Associate members plan 'unworkable'

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Indy Politics
LABOUR risks getting an even more unworkable system of trade union representation if it tries to preserve the union link by turning trade unionists into associate members of the party, an inquiry into the relationship will be told today, writes Nicholas Timmins.

As the review group holds its first meeting today, the Labour Co-ordinating Committee, the constituency-based grass-roots organisation, says it would be 'suicidal' for the party to break all links with the unions.

But the idea being pressed by Labour's Walworth Road headquarters is that union members who pay the political levy could become associate members of the party, with their votes deciding the unions' policy and representation at conference, and being used to give unions a vote in the selection of parliamentary candidates.

This has 'all the hallmarks of a traditional Labour fix', a paper approved on Saturday by the committee's executive says, and adds that Labour should opt for full one member, one vote in all elections and selections, doing away with the trade union vote.

The committee also says that most of those who pay the political levy do not know they pay it. They include significant numbers of Tory and Liberal Democrat voters. The pounds 1.60 a year they pay is too little to allow them to be serviced by mailshots and a direct service, while associate membership would create a two-tier membership system.