Unison warns that far-left motion could cut off Labour Party funding

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Indy Politics

The country's biggest trade union has warned that far-left members could win their battle to divert hundreds of thousands of pounds away from the Labour Party this week.

Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, believes that "moderate-sounding'' motions tabled for the public service union's annual conference on Wednesday could mean that the link with Labour is broken.

While the Trotskyist-backed proposals simply call for a system where non-Labour candidates and organisations would be financed if they backed Unison policy, Mr Prentis believes this may lead to "backdoor disaffiliation'' from the party. He says support for other politicians would infringe Labour policy and result in Unison being expelled from the party.

The union's leaders believe that disaffection with Tony Blair among delegates to Unison's annual conference in Brighton could mean victory for the radicals. In an article in the latest edition of the left-wing weekly Tribune, Mr Prentis warned that delegates faced a choice between being able to influence government policy or ending up in the wilderness. "Who in their right mind would think it better to be chanting slogans outside the [Labour] conference centre rather than inside making and winning our case on the conference floor?"

The ultra-left Socialist Party has tabled a motion for the Unison conference calling for the creation of a third political fund in addition to the union's existing funds, one of which goes to Labour and the other which is used for non-aligned political campaigns. The third account could be used for non-Labour organisations and candidates.

Another proposition, supported by the Socialist Workers Party, urges the introduction of one political fund that could be used to divert some cash away from Labour. The union's leadership is fighting to keep the ultra-left motions off the order paper, but the final decision has yet to be made.

Mr Prentis said that the union's deal with the Government over the "two-tier workforce'' in local government would not have been possible without its link with Labour.