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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: How much difference does the wording of a referendum question make?

John Rentoul
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent