GMB chief warns Ed Miliband: Labour could lose 90% of its union funding if it pushes through reforms

Paul Kenny estimates only 10 per cent of his union's members would decide to 'opt in' to giving £3 a year to Labour

Ed Miliband was given a stark warning today that his plan to reform Labour’s relationship with the trade unions could cost the party  90 per cent of the funding it gets from the unions.

Paul Kenny,  general secretary of the GMB union,  predicted that only 10 per cent of its members would decide to “opt in” to giving £3 a year to Labour.  Mr Miliband wants to scrap the present system under which union members have to “opt out” if they do not want the fee automatically handed to the party.

Mr Kenny, who backed Mr Miliband for the Labour leadership three years ago, suggested the  union's annual donation to the party could fall from about £1.5m a year to less than £200,000. He said the GMB would almost certainly ballot its 600,000 members this autumn.  He said: "The consequences of this are very far-reaching".

The leader of the country’s third biggest union, who also chairs Trade Union Labour Organisation for the 15 unions affiliated to Labour, told the BBC: “We have been campaigning for our members to join Labour for a very long time and I have to say we have not been knocked down in the rush.” He added: “I think we will be lucky if 10 per cent of our current affiliation levels say yes they want to be members of the Labour Party, because... campaigning for issues with the Labour Party and being members of the Labour Party are two entirely different things."

Mr Kenny criticised the language used by some Labour figures about the unions recently as "very disappointing and insulting".

Tory officials have played down the threat to Labour’s £8.2m annual income from affiliation fees, arguing that unions could merely replace lower fees with one-off donations.  But unions say such gifts would be harder to justify if only a small proportion of their members “opt in” to backing Labour financially.

Lord Whitty,  Labour’s former general secretary, who turned down the chance to review the party-union relationship,  issued a statement saying the Miliband proposals were workable. "I felt that delivering this change would be difficult,” he said. “But that was true when we were modernising the Labour party under Neil Kinnock and John Smith too. It was done then and I'm sure that it can be done again.” The Labour review will now be led by Lord Collins, another ex-Labour general secretary.

Suggested Topics
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks