Ed Miliband tells unions: Labour's funding reforms could create a Labour party of 500,000 members

The Labour leader will tell his union critics they are denying a ‘real voice’ to members

Ed Miliband will raise the stakes in his battle with the trade unions on Tuesday by declaring that his plans to reform Labour’s union links could create a party with 500,000 members.

In a speech to the TUC conference, the Labour leader will confront his critics head-on, accusing union leaders of denying their members the “real voice” in the party that his plans would give them. He wants to make them actively “opt in” to Labour as individuals, instead of being affiliated en bloc by their union as at present.

“We have three million working men and women affiliated to our party. But the vast majority play no role. They are affiliated in name only,” Mr Miliband will tell the Brighton conference. “That wasn’t the vision of [Labour’s] founders. I don’t think it’s your vision either. And it’s certainly not my vision.”

His unrepentant message threatens to raise tensions with union bosses, with whom he will hold private talks today. Labour MPs claim the speech is a critical element of Mr Miliband’s attempts to restore his authority after what has been a difficult summer. 

Mr Miliband will tell the conference: “This is an historic opportunity to begin bringing people back into the decisions which affect their lives. It means we could become a Labour Party not of 200,000 people, but 500,000.” Labour’s membership peaked at 405,000 in 1997, when Tony Blair won power, but is now 187,500.

Mr Miliband will admit building a mass-membership party will be a “massive challenge”. He will tell unions: “It is you who have been telling me year after year about a politics that is detached from the lives of working people. That’s why we must have the courage to change.” He will accuse David Cameron of “writing off” UK’s 6.5 million trade unionists.

Union leaders fear Mr Miliband’s plan will weaken the party’s links with its union founders. But senior Labour figures suspect union bosses want to preserve their personal clout. They welcomed a YouGov poll for the Labour Uncut blog, revealed in The Independent yesterday, showing 60 per of the members of Labour-affiliated unions welcome the reforms and only 20 per cent oppose them. “It shows... hundreds of thousands are excited by the prospect of their voice being heard by a major political party,” said a Labour source.

But Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, urged Labour not to be “embarrassed” by its historic link with the unions. He told a TUC fringe meeting: “We are the real voice of decent working people. Our Labour leadership has to start demonstrating they are on the side of ordinary working people, with policies that takes us away from the path to poverty.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links