TELLING EDThe following should be of interest to Labour party members in the Labour Link.
We publish Ed Miliband's "Better Politics" email followed by a number of other contributions from long standing party and union activists
Ed Miliband email: Better politics
Dear Party member
Before I give my speech on Party reform this morning, I wanted you to be the first to know what I'm going to say.
Britain needs a better way of doing politics. And that has to start in our own Party.
What we saw in Falkirk is part of the death throes of the old politics.
In its place, I am determined to build a new politics, one fit for our Party, for our country, for this century.
Here are the first, concrete steps I am taking:
1. Our relationship with millions of trade union members is essential, but in the twenty-first century individual trade unionists should be given the chance to make a personal, active choice to become affiliated members of our Party; I want a mass membership party not of 200,000 but of many more.
2. Because we want the widest possible range of people representing Labour in Parliament, we need the fairest possible selection process. I will impose strict campaign spending limits for candidates seeking selection and for organisations helping them.
3. We will pick our Party's candidate for London mayor in 2016 using a primary -- a fair process open to all Londoners who share our values.
You have my word that this reform will be thorough, wholesale and lasting.
I believe it is absolutely essential for the future of democracy in our country.
The plans above are just the first steps, but it won't end here. I want to hear from you -- what are your ideas for us to take this further?
This isn't going to be a Westminster process -- this is for the whole Party to be involved in. Let me have your ideas:
9th July 2013
This is a sample of responses to Ed Miliband’s email “Better Politics” to party members:
This is my reply to the email I received today from Ed Miliband. I hope he is listening!
I am a party TULO Officer and member of Unison. I struggle to convince many of my fellow trade unionists to support Labour let alone to become individual members of the party because they increasingly believe that Labour is no longer the party for working people and for social justice. It is seen as a party captured by a narrow professional elite parachuted into working class areas and safe seats which offers too often a pale version of Tory policies. It is only the link with the unions, the organised link which allows ordinary people to have some- not enough in my opinion influence in the party that keeps me involved. I am also proud that the party in Chesterfield and Derbyshire County is still a party which recognises which side it is on in this war. it is a war waged against us by this Government so why are you not fighting that war and inspiring working people to join the party as members or affiliate members. Why when so many terrible things are happening are you picking a fight with our unions. This is a distraction and the agenda you are following is that of the Tories, the press barons and the real internal threat to the party, the Sainsbury Faction Progress who seem to be leading you by the nose.
If you carry on with this you will lose people like myself who are hanging on in there by a thread watching the party grow older and smaller despite electoral success and watching the link weaken as working people vote with their feet. Len Mc Cluskey was trying to reinvigorate the party within the rules.The levy is paid to the union and if members are happy to have it used to pay for individual membership for a year why shouldnt they . The money is coming to the party with a new member as well. The problem comes from the faction which cannot abide not having a monopoly of labour ‘s candidates.The thought that working people want to be respresented by people like ourselves is anathema. Please drop this now, stop trying to please the establishment and diverting from the task of fighting this coalitions ruinous policies.
If you were genuinely interested in democratising the party and winning new members, I would absolutely support your efforts but it seems you are intent on americanising the party so that members simply become cheerleaders and not policy makers.
If you want to strengthen the link, then dont make speeches before you have discussed with the unions how that could be done. I would like members by affiliation to have more rights in the party and I would like through my CLP to have a role in making policy which party leaders carry out , through annual conference. This is now largely a stage managed affair devoid of real life. You will not win back the 5 million votes lost at the last election by demonising Len and attacking the unions. It makes you look impotent anyway as someone who cant tackle the real bullies- the Tories blue and yellow. I hear by the way that Clegg has offered to help you get the unions by a bit of legislation. Are you not embarassed and ashamed???
Do the job we want you to do and rout the Tories putting forward policies which inspire working people to join Labour again as individuals or in their workplace because they can see Labour is the party for them, they are welcome in it as members, candidates and MP’s AND they have a real voice and influence.
Unison delegate and TULO Officer Chesterfield CLP
Why is it when the unions start to really engage in the Labour Party by trying to get working class people selected as parliamentary candidates the Party leadership finds it unacceptable? Since I joined the Party in 1989, others - like Progress - have been left a free hand to “stitch up” selections with virtually no questions asked. You may mean well Ed, but your reforms will only mean an even more middle class Party led and represented by a class of elite career politicians. And union input into the Party will be reduced and further marginalised. If you want to reform the Party then please stop the culture of cheating that we see every year at Party conference, when the legitimate concerns and ideas of constituency delegates are consigned to the metaphorical dustbin by the Conference Arrangements Committee and other Party apparatchiks. And announcing these union link reforms with no consultation in the Party about it is “bad democracy”. You have really missed the point as far as I am concerned. These type of changes cannot help working class people have more say in our Party. I am afraid to have to tell you that the whole thing appears to smack of political opportunism!
Yours in comradeship,
Gary Heather - Islington North CLP
Dear Mr Miliband,
I didn’t get your email directly, despite being a Party member for around 40 years, I had to ask a friend to forward me hers.
Of course, you weren’t really soliciting the views of Party members (and the non-members it was sent to), since you had already decided on the content of your speech and certainly weren’t going to amend it according to what members wrote back. A very transparent show of consulting while not really doing so.
That’s why I regard your talk of democracy as a sham. It is on a par with the fact that you and Shadow Cabinet members continue to announce “Party policy” despite the fact that we are supposed to be having a Policy Review into which we can all have an input. So who decided the policy in these statements?
On the specific issue under current discussion – the link between the Party and the trade unions, it seems to me that you are dancing to the tune of the Tories and right-wing media, who would like nothing more than to see the unions squeezed out of a political role altogether. You have said very little about the nature of Tory Party funding, that has been left to others. And you have used far more energy in attacking Unite than in attacking government attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. On the contrary, you give the impression of agreeing with their every policy announcement.
Of course, I do not know the specifics of what has happened in Falkirk, but that is because you refuse to release the report which has been drawn up, even if names would need to be redacted.
What I do know, is that similar accusations have been made against another member seeking nomination in Falkirk and no action has been taken against him. Nor do I see you protesting at the many selections which Progress and New Labour have manipulated for an awful lot longer than any such attempts by Unite.
As a retired postal worker and CWU member, I have had difficulties for years in persuading union members to support the Labour Party. You will remember your support for the Labour government’s (failed) attempt to privatise Royal Mail? And yet the Party expected us to support it regardless. I could name many other issues during the course of the last Labour government where it lost the support of trade unionists and many others.
Your efforts over the last period in attacking the unions and their input into the Party only exacerbate this problem. You are seen as saying trades unions should have no say in the Party. In that case, why should trades unionists want to be members? You will no doubt claim that you are for “improving” that input, not ending it. That is not the message you are sending out, and the concrete steps you propose neither improve union involvement, nor improve democracy in the Party.
The actions of yourself and other “leading” Party members in the last week or so come across as determined – determined to lose the next general election. A combination of saying “yes sir, no sir” to every policy announcement from the government and every attempt to drive a wedge between Party and unions is not designed to enthuse those whose support is needed to win the election.
As CLP Trade Union Liaison Officer I will continue to argue that trades unionists should be active in the Party, but I will also argue against your attempts to weaken the link with the unions. Several of your proposed changes (like the move to open primaries in selection) will require rule changes endorsed by Party conference (unless your commitment to democracy is such that you believe you can singlehandedly rewrite the rule book). I will be one of those arguing against such change.
I know you will not see my response as this is a block email, but maybe, just maybe. I live in Bolton, in my mid fifties and have been a Labour voter all my life. I am proudly working class and fortunately never been unemployed. I voted for yourself in the leadership election, and hoped you would sweep away all those lost labour years of power, with massive majorities at the hands of Blair and his cronies. I expected a swing to the left and total Con-Demnation of everything this Tory Government is doing to destroy the poor and demonise the unemployed, the disabled and the sick. But all Labour seems to have done is vote WITH them or weakly abstain. Come on let’s have the Party show some balls (and I don’t mean tory-lite Ed Balls).
Also, many Labour members/voters in the North of England, do not want the Party to be a Tory with a heart facsimile. We do not want southern Oxbridge people parachuted into our constituencies. We want local working class people who know the areas and the people, have actually had proper jobs outside of politics (and I don’t mean a 2 day a week jolly on the board of some bank or corporate pirates). I actually believe, and I hope you do to, in what Labour stands for….. Socialism. I know you can’t come in and destroy capitalism, but it needs to be controlled so equality can become a reality. Publicly taking on Unite is playing into the hands of the Tories and their Lib Dem cronies and what passes as a free press in the UK is a folly. Let’s stand up for what we believe for the good of the 99%. Maybe we can regain credibility and great support for the following election if we do the following.
- The repealing of ALL Tory changes to the NHS
- Bring an end to Free Schools and Academies and return them to the state school system. If they refuse, remove the funding.
- Immediate repeal of the disgusting Bedroom Tax
- Keeping the Royal Mail in public ownership
- Mansion Tax
- The closing of ALL tax loopholes
- Ending Corporation tax avoidance and penalising any companies involved
- An investigation and possible arrest and financial recompense from all the people who were responsible for the banking crash (Iceland did it)
- Ensure that much of the banks profits are returned to the taxpayer.
- Ending the contract of ATOS
- Increase funding to Local Authorities to reinstate the services that Tories never use.
- Renationalise the public utilities. Gas, electric and water should be affordable for everyone instead of profits going into overseas companies coffers and bonuses to shareholders. Also, renationalise the Railways and buses, to ensure people can afford to use them.
- A policy to create real jobs for those unfortunate to find themselves unemployed and not workfare, where the government pays profit making companies like Tesco to take on cheap Labour working for their benefits to increase the profits of the company at the taxpayers expense. Get people in proper jobs, paying tax, national insurance and being able to plan for a future.
- And last, but not least, change the retirement age to 60, so people aren’t worked to death, but more importantly releasing jobs for the next generation.
Apologies, but I fear that if the Tories remain in power what will become of this country. Working people, who have nothing are being penalised to increase the overseas bank accounts of the rich, can only be pushed so far before they bite back. And that is something none of us wants to see.
You say that you hate “machine politics”. You tell us that this is what motivates you. And yet, today, in a stage managed media opportunity, you announced (without consultation and on the back of a 10 day media feeding frenzy) a series of changes to the Labour-trade union link which will fundamentally change the direction & meaning of the party. This has all been without even so much as a cursory nod to democratic structures in the party or the membership - whether in CLPs or in affiliated trade unions. In the following days, no doubt, members will be bombarded by that same media with messages telling them what to think about these changes. I have no doubt, either, that this process will become a question of leadership for you - effectively a “back me or sack me” moment. You said as much in your interview, when you said that nobody should be in any doubt as to your determination “to see this through”. Well, what about us? What if we decide we don’t want these changes? Will we get a chance to have a fair and open debate? Or are we just the equivalent of Premiership football fans - pay us the money and cheer on the team? Finally, will members will be threatened with “losing the election” if they vote against? That is the logic of trying to do this, at this time. A finer example of “machine politics” you could not find.
Ben Sellers: City of Durham CLP
How ironic in a so called attempt to limit the “unaccountable” power of trade union General Secretaries, Ed Miliband arrogantly announces fundamental changes to the Constitution of the Labour Party, which he himself admits he
has no legitimate power to impose.
Ed Miliband should show such determination in standing up to Cameron and Osborne as they devastate our NHS and Welfare State rather than responding to the political agenda of the Tories, and their allies in the Blairite “Progress” faction.
When I hear Ed Miliband say that he wants to deal with trade unionists as individuals and not collectively, I am reminded as a UNISON Branch secretary that this is what the most reactionary employers always say. The whole point of a trade union is for workers to stand together to pursue our interests collectively.
Ending the collective nature of the trade union affiliation to Labour would mean that the Party would no longer be a Party “of Labour” - and many trade unionists and Party members will not support this change, which will certainly require a vote at Party Conference unless we are foolish enough to accept this voluntarily.
It has enabled the right to shape the debate yet again and enabled Polly Toynbee referring to Len Mcluskey said “the suspicion that he shoehorns girlfriends and mates’ girlfriends into safe seats and top union jobs doesn’t look good” - what a sexist slur and an undermining of the women selected who are also hard working activists of unite. The Labour Party and Ed should be rebutting this in no uncertain terms.
Yet again no comment on jobs for the boys, or the old boys club but insinuation that women only got selected for those roles by being people’s “girlfriends”.
Most importantly lets remember that the trade union funding we are talking about is transparent thats why the tories and the media all know about it - It is funding from millions of ordinary people – not millions from one person in a secret deal that exists at the heart of the Tory party - that is the real scandal here, and that is what Ed should be tackling
Vice chair LRC
Dear Ed Milliband,
I undersrtand that you face enormous pressure from the ruling class to ensure that Labour is not influenced by the collective voice of the organised working class, but that is precisely why the Labour Party was set up, something which your father might have understood.
Labour might have 200,000 members (half of what it was before your current Blairite advisors gutted the party), but the trade union movement is over 6 million strong. The link to the COLLECTIVE voice of those 6 million working class people is precisely what should separate the Labour Party from the old, corrupt politics.
The Tories might want to drag the country back to the victorian age, please don’t make the mistake of following them.
Putting an end to Blairite machinations is what your speech should have focused on, otherwise under your leadership of the Labour party all we can hope for is more of the same tired old New Labour Neo-Liberalism. Maintain that course and you will find yourself the leader of a political party whose relationship to working people is becoming less and less clear by the hour.
Instead of been on the defensive to the tory press you should be proudly promoting the Trade Union link, I will end with a question “What are these basic principles of democracy that unions have abandoned and your new generation of New Labour/Progress acolytes have embraced”?
This is my response to Ed’s email:
It is not the time to follow the whims of the opportunistic right both within & without our Party that want to see the end of the Labour Party-Trade Union link. Our efforts should & must be concentrated on attacking the Tories & Lib Dem policies that are seeing thousands queueing at food banks, in fear of losing their homes because of an extra bedroom or losing benefits because Atos have erroneously deemed them fit for work.
The first point in your email about Union members & their relationship to the Labour Party seems to show a lack of understanding - as, I hope you know, a TU affiliates on behalf of its members and that gives those members no rights within the Party apart from when there is a Leaderhsip election. To take part in the day-to-day business of the Party and in selection conferences you have to be an individual member of the Party.
You say you want a mass membership Party - this is no different than Unite has stated in its Political Strategy. Unite encourages its members to join the Party and asks that they become active and push for policies supported by the Union. You seem to see this as wrong but how is it different from other groups such as the secretive Progress?
How will the spending limits be policed & what will they include. If somebody takes time off work to campaign, will that be included as not everybody can afford to do that. Would travelling costs, 3rd party expenditure etc etc be included. What penalties would there be for breaching the limit? What would the limit be set to?
Your words are fine but he devil is in the detail?
As for the use of open Primaries, I have never heard anything so ludicrous. Why should we give the opportunity to every BNP, UKIP, Tory, Lib Dem or fruitcake a vote as to who the Labour candidate should be?
You say you are listening, why didn’t you take the time to listen to members, activists & Trade Unions before caving in to the Bullingdon bully & right-wing media?