Posts Tagged ‘union link’

Ten hard truths

14/08/2015, 06:02:56 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. As leadership ballot papers are despatched, here’s John Slinger with his top ten for a centre-left party that is serious about winning.

1. Elect someone capable of genuine leadership, who can speak to and for the whole country. Labour members and supporters should spurn the view that this selection process is primarily about them; it should be about the voters.

2. Appeal to people who voted Conservative and for other parties with policies which appeal beyond Labour’s declining ‘core vote’. A winning alliance elected us in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Only leadership as in point 1) can encourage a genuine conversation with all voters rather than ourselves.

3. End the constitutional link with the unions to show that Labour is above sectional interests. No party should hard-wire significant political influence for one section of society into its constitution. Unions should remain close friends, enabling relationships with other sectors to be nurtured.

4. Seek to become the party for workers and business by unashamedly building new bridges to both unions and business, the sector employing more than four in five UK workers.

5. Focus on ideas that work by following wherever evidence leads, rejecting ideology and ignoring protest group purism. That could mean a greater role for the state where markets should be more competitive or more involvement by the private sector in providing, but not owning, public services.

The party would condemn failure in public and private sectors, and encourage both sectors where they succeed. The cases of Mid Staffs, Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile and others show the dichotomy of ‘public sector good/private sector bad’ is false. Labour should incubate excellence wherever it is found.

6. Champion continued EU membership by emphasising its benefits for our economy and for our global influence. With the exception of a few leading politicians such as Pat McFadden, debate on EU membership has long lacked a positive, effective political voice, thereby offering the field to those who peddle the myth that Brexit is the panacea to complex global problems.

7. Stand up for strong defence and diplomacy because at a time of growing global instability Britain must be a confident member of Nato, a proud and trusted ally of the United States and willing to play a leading role in maintaining global security and enforcing the Responsibility to Protect doctrine where appropriate. This would help convince the public that it is a party of hard-nosed, principled government not pious protest. (more…)

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Len McCluskey signals potential Unite exit from Labour

01/04/2014, 04:39:01 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Big news from Len McCluskey’s turn before the press gallery this afternoon. Speaking to journalists, he said that he could envisage Unite changing its rules on funding to support other parties and leaving Labour, if the Labour was to lose the next election.

“Only if we change our rules, within Unite’s rules, we are affiliated to the Labour party. We cannot give any financial support to any other political party. So the rules within Unite would need to be changed, not by Len McCluskey – I know some of your papers think I have this huge power to flick switches on and off – but by our rules conference. Can I ever envisage a rules conference voting to disaffiliate from Labour? I can, I can, and that’s a challenge to Ed Miliband because I believe the Labour party is at a crossroads, this is a watershed…if Labour lost the election next May I fear for the future of the Labour party and so these are serious debates at this point in time in our history we have to kind of consider all of those issues, at the moment, though that’s not on our agenda.” (h/t Isabel Hardman)

This is potentially an enormous shift in Labour politics. If Unite were to disaffiliate, three points are relevant.

First, the balance of the party would shift towards the right. Unite are the most vocal and powerful of the unions on the left and without their seats on the NEC, votes at conference, financial leverage and members’ role in any future Labour leadership election, the party would likely move more to the centre.

Second, it suggests the Collins union reform proposals, passed with much fanfare in February, were only a stop-gap for Unite, pending the result of the next election. If Labour loses, then all bets are off.

Third, it would mean that the total number of trade unionists affiliated to the Labour party would drop below half the total number of trade unionists in the country for the first time.

At the moment there are 6.5m trade unionists in Britain and according to the latest figures on the TUC website, the 15 trade unions affiliated to the Labour party represent 4.2m of them. If Unite disaffiliated, with a membership of 1.4m, the number of trade unionists affiliated to Labour would drop to 2.8m or 43% of all trade union members.

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Labour prepares to re-write Collins party reform package

13/03/2014, 01:08:46 PM

by Atul Hatwal

A fortnight on from Labour’s special conference and major change is on the agenda for Ed Miliband’s flagship party reforms.

The Labour leadership was able to secure strong backing for the Collins review from the unions largely because it delegated resolution of much of the contentious detail to a separate “implementation group”, to be set up following the special conference.

This group, comprising union and party representatives, has now been formed and outstanding questions need answers.

Immediately, problems are emerging in two areas: how the unions’ new political funds will be administered, and the role of union members in elections held before the end of the five year Collins’ process.

First, on the arrangements for the new structure of the political funds, the unions are split.

Broadly, the majority of the unions envisage a version of the Unison model.

This is where there are, in effect, two political funds: a general political fund, which is not used to fund Labour, and an affiliated or “Labour link” fund, which is used to support the party.

Where a trade unionist decides that they do not want their political fund contributions to support Labour, they all go into the general fund.

Where they want to financially support Labour, their contributions are split between the two funds.

The defining rule about the general fund is that its resources cannot be donated by the union to the Labour party.

Sounds simple.

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The boy Miliband done good

05/03/2014, 09:29:23 AM

by Rob Marchant

In a sense, nothing changed over the weekend: there was virtually no doubt that, once a proposal of such import was made “privately” to the NEC – and therefore instantly leaked to the whole world – that ducks were already in a neat row and nods had already been duly given. In dark, smoke-filled rooms, of course (it wouldn’t be the same without them).

But the securing of the party’s reform package – namely, the change from bulk to individual relationships with the party for union members, fair and representative leadership elections and a primary for London – was undoubtedly a great thing.

Finally – finally – Miliband has left his mark indelibly on his party. Even should he turn out next year to have been a mere one-term leader, the changes he has made will have an extremely long-lasting impact (assuming, that is, that such things cannot be undone later: either owing to an untimely 2015 leadership election, as noted here; or the use of the NEC veto clause on the London primary, as Progress’ Robert Philpot observantly pointed out last week).

There are things missing from the final report: NEC and conference votes remain unreformed. Neither, as blogger Ben Cobley noted, did the party take the opportunity to address its pathological obsession with identity politics, which has left to some nasty stitch-ups in the past, and which may yet be the undoing of the party before long (read this piece by Uncut’s Kevin Meagher if you want to understand why).

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How does Labour secure a majority in 2015? Ed needs to demonstrate leadership and reform the party

30/01/2014, 08:01:06 PM

In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Rob Marchant looks at the need for strong leadership in revitalising the party.

Six months on from the heady days of last July, when Miliband swore to reform his party after the failure of Refounding Labour to refound very much, the final proposals are being sent to members of Labour’s NEC this weekend. But has Miliband delivered?

In Chapter 2 of Labour’s manifesto Uncut the main objective we saw for the proposed reforms – in which he had Uncut’s full support – was to help boost his personal popularity with the electorate, by showing he could make a difference to that little company of which he is effectively the CEO: the Labour Party (although, for the record, we also urged him to go further).

Now, rather than judging on the basis of what has so far been leaked, we could simply ask the question: what would be the impact of Miliband not delivering? It’s not hard to predict.

One: in the event of losing a battle already made irrevocably personal, his personal poll ratings would very likely continue to languish. Because people like people who say they’ll do things, then do them. And the perception that unions run Labour Party is a decidedly dangerous one.

Given that reforming their party is really the only realm in which a leader of the opposition can actually do anything, and that this is a one-shot game, that game would be lost. For the record, the last three leaders, Kinnock, Smith and Blair, were felt to have succeeded in this area (kicking out Militant, OMOV and Clause Four respectively). People will draw their own conclusions.

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Leadership and party: how Ed can use one to revitalise the other

22/09/2013, 08:00:16 AM

by Rob Marchant

The next few days will be pretty decisive for the Labour leadership. While this is the kind of refrain you often hear from breathless journalists around conference time, on this occasion it has really a ring of truth about it. He has a project he firmly needs to make work.

Ed Miliband is no longer the new boy: indeed, he is now Labour’s second longest-serving leader of the last two decades. He is consolidated as leader of his party, with no serious challengers for the leadership; and currently presides over – just – a lead for that party in the opinion polls which has held for most of his tenure.

But, over the three years of his leadership, he has been criticised for a number of things: slowness to define party policy; a failure to reform his party; and poor personal leadership ratings.

Our new Labour Uncut book, titled Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why, looks principally to give answers to the first of these three, through concrete policy proposals backed up by painstaking polling on what will and will not appeal to the public.

But we also anticipated that Miliband might also, by addressing the second, address the third; that is, a well-executed party reform programme could help revitalise his leadership. We will come to why that is in a moment.

There was a party reform programme, known as Refounding Labour, which came and went in 2011; but it tinkered around the edges. Many of us had given up hope that any reform would come.

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Blunkett is right: one out of three ain’t good

18/09/2013, 08:47:03 AM

by Rob Marchant

It cannot have been the most welcome of interventions by a party elder, coming on the eve of TUC conference and a tricky moment for Miliband in his critical party reform agenda. Even less so to have chosen as his medium Labour’s favourite bête noire newspaper.

But although some things have moved on in the intervening ten days, David Blunkett’s recent Daily Mail piece certainly succeeded in one thing: he correctly identified the three areas where Labour has shown itself wanting, and in which its overall lack of success this year has surely not helped Miliband’s personal poll ratings, now standing at an historic low.

And they are these: its struggle with union leaders – as opposed to their members, who Uncut demonstrated last week think differently – over party reform; its recent foreign policy disaster over Syria; and its constant problem since the last election, the economy.

On party reform, Miliband certainly seems doing the right thing. It is a difficult path, but he stood his ground last week, we can only hope that that continues next week at party conference. He deserves the party’s praise and support, as even Times columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris acknowledged this weekend.

The problem he has is the other two areas.

First, it looks to be too late to recoup the losses on Labour’s Syria stance.

It is ironic that he same subject that gave rise to Obama’s now-legendary “red lines” also gave rise to the crossing of some red lines within our own party. There are some who will never forgive Miliband, although, to be fair, they are surely in the minority.

Whether you take is as an unintentional fumble or a cynical way to score party political points at a time when statesmanship was called for, it has been a watershed; one which has left Miliband consolidated in some sections of his party, yet diminished in the minds of opinion-formers who have spent the last three years treating him with polite respect, if not a warm embrace. The fickle country, despite not being keen on war, has surely yet to decide what it thinks about Labour’s handling of Syria, but sure-footed it has not been.

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Ed saddles up the gift horse

24/07/2013, 01:23:32 PM

by Rob Marchant

It is difficult to be anything less than delighted at Ed Miliband’s announcement on Monday that he will call a special conference next Spring to consider the findings of the Collins review.

With this move, he has simultaneously done several things: he has, critically, kept the political momentum going on the project which has now been irreversibly framed as the acid test of his leadership; he has surprised his critics by his audacious speed of action, now looking to deliver it in time for the election; he has pacified the moaners by increasing the level of democratic consultation; and, perhaps most importantly of all, largely cloned a successful model for such changes – that of clause four in 1995 – to achieve all this.

In addition, the selection of former Millbank staffer and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who was closely involved in the clause four campaign, for the campaign team is an inspired choice; and that is because he also understands both the party grassroots and the vital importance of the objective.

Despite the usual theories that the use of this model that is proof positive of a Blairite conspiracy to “kidnap” Miliband, it is blindingly obvious that he has not embarked on a policy suite to match.

But he is at least adopting political tactics which can work.

A mere two weeks ago, Miliband was unexpectedly presented with a gift horse which might just put his leadership back on track, not to mention save his party in the long term.

Rightly, without stopping to inspect the state of its teeth, he saddled up and got on.

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Miliband bags the Oscar, but McCluskey wins Best Supporting Leader

12/07/2013, 01:20:36 PM

by Kevin Meagher

As he toured the television studios following Ed Miliband’s speech on Tuesday, Len McCluskey avoided the bear traps. He didn’t let the media frame his response. He was relaxed and reflective, positive, even, about the historic changes to party-union relations that had just been announced.

Producers will have wondered if they had booked the right Len McCluskey.

He didn’t really sound like the ogre we have been used to reading about; the fixer-in-chief wielding power and patronage to fulfil his diabolical scheme. Labour’s Dr. Evil running Unite from some disused volcano in a South Pacific island.

There was no finger-jabbing, or dark threats. Subtly made-over, McCluskey appeared before us in a snappy dark suit and designer specs, sporting a hint of designer stubble; more internet entrepreneur than industrial dinosaur.

He had decided to give Ed Miliband the boost he needed. There was no thumping return serve to the suggestion that union power should be diluted in the party. He lobbed the ball gently back across the net. The Leader’s speech was “very bold, very brave and could be historic” he said.

Encouraging ordinary trade unionists to become fully involved in the party was something he “unequivocally welcomed”. He pledged co-operation in now working out how the changes will take effect.

And then there was the accent. The Liverpool brogue does stridency brilliantly. But it has another setting: mellifluousness. ‘Len the Mellifluous’ is not what Daily Mail leader writers were expecting, but that’s what we got. It’s hard to characterise someone as a belligerent rabble-rouser when they speak softly and reasonably.

So a triumph of media training? That is too glib. McCluskey is a seasoned negotiator. You don’t get to be general secretary of the country’s biggest union without having different settings for different occasions.

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Why is Ed playing into the Tories hands on the union link?

10/07/2013, 06:06:30 PM

by Ian Stewart

Before I get flamed here, let me declare two interests – I am a member of both the Labour party and Unite. I am as concerned as anybody else with what may or may not have happened in Falkirk and other places, but am trying to pass comment here only upon what I know.

I believe that having a solid link between organised labour and our party is one of the great strengths we have. At its best, it means that we have to at least consider ordinary peoples’ daily lives, rather than simply what sounds good on telly.

If you were to ask most party members which legislation they would be proudest of over the past century, my guess is that after the foundation of the NHS, the list would include equal pay, anti – discrimination laws, John Wheatleys’ housing act, the wages councils, their successor the minimum wage, the dock labour scheme, the expansion of education, including the open university and health and safety at work.

It is a long list, and by no means exhaustive. What is striking is that in these cases and many others pressure for reform came not from some arid Fabian pamphlet, but from the trades unions affiliated to the Labour party. Hell, even when we had less than 100 Labour MPs back before the great war, the Liberal government passed the national insurance act, in part to head off a rising tide of militancy.

So I have watched the growing fuss over Falkirk with impotent rage. In simplest terms, those shouting loudest for my general secretary’s scalp have their own agenda. It is clear and simple to Msrs Hodges, Murphy et al – the union link must die. It is the major block to a “realignment” of the “progressive” parties in the UK, which, shorn of any link to ordinary people, could then unite and deny the Conservatives any power for a generation.

Of course, the fact that their preferred progressive partners, the Lib Dems, are in government with the Tories, and presiding over the biggest slump in living standards since 1929 may mean that this is utter tripe, but no matter. Never mind that the other parties of the centre left – the Greens, Plaid, SNP and Respect have gained votes from us by outflanking us to the left, and are looking to replace us, rather than do deals.

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