Miliband urges 'historic' changes to Labour's union links


Ed Miliband: "I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so."

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Ed Miliband has pledged to end the automatic "affiliation" fee paid by three million union members to Labour.

It comes after the Unite union was accused of trying to rig the selection of the party's parliamentary candidate for Falkirk.

The Labour leader said changing its link with the unions would mean an end to "machine politics".

But Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the fee - worth £8m a year to Labour - would "stay as it is".

The GMB union said there was no evidence Mr Miliband's plans were "workable" and warned that they would cost the party a "very significant" amount.

Under the current system, members of supportive unions pay an automatic levy to Labour, unless they choose to opt out. Labour insiders estimate making it non-automatic would cost the party about £5m.


In his speech in London, Mr Miliband proposed that only those union members who "deliberately" chose to join the party in future would do so.

The announcement came after Unite, one of the party's biggest donors, was accused of signing up its members to Labour in Falkirk - some without their knowledge - in an effort to get its preferred candidate selected.


  • End to automatic affiliation for union members to the Labour Party
  • Members would have to opt-in to pay subscriptions to Labour and could opt not to
  • Spending limits and code of conduct for candidates in Labour selection contests
  • Open primary to be held for selection of Labour candidate for 2016 London mayor and potentially in other contests
  • Consultation needed on the amount MPs can earn from outside interests and rules to prevent conflict of interest
  • Called for all-party talks on capping donation to restart

Mr Miliband promised to make politics more "open, transparent and trusted" by creating a "modern" relationship with trade unions, saying he wanted "to take action and seize the moment that Falkirk represents".

The changes would be introduced as "soon as possible" and definitely before the next general election, Mr Miliband said. An aide later said this should happen "within months, rather than years".

But Mr McCluskey told BBC Radio 4's World at One there was "no civil war" within the Labour movement.

He added that, in his speech, Mr Miliband "did not mention anything" about losing the political levy from unions, which "would stay as it is".

Instead, Mr McCluskey argued, the Labour leader wanted to add a "second option", allowing union members to become an associate member of Labour - allowing them to show a stronger commitment to the party.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Mr Miliband's proposal would reduce Labour's funding "by a very significant but as yet unquantified amount".

He also said: "The announcement contains a large number of new Labour Party policies which as yet are completely without the necessary substance that is required to see if they are workable."

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Miliband and McCluskey share the view that the status quo isn't working - for very different reason”

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In his speech, Mr Miliband said: "What we saw in Falkirk is part of the death throes of the old politics. It is a symbol of what is wrong with politics. I want to build a better Labour Party - and build a better politics for Britain.

"There is no place in our party for bad practice, wherever it comes from. I am determined to uphold the integrity of this party."

Mr Miliband said unions should have political funds "for all kinds of campaigns and activities as they choose" but individual members should not pay Labour any fees "unless they have deliberately chosen to do so".

He added: "We need to do more, not less, to mobilise individual trade union members to be part of our party... The problem is not that these ordinary working men and women dominate the Labour Party. The problem is that they are not properly part of all that we do.

"They are not members of local parties; they are not active in our campaigns. I believe we need people to be able to make a more active, individual, choice on whether they affiliate to the Labour Party."

'Defining moment'

Mr Miliband said former Labour Party general secretary Ray Collins who, as a TGWU official, helped steer the merger with Amicus to create the Unite union, will lead discussions with the trade unions on the plan.

The Labour leader said the changes would have "massive financial implications" for the party, but could raise the current membership from the current 200,000 to a "far higher number".

Len McCluskey: "It was certainly bold, brave speech and maybe an historic one"

He also promised to look at holding open "primaries", where all adults, not just party members, can vote for the selection of a candidate in their constituency, including possibly in Falkirk.

He said such a system would be used to choose Labour's runner for the London mayoralty in 2016 - with anyone in the capital who registers as a party supporter getting a vote.

Mr Miliband also said there should be curbs on the amount that MPs earn from outside interests and rules to stop conflicts of interest.

Former Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair suggested the changes could be a "defining moment" for the party and said they would send a "very strong message" to the public that Mr Miliband would "govern for for all the country and not simply one section of it."

The Conservatives say Labour should refuse to take any more money from the unions until an entirely new system of funding is agreed.

Party chairman Grant Shapps said Mr Miliband had been "pushed into giving this speech" and that "nothing" had changed.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    Perhaps people can answer me this? If Milliband distancing Labour from the trade unions is seen as such a bad thing, perhaps some of the self-considered tories on here would care to emplain why they are running scared as evident by their comments?

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    In other words, Labour finally admit to being as Tory as the Tories; as representative of the views of the general voter as the Tories; and paid to represent corporate entities, like the Tories.

    There is no socialism in this country any more, just fascism, as defined by Mussolini: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    @481. Ex Tory Voter

    read my comment again: I did mention govt scandals must exclude Labour MPs & Lords as well.

    so excludes Lobbying

    Is Mercer in the govt? or is he just an MP with party whip?

    Boris johnson extra-marital affair scandal early last month...OK. I do support marriage, I'll just declare I don't condemn MPs for having affairs & divorcing, plenty of that in all parties & in UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    There's nothing I like more than a good political scrap - especially when the Unions are involved. It's even more entertaining when it's the Labour Party verbally 'disembowelling' itself in public!

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    A good move and now maybe all parties will come into line and let local branches choose their own candidates to stand for Parliament. They should be from the region they represent and put the interest of their region at the heart of their work not party politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    465 "Yes the class war is over until... you're about to lose your job, or told to take a wage-cut, cant pay your mortgage/rent and see your public services being closed" - no union, had a wage cut, do pay mortgage, don't use any "public services" (save NHS private referal). Unions are a greedy closed shop extracting perks for an often unproductive minority under the guise of discredited creed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    I think its a very good idea it will put Ed Milliband a better link with more of the country and give people better choice if people dont want to distance them selves from the unions then they have a choice, this is less union involvment for those who want less and its easier for those who want to stay involved and take part this is a chance for more local people to contribute to labour as well

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.


    Funny how this was not an issue or priority or policy before Falkirk.

    Labours links to thinly disguised Marxists with Class War agendas of hate are disgracefully under-reported by the BBC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    Miliband "better politics"
    Blair "bold & strong"
    Overdue & partial

    For busy citizens, with jobs & families, support means donation - hard times & good 'as possible' - contingent MAINLY on trust, no time to waste teaching resistant MPs the facts of life

    For trust, a party promising democracy, HAS to be committed to universal education for its eventual implementation, Of, For, By the EQUAL People

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    And how do you imagine that Parliament would function, Barry (469)?

    Those who argue for an end to the party system, less elitism and more Jo(e) Public MPs really don't understand how politics HAS to work. Yes, there's need for reform - but you can't run any organisation (let alone a country) by pressure group, referenda or each member making independent decisions.

    Nothing would ever get done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    For all you saying that wealthy businessmen only donate to the Tories please do some research before spouting off. The richest man in the UK is a Labour donnor. Some of you might not like reading this it's your pet hate but rich bankers and financiers donate to the Labour party, Barry Townsley, Gordon Crawford, Nigel Morris, Derek Tullett the list goes on. They donnate freely unlike union members

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    Oh for a government of competent people that represented the views of their constituents.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    It is incredulous that the Union movement which has done so much for our society is being lambasted so viciously by those who benefit. When the Tories opt out of the ECHR and you are working 80 hours a week for a pittance you will be crying for the Unions faster than you can cash your next payday loan cheque.


    You do understand I was referring to the main parties don't you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    And about time to. I'm surprised it was even legal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Having seen Ed at his press conference, it's difficult to understand whether his 'delivery' is based on passion or desperation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Well done Ed support the Conservative cuts towards the poor and disabled.Say little about the tax avoidance of the super rich.Then pick an unneccessary fight with the unions.Surely a winning formula for the next election.The Conservatives must be shaking in their boots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    478. HopeFades
    Thus proving that there are problems on both sides - shady backers exerting influence without any comeback when things go awry.

    The sooner we get state funded parties, the sooner we will get to a situation where all parties will campaign on what they truly believe is right... not what their paymasters tell them as is the case now

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    This is all normal for the Labour Party. Every Labour leader ends up condemning his own party or the unions. it's a rite of passage. The media say that if he doesn't act against (fill in you own bogyman here) he is weak.

    A load of Labour 'stars' have been parachuted into winnable seats by Labour leaders over the years; Mandelson, D Milliband without reaction. Media double standard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    Utterly unacceptable for Miliband to do this.

    But betrayal by 'reformers' is something Labour supporters should be used to by now.

    Where is the alternative vote against the 3 far right parties running the gig to go?

    Who has a realistic chance of power? None of them do.

    Might as well vote for Boris now. At least there may be a few laughs on the way as the Labour movement is dismantled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    #356 "No on in JCB other than Bamford had a say in this donation to the Tory Party"

    This is a classic example of the mis-information and sheer prejudice surrounding this debate. The law is that all political donations by companies must be approved by shareholders.


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