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 805.


    Or alternatively we could have a huge government initiative to build social housing for low paid workers which will create jobs

    Yes! Destroy want is left of the English countryside to house immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    His brother would never have suggested such a foolich policy. Hurrah - We the working classes can now have a political party that represents us. No more free rides for champagne socialists who support inequality and despise the poor. Now if we can find a way to implode the other 2 mainstream parties we may get a Britain for which we are prepared to make sacrifices. MPs go fetch your P45s - Yippee

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    801. The Labour party is not about the working class no more, it is about people who can afford to be a member.
    You've just wrapped up politics in a nutshell.....not just Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    "Is this the same 'Labour' Party that made it perfectly acceptable to live entirely off benefits as a lifestyle choice and NEVER work ?"


    "Thatcher era created culture of benefit dependency, says study

    THE legacy of unemployment during the Thatcher era has left Britain overly dependent on benefits, a right-leaning think tank warned yesterday." (Source Civitas)

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    Well I for one won't be opting in!

    The Labour party is not about the working class no more, it is about people who can afford to be a member.

    I expect the unions to reassess whether or not to start another party that does stand up for you and me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    779. What Choice? In this country? The media will soon slap that one down. You HAVE to own a house... choice was destroyed by Thatcher-Blairite corruption over housing. We don't have a political choice either.

    The more Miliband, Cameron and Clegg say the more irrelevant they become.

    We have 3 out of touch parties to suit the media barons.

    Democracy KAPUT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    @788. I agree and many more comfortably off tax payers who prospered through hard work & initiative will move overseas. Many already have. IT makes it easy. We face a brain & entrepreneurial drain every bit as serious as the 1970's. Who will pay the lost tax take? Yes, those left behind. Whoever is in government I fear the UK is sunk. You will have the IMF here by 2016.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    It's a good political move in the sense that once all this is seen to be done and dusted, it then in turn throws a media spotlight on the kind of filth and self serving Capitalists and bankers who donate to the conservative party.And how that money was raised .

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.


    What you call career politicians, are highly educated public servants.

    Welcome to the 21st century!"

    Oh Rob, Rob, you don't honestly and truly believe this tripe do you? Highly educated? Then why all the advisors, and the lack of knowledge about anything at all?

    Public servants? They couldn't care less about the public, except for a few minutes every five years!

    I despair, truly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    You've tempted me, Knut (788).

    Scotland will vote against separation in 2014.
    There will be no effective mass protests or strikes in the UK.
    UKIP will help take more seats away from Labour than the Tories in 2015, and the Tory / Lib Dem coalition will enter a second term.
    There will still be a referendum on Europe - and yes, we will vote to retain our membership.

    How exciting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    @775. Ian Heard
    yeah, these ideas do seem to work in very small countries like hong kong, singapore or switzerland. But in economies the size of ours they so far have not.

    @782. A brief aside
    I think you got the date wrong, the personal debt skyrocketed after 1979.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    In response to RobJ, 616, Check your understanding of Labour Party History. It was formed by the Trade Unions to have a Political voice in Parliament that represented Union Members' aspirations of equality and access to societal decision making processes. Does he think that what we enjoy today was freely given by Ruling Classes? What we enjoy today was won through struggle of one form or other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    The unions aren't perfect and, yes, are vested interests. However their interests are much closer to those of ordinary working people than any of the political parties who seem quite happy to run the country solely to benefit the well off. The real issue here is why Labour has abandoned helping ordinary people!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    Labour, Liberal or Conservative they have all one thing in common-:

    1st. Political party
    2nd. Themselves
    3rd. Folkes with money
    4th. The rest of us

    Its high time we rid Westminster of toffs, always requiring think tanks and folks to take the flak.

    What we need in Westminster is working class from all areas - not folks from the playgrounds of Eton.

    Forget Miliband, he's a goner!

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    yay - turkeys voting for xmas - thanks ed. I will definitely be glad to have all my money go to the unions.
    Dear Unions, now that you have got rid of the LaborTory party all you have to do is create a new political party with candidates selected from unions. Then get them into parliament and stand up for the working classes. Then we might have a decent country. Goodbye ed - one down 2 to go....

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    776 Zhaan

    'I think we'd be better off with state funding of political parties, it's transparent and fairer'

    Quite the opposite. It stifles the creation of new parties. PLUS, once they're in control of voting for their own funding, we can look forward to ever more generous funding and sinecure positions for those connected to the various parties. For the sake of democracy you understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    #22 6 Hours ago :

    The Labour Party was formed by the Trade Union Movement to represent working people, the hint is in the name...

    Is this the same 'Labour' Party that made it perfectly acceptable to live entirely off benefits as a lifestyle choice and NEVER work ? - surely not.

    So much for being a party that represents working people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    I'm not Psychic but.

    Scotland will not devolve in 2014
    Labour will be the majority party in 2015
    Great Britain or what's left plus Scotland will still be in the EU in 2017.

    We've a feast of Politics to look forward to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    744 "Why is the far left so powerful in this country while having so little public support?" - the simple answer is the media. The BBC loves handing out hard left licence fee cash; Mark Thomas, David Steele, Owen Jones (what a chump this lad is), Brigstock - it goes on and on. The Guardian, the Inde do a nice line in stoking up moral panic and of course the Unions bully and harrass themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Bite the hand that feeds you?


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