Miliband plans to cut off the hand that fed him with ambitious plan to rob trade unions of their one-third share of Labour leadership vote

 

Political Editor

Trade unions would lose their one-third share of the vote when Labour elects its leader under a radical plan being proposed by Ed Miliband.

The Labour leader, who relied on strong union support for his wafer-thin victory over his older brother David to win his job in 2010, is  ready to abolish the electoral college in which unions, MPs and party members currently have 33 per cent of the voting power. He wants future party leaders to be chosen in a “one member, one vote” ballot of party members, registered supporters and union members who “opt in” to supporting the party financially.

Mr Miliband hopes the historic change will be approved by a special Labour conference in London on March 1. But the move will be seen as a gamble and he may have to put his authority on the line to secure victory. At a time when relations between Labour and union bosses are strained, he will need to win some union support because the unions control 50 per cent of the votes at the conference, with the other half held by party members.

The proposed shake-up would also dilute the power of Labour MPs. To ensure a Labour leader enjoys significant support among them, one option is for them to hold a series of votes to whittle down a longlist of candidates to a shortlist of  three or four names, which would then go into a ballot of party members and supporters. This would be similar to the system used by the Conservative Party, where MPs choose a shortlist of two, before members have the final say in a ballot.

Labour’s special conference has been called to discuss reforms to the party’s link with its union founders. Mr Miliband called for sweeping changes after Unite, the biggest union, was accused of rigging the contest to choose Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Falkirk, Scotland. Labour later dropped disciplinary action after some local party members withdrew their claims. Mr Miliband wants union members  to “opt in” to paying the political levy to Labour rather than “opting out” as at present. But this has caused a rift with union chiefs, who are warning that only about one in 10 of their members will “opt in”,  costing Labour millions of pounds in affiliation fees.

Mr Miliband wants union members who “opt in” and become “associate party members” to be the unions’ only say in leadership contests. There has been criticism that many political levy payers are not Labour supporters and should not have a role in choosing the party leader.

Yesterday Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, which has already announced a cut in its fees from £1.2m to £150,000 a year, said: “There were discussions taking place, which have broken down".

Senior Labour sources denied that, saying that Lord Collins, the party’s former general secretary, who is drawing up the reform plans, has not yet completed his work.

Mr Miliband’s allies denied his plan to scrap the electoral college was an attempt to distract attention from his reform plans running into trouble. Although the switch to “opting in” could take five years to phase in, Labour officials insist that would still achieve Mr Miliband’s aim of ensuring all union members have a choice about whether to back the party.

One Labour source said: “Ed has made clear he wants radical reform. Ray Collins has yet to publish his report and you get this sort of speculation emerging in public when detailed discussions are taking place in private.

"Ed has always been clear that the scale of his reforms mean there are likely to be consequences for other rules and structures in the Labour Party. He is proposing that we change the way we elect our leaders and discussions on party reform are continuing."

Lord Collins, who has been holding talks with union officials for months, will  report to the party's national executive committee at its meeting on 4 February.

In 2010, Ed beat his brother by 50.65 to 49.35 per cent of the votes in the electoral college. David won in the MPs’ section by 17.812 to 15.552 per cent and in the members’ section by 18.135 to 15.198 per cent. But Ed sneaked over the finishing line with strong support among the unions, winning 19.934 per cent of their 33 per cent share to David’s 13.4 per cent.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home