9 Sep 2013

The trade unionists affiliated to Labour who wouldn’t vote for party

As Ed Miliband prepares to visit to the TUC conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday there’s mixed news from an analysis for Channel 4 News carried out by YouGov on their recent polling data.

In polling conducted since 30 June, YouGov came across 2,380 people who said they belong to the 14 unions who are affiliated to the Labour party.

Of those 2,380 people just 45 per cent said that they would vote Labour if there was an election tomorrow.

A disappointing figure for Mr Miliband in one way, but helpful as he tries to advance his argument that Labour should reform its strong links with the trades unions.

YouGov president Peter Kellner reckons that this is the first time there has ever been a polling analysis of people who belong to unions specifically affiliated to Labour.

Previous surveys have been of trade unionists in general – both in unions affiliated to Labour, and not affiliated.

The 14 unions affiliated to the Labour party have a combined total membership at the moment of 3,818,499 people.

Read more: GMB cuts Labour party funding

If YouGov’s 45 per cent figure is an accurate reflection, it suggests about 1,720,000 of those members would vote Labour in an election tomorrow.

And yet almost a million more members of these 14 unions are officially on Labour’s books as being affiliated party members.

The total Labour affiliation figure right now is 2,661,520 (before the proposed reductions by the GMB and UNISON). *

In other words, Labour’s books include almost a million people who are notionally recorded as affiliated Labour party members who would actually vote Conservative or Liberal Democrat in an election tomorrow, or UKIP or Green, or won’t vote at all, or don’t know how they’d vote.

Read more: Labour set to pay political price for union funding row

I say “notionally”, because the unions don’t give Labour actual lists of names for these affiliated numbers; they are merely blocks of numbers.

But YouGov’s analysis suggests these blocks are a pretty inaccurate reflection of the actual commitment of members of affiliated unions to the Labour party.

These stats, which reflect the unions’ own surveys, are useful fuel for Mr Miliband’s argument for reform.

He says that in future the union members affiliated to Labour should merely be those people who make a positive commitment to the party, rather than merely large numbers of people who’ve not expressed hostility to being affiliated.

On the other hand, the 45 per cent figure must be pretty depressing for Mr Miliband.

If only 45 per cent of members of affiliated unions say they’ll vote Labour, can the party hope to win an election?

* Each of the affiliated unions affiliates to the Labour party only a proportion of its membership – partly because some members opt out of paying the political levy, and partly because the unions know that not all their members are supporters of the Labour party.

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