Posts Tagged ‘Ed Miliband’

Royal Mail, Labour conference and the CWU hit list

Sunday 26 September 2010

Tomorrow the Labour party conference will debate a motion from the Communication Workers Union attacking Business Secretary Vince Cable’s plans to fully privatise Royal Mail, and committing Labour to keeping Royal Mail entirely in the public sector.

Meanwhile, the CWU has drawn up a plan of action for campaigning on the ground against the coalition and its MPs. As general secretary Billy Hayes explained at the TUC Congress recently:

“We’ll be going into 71 marginals where the coalition has a majority of less than five per cent. In these marginals we only need to win over five of every hundred to make progress on defeating privatisation.

“We know it’s a big task but we’re helped that all candidates have come out against privatisation.”

Two Lib Dem MPs and one conservative, the maverick Daniel Kawczynski, signed an early day motion against privatisation before the election. But the union is hoping to put more MPs with slim majorities under pressure by linking up with community groups and making the issue about public services under threat.

(On the subject of Royal Mail, Ed Miliband told Labour’s affiliated unions: “I believe that we need to show as a party, including in the case of Royal Mail, that we can modernise and improve public services without resorting to privatisation”.)

(from Tribune blog)


Ed, cuts and the union agenda

Sunday 26 September 2010

Perhaps the biggest policy issue for Ed Miliband’s Labour is how they respond to the coalition’s cuts programme and present their alternative economic strategy.

Right here – in Manchester – and right now, that means deciding what stance to take at party conference. There isn’t much time for deliberation.

Labour’s affiliated unions have mostly decided to go for cuts and the economy in choosing their motions for debate this year.

The GMB and train drivers’ union ASLEF are pushing for a motion on tax avoidance, keen to argue that billions can be raised by collecting more tax. Unison is demanding an alternative to attacks on public services and a review of the effects of privatisation, with a view to reversing the New Labour privatisation trend, while Unite and Community want to get conference to agree to an alternative economic and industrial strategy. Community, in particular, will seek to get in a mention of Sheffield Forgemasters, the plant denied an £80 million loan by the coalition government. This should go in, given that the Labour frontbench have been trying to make merry hell for Sheffield MP Nick Clegg.

Everyone at this conference agrees that the coalition’s cuts are wrong. The question is: how wrong? And what would you do instead? Will Ed Miliband agree with wannabe Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls that this is the time or investment, not cuts (contrary to Labour’s pre-election plan to start cutting the deficit this year)? And will he welcome motions calling on him to agree to that?

On the one hand, he risks being seen as a hard-left deficit denier by the media and public. On the other, he risks failing to put blue water between Labour and the coalition, and sounding too much like his brother.

Union and constituency reps are sitting down today to agree composite motions on the economy, taxation and other issues. Ed M and his team will be watching, at very least.

(from Tribune blog)

How Unite members swung behind Ed Miliband

Saturday 25 September 2010

Much will be made in coming weeks and months of the fact that Ed Miliband only beat his brother David for the Labour leadership because of the votes of affiliates – mostly, but not exclusively, trade union members. And it’s true that Unite, the biggest union and Ed M supporter, pulled out all the stops for him, even printing pictures of him on some of the envelopes containing the ballot papers they sent out.

That aside, what looks set to emerge in the union-by-union voting figures is that Unite members must have taken the hint.

A few weeks ago, Team Ed M visited Unite’s co-headquarters in London’s Covent Garden to do some telephone canvassing. They contacted 850 Unite members – over 5 per cent 0.05 per cent of the total membership, not a bad sample size by opinion poll standards.

Of the 850, over 500 said they’d vote for the younger Miliband. The second most popular choice was ‘don’t know’ and the third most popular ‘not voting’. The remaining candidates did pretty badly in the sample’s estimation.

Update: I should point out, not all the membership were balloted, as they’re not all political levy payers. So the ‘sample’ was actually bigger than 0.0005 per cent. The point stands. However the figures now show that Unite members didn’t vote quite as uniformly as the phone poll suggests – although a majority of Unite voters did vote for Ed Miliband.

(from Tribune blog)

Is Ed Miliband about to get into bed with John McDonnell?

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Since the Labour leadership contest kicked off, the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaision Organisation, which goes between the party and its 15 affiliated unions has been sending questions to the candidates, including on industrial issues. Many of the answers have been, well, inconsequential in the wider context of the party’s future.

But not this time. Ed Miliband’s camp has (belatedly) responded to a question about the UK’s trade union laws, often called the strictest in Western Europe (including, as Ed Williams says in Tribune this week, by Tony Blair). The questioner asked: “What one restriction do you think most urgently needs lifting and why?”

Ed Miliband’s reply was received today, and in it he says:

“I am determined to make sure that the Trade Unions are able to fairly represent the interests of their members and the wider workforce. Of course industrial action is a last resort, but the right to strike is a fundamental human right which must be protected and I will make sure it is. The British Airways dispute showed that the rules governing strike ballots are in urgent need of reform.”

Brother David – the only other serious frontrunner, according to commentators and the Labour Uncut blog, has said no such thing, and merely comments on unions being a good thing.

Lefty Labour MP John McDonnell has a private member’s bill on this very subject, which seeks to extend legal protection for unions who have ballots for industrial aciton, in order to prevent more British Airways-style injunctions. So I asked his team if he intended to support the bill.

A spokesperson replied that he hasn’t seen the bill, but added: “I do know that he is indeed concerned with the rules governing strike ballots and that technicalities should not interfere with democratic balloting processes.”

Of the other candidates, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott also says strike law should be looked at, and Ed Balls says unions should have better access to workers who want to join.

(from Tribune blog)

Unite poised to back Ed Miliband

Sunday 25 July 2010

It is (as I have repeatedly, punctiliously and exhaustively been told) a three stage process – but the first two stages are complete, with only the third to run. Unite’s national political committee met today to decide a recommendation for Britain’s biggest union©’s choice for leader of the Labour party.

Feedback came in from the regional political committees. Political officers, led by the mighty Charlie Whelan, hung around waiting. And around 2pm, they emerged with the result: Ed Miliband. And that’s almost certainly who Unite’s executive, meeting on Monday, will back.

Why? Because the feeling towards Ed M was, I am told “overwhelming support – like huge!”

I’ll leave the analysis of how much this helps the younger Ed steal a march on his brother to others. For now, suffice to say that at least one of Unite’s two joint general secretaries was inclined to support him already – but he’s the one who’s leaving at the end of this year. The other is keeping schtum, as I reported earlier.

For those who thought Unite would support Ed Balls because they expected Charlie Whelan to move heaven and earth to get him nominated as the ‘Gordon Brown Mk 2’ candidate (their words, my, er, paraphrasing), this is a bit of a slap in the face.

But aside from the issue of whether Whelan did try to do this or not, could it be (and this is pure speculation I admit) that Ed M, who worked so close to Brown as chief economic adviser at the Treasury, is also smiled on by Brownites.

Update: Just after writing those words I came across this by ex-Hazel Blears special adviser Paul Richards:

“It seems unlikely that Unite, the last big union to declare, will back Ed Balls next week. Most of the Brownites (what Kevin Maguire calls the Talibrown) are not supporting him. The former team around Brown at No10 – Stewart Wood, David Muir and others – are supporting, not Balls, but Ed Miliband”

Labour leader can influence Unite election, but not the other way round

Thursday 20 May 2010

Bill MorrisFirst Labour, now Unite: Britain’s biggest union has finally agreed a timetable for electing its first single leader this year. I say “finally”; admittedly it was agreed last Thursday, but only at the very end of Unite’s three-day executive council meeting, and in a bit of a rush I hear.

They’ve opted for an even longer timetable than Labour has for the leadership (see below). I mention Labour because what this means is that Labour will have a leader in place before Unite members even start voting.

Candidates will have from 1 July to 5 September the end of August to nominate themselves. Ballot papers will be sent out from October, and the ballot will run to the end of the month. Curiously, though the count takes place at the end of October, the winner won’t be formally announced till 1 December. Time to allow for challenges and recounts? Who knows?

Anyway, it looks as though the new Labour leader will have a fair bit of time to throw their weight behind a candidate, overtly or covertly, if they so wish*. That’s not to say nobody in Unite has thoughts about who the next Labour leader should be, of course – Derek Simpson has suggested Ed Miliband in the past, and of course Ed Balls and Charlie Whelan are close, both having worked for Gordon Brown.

*If you think I’m exaggerating the effect a Labour leader could have, consider the 1995 re-election of Bill Morris as general secretary of the T&G (now part of Unite), when he beat Jack Dromey. Dromey’s perceived status as Tony Blair’s favourite candidate worked against him, and on winning Morris famously declared, “We have stopped a juggernaut in its tracks”. He meant New Labour.

More on Unite later…

Update: I am told that the nomination window is actually 1 July to 31 August, not until 5 September as I originally wrote. 5 Sept is the deadline for the nomination forms to be received.

Not everybody is happy. One leading participant in the election tells me: “Normal people will be scratching their heads at calling for nominations when many members will be with the kids as far from the daily grind of work as possible”  – i.e. during the school holidays.