TUC Conference: Harriet Harman warns unions not to play into Tory hands over Labour reforms

Deputy leader to tell private dinner: 'We're fighting for the same things'
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Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, will warn trade union bosses tonight not to play into the Conservatives’ hands by continuing their public opposition to Ed Miliband’s plans to reform the party’s links with the unions.

Ms Harman will make a plea for unity when she speaks to  the TUC general council at a private dinner during the TUC’s annual conference in Bournemouth,  which Mr Miliband will address tomorrow. “We need to remember that fundamentally we're fighting for the same things - that we are on the same side,” she will say. “If we don't have unity, there is going to be winners and losers. The winners will be the Tories and the losers will be our constituents and your members. This is a dangerous moment.”

She will insist that the Miliband plan to ask trade unionists to positively “opt in” to giving money to Labour is not designed to “weaken the relationship between Labour and the trade unions – it is to make it a reality.”

The party’s deputy leader will  admit  she was “disappointed” by the GMB union's decision last week to cut its affiliation fees to Labour by 90 per cent from next January. Admitting that “difficult decisions” will have to be made before Labour’s special conference on the reforms next March, she will add: “How we go about it is important. We all need to think carefully about who gains from any falling out and any division.”

Ms Harman will tell the union leaders: “I know there are some of you who have concerns about the path we are embarking upon but we need to be clear about why Ed has taken this decision.

“We need to re-evaluate and renew our relationship with members because it is that link which matters so much – especially in these tough economic times. We must work together to shape and deliver that change.

“I am proud of the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. I do not want it weakened. Nor does Ed. We want to see it strengthened and deepened. That is what is at the heart of our plans for party reform.”