Ed Flip-Flops on “Opt In”

“If Ed follows through with what’s being trailed, it will make Blair’s Clause 4 moment look like a resolution of the Tufty Club”, so says Dan Hodges. Miliband will today attempt to mend the financial link between Labour and the unions, requiring union members to positively opt-in to their political levy rather than opt-out. The problem? Convincing the union bosses themselves to agree to stop pulling the strings on labour leaders. Forcing the union bosses to accept something they see as weakening their personal power – McCluskey himself says as much in the Guardian – will be a huge test of  Ed’s resolve. McCluskey incomprehensibly argues that getting union members to positively opt-in is disengaging. Kinnock took on Militant, Blair took on Clause 4 and ignored the unions. Ed’s hope is that the unions go along with opt-in even though they hate it in the knowledge that, if they don’t, he’s done. He’ll be seen as too weak to lead the country if he can’t lead his party.

It will be something of a personal turnaround, the once union-backed leadership contender Ed Miliband is on the record as having explicitly opposed an opt-in as recently as last year. Only this weekend Tom Baldwin was briefing the Sunday papers that Labour had no intention of doing anything on the union front. This is either a weak panic move or the strong seizing of an opportunity presented by Unite’s fraud fiasco in Falkirk…

Guido wishes Miliband well. As with Nixon going to China, only he, a Labour leader made by the unions can break the union bosses control of the Labour Party. If he succeeds in genuinely breaking their financial stranglehold on the party he will be entitled to demand wider political funding reforms, a cap on donations to end millionaire donors bankrolling the Tories. He will do politics a service if all political parties have to rely on their supporters for money, parties will have to meaningfully engage with their grassroots,




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