Socialist Worker

Not so Red Ed moves to weaken unions’ influence

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2264

Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader elected with union members’ votes, has had an idea for how to make the party more “democratic”.

It turns out the problem with Labour is not its timidity over fighting the cuts or its keenness on foreign wars. No—it’s the supposed power of the unions.

A “source” told the Guardian, “We cannot go on with a system in which unions have 50 percent of the vote at conference, and just three general secretaries of three unions control four-fifths of that union vote.”

Labour’s conference takes few votes, and those taken are ignored by the leadership anyway. In reality the unions hold little power inside the party as it is.

The unions hoped Miliband would change this for the better. Instead he is now trying to reduce their role even further.

The leadership is lashing out over episodes like the defeat of its preferred candidate for Labour general secretary by union-backed Iain McNichol.

It is clear that Miliband’s “Refounding Labour” project, launched as a grand change of direction for the party, is in fact aimed at attacking the union link.

It is a continuation of the rotten trajectory he set out on when he condemned the united strikes on 30 June as “wrong”.

Most of the party’s rich donors have abandoned it—87 percent of the party’s funding now comes from the unions.

But why should the unions continue to fund a party that sidelines them, derides them, and refuses to fight for workers’ interests?


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Tue 9 Aug 2011, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2264
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