Coffee House

The inconvenient truth at the heart of Miliband’s union reforms

6 March 2014

At a special Labour conference last week, Ed Miliband pushed through his much-trumpeted reforms to the party’s relationship with the unions. But, much as he is laying claim to be the victor in this battle, in truth the war is still ongoing. The latest friendly fire has come from Lord Cashpoint, Michael Levy – Tony Blair’s chief tapper-upper of the rich – who spoke out on Monday to urge Miliband to seek more private donations from the super-wealthy, just as Blair and Levy did with so much success.

The reality, though, is that Miliband has been quietly doing his best to drum up money from private donors, notwithstanding his very public attack on the Tories as the party of hedge fund managers and property developers. After all, he hired the property tycoon Andrew Rosenfeld to help with fundraising, and he has actively courted a long line of multi-millionaires, from George Iacobescu, the Chief Executive of Canary Wharf Group (itself a Labour donor), to others like businessmen John Mills and Assem Allam, the latter of whom gave Miliband a ride in his Rolls Royce alongside a cheque for £100,000.


That’s why Levy’s suggestion will hardly be welcomed by the Labour leader, because it demonstrates the hypocrisy of Miliband’s public pronouncements in the face of his fundraising tactics. The showdown with the unions may have thrown a spotlight on the corrupt nature of Labour’s links with the unions, where cash has led to a direct influence on policymaking at the NEC and the National Policy Forum, but at least it has provided cover for Labour’s attacks on the Conservatives.

Levy’s intervention shows the inconvenient truth at the heart of Miliband’s reforms. If the changes really are to put an end to Labour’s reliance on the unions, then the money will have to be found from somewhere else. Doing nothing simply wouldn’t be an option: if Labour were a European country, the state of its accounts would place it somewhere on the financial spectrum between Italy and Greece. Its net current liabilities stand at around £6 million, and that’s before the party faces up to the challenge of trying to find £10 or £20 million to pay for an election campaign in 2015. 40% of its income comes from donations and affiliation fees, so if the union cash really does disappear, then the party could go to the wall unless that black hole is filled by other means.

So, either the private donors will have to step in, or else Miliband must be confident enough that the unions will keep on paying. Given that the party has already been trying to encourage the super-rich to cough up, the inevitable conclusion is that the unions will continue to provide the financial support that Labour desperately needs. While affiliation fees may fall, the new arrangements will provide every opportunity for Labour to make up the gap with increased direct donations from the unions. This in turn gives more power to the General-Secretaries, not less.

The truth for Ed Miliband is not, as he maintains, that his party has distanced itself from the union movement, while remaining sceptical of the rich – in fact, he will continue to rely on them both.

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  • Peter Stroud

    Everything Miliband does proves that he is a man of zero principles. He flits from principle to contradictory principle, like a butterfly, that has lost its sense of direction. The thought of him residing in Number 10, brings a cold sweat to my brow.

  • Saluki Face


  • rtj1211

    The inconvenient truth is that Miliband has been told he can’t be Prime Minister unless he ditches the Unions and welcomes back Tony Blair.

    The Iraq war cannot have been wrong if he accepts a multimillion pound bung from Tony Blair. If it was wrong, he tells Tony Blair to stick his bung for a safe seat for his inexperienced son where the son don’t shine.

    At least the Unions represent millions of UK citizens. Whether you agree with them or not, they do not represent Wall Street, the City, Moscow, Beijing or the EU. They represent British people.

    Tony Blair represents no-one but big money. No-one. He was an enthusiasitc supporter of killing people to secure his transatlantic reputation and has filled his boots talking about the morals of killing people and giving advice to dictators worldwide. He doesn’t represent the British people. The only value he brings is explaining how the international financial mafias run. He won’t reveal that as omertà is the code to earn money in his new world.

  • George_Arseborne

    What is wrong with you Bobby? If the rich are fighting to donate to Labour, like wise trade unions that represent people of all works of life, therefore Ed Milliband has proven beyond reasonable doubt that he is a LEADER to all not selected few hedge funds managers that runs the Tory Party. Get real and stop grumbling lazy Con.

    • GnosticBrian

      If you don’t know that it is “walks” of life and not “works” of life what reliance can we place on your analysis.

  • Makroon

    Levy is thinking of a time when Labour was “intensely relaxed” about the wealthy. Red ‘n Balls are anti-business and “intensely opportunistic”.
    The only financial support they can garner is from relatively recent, wealthy immigrant families who brought their misguided “socialism” with them, and after making a fortune here, want to turn the UK into a socialist paradise.

    • Noa

      Isn’t it a socialist paradise now?

    • Frank

      I do not think that the wealthy immigrant families have brought their socialism with them. If they give money, through the interesting Mr Levy, they are probably just seeking to buy a title, or to get a visa.

  • Noa

    As both Labour and the Conservatives become more remote from their traditional support bases they will naturally look to maintain themselves in office by increased sponsorship and increasing their dependence on the public purse.

  • toco10

    Red Ed is indeed a hypocrite.The fact remains he will seek donations from all and sundry but ultimately it will be his trades union masters who control Labour’s finances and thus its policies and socialist agenda.Beware!

    • telemachus

      Unite said yesterday that “It is not in the interests of democracy itself for Labour – the only Party which can offer such an alternative – to contest the election without the resources required to make the contest a “fair fight” against the parties of global capital and the super-rich” and indicated that they’d be willing to give further donations to the party.

      “Of course that means the well-worn Tory attacks on unions “buying policy” will be re-hashed when any such donations are received.”

      And toco10 bang on course as predicted
      The Unions have nowhere else to go and your argument is redundant

  • Tony_E

    How much will business pay to ensure that there is no EU referendum?

    We know that the larger business interests that have a strong lobbying presence benefit greatly from the corporatist style of the EU – building high regulation walls so that smaller competitors find it harder to enter their markets. Milband’s main call to the rich is to promise that this will continue, and that they will be able to shift their money around the continent looking for the best tax rates (another EU wheeze that benefits large corporations).

    But as the moment, as it has been for a generation now, the whole establishment is behind this sentiment – so do business really need to pay at all? The whole machinery of the state is set to perpetuate the current situation anyway, and a Labour victory is just about nailed on.

    Why pay for something that you can get for free, or better still have your employees pay for through their union dues?

    • HookesLaw

      What a joker you are. You should be on the Palladium.

  • Eyesee

    Money buys influence, it is as simple as that. With all of them. Labour however are the party that traditionally has no ideas and no proper policies, so is happy for someone else to tell it what to do. The last leader who decided to lead was Tony Blair and look how that went. Lots of announcements, very little follow up, no achievements. Miliband will take any one’s money and do anything they ask. He is a performing monkey.

    • HookesLaw

      How does money buy influence? Where have donations dictated policy? I can think of one which was Ecclesstone’s donation of £1 million before the ’97 election I think and labours then quick turnaround over tobacco advertising. But the donation and the meeting were exposed and Labour had to return the money. So is there any real evidence that donations secure influence?

      Labour’s so called reforms have not as far as I can see removed union influence. All we have now are cut price union semi-members who have a vote for the leader. Unions still have heir votes at conference and can donate their millions. So they do indeed have a real influence on policy. Labour exists to support the unions it always has.

      • McRobbie

        I just wish labour would be honest about it. We’d all know what we were voting for.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “Labour however are the party that traditionally has no ideas and no proper policies,”

      Not true, really. Their idea is to create a single party state and to coerce conformity to their ideologies, like all previous communist regimes. Their policies involve opposing and attacking any other party (or person) that represents an alternative to that idea as well as any of the policies of those other parties that might challenge their supremacy or represent giving people real liberty and choice to think for themselves and do for themselves.

      They are an insurgent party, negative in opposition, coercive in power, whose main focus, like their trolls on this site, is to relentlessly attack by any means possible anyone and any thing that represents dissent from their orthodoxy. Whenever they are found out they remain resolutely defiant in refusing to accept any responsibility or accountability, preferring always to blame someone else, anyone else, for all the wretched consequences of their miserable intentions.

      They are a pariah party that insists people must do what they say, not what they do, who have raised the malevolent skill of hypocrisy and double standards to amazing heights of incredulity yet surprising effectiveness in the face of a largely suborned or intimidated media.

      They are a propaganda party who demonise their opponents before attacking them and who bring a quasi-religious morality into play to intimidate and silence critics. Whilst the coalition government wrestles ineptly with the problems besetting Britain, most of which can be laid at the door of socialists or those appeasing socialists, the Labour party is all about advancing the Labour party, increasing the numbers of those dependent upon it for livelihood and extending its coercive and corrosive power over the life of the nation. It is always all about Labour, whether a matter of cramming as many female MPs on the opposition front bench in a shallow charade to attack the government or in braying about the supposed ‘charisma’ of that front bench of Blair/Brown has-beens, now busily distancing themselves – successfully it seems – from the crimes of those two charlatans.

      It is a party born to rule, or which thinks it is, and that whenever the British public choose to disagree take it upon themselves to work tirelessly to undermine, subvert and oppose the activity of the elected government by any means possible, foul or fair and usually foul.

      It is a party correct when it boasts that it is a movement more than a party. It is subversive revolution melded within the discourse of apparent democracy, articulating by its deeds a divine right to rule over us and presume our compliance whilst using words of cunning reassurance.

      Words. It is a party of words. Of manipulating them and deploying them as weapons, of creating new meanings for them with which to further their idea.

      It is a part of lies, liars and lying, which no amount of plagiarism or imitation by its busy little online agents will alter. Fantastic that it has not been assessed as a party of extremists and that it maintains an aura of democratic respectability that it far from deserves.

      • fozz

        Brilliantly put. Perhaps a bit more on Labour envy (of those who’ve made it) and hypocrisy (the names Kinnock and Abbott somehow come to mind re House of Lords and private education respectively) just to complete the essay?

      • Mynydd

        You used a lot of words but said nothing. You could equally said it about your Mr Cameron and his Conservative party

        • Span Ows

          I thought he put it rather well. Also I don’t think the Colonel thinks of DC as ‘his’ but you are wrong to suggest that the same can be said – a part maybe – of the Conservatives.

        • Holly

          He did indeed used a lot of words, and he has got the measure of Labour pinned down perfectly.
          For those who understand the intent, nature and behaviour of Labour, they were spot on.
          I salute you Colonel Mustard.

        • Colonel Mustard

          I said plenty and have plenty more to say but you shouldn’t read the above as any kind of advocacy for the Tories. It is not. It is wholly an attack against your Labour, which I detest as the very worst of three evils.

          Still, I appreciate your comment, which taken cumulatively with all the others you have made here, usefully underpins my polemic, especially the last sentence of the third paragraph.

      • Whizjet

        Absolutely first class, and totally accurate.
        Now can you please describe Clegg’s Party too!

      • Saluki Face

        Do you really believe that? Aren’t you simplifying matters slightly?

        • Colonel Mustard

          Yes I do. And simplifying matters? No more than most lefties do. In fact probably a lot less.

          Peter Hitchens had the sorry crew nailed in 2003:-

          • telemachus

            As I replied to an almost identical post by Noa on Coffee House Wall
            You may accuse me of posting under Mynydd and Dalai’s names but I suspect you and Noa of at least code sharing
            “In 8 short minutes Hitchens, a Labour turncoat, describes in an amusing way the desirable future for Britain
            I guess the only difference between thee and me is that I think what he decries about Blair and team is what I see as universal good and caring policy and practice
            Fortunately your party will facilitate its achievement by delivering the 43 Tory marginals to the forces of reason 15 short months hence”

            • Colonel Mustard

              “You may accuse me of posting under Mynydd and Dalai’s names but I suspect you and Noa of at least code sharing”

              I care not what you do or think but I am not like you. I post alone under a single pseudonym and not to further any agenda but only my own opinion.

              Boast as much as you like about victories you have not yet won. Boast about them if and when you do. It won’t change how people really feel about your party or the essential truth of its nature.

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