The Labour Party must have a relationship with trade unionists not just a trade union

Miliband's reforms do not weaken the link between Party and union, but mend it

Share
Related Topics

Yesterday, like every other second Saturday in July, I attended Durham Miners’ Gala. I marched in with the lodge banners, many from my constituency. I’m proud of the heritage and the day reminds me of my father, 40 years a miner. He was proud of his NUM medal he received on his forty years membership of the union. I have a bit to go to match him, but I’ve been a member of the TGWU, now UNITE, for 27 years. Although the mining industry in Durham no longer exists, the Miners’ Gala is still a strong symbol of solidarity. And I also agree with miners’ leader Mick McGahey: “If Labour is not a movement, it is a monument.” He understood that Movements move, they do not stand still. That is why Ed Miliband’s proposals for trade union levy-payers to become members of the Labour Party in their own right is movement in the right direction.

I remember talking to Tony Blair back in the 1990s about Party reform. He wanted to see a mass membership Labour Party, reflective of the needs and aspirations of the community. He transformed the direction of the Party through a new clause IV, but we didn’t pull off the ambition of mass Labour participation. I believe Ed Miliband is on the verge of doing just that.

I have believed for years that Labour supporting trade union levy-payers should be encouraged to become individual member of the Labour Party so that the Party’s relationship is with trade unionists not just a trade union. This, in my view does not weaken the link between Party and union but strengthens it. The link is mended.

Let potentially hundreds of thousands of Labour Party supporting trade union levy-payers be the new bond between Party and trade unions. Each trusted with a say in the party through one member, one vote. Surely we need to learn what trade unionists think other than through the prism of the block vote.

The key part of Ed Miliband’s speech this week was: “I do not want any individual to paying money to the Labour Party in affiliation fees unless they have deliberately chosen to do so....in the twenty first century it doesn’t make sense for anyone to be affiliated to a political party unless they have chosen to do so.”

This can only be right.

But the debate should not be seen as only an internal debate between Labour and its affiliates. The prize for me is much bigger. There are three million levy payers, to attract only ten per cent into membership will place Labour on a trajectory of a mass membership. We will know the concerns and aspirations of individual trade unionists, in both their workplace and the community where they live.

We should not stop there. Over 80 per cent of working people in the private sector are not in a trade union. We must also reach out to them. Many of them vote Labour. Ed Miliband’s commitment to a community based Labour Party is clear. A mass membership Labour Party should be the cornerstone of a progressive centre left movement. A Labour movement that reflects the world as it is in the 21st Century.

I grew up in a County Durham pit village. Those days have gone. But I remember this: back then trade unions were at their best when they were active in the community as well as in the work place. I call on them today to join the endeavour to create a politics which is inclusive, not exclusive, which is the Tory way.

Tony Blair’s reforms of the Labour Party happened in the Twentieth century. Ed Miliband could prove to be the greatest Labour Party reformer of the Twenty-first century, if not ever. He needs our support to see these proposals through.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice