When news happens, text CHRON and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email & phone.
Miliband 'determined' over reform
Ed Miliband is to hold private talks with senior union leaders, following weeks of in-fighting between the two wings of the labour movement
Labour leader Ed Miliband has insisted he is "absolutely determined" to drive through controversial reforms of the party's links with unions, as he addressed trade unionists in a crunch speech at the TUC Congress.
Mr Miliband acknowledged that the changes - which would require union members to opt in to Labour affiliation as individuals rather than being automatically signed up by their unions - represented a "massive challenge".
But he told delegates in Bournemouth - including some of his toughest union critics - that sticking with the current system was a "bigger risk" and he urged them to have the courage to change.
Unions have warned that the reforms could cost Labour millions of pounds a year in affiliation fees, and the GMB has already announced it will cut its payments by around £1.1 million from January. But Mr Miliband said the changes could boost party membership from 200,000 to 500,000 or more and make Labour a true "one nation party".
"Some people ask: what's wrong with the current system?" he said. "Let me tell them: we have three million working men and women affiliated to our party. But the vast majority play no role in our party. They are affiliated in name only. That wasn't the vision of the founders of our party. I don't think it's your vision either. And it's certainly not my vision.
"That's why I want to make each and every affiliated trade union member a real part of their local party. Making a real choice to be a part of our party. So they can have a real voice in it. And why is that such an exciting idea? Because it means we could become a Labour Party not of 200,000 people, but 500,000 or many more. A party rooted in every kind of workplace in the country."
Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, praised the speech and said Mr Miliband was "beginning to seal the deal" with workers, adding: "We look forward to getting more meat on the bone in the coming months." Mr McCluskey said he believed Mr Miliband looked like a "real leader".
He said: "Some of the issues he talked about were very encouraging, such as apprenticeships, building homes and regional investment. There was a lot of substance and I was pleased he challenged the Government over their attempts to demonise unions. I would have liked to hear more on issues such as workers' rights but he came up with some good answers and we look forward to working with him."
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "When Ed spoke about the things that matter to people like jobs, zero-hours contracts, poverty, austerity and building a fairer society, they listened. But lectures about the 'challenge' of changing the historic relationship between unions and the Labour Party are a turn-off. He talks about having the 'courage to change' but I was always told if something ain't broke, why fix it?
"It was disappointing to hear him talk about sticking to strict spending limits... It was disappointing, too, that he didn't even mention the NHS and what he would do to protect and defend it. Nor did he give any firm commitments on affordable housing. Today it was the Tories who were talking about the NHS, while Labour is seen to be focused on in-fighting with ordinary working trade unionists. The Tories must be rubbing their hands in glee."