Trade Union Arms Race? Never Again
Ray Collins, the former TGWU official charged by Ed Miliband with drawing up the rule changes for Labour’s special conference in March, has a fine ironic touch in his interim report setting out the questions he has to answer. In the last section, he says:
Election to be the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should be a battle of ideas and ability, and never descend into an arms race over who has the money to pay for the most leaflets or the resources to make the most phone calls.
The present leader was elected precisely because he won that arms race, with the big unions not only paying for leaflets but putting them in the same envelopes as the ballot forms. That effort was backed up with phone banks that out-phoned David Miliband’s campaign, not just because it spent a lot of money but because it, unlike rival campaigns, had access to union membership lists, including addresses and phone numbers.
Thank goodness all that is coming to an end, with Collins’s rule changes to give effect to Miliband’s requirement:
Individual Trade Union members should choose to join Labour through the affiliation fee, not be automatically affiliated.
Except that the timetable for the “consequential” changes doesn’t seem to have many actual, er, “times” in it:
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The changes to make this possible will be put to a Special Conference this Spring because Ed has said he wants them agreed well before the General Election. They will then take time to implement, as we manage the organisational and financial implications of any such change. We need to debate what additional rights these new affiliated members should have. And we need to consider how, once this new system is in place, we would address consequences for other structures in the party, such as the Conference and the electoral college to elect our leader and deputy leader.
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