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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock, whose expression was coveted by Alex Salmond as a young man  

Leonard Nimroy: Why Spock was the blackest person on the Enterprise

Bonnie Greer
 

Leonard Nimroy: Spock made me feel like it was good to be the weird kid

Matthew James
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?