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 47.

    Time for the 2 EDs to come up with sensible ideas on how they might run the country if they get a chance instead of loving in the past like Bob CALL A STRIKE Crowe who definitely lives in the past as most other union leaders. Buying a prime minister cannot work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    What a shame. No matter what Ed says you just can't take him seriously. I guess that's the trouble when some people view you as someone who is insincere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    @ 18 HowQueerMissus

    Frankly, I could imagine few things in this world that would be better for the average voter than Bob Crowe et al sitting in the cabinet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    34 "Even a posh, privately educated, weak and wobbly donkey" - gotta love that reverse snobbery, it's OK to be bigoted against people, so long as it's the right people. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Maybe the union members should challenge their leaders first to try to make them more representative of their views.
    When this has been achieved they should sever all ties with the existing Labour party and start a new party which truly represents reasoned workers views in parliament.
    The existing Labour party is no longer a workers party and hasn't been since Blair.
    And Milliband is no worker.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    At present, affiliated unions have to pay their funds to the Labour Party- its a contractual obligation. In future, a Labour Party, desperate for cash as these affiliation fees decline, will have to search for new donors. Of course it is possible that union leaders could write cheques using union funds to Labour voluntarily. In such an instance,Labour would be more in their debt than now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    As a working man, I feel I have no party who represents me. The Tories are, well Tory, and therefore by their nature will not stand up for me. Nu-Labour have abandoned the working man in order to become the Tory Lite party,who are more inline with the corrupt bankers than the working people. All good news for the Tories whose only way to victory is to divide working people, which they do very well

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Selling out in what way? We didn't want a Blair-clone - as David M would have been.
    The unions - and I'm a left wing member - need to address the world as it is, and work with Ed, so that the population see not someone manipulated - as Cameron is by big business (Murdoch etc) - but someone progressive, and working with a proper mandate - again, unlike Cameron. He deserves praise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Everyone agrees the influence of money in politics is usually malign, and we all want elections determined by policies, not spending power and advertising. But no one is ever prepared to do anything about it... We either have to suck it up and accept the distasteful reality of state-funded political parties, or else impose caps on party spending. If not, I don't know why we have these debates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Desperate labour seek to quell its war with the unions with sops it has no intention a following through with and the unions would be fools to beleive them.

    DC is running rings around Labour:

    DC:Go on Ed show us ur metal who's in charge you or the unions?

    Ed: You just watch me!

    Ed: See! I'm sort of in charge??? Your turn now Dave what about your sponsors?

    DC: Ha! sucker.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    It would help if the Unions recognised that many of their members actually vote Tory, Lib Dem etc.
    But then what are Unions for? And (toprated 8) are their leaders greedy (on their 6 figure salaries)?
    Unions have an important role and they should be reprsenting all their members and not just an obsolete Socialist Utopia from the 1970s which never existed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    As far as I am concerned, Ed Milliband is along the right track. It is scandalous that Union members have been financing the Union Barons for so long without their permission. The Labour Party must cut its umbilical cord with the Unions, the bulk of which represent mainly Public Sector workers, representing a minority of the overall UK working public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    1. SpeakerOfTruth
    Seriously does anyone believe what this clown says?

    Sadly yes.

    Put a red rosette on a donkey and some fools will vote for it.
    Even a posh, privately educated, weak and wobbly donkey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Ed's biting the Union hand which feeds Labour. Without the Unions Labour is a dead party.

    Why don't the Unions form their own party instead of working Labour from behind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    is he trying to commit political suicide for labour. i would not opt in because people on lower wages need the money and will nearly always refuse things taken from wages. this way im more inclined to let it stay. Does he think hes being clever because actually lots of labour supporters are skint so would be tempted to take the money home with them and let others pay. people need the party, leave

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Ed Miliband's policies are like Dark matter, he says they exist, but we are unable to detect them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    When is Milliband going to grasp that Cameron & Clegg are locked into polices by their paymasters.who have deliberately undermined the unfree labour market to be abused,bullied & cowered into a position that is so weak that the economy is suffering
    Milliband must either re-balance the economy or back those who are driving it into oblivion which is what he is doing at the moment

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Union Leaders dont represent the Working class and neither do the Labour party. Seems both think pandering to rich Guardian reading, guilt ridden apologists is sticking up for the low paid and those who have no voice or say so in the political system. Most union members back welfare reform and tougher immigration, Milliband and Union leaders have a lot in common, they refuse to listen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Well done Ed.
    Now all we need is for 'we're all in together' Dave to put a cap on the tory donations. Sorted LOL

    P.s That's lots of love Dave, remember


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