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 487.

    'The probem for Ed Milliband is what does he stand for and who does he claim to represent.

    Not the hard working tax payer for sure.'

    the middle ground. Like just about every big party in the UK.

    It's a choice between three parties that are essentially the same. We need a genuinely new party of the working man, what Labour used to be 70 years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    @471 paulmerba - You misread. That was approx 12 million each. But you hit on a good point. nearly 65% of electorate did not vote and I'll bet the majority of them are on this forum moaning about what is happening and making suggestions! Point to note for next election - Vote and you might just make a difference!

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Everyone should be allowed to 'opt out' of their taxes being used to fund political parties they detest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    The probem for Ed Milliband is what does he stand for and who does he claim to represent.

    Not the hard working tax payer for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Okay, 1970's UK . Auto industry, Mining, Steel, Aircraft, ship building etc all desimated by...Unions that would not budge. I remember union families sending their kids to Austria on the school winter trip, their families not just going to spain twice a year on hols but buying property there. Dressed better, and living high on the hog ,while non union families went backwards. Union = Greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    He is effectively saying he doesn't want the Unions to influence Labour policy from now on, he will also be ousted eventually then Labour can be a strong challenger again to the Conservatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    477 steve

    'If He really is that ***** why do you obsess over him so much.'

    It's more 'gloating' than 'obsessing'.

    6% poll lead after three years of austerity and 'cuts'.

    Rubbish innit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Can anybody tell me what’s courageous about asking unions not to rip off their members by automatically charging them an “affiliation fee” to the Labour Party? As for Len McCluskey, most “ordinary working people” can’t stand the unions, which is why their membership is in terminal decline. Unfair perhaps, but a legacy of the bad old days of the 60s and 70s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    463 - it cuts both ways. Gordon Brown ruined my pension without a moment's thought and most public employees will get far better than I do. He also sold gold reserves at a significantly lower price than necessary when he didn't need to. Stones can be thrown on both sides in this case. It's one thing to raise money from assets and another to squander them as Labour did i.e."there's no moneyleft!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    #456..of course there are more than 2 parties - but only 2 realistically with any chance of power
    #468 yes - any half way decent opposition could put together a slate of
    renationalise railways
    stop nationalisation of Post Office
    save money by scrapping trident
    etc...but Labour's been nobbled by the Establishment. We need a left wing version of UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Why are Tories so obsessed with pretending to be Labour Supporters and commenting on Ed Miliband

    If He really is that ***** why do you obsess over him so much.

    Look to your own Leadership of negligible talent and the shady way you finance your own party and leave Labour to sort it's own affairs out.

    I promise I won't pretend to be a Tory and call your beloved leaders silly names

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Miliband is a puppet. Ed Balls and his missus together with Charlie Whelan engineered his leadership bid to make sure the right brother didn't get the job. This tiff with the unions is all about how Labour should look at the next election, too left wing and they are back to the pre-Kinnock years....they'll never win like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    @447. truth 

    can someone explain why ONLY labour get Government grants?
    My understanding that is not funding for the Labour Party per se but funding provided to Her Majesty’s Opposition to help it in its democratic duty of holding the Government to account. The Tories (and Lib Dems) received equivalent funding when they formed the Opposition to the previous Labour government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Red ed has lost the plot wonder how long before one of his own try to replace him as party leader(with ed at the helm they will never get back in)

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    Has nobody else spotted that this is a stunt to get more public money for a political party? The Short money supports an opposition's parliamentary offices, but Labour wants much more. By showing they will no longer have much TU money they hope to persuade suckers to give them taxpayers' money. No way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    To all those hankering after 'real unions' representing 'real workers': the days of heavy industry, mining, etc, have gone in this country, except for a minority. Whatever the reasons, reality is reality. If you try to resurrect some lost 'working class', you're a romantic. That's fine in your spare time, but somebody else has to deal with politics as it is, now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    466. CBG
    Reading some posts makes me reach some unusual conclusions. Firstly, you can only be Labour if you have dirt under your finger nails and are a union member. Secondly, you can only be Conservative if you are a millionaire, went to Oxbridge.. 12 and a bit million people voted for each at last election.
    That leaves 40 million that didn't vote or either of them, a majority I think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    There is only one man capable of saving this country of absolute ruin Nick Griffin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    420.Marble Index
    Shh, come on now, Marble, you're really breaking the rules. It's only dangerous, outdated class warfare if the left does it. If you're trying to hammer down wages and disrupt union organisation and abolish workers' rights or render them unenforceable and abolish H&S legislation and run down public services, that's responsible, honourable politics, not class warfare...

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    @445 Steve
    Labour .. have NO policies of their own
    You could be right.
    However I would argue they should be espousing policies which will result in a rebalancing of the economy through investment in high growth areas and also radically restructuring the banks hiving off the investment bank elements to stand alone entities.


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