Labour row with unions over reforms branded a "pointless feud" by North-East MP (From The Northern Echo)
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Labour row with unions over reforms branded a "pointless feud" by North-East MP
LABOUR leader Ed Miliband’s plans to reform his party’s links with the unions “will only benefit the Tories”, a North-East MP claimed last night.
Easington MP Grahame Morris described the row over Mr Miliband’s plan to ask union members opt-in if they want to back Labour as a “pointless feud”.
Speaking ahead of a speech by the Labour leader at the annual Trade Union Congress conference in Bournemouth, Mr Morris said his party would be better served engaging on issues such as living standards, zero hour contracts and pension reforms.
“It seems to me that Ed Miliband has been backed into a trap,” he added.
“Eighteen months before the general election I think Labour needs to take the fight to the Tories rather than pick a fight with our biggest supporters in the trade unions - people who share our values.”
However, there was also support for Mr Miliband from another North-East MP.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, who represents Durham City, said she understood the party leader’s aim.
“He’s genuinely trying to get back to the stage where Labour members are actively engaged in the Labour Party rather than just opting to pay a levy.
“I think it’s a laudable aim to have, although I think it’s going to be a lot of work for all of us to explain to people why they should join the Labour Party.
“I think Ed’s given us quite a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge that we have to get on with.”
Mr Miliband insists that removing the automatic affiliation fees paid by millions of union members to his party will ensure that only those with an active interest are involved in future.
They will be asked instead whether they want to "opt in" to become full members of the party.
Mr Miliband acknowledges this will cost Labour much of its funding, but argues it will make the party stronger.
However, the proposal has angered union leaders with GMB general secretary Paul Kenny saying they appeared to have been ”dusted down from some drawer of a schoolboy project”.
Beth Farhat, regional secretary for the Northern TUC, who is attending the TUC conference, said she hoped that despite the row over the reforms the region’s MPs and union leaders could continue to work together.
“Our region is unique in that we’ve got an overwhelming majority of Labour MPs who are doing a decent job and we’ve got a good working relationship with them," she said.
“There’s lots of affinities there that we are collectively trying to campaign for and I would like to see that relationship continue.”
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