Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
23 February 2011

Labour’s growing dependence on the unions

The unions were responsible for nearly 90 per cent of all donations in Q4 2010.

By George Eaton

The latest political donation figures are out and they show how financially dependent Labour has become on the trade unions. In quarter four of 2010, the party received £2,545,611 in donations (excluding public funds or “short money”), £2,231,741.90 or 88 per cent of which came from the unions, compared to 36 per cent in the final quarter of 2009. Private donations have all but collapsed since Ed Miliband became leader, with just £39,286 raised from individual donations to CLPs.

In total, the unions were responsible for 62 per cent of all Labour funding last year (up from 60 per cent in 2009), with one union, Unite, providing nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all donations. Back in 1994, when Tony Blair became Labour leader, trade unions accounted for just a third of the party’s annual income. But, as the graph below shows, Labour’s dependence on the unions has increased hugely since he left office.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.


As I’ve argued before, there is no comparison between the unions and the big-money donors the Tories rely on. For instance, donations from Unite are taken from the union’s political fund, to which 1,291,408 members contribute voluntarily. But it remains unhealthy for the party to be so reliant on only a few sources of income. Widening Labour’s funding base remains a critical challenge for Ed Miliband – one that he must now address.

NB: To those of you who think I’ve let the Tories off the hook, I refer you to my recent blog on the Conservatives’ growing financial dependence on the City. Since David Cameron became party leader, donations from the Square Mile have risen from 24.67 per cent of all donations (£2.7m) in 2005 to 50.79 per cent (£11.4m) in 2010.