Unions hit back at Labour Party voting reforms

Plans for tougher leadership nomination rules will 'favour white, middle-aged grey suits'

Senior union activists fear that Labour's reforms to the way the party leader is selected will result in centrist, "white, middle-aged, grey-suit" candidates in the future.

Ed Miliband announced this weekend that he will move the party to a one member, one vote system, despite having secured the leadership in 2010 by a wafer-thin margin, with the unions that backed him holding a disproportionate one-third block of the electoral college. MPs and MEPs had another third of the vote, with the remainder given to party members – a widely criticised system that favoured the views of parliamentarians and unions.

The reforms are designed to break Labour's relationship with the unions after allegations of vote-rigging involving Unite in selecting the party's Falkirk candidate emerged last year.

Leadership candidates will now only get their names on the ballot paper if proposed by one fifth of Westminster MPs. This is up from the current 12.5 per cent and gives MPs more influence over the process than the rest of the party.

There are suggestions that this threshold was not signed off in talks between the party leadership and Labour-affiliated unions such as Unite and the GMB, and could be negotiated downwards.

A senior trade unionist has said that the proposal would mean that future contests were likely to be fought between only two and four candidates. This would be likely to suit those who were considered a safe pair of hands, effectively eliminating candidates outside of the party hierarchy at the first hurdle.

"We've looked at this threshold for getting nominated and thought, 'Hang on a second, it's a bit on the high end; you'll only get two or three people out of the Shadow Cabinet on the ballot paper. You would struggle to get someone like a Jon Cruddas on the ballot, let alone a Diane Abbott, probably just white, middle-aged grey suits. This is the main bone of contention," one source said.

Mr Cruddas signed Ms Abbott's nomination papers in 2010, despite favouring the elder Miliband brother, David, as she was struggling to secure even the 12.5 per cent threshold. The veteran left-winger's absence would have resulted in a battle between five white males approaching or in early middle age. There are concerns that future candidates favoured by the unions could also fail to make the ballot for being too far left.

The reforms will be put to a special conference in March. Ed Miliband hopes the move to one member, one vote will be seen as on a par with Tony Blair's removal of the Clause Four commitment to public ownership in 1995.

Mr Miliband said: "This is about completing unfinished business from the past 20 years and creating a One Nation Labour Party built on the principle of one member, one vote... changing Labour so that Labour can change our country."

But while politics academics Richard Jobson and Mark Wickham-Jones wrote on Independent online that "Labour has tackled some of the difficulties that compromised its capacity to present itself as democratic", the Tory party chairman Grant Shapps has argued that "nothing will change". He said: "It's the same old Labour with Ed Miliband too weak to stand up to the union barons who own him".

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
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
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: Recording Engineer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A long established media compan...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Events Business) - Manchester - Urgent!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A teacher of Science is required by this 11...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea