Show courage and back changes, Ed Miliband tells unions


Labour leader Ed Miliband: "I am absolutely determined change will happen"

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Ed Miliband has urged unions to have "the courage to change", as he attempts to persuade them to back an overhaul of the way Labour is funded.

Several unions have attacked the Labour leader over his plans to remove the automatic payment of fees by millions of their members to the party.

But Mr Miliband told the TUC that this "historic" change would strengthen his chances at the general election.

He also predicted Labour's membership could swell to more than 500,000.

Mr Miliband and several union leaders have disagreed during this week's annual TUC meeting in Bournemouth about his plans to change the way the party's funding works.

However BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the speech was not a "leadership defining bust-up with the unions", with Mr Miliband stressing areas of agreement - such as living standards, zero hour contracts and wages.

'My vision'

The Labour leader wants to abolish the automatic affiliation fee paid each year by about three million union members to Labour.

Instead he proposes giving people the choice of "opting in" - becoming full Labour members - when they join a Labour-supporting union.

Mr Miliband acknowledges this will cost money, but argues it will expand his party and increase activism.

Graphic: Top three sources of income by party,2012

One union leader accused him of "living in cloud cuckoo land", while others have also voiced concerns.

But Labour front bencher Chuka Umunna told BBC Radio 4's The World at One the party was willing to risk financial harm "because it's the right thing to do".

The proposed changes follow a row over allegations that the Unite union tried to rig the Labour choice of a candidate for the Falkirk seat at the next general election. An investigation by Labour has found no evidence of wrongdoing, emboldening his critics.

Ahead of his speech, Mr Miliband told ITV's Daybreak "we are going to get these changes through", adding that Labour's internal structures were "old-fashioned" and had to change.

Start Quote

We need to build a party truly rooted in the lives of all the working people of Britain once more”

End Quote Ed Miliband

Labour MP John McDonnell said the row had bolstered the power of the unions who now had six months to make demands of the party.

In his speech, delivered to a subdued audience, Mr Miliband said: "We have three million working men and women affiliated to our party. But the vast majority play no role in our party.

"They are affiliated in name only. That wasn't the vision of the founders of our party. I don't think it's your vision either. And it's certainly not my vision.

"That's why I want to make each and every affiliated trade union member a real part of their local party, making a real choice to be a part of our party so they can have a real voice in it."

Mr Miliband added: "This is an historic opportunity to begin bringing people back into the decisions which affect their lives.

"It means we could become a Labour Party not of 200,000 people, but 500,000, or many more. A party rooted in every kind of workplace in the country, a party rooted in every community in the country, a genuine living, breathing movement."

'Oozes contempt'

The Labour leader called his plan a "massive challenge" but said: "It is you who have been telling me year after year about a politics that is detached from the lives of working people. We need to build a party truly rooted in the lives of all the working people of Britain once more.

Dave Prentis: "Where I was brought up... you were always taught never wash your dirty linen in public"

During his speech, Mr Miliband attacked the Conservatives, accusing David Cameron of showing "contempt" for working people.

He said: "We have a prime minister who writes you and your members off, who doesn't just write you off, but oozes contempt for you from every pore. What does he say about you? He says your members are a 'threat to our economy'. Back to 'the enemy within'.

"Six and a half million people in Britain who teach our children, who look after the sick, who care for the elderly, who build our homes, who keep our shops open morning, noon and night. They're not the enemy within. They're the people who make Britain what it is.

"How dare he? How dare he insult people, members of trades unions as he does? How dare he write off whole sections of our society?"

Dinner speech

Mr Miliband repeated the slogan he first used at last year's Labour conference, of his party being the UK's "one nation party".

Start Quote

Our Labour leadership has to start demonstrating they are on the side of ordinary working people”

End Quote Len McCluskey Unite general secretary

But he faces a difficult task to persuade leaders of several of the major unions that his proposed changes are justified.

Paul Kenny of the GMB - which has cut its funding for the party by £1.2m a year - mocked the plans as looking as if they had been made up "after a night out".

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey warned at fringe meeting: "Our Labour leadership has to start demonstrating they are on the side of ordinary working people."

But Dave Prentis of Unison said the squabbling and "infighting" had to stop, or people would not vote Labour in 2015.

And the TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady, used her speech to the Congress on Monday to ask union activists to "roll up their sleeves" and influence Labour's policies, while opposing the Conservatives.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Instead of taking on the unions, Ed Miliband has buckled under pressure. He's backed down over Falkirk, backed down over serious reforms to the union link.

'While Ed Miliband is spending his time trying to soothe his biggest paymasters, we're dealing with the deficit, controlling immigration and fixing the welfare system to help hardworking people."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I love seeing Eddie taking the kicking he much longer will they put up with this idiot running the party..he has about as much charisma and polital creditability as his mate Ed Ballsup...As a tory this is a dream with these muppets in opposition!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    labour used to be a party of the people once, now look at them, they sold out. why anyone thinks they are serious though should study history and realize what they have become these days. most people i know of say the last 13 years they were in power they virtually destroyed the country. however the tories have fared even worse so far with their term in power but at least they are what they are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    In principle, the unions are meant to defend the rights of ordinary working people. In reality, they are greedy and care only that their members get paid as much as possible and do as little work in return. They care nothing for the inconvenience to the hard working public when they go on their latest strike for even more pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Ed MIlliband was bought by the Unions.

    Not Labour.

    Labour is paying the price for Ed selling out to beat his brother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Ahh the Milliband brothers.

    One's a career politician with a bright future ahead of him. The other is the leader of the Labour party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Miliband is right in principle, and it may make a lot of people less suspicious of Labour as an independent party. But I doubt very much if many union members will sign up to a personal association with the party, so he is taking a huge risk with finances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Something weird about above picture/video, something missing.

    Maybe caption should be "Wheres Wally"

    Also, egg is missing, Miliband just does not look right/complete without egg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Our political system is broken, no matter which tribe gets in they are all in it for what they can get out of it. PIGS AND TROUGHS come readily to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    6,000,000 union members most of then forced to pay affiliation fees if this was annulled then I imagine a lot of them who are naturally Tory voters as I was would opt out altogether. Protectionism and Union membership do not go together, the general rule will be to go vote for their own party and Labour (?) would lose 3,000,000 votes at least anyone who thinks different is in cloud cuckoo land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    As much as I dislike Milliband, Balls and Harman, just imagine if a party lead by Bob Crowe and Len McClusky ever came to power. I think I'd actually top myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Ed, shhh

    The grown ups are meant to be talking... back to parliament you little truant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    5.ravenmorpheus2k 100% agree. Unfortunately we live in a Country where people will vote for whoever their parents voted for regardless of the actions the party. When there's such thing as a 'safe seat' you know the system's screwed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I'd rather not have Len McCluskey running the country in 2015 so I don't think I'll be voting for Red Ed or his party thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Backed down on Falkirk, Backed down on Syria vote after govt went out of their way to do as he wanted, stabbed brother in back, this is a ploy to look like he is in control of the unions rather than the other way round, the man is a political teflon man who will say and do what he wants to gain the most influence, no scrupples at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Its Miliband that should have courage.

    Courage to hold to the convictions of a Labour Party rather than give in to the media moguls and become "Tory Light".

    We NEED a credibe, and unashamed, Left of Centre political party in this country, if only to keep UKIP in check.

    Either that or just vote YES, after all, we in Scotland have a party that actually does have a social concience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    So...what do you suggest - we need to be able to gather behind some kind of opposition to the coalition government and at the moment the Labour party is it. How should we go about empowering a stronger opposition party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Ed may be trying to distance himself from the Unions, I personally believe it would be better to distance himself from the Tony Blair years

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Ed can say what he likes it doesn't alter the fact he is just a puppet with the unions pulling his strings. He'll have to do what they say as they will bankrupt the Labour party if he doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Labour is just a tool of the corrupt unions. A wonder who is under the desk working Ed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    This clown will ensure Labous remains in the opposition in the next elections, unless there is a regime change on top. All he says is rubbish, all he thinks is rubbish, all he plans is rubbish and all he dreams is rubbish.
    The only positive thing he had done is to marry his sweetheart. But again, that is because PM's do!


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