Richard North, 09/07/2004  

Despite their opposition to the EU constitution, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber is telling British unions not to reject it out of hand. Workers, he says, "should judge the document by what it says, rather than what the government's negotiating position was".

"There are certainly some good things in the final document," he has told the Tribune newspaper, on which basis he is urging the traditionally pro-European union movement not to deliver an outright "no".

The poor little darling thus seems a tad confused. Currently – as far as we know – any referendum will offer a choice of a "yes" or "no" vote. We are not aware of any plans to make provision for a "maybe" answer, just to suit the Barber of Muswell Hill.

But it seems he is really angling for a split in the block vote, so that he can claim that the unions "on balance" support the constitution. The fraternal "we" will then "reserve our right to put a distinctive trade union argument".

Pressaging more than a few upsets amongst the brave band of brothers suppporting the constitution, however, he adds: "If that makes us awkward allies for a "yes" campaign, then so be it".

Given that the union were on the "no" side in the last referendum, this news looks encouraging. "On balance", it might be better having the brethren messing up the "yes" campaign rather than dragging the "no" side down, as they did in 1975.

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