Trade unions: as spurious as rain-makers?

John Blundell writes for The Scotsman

WHEN anthropologists first studied peoples in semi-arid areas around the world they found most groups had shamans or priests or medicine men who devised rituals to bring down the life-giving rains. There was no more an important task ... nor a more fraudulent one.

You could dance at dawn. You could sacrifice a goat. You could sing to the clouds. You could sacrifice a child. Any ritual would do providing it had drama and a substantial "fee".

If the rains came then the magician had performed his duties with diligence and skill. If the skies did not open then it was the fault of his customers. Either they had been sinful in some way or had not made sufficient sacrifices. As a confidence trick it is difficult to beat.

Apart from cricket, perhaps we go without rain-making rituals but we do have tricksters attempting comparable frauds. We call them trade unions.

Tony Blair has all but broken the umbilical cords between trade unions and the Labour Party. He has made no attempts to reverse the Tory legal changes that brought unions back within the law.

Nonetheless a certain primitive folk memory survives. But for trade unions, the idea goes, the workers would be earning far less and possibly li