Ed Miliband prepares to curb union power as polls show fall in Labour lead over Conservatives

 

Ed Miliband will this week unveil proposals to reduce the power of trade union bosses inside the Labour Party as he tries to regain the initiative in his battle with the country’s biggest union.

The pressure on Mr Miliband will be increased by The Independent’s latest poll of polls, which shows that Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has fallen from 13 to six points in the past four months. Mr Miliband’s personal ratings have dropped to their lowest since the spring of last year. These figures were compiled before the controversy with Unite and could get worse if the public regards Labour as divided.

However, Miliband allies believe he will emerge much stronger from his biggest crisis since becoming Labour. He will announce “bold” reforms to the party’s rulebook to give more rights and more say to the 3m affiliated union members who pay the political levy to the party. At present their voice is heard through leaders such as Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite.  He is embroiled in a war of words with Mr Miliband after police were called in to investigate allegations the union signed up about 100 party members in Falkirk, Scotland, some without their knowledge, to secure its favoured candidate as Labour’s standard-bearer at the 2015 election.

Mr Miliband will bring in a code of conduct for candidate selections in an attempt to stamp out such malpractice. There will  be a campaign spending limit for would-be candidates, to prevent union-backed ones enjoying an advantage over others.

However, the Miliband reforms could disappoint Blairites as he is unlikely to reduce the unions’ 50 per cent share of the vote at Labour’s annual conference or their 33 per cent share of the electoral college which chooses the party’s leader, the same proportion as Labour MPs and individual members.

At present, union levy-payers must opt out if they do not want affiliation fees to go to Labour. One option would be for them to actively opt in, a move opposed by union leaders but supported by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. It is unclear whether Mr Miliband will go that far.

The Independent’s weighted average of the June polls by ComRes, ICM, Ipsos MORI and YouGov confirms that Labour’s lead has narrowed after Tory attacks over the economy, welfare and Europe. Labour is on 37 per cent, the Tories 31 per cent, the UK Independence Party 13 per cent, the Liberal Democrats 11 per cent and others eight per cent. Although that would still give Labour an overall majority at a general election, many Labour MPs believe the party needs a bigger cushion.

Mr Miliband’s net performance rating, the difference between the percentage of people thinking he is doing well or badly, has dropped to minus 33, his worst since April 2012. David Cameron’s rating, which has improved over the same period, is now at minus 17.

John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the poll of polls, said Labour has “cause for anxiety” because Mr Miliband’s ratings have slid and because the party’s recent announcements on the deficit have not yet enhanced its reputation for economic competence.

However, the Tories have little to cheer and are the principal loser of votes to Ukip, he suggested. “We continue to have very much the kind of environment in which Ukip could well continue to be able to prosper for quite a while yet,” he said.

Mr McCluskey accused Labour of playing into the Tories’ hands and urged Mr Miliband to “step back from the brink of  a ruinous division.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate