The trouble with Chauvel’s amendment

Karl Du Fresne

Charles Chauvel inadvertently reinforced for many the belief that Labour is captured  by the unions. Karl du Fresne explains why and also how this will likely cause trouble between the Greens and Labour:

In other words, transparency’s all very well when it’s wicked professional lobbyists and corporates who are under scrutiny, but Chauvel thinks people like Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly and secretary Peter Conway – two of the lobbyists outed last week as having swipe cards giving them special access to Parliament – should be allowed to continue flying under the radar. They are, he says, “less sinister” than the other sort of lobbyist. Well, he would say that, given Labour’s need to protect its friends and benefactors in the unions.But hang on. Either we have transparency or we don’t. Chauvel wants us to believe that union lobbyists are all honourable people with unimpeachable motives, so can be relied on to go about their business without scrutiny, while anyone representing business is by definition “sinister” and cannot be trusted. Good luck with that, as they say. He also expects us to assume that all charities, churches and NGOs are by definition beyond suspicion when many of them are highly politicised and should be subjected to exactly the same rules of transparency as everyone else.

The trouble with Chauvel’s panicky back-pedalling is that it immediately creates the suspicion that Labour and the unions have something to hide. The public are not stupid: they will think it very telling that Labour and the unions are the only people baulking at the Walker bill.

It also hints at the tensions that would inevitably arise in a Labour-Greens coalition, where the well-intentioned idealism of Green MPs like Walker would sit very uncomfortably alongside the murky realpolitik practised by Labour.


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  • Alex

    I once had a discussion with a Labourite friend of mine as to why it was wrong for the Exclusive Brethren to spend money “in support” of National (and by proxy why Clark needed to legislate against it) and why it was perfectly OK for the Unions to sponsor Labour.  

    The only rationale the friend could tell me was that the Unions represented tens of thousands, while the EB were supported by only a few.  This was promptly shown to be a totally unprincipled distinction.  But the friend was unfazed: for her it was Holy Writ that the Unions should be allowed to fund and support Labour in anyway it wanted.  And she hastened to add, the Unions had been doing so for almost a century now, so what was the problem.

    I’d like to say that I’m amazed that Charlie Shovel would be so blatant about this, but I’m not.  It will be interesting to see whether the Greens have sufficient principles and backbone to disagree with Labour over this. 

    • Neil

      My only comment to the comparison is the Exclusives have always stated they do not get involved in politics and encourage their brethren to not vote at any elections – the term hypocracy used so often here must surely apply then. 

      I concure with the why is there any difference – any influence should be transparent, not just those who happen to have card access – what about those who attend meetings with elected members on a regular basis and do not have cards – they also lobby.  I’d love to see a monthly list produced for public scrutiny in the Parliamentary website of names of “visitors” in order of numbers of visits in the month.

    • Robert

       Perhaps one difference, generally speaking, could be that when the likes of the BRT or other lobbyists court National it’s about policies that benefit the lobbyists personally.  But, again generally speaking, when lobbyists court Labour it’s about issues that don’t affect those lobbyists personally but instead attempt to improve the lot of others.

  • Guest2

    Unions are Lobbyists – simple
    Read all their websites – this would rank as the worst analysis by any MP in 2012 – this was quite frankly creating the worst distraction of all time.

    Let me out this in layman’s terms:

    ” Hi I am a Labour MP. I am sponsored and supported by the Unions who are quite frankly really nice people with really good ideas which everyone should embrace. However there are some really awful people who should be registered as lobbyists – namely the Christians who by nature are evil”

    Like me on Facebook – Charlie

  • Pukakidon

    Another devious plan to try and gain an unfair advantage for Labour.  This is because they  know very well that the only way to win is by stealth and not through developing rational policy that will contribute to our economy.

    Charlie is a well practiced manipulator.    However he is thick and tends to jump before thinking clearly about the consequence of his ill thought-out actions. 

    • Troy

      and was known to manipulate in saunas too.

  • David

    The unions want this bill killed as we have seen on this very site transparency is not their strong suit. Charlie is taking one for the union team, got to hand it to Kelly she is a smart operator she knows it will now turn into a partisan fight and the legislation will be watered down to ineffectual.