Leading article: Ed Miliband's bold move to reach out

Share

Ed Miliband's proposal to open Labour leadership elections to non-members has all the makings of a "Clause Four moment", a counterpart to Tony Blair's historic constitutional shake-up of the party in 1995. What remains to be seen is whether he can pull it off.

Mr Miliband casts the plan as a response to the demise of card-carrying political tribalism, a way to tap into Labour's increasingly inchoate support base. His analysis of modern political sensibilities is accurate enough. It is also a fig-leaf for a direct challenge to the power of the trade unions, loosening their hold over the "affiliated organisations" block that constitutes a third of the leadership ballot by letting "registered supporters" vote as part of it.

It is easy to spot the politics. Mr Miliband is desperate to prove he is not in hock to the unions, without whose support it would be his brother David leading the party. With a "winter of discontent" over public-sector pension reform looming, Mr Miliband cannot distance himself far enough from his erstwhile backers, braving heckles at the TUC to reassert his view that the summer's strikes were "a mistake". The changes to the leadership election process are more of the same.

It is a dangerous strategy. By trying to crimp the power that gave him his job, Mr Miliband faces charges of ingratitude, at best; at worst, of undermining his legitimacy as leader. There are also practical questions, such as how many people want to be registered supporters but not members, and how the party will ensure the process is not hijacked by political opponents voting for the least viable candidate.

Even so, the immense symbolic shift Mr Miliband is proposing should not be downplayed. It is a bold move which deserves support. For the majority of voters, trade unions are unrepresentative ideologues, and their grip over Labour is as electorally unpalatable as the commitment to nationalised industry, dropped en route to Mr Blair's first victory.

Mr Miliband is right to take the issue on. If successful, he will significantly increase Labour's chances of electoral success. But given that the proposal will be balloted at the party conference on Sunday, and that efforts to reform the unions' 50 per cent conference vote have been pushed back, there is no easy victory in sight.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
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