Speaking at the Durham Miners’ Gala this afternoon, Unite General Secretary will give his backing for Ed Miliband’s reform of the Labour/Union link – but will urge Miliband to lead a Labour Party that will make a clear difference to the lives of working people (making recruitment easier in the process. He will tell the “Big Meeting”:
“The Labour Party must understand it can only exist if it remains the voice of ordinary working people.
“The parliamentary Labour party today does not look like, or think like, the working class communities it seeks to represent. That is a serious problem. It is increasingly the preserve of people who glide from university to think tank to the green benches, without ever sniffing the air of the real world.
“That is what Unite was fighting for in Falkirk – to give the working class a stake in our democracy. I make no apology for that.
“Ed Miliband has now announced the biggest ever shake-up in the trade union Labour link – a link over 100 years old. Yes, it’s a gamble – change worth having always is.
“But let me say this: I am ready for reform. I am ready to engage with the Labour Party to find a way to re-engage hundreds of thousands of trade union members with the party their forefathers and foremothers created.
“A vibrant, stronger, more democratic Labour Party will be a good thing.
“I am ready for reform because the status quo is no longer an option. It has not delivered for those of us represented here today. It did not stop us having a New Labour government that pampered the rich and waged illegal wars, while it left in place the most restrictive trade union laws in the whole of Western Europe.
“Ed Miliband is at his best when he is boldest, when he challenges the media tycoons like Rupert Murdoch, the corporate giants not paying fair taxes and those who protect privilege yet cause inequality and poverty.
“But if we are to go out and convince thousands of working class men and women that they want to sign up to be associate Labour Party members they will not be interested in the rule-book, or even the history. They will want to know will Labour make a difference?
“Will the next Labour government reverse the present Coalition’s disastrous policies? Will it be different not just from Cameron and his crew but from the Blair-Brown years as well?
“If we can say ‘Yes, Labour has learned, and Labour is on YOUR side’ then this scheme will work. But if our people – our members – are unclear as to the answer then no amount of persuading will get them to sign up.
“So I say to Ed: Unite – and the people here today – are your supporters. The future is in your hands. Make Labour the Party we all want.”