24 Sep 2011

Miliband agrees deal with the trade unions

Up here in Liverpool, Ed Miliband is on the point of announcing a compromise deal with the trade unions on how you get “registered supporters” involved in electing Labour’s leader. The plan had been to put them in the union’s electoral college (which accounts for one third of the votes).

That would’ve diluted the unions’ say, though by how much would’ve depended on how successful recruitment of registered supporters was. If it rocketed, the unions would’ve been significantly diluted. Around 250,000 individual levy payers voted in the 2010 leadership contest and if registered supporters’ numbers rocketed to 100,000 say, or anything near it (very challenging, of course) the union’s clout would’ve been seriously watered down.

I’m told that the compromise deal sees the unions giving up less and risking less. There would be a separate registered supporters’ section of the electoral college for electing a Labour leader and it’ll account for 10 per cent of the whole college.

That’s achieved by shaving 3.3 per cent off each of the three sections of the electoral college – the MP’s share of the vote, the constituency delegates’ share and the unions’ share. So the unions take a smaller hit. And the policy only comes into effect when the registered supporters can get their numbers over a 50,000 threshold. Also pretty challenging.

More action is promised on making sure the unions consult democratically before casting votes at conference but action on this is delayed until next year’s conference at the earliest.

The polls coming into this conference are gloomy for Labour. The small poll lead showing in most of them looks like cappuccino froth when you look at some of the underlying poll data. Ed Miliband isn’t rated or particularly noticed by the electorate.

He’s not even particularly rated by Labour supporters (ICM in The Guardian suggests that 49 per cent of Labour supporters think he is the right leader – that’s similar to the sort of poll rating amongst Tory supporters that William Hague used to have and which led him in the end to go for a core vote strategy).

The Labour leader’s team have downplayed expectations of policy announcements very sensibly but I get the impression there will be some shared that “have a good chance of making it into the manifesto.”

The leader’s team comforts itself that a new mood could be forming out in the wider country. George Osborne’s austerity drive might be questioned more by the public over time and a chill economic wind could see even more people looking for a different approach.

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