The term ‘champagne socialist’ has not only become cliché but also almost redundant in modern days. With the birth of new Labour, the old left have lost their voice, only for it to be replaced by ‘socialist’ whispers beaten down by centrist critique. Many who would once have been labelled champagne socialists now live in large houses, on hundred thousand pound salaries, send their children to public schools and holiday in large and exotic villas with the defence that they are New Labourites. Those who attack them as being faux-left-wing are reminded that in fact, New Labour is a party of the middle-ground and is not one that unreservedly argues for a life of scarcity. This I feel is a fair defence. New Labour is in many ways un-socialist and for its members and supporters to lead well-off lives is not a total contradiction in terms.
However there are few to whom the term champagne socialists fits more perfectly than the joint General Secretary of Unite; Tony Woodley. The joint general secretary, who earns £122,000 a year in his post, will spend this week at an air-conditioned villa in Cyprus, with private swimming pool, which is owned by Anna Mowatt, ex-wife of Jim Mowatt, Unite’s Director of Education.
He will fly out to the island with Easy-Jet while his members, those same members who fund his six figure salary, are striking against British Airways. Tens of thousands of BA customers are facing cancelled flights as the latest in a series of four-day strikes by Unite cabin crew takes effect until Wednesday.
Yet even worse, while Mr Woodley should have been representing his Unite members last month during debates with the BA executive which led to these most recent strikes, the job that he is being paid so much to do, Woodley did not attend because he was in Cuba celebrating the 51st anniversary of the revolution that swept Fidel Castro to power.
With a set of strikes that are crippling the flag carrying airline of Great Britain, that are causing awful disruption to passengers, deserving of a holiday, and which are unnecessarily setting cabin crew and the public against each other, it might be worth considering a replacement for Mr Woodley, maybe with a smaller pay package and a better work ethic otherwise the men and women of unite may not get the support for which they paid and will instead be stuck with a dishonest, deceitful and idle champagne socialist general secretary who appears to care little for his membership.