The Labour Party in Blackpool: Unions clash over plan to reduce the block vote

Click to follow
LABOUR'S three largest affiliates clashed yesterday over the future of links between party and unions, writes Barrie Clement.

Both the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) and the GMB general union indicated deep displeasure over proposals from the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) to diminish the block vote at party conferences.

The tensions which surfaced yesterday leave a special review group on party-union links with an uphill struggle to produce a coherent report by December.

Without mentioning the union by name, Bill Morris, leader of the transport workers, said the plan to reduce union input from the planned 70 per cent - down from the present 90 per cent - to 31 per cent, and allow a 'free vote' among union delegates where there was no union policy, had been worked out on 'the back of a postcard'. He added: 'This so- called big idea is only as big as tomorrow's headlines.'

John Edmonds, leader of the GMB general union, indicated that he found it difficult to be 'polite' about the document. 'I think the AEEU will want to put in a bit more work before producing a second volume,' he said.

Under the plan, the size of union delegations would initially be determined by the number of members who paid the political levy. Eventually they would be dictated by the number of party members each could boast.

Such a system would give many people two votes - one as a trade unionist and another as a member of a constituency party, Mr Edmonds argued. There was no support for the proposal to give MPs and MEPs a vote at conference.

Mr Morris said: 'As far as we are concerned the block vote is a fair vote.' Bill Jordan, president of the AEEU, said it was his union's long-term aim to abolish the block vote.