Miliband plans to cut union block vote

The unions are getting it from all directions at the moment. Whilst Conservative ministers are threatening to restrict further the unions ability to go on strike, the Labour leader is planning action to cut their powers too.

This, despite the fact that Ed Miliband was only elected leader on the votes of affiliated union members.

While all the attention has focussed on Ed Miliband's plans to abolish elections for the Shadow Cabinet, the Labour leader is planning for more controversial reforms - to the unions' role at the annual party conference. And that could prompt a huge fight.

In Wrexham on Saturday Miliband told Labour's National Poilicy Forum:

"If we want conference to have more legitimacy inside the party with the leadership, the conference must be more legitimate in the way its decisions are made."

"We can't modernise our party and make it fit for the 21st Century unless we look at the way conference works and that's what we are going to do."

That line was largely ignored by the media, but I am told on high authority that it was meant as a warning to the unions that Miliband wants to cut back their block vote at the party conference.

Currently unions account for 50 per cent of votes at the conference, though in the past they made up 90 per cent of the vote. Ed Miliband would like to take the percentage much lower.

And now might be the right moment to do that, with the unions on the defensive. And a good punch-up with the unions of the left can often be a big boost to a Labour leader's reputation, as Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair all showed. But the leader has to win his battle.

But it would be a big risk for Miliband at a time when the party is dependent on the unions for more than 80 per cent of its funding.