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."

Related Stories

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."

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • Comment number 1185.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1184.

    Tio---you are just perpetuating the comments of someone best left to his own sad world...........all of us on the site want to just talk about the Unions issue, but there's always one on every Blog who has no interest except personal abuse and bitterness. Sad really. I agree with most of the points you have made , all of which seem sensible and constructive. Just as these BBC Blogs were intended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1183.

    Pressure's on Dodgy now to start acting all transparent. He'll have to make some speeches and pretend he's going to do something about corruption and lobbying.

    Of course, he won't actually do anything....out of the question.....his sponsors would be outraged......but they know the routine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1182.

    1181.Andy Pandy
    Please define how someone who pays their their legaly required payments is a tax avoider.

    "Tax avoiders pay their legal requirement". Do you pay your legal taxes? Because if you do, by your own definition you are a tax avoider. How does that work?

    No, I dont understand how that is relevant to a discussion on Union funding of a political party.

  • Comment number 1181.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1180.

    #1176------hope you get your question answered about what the point about Unions/Milliband is !!! We'd all like to hear an answer instead of the string of abuse being hurled at you ...........the last resort of ermmmmmmm ????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1179.

    Let's see if Milliband can stand up to the banks and Murdoch as well - that'll be the real acid test.

    Wonder whether Cameron will decide to come clean over tory funding....perhaps Ashcroft could undertake a survey on transparency for him!!

    Looks like Team Ashcroft is working late tonight. I still remember the terrible Unions (cue Hovis music.....zzzzzzzzzz)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1178.

    I think the Unions and Ed Miliband have got together and agreed to set a political trap for the Tories.This whole issue is inevitably going to cross the house with an ensuing scandal at some point.And I think this because Labour could have easily let this story melt into the background of Egypt, Wimbledon and the weather, but he has kept it in the news and Lenny doesn't seem as angry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1177.


    'Log On - make YOUR CHOICE on the piece of legislation, and hey presto! You've got your MAJORITY OPINION applied.'

    ... which means that people will have to inform themselves of the issues and consequences involved. I can't see that happening, can you?

    #1175 Who says I don't vote? I would agree New Labour is better than old Tory, but not by much and I want a REAL alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1176.

    1174.Andy Pandy
    Glad you like your place in France, you cant help being wrong about Spain.

    I'm a British Tax payer for around 49 years and have always payed my full paye wack.

    Nobody who works for me does not pay their total legal requirements in respect of paye and NI.

    However, how does this affect this debate, as far as I can see it has no relevance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1175.

    #1169:sorry that you no longer have a place in British politics and can't vote because your conscience forbids it now,but that's your right.I will be voting for the Party that one of the greatest-ever PMs made electable again in 1997. Now, after the Eton Rich-Boy Years, I am looking forward to Ed(who Tony Blair brought into Govt) being a good PM. It must be sad for you not voting. All should vote.

  • Comment number 1174.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1173.

    Can you remember The Phoenix Four - they pretty much sum up, how inept and self serving senior UK management has been.
    Nissan's UK workforce demonstrates the point in no uncertain terms.

    Too many vastly overpaid thick skinned clowns like Willie Walsh in senior positions in the uk (and no, that doesn't mean I supported the cabin crew dispute).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1172.

    Direct Democracy....
    Log On - make YOUR CHOICE on the piece of legislation, and hey presto! You've got your MAJORITY OPINION applied. Not Massaged into some formless piece of MP self-serving legislation. I'm Hungry, I need chips or something...mmm, a burger would be nice..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    It never ceases to amaze me that Alf Garnet is still so well represented.....
    The phrase "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas" has now been proved completely wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    1165.Andy Pandy
    I'm not rich in my sense of the word, but it's all relative. Successful? Third son of the village Bobby, yes I'm comparitively successfull. Are you accusing me of Tax Avoidance? On what basis?

    I've had a Villa in Spain for over 15 years, sorry if that makes you envious.

    But what has this all got to do with Millibands mistake about Union backing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    I used to support Labour and was a member for about ten years. But for me Tony Blair turned the party into something it shouldn't be and I left.

    Pretty much all parties are the same in terms of policy and offer me, as a socialist, absolutely nothing.

    BTW the Tories shouldn't shout too loud about this. Theres many a public company that donates to them without so much as telling their shareholders

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    I guess the London City brigade have filtered out of the wine bars, good-night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    I can remember the power cuts in the 70s, I can remember the dockers strikes, the ship-yard strikes, the miners strikes, the British Leyland strikes (so frequent they were farcical)
    Time & time again unions trying to Blackmail the country to ransom.
    The unions brought the collapse of British industry about, no-one else. THAT's their history, a bigger bunch of hypocritical leeches you never met!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    Tottally imotive and disingenuous trails of thought here with these Anti Union anecdotes.
    They're either tales where the Unions were not strong enough and people lost their jobs anyway.OR the Unions were well organised an effective to which the bewailment speaks Unions holdingthe country to ransom.
    You can't have it both ways.Just admit it, you think the working class should know our place.


Page 1 of 60


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.