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24 September 2000

Is Labour losing touch with its roots?
Local Labour Parties and trade union activists are in danger of drifting apart, according to a survey of union branch officers published in the latest issue of Labour Research magazine.

Two factors - dissatisfaction with Labour and a decline in active members - are combining to undermine links between union branches and Constituency Labour Parties.

A total of 178 union branches responded to the survey, 133 of whom were affiliated to the Party and 45 of whom were not.

It reveals that Labour is unlikely to be attracting new union branch affiliates in the near future. The main reason for branches not affiliating is dissatisfaction with the Party and its attitude to unions.

Some of the dissatisfaction is with the Party nationally. A typical comment from the branch officers was that from the secretary of an MSF industry and services union branch, who said: "The Labour Party has lost interest in the unions. There is no longer any overlap between active MSF members and active Labour Party members in our branch."

For others, particularly in public services union UNISON, it is with Labour-controlled local authorities. One UNISON branch secretary summed up the feeling as follows: "In our borough, whenever there is an important community campaign or one involving ourselves, the Labour Party is either absent or actually in opposition to us."

And although three-quarters of the branches are still affiliated to the Party, the formal link often does not reflect a strong and healthy relationship. The survey shows that:

less than a third of affiliated union branches have a regular report back from CLP delegates and 15% never have one;
more than two-thirds of branches have had no input into the local policy forums set up by the Party to get more members involved in policy discussions;
two thirds have had no joint involvement with their local CLP in any recruitment campaigns, socials or other events or activities in the last year; and
over four fifths have not discussed the Party's 21st century consultation document on reforming local Party organisation.

Notes to editors

More details of the survey and quotes from the union branches are included in a feature in the forthcoming October 2000 issue of Labour Research (page proofs enclosed).
Labour Research is published by the Labour Research Department, an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 89 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.
For further information on this press release contact Richard Pond on 020 7902 9812.

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