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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  • Comment number 724.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    Greed is a disease in this country be it those at the top or the bottom, don't get so smug, the result is the awful miserable stressed out society we now have, for everyone except sociopaths like Shapps who feed off the misery of others, that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.


    No industry? Are you quite sure about that? Care to reconsider?


    I refer you to MG Rover and what happened around the Autonomy bid and the crooks who ended up owning it and asset stripping it. And they had the backing of the NL Govt and the Unions.

    The prosecution rests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    As a neutral the greatest problem, in my opinion, is the name Labour Party. It has lost all of it's original Social Class and morphed into, as yet, something unidetifiable. The Lib Dems emerged out of 2 changes to their name for better ,or worse. Besides separating from the Unions, who should perhaps form their own Socialist Party, the Labours should really change their leader

  • rate this

    Comment number 720.

    Best idea.......Why don't the Unions get shut of the quasi conservative labour party...and start a new party that will fight for the percentage of the population of the country....instead of the chosen few...No professional Politicos that have never done a days graft in their lives..and no nepotism that is creeping in with the children of the old guard getting preferential treatment..Flush it out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 719.

    Labour left is country is a mess and now Labour left the union in a mess ! Labour is so out of touch and I never vote for them ever again as long as these selfies are there x

  • rate this

    Comment number 718.

    Oh dear Unions! You really did pick the wrong man didn't you?

    It sure has come back to bite you on the bottom........

  • rate this

    Comment number 717.

    Mr Shapps and his interns are very busy tonight - must be - when am I going to get my fee back Grant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    Lose the unions, lose the vote. Your choice Mr Miliband.

    And if that is the choice of the Labour Party it is a retrograde step.

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    705. Ian,

    Good grief, don't tell me you actually believe all that do you? Can i ask do you also leave your tushy pegs under the pillow for the tooth fairy to collect, oh and a mince pie out for santa.

    Sorry sarcasm over. Ed is no where in it. After all the people the tories have upset over the past 4 years Ed should have the people in his pocket by now, instead their wondering who to vote for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    The present situation has come about because unions were to weak & a corrupt bias press propaganda media,were justice has been destroyed Freedom,Accountability,Integrity,Responsible governance has been replaced by flat earth economic clap trap,until real balance is restored economics collapse is assured isn't it mayor Johnson that's why your militarising the police,because of greed

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    There's no longer any point in voting.... all the parties are variations of the Tories and all put their own interests, and those of the wealthy people and businesses that line their pockets, well ahead of the interests of the people they supposedly represent. They're all career politicians and they've all been "bought". Our "democracy" (lol) is sadly no longer fit for purpose...

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    687 "My point is the tories will get back in again because there's no opposition" - oh there's an opposition, it's just appalling, as the economy powers back to strength Balls, Ed and the Beeb (Peston, the now defunct Flanders) really, really look stupid after months of crowing about how there will be no growth without borrowing and how public sector non-jobs would never be replace privately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    One member one vote.
    But you can only vote for candidates nominated by the MPs.
    Not so democratic then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.


    And you know this how, exactly? Because he says so, once a week at PMQ's?

    Granted, a worm has more backbone than Cameron, we all knew that, but if you genuinely think that Ed gives a monkeys about the little man in the street once their votes have been secured, you may end up being seriously disappointed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    @690 ludvigvb - fair comment. Scargill is very close to my heart - my mother's side of the family were all miners until the 1980s. Both my grandfather and two uncles wanted to carry on working during the pit strikes but were threatened with extreme violence by union members if they did. Both my grandfather and elder uncle took early retirement whilst the younger uncle left the industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    "until we can crush the licence tax"
    Not Miliband
    BBC almost bound to be 'biased' relative to those wishing 'news' for others to happen in the dark, no warning to leak out. Whether, "it'll happen one day" only Fix News for all, is no idle question. In lack of democracy, it'll be asked: "What if the BBC taken over by Fascists?" Our MPs will just have to save us, with a 2nd Gagging Law

  • Comment number 707.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    Am I understanding this correctly, Labour and the Unions have been in bed with each other for decades, could it be that we have a marital split. This is a sure sign that Labour are desperate to get voters, this hopefully could sound the death knell for the Lefties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    #704 - He stands for fairness and for the vast majority i.e consumers against the vested interests of the Banks, Big Business who do and don't pay tax and the privatised industries who rip millions off to pay shareholders. He has far more backbone than flip-flop Cameron who will say and do anything to protect his paymasters and anyone wishing to buy his ear.


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