Recent Labour party Articles



The mistakes I made and what I learnt from the election

by Sunny Hundal     May 15, 2015 at 5:58 am

A lot of people made mistakes in predicting outcomes in the 2015 General Election, mostly because the polling was so out of sync with the eventual result. I made predictions based on polling too, and it was embarrassing enough when they turned out to be very wrong.

But I made other assumptions in the last election cycle and its only right to own up to them. Partly, I feel its important for my readers, but partly I think its worth articulating them so I can learn from my mistakes.

The biggest mistake I made was this. Over the last 2 years, the Labour leadership’s ratings on leadership and economic competence started trailing that of the Tory leadership. I.e. Cameron was consistently seen as a better leader than Miliband (a gap that grew), and Cameron-Osborne were ahead of Miliband-Balls on economic competence. Because the polling stayed broadly positive, I assumed this was having very little impact on voting intentions. I also assumed that when it came to the crunch, people would vote with their hearts than on competence. BFM (Big Fucking Mistake).

Clearly, it has now been proven beyond doubt that if voters don’t see you as a credible and strong leader, then they won’t trust your promises. It doesn’t matter how much they like your policies (Miliband’s policies were quite populist) – they just won’t trust you to deliver them. They won’t place their faith in you. This should be a lesson for all of us on the left. Ed tried hard to shift those perceptions, and he improved, but he didn’t try harder and earlier. I had assumed (mostly because of the polls) that voters didn’t think this was a big enough deal. Clearly, it was.

The other big mistake was with UKIP. I assumed, again based on polling data, that UKIP hurt the Tories more than Labour. Many in the Labour leadership assumed this too. And this was true to an extent. But we didn’t anticipate that the Tories would be much better at tempting back Tory->UKIP voters than Labour->UKIP voters.

I suspect Tories did this mostly by raising doubts about Miliband and his tie-up with the SNP. They said the election was going to be close — too close — and that this metropolitan geek was going to be under Nicola Sturgeon’s thumb. “It would bring chaos.”

It played not only into their English nationalism but perceptions of Miliband’s weakness as a leader. Ex-Tory voters clearly got the message and returned back. Far too many ex-Labour voters didn’t, primarily because we didn’t connect with them, emotionally and culturally (I’ll come back to that point another time).

The point is that Labour-> UKIP switchers hit us harder than many of us (including myself) expected, especially in places like Southampton Itchen. That assumption was also a BFM, though its unlikely Miliband could have stemmed that flow easily.

So yeah, I hold up my hands and admit it: both of these were pretty big assumptions and I got them wrong.

Is Labour making a big (long term) mistake by rejecting “any” deal with the SNP?

by Sunny Hundal     May 1, 2015 at 4:26 am

The Labour leadership have finally settled on a clear line on the SNP.

Assuming that Cameron cannot cobble together a majority on 8th May and has to resign, that gives Ed Miliband his turn at forming a government.

Miliband says he won’t do a formal coalition with the SNP (Nicola Sturgeon ruled that out ages ago anyway), nor will there be an informal ‘Confidence & Supply’ agreement with them. Instead, Labour either do a deal with the Lib Dems to get a working majority, or they work as a minority government.

The Labour leadership are confident they can work as a minority government because the SNP and other minor left parties won’t vote down their Queen’s Speech and trigger a second election. In effect they are calling Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff because she has already committed to voting down a Tory Queen’s Speech.

So the Labour leadership are pleased because they think Sturgeon has little leverage. But can this strategy be sustained for long?

Firstly, this is from last night:

The SNP are predictably spinning it as: Ed Miliband would rather let the Tories back in than work with the SNP. That is wrong. There is no conceivable prospect of Miliband resigning his government than having SNP on his side.

Caroline Flint later clarified it:

What [Miliband] ruled out was this idea that, somehow, to have a Labour government we’re prepared to do a coalition or some other kind of confidence and supply deal [with the SNP].

But, at the end of the day, whoever forms a government, parties will get a chance to vote for a Queen’s speech, vote for budgets, and vote for policies, that’s the same with any government.

In other words: Hey Nicola Sturgeon, you are still welcome to vote with us! Just don’t expect a quid-pro-quo arrangement of any sort.

OK. So that was a misstep but this strategy is still sound, right?

I’m not so sure.

Keep one important point in mind: a large proportion of Scots don’t view the SNP as negatively as the English do. In fact, a large proportion of them (many of whom are ex-Labour voters) think the SNP have their interests at heart more than Labour. This seems obvious but a lot of people seem to be ignoring this.

More importantly, Nicola Sturgeon isn’t going to let herself be outmaneuvered by Miliband so easily.

Since Labour still needs a majority of MPs for votes on legislation, Sturgeon will just make his life harder by getting SNP MPs to abstain or complain over small things. That would put Miliband in a difficult position: either negotiate with the SNP (and have the Right savage him for it) or appeal to Tory MPs (thus alienating the left and giving an electoral boon to Sturgeon).

In Scotland, Sturgeon will keep arguing that Miliband would rather do a deal with the Tories than the SNP. In England, the Tories will argue that Labour are breaking their promise and doing deals with the SNP. Either way Miliband will be constantly attacked on all sides.

This isn’t ideal. Miliband’s administration could soon become paralysed.

For Miliband to argue in Scotland that he’d rather have Tory MPs vote with him than negotiate with SNP MPs would further alienate SNP voters (many of whom Labour need back). In effect he will be giving up on Scottish Labour without much gain in return.

By saying Labour rejects any deal with the SNP, I think Miliband is making a mistake. I don’t think this strategy can be sustained.

Two big reasons a Tory-Lib Dem coalition is unlikely after this election

by Sunny Hundal     April 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Nick Clegg clearly wants another coalition with the Conservatives. And I’m fairly sure Cameron recognises the necessity of carrying on their tolerable relationship. And a lot of people in Westminster assume the two will be joined at the hip when negotiating post-election.

But I don’t think it will be that straightforward.

Firstly, it won’t be easy from the Conservative side. Theresa May and Boris Johnson want their shot at being leader of the party and neither have time to waste. Neither want to wait another five years either, when more of the recent crop of Tories will want their shot.

Tory leadership hopefuls could make the argument to colleagues that another coalition would undermine the Tory party and force them to break more promises. Besides, Cameron has shown himself incapable of winning elections outright, so why not get rid of him and get a proper leader who will win in 5 years time? – they will say.

Many Tories, who will not want the straightjacket of another coalition, will find that a seductive pitch and may reject another coalition.

Secondly, its not a done and dusted deal from the Lib Dem side either. For a start, Clegg has to get approval from his fellow MPs and party members, and that won’t be as straightforward this time.

There will be far more hostility from Lib Dems this time, for good reasons. These are some points made to me by Steffan John (@steffanjohn) over Twitter. I’m quoting him directly without embedding tweets to make it look cleaner:

1) Maths for majority isn’t there.
2) Even if a small majority was, no national interest in unstable government with 4yr leadership contest.
3) 2010 had financial crisis backdrop and 4) threat of swift re-election. Neither there this time, so less pressure on Lib Dems
5) 2010 had common ground on civil liberties, localisation, constitutional reform, environment, raising tax thresh. All gone.
6) Labour not hated as it was in 2010; Tories far more Right-wing now. LD won’t support again, esp. as Lab-LD-(SNP) is possible

Steffan John is a Lib Dem and makes some good points.

And here is Vince Cable’s former SpAd Giles Wilkes

There is, I think, a real chance Lib Dems will reject a coalition with Cameron, especially if there are signs of hostility from Tory MPs (stirred up by May and Boris).

That clears the way for Miliband to be Prime Minister, with Lib Dems choosing to either work in a coalition or sit on the sidelines, while the Conservatives choose their next leader.

Reality check: Labour is not going to win the next election by a landslide

by Sunny Hundal     May 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

A bizarre notion has taken hold of some of my fellow Labour commentators. Some of them believe that the Labour party is going to get around 40% at the next election and win by a landslide. They believe this is not only possible but within reach.

This is a fantasy. The results of the 2015 general election are going to be close. Too close for comfort, in fact.

There are simple reasons for this.

1) In 2010 Labour got only 29% of the vote – its second worst defeat ever. The party had become intellectually exhausted, hollowed out and tired. To change minds and add 11% to your vote within 5 years isn’t just a Herculean task – it is unprecedented in British politics. It has never happened because people do not change minds so quickly.

2) The financial crash of 2008 happened under New Labour’s watch. They were “intensely relaxed” about people getting super rich and let the bankers run wild by cutting regulation. Sure, the Tories urged them to be even more reckless but the electorate won’t remember that; the fault always lies with the party in power. And people take a long time to forget that. It took the Conservatives 15 after the ERM crash of 1992 to match Labour on economic credibility.

3) It takes time to change people’s minds and get them to trust you again. This is so obvious a point that it feels silly just to say it. This is especially true when New Labour leaders also lied about invading Iraq and started a war that cost tens of billions of pounds. Labour lost a lot of trust during those 13 years and it will take more than the image of David Cameron’s face to bring them back.

Sure, you say, but wasn’t Labour polling in the low 40s not long ago? Why isn’t this possible?

Again, simple. Labour polled high at a time when discontent against the government was at its peak and the economy was in dire straits (2011 – 2012). The ‘omnishambles’ budget was fresh in people’s minds and anger at the Lib Dems had driven most of their base to Labour.

But the economy has improved; UKIP and Greens have taken some Labour voters away. Some ex-Lib Dems have returned or decided Labour wasn’t particularly liberal either. Momentum within the UKuncut, student and Occupy movements has petered out. Fatigue has set in.

As the economy improves more people will go back to the Tories regardless of what Labour does or say. That is how people respond in any country, including ours.

I think there are strong factors that help Labour. But the shift in public opinion needed to win a big majority is far too much for just five years. That’s why it has never happened on this scale before.

This doesn’t mean Labour should aim low. But getting 36% or so next year is a massive task in itself, and the idea that we are failing because we’re not heading towards 40% is just fantasy.

What exactly do the likes of Graham Stringer and John Mann MP want?

by Sunny Hundal     May 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Political journalists love reporting on infighting: it adds drama and excitement to a beat that is usually about boring policy announcements. This isn’t a criticism – as a blogger I loved reporting on infighting too (even within Labour) because it meant clicks, eyeballs and excitement. Its the stuff we worked for.

The local / EU elections have brought Labour MPs John Mann and Graham Stringer to the forefront for precisely this reason: they’re willing to fuel the infighting narrative.

But listen to what they actually say and you soon realise they’re just spouting empty platitudes. There’s not a single policy demand in what they say, other than Stringer’s demand for a referendum on the EU. I’ve long called for Labour to promise a referendum on the EU too, but you have to be really obtuse to think Miliband is going to u-turn on his sensible and cautious policy now just to satisfy us. And even then, it would make very little difference to the UKIP vote.

But all this is lost on John Mann and Graham Stringer, who repeatedly call on the Labour leadership “to listen to the people” as if this were a new and radical idea.

Listen to John Mann on WATO

They have zero policy advice on what needs to be done. They have zero practical advice for the leadership.

What this does highlight however is a broader issue: the Labour leadership are aware of all the above but there is no simple answer because voters themselves are contradictory.

“Labour should be Labour, but they’re more like Conservative,” a voter from Rotherham told BBC World at One earlier, who had opted for UKIP – a party even more right-wing than the Tories.

A lot of Labour people voted for UKIP because they feel alienated by the party and by Westminster in general. On that front, the party needs broader cultural change and more extensive outreach to voters. But Miliband isn’t idle here either: he’s been fully behind rolling out the community organising model across the country. The leadership have been making heavy demands on candidates to knock on doors and speak to voters too.

On policy, should Labour go harder on immigration? It can do, but it will alienate more liberal voters in London (without which it can’t win in 2015 or 2016). And how exactly do you out-UKIP on immigration? None of these questions are answered.

The Labour leader has chosen instead to focus on the economy, and reach out to people who feel alienated because of growing inequality and are voting UKIP out of frustration. Do the likes of Mann and Stringer have any policy suggestions here? Nope. I haven’t heard a single policy suggestion yet. Which begs the question: how do these people think they’re helping?

Five ways Ed Miliband and Labour can keep ex-Lib Dem voters in 2015

by Guest     September 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

by Andy May

It was a strange feeling watching this week’s Labour conference.  Once a political enemy, I could conceivably be voting for the party in 2015.

I joined the Liberal Democrats over a decade ago, and worked for two MPs. My parents are founder members of the SDP.  I won’t go into my reasons for leaving – these are self-evident. Clegg is the best recruiting sergeant that disaffected centre-left voters Labour could ever want.

Instead let’s concentrate on five things Labour might do to convince the swathe of progressives who voted Lib Dem in 2010. These people hold the key to a Labour victory in 2015. Many of them, like me, are as yet undecided.

I have discounted the obvious… like not privatise the NHS or entrench inequality in education – plus there has been enough on energy already!

Here are five that specifically push Lib Dem buttons:

1. The Economy
Totemic policies such as the introduction of the minimum wage in the early Blair years have been eclipsed in the minds of voters by mismanagement and light touch regulation in the run up to the financial crash.  Ed Balls made a shrewd move towards rehabilitation by announcing he would submit Labour’s spending plans to the Office for Budget Responsibility. But more reassurance will be needed. I want to see the positive role of the state championed without the irresponsible spending and incompetent implementation that came with the Blair era.

2.  Environmental policy
Invest in renewables not fracking; tackle energy inefficiency in homes and vehicles; properly fund the Green Investment bank.  Plenty more where that came from, but with the Lib Dems in government supporting a dash for gas and failing on initiatives such as the Green deal, Miliband has an opportunity to outflank my former party. 

3. Democracy, lobbying and big money in politics.
Miliband is one of the most progressive leaders Labour has ever had on constitutional issues. He deserves more credit than he got for supporting Yes2AV, after fierce opposition from many in his party.  He must support PR in the House of Lords, or local government along with party funding reform and lobbying transparency. This will only get noticed by 5-10% of the electorate, but many will be those all-important ex Lib Dem voters. To achieve this some in Labour will need to understand their party does not have a monopoly on progressive political thought.

4. Housing
Most of my twenty and thirty something friends cannot conceive of a time they could afford a deposit.  200,000 new homes a year by 2020 is welcome – the difficulty will be doing this in a sustainable manner that doesn’t wreck the same communities that would benefit from fresh housing stock.   Frankly anything sounds good compared to the Governments half-baked Help to Buy scheme.

5. Civil Liberties
When Sadiq Khan claims Labour now the party of civil liberties all I can do is think back to 28 days detention, ID cards, illegal rendition… and laugh.  I think it naïve to make such a claim although Sadiq’s personal record is commendable.  Labour need to show they not succumb to scaremongering by the shadowy figures in the home office bureaucracy with clear human rights based framework to privacy and security, rejecting the authoritarian excesses of the last Labour government.

Here’s hoping Ed can do it if Clegg cannot. -his speech certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.

I and other social liberals and democrats would prefer not to be stuck in the political wilderness for the rest of our lives.


Andy May is a communications consultant, and formerly worked in as a constituency organiser for the Liberal Democrats.

Five observations from Brighton: how Ed Miliband is changing the debate

by Sunny Hundal     September 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Ignore the hysterical press reaction to Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze energy prices in 2015 for now.

The Labour leader’s speech at the annual party conference also offered intriguing clues about his future direction. Here are some of my observations.

1) On Tuesday afternoon you could hear a huge sigh of relief across Brighton. The leader of the party had delivered a powerful speech that reassured party faithful nerves and gave them tangible policies to sell on the doorstep. Someone on Twitter said aptly that Labour had gone ‘from Pamphlet Labour to Leaflet Labour’.

These aren’t election winning promises yet, and Miliband will unveil a lot more in the next 20 months, but he decisively batted away questions about his leadership, the party’s future direction and supposed lack of meaty policies. He is secure in his position.

2) Remember how everyone slammed ‘predistribution’ as a clunky and academic word? Well, Miliband’s focus on the ‘cost of living crisis’ is his translation of that word. The focus of ‘predistribution‘ is that governments need to create more equal outcomes even before collecting taxes and redistributing them as benefits.

Miliband’s view is that the only way this cost of living crisis will be averted is through a more fundamental remodelling of how our economy works. That clunky word is no more. It will now be referred to as the Cost of Living crisis.

3) Using the slogan ‘Britain can do better‘ is also important because Miliband wants to position Labour as the party of optimism – not simply one of slightly better spending cuts – and challenge the fatalism of TINA (‘there is no alternative’).

I wrote earlier this year that pessimism about the UK economy could be Labour’s biggest problem in 2015, because voters may simply think Labour cannot do any better. Miliband will directly and forcefully challenge that. It’s a slogan I hope every Labour MP repeats endlessly, with conviction and examples.

4) One of the strongest lines in Miliband’s speech was: “Cameron may be strong when it comes to the weak, but he is always weak when standing up against the strong.”

It wasn’t just a good soundbite but part of a broader strategy. Miliband wants to redefine what is seen as being strong and weak, as our prevailing macho political culture always defines ‘strength’ as taking ‘tough decisions’ (usually against the most vulnerable people). But by taking on Murdoch, halting the rush into Syria and taking on energy companies, Miliband wants to show that strength means standing up vested interests, not cutting social security benefits.

5) By far the strongest re-shuffle rumour was that Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham would swap their briefs. Burnham is widely seen as having done extraordinarily well as shadow health secretary and there will be cries of horror if he is moved. Plus, wouldn’t Cooper’s move be seen as a demotion?

Not exactly, a Labour shadow minister told me. Both Cooper and Burnham want a range of portfolios to their name, in case a there’s a leadership bid in the distant future. Burnham needs something a bit more gritty like the shadow Home Secretary brief, while Cooper needs a populist and softer brief like Health. So it may suit and be welcomed by both.

Is Sadiq Khan right to say that Labour is now the party of civil liberties?

by Robert Sharp     September 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

Writing in the New Statesman, Labour Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan brazenly declares that the Liberal Democrat’s record in Government has left Labour as the party of civil liberties. This has kicked of predictable outrage from Lib Dem activists, with most people citing the poor record of the last Labour government.

Despite the Blair Government’s terrible approach to civil liberties and counter-terrorism, its wrong to call Khan a hypocrite.

For starters, he was one of the Labour rebels who voted against Tony Blair’s 90-day detention policy, back in 2005. More recently, he has admitted the party’s mistakes on human rights and civil liberties. Part of his Charter 88 anniversary lecture was a scathing critique of the last Labour Government’s approach:

And I hold up my hands and admit that we did, on occasions, get the balance wrong. On 42 and 90 days, and on ID cards, where the balance was too far away from the rights of citizens… On top of this, we grew less and less comfortable with the constitutional reforms we ourselves had legislated for. On occasions checked by the very constitutional reforms we had brought in to protect people’s rights from being trampled on. But we saw the reforms as an inconvenience, forgetting that their very awkwardness is by design. A check and balance when our policies were deemed to infringe on citizens’ rights.

If an opposition spokesperson says this, I think they ward off the charge of hypocrisy when they subsequently criticise the civil liberties failings of the Governing coalition. Whether the voters believe Labour or not is another matter, but I think the fact that the spokesman is someone who was a Government rebel on 90 days, and who has been a target of surveillance himself, make Labour’s position that little bit more credible.

Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, included similar nostra culpas in her Demos speech on security and surveillance.

Meanwhile, at the Liberal Democrat annual conference, delegates have approved motion F41 [PDF], a reaffirmation of their party’s committment to human rights and the Human Rights Act.

These debates make me happy. What Khan and McNally’s comments show is that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have begun to see the promotion of human rights as a vote winner. This is by no means a given in British politics, and not something to be taken for granted.

Regardless of Labour’s past failures, or the Liberal Democrats’ current, shaky record in office, we should still applaud these commitments to protect the Human Rights Act.

The alternative is the gutting or abolition of the Act, and a withdrawl from the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Conservatives are threatening to do (David Cameron even had a populist pop at the idea of human rights in a conference speech before he became Prime Minister).

When a politician speaks out in defence of human rights, the public need to show their approval of such statements and publicise them widely.

Who knows, if the politicians see that such positions are a vote winner, we may find that Nick Clegg is inspired to fight a little harder for rights and liberties in this parliament… and that Secretary of State Sadiq Khan is emboldened to defend and extend human rights in the next.

A New Rural Manifesto for Labour: we call for your support

by Guest     September 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

by Jack Eddy

It is uncontroversial to say that Labour lacks rural appeal. Labour’s voice in the British countryside has been inadequate for decades, but has hit a low-ebb in recent years. Even in the suburban and rural areas where Labour was able to gain some traction from 1997 onwards, the last General Election saw a massive swing to the Tories.

And yet, the Labour Party in the past has successfully gone out to the British countryside to court the rural vote and build the foundations of support. Such accomplishments can come again, but we need renewed endeavour and new direction. If this does not change – and we do not instigate that change – some rural communities may not survive these difficult times.

This is why we at South Norfolk CLP call upon all rural CLPs, as well as other interested affiliates, to support us in our call for a new Rural Manifesto – as specified in the proposal officially endorsed by South Norfolk CLP; a Rural Manifesto made in rural Britain, for rural Britain.

Priority should be given to framing policy to reflect the impact on rural communities, on a number of different issues:

Public transport and other infrastructure improvements, as well as rural unemployment and businesses will be an important subject. In the entirety of Norfolk, the 3rd largest county, there is only one late evening bus service. This is not uncommon for rural areas, with negative consequences to regional economies and rural life in general.

Additional aid to the young and unemployed for the purpose of making them as geographically mobile as possible will be hugely helpful to finding employment. A possible solution could be found in providing travel cards to rural unemployed (allowing travel for free or at a reduced rate), who live at least 2 miles from the nearest major centre of employment – valid for use 1 month after finding permanent work.

The NHS is important to us all, but many rural communities are seeing their NHS services disappear as cuts and privatisation begin to take hold, and they are fighting to stop it. One solution to help meet increasing demand, and go some way to solving the unique issues around isolation from services in rural areas, could be to focus on increasing the number of smaller, satellite hospitals that are strategically located around existing central hubs in rural locations. ‘Satellite Hospitals’ would focus on anticipatory care, diagnostic services, as well as urgent accident and emergency admissions, leaving the central hospitals to focus on the more complex and specialised treatments. By dividing up local populations into different catchment areas, it would enhance the experience of patients by offering a smaller, community feel, as well as provide more jobs.

Naturally, properly dealing with Europe and immigration in rural policy is a must. We must explain how businesses, services and local economies in rural Britain depend on Europe and immigration. Many rural businesses rely on European immigrants and the EU enables farmers and horticultural businesses to trade easily with the mainland (in either goods, equipment or expertise). Many rural businesses could not survive without immigration or the EU in general. Labour needs to illustrate how jobs held by British workers would cease to exist if Britain exited the EU.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be covered in a Rural Manifesto – and it is up to us all to decide what must be covered.

To do this, we need you to get our Motion passed in your CLP and submitted for the upcoming Labour Party Conference by 12 noon on Thursday 12th September. We also invite you to contact all whom you feel will be interested, so that we can reach everybody that can help us succeed in this enterprise.


If you are interested and have the time, please contact me at jack.eddy@btinternet.com and I will send you the proposal for the Rural Manifesto and South Norfolk’s Motion to the Conference.

GMB Union’s move today shows that unions feel sidelined by Labour

by Sunny Hundal     September 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

The GMB Union’s unexpected decision today to lower their affiliation fees from £1.2m a year to £150,000 is a warning shot that doesn’t bode well for the Labour party.

The GMB added this ominous statement to their press release: “It is expected that there will further reductions in spending on Labour party campaigns and initiatives.”

Much more will come out this weekend as the annual TUC conference kicks off in Bournemouth, but it’s telling that no one from any of the major unions was willing to make a statement on BBC World at One today. Only Ronnie Barker from the Bakers Union came on to say that he wouldn’t be surprised if other unions follow suit.

There’s a tendency for many within Labour to see their relations with Trade Unions as a battle of wills rather than an equal relationship. So many will interpret this as a ‘warning shot’ from GMB that requires a ‘robust response to show we’re not weak’ etc. But I think they forget that there are far more Britons who see their union as more relevant to their lives than the Labour party.

As George Eaton points out, the GMB has decided to slash its funding in advance, rather than seek to recruit members to the party. And they’re not even bothered about picking a public fight over this.

This is bad for the Labour not just because it deprives of the money, but because it indicates relations are so bad the unions are largely unwilling to work with Labour to make it a mass-membership party. They’re essentially saying: ‘if you’re going to treat us like this, then don’t expect us to help you‘.

If that attitude among unions hardens and becomes entrenched, especially if the Labour leadership decide to take it as a personal attack, then expect more unions to follow and eventually look at disaffiliation.

Tom Watson can see where this is headed too, hence his blogpost this morning.

I emailed a well-connected union worker today, who had this to say:

From the perspective of many grassroots Labour activists neither the leader’s stance or the GMB’s response look great since it will make the party’s job of defeating the government that bit harder. We need to be united and campaigning hard in the run-up to the electon to defeat the Coalition. But the reality is the leader’s office appear to have failed to consider the full and severe financial implications of their plans before Ed made his speech. The unions have literally kept the Labour Party out of bankruptcy these last few years and are owed respect. While in an ideal world there would be a much more diverse set of donations, we are simply not there yet and the election clock is ticking.

The question now is what will other unions do. I’d be astonished if CWU and Unite weren’t considering something similar. It’s a nightmare that is keeping a lot of people awake at night right now.

Ed Miliband needs to do two things: to reassure the unions and make them feel this is a partnership not an antagonistic marriage headed for divorce. He also needs to push forward with bold changes so the party engages and empowers its members, and more are persuaded to join and take part.

If, on the other hand, they decide that the logical response is to replace union funding with donations from rich people, say goodbye to the Trade union link and say hello to the slow demise of the Labour party.


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