Warning against severing the link

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The Independent Online
The leader of Labour's most loyal affiliate yesterday warned Tony Blair against breaking the link between the party and unions and urged him to dismiss the shadow minister responsible for floating the idea.

On the eve of the last party conference before the general election, Ken Jackson, the increasingly outspoken right-wing General Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, told the Labour leadership: "It is not the unions that ought to be dropped by Labour. What needs to be dropped are careless words and careless shadow ministers."

Stephen Byers, a Labour employment spokesman, is alleged to have suggested that the party and unions go their separate ways at a dinner with journalists during the TUC Congress earlier this month.

Mr Jackson's comments were echoed from the left by Lew Adams, leader of Aslef, the train drivers' union.

"We are not going away, whether or not our rebellious offspring in the political wing of the movement try to disown their parenthood," he said.

Writing in the latest issue of his union's Locomotive Journal, he reminded Mr Blair that many of the workers who were recently on strike at London Underground would be out canvassing for Labour. Mr Jackson also accused the Labour leader of allowing "idle speculation" about whether Labour was serious about restoring employment rights.

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