Unison to stop backing MPs who do not support its policies

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Indy Politics

Britain's biggest union yesterday threatened to withdraw financial support from 44 MPs including the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, if they fail to endorse the organisation's political views. The public service union Unison warned Labour's high command it would stop funding any constituency whose MP actively opposed its policy.

Among the ministers whose constituency organisation is partly funded by the union is Mr Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside, whose policy on asylum-seekers will be denounced today at the union's annual conference in Brighton.

Delegates are expected to pass a resolution claiming the Home Secretary's rhetoric on the subject of refugees has fuelled "populist racism and given legitimacy to organisations of the fascist right such as the British National Party''.

Other senior politicians whose views will come under scrutiny include the School Standards minister David Miliband, member for South Shields. The union has warned him plans for increasing the responsibilities of teaching assistants must include higher awards, including an end to term-time-only pay.

David Prentis, the union's general secretary, said he was "fed up'' with getting up at 5am to go to television studios to argue about Government policy with MPs whose constituencies are funded by the union. This was a reference to the ultra-Blairite, Julia Drown, MP for Swindon South, who said Unison's opposition to the private finance initiative was wrong-headed.

Mr Prentis told journalists there would be far more scrutiny of the views of MPs to ensure that members' money was not "frittered away''. But he insisted there would be no "witch-hunt'' and welcomed the conference's decision to throw out motions which he believed threatened an end to the union's affiliation to the Labour Party. Unison gives £1,500 each to 44 constituencies, pays an annual £1.5m affiliation fee to Labour and donated nearly £700,000 to Labour's general election fund. He told the 2,000 delegates ending the link with Labour would mean the union being cast into the "political wilderness'', adding: "One of the best platforms we have is trade union solidarity through our links with the Labour Party.''

Delegates also overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for co-ordinated industrial action in public services if the Government fails to meet their pay aspirations.