Miliband is fundamentally changing the union link – and taking a leap into the unknown

8th July, 2013 9:59 pm

Today Ed Miliband will make a speech that could define his leadership of the Labour Party, and determine one way or another whether the Labour Party will be organisationally and financially able to fight the next election. Until now I thought the past week would be remembered as an internal row that we might all struggle to remember in the years to come.

That is clearly no longer the case.

Miliband will today announce a seismic shift in Labour’s relationship with the trade unions and their members – shifting from the traditional “opt out” from party affiliation for trade unionists to a clear opt-in. In future he wants all trade unionists to proactively choose to affiliate to the party, become part of the party and help grow the party. He believes that this will genuinely root the party in the lives of ordinary working trade unionists, by interacting directly with them.

It’s not a strategy without risk. Far from it.

It’s unclear whether or not the party – or the unions for that matter – are set up politically, organisationally or culturally to conduct what will effectively be a mass membership drive for the party within the Trade Unions. To succeed , it will also need the tacit support of the trade unions themselves in encouraging their members to affiliate to the party. There is no small amount of pessimism amongst many in the unions that this will work. One trade union official last night told me they feared this would be looked back on as the moment where the party ran out of money…

Worse – if only hundreds of thousands (or tens of thousands) of affiliated trade unionists opt-in to being individual party affiliates, it would not only hit the party coffers (and the party’s already constrained ability to run a general election campaign), but could also risk the ending of the union link by default. It would be very hard for any union to justify continued party affiliation if only a small fraction of their membership choose to affiliate. If the party is no longer affiliated to millions of ordinary working people, it could be the end of the party not just in financial terms but also as a party of Labour too.

Working out the logistics of this will be a Herculean task, and with the best will in the world, these changes can only have been devised over the past ten days at most – the precise contours of how such a revised union link would work cannot yet be clear. Former party General Secretary Larry Whitty is set to be tasked with steering these reforms in a way that works for the unions as well as the party – the watchword will be consensus, not confrontation (although its questionable whether or not that’s how the General Secretaries of the major affiliates might see it).

Currently Unison is the only affiliate to use opt-in – their model will be scrutinised in the days and weeks ahead as a model for the other unions to replicate.

As for how the unions themselves might react – some may respond angrily, whilst others may be more sanguine about the changes. Privately, all will be telling Miliband that he risks cutting off a huge proportion of the party’s funding. Yesterday I described this as perhaps the most controversial proposal that had been mooted – that’s still the case. Finding new ways of squaring the funding circle will be needed to cover the certain shortfall – especially in securing small donations online – but Miliband should also use his speech to throw down the gauntlet to the Tories. Labour’s red line in party funding has always been the opt-out model for union donations. For the Tories, a cap on big donations has been a point of resistance.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Miliband throws down the gauntlet to Cameron and urged a cap on donations (perhaps as low as £5k) – he has pulled rabbits from hats in speeches before.

The other changes are less attention grabbing but no less significant:

A London Primary – Labour’s candidate in 2016 will be selected by a London-wide primary. That means an end to the current system where 50% of votes come from members and the other 50% come from affiliates. It’s unclear how the party plans to fund what would be a hugely expensive primary, and it will certainly alter the tenor of the race for London Mayor, likely skewing the contest more towards bigger names and perhaps even celebrity candidates who can draw on media attention.

A pilot of primaries in Labour-held seats? – The party may also explore a limited number of primaries in seats currently held by the party but where party membership is low. That mitigates against a handful of party members effectively selecting rhe MP for an area, but it does take the decision out of the hands of party members, and as I noted earlier, they could benefit those with personal and/or organisational wealth. Oh – and there’s the small fact that they are incredibly expensive for an increasingly cash strapped party to run.

A new code of conduct for selections – this could lead to disqualification for anyone who beraches the code. As always, the devil is in the detail, but Labour Party selections are often rife with accusations of malpractice – this will at least mean everyone should be clear what is and what is not legitimate campaigning.

Strict spending limits to cover candidates – yesterday I described spending limits as a “no brainer”. I also said:

No-one, either through personal largesse or support of a large external organisation (union or otherwise) should be able to buy an advantage in party selections. Setting a cap is fair, proportionate and in line with General Election rules. The devil, of course, will be in the detail. How high is the cap? Is spending by external groups included? And what comes under the cap? For many candidates, the biggest costs incurred in a selection are either taking time off work or travel. Could/should these be capped? That seems unlikely.

The spending limit will cover contests for Parliament and interestingly (considering the current selection process is currently underway) the European Parliament. The key detail here is that organisations campaigning for candidates (unions, but also factional groups) will be included within the spending limit. As anyone who has ever completed an agent’s return for an election will attest, that could be a nightmare to get right. In addition there’s also the risk that spending caps can favour established/establishment candidates because expenditure – in materials and assistance – is one of the few ways a challenger can overcome their disadvantage.

Standard constituency agreements with trade unions – Miliband will argues that these are necessary so that “no one can be subjected to undue local pressure”. Whilst the unions might not fight this change from Miliband, it certainly carries with it an implication that such “undue local pressure” is rife, and not limited to one (or a few) selections. The implication won’t be taken well.

Taken together, these proposals are hugely significant for the party and the unions. But they carry with them great risks. Miliband will say that he believes that Falkirk was “the death-throes of the old politics”, but this is clearly about more than just one selection in one constituency. You do not fundamentally change – and potentially risk – the union link over a single selection. Miliband clearly believes that the issues at play in Falkirk run far deeper.

He must do – because otherwise, why else would he be making such a giant leap unto the unknown?

Update: These changes if implemented would require a Labour Party rule change. That takes two conferences, so presumably this can’t happen for at least a couple of conferences – or there would have to be a special conference to pass the changes. Either way, it’s a minefield for Miliband to negotiate.

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  • Very brave move, but if it works he’s immediately on the front foot on party funding.

  • Islingtonsouth

    Oh dear. So now we will have a selection process in London run by the Evening Standard rather than paying members. Please remind me why it is worth being a member? You can now get the same benefits for free…

  • Patrick Kitterick

    Given that one of the previous candidates for the Labour Mayoral nomination almost went bust when they had to campaign amongst just party members how are finances going to work forthis? Open primary selection for Labour Party candidature and taking big money out of Labour Party selections seem contradictory and nobody has been able to convince me otherwise and that’s just the start of the problems with primaries.

  • prisoner_zero

    labor is the party of the unions all ways has been and for ED to take this stance is a be-trail he Is letting the torys set the pace and manufacture a scandal while he flaps about trying to put out fires that don`t exists

  • robertcp

    Opt in could be a logistical nightmare. A sensiblke approachcould be to phase it in gradually, for example, it would only applt yyo new mmembers.

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  • rekrab

    When you are about to make a major initiative as leader of the party, the last thing you need are voices off”

    Tony Blair

    Does he know more than the rest of us?

    It’s just not about the money, if a cap on campaigning is settled, the offset is probably measurable at a small loss.

    It’s more to do with taking power from the unions and giving it to the labour party.Do you trust labour MP’s with issues like Industrial action?

    • “Do you trust labour MP’s with issues like Industrial action?”

      I wouldn’t trust Labour MPs to go to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread and come back with the change.

      I notice, following Ed’s initiative, the Progress Tendency are proposing an enhanced role for the PLP – where the Sainsbury influence is strong.

      The only way for Ed to satisfy the Progress Tendency is to surrender the his leadership.

      • rekrab

        Dave, Ed has made a right pigs ear of this, pushed into the austerity trap of conservatism and the fear of that future austerity impact on the unions.
        It’s as murky and as dirty as it could ever be and it’s been in the Blairites secret bag for some time.

      • $6215628

        Luke Akehurst, Ellie Reevers,Peter Wheeler,all progress,backed Eds leadership

  • i_bid

    We may as well have voted David Miliband for all the good it’s did us.

    • $6215628

      So it’s David’s fault we’re not doing better?

  • Alex Otley

    Champagne corks are popping at Progress HQ tonight.

    • rekrab

      Critical theory, worse case scenario? all been preplanned, remember John Denham’s furore over non- affiliated trade unions?

      Unite reject the reforms, Unison are tied to it’s hands? GMB will vote on it.

      Unite and Gmb become, un-affiliated? and the progress labour party bridge any funding gap from big business because they will no longer support Industrial action. STITCH UP!!!!!!

      • Alex Otley

        Basically yes. I’m not an expert on internal TU politics so correct me if I am wrong, but that seems possible.

        GMB have already come fairly close to disaffiliating. Like you say Unison are tied because they already operate an opt-in. The smaller unions may see no reason to continue affiliating. It may well be that the only unions who choose to stay are those that are:
        a) Pro-Labour HQ
        b) Suitably large and well organised to conduct a recruitment drive

        The rest may end up disaffiliating by default because they can’t get it together to meet the new rules. If that were to happen, and Labour were left with a hollowed out TU section with Unison Labour Link dominating it would open up the party to another round of Tory attacks about vested public sector interests. So in the long term they’d probably be bullied into scraping union affiliation altogether.

        • rekrab

          Yeah! any such change would need ratified by conference, then ratified again by UNITE members and GMB members, some individuals may maintain their labour memberships, the enemy within scenario once again.

          It’s important to remember just how much new labour changed and bullied the NHS and unisons hands we’re bound by it’s opt-in status.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      I am reminded of the title of a book I once read called “Big Boy’s Rules” (the content, about the British Army in the Northern Ireland is immaterial, it is the phrase that I find telling).

      What have the unions got? Money, of course, and emotion and probably popular support from Party Members, but the support in itself is not binary, as in the absence of a credible left party alternative, it is not going anywhere. Money can always be found (as EVERY other party knows), and emotion is not worth that much without an alternative.

      What Party insiders have got is control of the agenda, the rules, the timing and just about everything else. With less than two years to a General Election, what are the unions going to do? Nothing, effectively. Too late to set up a new party, too late to stop promised (contracted) funds, not any proven consensus from their own members, riven with faux-democracy requirements to consult under their own constitutions all of which takes time, not particularly popular among the majority non-unionised workforce, and not even, as unions, particularly united with each other.

      I suspect that Ed will start dictating terms to the unions soon. Or not seeming to dictate terms, but in effect doing so as they are so powerless.

      • Mike Homfray

        Money can’t always be found. I think a possible line of argument here will be that this is an opportunity to reduce the cost of politics overall, but Labour can’t afford the current cost of a general election campaign without union contributions.

        Clearly the hope is that if affiliations can be maintained at a reasonably high rate, then the ‘supporter’ status which Labour tried to establish but which came to very little, could be replaced by the opted-in union affiliate member. This would mean a larger pool than currently in existence.

        The other possible scenario is the American one, where turnouts at national elections rarely exceed 55%. We have already started to head in this direction. The danger is that if this doesn’t increase participation, this will be the outcome.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Mike,

          every other party finds money. Attract more members, get donations, or some mix. I am not advocating the big business donations route, but it is somewhat pathethic for Labour to claim (if it does) that it is unable to survive unless on union donations. Of course, there would be short term practical cash flow issues with a wholesale change from the union funded model to any other, but when EVERY other party exists on an alternate model, then Labour cannot be too “precious” about some magic union funding link.

          Or, to put it another way, would it not be foolish for the Labour Party not to have a funding Plan B if, in the worst possible scenario, the unions turn around and say “no more”?

          As an uninvolved, or rather uncommitted citizen, I would not want to trust Labour again with Government unless it can run itself sustainably, and without reliance on a single, binary source of funding. It is not very responsible to try to do that.

          • Alex Otley

            You could say the same about the Tories. Why don’t they have a plan B if big business and the very rich decide to stop donating for some reason?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Because there are 100 thousand or more businesses, and a million or so rich people. The risk is far less than reliance upon a dozen unions.

          • Alex Otley

            Misses the point entirely. It’s easy for you to say that Labour should arbitrarily change itself entirely when you don’t support Labour. The point is that Labour should offer different policies to the Tories, not be forced onto the same territory by corporate interests. Of course that wouldn’t matter to you if you don’t vote Labour, but it’s important for people who do support Labour.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            With respect, I think that you miss my point. I do support Labour when it supports what I feel is correct, which is why I voted Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005, but not since. My political viewpoint is relatively fixed, and in 2010 I thought that Labour were not worth my support, which went to the Lib Dems, and since then I have voted Green in a local election. If Labour come back to my point of view, they get my vote again, it is quite simple. If they do not, they do not. But I am only one voter: the Party has to balance where it wants to go, and either gain or lose my support, or equally, either lose or gain the support of some other person considerably to my left. It is nothing but a simple choice for the Party.

            People only support Labour “at a point in time”, and dpending on what those people believe in. There is nothing at all fixed on God’s green earth about what a political party should offer. If partisans do think it immutable, the fools are they.

          • rekrab

            God green earth? more like a conservative scorched earth.

            The numbers game means those in the minority are easy targets, not exactly a god policy?

            It’s wealth against no wealth, have’s and the have nots, unfortunately the low paid don’t trust MP’s and are to frightened to stand their ground at this moment but the notion to stand your ground and not back down is an encouraging phrase.

          • Mike Homfray

            But you really shouldn’t be voting Labour given your views and values.

            The fact you did so in those years is both a comment on what Labour had to offer, and slso the state of the alternative parties during those years

          • RAnjeh

            In all fairness, one could say the same thing about you.
            Labour needs to appeal to Tory voters that it lost in 2005 but voted for the party in 1997 and 2001, if it wants to ensure it has a majority. Then again, you did refer to a certain moderate Labour MP as a ‘rightwing fundementalist evangelical who is a member of a cult’ so I doubt you’d want Labour to win over these people.

          • i_bid

            If unions were as deregulated and supported as businesses are in this country I dare say there’d be plenty more to choose from – but they aren’t, they’re the most regulated in the democratic world – all but suppressed. So they amalgamate for strength.

          • John Ruddy

            Complaining about a down arrow? Thats a Down arrow! (Simpsons reference….)

          • rekrab

            Nah, as I’ve said above it’s not about the money, governments can attract party monies from contracts? think about the Lords and their dubious business deals.

            It’s a founding principle, a tied in commitment to working with each other for the betterment of workers and the poor alike.

            It’s a foolish break and will lead to a middle of the road crash! bland politics on driving in one direction is national socialism and extremely dangerous.

          • Mike Homfray

            No, they don’t. The Tory party relies on a few very major rich donors. The other parties are much smaller and operate on a smaller level.

            I think relying on rich men is much more concerning than trade union donations and its not a route that a left wing party could go down in any case, without becoming a right wing party.

            The only option would be a control of all party funding and state support, as in Germany

            I really don’t want people like you to vote Labour, because your values are not ours, so your standards and expectations are also not ours either.

            The days of the two big all-embracing parties appear to be at an end. The political structures just need to catch up.

    • $6215628

      were you there?

  • Lets see how much they like open primaries when candidates start playing race and religious politics in urban areas. Open primaries will empower people with weighty organisations and money. Also I don’t see how you can cap open primaries because you will not be able to stop people setting up ‘Friends of X campaigns’ like they do in the US, they needn’t even be endorsed by the candidate who is running. So expect super pacs.

    Open Primaries will also dilute if not sever the link between CLPs and their MP as the former would have played no part in selecting their Labour MP as a member of the party. Why bother with GCs and ECs? If we’re going down the open primary route why not ditch party structures all together in favour of open community meetings for all residents?

    Also how can you possibly make the case for having primaries in CLPs with lower memberships? You either want to envolve the public or you don’t and people might start raising eyebrows at the sorts of communities that are allowed to have primaries and the sorts that denied

    It will be hugely costly and will be a logistical nightmare for the disabled and elderly. If you have widespread postal ballots your likely to attract fraud and nasty divisive politics.

    • RAnjeh

      You can cap the amount that an individual candidate spends in their campaign, others can volunteer and openly endorse candidates but the Labour Party can enforce rules to stop any candidate spending a certain amount of money. Even using the US example, would Barack Obama, a lowly community organiser from Chicago, be US President if we had a system manipulated by party hacks rather than open to supporters?
      Also, why not reach out to more people? Can we honestly say that our CLPs are representative of the communities that they intend to serve? John Mann’s supporter primary in Bassetlaw reached out to 10,000 people. Imagine a Labour PPC with the backing of 10,000 voters? With an open primary that could be 70,000 voters. Also, that candidate is more likely to be the kind of candidate the electorate will want and it will be a chance for potential candidates to reach out to the wider electorate rather than just us as a party talking to ourselves. Also, let’s be clear that Labour Party membership is not all about selecting parliamentary candidates. We have the chance to represent the party, stand in internal elections, vote in internal elections, vote for the leader of our party, campaign for the party etc. I have no truck with people who water down Labour party membership to ‘selecting candidates’. Ideally, opening up the shortlisting process to all members giving them more choice rather than just two people and through a ballot involving all members – that’s what I call democracy.
      Also, it is a myth that primaries cost a lot of money and that the rich win. Sarah Wollaston won her primary with very little money for her campaign and there are cheaper ways of conducting primaries such as on online. Also, in the Coalition Agreement, the Government commits to providing state funding for primaries anyway.

  • RAnjeh

    Well done, Ed!

  • Daniel Speight

    So Mark all that briefing that Ed’s people said wasn’t coming from them yesterday, was in fact coming from them. Why should we trust people who tell lies out of habit?

    • rekrab

      Hear! Hear!

  • Daniel Speight

    So Ed shows his true colours, and they are as blue as a Tory matron’s hair. He doesn’t mind ordinary people being activists and knocking on doors as volunteers, but the £64,000 a year MP’s jobs are for the likes of him and his PPE buddies. Forgot the zombies, it’s the clones you should worry about.

    • i_bid

      It seems to me Labour’s only ever bold and willing to commit to policies when they’re Progress-tastic.

    • Robert Turner

      Totally agree Daniel .I have spent over 30 years representing working people who relied on the Trade Unions to be their voice at national level.They are not going to sign up to Labour as individuals .Career politicians no little of ordinary working people and their lives..and I voted for Ed!!!!

  • trotters1957

    It may be possible to increase the political levy for those who opt in and thereby negate some of the loss from the compulsory levy. It’s a change worth making.

    Mark, well done on your performance on Daybreak, surprised to see you have a decent suit, it looked new though!

    • Mr Arthur Cook

      🙂
      To break even I think you’d need to increase it by rather a lot!!!!
      …and when it’s been increased more will drop out.
      …….looks like Labour’s back to the old “bring and buy sale” …..don’t hold it on the same day as the Lib Dems…..you don’t want to split the market!!!

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  • Mr Arthur Cook

    After several years of standing with his hands in his pockets watching the Tories destroy our country the Labour leader finally shows some bottle……..by tackling “the union problem”??
    Whilst many like myself have, by default, never opted out of the political levy I certainly will not actively “opt in”. To be fair, it is a honest move which saves the Labour leader the embarrassment of taking the money of public sector trades unionists and then wagging his finger at them for going on strike like a peeved middle class 6th form prefect. Having rib the party of “the evil trades unions” he does now face the problem of how to pay for all those posters, offices, PAs and expenses. Perhaps now that he’s attacking the unions the Daily Mail will support Labour? Or perhaps they’ll simply pick on something else to promote their right wing agenda. Maybe Tony Blair associates will give Labour a loan? I understand the rates are slightly less than WONGA!
    Since 1997 it’s become clear that Labour is simply a career vehicle for the ambitious psudo-left upper middle classes rather than a party which will represent the views of working people in parliament. So quite right that 6 million trades unionist should say “thanks but no thanks” to Labour and look to creating a political party which is closer to the roots that Mr Milliband may have written essays about but has no real understanding of.

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  • Amber_Star

    The Labour Party cannot claim to represent working people if it’s too frit to ask them whether they believe it does.
    As to running out of money, Labour & the LibDems must believe they have enough votes to push through a low cap on individual donations & possibly get some state funding for political parties. There are probably some Tories who remember when Lord Ashcroft had to save the Tory Party from bankruptcy & – like with the boundary change vote – they might not turn out to vote against state funding.

  • Baroness Oona King comments after running against Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London.

    Baroness Oona King : “It’s a fundraising dinner, and if I’m lucky it will prevent me being kicked out of the House of Lords on bankruptcy charges”.

    She continued : “Unfortunately democracy costs a fortune, and I still owe substantial sums from last year’s Labour London mayoral selection campaign.”

    Will an open primary for Labours 2016 Mayoral candidate increase or decrease that experience ? … Stupid idea will be disastrous.

    • RAnjeh

      Unless you had strong spending limits. What you’ve exposed is that this stuff happens already in the party and therefore we need reform to party procedures but that’s no reason not to open up the selection process to supporters and possibly the public. Take vested interests out of Labour politics.

  • Jim O’Boyle

    This fiasco proves beyond doubt what is wrong! Read my blog, particuarly the posts about the union party relationship: http://jimoboyle.wordpress.com/

  • Monkey_Bach

    From Blair onward the Labour Party has been moving slowly rightward, politically, holding its supporters, voters, and many of its own MPs bent over a barrel. “You may not like what we’re up to or the way we intend to treat the needy, sick, disabled and the vulnerable,” said the Labour elite “but at the end of the day you’ll HAVE to learn to like it or lump it because you’ll still HAVE to vote Labour to avoid an even worse fate under the Conservatives.”

    Post Kinnock quarrelling with the unions became a virility test for Labour leaders.

    Eventually a tipping point was bound to be reached.

    Perhaps this is it.

    Eeek.

    • John Ruddy

      If you look back, Labour leaders have been quarrelling with the unions since Ramsay McDonald.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Not in such an obviously reactive, contrived, and deliberate manner, nor so publicly, for the most part for effect in order to look “strong”.

        Eeek.

        • Mike Homfray

          Why do some people have this wish to try and change the party?
          Why don’t they like the fact that Labour is the party of the unions?
          Why are they ashamed to be the Welfare party?

          I think its because they want power at any cost. But what’s the point in power if you then do nothing with it.?

          They wouldn’t ask that question, because power is worth it for its own sake in some quarters

  • ColinAdkins

    Funny how the unions were not an issue when they were parachuting Ed and his PPE chumies into safe Labour seats. When are we going to have an investigation into the attempt to have the pollsters daughter foisted onto a Labour seat?

  • j walker

    When the unions backed him to become the leader of the LABOUR party they made a huge error in judgement, he is weak and shows it at question time i think its time to get rid, and pick someone who is more capable and stronger at putting across their views! to a equally as weak Mr Cameron!!

  • Adam Kelleher

    phase 1) reduce labours reliance on union funding.

    phase 2) increase funding from private business.

    this will then match up with the fact that labour is now ruled by a political elite that is no different than the tory party. same education; same jobs (political researchers); same degree (political science).

    What does the ‘Labour’ in the Labour party mean in today’s world because I believe that your MP should be raised, work and live in the seats.
    To labour these days working class is a dirty word and not a reason for existing.

  • Time to get real folks, the writings been on the wall ever since clause four, the workers need another REAL socialist party, not next week, but NOW, the red dye has been bleach from this Labour coat and has become a deep shade of Blue…wake up comrades and smell the Tory coffee

  • You’re misunderstanding my point. Having worked on the Obama campaign I’m in a fairly good position to point out that much of his money was donated to him from superpacks. In fact, donate is the wrong word spent is a better way of describing it. This was the method of choice for Republicans.

    You essentially have an external organisation who is willing to spend the money and spend it themselves which removes the cap on spending because organisations and individuals can spend what they like.

    If you introduce a primary system in the UK that is what will happen. The Labour Party may well have a rule that says candidates running for office can only spend 10k on their campaign. What is stopping a Trade Union contacting all of their members in London and telling them to vote for X person ? nothing , that is exactly what will happen.

    What is stopping rich individuals even without the permission of the candidate from spending 10k on leaflets and getting them posted to local residents? Absolutely nothing.

    We have never had a primary in the uk that was seriously contested or in a key marginal. As soon as we do these sorts of tactics will become common place. We tend not to have ‘attack ads’ in the UK because party structures constrain that behaviour. As soon as you move into the public realm you’ll have a very dirty style of politics.

    Also, Barack Obama was not a ‘lowly community organiser’ as you say. He was a very well paid lawyer as is his wife, a university professor then a state senator and then a American Senator. I’d also like to point out that St Obama completely destroyed Clinton in the primaries because his campaign was 100% positive and he let his ‘superpacks/ friends of obama’ do all the attacking and dirty politics.

    You make the point about reaching out to new people i agree with you but don’t you see the absurdity of telling unionists to opt in whilst moving towards primaries which by definition are full of people who cannot be bothered to opt in to the party themselves?

    The NEC already has the power to vary membership fees. Set membership fees to £1 if you want to get more people involved and then donate that money to a good cause locally.

    Ed is talking about a closed primary where you have to register as being a Labour supporter before you can vote which will be logistical mess for the elderly and disabled and will cost a bomb. Also, those people already vote labour so you haven’t gained anything really. It’s just a PR exercise. If you can go and fill in a form to take part in a primary as a labour supporter you should be able to do the same and join the party for £1.

    Sarah Wollaston won her primary because it was a stitch up lol she was on the A-list she had a huge amount of Cameron support (before she turned on him). Also she was a very popular GP in the area and her seat has been tory for the past 50+ years so where’s the risk? It might have given her a tiny bit more name recognition but if you look at the results the Liberal vote more a less stayed the same so where’s the impact of the primary?

    Finally, there’s a huge risk of race and religious politics. Given the fact that nearly 90% of ethnic minorities vote Labour and the highest concentration of them live in London it gives that particular interest a huge sway in selections. MP Steve Reed said on twitter last night :

    Steve Reed MP:

    A primary to choose Labour’s candidate for London Mayor will greatly benefit London’s BAME & LGBT population #betterpolitics @Ed_Miliband

    He’s right it will and given the chronic underrepresentation of those groups that would be welcome. But again you run the risk of following the American race model where you have the ‘Black caucus’ and the ‘Latino caucus’ etc endorsing people in the primary process and essentially stitching it up.

    If Sadiq Kahn or David Lammy are both shortlisted for London Mayor they will have a huge advantage over there white colleagues in a London Primary. I suppose some people might say well that will make a change , and yeah i suppose it would but primaries are a very volatile political device because they allow people to appeal directly to sectional ‘community’ interests.

    • RAnjeh

      No surprise to you that I totally disagree. I think the entire premise of your argument is to compare UK primaries to US primaries on the presumption that they’ll have precisely the same effect. They don’t. Primaries in this country have shown it not to be the case, and America have got a massive problem with billion pound campaigns, massive vested interests etc. I mean it is scaremongering to say that is this is exactly what is going to happen.
      Ed has talked about a ‘closed primary’ for London, it was briefed to the media that it would be an open primary. I really couldn’t care less, we have millions of supporters in London and to reach out of millions of Londoners to decide a candidate rather than a stitch-up for Red Ken which happened last time, can only be a good thing.
      Sarah Wollaston’s primary was not a stitch up, because from I understand the leadership wanted the Mayor of Torbay not a GP who had only been a Tory member for a short amount of time. Also, looking at other primaries, it has resulted women being selected (only one man from Tory primary was selected) and more representative MPs.
      You talk about religious politics. Apart from Tower Hamlets, I cannot think of anywhere else where religion would play a huge part. Again, this is just based on what happens in the US where religion is massively important.
      And Steve Reed is right, it would benefit LGBT and BAME candidates. Currently, some LGBT and BAME candidates have been unsuccessful because of ‘vested interests’ (let’s put it that way) blocking them from being selected with some of the old guard showing signs of ‘institutional racism’. It happens in all parties. With a primary, it would massively help BAME candidates in areas where there is high BAME representation but the vested interests would not allow that person to get selected because they want their friend to get the seat. You know that full well.

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