Labour Party reforms could see unions and MPs lose say


Ed Miliband: "Giving ordinary people a say in our party"

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Trade unions, MPs and MEPs are to have their influence over Labour leadership elections reduced under plans announced by Ed Miliband.

It is part of the Labour leader's proposed shake-up of the party's historic relationship with the trade unions.

Mr Miliband said future leadership contests would be decided by a one member, one vote election.

He described the changes as some of the biggest in the party's history.

However, Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said the changes would make it "even easier" for the "union barons" to pick the Labour leader in future.

'Cash shortage'

The Labour leader embarked on reforming the union link after a selection row in Falkirk last year when allegations of vote-rigging surfaced involving the Unite union.

No wrongdoing has been found to have taken place.

Mr Miliband said: "My reforms are about giving people from all walks of life a bigger say in the Labour Party so we can better tackle the issues that matter to them, like the cost of living crisis.

"Above all, I'm determined to change my party so we can change the country.

"This is about extending the principle of one member, one vote, the right principle for the 21st Century," he added.

"It's about saying we want to hear the voices of ordinary people, construction workers, shop workers, people from all walks of life."

He said there would be "financial consequences" for the party if the reforms went ahead.

"But when it's the right thing to do you should do it, and that's my principle," he added.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps: "I do not think it is right to have trade union barons deciding policy"

"This is about my determination to make big change in our party and if you look at what Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, all of them wanted to extend this principle of one member, one vote."

Mr Miliband said the plans were about "a relationship more with individual trade unionists and less about the relationship with trade union leaders".

"Of course it's the case that trade unions themselves will continue to affiliate to the Labour Party, but it's about saying in the 21st Century, we do want to hear the voices of individuals."

Currently - under Labour's electoral college system - MPs and MEPs get a third of the votes to select a new leader, trade unions get a third and party members another third.

That system is to be abolished with every party member and those union members who donate to the party having an equal say.

Under Labour's plans, from the end of 2014 new members of unions affiliated to the party would have to opt in and pay a £3 fee to Labour before they got a vote.

This process would be phased in over five years for existing union members.

MPs would retain the sole right to nominate leadership candidates.

The threshold those candidates would need is also to be raised - possibly to 20% of Labour's MPs.

'Massive change'

The key changes

A new method of electing Labour's leader - the electoral college, which gives unions, party members and MPs/MEPs a third of the votes each, abolished in favour of one member, one vote

MPs have sole nomination rights for leadership candidates and those candidates will need a higher level of support than at present - possibly 20% of MPs

All union members will have to 'double opt-in' if they want to take part in a leadership contest. They have to say that they are content to give money to Labour AND that they want to become 'an affiliated supporter'

Only full party members - not trade-union 'affiliated supporters' - will choose parliamentary and council candidates

Changes to London mayoral selection - Labour's candidate to be selected in the same way as the party leader

New leadership rules will be put in place this year - but changes to the party's funding will be phased in over five years

At present, trade union members pay a levy to the party - decided by the union - unless they opt out.

Describing the changes as "massive", Mr Miliband acknowledged they could mean donations to the party falling.

"I make no apology for making sure the party is financially secure, so these reforms are being phased over a five-year timescale."

In another mooted change, registered supporters - those who have registered their support but are not full party members - would be entitled to vote in leadership and mayoral elections "for a small fee".

There are currently around 20,000 such supporters and the party hopes to boost that number - partly as a counterweight to the votes of trade unionists, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said.

Mr Miliband sought to reassure his parliamentary party, telling the Guardian newspaper: "They will continue to play an important role with their right to nominate, so it will be MPs that will decide who goes forward to the election in the country on the principle of one member one vote."

The BBC also understands that unions will retain 50% of the votes at the party's conference.

Veteran Labour MP Alan Johnson said he had been arguing for the changes since his time as Communication Workers Union general secretary.

"This is absolutely the right way to go," he told BBC News.

"We have a genuine one member, one vote system to elect our leader."

But the party's Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson said: "There's been nobody in my constituency coming along and saying to me at this time of economic crisis, what we need is a reorganisation of the Labour Party."

'Same old Labour'

Conservative party chairman Mr Shapps, however, suggested union members could outnumber ordinary members by 10 to one under the proposed changes.

He said: "Ed Miliband promised to loosen the trade union barons' grip on the Labour Party. But he has been too weak to deliver.

"Until now, the union barons could buy Labour's policies and pick Labour's leader. After these changes, it will be even easier for the union barons to buy Labour's policies and even easier to pick the leader."

He added: "Ed Miliband has shown he's too weak to stand up to the union barons who own him, too weak to stand up for hardworking people and too weak to offer a long-term economic plan to secure Britain's future."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    So I assume they will change their name as they no longer represent the working man. Or labourer. New Tories would be an idea for a name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    In Germany unions and management work together. In the UK, management treated the workers badly, and unions ended up in opposition to management - remember the dockers? Twice a day stand at the dock gates and see if there's work. Zero hours contracts. Management has to work with unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.


    Concern on immigration numbers & social breakdown?

    Blaming just Labour for London magnet, UK magnet, EU magnet? For all migration to 'better prospects', or better hopes, at least to lie with American Dreams in a 'free' gutter?

    If a joke, hardly funny. Behind Ted Heath's bulldog dream, UK part of European peace, continental cheap-labour was the 'business' hope

    Miliband is not Blair

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    @360. Billythefirst

    You make the same mistake as many on here who call for the UK to be more like Germany, Finland or whatever country seems to be better at industry, education etc at this point in time.

    It won't work unless our society adopts their culture and that isn't going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    I have no problems with unions in principle; what I detest is the way they are hijacked by self-seeking, manipulative union leaders with their own agendas.

    The union 'rank and file' should make more of an effort to control their leaders to ensure that those leaders act in the best interests of working people as a whole, both in the short and long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Why can't we the down-trodden public do the voting? We should be able to vote for the MP who is supposed to represent us,and also we should vote for the party leader who might become the Prime Minister,which begs the question,do we really live in a democracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    The job will be complete as soon as political parties get funded from central funds.

    We will then truly have professional politicians.

    Truly good for nothing.

    Simply a blight on us.

    What's the difference to what we have now you ask?
    Not a lot.
    Not a lot...

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.


    Yes, of course, I forgot. British unions are as infantile as British business lobbyists aren't they.

    There is a difference Billy, British businesses actually employ people, unions don't. so Lobbying for British business means jobs. or don't you like more jobs?

    You talk about tired clichés (Thatcher and Bankers seem be a common one for you)

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Milliband is showing his real 2-faced colours. Labour no longer represents working ppl & he is ensuring working ppl have no voice in Westminster, he is a Tory. If Unions want a voice in Westminster, if working ppl want a voice in Westminster there needs to be a new political system where our voices can be heard. Politicians are only talking to themselves & we're here to do their bidding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    I would politely quote the famous words David Cameron used.

    "We are all in this together"

    An "Us" verses "Them", that seems to transend to the house of Lords now?

    Why is it (alleged) that the deputy prime minister has complained to the cabinet secretary about Conservatives making "party political" appointments.

    If even Miliband's party is not democratic, how can it be "Democracy"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    The unions collect money from their members to improve pay and working conditions. But look at the rent a crowd groups, like the UAF which organise street protests, against so called those they deem to be far right and you will see the unions providing premises for their meetings and transport for their demonstrators. It is time to tax them on money spent supporting street protesters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    The time is now:
    Mensheviks of the world, unite and take over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    The Labour party used to be the party for the working-class of Britain, those of us born without a silver spoon in our mouths, and the left-leaning intellectual.

    Now it's led by a millionaire playboy who hasn't ever had a proper job.

    The three main parties are becoming so similar the Only difference is the colour of their ties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    382 qwerty
    "We can only conclude that there is no mass appeal for socialism in this country, despite what we read on HYS."

    The only political party in the UK with a majority is centre-left, so I'd be inclined to disagree.
    The problem is that the voting system in the Westminster elections ensures votes for small parties are wasted and that big parties get closer & closer in ideology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Always makes me laugh & angry at the same time when Union Barons posture & claim 'unanimous cries for strike action' with claims of 70% of votes cast being in favour of strike action...& then it turns out that only 30% of workers voted!! Same goes for Labour block votes: a tiny number of the Union bosses making all the decisions & claiming it's democratic...utter nonsense from power mad bullies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    German unions v UK unions

    Sorry unions, but orders are down this year, so we're going to have to remove a shift, lay-off some staff & cut salaries by 10% or we will go under.

    That's OK, we understand.

    Sorry unions, but orders are down this year, so we're going to have to remove a shift, lay-off some staff & cut salaries by 10% or we will go under.

    Right lads, all out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Well, good luck with that, Mr Miliband.
    Successful Labour leaders knew that they needed TU input, especially at election time. TU organisational nous and material/volunteer support
    are crucial then. Wilson knew this - so did Blair (it explains Prescott's permanent presence).
    Ed may think he is hammering a nail into the coffin of TU influence. Labour's electoral fortune could be in there with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Miliband IS struggling: SOMEONE has to

    Unlike those full-tilt ahead of their ruling principle, 'Greed is Good', Ed is having to pick up policies with resonance for victims, core-voters & conscience-voters

    Ironically driven by Daily Mail Tory example, he might lead to better than Old 'stout deference' or New 'trough fight', making sense not just of the Party but of our economy & twisted politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    The only thing that I'm angry at Labour for regarding the GLOBAL CRASH, is that they bailed out the banks rather than let them die.That would have been the end of Capitalism.
    But here we are today seeing those same banks and bankers funding the Tory party conveniently forgeting that they relied on Socialism in the way that they were bailed out by the state.

  • Comment number 425.

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


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