Union leader Len McCluskey takes on 'Oxbridge Blairites' and demands more say in Labour's policy making

The head of Unite  blames clique for turning party into a ‘pinkish shadow’

The head of Britain’s largest union has demanded a far greater say in Labour’s policy-making process as he spoke out against “Oxbridge Blairites” inside the party.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Labour’s biggest donor, Unite, said he was broadly in favour of Ed Miliband’s proposal for union members to “opt in” to giving money to the party.

But he suggested that it must be linked to giving unions a bigger say in policy making than they had under the last Labour government, and more involvement in choosing future MPs.

Speaking to a meeting of Unite activists, Mr McCluskey said strains in the link between Labour and the unions had been building up since the advent of New Labour, when many in the movement felt sidelined.

“For a long time we have been taken for granted by people who welcome our money, but not our policy input, who want to use our resources at election time but do not want our members as candidates,” he said.

“The block vote didn’t stop a Labour government invading Iraq. Affiliation didn’t keep Labour out of the clutches of the banks and the City. Our special relationship didn’t get the union laws repealed.”

He also claimed that a high-up clique of “Oxbridge Blairites” wanted to cut union links to create “a hollowed-out party they can control easily”.

Mr McCluskey said he expected the new agreement to give unions a real say in policy and stop Labour in government being a “pinkish shadow”.

“Our main aim is to ensure that as many Unite members as possible [who are] already paying our political levy now sign up individually, by whatever means have transparency and integrity, to be affiliate members of the party. For that to work, and for the trade unions to put their shoulders to the wheel to make it work, the offer has to be an attractive one.

“Not a party that is a pinkish shadow of the present coalition that gives the City a veto over economic decisions and embraces the austerity agenda squeezing the life out of the country.

“But a party that offers real hope, that stands up for the poor and vulnerable, that puts growth at the heart of its agenda, that confronts privilege.”

A Labour source said: “Under the reforms Ed has proposed, individual trade unionists will become a proper part of our party. Working people will have a real choice about joining Labour – and those that become members will be a real voice inside the party like all our members.

“Donations – be they from big businesses or major trade unions – will, as now, have no link with policy proposals. That is very different from the Conservatives with their cosy dinners for big donors in Downing Street to discuss policy.”

But the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, said the proposed opt-in changes could strengthen union influence over the Labour. “What it could lead to is the unions exercising more influence,” he said.

“Rather than money flowing automatically, money will go to the Labour Party depending on whether or not the trade union general secretaries, who retain control of their union’s political funds, decide that the policies and the candidate selection of the Labour Party [accord] with their wishes.”

A conference will be held next spring to fix details of the changes under which union members will have to agree to opt in to party membership.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor