Five party reforms Ed Miliband should consider in the wake of Falkirk

In the wake of the Falkirk scandal there is increasing pressure on Labour leader Ed Miliband to distance his party from the trade unions. Some within Labour's own ranks are even calling for the link between Labour and the trade unions to be severed.

Ed Miliband unite

In the wake of the Falkirk scandal there is increasing pressure on Labour leader Ed Miliband to distance his party from the trade unions. Some within Labour’s own ranks are even calling for the link between Labour and the trade unions to be severed.

While Left Foot Forward rejects any wholesale break with the unions, we have come up with five party reforms we think Ed Miliband might make in the wake of Falkirk.

1. Compulsory open primaries for all local parties where there are fewer than 350 Labour Party members

 This would help to ensure that local candidates are selected by a representative section of society, rather than by a small group of party activists.

It would also encourage greater engagement from Labour supporters, who could get behind a candidate of their choice and would likely be more enthused come a General Election as they would have had some say in selecting the candidate.

2. Individual registration of union members (rather than via their union) and a guarantee that they only get one vote in leadership contests

Andy Burnham was right to call for Labour to look again at the rules around party leadership contests when he stood for the leadership of the party in 2010.

In looking at reforming the link between the Labour Party and the unions, Miliband should ensure that union members only get one vote in leadership contests.

Trade unionists wishing to pay the political levy should also become full members of the party with individual votes.

3. An end to one-off union donations above £5k in exchange for a cap of £5k on donations from private individuals

All large donations to political parties which come from a single source are inherently problematic and can come with, shall we say, certain expectations. It’s absolutely vital for our democracy, therefore, that individuals cannot seek to subvert the political process through their wealth; but it’s also important that Labour is not viewed by the public as in hock to the unions.

Trade unions are vital in a thriving democracy, but political parties which seek to govern Britain need to win support (and money) from a broad cross-section of society.

4. A spending cap for candidate selections

Whether we are talking about trade union cash or private capital, a large amount of money should not be a pre-requisite for standing for election.

5. Make all affiliates equal members

If union members are only going to receive a single vote each, it is only fair that affiliate members do too.

Labour remains the only one of the three major parties which does not choose its leader on the basis of one-member-one-vote. At present, during a Labour leadership contest a party member gets one vote for being a member of the party, but be entitled to another for being a member of a group such as Labour Students, another if they are in LGBT Labour and yet another if they are, for example, in the Socialist Health Organisation.

This appears (and is) unfair.

6 Responses to “Five party reforms Ed Miliband should consider in the wake of Falkirk”

  1. RogerMcC

    1. Compulsory open primaries for all local parties where there are fewer than 350 Labour Party members

    The last time membership figures for CLPs were published was for the Autumn 2010 leadership election when 506 parties out of 636 had under 350 members.

    Total national membership has increased a few percent since then but by my calculation even if all CLPs had uniformly increased by 8% since then (which is what the national total would suggest) there would still be 472 with under 350 members.

    But if we are embarking on a purge of bogus members as well as doing everything we can to alienate real members by embracing austerity we can probably expect to lose rather than gain members and push quite a few CLPs back down under 350 members again.

    So that’s 500 open primaries you are blithely demanding – and if you are going to give 500 CLPs them there is no justification for not going the whole hog and doing it for all 636.

    The going rate for running a local by-election seems to be around £4,000 so assuming a selection is similar to one that’s £2.5 million you’ve just thrown away to give Tories and other enemies of Labour a say in electing our candidates.

    (and actually that’s probably a significant underestimate of the cost as an election where every one of 80,000 or whatever electors is eligible across a whole constituency is going to be much more expensive than one in which just several thousand are eligible to vote in just one ward or division – when the Tories tried actually doing one in Totnes they spent £38,000 on it – so multiply that by 600-odd and that’s £25m or an impossible sum).

    And even if its just £4,000 who pays? – the CLP? – we don’t have £4,000 to spare in ours and in fact probably don’t even have £4,000 in total.

    Or are we going to touch the unions to get them to pay for a process where Tories can select Labour MPs?

    Next?

  2. RogerMcC

    5. Make all affiliates equal members

    James,

    Clearly you have never been a membership secretary of a CLP and have no idea just how crap our data is.

    The idea that all of our affiliate bodies have nice tidy, up-to-date and accurate membership lists that can be simply matched up to ensure that nobody gets to vote more than once is just ludicrous.

  3. RogerMcC

    Trade unions are vital in a thriving democracy, but political parties
    which seek to govern Britain need to win support (and money) from a
    broad cross-section of society.

    Except that the great mass of the British people hate politics and hate politicians – with good reason in many/most cases.

    You simply will not get ordinary citizens to cough up their tenners in sufficient numbers to run a modern political campaign.

    The rational solution is state funding but being rational and a solution is utterly unimplementable in the UK.

  4. John Warnock

    just amalgamate with the tories your all on the side of the rich in the War against the poor . Attlee Macdonald and Bevan must be spinning in there graves at the betrayal of the working class by those who are supposed to care. 13 years of right wing neo libralismn and look at the mess you left and how easy it was for this lot to fit in

  5. johnfwoods

    I wish you luck with No 5. Both Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman benefited from the union vote for leader and deputy leader and neither has shown any inclination to change that method of voting. Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott could not even raise the required number of backers to stand for the leadership election in 2010 and if David Miliband had not enabled them to stand he might now be leader of the Labour Party instead of enjoying himself in New York.
    As for primary elections to choose candidates, the issue is who would vote and how would they be chosen? In American anyone can simply tick which party they support and get a vote. There are no checks possible.

  6. Kevin Whitston

    Why do you want to change the rules so that trade unionists must individually choose to become affiliated Labour Party members rather than have the union decide (a) to have political fund (b) to affiliate to Labour and (c) decide collectively the level of affiliation, i.e., effectively the level of funding? Let’s suppose that it is more democratic to have members make an individual choice about affiliation. What democratic rights will they have as Labour Party members? Answer – none! Miliband made his announcement about changing the relationship without reference to the NEC much less Labour’s members who have long been excluded from all policy making. The problem was never one of structures but political disappointment among trade unionists and the marginalization of their influence.

    The rule change is pretty much inevitable now. Indeed the unions should take the initiative. No need to wait for Collins or a special conference, just change the union’s rules for determining the number of affiliates. then the real politics will begin as unions bargain with Labour about what they can expect for increased donations from the political funds after the number of trade unionists paying an affiliation fee drops like a stone. The result of Miliband’s clumsy politics will be less openness, and more attacks on union influence-Labour weakness.

    It is a pity that Unite tried to change things by getting ‘its people’ elected to Parliament rather than focus on democracy inside the Party. But it isn’t too late. Will Left Foot Forward speak up for democratic decision making?

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