Miliband takes on the unions with plan to dilute their influence

Members of the public will be given a formal role in the choice of Labour's policies, candidates and future leaders under far-reaching reforms to be unveiled today.

Ed Miliband will offer ordinary people the chance to become "registered supporters" free of charge without paying Labour's £41-a-year subscription fee. He will also invite pressure groups such as "green" bodies and non-governmental organisations to become "registered bodies".

The aim of the "Refounding Labour" project is to combat the decline in membership, which has afflicted all political parties, and to transform Labour into an outward-looking party for the internet age.

Labour sources deny that the real goal is to dilute the influence of the trade unions, who have half the votes at the party's annual conference and a third of the votes in the electoral college which chooses the Labour leader. However, that could be one side-effect of the drive to broaden Labour's base, since some of the voting power enjoyed by ordinary members and unions could be reduced to hand a share to the new registered supporters and bodies.

Labour's open-minded approach to internal reform will be stressed in a document to be published today by Peter Hain, the shadow Welsh Secretary, who is in charge of the wide-ranging review. Some insiders say the result could prove to be even more radical than Tony Blair's landmark decision to scrap Clause IV, Labour's long-standing commitment to public ownership.

A ground-breaking exercise will see Labour using text messages, email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media to allow people to join an interactive debate on the party's future structure, rather than send in one formal submission.

"If people do not join parties in the way they used to, we have to find new ways to reach them," one senior Labour source told The Independent. "Ed wants to refound Labour for a new generation and leapfrog the other parties. We have lost members hand over fist and politics is changing beneath our feet."

Labour's membership slumped from 405,000 in 1997 to around 150,000 earlier this year, but has since bucked the recent trend by attracting 50,000 new recruits. Labour's national executive will draw up specific reform plans in June and they will be decided at the party's annual conference in September. Mr Miliband regards the exercise as an important part of his drive to position his party as representing mainstream Britain.

Today, the Labour leader will join Liberal Democrats Baroness Williams, Charles Kennedy and Tim Farron, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas at the first cross-party rally in support of a Yes vote in the 5 May referendum on whether to switch from the first-past-the-post system to the alternative vote. He will hint at co-operation and possible coalition with the Liberal Democrats after the next general election.

Mr Miliband will say: "This Tory-led government and its alliance of power with the Liberal Democrats does not change my belief that there is a progressive majority in this country. Britain deserves an electoral system that fairly reflects voters' views. I will be campaigning for a majority Labour government at the next election, whatever voting system we have. If there is a Conservative majority, they deserve the same right. But rule without a mandate, simply because the majority is divided, is unfair on voters."

He will argue that the "tragedy for progressive politics" in Britain is that division on the centre and left has handed a united right victory after victory.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas