The trade unions could be doing Ed Miliband – and all of us – a favour

No doubt, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, joined by a select band of Blairite survivors, would be rather chipper if the trade union chiefs currently making threatening noises about cutting Labour Party funding  turn out to really mean it.

But the real benefit could be much wider: if Labour loses a large chunk of its funding from trade unions bosses then it could unlock the long-running saga that political party funding reform.

Back in December I wrote:

The strong historical links between trade unions and the Labour Party means that any proposals which would curb the amount unions can give to Labour are fiercely opposed.

But Labour is not the permanent party of government.

Requiring union members to opt in explicitly to make donations and choose which party they wish their funds to go to would certainly hurt Labour relative to other parties. However, becoming the conduit of mass funding to all the main political parties (remember just how many trade unionists vote for parties other than Labour) would make other parties pay more attention to the concerns of trade union members. It may weaken support for Labour and reduce the role of trade union bosses, but it would strengthen the political influence of trade union members. Were it not for the weight of history, this move would make sense. As it is, it is very unlikely.

If Labour loses a large chunk of its trade union funding then the financial pain of political party funding reform would start looking rather small – especially as backing meaningful reform would let Ed Miliband push David Cameron hard on the sort of low donation cap that would block predominantly large Conservative donations.

Moreover, whilst party funding reform would strengthen the influence of individual trade union members, the one clear loser would be the senior trade union figures who currently hold the purse strings. And if they are gunning for Ed Miliband, is weakening their position really so unthinkable for him?

In fact, even if those senior trade unionists are bluffing, they are offering up to Ed Miliband the perfect opportunity to be tough (standing up to them), to be consensual (agreeing to the previous independently drawn up proposals for funding reform )and to be on the side of the many, not the few (getting the big money out of politics).

Will he take the opportunity?

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/26676 for Twitter and emails.

One Comment

  • Interesting perspective but I don’t think so…
    If Labour loses a large chunk of its trade union funding then the financial pain of political party funding reform would start looking rather small – especially as backing meaningful reform would let Ed Miliband push David Cameron hard on the sort of low donation cap that would block predominantly large Conservative donations.

    Ed Miliband has demonstrated that he can’t hit a cow’s @rse with a banjo. If Labour have funding problems, I think this will merely weaken Ed Miliband himself and some of his leadership team. The Unions have been too patient and they have some buyers remorse, but they are not stupid, their funding is allocated in such a way that they have influence over individual MPs. When they work together they will bring Ed down relatively quickly, as the MPs will start to peel away from Ed as their personal Union funding dries up. I don’t think they’ll leave it too much longer either, they’ll want the next leader to have time to get established.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAllan 25th Oct - 1:23pm
    And the great thing is the EU are allowing the UK the privalage of paying an extra £1.7b towards the goal and increasing our annual...
  • User AvatarMichael Kilpatrick 25th Oct - 1:06pm
    Some stupid questions in this poll, I'm afraid. It's all well and good asking leading questions about devolution which only mention cities, but you force...
  • User Avatarsimon 25th Oct - 12:40pm
    Stefan Agreed it is total incompetence on the part of our metropolitan elite, but then that is sadly par for the course. But if you...
  • User AvatarJohnTilley 25th Oct - 12:36pm
    Colin Fair enough. Although there is not much of a party to fall apart is there? One MEP, one Westminster MP , 15 MSPs and...
  • User AvatarRichard 25th Oct - 12:14pm
    On Topic Most of the things that "create more and better jobs" - the rule of law, a reliable currency, reducing tariffs on trade, reliable...
  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 25th Oct - 11:54am
    Paul in Wokingham ' This isn’t a failure of the political left. It’s a problem with our entire political system.' The failure of the left...