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Shock as Young Labour rejects Collins reforms and votes to defend the link

Labour General SecretaryYoung Labour conference today delivered a damning verdict on the Collins Review of the Labour-union link – voting to mandate its delegates to vote against the proposals at the upcoming special conference on 1st March.

The party’s youth wing’s two-strong delegation carries 25,000 votes in the affiliates section of annual and special conferences. Though this is fairly small compared to larger affiliates such as the “big four” unions, today’s decision represents the biggest vote declared so far against the proposals. The reforms have been criticised for their potential to drastically reduce party funding and compromise the historic link between the party and the trade unions, through moving from “opt-in” to “opt-out” affiliation of union members. Party executive member Ann Black has questioned the levels of support claimed by party chiefs for moving away from the status quo.

Labour leader Ed Miliband commissioned Ray Collins, a former party general secretary, to lead a review of the Labour-union link after accusations were made against Unite, Labour’s largest affiliate union, over their recruitment of members in the Falkirk West constituency in Scotland. Unite were later cleared of wrong-doing by both the Labour party’s internal investigation and the police. But Miliband has made clear his intention to press ahead with the reforms – now all but signed and sealed, and voted for by a large majority of Labour’s executive.

After a heated debate at the youth wing’s biennial policy conference in Bradford, and an initial refusal to hold a secret ballot on the decision, a vote was taken by a show of hands. It was announced that supporting the Collins review had been carried by 103 votes to 100 against, with abstentions in single figures.

Repeated calls were then made for a card vote, which were initially refused by Young Labour chair Simon Darvill on the platform, who was facilitating the discussion. Some delegates shouted out “card vote!” and “secret ballot!”, while others raised their hands to attempt to make points of order. Darvill then announced that there “is no such thing as a point of order”. Worryingly, he suggested that there was no procedure for challenging the chair of a conference session, on the basis that he had been elected Young Labour chair. This flies in the face of practice at almost all Labour party and movement meetings. At Labour’s annual conference, for instance, delegates are able to make points of order, and move “reference back” on the agenda at the start of each session. One Young Labour delegate said she “had never seen anything like it”.

Darvill then reluctantly agreed to a re-count in light of the closeness of the result, saying “this is the last vote, and this will be final”. Delegates raised their hands once more. After much conferring on the platform, events took a comic twist as it was announced that “we’re going to have to do that again: something went wrong with the maths”. There were groans from the floor, and exclamations of “announce the result!” Some delegates privately wondered if this second count had simply not gone the way the platform had desired. Further calls were made for a secret ballot.

After a third re-count, and again much conferring on the platform, it was announced that the room had in fact voted against the proposals by a margin of 109-107, presumably with reduced abstentions. It is unclear whether the initial vote was inaccurate or whether delegates sitting on the fence were encouraged to choose sides after seeing attempts from the platform to shut down debate.

Young Labour’s votes against the Collins package will be cast by Darvill and Tori Rigby, the youth wing’s vice-chair.


  1. peter willsman says:

    Well done the comrades in YL, you have stood up to be counted,allbeit you had to stand up several times for democracy to prevail!!!The older generations should take their hats off to our young comrades.Whatever would “Paul”make of it?We now need to address the lack of democracy at the Special Confce.,where, against correct procedures, all the votes are being bundled up into one omnibus vote.Several CLPs are putting down Emergency Motions calling for correct procedures to be upheld.Of course the CAC should consider these Emergencies,that is what the CAC is there for.If the CAC does not even meet,then that is yet another bit of stage management so Ed can have his Clause 4 moment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “a damning verdict”

    – Hardly damning. It took three separate votes and passed only by two votes. A divided, close verdict, if anything.

    “One Young Labour delegate said she “had never seen anything like it”.
    – Wow, how illuminating. Want to tell us who that is or have you just made it up?

    The title of this post is also ridiculous – opposing these proposals is to ‘defend the link’, is it? Funny that all the unions have backed them then. In doing so have the unions ‘attacked’ the link under your warped world view then? What on earth is wrong with giving people an active choice over whether they are affiliated or not? This would be treating trade union members like adults, the same way we treat party members, not pawns without any agency to be collectively directed by their general secretaries.

  3. Robert says:

    God life in the labour movement not all is dead then, well done young labour because the link with the labour party is at risk, the demi gods at the top of the Union are playing a dangerous game, so is the labour party.

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