Parliament & Politics: Unions - Cabinet Ministers Tell Unions: `We Will Not Be Bought' for Any Agenda'
Ben Russell, Marie Woolf and Barrie Clement, The Independent (London, England)
SENIOR CABINET ministers insisted last night the Government was "not for sale" as they hit back at union leaders for cutting support to MPs who refuse to sign a pledge backing their left-wing policies.
Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons, and Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, intervened in the row over union support for MPs after the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union cut almost pounds 700,000 from its contribution to Labour and stopped sponsorship to the constituency offices of several MPs.
John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, resigned from the RMT on Wednesday in protest at the union's decision to switch its financial support to MPs who backed its campaign for rail nationalisation.
Yesterday the Communication Workers Union, one of Labour's biggest affiliates, confirmed it would cut pounds 500,000 from its donations to the party over three years. But the union's annual conference in Blackpool defeated a proposal by hard-left activists to the scrap the link with the party. The union, which gave pounds 1m last year to Labour, said it would use the money saved to campaign against Government policies on postal services.
Yesterday Mr Cook, who is sponsored by the RMT, told MPs: "I'm not to be bought. While I will welcome support in fighting elections from anybody who broadly supports Labour's values and wishes to work for a Labour victory, I'm not to be bought for any particular agenda and it is on this basis that I decline to sign up to an oath of loyalty. …