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Ed Miliband – guilty not of Blairism but of wishful thinking

Miliband thinkingWhen they joined the party, most Labour members had a belief that they would have some influence in their party. But under the Blairites, power was centralised and members were patronised.

In the future, in the mooted new model party being cobbled together, individual members would be expected to pay some £45, work hard and yet have no more influence on key decisions such as primaries than someone who registers as a “supporter” at the last minute and pays nothing.

Ed Miliband sees primaries as a way of re-energising the party. Wishful thinking. As we see in the United States, success in primaries is the preserve of the rich. If they were used in parliamentary selections, we’d have even fewer working class MPs than we have now. But individual members might well choose to have their vote and save their £45. They wouldn’t lose much influence!

From what we know so far, the proposals for trade union members “opting-in” also contain a huge dose of wishful thinking. Ed Miliband is not a Blairite and appears to believe that this change will create a mass working class membership, a desirable outcome indeed. He believes that hundreds of thousands of levy payers could be persuaded to join as associate members.

There are probably 60,000 levy-payers who are already individual members of the party. That’s 2% of union members — already five times the proportion of the population over 16 who are currently members of Labour. Union members do vote Labour at twice the national average rate (37.5% of Unite members compares with 19% of the population voting Labour in 2010). If Paul Kenny is right and was able to persuade 10% of GMB members to opt-in as members, that would be 25 times the national average. But that would bring in only about about the same number of extra associate members as we currently have individual members. And potentially lose millions in revenue from people who will still contribute to a political levy and still want their unions to speak for them, unless, of course, Ed expects still to receive that money, in which case what was the purpose of the whole exercise?

In the 1980s, there was great optimism about the creation of workplace branches. These were going to reconnect Labour with the workers in the factories, pits and shipyards. In 1985, Labour’s national executive reported that there 98 such branches had been established. Speech after speech thrilled conference delegates about the new utopia. Sadly, this quickly proved to be another exercise in wishful thinking. By the 1987 general election campaign, appeals for help to workplace branches received not a single response.

The outcome of this latest demoralising saga is likely to be the opposite of what Ed fondly imagines will happen. Instead of wishful thinking, he should think again.



  1. P SPENCE says:

    What I find depressing is that Ed feels bound to accept the role of omnipotent “leader” prescribed by the mediaocracy. This is not an issue where the leader should dictate change but rather he ought to consult and engage in debate within the party and with the unions. Instead, we have far ranging and ill considered proposals sprung on the Party because Ed felt he had to be seen to take action under the media’s gaze and pressure from the enemies of the labour movement. It’s demoralising and points to the extent to which the Party is in danger of becoming an hollowed out shell.

  2. Rod says:

    While food banks deal with record numbers of desperate people Miliband’s priority is to bad-mouth Trade Unions, deter membership of Trade Unions and reduce opportunities for ordinary people to have their voices heard in the Houses of Parliament.

    It’s the end of the Party.

  3. John says:

    Ed getting rid of shaow cabinet elections was a mistake, OMOV in 93 was a good idea

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