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 625.


    shareholder approval infers majority shareholder approval, nonetheless I agree with your comment.


    repeat of selective memory nonsense, conveniently omitting labour's collusion with bankers that resulted in greatest UK post war economic crisis. But why spoil the fun for a looney-lefty.

    @600.john wilson

    I agree, hence the controversy over union funding Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    It's a chilling thought that without the Early Trade Union movement, we'd just have the Tories and the Liberals to choose from.

    Since the Parties foundation in 1900, I would consider it's finest decade to be 1940-50 cooperating with the Conservatives during WWII and the foundation of the Welfare State.

    The worst decade, the Tony Blair years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    So now we have the worst government in living memory coupled with the worst opposition in living memory.

    The people who work hard every day to make this country what it is deserve so much better than this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Union fees should not be used for any political reason. such as financing Union officials in to political jobs as a MP or councillor. I have been a member of several UnIons in the past and Unite proved to be the worst. They seem to go for the big story that will have the most impact keeping Unite leaders in the press rather than helping the employees with small greivances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    Listen, if you join a Union but take exception to them being Socialist then in my opinion that's TOUGH !
    Maybe you should explore the reason why no such Tory supporting Unions exist to defend workers.Well explore no more because the answer is that they disagree with workers refusing to know their place.
    I resent Tescos and Sainsburies being Tory party donors can't do anything about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Look forward to the 2015 Labour Government ending the second jobs fiasco where Government Ministerial roles are part time jobs. I also look forward to them banning any donation over £5000 by an individual and/or members of the same family and also ending the practise of forming limited companies for the sole reason of financing (a) Political Party.Finally no donation should buy dinner with any PM

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    Come on you lefties, is "parasite" the best you can muster? Whatever happened to your traditional insult, "scab" as I recall?

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    If anyone thinks the likes of Mr McCluskey and Co. have the interests of the workers at heart they should think again. They are only interested in obtaining as much power for themselves as possible, even if it wrecks the economy, and therefore loses jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    It looks to me like the coalition are doing most things right, especially now that it looks as though the Labour Party and the SWP are on the run and panicking, let us hope that they fade into obscurity we need another "Red Robbo" like another whole in the head Mark Swivotka and Macluskey could have been in line for that crown now hopefully they will fade away into obscurity where they belong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    If the Unions don't like the political party options they should organise their own party. They'd soon find out just how tiny their support base is.
    We don't care about your history. You are history. It's your own fault.
    What you call career politicians, are highly educated public servants.
    Start your own party and see how (un)popular you really are.
    Welcome to the 21st century!

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    587 "Good going, Milliband - you go further than Blair dared as Blair went further than Thatcher" - no doubt it's a happy day, I agree. We finally are seeing the unions cast out to where they belong, with the SWP and the "Socialist this or that", on their funny little websites called "uprising" or some such. Even the Beeb is struggling to spin, plus the recent bias proof must make they wary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    I don't think people really understand the problems with our system of government, much less know how to fix it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    Millibland flexing his muscles? Hilarious. He wants to look at the multiple cases of corrupt practices in various Labour constituencies and councils - as detailed by Private Eye and do something about it.
    This pretence that this is a 'one-off' as claimed by Harman and Umana is a blatant lie and should be exposed. Have people got such short memories. Canavan, Liddell, and others....?

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    It's just that as a child of Thatcher I abhor the something for nothing gang. Do you approve of people gaining a benefit when they haven't contributed?
    552. JasonEssex
    "some might say you're just as much a set of parasites as the worst sort of benefit scroungers". And is it any wonder unions are viewed as being completely out of date and full of dinosaurs with comments like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Well they chose the wrong Milliband and it's too late for tears. Now they are shackled to the unions and Ed will wriggle and squirm for all he's worth but there is no going back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    529. palaestraminfutilitate

    "The firm can decide if money is donated to any entity with shareholder approval"

    Wrong. It is with MAJORITY shareholder approval. An individual shareholder (owner) who does not agree with political donations is bound by the wishes of the majority. In trades unions, individual members (owners) already have the right to opt out, regardless of majority opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    The Conservative Party must love ED, hes divided the Opposition Vote,
    The actual man and women on the street are so distant from the Party Political process now more in common with X-Factor contestants...

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    #579 - and don't forget that if you donate £250,000 to the Tories you get to have dinner with the Prime Minister - so no buying favours there then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    #582: "The Labour Party has long since ceased to represent my situation as an ordinary worker and a family man ... they intend to carry on with brutal Tory welfare cuts"

    Are you saying that you rely on welfare (other people's earnings)? Otherwise, I can't understand why as an "ordinary working and family man" you would oppose changes to a system that takes your money and gives it to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Another way to change how the Labour Party is perceived.I don`t know how connected they are to the unions,but Ed is being a good politician by trying to divorce himself from his backers and supporters and look like a middle-of-the-road kind of guy.
    But ironically,when they win the next election,we`ll find he is middle-of-the-road ie The same as the Tories.There seems no other course.


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