Lord Owen’s announcement that he backs Ed Miliband’s union reforms and is donating £7,500 to the party rounds off a good weekend for the Labour leader. Owen quit the party in 1981 to set up the SDP, but last night announced that he wanted to support Labour campaigns to reverse the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. He said:
‘This is a brave and bold reform by Ed Miliband and one I strenuously argued for as a Labour MP at the special conference on Saturday, 25 January 1981. This very desirable change, nevertheless, threatens to weaken Labour’s financial support at a critical time when I and many others are hoping to see the Party produce a plan for Government from May of next year to rescue our NHS.’
Owen will no longer sit as a cross bench peer but will instead serve as an independent social democrat. But his intervention helps the impression that Miliband is healing the party while reforming it.
The special conference approving those union reforms went swimmingly well yesterday, as predicted, with delegates backing the changes 86 per cent to 14 per cent. It’s just now that the hard work with the unions begins, with Len McCluskey of Unite and Paul Kenny of GMB flexing their muscles. McCluskey has made it clear that Labour will need to change to attract union members, and yesterday told those who ‘seek to edge us out’ that ‘this is our party and we are going nowhere’