Labour has two left feet – Ed Miliband keeps kicking the ball into his own net

by Charlie_East_West on July 11, 2013

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What the hell is happening to the Labour leadership? Why are they always digging a bigger hole for themselves? Why are they continuing to pick the wrong fights (effectively against themselves) at the wrong time?

A few weeks ago, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls stated that the Labour party will not commit to reversing any of the cuts in public spending set out recently by George Osborne, and in the process, handed a austerity narrative victory on a silver platter to the Tories. 1-0 to the Tories, and an own goal from Labour.

Which is why it is all the more discouraging that Ed Miliband has once again picked the wrong fight at the wrong time on the wrong issue – on trade union support and funding.

As a reaction to the Falkirk/Unite scandal – Miliband’s idea is to end the situation where three million members of unions which are affiliated to Labour are automatically also affiliated to the party. He wants trade unionists to be asked individually if they want to enrol in Labour and pay it direct – this could cost an already skint Labour party up to £5 million a year if people do not sign up.

As highlighted in a recent article on All That’s Left, my esteemed colleague Ray North may beg to differ on this, but I suggest that Ed Miliband’s announcement on trade union funding is utter madness for four key reasons:

1. A potential financial disaster for Labour (as individual political apathy will probably ensure a lack of individual enrolment to Labour). Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB union, has predicted that only 10 per cent of its members would decide to “opt in” to giving £3 a year to Labour. He suggested that the union’s annual donation to the party could fall from about £1.5m a year to less than £200,000. Considering the current state of the Labour Party finances – this could well be financially catastrophic for Labour.

2. It is a misplaced tactic. Miliband, as part of his strategy to democratise Labour, wants to throw down the gauntlet to David Cameron to become more transparent about his own Tory party funding. Somehow I doubt this will have the desired effect. Quite frankly, cutting trade union routes of funding for Labour isn’t going to persuade David Cameron to reject millions of pounds from tax-avoiding billionaires and city fat cats.

3. It ideologically misplaced. Miliband is handing another ideological narrative win to the Tories. He is basically saying that the trade unions are a stain on Labour, despite the bigger problem being on the other side of the fence. The sources of unaccountable money in British politics comes from the hefty cheques written from the City to the Tories in return for political favours. This should be the main source of the party political funding debate. But instead, Miliband shoots himself and his party in the foot by questioning and altering the trade union funding mechanisms to Labour.

4. It was completely unnecessary. I might be wrong, but I suspect that the majority of people in the country do not give a flying fuck about this issue. They have more important things to think about within their daily lives. Labour have many opportunities to announce effective policy reforms that will benefit the lives of millions of people – but instead, Ed Miliband chooses an issue that most people do not care about, or indeed, understand – and even then, his solution is back to front.

Miliband has just fallen into a trap set many years ago by the Tories to undermine the merits of trade unions. He has become his own victim of the Tory-led divide and rule ideological narrative. Anymore of this and I will start to think that Ed Miliband is a Tory sleeper – working from within to destroy the Labour Party.

All of this smacks of unnecessary panic. Labour have scored another own goal – this time on the issue of party funding. 2-0 to the Tories. Labour are playing politics with two left feet. They are throwing away the match before it has even really started.

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