Smith to fight on union link: Campaign to promote one member, one vote

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Indy Politics
JOHN SMITH will mount a campaign in coming weeks to rebut what he and colleagues view as disinformation by unions over his 'one member, one vote' vision of internal party democracy.

As the summer wears on and the crucial autumn conference vote looms, more thought will be given to what 'top-up' should be paid by levy-paying trade unionists to become party members, in an attempt to strip away union arguments against Mr Smith's plans.

Under his 'levy plus' proposal, levy payers would be entitled to vote in parliamentary selections and leadership elections provided they paid an additional fee to become members of the party. The Labour leader has always insisted that only votes by party members will transform Labour into a fully democratic movement - and this would enhance the link between the party and the unions.

Some union figures - such as Tom Sawyer, Nupe's deputy general secretary - and some MPs on the party's left hope that Mr Smith will eventually compromise and accept the concept of the 'supporters' club'.

That would involve unions compiling lists of registered supporters in constituencies who would be allowed to vote without paying the extra money to become party members.

Sources close to Mr Smith re-emphasised yesterday that this would cut at the root of the 'one member, one vote' principle and that he would not accept it.

The party yesterday faced a fresh challenge as two of Britain's biggest unions set in train merger talks which would create an affiliate with enormous voting power.

An amalgamation of the Transport and General Workers' Union and the GMB general union would create a 2 million-strong organisation commanding nearly one-third of the votes at the party's annual conference.

Announcing the negotiations, John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB and the most prominent opponent of the Labour leadership's campaign for one member, one vote, said successful negotiations would create 'the most powerful union that ever existed in Britain'.

Bill Morris, leader of the TGWU, welcomed a decision yesterday by the GMB's annual congress in Portsmouth to start the talks and reiterated his union's commitment to strong 'collective' links with Labour.

In the current issue of the transport union's journal, T & G Record, Mr Morris backs the idea of 'collective' union influence on Labour. The party should not 'pull up the plant by its roots and chop them off', he said. 'We are for one member, one vote with trade union involvement.'