following last month's decision by the Fire Brigades Union to disaffiliate from the party.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union was thrown out of Labour earlier this year after deciding to support other political parties.

The GMB decision reflects widespread disillusion among rank and file union members with the policies of the Labour Party and the leadership of Tony Blair.

Leading unions are at odds with the Government on a number of issues, including foundation hospitals, the private finance initiative, pensions, employment rights and the so–called two–tier workforce in the NHS.

The GMB said it had been asked by Labour to give an extra £744,000 to the party's central coffers to help fund its general election campaign.

The executive decided instead to fund only those Labour MPs who "share the GMB's aims and values".

General secretary Kevin Curran said: "Like the Prime Minister the GMB supports increased choice, so from now on our members will be free to choose which Labour candidates they want to help return to Parliament.

"The entirely bogus 'choice' debate and recent ministerial bragging about flexible labour markets and the denial of equal treatment at work with other European citizens are disturbing examples of a growing disconnect between the aspirations of working people and 10 Downing Street.

"GMB members have today made it abundantly clear that they expect the Government to address their concerns on a wide range of issues such as the two tier workforce, compulsory pensions and manufacturing job losses."

Mr Curran said the union would be evaluating "very carefully" the outcome of Labour's national policy forum later this month and annual conference in September.

"GMB members want to work to deliver a third term Labour Government, but only one that is elected on a radical manifesto that will deliver social justice to every citizen in the UK.

"The GMB is concerned that unless Labour brings about policies that can re–energise Labour's core support and connect with Labour voters in the heartlands, the party's support will continue to erode and we will reach a watershed moment in our relationship."

The 700,000 member union will continue to affiliate to Labour, which provides the party with £900,000 a year.