10 thoughts on “Anti-worker McDonald’s unwelcome at British Labour party

  1. Friday 22nd April 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is no longer ‘sponsored’ by McDonald’s as it was during the Blairite years. The party right may complain, but we’re all lovin’ it, writes SOLOMON HUGHES

    I WORKED in a burger bar — not McDonald’s, one of its rivals — for long enough that I think I could still disassemble and sterilise the milkshake machine or drain the fat fryer. One of my sons worked in McDonald’s too.

    And from that experience I can say that I don’t think that McDonald’s should be able to buy influence on the Labour Party any more than I think the “special sauce” is really special.

    It is quite bizarre that some on the right of the party think demanding Labour take cash from McDonald’s will help their cause. And quite sad the way they are doing it.

    A small number of Labour MPs claim the party rejected £30,000 from McDonald’s because they are “snobs” who look down on McDonald’s workers or customers. But McDonald’s was rejected because it’s anti-union. BFAWU, the union currently trying to organise McDonald’s workers — which has been rebuffed by the firm — raised the objection. Anyone who has worked for the big scary burger clown knows it exploits its staff, and that’s why it doesn’t want unions.

    It isn’t about the food. We’ve all been through the drive-through window or been to the kids’ party in the hot little back room. It’s about whether we think McDonald’s bosses can buy their way into the Labour Party conference.

    Just like the toys in Happy Meals aren’t really given away for “free,” so McDonald’s desire to give Labour money isn’t really just them being generous.

    It’s as if some Labour MP in the past demanded Labour take money from an anti-union mill owner, lest they be seen as “snobs” who looked down on mill workers, or objected to wool.

    The whole “snobs” line some MPs are taking was actually developed by McDonald’s. In 2003 McDonald’s paid for a think tank to come up with a defence of its working practices, which led to the “Job Snobs” slogan – McDonald’s funded a survey that found people didn’t think working conditions at the burger bar were good, which, weirdly, they described as “snobbery” rather than simply accurate. We’ve all done jobs where the pay was too low, there were too many “casual” contracts and so on. Wanting better for ourselves and our kids and our fellow workers isn’t “snobbery,” it’s the essence of Labourism.

    This was a high-Blairite time when McDonald’s did have a presence inside the Labour Party. McDonald’s regularly paid £15,000 in “sponsorship” to Labour and organised meetings on the conference fringe. For all the talk of “snobbery,” McDonald’s did not serve burgers and shakes at these meetings — it served canapes and white wine.

    McDonald’s propagandistic approach at Labour conference back then was so crude it even embarrassed the MPs persuaded to speak on its platforms. In 2003 I saw Labour’s then employment minister Ivan Lewis speak at a McDonald’s fringe meeting next to McDonald’s top spin doctor Julian Hilton-Johnson. After 20 minutes of PR about the burger firm, a bemused Lewis was driven to tell the audience of Labour delegates: “I feel as if I have been unwittingly involved in a McDonald’s marketing campaign for the last 20 minutes.”

    McDonald’s doesn’t buy its way into Labour circles because it believes in socialism, although it is a deeply political firm. Thatcher’s spokesman Bernard Ingham sat on its board from 1991 to 2005. When Blair won the 1997 election McDonald’s spent a lot of time trying to buy into the party, hiring Labour-connected lobbyists like former Labour head of press Colin Byrne.

    It did so to stave off regulation: McDonald’s wanted to resist any laws that made it easier for unions to organise, as well as try and keep minimum wage laws low and hold back regulation of marketing to children.

    It politics also showed a sinister side when it worked with a lot of sleazy private detectives and Special Branch to keep tabs on the “McLibel” protestors — such as Helen Steel, a victim-turned-campaigner in the “spycops” scandal.

    McDonald’s now faces pressure on working conditions, zero-hours contracts and an investigation into tax avoidance. That’s why it wants to pay for a date with Labour — to blunt these political pressures.

    So this is what Labour is standing up for: it’s arguing that the party should not sell influence to an anti-union outfit. And, weirdly, a small group of MPs are arguing that the money lenders should have a place in the temple.

    IN THE wake of the Panama Papers, the Conservatives are rushing around arguing how they hate tax avoidance and will rein in offshore dodging. But in truth the offshore money floods around the party, funding their mad dreams. I can vividly remember a meeting at the 2012 Conservative Conference addressed by “rising star” back-bench MP Kwasi Kwarteng.

    Speaking to a packed room Kwarteng told us that only low tax could save the economy and only the “low tax of the UK before World War I” could really drive the kind of growth we need. Yes, let’s go back to 1913. Back to when life expectancy was 52. Back to before the NHS. Back to a school leaving age of 12.

    Claiming wholesale cuts would please working-class “strivers,” Kwarteng said the government needed to take “tough, courageous and brave” decisions to cut benefit and “liberalise labour markets for lower-paid workers.”

    But the whole meeting was paid for by Jersey Finance, the trade body for Jersey’s offshore financial system, and was also addressed by Jersey Finance’s chief executive, who recommended “low taxes” and “radical free-market reform.”

    This is what the Tory dream looks like: a meeting calling for a return to a pre-Downton Abbey Britain funded by the trade association of the Channel Islands offshore tax avoidance industry.

    The Tories only recovered votes by detoxification, by draining this kind of poison. Except they didn’t drain it at all — it is still pumping around their system.



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