Miliband’s Clause 4: Labour to change historic link with unions; go for primaries


10:03 pm - July 8th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Ed Miliband will tomorrow unveil the most far-reaching shake-up of the Labour party’s relationship with trade unions, and how it picks candidates.

In a speech tomorrow morning he will announce that the party wants a closer relationship with unionised workers rather than union bosses.

Workers who are members of a trade union affiliated with Labour will no longer be automatically affiliated to the party. Instead they will choose, as individuals, whether they wish to be members.

It will be the most far-reaching change to how the Labour party operates since John Smith’s introduced ‘one member, one vote’ reforms 20 years ago. It will also drastically affect Labour’s funding and reduce the influence of union leaders.

Labour will also use primaries to pick the party’s candidate for London Mayor in 2016. All Londoners of voting age will be eligible to take part, but will need to either be a party member or register as a supporter at any time up to the day of the ballot.

The party will also look at selecting Parliamentary candidates through primaries in seats where a Labour MP is standing down and the local party has few members or ‘is in urgent need of renewal’.

Other changes to the selection rules will include:

· A new code of conduct for those seeking parliamentary selection which could lead to disqualification for anyone found to have breached it.

· Strict spending limits to cover candidates – and organisations operating on their behalf – for all selections in contests for Parliament and the European Parliament.

· Standard constituency agreements with trade unions so that no one can be subjected to undue local pressure.

In his speech tomorrow Miliband will say:

We need to do more, not less, to mobilise individual trade union members to be part of our party: the three million shopworkers, nurses, engineers, bus drivers, construction workers, people from public and private sector, that are affiliated to the Labour Party.

The problem is not that these ordinary working men and women dominate the Labour Party – the problem is that they are not properly part of all that we do. They are not members of local parties, they are not active in our campaigns.

He will also say: “I do not want any individual to be paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so.”

“I believe we need people to be able to make a more active, individual, choice on whether they affiliate to the Labour Party,” he will add.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Paul peter Smith

That’s not the old divide and rule gag being wheeled out again is it? Those Fabian’s really like their classic’s dont they? (crappy pun apologetically intended)

2. Natacha Kennedy

Problem with the primaries idea is that any old Tory can say they are a Labour ‘supporter’ and then vote for a stooge candidate designed to lose the election. There needs to be greater protection to ensure that all ‘suporters’ really are genuine Labour voters.

The “union members rather than union bosses” comment here is a bit odd, since the block vote was abolished 20 years ago.

The current state of play is that members of Labour-affiliated unions who also choose to pay the political levy (much as Tories like to lie that this is anything other than voluntary) get to vote, as individuals, in Labour leadership elections.

What about existing Labour members? This is rather taking them for granted, isn’t it? There’s nothing to prevent central control-freakery over candidate selection either.

This is a huge gamble and, I think, a big mistake.

Oh God, this isn’t all about undermining Balls, is it?

The current state of play is that members of Labour-affiliated unions who also choose to pay the political levy (much as Tories like to lie that this is anything other than voluntary) get to vote, as individuals, in Labour leadership elections.

I think I’ve seen this argued before, and it confuses me. I’m (obviously) not a Union member (or if I am, it’s one without a political levy or a membership fee) but this from the arch-Tories at the Staggers is how I thought this worked:

At present, of the 15 unions affiliated to Labour, Unison is the only one to allow new members to choose whether or not they contribute to the party. Only two others, the Musicians’ Union and USDAW, mention the existence of a political fund (but do not mention Labour) and six affiliated unions, including Unite and the GMB, don’t mention Labour on either the “about us” or membership sections of their website. As a result, while all members have the right to opt-out of paying the levy, it is not easy for them to do so and many will not even be aware of its existence.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/07/why-miliband-should-support-opt-system-trade-union-donations

Opt in or opt out is pretty important too – in Northern Ireland there is an opt-in and only 37.5% of members choose to. In GB only 8.8% opt out. Historical differences and all that, but given that as many as a third of UNITE members vote Tory, you can see that giving people a proper choice might change things.

7. Planeshift

Primaries = good. However open to fraud/entryism, so need bigger protections to ensure it’s longer term supporters who participate.

I’m sorry what idiot asked me to vote for this bloke, oh yes my Union serves them right.

You voted him in and now you have to live with him.

It’s honest but why does he wants to cut a link which helps a lot the party?

10. Paul peter Smith

Cherub
No, Ed’s perpetual smug expression is doing that all on its own.

Cherub @5:

Everything that comes out of the Labour Party nowadays seems to constitute ‘undermining balls’ of one sort or another.

12. Shatterface

A shame we had to wait for Labour to propose this – as a panic measure – when the unions should have proposed it themselves when it became obvious Labour’s relationship with the unoins was parasitic rather than symbiotic.

i have to wonder how long i can keep voting for a party, who is slightly less tory than the tories.

This could be a recognition of the damage being done by public sector cuts and the fragmentation of the NHS. These measures are not just an attack on the public sector and the health service, they also attack the unions and thus Labour funding.

Miliband perhaps hopes they can move away from a dwindling source of funding and encourage more grass roots support. Given widespread public dislike of politicians he faces an uphill struggle. Can he unveil policies that energise enough people to replace or exceed the losses from the unions? I look forward to that particular rabbit bring pulled from the hat!

Being, not bring. Sorry.

Labour, you are dead to me.

I’m not sure I can stay in the party if they bring in primaries. If anyone can vote in our selections why should we bother paying our dues?

It just seems like a way to take power away from members, thus shoring up the central machine and the PLP.

What is the point of primaries? I seriously weep for what passes for ‘democracy’ in this Country. We are about to see all our main parties being funded by a corporate and millionaire elite who will dictate every position across the board from climate change right up to the minimum wage and open primaries will ensure candidates chosen by the most ignorant, bigoted cunts in the Country. Yeah because the one thing this Country needs are two or three candidates in every constituency chosen by the type of lice who think the unemployed and disabled are merely people.
This is attempting to mirror American politics and look at the fucking mess their political system is in. Look at the fucking barking halfwits that get on the ticket in that backward system.
What bother me most about this is that the type of cretin who espouses this nonsense are those who seem obsessed with American politics. Wake up before it is too late.

What is the point of primaries? I seriously weep for what passes for ‘democracy’ in this Country. We are about to see all our main parties being funded by a corporate and millionaire elite who will dictate every position across the board from climate change right up to the minimum wage and open primaries will ensure candidates chosen by the most ignorant, bigoted cunts in the Country. Yeah because the one thing this Country needs are two or three candidates in every constituency chosen by the type of lice who think the unemployed and disabled are merely lazy people.

This is attempting to mirror American politics and look at the fucking mess their political system is in. Look at the fucking barking halfwits that get on the ticket in that backward system.

What bother me most about this is that the type of cretin who espouses this nonsense are those who seem obsessed with American politics. Wake up before it is too late.

20. Paul peter Smith

Thats probably the point, witness any American primary of recent times. Whatever earth shattering problems face the US they choose their leaders based on where they stand on the rapture and who inhaled what. Thats the model for us surely, its working so well for the Yanks after all.


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