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Ed Miliband Exceeds Expectations

John Rentoul

Central Hall 8172 300x293 Ed Miliband Exceeds ExpectationsMeanwhile, it is fair to report that Ed Miliband has exceeded expectations. Interestingly timed to coincide with the arrival of the royal baby, he has announced a special Labour Party conference next spring to approve changes to the rules on trade union affiliations. (The last special conference was in April 1995 to approve the wording of the new Clause IV, in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, pictured.)

Once again, this is brave and right. I had feared that, having announced that he wanted to break the link between the party and the unrepresentative union leaderships, actual change would drift until after the general election.

The special conference ensures that change will happen in good time. The appointment of Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield, to help to oversee the changes ensures that they will be good changes. I still for the life of me cannot see how the changes are going to work. If the party is to make good on Miliband’s observation that, “It just doesn’t make sense for anyone to be affiliated to a political party unless they have chosen to do so,” it would make no sense to allow union leaders to continue to donate large sums of money to the party from their general political funds. But the details hardly matter, because the principle is right.

As for making the changes under the cover of monarchist fervour: no harm in that at all. This isn’t a repeat of rewriting Clause IV and Miliband is wisely not pretending that it is. It is an essential and important rewiring of the Labour-union link, and there will be time enough to advertise to the voters that he has done it when he has.

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  • mightymark

    I doubt if you could get taxpayer funding as such agreed in a period of “austerity and I’m not convinced it is right anyway.

    I have thought for some time that what would help party funding would be to tie the tax regime for political parties to charity tax law (though making it clear that political parties are not charities). That would mean parties would get 20% or even 40% extra on individual donations and I think but am not sure, that local party offices would also get business rate relief. Essentially what I am arguing for is that the state would help parties that helped them selves and were popular enough to get people giving them money (your “inverse” suggestion might be “intersting” but would also be perverse).

    I also think there is a case for a cap on donations.

  • Pacificweather

    That’s a good idea and if there could also be some financial encouragement for average voters to donate small sums and to parties leading, maybe, to active membership that would drive parties to be more responsive to interests of the majority than the minority (special interests) then that could only be a good thing.

    There needs to be a way to make democracy more attractive to MPs. I have thought for some time that (with the socialism or capitalism decision made) there needs to be something to redress the balance to ensure the financial system (the national economy) works for the majority. The only institution that can do that is Parliament, so it is essential that MPs are focused on the interests of the majority of their constituents not the minority. Any encouragement for MPs to act democratically must be a goog thing. That was why I was attracted to taxpayer funding but a solution that encourages greater public participation would be even better.

  • newfriendofed

    Glad that J. R. is finally beginning to appreciate that Ed does indeed have good qualities. What would be sad but possible is if he turns out to be a useful transitional leader of his party but fated to never be Prime Minister. With the economy at least seeming to improve, that of course becomes ever more likely. However, Labour-Lib coalition also still quite possible.

  • reformist lickspittle

    Economic recovery didn’t save the Tories in 1997, of course.

    To win the next GE outright, the Tories will probably have to increase their 37% 2010 GB share of the vote. They last managed this in the 1950s.

  • John Smith

    Lets leave it at that,the longer he stays, the better off the taxpaying voter will be. .


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