You’d never have known that there were any concerns about growing Union power over the Labour Party from this Today interview last Saturday in which we had Labour man Jim Naughtie interviewing (08:10) (unfortunately now timed out) Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow south-west and the former Labour lord chancellor, Lord Falconer to discuss the proposals….so three Labourites in a BBC studio…any possibility they might come up with the truth?
No….You’d have had no idea that the Unions might come out as the dominant group…we were told the concerns are that the Party becomes too centralised…marginalising other groups like the Unions…..no inkling that that centralisation favours the Unions….and blocks out those inconvenient MPs who voted against Ed Miliband.
No questions from Naughtie that might indicate the Unions will in fact benefit….you come away thinking the opposite….the new rules will marginalise and minimise the role of Trade Unions….‘That’s the intent of these changes…breaking the link with the Unions’.…Lord Falconer telling us that it will increase the power of the individual voter….not a small group of Union leaders…..
All rubbish…even the BBC itself admits that there are huge concerns about a Union power grab (and Miliband’s intent is in fact to tighten links to the Unions):
Some senior Labour party figures are worried a move aimed at diminishing the unions’ influence could end up handing them even more power.
Just for your information here’s a closer look at what the reforms might mean……
Here are the voting splits in final round of the Labour Party leadership election 2010:
Section 1 is the MPs, section 2 is LP members, section 3 the Unions….
As you can see 262 MPs get the same percentage vote (33.33%) as 199,671 union members who voted.
This is to change under Miliband’s reforms….the MPs will still select which candidates go on to the short list for leader but lose their block vote in the actual election.
Also…only union members who will have actively chosen to be affiliated with Labour through their union can vote and only their affiliation fees will be forwarded to Labour.
At present there are 15 unions affiliated to Labour (not the NUT surprisingly…though allegedly most Labour membership is made up of teachers)…in total there are 6.5 million Trade Union members…
So 2.7 million are actually paying into the general political fund……but at present they are automatically affiliated with Labour and fees for that affiliation (£3 each) finds its way into Labour coffers….£8 million/year.
If under the reformed rules say 33% (as with Unison) decide to opt-in and affiliate personally that’s still 900,000….and if 50% can be persuaded to vote as the Union directs that’s a potential 450,000 votes…up against 190,000 votes of the Labour Party members who of course won’t vote all for one candidate….as shown above Ed Miliband actually got fewer votes in the members vote but was levered into place by the unions….who will become even more powerful now.
Even on the figures from the 2010 election you can see 200,000 union members actually bothered to vote as against 123,000 LP members….so already they out vote the members on a one man one vote system….and that’s only 7.5% (of 2.7 million affiliated now).
So are the Unions losing power or gaining it?
The Unions have the potential to absolutely control the Labour leadership election result.
It should be noted that Labour, as an Opposition party gets ‘short Money’ from public funds to help pay running costs…this amounts to around £8m per year.
Many people suggest that Labour will suffer financially from changing the rules whereby anyone not opting out of the Union’s scheme have a portion of their fees paid into the political fund and to Labour….now they have to actively opt-in to pay Labour.
However…Labour could just raise its affiliation fees….and the Union member wouldn’t actually notice.
For example…Unite has 1.1 million members paying into its political fund (of 1.4 members in total)…..they pay in total around £155 million a year in union subs…..and of that £3.5 million in 2012 went in affiliation fees to Labour….or £3 per person paying into the general political fund and automatically being affiliated to Labour. (Bare in mind full membership of Labour Party costs £45/year)
It has been suggested that maybe only 10% of those paying into the political fund will agree to some of that being siphoned off to support Labour once Miliband’s reforms kick in…if ever…there is a 5 year time schedule…and will Labour want to enforce this change just before the next election?
However Unison already adopts the ‘opt-in’ scheme…in its own unique way and:
So not 10% but 33% pay into the Labour affiliation fund at Unison.
You might say 33% at Unite would still a big drop….it will only raise around £1.2 million…..but Labour could raise its affiliation fees…and the member wouldn’t pay any more in total…he pays around £150 a year into the Union general fund….and of that only £3 goes at present into the affiliation fees….so treble the fees to £9 and Labour would still get its money…but no one pays any extra in total….the general political fund shrinks a bit but…….
Another wrinkle is that although the general Political Fund is separate from the Labour Party affiliation fund in reality the political fund is used to indirectly support Labour as the Union uses it to campaign on issues that are in effect Labour policies….
In reality, the vast majority of UNITE’s spending from the political fund currently goes to support the Labour Party.
Labour’s Electoral College system by which they elect their leader, 1/3 of the vote for MPs, 1/3 to LP members, 1/3 to the Unions, is to go…and the system will be one man one vote.
This is the system now within the union sector of that system…there is no union ‘block vote’ as such….candidates relied upon the Union which backed them to persuade their members to vote for the chosen one.
Does the Union actually have any influence you might ask?
Yes they do.
The results show clearly that union members voted mainly in favour of the Union’s favoured candidate….USDAW members voted in bulk for David Miliband…which went against the trend.
They show that any candidate might expect around 50% of any union’s vote that backs him….and here shows that Ed Miliband often received more than double the votes his brother and nearest rival received, the rest shared between other candidates. (What is scary is just how many votes Diane Abbott received!)
|ABBOTT, Diane||BALLS, Ed||BURNHAM, Andy||MILIBAND, David||MILIBAND, Ed||SPOILT||VOTES CAST||BALLOT PAPERS DISTRIBUTED||TURNOUT|
|UNITE the UNION||11,129||6,995||7,993||21,778||47,439||15,936||111,270||1,055,074||10.5%|
So the Union’s decision on which candidate to back certainly influences its members…therefore the Unions will not only retain their influence over the leadership election but have it enhanced.
The Union Barons will be up against Labour Party members…or at least those that oppose the Union’s chosen candidate.
Your next question might be….what if I want to have the Union send money to the Conservatives and not Labour?
Unfortunately the Unions have close ties to Labour, for example Unite:
The union’s political committees are closely tied to Labour and closed to the vast majority of UNITE members. A small percentage of UNITE members are in the Labour Party, but not even all of these are eligible to take part in UNITE’s political conferences and committees – Rule 22.5 puts extra hurdles in the way. Only Labour Party members who are delegated from other UNITE committees or who are delegates to Constituency Labour Parties can take part. The effect is often to make these committees more like the voices of Labour in the union, rather than the voice of the union in the Labour Party.
Unite will tell you that voting to have a political fund is vital…whatever party you support…
A YES vote to a Political fund is not a vote
for Labour – it is a vote for a voice
You don’t need to be a Labour supporter to recognise
that over the last century, Labour and the unions have
provided a political balance to the Conservative Party
and the rampant interest of big business. 90 percent of
the current funding of the Tory party comes from big
business. 23 of the current cabinet are millionaires.
but of course that is rubbish…as Unite supports only one party…Labour:
With the formation of Unite, our members also approved our own Rule Book, setting out the clear political objectives of our union, which are that we are affiliated to the Labour Party, the party found by working people for working people
From Unite’s rule book: Their aims….
2.1.5 To further political objectives including by affiliation to the Labour Party….[which are] public ownership of important areas of economic activity and services, including health, education, water, post, rail and local passenger transport
Everything is controlled by Unite’s Executive Council….which is controlled by Labour Party members essentially….many key, influential positions must be occupied by a Labour Party member.
So many of the Unions are almost irrevocably tied to Labour and any political fund will go to furthering Labour’s objectives.
So the Union’s voting power is almost certainly increased dramatically by Miliband’s reforms….and the Unions are irrevocably tied to the Labour Party.
So the question might be will Miliband’s reforms work?
The reforms were supposed to be a response to the now proven allegations of vote rigging in Falkirk….to stop abuses of the electoral system and to demonstrate that Miliband wasn’t just a Union puppet, bought and paid for.
The reforms as seen above completely fail to rein in the Unions, doing the opposite in fact…and Labour will probably not lose any funding….at worst any shortfall being made up by use of the Union’s general political funds to campaign on Labour issues….far from remedying the issues raised by Falkirk they exacerbate them….encouraging even more Union ‘persuasion’ and dubious methods of gathering support.
The reality is that the reforms are a also ploy designed to recruit more people to Labour…making loose connections at first that they hope will lead to full membership of the Party.
Unite for instance has its own ploy…by allowing students and the unemployed to join the Union…. starting them off on a path that leads to more influence and connections to Labour.
3.3 There shall be a further category of membership open to students and others not in employment who wish to play a part in the work of the union in the wider community.
So you can see that these reforms are intended to create a stepping stone, a path for recruitment of supporters who hopefully will turn into full members.
One other aspect is Party funding…the potential is that Labour might not lose any money…but its plan also undercuts the Tories funding.
Miliband is proposing a cap of £5,000 on individual donations……as the Tories get millions from individuals that would have a serious effect upon the Tories…whilst Labour can freely continue to get funding from the Unions…not as a single large Union donation but as a collection of individual donations gifted by people who individually opt-in to affiliation.
The reforms are not about Miliband ‘standing tall‘, as the BBC claim, in opposing the Unions it’s in fact the complete opposite….still doing the Union’s bidding and forging even closer ties to them than at present.
And last summer, after the disaster that kept giving that was Falkirk – when Unite was accused of attempting to rig the process to select a Labour candidate in the by-election – Ed Miliband stood tall and declared it was time for change.
Yes change alright…..bit like the Russian Revolution was a ‘change’.