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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Production Administrator

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sunroom / Conservatory / Extension Designers

£16000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Planning Assistant

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the count...

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence