So, now it’s clear. The way Len McClusky is going to apply the thumb screws to Ed Miliband was revealed this morning with the publication of the preliminary agenda for Unite’s conference at the end of June (h/t Left Futures).
The relevant chapter is headed “Political” and includes the resolutions on Unite’s relationship with the Labour party. The tone can be gauged from the quote below from one of the motions,
“This Conference notes and applauds UNITE’S policy to win back the Labour Party from the right-wing neo-liberals who have infested the party over the past 20 years, and return it to where it belongs as a voice and political vehicle for the working-class people of this nation.”
In all, there are 12 resolutions on how Unite works with Labour that have been selected by the union leadership and they lay down three important markers.
First, money: three resolutions call for a 10% cut in funding to the Labour party with these monies being diverted to union campaigns or the Unite National Dispute Fund. It’s the clearest possible shot across the bows. Money matters, particularly to a party spending more than it raises, and if Labour is not going to advance Unite’s agenda then the funding will slow – 10% to start with, more if there is continued recalcitrance.
Second, control over party structures: there are seven resolutions on this with demands such as mandating sitting MPs to obtain nominations from 66% of affiliated trade union branches to secure automatic re-selection. This is about long term power within the Labour movement. Leaders of the party are transitory but re-writing the rules would give real control over every aspect of the party – from policy positions to who becomes leader.
Third, the Labour party’s policy on cuts: there are two strongly worded motions criticising the idea of accepting cuts, and specifically targeting the two Eds’ speeches in January backing the public sector pay freeze. Given the January speeches were the only comment the Labour leadership has made backing a concrete proposal for fiscal restraint, the warning is clear:- no more loose talk about cutting spending.
With this set of resolutions, Len McCluskey has set out is stall. He will say, “Ed, mate, it’s not me, it’s the members. I hear what you’re saying about the centre ground, but my members want action”.
Some of the more extreme demands might be traded as an act of goodwill by McCluskey as he triangulates his way to his objective, but if Ed Miliband accedes to the substance of these demands, the nature of the Labour party will be fundamentally changed.
And that will be that.