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from The Great Debate UK:

Tariq Ali on how unions fare under Labour rule

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Amid a stand-off between British Airways and the Unite union, the Labour Party's main financial supporter, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a planned strike by BA cabin crew workers "unjustified and deplorable" last week and said both sides should return to talks.

Rail signal workers in the RMT union are also threatening to strike, but haven't announced a date.

The Conservatives have tried to make political capital out of industrial unrest ahead of a general election expected to be called for May 6, accusing the Labour Party of being in the pocket of the unions.

But how much political leverage do trade unions in Britain really have?

Unions are still burdened by the steps former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took to crush the labour movement in the 1980s, says political commentator Tariq Ali, who has written more than 30 books, including "Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror" in 2006 and most recently a novel titled “Night of the Golden Butterfly".

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